Humility Before God

dscn0073Psalm 115:1

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! (ESV)

Worship does not come easily to the human heart. There are many reasons, but at the core is sin, the great evil that rejects God as God, refuses to love him foremost, and rebels against him and his ways. Sadly, we reject him as our Creator, Preserver, Ruler, and Holy One. We struggle with the Biblical idea that God alone is the cause, means, and goal of everything. For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen (Romans 11:36 ESV). You see, we want to be the goal of everything. We want our needs and desires to be satisfied. We want the world to go at our pace. We don’t want anyone or anything to disrupt our plans, because we must be happy! A simple way to evaluate yourself on this is to think about your plans for the Christmas season: people you want to be with, places you want to go, parties you want to attend, pleasures you want to experience, and presents you want to receive. Did you notice the recurring phrase? How many of them give preference to God’s glory and will?

Worship does not come easily to the human heart. Worship declares God’s worth and primary significance. How can we worship and bring glory to God?

  • We must know the God that we are to worship. True knowledge of God comes through Jesus Christ (cf. John 14:6). To know God, we must trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. We first must be rescued from our sin and selfishness.
  • We must humble ourselves before God. Mankind, He has told you what is good and what it is the Lord requires of you: to act justly, to love faithfulness, and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8 HCSB). We cannot worship when we try to usurp his place or put other things in his place.
  • We must refuse praise that belongs to God. Not to us, O Lord, not to us… We like to be admired, congratulated and thanked. But we must make certain that God receives the praise, because apart from the Lord we can accomplish nothing of eternal significance (cf. John 15:5). Spiritual gifts are from the Spirit of God, and so we must honor God as we use them. This requires a conscious effort to honor the Lord.
  • We must become spiritually fruitful. My Father is glorified by this: that you produce much fruit and prove to be My disciples (John 15:8 HCSB). God desires to see us display the way of life that honors him, the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

The aim is that others might see and honor God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. Those who follow Christ Jesus are God’s covenant people. We belong to God. We give this testimony to the world. When we praise God for his actions in our lives, we point others toward him. For example, “I trusted God in my affliction, although people thought he had abandoned me. But look, I am here today! He has preserved me, he has met my needs! God is faithful; we can rely on his love!” During this Christmas season, let’s evaluate our aims. Do we strive to honor God? In the activities of a busy holiday season, do we make room in our hearts to worship?

Grace and peace, David

A Warning to Churches

img_08593 John 1:9-10

I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church (ESV).

A local church is a spiritual family, a gathering of brothers and sisters in Christ, children of the Father in heaven, a temple of the Holy Spirit. These truths set forth what we are because of God’s grace. An assembly of the Lord’s people should joyfully celebrate the blessings of grace and radiate love for one another. It is to be the place where all are welcomed and accepted for Christ’s sake. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God (Romans 15:7 ESV). As the old hymn says, “When we walk with the Lord in the light of his Word, what a glory he sheds on our way!” Being with people who are jointly being transformed from one degree of glory to another should be a foretaste of heaven (cf. 2 Corinthians 3:18).

Sadly, this is not always so. The Apostle John warns us about this sad truth in the above words from his third letter. There are people, who while they profess that a local church is a gathering of believers, think it is a group of people for them to control. They love power and preeminence rather than people. John unmasks these people for what they are – they are lovers of self (cf. 2 Timothy 3:2). In their heart, they have a problem with authority, not theirs of course, but with God’s authority, which John exercised as an apostle of Jesus Christ. They refuse to humble themselves to the authority of the word and then to act with love and respect toward their brothers and sisters in Christ.

Two evils come from such wickedness, which often masquerades as holiness (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15). First, they talk wicked nonsense against other leaders in the church. They tell falsehoods about them, portraying them as out of step, outdated, incompetent, or having an agenda that won’t attract the world. Second, they refuse to welcome the brothers. Obviously, this does not refer to everyone in the church, or they would not have anyone to rule over. It means people in a local church that are not of their class, burdensome, or otherwise less than desirable. They imagine the church as a sophisticated, classy group is filled with beautiful people – in worldly eyes. They need to submit to 1 Corinthians 1:26-31. For this reason, they force out people that don’t measure up to the kind of church members they desire. Those who try to stand up to their wickedness are put out as discontents and troublemakers.

