Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Marks of an unhealthy Christianity, and how to cure it

3 John 9 "I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say."

As you turn to the book of 3 John, the main point of John's short little letter is to define and evaluate a healthy Christianity.  In 3 John 1-8 we discover the following marks of a healthy Christian faith:

1. Sound Faith.                          3 John 1-2

2. Strongly Committed Faith.   3 John 3-4
3. Sharing Faith.                        3 John 5-8

Gaius is the main individual to whom John wrote.  His Christian faith bore these telltale signs of a healthy Christian faith.  The book of 3 John features three individuals that fit into two categories: Gaius and Demetrius in verse 12 fit under the category of healthy Christianity, while villain of the book, Diotrophes, classifies under the heading: "unhealthy Christianity".  In fact from reading John's remarks about Diotrophes and his exhortation in 3 John 11, there is no doubt that Diotrophes evidenced unhealthy Christian faith or perhaps even lack thereof.  With that said, let us look at what marks an unhealthy Christian faith.

1. Resistant Faith. 3 John 9

3 John 9 reads - "I wrote something to the church; but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not accept what we say."  Resistance in spiritual matters can range from a Christian operating in some level of known resistance to biblical instruction to flat out unbelief.  Resistance to God's truth at any level is dangerous.  The problem with Diotrophes was that he "loved to be first among them". 

It is interesting to note in the Gospels, Jesus' own disciples evidenced this first trait of unhealthy Christian faith.  When Jesus began to predict something about His impending crucifixion, a dispute would break out among His followers about "who was to be the greatest or first." Whenever you read passages such as Matthew 20:20-28; Mark 9:34, 10:35-45 and Luke 22:24-27, the same argument raises its ugly head.  

What is the source of resistant faith? Self. Self is that power or principle in the remnants of sin that asserts when it wants, how it wants and what it wants.  Self is always behind resistant faith.  So then what is it that self resists? The cross.  Jesus said in passages such as Luke 9:23-24 that if anyone does not deny himself and take up his cross daily, that person cannot  be a follower of Jesus Christ.  Unhealthy Christianity will embrace moral reform and civic duty - as long as self is out front and center.  This is why the cross must ever be at the center of the Christian life.  A resistant faith is the opposite of the sharing aspect of healthy Christianity we find in 3 John 5-8.  Let us now notice a second trait of unhealthy Christianity......

2. Rebellious Faith.  3 John 10

3 John 10 describes Diotrophes as not only resistant, but rebellious - "For this reason, if I come, I will call attention to his deeds which he does, unjustly accusing us with wicked words; and not satisfied with this, he himself does not receive the brethren, either, and he forbids those who desire to do so and puts them out of the church."  Diotrophes evidently was a leader of this small band of Christians who had come to assert himself over the flock.  He was a brash and overbearing leader with a bully pulpit who resisted apostolic authority and lacked a missionary heart.  In another one of John's writings we read of such a rebellious faith in John 3:20 "For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed."  

An unhealthy Christianity that is in a state of rebellion will resist and rebel against God's word and God's messenger.  Often those who are in such a state may very well be using the mask of religion and have a religious spirit attached to their activities.  Such an attitude must be corrected, otherwise no progress can be made for the kingdom and soon other Christians can be affected. (compare Hebrews 12:15).  So we have seen that unhealthy Christian faith is resistant and rebellious, but now lets notice a third trait....

3. Rotten Faith.  3 John 11

John issues this warning to his readers in light of Diotrophes actions in verse 11 "Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God."  My grandma always used to say: "it takes one rotten apple to ruin the whole barrel".  What John says here in verse 11 matches with what Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:33 "Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”  

Steps to curing an unhealthy Christian faith

2 Peter 1:4-11 gives us the perfect prescription to curing the resistant, rebellious and rotten effects of an unhealthy faith. I will close out today's post with that text:
"For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control,perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and inyour brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For he who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins. 10 Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you."