Are You a Gaius?
This letter is from John, the elder. I am writing to Gaius, my dear friend, whom I love in the truth. Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit. Some of the traveling teachers recently returned and made me very happy by telling me about your faithfulness and that you are living according to the truth. I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth.”
3 John 1:1-4 NLT
John commends the faith and conduct of Gaius. What a blessing it is to see men, who have come to Christ, grow into mature men of God. How heartening it is to have solid men of faith to depend on. There are those you know you can count on and there are those you worry over. Men like Gaius are the kind of men you need to guard the truth and promote it. Thank God for godly brothers in Christ. John probably slept better at night knowing Gaius was there to help look after the well being of the church. John prays that Gaius is as healthy in body as he is in spirit. I know first hand how important it is to have men you can count on and have confidence in. When God gives us godly men to help us in the ministry we can rest assured that things are in good hands. Having to deal with unstable men of faith is anguishing to a pastor's heart. There is nothing that brings more satisfaction to a pastor than to see the flock growing in Christ and standing strong in Jesus name! Are you a Gaius? Are you strong in the faith? Can you be counted on? How is your walk with God? Are you better off physically and financially than you are spiritually? Jesus should be the nucleus of your life. If you were in the same physical and financial condition as you are spiritually, what would your life look like? Impoverished? Surviving? How about thriving? Which one? Think about that!!
The Family of God
Greetings from the children of your sister, chosen by God.”
2 John 1:13 NLT
John was sharing the sentiments of a sister church congregation. Something we must always remember is that there are fellow believers in other congregations. Those who truly know Christ are our brothers and sisters. We are the family of God. At the church I pastor we call each other brother or sister. Like the old adage says: "blood is thicker than water." The blood of Jesus is what binds us together. We are birthed into the family of God when we place our trust in the blood of Jesus as the payment for our sin. “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:” Colossians 1:13-14 KJV (see also Ephesians 2:13 and I Peter 1:18-19). The Holy Spirit breathes life into us and we are born again! To be born again means to be born from above by the Spirit of God. If we are not born of the Spirit we are not His (see John 3:1-7; Romans 8:9-11). There are two representations of the church: 1. The Local Church - the congregations that gather at specific locations all around the world. 2. The Universal Church - the collective body of the saints from all over the world. From Acts chapter 2 all the way to Acts Chapter 8 the local and universal church were one. From that time until now, we have been separated by time and space. We have so many denominations that distinguish us. However, there is only One Lord Jesus and One way of salvation. There is only one true church - the church of the Lord Jesus Christ. God knows those who are His. He has children all over the world. We are one big family. In fact, we should think about, and pray for, one another. One day, the church will be one again. One day, we will see the family of God gathered together again. We will worship Jesus as one and there will be no more denominations. To all those out there who are my brothers and sisters, let me say hello, that I love you all, and I look forward to seeing you in eternity.
Face to Face
“I have much more to say to you, but I don’t want to do it with paper and ink. For I hope to visit you soon and talk with you face to face. Then our joy will be complete.” 2 John 1:12 NLT
Often we find ourselves longing to see those whom we love face to face. Talking by Skype, FaceTime, Facebook, email, text message, or by phone just isn't the same as being in someone's presence. Being able to reach out and physically touch them, hug them, or even eat a meal with them brings a definite sense of relief and satisfaction. John didn't have any of the things mentioned above to communicate with the churches. All he had was "snail mail" and it was much slower than our modern "snail mail". Months, and even years, could pass between letters. Challenges that are so quickly addressed in our time were grueling in that era. There were no conference calls, webinars, airplane flights to get us there overnight, and no convenience or grocery stores to accommodate our desires. Getting to be there in person was a paramount concern. Boots on the ground brought stability to the church and assured the body of solid Christian teaching. Seeing the brothers and sisters in Christ was to fulfill his hearts longing. Today, just as then, we long to visit our family and to be able to go back home again. Just to embrace them and catch up on things is priceless. Time takes us old and leaves us longing for yesteryear. The fact of the matter is this - we cannot stop the clock and we cannot always be with someone. However, there is someone who can always be with us - Jesus!!! “Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”” Matthew 28:20 NLT One day, He will come again and we will see Him face to face. “No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads. And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever.”
Revelation 22:3-5 NLT
God, Send Us a Timothy!
