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MARCH 2007

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3 John v11 Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good. He that doeth good is of God: but he that doeth evil hath not seen God. (KJV)

3 John v11 My dear friend, do not follow wrong examples, but right ones. He who habitually does what is right is a child of God: he who habitually does what is wrong has not seen God. (WNT)

 

There are four people involved in Johnís letter. John the apostle, Demetrius the good example, Diotrephes the bad example, and Gaius who seems to be caught between the influence of Demetrius and Diotrephes. Obviously, not all leaders in all churches are there because God has put them there and Diotrephes is a case in point. His evil works included wanting first place, putting those who disagree with him out of the church, not allowing teachers to come who would benefit the church if he didn't like them, and even refusing to accept the help and counsel of the Apostle John.

Sometimes we say that the only value some people have is to set a bad example so that others will know what they should not do. Diotrephes seems to be someone like that. I have never heard of anyone naming their son Diotrephes, but I do know people who name their sons Gaius and in a few cases Demetrius. Can you imagine the problems with self-esteem that a youngster named Diotrephes might have?

We often say that our teenagers need to learn to handle peer pressure. But obviously we who are older have peer pressure as well. That is why John reminds us that we should not love the world in his first epistle. What is important to people in the ordered society called the world of whom Satan is the head should not be the things that are important to those of us who are following the Lord. And we should put the Lord and his people first rather than putting ourselves first. John emphasizes that one of the characteristics of a Christian is to love his brother. It was quite obvious that Diotrephes loved the preeminent place and wanted to be "boss". He didn't seem to care whom he hurt in order to advance his agenda. He did not love his brother.

As Gaius observed Diotrephes and Demetrius, there should have been no question as to whom he should be supporting. I think the Weymouth's New Testament has paraphrased this right. 3 John v11 is not a general statement about how to live our lives but is a specific statement about whom we should support and follow in our spiritual lives. Follow the one or ones who are good, and not the one who is evil or bad. We will know the evil one when he acts like Satan who is the king of Evil Ones. But sometimes it takes courage to stand up to an abusive self-willed leader.

The Lord was the supreme example of what a leader should be. It has been said that you can't lead until you learn to follow. The Lord was equal with God and yet submitted Himself to God. In the garden He said, "Not my will but thine be done (Luke 23:42)." He humbled Himself and became obedient to death (Philippians 2:8). He came to serve not to be served (John 13: 1-17). He gave, he didn't get. He loved, He didn't hate. He died that we might live when He could have lived and let us die. Those of us who have trusted Him should desire to be like Him. Obviously, Demetrius had that reputation but Diotrephes did not.

I often wonder if godly men could honestly tell our friends and acquaintances to follow us because we are doing what is good. Are we seeking the best for the Lord and for others or are we seeking what we think is best for us?

Follow the one who is good and not the one who is evil. That is true when it comes to following the Lord instead of following Satan who rules this in our present social system. It is also true when it comes to imitating our spiritual leaders.

 

Meditation for the week of March 4, 2007

Jude 1:3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

 

Sometimes we think the church as we know it is in shambles. I am glad that the Lord reminds us in Matthew 16:18 that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." The true called out assembly of people who are separated only unto the Lord and to His testimony has always been under attack, and that was true when this epistle was written. Sometimes the attack is that of the lion who tears and causes great fear. This was evidenced by the cruel martyrdom of many early believers. Sometimes the attack is that of the bear who looks so tame and approachable but who is waiting for the chance to give his unsuspecting prey the hug of death. I think Jude was concerned about some who were like the bear. They had crept in unawares but they weren't sheep, they were wild animals. Bears tend to destroy sheep.

When Jude speaks of the common salvation, he does not mean common in the sense that it isn't precious. He means common in the sense that there is only one salvation and it is available to all. While it was delivered to the saints here it was also delivered to the Corinthians by Paul while they were unsaved in 1 Corinthians 15:3. Some teach that we can't tell the unsaved that Christ died for them because they haven't made Christ's substitutionary work effectual in their lives by faith. Thus, we can only tell them that Christ died for sinners. But I feel at perfect liberty to preach the same Gospel to the unsaved to see them saved that I preach to believers to see them rejoice. Christ died for all, saved and unsaved, but the saved have trusted in Christ and have made that salvation theirs.

When we contend for the faith, we are not contending for our ability to believe the truth but for the truth that we believe. Satan has many lies but God has given us only one Truth. In the early church, some thought that the Lord didn't have a real body because anything material was evil. But of course He did have a real body and His body was not evil. Some were denying the resurrection so Paul contends for that truth in 1 Corinthians 15. Some thought grace meant license so Jude deals with that in this epistle as does John in his and Paul his. Today, we have similar problems. Some think that if a saved person should do good works then good works must make a person a Christian. Some think that if a Christian should be baptized then baptism must make a person a Christian. Some think that if a Christian should pray then praying must make a person a Christian. Some think that if a Christian should take the Lord's Supper then taking the Lord's supper must make a person a Christian. We need to contend for the truth that faith or trust in the Lord Jesus Christ Who is God and Who was born as a man and died as man, Who was buried and Who was raised again the third day and Who is coming again is the only means of salvation from the condemnation that we deserve as sinners. This is the precious but common salvation of Holy Scripture.