Since this kind of people worm their way into churches, the Apostle John warned Gaius against them. We should not be naïve. It happens too often. It can happen in any kind of church, organic or institutional, because pride works in all hearts. John also told Gaius that he planned to act against the wicked Diotrephes, if he could come. Like Peter and Paul, John had special power as apostles to set matters right. Read Acts 5:1-11 for a fearful example. But John did not know if he could go to help Gaius, so he hints at the action that the church ought to take against the evil man trying to rule over people.

This is an unpleasant subject to consider. At times the friends of godliness finds themselves outnumbered and their local Diotrephes acts against them. Do not be discouraged. The Lord knows those who belong to him. What we all should gain is what the Lord intends for his churches. They are to be gatherings of love, joy, and peace; they are to be partners in spreading the good news of the Lord and Savior everywhere. Pray for your group. Strive to keep it a church where the peace of Christ rules in everyone’s hearts!

Grace and peace, David

The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Part Two)

img_5033Acts 1:3-5

He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now” (ESV).

The Holy Spirit is the gift that God the Father promised his people (1:4-5). With Christ’s victory, a new ministry of the Holy Spirit was about to begin, only ten days after Jesus spoke these words. Clearly, the Spirit of God had come upon some of the people of God before Pentecost (Bezalel, Exodus 31:1-3; Othniel, Judges 3:10; Gideon, Judges 6:34; Jephthah, Judges 11:29; Samson, Judges 14:6; Azariah the prophet, 2 Chronicles 15:1; Ezekiel; Ezekiel 2:2; etc.). But this giving of the Holy Spirit would be of a different order. It would be his “coming”. Compare 1:8: “when the Spirit comes…” and John 7:37-39; 15:26; 16:13. Something of incredible significance was about to happen!

This new ministry is spoken of in another way: as a baptism. As they had been baptized (immersed or submerged) in water, so they would be immersed with the Holy Spirit.  Jesus built on the teaching of his forerunner, John the Baptist (Luke 3:15-17). Christ would do the baptism by the Spirit. When John and Jesus talked about the Spirit, they obviously were not speaking about someone the people of God had not heard about. No one asked, “Who or what is the Spirit of God?” Why not? The Old Testament Scriptures have many references to the Holy Spirit.

Christ could not baptize with the Holy Spirit until something happened. He had to be glorified (John 7:37). What does that mean? Notice in Acts 1:3-5 quoted above, spoken before his ascension, the baptism with the Spirit was still a future event, though Christ had been raised from the dead. What needed to happen was Christ’s ascension, when he was exalted to the right hand of God. Then he could pour out the Spirit, because God had made him Lord (Acts 2:33-36). By the way, do not speak of “making Jesus Lord”. A Christian should never say such a thing! Jesus Christ is Lord of all (Romans 14:9; Philippians 2:9-11).

The baptism of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost was an event in history, as much as the coming, crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. It was looked for and then it happened to the whole church that existed at that moment in history. All believers were together in one place, and all received the Spirit’s baptism (Acts 2:1-4). All those saved since that non-repeatable event of history also receive the Spirit when they repent (Acts 2:38-39).

All of this should cause God’s people to respond to God with great gratitude. God the Father planned for us to have a Divine Helper living in us during this new age. God the Son accomplished the work of redemption, in order that we might have the Spirit. God the Holy Spirit has come to be with us forever (Jn 14:16). Suppose I handed you the keys to one of the new luxury home, and said, “It’s yours; it’s totally paid for. Enjoy it.” How would you respond? Since Christ died, rose again, and ascended to the Father, he has given you many great gifts. How ought you respond to this gift, a greater gift than a luxury home—the gift of the Holy Spirit?

Grace and peace, David

The Believer’s Happiness a Reason for Praise (Part Two)

img_4412Psalm 146:1-10

In this psalm, we read of praise to the true and the living God. The Lord’s praise ought always to be on our lips, but sometimes we might feel lethargic or even depressed. The psalmist knew this and spoke to his own soul to stir himself to praise. Next, the spiritually invigorated psalmist gave a warning, a warning against an empty hope. Do not trust in nobles, in man, who cannot save. When his breath leaves him, he returns to the ground; on that day his plans die (146:3-4 HCSB).