If anyone comes to your meeting and does not teach the truth about Christ, don’t invite that person into your home or give any kind of encouragement. Anyone who encourages such people becomes a partner in their evil work.” 2 John 1:10-11 NLT
As believers in Jesus Christ, we are to guard the true gospel. When we hear someone teach things that are contrary to the truth, we are to respond by refusing to fellowship with that person. This doesn't mean that we hate the person, it simply means that we are indicating to that person that we cannot, and will not, receive them as a true believer. False teaching is a raging disease that spreads like wildfire and infects the entire body. The only way to stop it is to get rid of it. We must take the necessary steps to rid ourselves of the deadly parasite of false teaching. Staying healthy, physically speaking, requires us to recognize the things that threaten our health. Once we identify the things that contribute to the decline of our health, we must make a decision to disallow them willful access to us. Things like overeating, smoking, alcoholism, and other things can destroy our bodies and bring premature death. Things like poison can bring immediate death. We must mark (label) things that are not to be consumed in order to identify them. Once they are identified, we can know what they are and how to handle them. The same is true with the spiritual health of the church. We must recognize what is unhealthy and decisively reject what would bring about our demise. We must label those who are poisonous and put them where they belong. We MUST mark false teaching and teachers. We must reprove and rebuke them. If they do not repent, we must reject them and refuse their fellowship. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.”
Romans 16:17-18 KJV We need to make an appointment with the Great Physician and let Him give us an examination, diagnosis, and the prescribed treatment for our condition. The disease of sin runs rampant through our world and even finds its way into our pulpits and pews. The Great Physician is able to make perfect diagnosis, perform the necessary surgery to remove it from our midst, and prescribe the medication we need. TRUTH is the medication we must take in order to stay healthy. This will heal all of our infirmities and keep us away from the poison of false teachers and their teaching. I'm afraid that many of our churches today are infected and don't even know it. What we need is the potent dose of the Holy Spirit to revive us and renew us. Come, O Blessed Holy Spirit, and baptize everyone. We need your presence. We need your power. Send us preachers of truth that we may live and not die. Give us Biblical preachers and teachers. Shortly before Paul was executed he wrote these words to younger Timothy. He wanted this young protege of the faith to carry on the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Here is what he said: "I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he comes to set up his Kingdom: Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching. For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths.” 2 Timothy 4:1-4 NLT God, send us a Timothy!!
Jesus Is God
“I say this because many deceivers have gone out into the world. They deny that Jesus Christ came in a real body. Such a person is a deceiver and an antichrist. Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked so hard to achieve. Be diligent so that you receive your full reward. Anyone who wanders away from this teaching has no relationship with God. But anyone who remains in the teaching of Christ has a relationship with both the Father and the Son.” 2 John 1:7-9 NLT
Anyone who teaches that Jesus is less than God is not teaching the truth. Jesus was, is, and always will be God!!! “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever.” Hebrews 13:8 KJV He is Divine! Jesus was no mere man or religious teacher. He existed before the world began and is the creator of the world and all that is. “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him." John 1:1-3 NLT "He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him.” John 1:10 NLT “Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together.” Colossians 1:15-17 NLT This is crystal clear! “For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body.” Colossians 2:9 NLT If you have a red letter edition of the Bible you will see Revelation 1:8 in red. It reads: ““I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.”” Revelation 1:8 NLT The red indicates words of Jesus. Another red letter passage is "Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words I speak are not my own, but my Father who lives in me does his work through me. Just believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me. Or at least believe because of the work you have seen me do.” John 14:9-11 NLT The true gospel is simply this: The unseen Spirit God became a physical man in the person of Jesus Christ. He was born of a virgin. He lived a sinless life. He died on the cross as the atonement for man's sin. He was buried and three days later He triumphantly rose from the grave. He is forever alive and will one day return for His church. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Any teaching that is less than this is a false gospel. Jesus is the only true Lord and Savior!!!
He First Loved Us
“I am writing to remind you, dear friends, that we should love one another. This is not a new commandment, but one we have had from the beginning. Love means doing what God has commanded us, and he has commanded us to love one another, just as you heard from the beginning.” 2 John 1:5-6 NLT
John is filled with the love of God. It is impossible to read anything in scripture from him without recognizing his love. Can others sense and feel the love of God in you? What do others feel when they are around you? Do they feel stress, anger, bitterness, distress, disappointment, hatefulness, or do they feel and experience the love of God? No matter what we say, no matter what we do, the love of God must be the primary characteristic of our lives. Without love, we are bankrupt and irrelevant. What makes the gospel relevant is the love of God. That great golden text of scripture - “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 KJV What a statement! We, somehow, misunderstand who God is. We think He is far away, looking down on us in tyrannical condemnation. This is not who He is or how He conducts Himself. He is personable. He loves. His love is pure. Only through Him can we properly know how to love our spouse, our family, our neighbor, and everyone else. Knowing God transforms our understanding of life and our application of that life. The world needs the love of God! You need the love of God! We all must know the love of God in order to make sense of life. Without this love, life is meaningless. The one thing that we all must have in order to make it through this life is the love of God. As believers in Christ, we must love one another. What relevance does the church have if we don't love each other? No one wants to go to a church where we hate one another and where God is presented as a hateful tyrant that is mad at the world. Yes, God has wrath toward sin. However, His wrath isn't toward the sinner. He loves the sinner. He hates the sin that destroys them. It is God's love that compels us to come to Him. Why do we love God? Because He first loved us. “We love him, because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 KJV Is love the basis of who you are and what you do?
