Align Your Life with God’s Purposes (3 John)

Align Your Life with God’s Purposes

3 John

True hospitality requires a heart and home aligned with God’s truth and His purposes. If you want to cultivate a heart and home that’s aligned with God’s truth and His purposes, commit to four actions.

The first car I drove after getting my license was a 1992 black, paint-peeling Pontiac Bonneville. I had just moved to SoCal, had my giant Thomas Guide map, had a job that took me all over town, and I got lots of drive-time in my beautiful Bonneville. But it had a flaw–the alignment was off. It always pulled a little to the right, and I was never able to fix it–the kind of thing where you just got used to holding the wheel with tension. Otherwise, the car would veer off the road and you’d be in trouble.

My Bonneville needed to be controlled, guided–to have something or someone aligning its wheels with the good purpose of taking me safely down the LA freeways (and I could successfully make it out of my teens alive). Today, with a look at our next postcard epistle, 3 John is going to give us a lesson in spiritual alignment. Just like my Bonneville needed a steady hand to guide it, our lives need the guidance of God’s truth to keep us aligned with God’s purposes.

Third John, similar to 2 John, is a personal letter from the apostle on the topic of true Christian hospitality. And as he describes both good and bad examples, we learn what biblical hospitality requires–your heart and your home aligned with God’s truth and His purposes. It’s in the context of hospitality, but really this is the central focus of our whole Christian life.

This life is short, even when we get to live long. And too many hours, and dollars, and energy are spent on things that just don’t matter to God. Do you feel the weight of that? You look back and see months of stressing over tensions at work rather than enjoying your family. You evaluate your budget and find that you’re upside-down, but the money hasn’t been spent on anything that brings you real lasting joy. Or do you just sometimes lack purpose, wandering aimlessly, hoping that in your relationships, or duties at home, or even efforts in ministry would have greater purpose?

Well, 3 John helps to give purpose–purpose to the use of your home, and ultimately purpose to all of life. And the key is aligning ourselves with God’s truth, which shows us His purposes, and His purposes are always for our greatest good. Go with me to 3 John, and follow along as I read out loud.

The elder to the beloved Gaius, whom I love in truth. 2Beloved, I pray that in all respects you may prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers. 3For I was overjoyed when brothers came and testified to your truth, that is, how you are walking in truth. 4I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.

5Beloved, you are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren, and especially when they are strangers; 6and they have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. 7For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. 8Therefore we ought to support such people, so that we may prove to be fellow workers with the truth.

9I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say. 10For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brothers either, and he forbids those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.

11Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but [imitate] what is good. The one who does what is good is of God; the one who does what is evil has not seen God. 12Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself; and we testify too, and you know that our testimony is true.

13I had many things to write to you, but I do not want to write to you with pen and ink; 14but I hope to see you shortly, and we will speak face to face.

15Peace be to you. The friends greet you. Greet the friends by name.”

Second John warned us about showing hospitality to false teachers. Third John accentuates the beauty of hospitality when it is done in truth and aligned with God’s Kingdom purposes. Three men are named in the text–two whose alignment is right on the money, and one who has veered off the road. If we want to be like the truly hospitable people described in this letter, we must have our lives rightly aligned. I’ve got four actions for us to commit to as we pursue a heart and home aligned with God’s truth and His purposes.

1.  Be a Truth Walker  Verses 1 to 4

You met our author last week, John the Apostle. But now we meet a new recipient, Gaius–and this is a man that John says he loves. In fact he says, “Gaius, whom I love in truth.” Gaius is commended for two characteristics–his “love before the church” (verse 6) and his “walking in the truth” (verse 3). And as we learned last week, those two must go hand-in-hand. There is no true love that is not planted in and consistent with the truth–Nigel helped us with that in 2 John.

Gaius is the ultimate truth-walker, “Texas Ranger”. His truth-walking is well-known among the Church, and now John’s heard of it because brethren who have experienced Gaius’ kindness have come and testified of it. John’s response in verse 4, “I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth.” That’s a key verse–not just knowing the truth, but walking it out.

Walk is live in John’s language–look at 1 John 1:6 and 7, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; 7but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

The pastor’s greatest joy–that the flock be living aligned with the truth. It’s likely John’s been a big part of Gaius’ growth. If you’ve ever walked alongside someone in a discipleship relationship, isn’t it the sweetest encouragement to hear (maybe years later) that others are being impacted by this person that you invested in (“no greater joy”)?

Are you a truth-walker? Are you known for being guided by God’s wisdom? Does it dictate your choices, or do you make decisions based simply on what’s most comfortable or fun? Sometimes they go together–but in the end, for the true believer, truth must reign over all, especially over our own emotions.

