In this final phase of human history, Third John offers an important reading for saints. It encourages a Christian man to help itinerant gospel preachers financially, even in the face of opposition from within. Nothing trumps the preaching of the gospel, not even keeping the peace (or, more accurately, keeping quiet) in a congregation. There appears to be no circumstance that allows for restricting the gospel message. Can you think of one?
• But you can probably list half a dozen ways it’s done in a local church. If it’s true that the church must not practice what is not authorized in the New Testament, some of us will have some explaining to do in the last day about why we did unauthorized things and failed to fulfill the Great Commission. To borrow some wise words of the Master, many are doing these unauthorized things, seemingly, in order to avoid fulfilling the mandate of teaching the nations. Remember Corban?
• In the bookstores still left standing, a large section is devoted to self-help books. Their content strives to teach two things: how to be successful and how to be happy. Can we say, even, that they show how to be successful in order to be happy? Happiness is on my mind, since I preached on it and taught about it two weeks in a row, the first time, by request, in a nearby congregation. Although the self-help tomes may have some interesting tips and time-savers, they know nothing about true happiness.
• David sums it up as no one can, except maybe the Lord Jesus himself. “You lead me in the path of life; I experience absolute joy in your presence; you always give me sheer delight” (Psalm 16:11 NET). Only in God’s presence can such joy be found. Just think: this was already true under the old law. How much more so under the law of Christ!
• The Bible doesn’t talk much about emotions as such. It’s main interest in the human psyche seems to be the thought, the understanding, and the will. But it is full of the expression of feelings, not least in the book of Psalms. This joy of David’s springs from the knowledge of one great truth, that God has bestowed upon man his benevolent presence. The NET rendering above swoons with rapturous joy, as it should.
• Above, I mentioned a nearby congregation. It’s about an hour away from us. So “nearby” is a relative term. In regions or countries where congregations don’t meet on every other block, the term may be measured in hundreds of kilometers or hours, not minutes, of driving time. That means most regions and countries in the world.
• Seven billion human beings. We’ve actually not even scratched the surface yet. For all their good, let us not think that throwing radio, TV, and Internet messages at the world gets the job done. These are good. I use them. But they are woefully insufficient substitutes for feet on the ground. This is a soapbox of mine, so you’ve heard it before.
• Governments have learned the hard way that satellites and other electronic gadgets cannot substitute for what they call HUMINT, human intelligence, intelligence gathering by means of interpersonal contact, as Wikipedia defines it. Human eyes and ears. By analogy, the church ought to learn that interpersonal contact is essential to the communication of the gospel. Call it HUMINST, (hum)an (inst)ruction by means of interpersonal contact. Perhaps that’s why, in part, the Incarnation happened. The Word dwelt among us, and we saw God’s glory.
• For God’s message to be spoken by mouths speaking the local language among the native populations of the world, there must be a million Gaiuses to “send them on their way” (3 John 5-8). That, my friends, is an essential part of “living according to the truth” (3 John 3-4). Are you restricting the gospel message or supporting its penetration in the world?
The latter is also our absolute joy.