He warned against making a fatally wrong investment (146:3). A person’s faculty of trust or confidence is like the money of the soul. Be sure you make a wise and sound investment. People are prone to trust in human power, because we rely on our physical senses. Yet the Bible gives such confidence a bad rating (Jeremiah 17:5-6), and points us to a better place (Psalm 118:8-9). He explained the reason that human power is such a bad risk. It cannot save. Yes, even though the godless person sneers, every humans great need is to be saved or rescued.

The psalmist elucidated the reason for this warning (146:4). Humans are a bad risk, for we are victims of mortality. “His breath goes from his body, and his body goes to the grave. His spirit goes one way, and his body another. High as he stood, the want of a little air brings him down to the ground, and lays him under it.” [Spurgeon] Humans are a bad risk, because our plans do not outlast us. For long years a philosopher is hailed as the greatest thinker of the age. But then he dies. After he is dead, a new intellect appears who ridicules all the ideas of the former great one, who can no longer defend his views. Soon the dead philosopher is only remembered to be dismissed as incorrect. Therefore, who would put his money in a bank that was sure to fail? Who would invest in a company that soon was to go bankrupt? Yet many do this everyday. What a valuable asset we have: life given and sustained by God! Yet how easily we throw it away on the world that passes away. O my friends, especially my young friends, do not act so foolishly!

Eager to ensure the happiness of his readers and the honor of his God, the psalmist points us in the right direction. He gave reasons for the blessedness of the believers (146:5-10) Verse five is his thesis, the point he wants to convey and the truth for which he praises God. How happy is the man who has the living God as his help and hope! This is the last of the 25 or 26 times that this “blessed” formula occurs in the Psalms.

People whose help and hope is the Lord are blessed because…

  • The Lord is the Creator (146:6). The God who could create all things out of nothing is surely able to save and to uphold those who put their confidence in him. This is a sound investment, one with unlimited resources. The God who designed the universe surely understands how it operates. Therefore, we do not need to fear the as-yet-unseen. Investment counselors my make “educated” guesses about the economy of 2017, but no one really knows what will happen.
  • The Lord is the Controller (146:7-9). To continue our analogy, here is a company with a perfect performance record. The Christian has good and substantial reasons for trusting the Lord. First is God’s benevolence (146:7a-b). The Lord does what is good for his creatures (cf. Psalm 145:15-16). “For all grow hungry, man and beast, and it is God who satisfies their hunger, not the independent operations of the law of nature.” [Leupold] God is also able to reverse circumstances (146:7c-8b). God is able to help those in the greatest, most desperate need. The Lord “consoles the bereaved, cheers the defeated, solaces the despondent, comforts the despairing. Let those who are bowed to the ground appeal to him, and he will speedily up raise them.” [Spurgeon] These abilities are clearly seen in the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 7:22; cf. Isaiah 35:5; 61:1). And God’s rule is righteous (146:8c-9). God loves those who do right. This should inspire confidence in God’s people as we live in a world where so many do wrong. He cares for those in poverty, and he opposes the wicked (Proverbs 19:21).
  • The Lord is eternal (146:10; cf. Exodus 15:18; Revelation 11:15). Here is a business that will never close or go bankrupt. Your spiritual money is safe here. In spite of all the bitter malice of the powers of evil, God’s kingdom endures forever. “There will always be a Zion; Zion will always have Jehovah for her King; for her he will always prove himself to be reigning in great power.” [Spurgeon] “They who have such an everlasting kingdom awaiting them in the end can afford to bear trials patiently, not yielding to despair on the way.” [Fausett]

All who have the Lord God as their help and hope listen! We have a great joy, a wonderful privilege, and a delightful responsibility. Let us join together to praise the Lord from the depths of our hearts. Our God is worthy of all our praise! To you without hope, there is good news in the Lord Jesus Christ. You may have his salvation today. He offers himself to you today. Do not refuse him. How happy you would be if Christ saved you today. This then would be your best Thanksgiving weekend ever! You will be surprised by the joy he gives, an inexpressible and glorious joy. Trust the Lord Jesus today!