John has such a thankful confidence that this is true in his friend Gaius. Even as a part of his greeting in verse 2, he prays that Gaius’ physical health would match his spiritual health. See, when someone is a truth-walker, you care about their physical well-being, but far more important is their spiritual. I saw an old friend of my father’s recently, who I hadn’t seen in years. He was walking with a cane, but his face looked bright and vibrant.

Knowing he had battled cancer over the last decade, I asked him how he was feeling, and he looked at me and said, “Oh Patrick, this body’s a mess, but my heart is ready for Heaven!” When you’re a truth-walker, the emotions are informed by the Word of God, so that even in the face of death, there can be great joy, because the soul is prosperous.

I hope that if you’ve attended FBC for any length of time, you hear very clearly–our greatest desire for you will always be your soul prospering. We want to see you come to Christ or become more like Him. But it has to go in that order–if your spiritual life is completely out of alignment and you’re not walking in-step with the Word, it may be that you need to repent and place your faith fully in Christ. That’s the start of aligning your heart with His purposes, your salvation.

John’s joy is full, as he hears of his friend “walking in the truth.” But what truth has Gaius been walking out? What’s he doing that shows he’s a truth-walker (which takes us to our second action). For epic spiritual alignment of your heart and home, you must not only be a truth-walker, but point #2 in your outline . . .

2.  Support Truth Workers  Verses 5 to 8

In Verses 5 to 8, we see truth-in-action–Gaius is housing, caring for, and supporting Gospel ministers who, verse 5 says, were strangers–in an earthly sense, but spiritually, they were family. This is something that makes Christians stand out. As spiritual family, we have a unique bond between us.

If you’ve ever had a chance to visit the church in other countries, you discover this bone. And the greater difference in culture, the more you recognize it! At the church in Uganda, the worship pastor’s name is Bosco. Everyone was telling me, “This guy’s amazing, he’s like the Chris Tomlin of Africa!” And then I met him–and he’s nothing like Chris Tomlin. He’s about ten times better. And the two of us had an instant bond. It wasn’t just about music, it wasn’t that he bounces during praise–it was Christ. We believe in the same Savior and we submit to the same truth.

John says to Gaius in verse 5, “You are acting faithfully in whatever you accomplish for the brethren.” Truth-walkers, supporting truth-workers. John tags on a little encouragement in verse 6. “You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God.” (Caring for people in your home “in a manner worthy of God.”)

After a lot of study, let me dispel some misconceptions about hospitality. It is not simply cooking awesome meals. it is not keeping your home always clean (though that may be helpful). And it is definitely not Joanna Gaines-ing your house! Hospitality is the generous and loving use of your home in ministry, to strangers as if they’re family, to support the accomplishing of God’s purposes, according to His truth.

So stop being ruled by Pinterest and prepare your home for God’s interests. I get it–it can be fun to align your décor to some design online. But if you’re not aligning the activities that go on inside your home with God’s purposes, it’s a loss. I grew up in a home constantly filled with people. Not only were my parents in the habit of housing other people, they also were in the habit of throwing the biggest kegger parties in our neighborhood–there were always people over.

When I was ten years old, God saved my parents (it’s an incredible story!). But I’m thankful to say that my parents haven’t stopped using their home for parties, and the number of people who lived with us over the years probably increased! But there was a big difference in the way our home was used, and it had to do with the hearts and the new purpose of the people who lived there! They desired their lives and their home to be used for God’s glory, and His purposes, and His Kingdom work.

Now look at the main reasons John gives that this support is aligned with God’s purposes (and see how this might help you to consider priorities in the use of your own home). Verse 7, “They went out for the sake of the Name.” Their efforts are motivated from and aimed at the glory of Christ. They’re ministering to the lost (“Gentiles”–it’s Gospel ministry). And they accepted “nothing from the Gentiles” (no money from those they witness to), so that the message is unhindered. But that left them in need.

So John says lastly, verse 8, “We ought to support such men, so that we may be fellow workers with the truth.” Supporting them is joining them in truth-work. The text actually says it’s joining yourself with the truth-workers is a participation in their very good deeds for the Kingdom.

So housing, caring for, and giving funding to faithful ministers of the Gospel is a no-brainer–because that is aligning our heart (all that we cherish) and our home (all that we own) with God’s purposes–His Kingdom advanced, His Church built-up. And in doing so, we “prove to be fellow workers with the truth.”

Romans 10:15, “But how are they to preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!’” You may not have the ability, time, work situation or family scenario to be able to go with the team to Albania, but how can you join them, align with God’s kingdom purposes through encouragement, prayer, and financial support?