If Satan was on the attack when Jude wrote, He certainly isn't going to let up now at the end of the end of the age. His tactics may be new but his purpose is still the same. His purpose is to destroy those who need to be saved. I want to be faithful in hindering his work by contending for the faith and by helping to present this common salvation to the whole world.

 

Meditation for the week of March 11, 2007

Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God, until that he have mercy upon us.

Psalms 123:2

 

Waiting expectantly is difficult for me to do. And yet that is just what makes a good servant. A good servant waits for orders that may come as a slight gesture of the hand or as the nod of the head or as a smile or frown. I am told that servants in Eastern counties are often guided by hand gestures. A good servant knows how to wait. But a good servant is waiting expectantly so that when an order is given, the servant is ready.

Some have supposed that the Psalmist is actually dealing with servants who are guilty of disobedience and who are waiting for the master to indicate that they are pardoned. Others think that the servants here are waiting on the master for their own provisions. It is true that the Israelites who sang this song were waiting on the Lord to show them mercy. This was may have been sung as they went up to the feasts at Jerusalem, but it is likely that it was written with regard to their time in captivity in Babylon.

Apparently, the children of Israel felt like they were being treated badly by those who had it good. It appears that they were servants to men, but, in the Psalm, they see themselves as servants of God. They knew that if God was their Master, then He would change their fortunes and treat them good. They expected that. But whatever happened, they were waiting on the Master to make the first move and they were ready to respond.

This world is a task master to us and wants to keep us in bondage to it. Before we are saved, the world looks like a source of great joy and fun. We want to make our own decisions and live life our own way. But we, like the prodigal son in Luke 15, found out that the world wants nothing to do with a person once it has robbed him of his wealth and his health and his place in the Father's house. After we are saved, we realize that being a servant in the Father's house is a lot better than feeding swine in the world (Luke 15:19). Why is it so easy to trust the lies of the world and so hard to trust the Truth of the Scripture? Why does the world seem so appealing to us when true blessing is found in serving the Lord Jesus? Why do we who are saved so often find ourselves making our own decisions rather than letting the Lord make them for us? That didn't work before we were saved, and it certainly won't bring happiness afterward.

Being a trusted servant is place of honor and respect in the Bible. Nehemiah was the king's wine tester, but he became the governor of the remnant that returned to the promised land. Joseph was a servant in Potiphar's house, a servant in prison, and he became a servant to Pharaoh. As his servant, he ruled the land of Egypt and became the Savior of the people of Israel during a time of famine.

Sometimes life looks hopeless; but, if we are truly saved, we need to remember whose servants we are. We who were the servants of sin are now the servants of God (Romans 6:22). He is the One that we look to for provision and guidance and that we stand ready to serve. There are times that we seem to be doing a lot of waiting, but that's all right so long as we are not sleeping (Romans 13:11). We need to stand ready to serve, we need to stand ready for the blessing of the master, and we need to be ready when the Lord returns.

Meditation for the week of March 18, 2006

Hebrews 8:12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.

Hebrews 10:17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more.

 

The word "remember" can have different shades of meaning. It usually means to recall to the mind; but in Luke 23:42, the thief on the cross didn't want to be forgotten. In Acts 10:31, the centurion's alms and prayers were a remembrance or a memorial to him. In 1 Timothy 1:4, this word which is translated "mindful" means "keeping in memory" or "aware". Paul was aware of the tears of Timothy. These are all variations of the same basic definition.

Many have taught that the Lord chooses to forget our sins and inequities. In the two passages we have quoted, the author is actually dealing with the sins of the nation of Israel. However, the teaching no doubt applies to new testament believers in Christ. I am not convinced that the author is teaching that the Lord chooses to forget our sins, but He does choose not to remember or to think about them. He does not recall them to his mind, and He does not set up a memorial so that He is constantly reminded of them.

When the children of Israel turned away from God to serve idols in the land of Israel, the Lord sent them into captivity in Babylon for being unfaithful to Him. He will never forget what they did since He has written a Bible that is a permanent record of their sin and iniquity. But under the new covenant or will, He says that those who have His law in their hearts and in their minds will not have their sins on his mind. He will not be thinking about their sin nor will he be dealing with them because of their sin anymore.

We who are saved are to remember the Lord in a symbolic meal that proclaims His death until He comes again. We need this way of memorializing Him because we do have a tendency to forget. But God does not forget. He just chooses not to let our sins be an issue that comes between Him and us. He can righteously forgive us and not be occupied with our sin because of the sacrifice of His Son. He can remove our sin as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). He can cast our sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19. He can blot them out (Acts 3:19). He can forgive our sins and cleanse our sins (1 John 1:9). Sometimes we say, "Out of sight is out of mind." Our sins are out of God's sight and they are out His mind.

I don't believe God ever really forgets anything. After all he is all-knowing. He knows the past, the present and the future. He would not know the past if he truly forgot. But I do believe that when we trust His Son, and when that is a reality in our hearts and in our minds, God acts like He forgets our sins and our iniquities.

While God has the ability to keep from thinking about our sins and iniquities, some of us cannot seem to keep them out of our own minds. We need to choose not to remember or memorialize our own sins once we are liberated by the truth that God has chosen not to remember or memorialize them.

 

Meditation for the week of March 25, 2007