Grace and peace, David

The Believer’s Happiness a Reason for Praise (Part One)

dscn3658Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Psalm 146:1-10

The closing psalms are the outposts of heaven. In the Psalms the ruin of sin has been discussed and the glory of God set forth over all. At the end of the collection, the Psalms conclude with praise to the Lord. “Come, rejoice with me; let us magnify his name together!” is a worthy theme for the ending of this collection of writings. This psalm of praise also has an instructional purpose: to urge people to put their trust in the Lord, for only then are we humans truly happy.

The psalm opens with determination to praise the Lord. Hallelujah! My soul, praise the Lord. I will praise the Lord all my life; I will sing to my God as long as I live (146:1-2 HCSB).

The writer provides a lesson in self-exhortation (146:1; cf. Psalm 103:1; 104:1). Spiritually, we must be self-controlled; that is, we must not allow the events and circumstances of life to dictate our spiritual tone. This requires us to talk to ourselves. “Why are you so depressed or lethargic, my soul? You are a child of the King, an heir of heaven, and one who will reign with Christ!” This involves the ministry of the Holy Spirit, as we will see in our series of articles about the Spirit of God. “O Holy Spirit, enlighten my eyes with the glory of my blessed Redeemer. Control me with the truth that is in Jesus, and then I will be self-controlled.” Practically, we must start here, because we will never be able to encourage others to praise the Lord until praise for him flows out of our own hearts.

We read of the response of the writer’s soul to his self-exhortation (146:2). A fire has been kindled in the psalmist’s soul. And not only is that true, but the fire has intensified so much that he resolves to praise God as long as he lives (cf. Psalm 104:33). This is like being “bit” by the physical fitness “bug”. Those bitten by it desire to do their selected activity repeatedly, whether it is swimming, walking, running, cycling, hiking, or skiing. (Let it snow!) When godly aspirations govern the soul, a person does not think about growing weary of them or of them ever losing their freshness. Even now, for example, I can sense the excitement of putting on the skis and taking off in eight to twelve inches of fresh powder. The problem is that too few have tasted the majesty, the glory, and the goodness of God, so that they long to praise him. Do you crave the glory of the Lord?

If your soul has been saved from eternal wrath, then come, let us praise God together! Certainly, we have something we can share together, because we know the joy of sins forgiven and the wonder of Christ’s perfect righteousness, and the Spirit living within as the Spirit of adult sonship. We cannot tell how long or short our lives may be, but as long as we live, we may glorify the Lord!

The key to such praise is knowing that God is yours—that he is in covenant with you in Christ by the blood of his cross. Can you say, “The Lord is my God; I will praise him forever?”

Grace and peace, David

Walking in the Truth

img_42683 John

For I rejoiced greatly when the brothers came and testified to your truth, as indeed you are walking in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth (3 John 1:3-4 ESV).

In our group reading, we have read (or should have read!) 2 and 3 John ten times. Those who have read it will be aware that the ideas of “walk” and “truth” are important in the letters of John. Here, he takes these two important concepts and joins them together to form a lively picture of what the Christian way of life looks like. What is walking in the truth?

“Truth” is the message of Jesus the Anointed (Messiah or Christ). He was sent by God the Father to make known who God is and to provide the only way that sinful people like us can have our sins forgiven and be right with God. In Christ, God is known, and we can have koinonia (“fellowship” or sharing of life) with God. Truth is essential to John. True Christianity is not formed from our opinions and preferences but from God’s revelation of himself and the way to God in Jesus the Messiah. This is the reason that correct teaching (“doctrine”) matters. Our views must develop out from the Scriptures, instead of trying to find a text that can be stretched in bizarre ways to lend supposed support to human inventions. Therefore, we stress reading and rereading books of the Scripture. As we read and listen carefully, we will hear God’s ideas of reality, and by the Spirit, we will see those ideas and values become ours.

