A Testimony About Another Believer

img_4573Third John 1:12

Demetrius has received a good testimony from everyone, and from the truth itself. We also add our testimony, and you know that our testimony is true (ESV).

In our last study in 3 John, we listened to a warning that the apostle gave to Gaius about an evil leader, Diotrephes. We need to receive warnings to protect us. But we cannot live on warnings. Prevention is not the same as nourishment. Fences serve a good purpose around gardens; however, if you spend all your time of fence building and maintenance, you don’t have any to invest in planting and tending to the garden.

Some leaders do not grasp what should be obvious. They are eloquent about warning people about the dangers of worldliness or whatever they feel they must oppose now. They are not nearly so concerned about the spiritual strength and health of the people they are to serve. People need sound teaching (Titus 2:1). Sound teaching instructs in the truth and provides a variety of spiritual food. It presents the glory of the Triune God, and it makes known the love and grace of God for his dearly loved people. It tells them to love one another; it shows how to love one another. It models love, compassion, and goodness.

In many evangelical churches, there is a proper emphasis about having a good testimony for Jesus Christ. We are to live and to speak for the Lord before others in a way that points people to repentance toward God and faith in Christ. However, do we give a good testimony about our brothers and sisters in Christ? Do we tell of their goodness? Can we? Do we know how?

You see, a fence is unnecessary unless there is a garden, a garden of good people producing good fruit in a spiritual climate of rejoicing in the truth (3 John 1:3-4). It matters not if there is a splendid doctrinal statement with a fine constitution along with an attractive morning service with nice music and clever preaching. Advertising a schedule of advent services or children’s ministries is not close to what John teaches here. John wanted them to celebrate Demetrius, because of his goodness. The apostle was happy to point to a brother in Christ that bore good fruit. The Lord wants his people to be fruitful. You did not choose Me, but I chose you. I appointed you that you should go out and produce fruit and that your fruit should remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He will give you (John 15:16 HCSB). A local church should be known for the Spirit’s fruit. It should be the place where people in Christ are very able and willing to speak well of each other.

Are the people in your local assembly interested in the spiritual well-being of one another? Do you know other people in your local church, not merely their names, but their spiritual struggles and progress? Do you celebrate the work of the Holy Spirit in producing Christ-likeness in each other? Every gathering of Christ’s people is a place to share our new life in him. It is a place, not only to be challenged but also to be celebrated. Listen to Paul’s words about the Corinthian church. I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge… (1 Corinthians 1:4-5 ESV). He appreciated the spiritual riches that he saw in their “garden”. Yes, he knew their problems, but he could celebrate the grace of God given to them.

Join with other followers of Christ, and rejoice with one another. For Christ’s sake, rejoice in the Lord together.

Grace and peace, David

The Desire to Worship and Praise

dscn35162 Chronicles 20:18-19

Then Jehoshaphat bowed with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord to worship Him. Then the Levites from the sons of the Kohathites and the Korahites stood up to praise the Lord God of Israel shouting with a loud voice. (HCSB)

In our previous articles about clashing desires from the life of Jehoshaphat, we saw the Lord God answer Jehoshaphat’s prayer for help when confronted by a serious problem. God answered by the Holy Spirit coming upon a man in the crowd to give God’s message to the king and his people. God acts in our lives by the Spirit and the Word. By the Word, the Lord told them how he would rescue them. By the Spirit, the Lord enabled them to believe and act on the Word.

What we want to think about next is that the combination of the Spirit and the Word is the spring from which the desire to worship and praise flows. Before the people heard the word by the Spirit, they were filled with fear. A vast army was coming to destroy them! They should have been afraid! But they did the right thing when afraid. When I am afraid, I will trust in You (Psalm 56:3 HCSB). The people sought the Lord in their fears, and he promised to help them. And so, convinced of God’s promise, they began to worship. You must realize that at the time they started to worship, the vast army was still out there and headed their way! Their worship began because of their faith in the promise of God. Now may the God of hope also give us grace to listen to his message to us.

Jehoshaphat led the people in worship. In general, when we see people worshiping the Lord in the Scriptures, it is out of a posture of humility before him. People kneel or bow down or fall prostrate before the Lord of glory. This posture recognizes the Creator’s greatness, holiness, power and authority by those created by him. The Lord had taught them his significance and worthiness by many acts of power throughout their history. They responded to this word based on redemption themes with confession of his greatness.

For this reason, Jehoshaphat and all the people of Judah gathered bowed down before the Lord. Now, what are you really thinking at this point? “Oh, isn’t this a charming story about people of long ago? People used to do such things, you know. But aren’t we sophisticated, affluent people rather above such actions. Primitive people in third world nations might bow down, but us? You can’t be serious!” What do we know in our experience about humbling ourselves before the Lord? When was the last time you were on your knees before him? Has there ever been such a time? Let me encourage you to get down on your knees when you pray in family worship. Sharon and I do.

The Levites led in praise. In general, when we read of people praising the Lord in the Scriptures, they praise with a posture of exaltation and celebration before him. People stand, lift up their hands, lift up their voices, and exalt the Lord’s glory. It is the recognition of the Savior by those saved by the Savior’s love, compassion, goodness, and redeeming works. The Lord had promised to rescue them and to be with them. They responded by lifting up his name with a very loud voice.

For this reason, Levites of two different groups led the people in celebration of promised deliverance. Now, what are you really thinking at this point? “Oh, isn’t this a charming story about people of long ago? People used to do such things, you know. But aren’t we sophisticated, affluent people rather above such actions. Primitive people in third world nations or ‘wild Pentecostals’ might praise the Lord with a very loud voice, but us? You can’t be serious!”

What do we know in our experience about celebrating before the Lord? When was the last time you lifted your hands before him? Has there ever been such a time? Let’s clear our hearts of excuses. I think our real difficulty is whether or not we actually believe that the Lord is God. David, what are you saying? Well, I happened to watch parts of a couple baseball games this week, and I saw people doing worship and praise, similar to the way the people of Judah did in this story. The fans would get bent over with worry when their team was losing or in danger of losing, but when their team was winning or had won, they broke out into exuberant praise. It was very impressive, but it was only for a baseball team made up of mere humans. Yes, people in very sophisticated worldly cultures get very involved physically… when they want to, and we won’t even mention how people all over the world get very physically involved in whatever kind of “football” they’re watching.

Let us think about honoring God. I think there are times we must humble ourselves before the Lord, overcome by his greatness. And I think there are other times we must stand and lift up our hands in praise, overcome by his goodness. At this point, I want to clarify what I am saying. Yes, I am talking about what we do with our bodies, our outer persons. But also, and in a deeper way, I am talking about what we do with our hearts, our inner persons. Do you humble your heart before the Lord? Do you exalt in your heart to the Lord? Are you responding appropriately to the truth about the Lord our God?

Let’s go deeper. Is there a clash of desires in your heart to respond to God like he shows you in the Bible as opposed to responding to God in your own self-pleasing way? Are you telling yourself, “I must seem sophisticated, I must be reserved and dignified, I must not appear zealous or enthusiastic?” Or are you telling yourself, “I must worship and praise God according to the way he reveals himself in his Holy Word?”

Grace and peace, David