It’s 11:00. Do You Know Where Your Children Are … Spiritually?

First in a Series on 3 John,
Delivered July 5, 1998 by Dr. Ronald W. Scates

Sermon Text:
3 John 1-4
1 The elder, To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth.
2 Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may
go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.
3 It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your
faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth.
4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are
walking in the truth.

Today we begin a four part sermon series on John’s third letter, John III. The last of his apostolic letters from back in the first century. Over the past few years we have gone straight through first John and second John, so I thought it was time that we complete the Trilogy.

This letter is one of the most personal, intimate writings that you’ll find in all of the New Testament. Really – it is a private letter from the apostle John to a man named Gaius of whom we know virtually nothing except that he was a leader in the early church and a pretty good leader in the midst of a church that also had some bad leaders.

Well let’s take a look at what is going on – turn with me in your Bibles to third John. This morning we are going to look at verses one through four. So keep your Bibles open during the sermon as we will be referring back to the text.

This is the word of God beginning to read at the first verse of John’s third letter:

The elder, To my dear friend Gaius, whom I love in the truth. Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. It gave me great joy to have some brothers come and tell about your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.

Join me as we pray – And now Father as my words are true to your Word may they be taken to heart, but as my words may stray from your Word may they quickly be forgotten, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Well somebody needs to clue John in – I mean we live in the nineties today. We’re not back in the first century. We are in an era now of post-modern deconstructionism and moral relativism and yet here this morning we encounter the apostle John continuing to labor under the myth that there is something absolute -something called truth. Four times in these four verses John uses the word truth. We don’t have time this morning to go into a deep, philosophical discussion of the concept of truth but let me say this. By using the word truth what John is getting at is not some philosophical abstraction or conception. What he is talking about here this morning, bottom line, is a person: Jesus Christ. The person who described himself as being the Truth.

You see folks, you and I discover the truth not so much when a light bulb goes on in our heads as much as when we discover that we are embraced by the arms of the One who made us, who loves us unconditionally and who loves you and me so much that he even came and lived a real life on this planet and died a real death so that the gateway of eternal life would swing wide open for you and me.

Truth is really a person – Jesus Christ. This weekend, we’ve heard a lot of rhetoric about freedom, but there is only one truth that will set you and me free, really, ultimately, eternally and his name is Jesus Christ.

Well, why are you here? No, not because it’s Sunday – I mean why do you exist? This past week I heard a radio commentator say that the chief purpose why you and I exist is to pass on our DNA, to propagate the species. That is a horrible thing to say especially to people who can’t have biological children. Instead the Bible shows you and me what our chief purpose for existence is, and that is to glorify God. You and I can do that whether or not we have biological children; however, the Bible also goes on to say that one of the chief ways that you and I glorify God is by reproducing ourselves spiritually. Passing on not our DNA but the biblical apostolic faith to someone else. You know you and I can have biological kids by accident. Sometimes we can even have spiritual children by accident but the Bible says that you and I need to be intentional about spiritually reproducing ourselves.

Well what might that look like? We have a pretty good example before us in this text that we are looking at this morning. John, the apostle John, is the spiritual father of this man named Gaius. Somewhere along the line in Gaius’s life John came along side of him and shared Christ with him and led him to Christ. He intentionally discipled him, encouraged him, nourished him in the faith and then poured his life into Gaius. Then we can assume from this text that over the years John and Gaius separated at some point and all those years that they were apart from each other John wondered – what ever happened to Gaius? What ever became of him? Has he kept the faith and is he still growing in Christ? Then we see in this text that the word got out on the street and back to John that yes indeed Gaius is still walking in the truth – he is walking with Christ. So in verse four of our text, the apostle John says Ah – there is nothing more joyful in my life than to find out that one of my children is still walking with the Lord.

I share some of John’s joy. Last October I was in Dallas at the meeting of the Presbyterian Coalition. Over one-thousand ministers and lay people were there and while I was registering I ran into three of my old high school youth group kids from San Antonio. Kids that I had poured my heart and soul into for years and they were at this conference as evangelical PCUSA pastors and they told me about a fourth one of our kids who was still in seminary.

What are you and I doing intentionally to spiritually reproduce ourselves in the lives of others? That’s what we’re called to do as Christians. Are you going to stand before Christ one day and say well Lord the Christian faith sort of stopped with me. No we are called to reproduce ourselves. To pass on our spiritual DNA into the lives of others.

Now let me zero in on parents here for just a second. You see God has graciously already given you your chief arena for spiritually reproducing yourselves. So let me ask you a question. What are the greatest dreams that you have for your kids? Do you want them to be successful, happy, healthy and make it in the world and marry the right person? Hey – those things are important and good. Those things need to be of vital importance to us. Look at verse two of your text. John is not concerned just with Gaius’s soul. He says I hope you are prospering health wise. He is concerned about his physical welfare as well; however; this text also reminds us that the most important part of any person, particularly our children, is their souls. So I would ask you as parents – Do you have a passion above every other passion for your kids – that they would come to know the truth as more than just a concept but as a person in Jesus Christ? Of course, Ron! In fact that is why we come to Central because we figure that this church is really going to take care of that area in our kids lives. You know what? We really do care about your kids. So much so that we have invested top dollars in top flight people in the areas of children and youth ministries; but you know when I was a youth minister, I used to say to parents and I’ll say it here to you today: You’re crazy – you’re nuts to put the primary spiritual care and nurturing of your children into anybody’s hands other than your own. What we here at Central are trying to do is merely be an auxiliary to what you are doing at home in terms of intentionally, spiritually reproducing yourselves in the lives of your children. Nobody can do that as well as you.

