"THE THIRD EPISTLE OF JOHN" Imitating The Good (11-12) INTRODUCTION 1. After describing "the spirit of Diotrephes" in verses 9-10, John encourages his beloved Gaius to be careful about what he imitates: "Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. He who does good is of God, but he who does evil has not seen God. Demetrius has a good testimony from all, and from the truth itself. And we also bear witness, and you know that our testimony is true." - 3Jn 11-12 2. Following upon the condemnation of Diotrephes, and followed by the commendation of Demetrius, it is easy to infer... a. That John was warning Gaius not to be like Diotrephes b. And encouraging him instead to be like Demetrius 3. But why does John feel the need to exhort Gaius in this way? a. Haven't we seen that Gaius was a man whose soul was prosperous? b. Haven't we observed that he was walking in the truth? c. Haven't we noticed that he was commended for his hospitality? -- Wouldn't this make Gaius himself a man worthy of imitation? 4. Yes, and perhaps this should tell us something... a. About ourselves as imitators b. About the need for everyone to have good role models that we can imitate [In this lesson, "Imitating The Good", I would like for us to reflect on the idea of being imitators. Let's begin by observing that...] I. WE ARE NATURALLY IMITATORS A. CHILDREN IMITATE THEIR PARENTS... 1. Especially in their early years, children seem to delight in imitating their parents 2. They quickly pick up their parent's mannerisms: the way they talk, walk, etc. 3. It is as though there was some innate reason for them to imitate mom and dad B. TEENAGERS IMITATE THEIR PEERS AND POPULAR IDOLS... 1. As children get older, they may not seek to imitate their parents, but they are still active imitators 2. For better or worse (usually worse), they seek to emulate those in their peer group, or those whom they hold in high regard (athletes, musicians, etc.) 3. Despite frequent claims to want to "be themselves", you can usually tell by their behavior who they have been watching or listening to C. CHRISTIANS IMITATE THOSE THEY HOLD IN HIGH REGARD... 1. I have observed that many brethren often reflect the attitudes, dispositions, and conduct of those preachers or elders for whom they have much respect 2. This can be good, but in some cases it is not... a. I have known some Christians (including preachers) whose behavior greatly disturbed me, wondering how they could justify their conduct b. But when I saw their peers, or those brethren whom they held in high regard acting in the same way, I began to understand [For whatever reasons, then, we seem to be natural born imitators. Once we are aware of that fact, we are in a position to appreciate John's exhortation to Gaius in verse 11. That leads us to our next point...] II. WE SHOULD IMITATE ONLY THE GOOD A. IN OUR TEXT, JOHN EXPLAINS WHY... 1. "He who does good is of God" a. The one who does good, truly and naturally, bears evidence that they have been born of God - cf. 1Jn 5:18 b. Such was the case of Demetrius, whose life bore testimony from all who knew him - 3Jn 12 2. "He who does evil has not seen God" a. The one who consistently engages in evil demonstrates that he or she is has not seen God, and is in fact a child of the devil! - cf. 1Jn 3:6b,10 b. The implication seems to be that Diotrephes was demonstrating that he had not seen God 3. Who is a better role model for us? a. One whose life bears witness that they have come to know God, and are led by Him? b. Or one whose life demonstrates that despite their claims to the contrary they have yet to come to know God? B. THERE IS ANOTHER GOOD REASON TO IMITATE ONLY THE GOOD... 1. We become like those we imitate! a. Yes, I know this is redundant b. But it needs to be stressed, for some believe they can act like others, dress like others, and yet somehow not be like them 2. Children become like their parents, teenagers like their peers and idols, Christians like those they hold in high regard 3. If we imitate the good, we become good; if we imitate the evil, then it is evil we become! [So if by nature we must be imitators, then let us be selective in who we follow. Fortunately...] III. WE HAVE MANY GOOD EXAMPLES TO IMITATE A. WE CAN IMITATE DEITY... 1. As Christ encouraged us to do, in showing kindness to our enemies - Mt 5:43-48 2. As Paul instructed the Ephesians to walk in love - Ep 5:1-2 3. What better example do we have, than that of God and Jesus Christ? 4. Indeed, some of the very titles we wear imply such imitation: a. Children of God b. Disciples of Jesus Christ 5. Do you seek to learn as much about God and Jesus as you do other role models? B. WE CAN IMITATE NEW TESTAMENT EXAMPLES... 1. To the degree they imitate Christ, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians - 1Co 11:1 2. The New Testament is filled with good examples for Christians today... a. For married couples, there is the example of Aquila and Priscilla - Ro 16:3-5 b. For those blessed with things of this life, there is the example of Philemon and Gaius - Phm 1-7; 3Jn 5-8 c. For women, there is the example of Dorcas - Ac 9:36,39 d. For young men there is the example of Timothy - Php 2:19-22 3. This does not mean to preclude many fine Old Testament examples as well: Joseph, Daniel, Barzillai the Gileadite (an old man who helped David in his affliction - 2Sa 17:27-29; 19:31-39) and many others 4. Indeed, the Scriptures are filled with many wonderful examples worthy of our emulation! C. WE CAN IMITATE MANY OF OUR FELLOW CHRISTIANS TODAY... 1. As Paul encouraged his fellow Christians to imitate those who provided a similar pattern as he - Php 3:17 2. Yet we should be careful, for not all who profess to be Christians behave as they should - cf. Php 3:18-19 3. It is important, therefore, that we know the Scriptures well enough to know when someone is worthy of our emulation CONCLUSION 1. Since it appears that we are creatures who will imitate something, let us make the choice to imitate the good! a. Only then do we have the hope of being "of God" b. Only then can we have a testimony like that of Demetrius, to which all bore witness -- The only alternative is to imitate the evil, which prevents us from ever "seeing God" 2. We close by adding these words of the writer to the Hebrews: "And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises." - He 6:11-12 Let us therefore look to the example of Gaius and Demetrius, and beware of the example of Diotrephes!