Living According to the Truth
How happy I was to meet some of your children and find them living according to the truth, just as the Father commanded.” 2 John 1:4 NLT
What a joy it is to meet brothers and sisters in Christ who are genuinely serving Him. Many people go to church. Many claim to be Christian. If you were to ask anyone if they are a Christian, the response would likely be yes. I have heard the many different ways people use to identify themselves. Here are some of the things they say:
"I go to church"
"I was raised to believe in God"
"I don't go to church, but I do believe"
"My dad is a pastor"
"My family is Pentecostal"
Sadly, many people identify themselves by their heritage, an association, or tradition. While these things have their value, none of them can save us. Only a personal relationship with God through His One, and only, Son Jesus Christ can make us genuine "Christians". When we truly know Him, our lives should speak for themselves. Others shouldn't have to ask if we are Christians, they should be able to see it demonstrated in our character and conduct. The words we say and the deeds we do should match our lip service. Quoting Isaiah 29:13, Jesus said this: “These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” Matthew 15:8 NLT Talk is cheap. We cannot claim to be Christian just because we sit on a church pew no more than we can claim to be a car just because we are sitting in a gas station parking lot. Christianity is living like Christ. People should be able to hear Christ in our words, see Him in our actions, and sense Him in our Spirit. Truly born again children of God know that they belong to the family of God called "the church". Each of us should be participating in a local assembly of believers. (See Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-37; Hebrews 10:25) Yes, we should be going to church and walking in fellowship with the body of Christ. We are called to serve together. The church belongs to Christ! It is His bride (see Ephesians 5:25-33). We cannot say we love Him without loving His church. He instituted it (Matthew 16:18). The Holy Spirit inaugurated and empowered it in Acts Chapter 2. I'm not endorsing a denomination. I'm endorsing the church, the body of Christ. Yes, there are true believers in many denominations. However, there is only One Lord and One Church. How refreshing it is to meet and get to know those who are genuine followers of Christ. Are you a true, born again follower of Christ? The evidence speaks for itself.
Truth and Love
This letter is from John, the elder. I am writing to the chosen lady and to her children, whom I love in the truth—as does everyone else who knows the truth— because the truth lives in us and will be with us forever. Grace, mercy, and peace, which come from God the Father and from Jesus Christ—the Son of the Father—will continue to be with us who live in truth and love.” 2 John 1:1-3 NLT
When you read any of John's writings (John, 1st, 2nd, 3rd John, and Revelation) you can't help but clearly see that he is focused on two main things.
1. The absolute Divinity of Jesus Christ.
2. The love that followers of Jesus Christ should have for one another.
The book of John is uniquely different from Matthew, Mark, and Luke. There are no parables. John is intent on making Jesus known for who He is and what He came to do. Christianity, without the truth of who Jesus really is, is not legitimate Christianity. We cannot ignore the Person of Christ and call ourselves true Christians. After all, the word Christian is rooted in Christ. We are surrounded in our time, just as in John's time, with pluralism (the idea of coexistence). I often see the bumper sticker that spells the word "coexist" with various religious symbols. I must be honest - I despise this bumper sticker. There is an idea associated with it that says we should all just get along and simply love one another. Now, at first glance this seems harmless and thoughtfully tolerant. However, there is a fundamental problem. There is only One truth! We cannot let ourselves be pied piped down the road that leads to hell. Eternal destruction is the ultimate end of ecumenical inclusion. We must teach that there is only One Lord, One faith, One God, One Father. ““Listen, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” Deuteronomy 6:4-5 NLT “For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, in all, and living through all. However, he has given each one of us a special gift through the generosity of Christ. That is why the Scriptures say, “When he ascended to the heights, he led a crowd of captives and gave gifts to his people.” Notice that it says “he ascended.” This clearly means that Christ also descended to our lowly world. And the same one who descended is the one who ascended higher than all the heavens, so that he might fill the entire universe with himself.”