“To walk” means our way of life; it means the attitudes, words and actions that we have and do. In many places in the Scriptures, the Spirit teaches that these can be transformed and conformed to God’s word. Our present practice can be far different and godlier than how we used to live. We are not victims of our circumstances. In Christ, we have power to change. This requires personal choices that are consistent with what the Spirit of God has revealed in the Bible. Yes, I understand fully that you might think that sinful patterns of attitudes, words, and actions are native or natural to you. It feels that way because sin comes from inside you (Mark 7:21-23), as well as being presented to you by others. But in Christ you can make godly choices with the help of the Holy Spirit.

“To walk in the truth” is the practice of seeking to experience the way we live transformed by the truth. God’s message forms new, godly ways in us. An example of this is Paul’s statement in Galatians 2:20. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (ESV). The apostle said that the reality of his union with Christ in his crucifixion produced a radical change in the way he lived. The bigoted persecutor had become the servant of Christ and so followed him in his way of life. John rejoiced when he saw people walking in the truth. There was no gap between the message of the gospel and how they lived. Dear friends, are we walking in the truth? Do we walk in the truth so that others notice our new way of life?

Grace and peace, David

Continued Grace

dscn1574Genesis 26:12-16

What I am about to write, I write cautiously. Sin lurks in the human heart (Mark 7:21-23), and it needs only the slightest encouragement to break out in all sorts of evil. For this reason, I write cautiously, but we must always pursue all the truth of the Scriptures.

Isaac had sinned. He had lied and told his wife Rebekah to lie. He had done that to try to protect his life. He was weak spiritually, though he was a believer in the true and living God. In his weakness, he had relied on his own wisdom rather than God’s power. But God had mercifully rescued Isaac and Rebekah from a very dangerous situation (26:6-11). God stirred the king of the Philistines, Abimelech, to issue an “order of protection”, so that no one would harm God’s people. Later Philistine rulers would not act that kindly.

The human heart likes to boast about self-effort, especially in “religious duties”. We wrongly imagine that “God likes us” because we do the proper religious stuff. We expect God to bless people who are pious and strict in their religious observance. We end up fretting and perhaps displeased when the wicked prosper (cf. Psalms 37 & 73) and the righteous suffer (Job). If we are on a “religious performance treadmill”, we might be even more shocked when a professing believer prospers although they have displeased the Lord.

The case is more troubling in our text. Not only did the Lord rescue Isaac and Rebekah from their sin, but the Lord blessed them lavishly. Isaac became rich and continued to prosper until he became very wealthy. That does not seem fair to anyone who supposes that our works earn God’s blessings. It appears that sin is a reason for God to show grace (cf. Romans 6:1-2). Yet the Lord was not blessing Isaac because of his disobedience. God acted in grace that they didn’t deserve, because he kept the covenant that he had made with Abraham and Isaac to bless the world through their seed (26:4). God had a purpose to bless the nations through the seed or offspring, and that Person is Jesus the Messiah. For this reason, Isaac received continued grace to guarantee their survival.

But we live in a fallen world. Isaac’s God-given prosperity was the occasion of the envy of the Philistines. If they had loved their neighbor Isaac, they would have rejoiced over God’s goodness to an undeserving man. This jealousy became so extreme that Abimelech expelled Isaac from his land. Observe the hand of God. Abimelech kicked him out but didn’t attack or kill him. Under orders to stay in the Promised Land, Isaac had to stay in another place that was not part of Abimelech’s territory. And God continued to give grace and mercy to an undeserving man.

This week when your family gathers to thank God, do not boast in your faith, obedience, or service to God, as if God was required to bless you. Instead, trace the benefits that you enjoy back to the continued grace of God. It is by grace that we stand (Romans 5:2).

Grace and peace, David

The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Part One)

dscn0538Acts 1:1-2

In the first book, O Theophilus, I have dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach, until the day when he was taken up, after he had given commands through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen (ESV).

Why should we study the Bible’s teaching about the Holy Spirit? Though we could list many reasons, I will focus on three.

  • Since the Holy Spirit is God, it is part of our worship of the true and living God to understand and experience God’s glory in the full majesty of all that God is. Knowing more about the Spirit of God will enhance our worship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  • The subject is a crucial part of understanding God’s plan of redemption in the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • A correct knowledge of the Holy Spirit and his ministry is essential to a proper Christian way of life.

