Pastor Randy’s Top 66 – 3 John
“I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” 3 John 4
This verse is very, very special to me because it is one of those verses that is particularly “personal”; and by that I mean that it is a verse that I can say from my heart as if I wrote it myself. You’ll understand in a moment.
John was an elderly man by the time he had written this Letter. Many believe that he had pastored a church in Ephesus, and not only was he influential in leading many people to Christ, but He was also the type of pastor that strongly encouraged newer Christians – he stalwartly believed in discipleship. So, it was not uncommon for John to be preaching the Gospel at his church – people would come to faith – he would disciple/train them – and they would travel to other cities and begin churches of their own, or join distant congregations. John knew that when someone truly comes to faith in Jesus Christ, it is because they have been called by God, and those that He calls, He justifies, and those that He justifies, He glorifies. In other words, if you are saved, you will stay saved (Romans 8:30).
John also knew that some people will come along for the ride because of the benefits that seem to come with the Christian faith; the fellowship is wonderful; people love and care for you; and many other reasons that people may ‘seem’ to be saved, but really haven’t come to a saving and trusting faith in Christ. They have, as Paul told Timothy the pastor to look out for, ‘a form of godliness, but they deny the power’(2 Timothy 3:5). In other words, they talked the talk, but didn’t walk the walk. John himself pointed out in his First Letter that there would be some people in the church or ‘in the faith’ who would later depart (and I don’t mean move away) from the faith, and that this was a pretty accurate indicator that they were never a part of the body of Christ – they were never saved – in the first place. He said in 1 John 2:19,
They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us.
For if they had belonged to us, they would have
remained with us; but their going showed that
none of them belonged to us.
John shares these things with the Christians who he has influenced and loves, and who are at other churches, as a warning. False teachers were a dime a dozen back then, so the Christians needed to be alert for those who ‘looked like they were believers’, but were really wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matthew 7:15). But as he warned the Christians of false teachers, he also wanted to commend those who had persevered and had continued to walk in the saving grace that was once and for all entrusted to them.
Apparently, word had gotten back of the many Christians who did remain faithful to Christ, which indicated that they were truly saved, and this brought great joy to John.
As a Christian for forty-three years; a youth pastor for seven years, and now as a senior pastor for over twenty-two years, I have had the privilege of teaching the Bible and sharing the Gospel to countless people. I have seen some great ‘fruit’ come forth of my efforts for Christ’s sake, and I’ve had people just stare at me. We aren’t the ones who are responsible for ‘saving’ sinners, that is the Holy Spirit’s job, but as Christians we have the responsibility to love people with the love of Christ; share the Gospel; pray for people; teach the Word; be an example of Christ’s love; and to be Christ’s ambassadors to everyone we come in contact with.
My seven years as a youth pastor were incredible, fun, enlightening, embarrassing, humbling, and filled with very touching and crazy times, and I always did the best I could to shine the light of Christ and His grace onto as many of the teenagers as I could. The somewhat frustrating part of the youth ministry is that you don’t always see ‘fruit’ right away. Oh, of course, there were many who were faithful; they loved Jesus; they participated in everything; and were very grateful to me, and most importantly to the Lord, but that wasn’t often the case.
After you pour your heart into a Bible lesson for the teens on a Wednesday night, and close in prayer, there wasn’t an overabundance of teens running up to me with tears in their eyes saying, “Pastor Randy, that was life changing. Thank you for sharing the Word and the Gospel. I now know that I am loved by Christ, and He has transformed me, and now I know that I will love Him forever!” It was usually more often, “We’re outta here! See you Sunday Pastor Randy”, and out the door they ran.
But fortunately I learned early on that again, I wasn’t the one who saves, but was just the messenger, who was to share the Gospel, love them, pray for them, counsel them, and let them know what it was like, through my example, to enjoy the Lord and the Christian life. As much as a youth pastor wants to see ‘fruit’ and be able to tell the church on a Sunday, ‘There were twenty conversions to Christ this past Wednesday night’, I knew that I would rather hear the Lord whisper to me, “Good job Randy. Keep sharing My Word and Gospel, and loving those kids, and trust that I’ll bring forth the fruit”.
And wouldn’t you know it – that is exactly what the Lord has faithfully done. With the advent of Facebook it has allowed me to be connected or reconnected with so many of my former youth group members, and it has been through those contacts that I have come to realize just how many of them are faithfully walking with Jesus; serving the Lord; preaching the Gospel; raising godly families; are active in their churches; are feeding the hungry; caring for the lost; and just loving on Jesus as He continues to love on them.
And whenever I hear those kinds of things, my heart grows warm and this verse immediately comes to my mind, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” Oh, I realize that they aren’t ‘my children’, and that my influence might not have been the ‘deciding factor’ in their conversion and growth, but it’s just encouraging to know that as I have faithfully shared the Gospel and loved them, the Lord has been faithful to bring fruit.
Although I don’t ask for it, and I certainly don’t ‘need’ it because I have a poor self-image issue, it is so refreshing to hear, after all of these years things like “Pastor Randy, I may not have told you back then, but I never forgot what you told us about Romans 6 and the crucifixion of the old man”, or “Pastor Randy, when you came to my softball game, and I told my friends who that was cheering for me, that meant more to me than anything else in the world”, or “Thank you for being real and honest about the struggles of the Christian life and how your hope in Christ had sustained you through thick and thin. Your words about the hope you have in Christ has sustained me all of these years”, and on and on – you know what I’m talking about.
Now, please understand, I’m not saying any of this in order to get a boatload of thank you cards or ‘likes’ on Facebook, but rather there are a couple of things that I’d rather you learn from this:
- God is faithful. The good work of salvation that He begins, He will faithfully complete (Philippians 1:6).
- Never stop sharing, teaching, and preaching the Word – even if it appears to fall upon deaf ears – because as Paul told the Galatians:
Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time
we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.
- If someone from your past – or even better – if someone in your life NOW – has shared or is sharing Gospel truth to you, and it has brought you life, encouraged you, sustained you, taught you, whatever – tell them NOW so you won’t have to share it for the first time with the person you’re sitting next to at that special person’s funeral.
- Whether you hear a ‘thank you’ or ‘My life is better because of you’ or ‘I love Jesus because you shared His love with me’, or not – continue to be faithful in loving people and being Christ around them.It’s not about us anyway, right? It’s all about Jesus and giving glory to the Lord God Almighty.
And then guess what will happen one day? Not only will that person who you thought wasn’t listening one day in Glory say, ‘Thank you’ to you, but more importantly, our loving Father will take you in His arms, look you in the eyes and say,
‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with
a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and
share your master’s happiness!’(Matthew 25:21)