Ephesians 4:4-10 NLT Jesus is God revealed in human flesh. Anything else is destructive heresy! He is THE TRUTH!!! He is also LOVE! Truth and love are mutual. Truth establishes the basis of what we believe and teach. Love is understood within the boundaries of that truth. When "love" takes priority over truth, we stumble into ecumenical inclusivity and allow truth to be compromised. We cannot dispense of the truth in order to accept other "teachings". There is only one Truth - Jesus Christ. What we believe concerning Jesus is the issue. True love desires for those whom we love to know the truth. Why? There is freedom in the truth. “Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”” John 8:31-32 NLT We cannot truly love unless we love with the truth! Here in 2nd John, John is dealing with itinerant (traveling) teachers who are infiltrating the homes of the believers with false doctrine. These false teachers were, apparently, undermining the Lordship of Jesus by denying His Divinity. By denying Jesus as God in human flesh, they could insert their own ideas of who He was and what He taught. This kind of teaching was utter heresy. Although we are to love our fellow man, we are not to compromise the truth in order to create a community of peace. Error must be confronted! Genuine love and peace are built upon Divine truth. When truth is compromised we destroy the foundation upon which we live. Life must be built on the truth. Yes, we must also love. We must love with the truth! This means that we know, speak, and live the truth as we love those who either accept it or reject it. As the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, we must cling to the truth with our lives. John did just that. In fact, he was exiled on the island of Patmos (where he received the Revelation) for his faith. He was absolutely convinced concerning Jesus.
I am as well. Are you?
I Am the Lord, Your God
Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts.” 1 John 5:21 NLT
Nothing should take the place that only God should have in our hearts. This command has been #1 since the Ten Commandments were given to Moses: “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery. “You must not have any other god but me. “You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands.” Exodus 20:2-6 NLT Keeping God first is crucial to a truly successful life. God created life. It is utter foolishness to think that we can ignore Him and live a life that leaves a meaningful legacy. In addition, if we live for ourselves instead of Him, we will die in our sin and enter eternity lost and undone. Our children are either cursed or blessed by our decision in this matter. Many of the evils that plaque our nation are the result of parents that chose to ignore God and pursue their own desires. Every child needs a God fearing home. No wonder we have so many mixed up, messed up young minds and hearts. After having lived a rich, lavish life, Solomon looked back over his life in cynicism. Nearing the end of his earthly life, he writes these words in Ecclesiastes: “That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.” Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 NLT Solomon had tried learning, lust, liquor, and luxury. None of these things brought him deep down satisfaction. In the end, he turned to the Lord. There, he found the peace that had alluded him in all the other things. Know God, know peace. No God, no peace. Solomon found out that you can have a lot in your purse and nothing in your person. He found out that you can be vogue on the outside and vague on the inside. He found out that you can be intelligent in the head and be bankrupt in your heart. Psalm 14:1 and 53:1 both say it this way: “Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good!” Psalm 111:10 says this: “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of true wisdom. All who obey his commandments will grow in wisdom. Praise him forever!” Psalms 111:10 NLT Jesus taught us to seek God's Kingdom first. “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” Matthew 6:33 NLT Is there anything that takes God's place in your life? This is the most demanding question of life. Your answer brings blessing or a curse. God has given you the choice. May I kindly remind you of this one thing: You can let experience teach you or you can let the experiences of others teach you. Experience is a good teacher. However, it charges too much for tuition and, by the time you graduate, you are often too old to apply what you have learned. The experiences of others are a lot less expensive and doesn't strip you of the years. Think about that!
Jesus, the One True God
And we know that the Son of God has come, and he has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And now we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ. He is the only true God, and he is eternal life.” 1 John 5:20 NLT
Three times in this scripture the word "true" is used as an adjective to describe God. He is correct, accurate, right, and verifiable. This is an emphatic (to emphasize with direct, forceful clarity) statement of faith!! There is no other God!!! John is giving us an imperative (authoritative) statement concerning Jesus Christ. He is the One who has revealed the True God to us. Jesus is the "Son Of God". This doesn't mean that God has a wife and they had a child named Jesus. What it means is God became a human being in the person and life of Jesus Christ. Jesus was born, humanly, through a virgin named Mary (see Isaiah 7:14; Mathew chapter 1; Luke chapters 1 and 2). He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. “As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit.” Matthew 1:20 NLT Jesus was Divinely conceived in the womb of Mary. He came to reveal God to humanity and to give His life as a ransom for sin. Jesus is the likeness of the unseen, Spirit God. “For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”” John 4:24 NLT In John 14, Philip asked Jesus to show them (the disciples) the Father. “Jesus replied, “Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and yet you still don’t know who I am? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you?” John 14:9 NLT Jesus did not find His beginning in the womb of Mary! He existed before the world began. “Now, Father, bring me into the glory we shared before the world began.” John 17:5 NLT “John testified about him when he shouted to the crowds, “This is the one I was talking about when I said, ‘Someone is coming after me who is far greater than I am, for he existed long before me.’” John 1:15 NLT John the Baptist was, humanly, six months older than Jesus. How could Jesus exist before John the Baptist? Simple: Jesus was God in the beginning!!! “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him.” John 1:1-3 NLT Jesus revealed the One True God to humanity. Through Him, we know God!!! There is no other God and there is no other way to God!!! “Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.” John 14:6 NLT
Rev. Curtis Norris