First, we must avoid a wrong idea. Since I have been a pastor and teacher for over forty years, I know something of how people can misinterpret what a pastor or teacher says because they are viewing things through the wrong grid. I relate the following story not to embarrass the people involved; in fact, they reminded me about it two weeks ago, and they expressed their thanks for the teaching they received. When I was in upstate NY, I was preaching about the doctrine of adoption or adult sonship. A new family began to attend our local gathering at that time, and after a few weeks of attending they came to me with a concern. They asked, “Pastor Frampton, are you a Charismatic?” I replied, “No, I am not, but why do you ask?” They responded, “We thought you were because you talk much about the Holy Spirit.” Obviously, there were some deficiencies in their doctrinal knowledge, though they had been Christians for many years. Perhaps some reader of this blog might have a similar gap in his or her understanding about the Holy Spirit. If so, please read each article about the Spirit of God carefully, before you form an opinion.

In addition, we must also avoid a wrong attitude. Our goal is not to fill your mind with facts. It is to lead you closer to the living God, to refresh the inner person of your heart, and to prepare you to better do the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:12). If we are to serve the Lord, we must have correct ideas about the person and work of the Holy Spirit.

Our opening text (Acts 1:1-9) presents us with essential perspectives on the Holy Spirit. It provides us with “Biblical links” back to the teaching of the Old Testament Scriptures and forward to the final unfolding of the doctrine through the apostles and prophets of the New Testament Scriptures. This text speaks of an important event in history. It contains the final words of our Lord to his apostles before his ascension into heaven.

We first learn that the Holy Spirit worked in the world before Pentecost (Acts 1:2). This might seem extremely basic, but I have heard Christians talk like they didn’t know that. (If it happened, it’s possible!)

Jesus gave instructions to the apostles through the Spirit. The New Testament Scriptures teach that the Lord Jesus did his work through the Spirit (Luke 4:14, 18). The apostles had heard Jesus teach this truth. “If I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:28). The Holy Spirit has an essential ministry in revelation; that is, in God making himself known to mankind. As we shall see, God the Father works through the Son by the Spirit. The two parts of revelation are general and special.

This statement is a link to teaching about the personality of the Holy Spirit. The backward link is to the Old Testament Scriptures teaching about the personality of the Spirit. Read 2 Samuel 23:2 and compare Mark 12:36. The forward link is to the Spirit’s personal ministry in this age, as taught in the Acts (13:2).

When we think of the Holy Spirit, we must keep a proper reverence for his divine Person. Do not regard him as a force or a power that you can use. The Spirit of God freely chooses to use people, how and when and where and for as long as he wants to. He speaks through the Scriptures and we are wise to listen. He grabs hold of people with irresistible power and changes them forever. Respect him from the depths of your being.

Grace and peace, David

Christian Friendship

img_4284Third John

The elder, to my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth. Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well (3 John 1:1-2 NIV).

Third John is one of the lesser known books of the Bible. While a book like Jeremiah seems daunting because of its length, Third John can seem unimportant, because it is so short. This week we have focused Second John and Third John in our group reading, because we need to become fully aware of the message the Spirit tells us in these letters. We usually think of the Bible as a large book, but given its essential message, it is compact. Every book in the Book of books has a valuable message for people to listen to, to believe, and to live accordingly.

Third John is addressed to Gaius, and other than this letter, we know nothing more about him. (Gaius was a popular name in the Roman world.) From the subject matter of the letter, it seems that he was the leader on a house church probably near the end of the first century. He was also a dear friend of the Apostle John, who calls himself “the elder”. (John was probably the only surviving apostle at the time of the letter.)

John called Gaius his “dear friend”, which is the same word as “loved one”. He refered to Gaius three times in this manner, and he used the word “love” in reference to Gaius once and two other times in the letter. In addition, we see that the word for “friend” (a similar word also meaning love) occurs twice at the end of the letter. Clearly, one theme of the book is love.

