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

An Important Watchword

We all have short attention spans. After an event, we can quickly ignore any beneficial lessons that our Father in heaven wants us to incorporate into our wFifteenFiveay of life. Reformation Day was last Saturday, and this is a friendly reminder to keep important concepts from the Reformation in your thinking. A watchword is “a word, phrase, or signal given to a guard or the like, used to ascertain whether an unknown person is friendly or hostile… [It is also] a motto, esp. used as a rallying cry or slogan.” When we think of what God has done in the history of the church, there are five important watchwords from the Reformation. We can say that they set forth the essence of Biblical teaching that was learned during that mighty work of the Holy Spirit.

  • According to the Scriptures alone
  • By grace alone
  • Through faith alone
  • In Christ alone
  • To God alone be the glory

In this post, we will look at the first of these five watchwords. Here is an idea to live by: We must always be thoroughly convinced of the absolute authority of the Old and the New Testament Scriptures.

  • Absolute – because it is divinely authored, unqualified, unbending, and final
  • Authority – it is objective fact whether or not people accept it; God said it, that settles it
  • Alone – adding neither human tradition nor experience to it

The Scriptures tell us how we can be right with God (2 Timothy 3:14-15). Prior to the great revival called the Reformation, most people in Europe professed to be Christians, but most were in a condition of deep spiritual darkness, not knowing how to be right with God. They might have had a zeal for God, but it was not according to knowledge.

The Spirit tells us that a correct knowledge of human need and of our only real hope comes through the Scriptures alone. It is certainly true that God has revealed himself in his creation (Psalm 19:1-6; Romans 1:18-20). But it is only in the Bible that we can learn God’s plan of salvation (Psalm 19:7; 119:55). One of the great blessings of the Jewish people was that the true God gave them his word (Romans 3:1-2). Timothy’s mother and grandmother were Jewish, and they taught him God’s word. The Holy Spirit uses the word of God when he gives new birth to people (1 Peter 1:23; cf. John 3:5-8; Titus 3:5).

We must understand that the mere reading or knowledge is insufficient. We must also have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Hearing without faith lacks any value (Heb 4:2). We ought to pray that the Lord would give the gift of faith to people as they hear the word (2 Peter 1:1; cf. Ephesians 2:8-9; Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:29). Practically speaking, pray for five people you know. “Lord, give my friends the gift of faith!”

The Scriptures tell us how the Lord wants us to live (3:16-17). Since there was so much confusion about the way of salvation, it is no wonder that the lives of the religious were so corrupted before the Reformation. The human heart always runs to one of two extremes—legalism or lawlessness.

The Scriptures benefit those who are in Christ. They provide the “blueprints and specifications” for the true Christian way of life. They do this by telling us God’s story in Christ, and our place in it as Christ’s people. Knowledge of the blueprints and spec book is essential in construction, if the building is to please the owner. Positively, teaching tells us what a believer’s life is to look like. It presents the characteristics of Jesus Christ that we are to imitate. Negatively, rebuke tells us what to avoid—if you do these things, you are not showing the pattern of Christ in your life.

They provide material for the actual construction. When Jesus saves us, the Holy Spirit begins the task of renewing our lives. He gets involved in transforming our ideas, thoughts, and attitudes, and he also starts to transform our words and actions. Again, there is a negative and a positive side to what the Spirit does through the word. Negatively, he uses the word to correct us. For example, we might be used to talking with destructive speech (Ephesians 4:25-5:7). As Isaiah realized when he saw the Lord, he was a man of unclean lips among a people of unclean lips (Isaiah 6:5). In many ways we were under the control of sinful patterns of thinking and action. Positively, the Spirit uses the word to train us. He tells us that we show the newness of Christ in specific ways.

So then, let’s grasp the purpose or the goal of the Scriptures. The idea is that we might be properly outfitted (1 Peter 1:13-2:3). If you are going to run or walk, you need the right shoes and clothing for comfort and safety. The desired object is that we might do good works (Ephesians 2:10; Titus 2:14). God wants us to bear fruit (John 15:5)! As God’s priests and temple, we are to bless others by acting with God’s kind of goodness. The teachings of the Scriptures and of Reformation theology are not entertainment for our minds. They are to be obeyed and lived (Matthew 28:20).

Much fruit

We arrive at our theme verse for Mission FifteenFive. It communicates a number of ideas that should be at the heart of our way of life and mission into the world (Jn 17:18). As Martyn Lloyd-Jones would often emphasize, we must understand the basics, the foundational concepts, before we hurry on about what we must do. People can be very results or success oriented, and so they immerse themselves into methods or programs. But first we need to begin with thoughts and ideas—and with the most important relationship!

Our Lord restates the illustration about our union with him (John 15:5). “I am the vine, you are the branches.” He wants us to know who and what he is. John uses seven of these “I am” statements in the Gospel of John to tell us the good news about Jesus. He is the life-giver to every branch; we are dependent on him. Every follower of Jesus has this spiritually organic connection to his or her Lord. Stop and think about this. (Did you?) Let this truth fill your mind and permeate your affections. Those who are connected to Christ by faith share in the powerful life of our crucified, risen, and ascended Lord (cf. Romans 7:4-6; Ephesians 1:15-23; Philippians 1:21; etc.) We should cultivate thoughts of our vital link with such a powerful Lord.

Our Lord emphasizes the truth of union and communion with him. “The one remaining in me and I in him this one bears much fruit.” While Christ lives in every branch connected to him, each branch must stay connected to Christ. If we don’t, then we can fall into what I call “the Colossian drift” (Colossians 2:18-23). Besides being in a very precarious position, such a person cannot produce true spiritual fruit. But here, Jesus wants us to lay hold of what can happen in our lives. We can produce “much fruit” for the honor of God. Those who know Jesus Christ want to see his vitality active and productive. We want to show all aspects of godliness, because the purpose of branches being connected to the vine is bear spiritual fruit. When Sharon and I have planted gardens, we have expected the plants to bear fruit or vegetables according to their kind. Any that didn’t were weeded out, because they had no use in the garden. The Lord tells us that he desires “much fruit” from our lives. The good news is that by remaining in Jesus, we will see much fruit appear.

Jesus points out the necessity of dependence on him, “because apart from me you are not able to do anything.” This happens in practice though prayer. Many like to quote Philippians 4:13 as the positive side to what Jesus says here. That is fine, as long as they do not think that the mere quotation of the verse is reliance on Jesus Christ. Our dependence must be personal, conscious, and deliberate. Jesus sets forth a walk of faith in which we rely on him constantly—in the family, with friends, at work, in the gathering of believers, and when we are alone with God. However, we often disagree with Jesus in the way we live, because we act like we can do things without him. Lord Jesus, how much we need your word to change us, not merely in a few activities and our choice of phrases that sound more spiritual to others. Lord, we want to depend on you continually. May all our days evidence our trust in you!

Grace and peace,