In verse four John says I have no greater joy than to know that my children are walking in the truth. Is that your greatest joy as a parent? If not, then you have yet to discover why God gave you children in the first place.

Well let’s end this morning by getting very practical. Let’s get down to earth. Let’s get where the rubber meets the road and talk about some ways that we can intentionally pass our spiritual lives on to those of our children.

The first begins with prayer. Are you praying that God would regenerate the hearts of your children everyday? You should be, and let them know that you are praying that. Let them know until the day you die you will be praying for them every day of your life.

Secondly – you and I need to be praying with our kids and our families at meal times, publicly as well as privately. When we give thanks over meals, that is an act of gratitude and I don’t think you can really know Jesus Christ in a healthy way unless you have a heart of gratitude. That is modeling for your kids what a heart of gratitude is all about.

Thirdly – pray with your kids at bedtime. Now I’m not talking about this now I lay me down to sleep malarkey. Why not ask your children what they are thankful for and then work that into the prayer? Why not talk over the day with your kids? What happened today in your kid’s life – weave that into your prayer.

Another way to be intentional about spiritually reproducing yourselves in the lives of your children is to have devotions with them at mealtime or at bedtime; yeah, even with the food flying. Our family struggles with this but it also presupposes that you have a well to dip out of. That you have your own quiet time where you are being replenished by Christ.

Another way to put them on the right track of discipleship is to let them see what a high priority weekly worship and Sunday School are in your life. Don’t tell them that’s what they ought to do if your not doing it. If they see you excited about coming and worshiping the risen Christ, excited about growing in your own Christian life – that is going to be contagious.

Then how about this? Have you ever shared your testimony with your child? Do they know that you are a Christian? Of course they do Ron – I mean they see me go to church . They have also seen you go into a garage – do they think you’re a car? Share your firsthand personal relationship with Jesus with your kids. The struggles in that as well as the joys. The difficulty of what it means to, as John says, Walk in the truth because that means not just intellectual assent to all the facts about Jesus and the gospel but it means bringing that vital alive relationship with Jesus Christ to bear on every aspect of your life and how tough that is to do.

Then lastly – Come to grips with the fact that like it or not, choose it or not you are the chief model of what it means to be a Christian in the lives of your kids. They are looking to you to see what a Christian is above everything else – Whoa! That means that we need to be praying all the time for God to redeem our failures as well as our successes. The good news of the gospel folks is that you can blow it with kids. You can sin against them, you can hurt them, your can blow your walk with Christ and repent of that and you know what God will do? He will use that to draw them to himself. Sometimes even more powerfully than when you and I are doing everything right.

Two-thirds of my generation, the boomer generation, disappeared from the church during their time of youth, Why? Well they have done some interesting surveys of the ones that stayed – the third that stayed. They asked them why did they stay? Out of thousands of replies, they kept hearing variations on the same thing. I stayed in the church and I am a Christian today because I saw my mom and dad practicing a life of faith that smacked of authenticity and integrity; that Jesus Christ seemed to be real to them seven days a week.

This Open Letter to My Parents once appeared in a local newspaper. It goes like this:

I am your child. You have brought me into this world and raised me to what I am today. If I am not what I should be please don’t be to harsh with me for I am your product, and by my actions I advertise the quality of our home. Don’t point at one of my playmates as an example of how I should behave, for by doing so you are admitting that they are doing a better job then you are. You say that you love me and yet it has been years since you have put your arms around me at bedtime and with tears in your eyes asked your heavenly Father to watch over me as I slept. You seem to be more interested in my school grades than in the condition of my eternal soul. You give me the impression that it is better to be popular than to be pure. Better to be attractive on the outside than to have that inner beauty that comes from loving the Lord. So the next time you feel like throwing up your hands and saying ‘I just can’t do a thing with you’ please remember that you have had the opportunity to influence me from the day I was born.

Well – it is eleven thirty-three. Do you know where your children are spiritually?

Join me as we pray.
Father, we thank you for men and women like John who came along side and continue to come along side men and women like Gaius who are willing to risk sharing what is most important in their lives with them. O Lord, remind us, whether we have biological or adopted children or not – that we have a calling to spiritually reproduce ourselves. Lord, give us the faith and courage to start evangelistic Bible studies in our neighborhoods. When we see a new member class join Central and we see those who have joined by profession of faith that we might call them and say Hey can I meet with you for six months so we can read a book together on the Christian faith? Lord, give us the courage to step forward and be a Sunday School teacher or a youth advisor or Vacation Bible School leader or an Adventure Club leader. That we might have the courage to witness to others in our office or even in our own families. That we might have the boldness, the humble boldness to maybe ask someone this very week to come to worship at this very place next Sunday. Lord, as we intentionally try to reproduce ourselves we trust that your Holy Spirit will go ahead of us and open doors and open hearts that along with John we might know the joy of having spiritual children, that we might know the exhilaration of seeing someone walking in truth, walking with Christ, walking with you because you chose to use us to bring them to yourself. What greater joy can we know in this life Lord. So anoint us Father, and send us forth to be disciplers, for we ask it in the name of the One who is the Truth and the Way and the Life, even Jesus Christ our Lord – Amen.