  • A friend is someone we love. We set our affections on them to give ourselves sacrificially for their good. The well-being of our friends concerns us. So then, what do we do for our friends? This letter points us to actions that we ought to be doing for them.
  • We pray for our friends (1:2). John was concerned about the physical needs of Gaius, including his health and the general provision for his life. We tend to focus on physical needs when we share prayer requests, don’t we? We ought to pray for spiritual needs; for example, how is a friend interacting with God and others as he or she faces a severe illness. Some overreact and don’t think we should pray for physical needs, but John’s example shows us that we ought to.
  • We express the joy we have in our friends (1:3). John heard from other Christians about Gaius’ faithfulness, and it filled him with great joy. It does give us joy when we learn of the spiritual progress of others. The point here is that we can share the joy with the one who produced the joy. People need to be appreciated, and we need to tell them.
  • We commend our friends for the good they are doing in partnership for the good news (1:5). This is closely related to the preceding. John encouraged Gaius for his spiritual sacrifice (cf. Hebrews 13:16) of helping other brothers and sisters in Christ. We should often think about how we can encourage others in doing good.
  • We share our friends’ problems (1:9-10). John listened to Gaius and thought about what he could do to help him. Yes, the one helping others needed help in another area. John let Gaius know what he would do to help Gaius in his local gathering where someone else caused problems.
  • We admonish our friends (1:11). We give them warning-instruction to help them avoid spiritual problems. We need to talk boldly to each other when we sense our friends might be in spiritual danger.
  • We long to be with our friends (1:13-14). John planned to do more than write. He wanted to visit Gaius and have time with his friend. We need to share life with our friends.

How is your relationship with your friends?

Grace and peace, David

God’s Promise to the Burdened

img_4305Psalm 55:22

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved (ESV).

Our subject is our burdens and what to do with them. Many weights can metaphorically be placed on us. We listed several in our previous article. Now, how do we handle them? I remember being in the process of moving last year. There were boxes all over, and stacks of stuff to get rid of. Some went to family, some to charity, some to storage, and the rest in the dumpster. We couldn’t move on until all the extra stuff was cast off.

Our lives are journeys through this world to our final destination. Every follower of Christ is on the journey to glory, to the heavenly city. Although we have the burden of sin and guilt removed and being removed through the blood of Christ (1 John 1:7), we have other burdens that can weigh us down and hinder our progress. We must cast off what is laid upon us. It should be obvious, but in practice this can be difficult: We cast something off when we get rid of it. I like to fish, especially when I’m catching fish. I use a spinning rod to cast the bait in the presumed direction of the fish. Often, I need to reel the bait back in and cast it out again. That is not what this verse is advising us. We cannot cast our burdens and reel them back in. The chronic worrier has severe struggles in this matter.

Our verse urges us to cast our burdens on the Lord, on our covenant God and Father. When we truly cast them on him, not reeling them back again, he takes them. The Lord God is “big enough” to handle everything we all cast on him, for his power, wisdom, and kindness are unlimited. When Sharon and I took many boxes of stuff to charity, we left them there. We cut our ties with our former possessions. They no longer belonged to us when we gave them away. We must grasp this when we cast our burdens on the Lord. The burdens now belong to him, and we ought to stop thinking and feeling like we still have ownership over our old burdens. Our great Father has taken them; they are his concern now. The good news is that he invites us to do this!

Now notice the promise he makes in two different ways. First, the Lord promises that he will sustain you. Notice carefully that our Father does not promise the end of the burden in every case. Sometimes he does remove them, but usually he supplies strength to endure and move on with the burden. He promises to sustain us in the journey with him, not to give us a pleasure filled trip to the destination of our choosing. The apostle Paul learned this while burdened. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV). Our God will be with us so that we will learn the joy of what his strength can do.

Second, he will never permit the righteous to be moved. The burden, though a hindrance, will not be destructive. It will not stop our journey or push us onto another path. He will give grace, so that we persevere joyfully. The apostles experienced this promise. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name (Acts 5:41 ESV). We will receive his help and joy when we cast our burdens on the Lord.

Do you feel crushed under your burdens? The Lord generously offers his grace and help in your time of need. Seek him in faith, and you will receive, because no one has ever sought him in vain.

Grace and peace, David