A few years ago, we invited three pastors and their families from three different countries to come be at our church for about a year. They are now dear friends to many of you–Lojza and Marushka Klepachek, Aaron and Abby Sasane, and Daniel and Susanna Arn. They lived with us, got trained, engaged in ministry–it was awesome! But the best was watching our church family come around them!

In fact, I know personally some of them have said your loving discipleship and modeling healthy church completely re-shaped their approach to ministry and is currently impacting the way they minister to people back in their home country. That’s probably the best picture of supporting truth-workers I’ve seen first-hand. There was a total opening of our lives to lend aid in every way we could, and then send them on their way! Aligning your heart and home with God’s purposes requires that you be a truth-walker, support truth-workers and . . .

3.  Beware of the Wicked  Verses 9 to 10

Verse 9, John detours from encouragement, and now warns about a leader in the same community whose heart and home are not at all aligned with God’s purposes–Diotrephes. He’s got a beef with John. We don’t know the details, but when John previously wrote to him, Diotrephes just disregarded it. And then, when it came to caring for these traveling ministers, he was unwilling to put them up. And when others in the church wanted to put them up, Diotrephes put them out of the church!

And here’s what John says–look at verse 9, “Diotrephes, who loves to be first.” In the original language, the phrase “loves to be first” is actually built into his name. John literally says, “the-loving-to-be-first-Diotrephes”. This would be something like, “There goes the holier-than-thou Pat Levis.”

Who doesn’t like to be first? It’s the best–first one in line for the ride, first one to merge on the 15, first one to check your kids into Sunday school during the quarantine days. That’s not what John’s talking about. Diotrephes’ behavior as a leader in the church is downright wicked. And the issue at the heart of the man is arrogance (he’s become defined by it). At some point he may have been a respectable leader–but power and prestige caught his eye. But rather than see himself as a sinner-saved-by-grace, he’s begun to think too highly. It’s fine to hold a position of authority, but the Christ-honoring leader approaches his role with an accurate view of God and self. Diotrephes has lost perspective.

Remember the story where the sons of Zebedee request to sit on Jesus’ right and left? There’s a big, indignant reaction from the disciples, and then Jesus calls them all together for a lesson. Mark 10:42 to 45, “Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, ‘You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their people in high position exercise authority over them. 43But it is not this way among you; rather, whoever wants to become prominent among you shall be your servant; 44and whoever wants to be first among you shall be slave of all. 45For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.”

There’s no room to fight for first in God’s Church–if you love title and lack submission to authority, you’re not the type of leader God wants. God wants a leader that knows who’s first. Colossians 1:18, “He is also the head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything.” That’s Who gets to be first! Oh, and by the way–the One who is first in everything laid down His life in humble service to sinners.

The loving-to-be-first Diotrephes is a leader not worth following. And John wants Gaius to beware of his wickedness–not just because he hasn’t submitted to John’s authority, but verse 10, he’s gossiping. “Accusing…with wicked words,” he refuses to “receive the brethren” and “forbids those who desire to do so.” This guy’s spiritual alignment is off. His heart is prideful and his home is unavailable for service to others.

First John 3:16 to 17, “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” Self-sacrifice and service to others is so far from Diotrephes’ thinking–he’s absolutely hung up on himself and it has blinded him to the needs of others. And notice the relational divide caused by Diotrephes’ actions–refusing John, shunning missionaries, excommunicating the believers. The man or woman who “likes to be first” will almost always find themselves alone.

Now we can’t move on without a little look in the mirror. Every one of us is acquainted with this attitude, so let’s heed the warning for ourselves. Beware of the wickedness of your own pride. Don’t crave power or prestige–fight the temptation to think too highly of self. Embrace our FBC ministry slogan, “We take the Word of God seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously.”

You know how to weed out the Diotrephes in yourself? Take on tasks of service that have no audience and no chance for applause. Get under godly leaders. Chris Mueller once said this to my TC class, and it comes to my mind all the time—”The best leaders know how to follow well.”

In order to cultivate a heart and home that is aligned with God’s truth and His purposes, be a truth-walker, support truth-workers, beware of the wicked (pride, in others and yourself that stunts service to others), and . . .

4.  Imitate the Good Way  Verses 11 to 15

 In verse 11 John says, “Do not imitate what is evil, but what is good.” There’s a threefold test of Christian faith threaded through First, Second, and Third John–truth, love, and now third is goodness. First Thessalonians 5:21 to 22 is Paul’s version of this exhortation, “But examine everything; hold firmly to that which is good, 22abstain from every form of evil.”

There is a message that the wild man, Shannon Hurley is known for proclaiming–it just oozes from his life. It is simply this–God’s way is best! That’s the heart attitude of the person obeying this command–“Do not imitate evil, but good.” Don’t align yourself with evil, but good–and good defined by God. The truly good way is God’s way. The life aligned with God’s purposes goes in the direction of that which is truly good, imitates the good way, follows the good path, mimics those good examples.

Interestingly, both hospitality and doing good are side-by-side qualifications of elders. Titus 1:8, he is to be “ . . . hospitable, loving what is good, self-controlled, righteous, holy, disciplined.” Look back at the text–verse 11. Can you see the flow of thought in John’s writing? He just described Diotrephes and he’s about to describe Demetrius. And in the middle of the two examples, he’s saying don’t follow this guy, follow this guy.

This is a principle we use in our home regularly—don’t do that, do this. “Don’t hit your sister, hug your sister.” “Don’t grumble, be grateful.” “Don’t eat that weird thing you found on the ground, have an apple.” It’s the put off and put on. No counseling or discipleship or instruction in godly living is successful apart from helping that person see a clear path to replace attitudes or practices that do not please the Lord, with those that do. Take out evil, put in good. Imitate the good way.

Where in your life do you see temptations to imitate evil? Often the influence of evil starts when we simply find the thoughts of some powerful person in culture interesting, and we begin casually reading or listening to them. But powerful people who do not call Christ Lord are ultimately headed away from that which is truly good. Are you following them? This is why it’s so important to align our hearts with God’s truth, so that we can rightly discern, make the right decision about what music we listen to or shows we watch.

Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Is there some putting off that you need to do? And then what’s the put on? When it comes to the people we imitate (which is what John is dealing with), John gives a very simple guideline.

The second half of verse 11, “The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God.” The same simple picture Jesus gives in Matthew 7:17 to 18, “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.” Look at the fruit–if good is the regular pursuit and practice of a person’s life, that’s a person connected with God, and that’s who you want to be influenced by! Who are you imitating?

Are you engaged in intentional relationships with older, godly saints who are going God’s way–following them as they follow Christ? And please don’t tell me you can’t find any! FBC is rich with godly mentors! If you do not have good mentors—go get it!

Natalie and I seek to be intentional with our babysitters. The ladies who care for our daughters are not only great babysitters, but they are truth-walkers–they live out God’s ways in front of our little women, and we love it. As early as we can, we want their eyes on the lives of those who align themselves with God’s truth and His purposes. (Parents, can I get an amen?)

For Gaius, John had the perfect example to point to in verse 12, Demetrius–a good testimony and known by all. Even John himself testifies that this is a good guy. John’s helping Gaius (and helping us)–don’t be tempted by the ways of power-hungry, title-flexing Diotrephes. Watch Demetrius, do what he does, go the way he’s going–that’s the good way.

The sign-off at the end of 3 John is similar to the one we read in 2 John. With great love and a spirit of longing, John says in verse 13, “I had many things to write to you, but I don’t wanna say it “with pen and ink”. Why? Verse 14, he wants to be with them, see them, “speak face to face.” This is the heart of a true shepherd. He genuinely cares for Gaius and the faithful believers.

John himself is an example worth following. He’s got the title (the highest of titles as an apostle), but he’s not flexing his power–he’s showing personal love as he calls the Church to a biblical hospitality and care for others. His final words are, “Greet the friends by name”–not just, “say hi to everybody.” But go through and tell each one as you see them, “John sends his greeting to you.”

I think if Chris Mueller could, he would assign someone each Sunday that he travels to do this. He has such an affection (all the elders do) for this church family. And like the Apostle John’s heart toward Gaius in this letter, there is no greater joy than to see the flock “walking in the truth.”

Next week, Shawn Farrell takes us to the book of Philemon. This week, let’s walk in the truth. Go after cultivating that heart and home that are aligned with God’s purposes by being a truth-walker (living life aligned with God’s Word). Support truth-workers (use your home and all you have for God’s Kingdom purposes). Beware of the wicked (watch out for the arrogant, guard your own heart against pride that hinders service). And imitate the good way (love, be influenced by, be consumed with that which is truly good in the eyes of God).

We need His Word and we need the strength that He alone supplies–a heart that is aligned with God is one that has been transformed. As you evaluate your own heart, it may be today you realize that you lack a relationship with Christ. Jesus lived a perfect life, died on a cross and rose from the grave to make it possible for your life to be aligned with His. Recognize your sin, repent and place your whole life under His rule.

If we want to be a truly hospitable people, to have our hearts and our homes (everything that we are and all that we have) bringing glory to God the way He intended them to, we must align them with God’s truth and His purposes. Let’s pray for His help.

About Patrick Levis

Patrick is serving as Faith Bible Church's worship pastor.

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