SDA Sabbath School Lesson

June 22-28

Imitating Good
Lesson 13

Read For This Week's Study: 3 John.

Memory Text: "Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good" (3 John 11, NKJV).

Key Thought: Through the three personalities mentioned in this letter, we see three models of Christian behavior in the church. Which one we choose to imitate is up to us, but we should be under no illusions what the different results will be.

Imitating What We See Happiness In The Church Gaius--Faithful Friend Diotrephes--Power And Pride Demetrius--Well-Regarded Imitating Good Further Study And don't miss: The Inside Story

Sabbath Afternoon June 21

Imitating What We See Churches dominated by one personality are frequently battlegrounds. Our membership can be scarred by involvement in churches that see Christian ethics and standards replaced by power struggles, with all the unchristian behavior that results.

John had to deal with one such congregation under the repressive tyranny of Diotrephes, who seemed to act like a petty dictator. In his letter, John shows that his principle of loving one another means taking a firm stand against such influences. What is the real danger? That members see the way such leaders operate, and either leave, or imitate such behavior themselves.

One church suffered just such negative domination for a number of years. A great deal of hurt was caused, and many people's Christian experiences were damaged. It was not until the Lord moved that person to one side that the church was able to continue its development and growth. See how important our influence is and how we must always try to make sure we imitate the good!

Inside Story

Sunday - June 12

Happiness In The Church (2 John 1,2).

How does John express his wish? 3 John 1,2..

John's interest is expressed in prayer and praise, a good model for us as we try to encourage one another in the truth. Sadly, churches are sometimes not happy places at all. From time to time, members cornplain that they do not enjoy church, that there are problems with gossiping and lack of friendliness. This indicates that the enemy is winning the battle, and we must return to the true Source of love, truth, and joy.

How are we in the truth? Explain your understanding of this often-used phrase.

"To walk in (RSV, 'follow') the truth is more than to give assent to it. He who 'walks in the truth' is an integrated Christian in whom there is no dichotomy between profession and practice. On the contrary, there is in him an exact correspondence between his creed and his conduct. Such conformity of life to the truth on the part of his children brought John greaterjoy than anything else. To him truth mattered. He did not regard theological issues as unimportant trivialities. It was from truth, believed and obeyed by his children, that he derived his greatest joy."-John R. W. Stott, The Epistles of John (London: Tyndale Press, 1964), pp. 219, 220.

We speak about being in the truth. At times this claim may include some tinge of spiritual arrogance. But only as the truth shows itself in loving Christian behavior are our claims valid. And how do we reveal Christian care and concern for those around us? We surely all need to be more interested in others' spiritual welfare.

"A profession of faith and the possession of truth in the soul are two different things. The mere knowledge of truth is not enough. We may possess this, but the tenor of our thoughts may not be changed. The heart must be converted and sanctified."-Christ's Object Lessons, p. 97.

For reflections: Could we speak as John does? Or is it occasionally more true to say that we take greater delight in the problems and troubles of others than in their growth in Christ? What can you do to make sure there is true happiness in the church? How can you assist your brothers and sisters to grow in Christ, without giving the impression that you are holier than they?

Monday June 23

Gaius--Faithful Friend (3 John 5-8).

Why does John single out Gains for praise? 3 John 5,6.

Two aspects: faithfulness and love for the members. John writes to encourage and inspire Gains to continue developing his Christian excellence. Maybe Gaius was like most of us--a little unsure of ourselves, somewhat reluctant to take on a responsibility that will perhaps lead us into problems and confrontation. At nominating committee time, the pastor hears so often, "I really can't spare the time," or "I just can't become involved," or "I don't feel I can manage that."

What the church needs-what God needs-is dedicated people who will not think of their own situation first, but people who will see how they can help the cause of God forward. In practical waysimitating Gaius's hospitality and encouragement-we can all do our part.

What if you do not feel able or qualified to do what you are asked?

"You have the pattern, Christ Jesus; walk in His footsteps, and you will be qualified to fill any and every position that you may be called upon to occupy.... You are not to feel that you are a bond slave, but a son of God."-Sons and Daughters of God, p. 283.

How does John suggest we use our resources? 3 John 7,8.

If we see a need, we should try to meet it. Like Gaius, who did not try to make it another's responsibility, we should try to help. John wrote of these visiting church workers who did not ask help of unbelievers, preferring rather to rely on the generosity of their fellow Christians. John concludes: &We Christians, then, must help these people, so that we may share in their work for the truth& (3 John 8, TEV).

&The right use of one's self is the most valuable lesson that can be learned. We are not to do brain work, and stop there, or make physical exertion, and stop there; we are to make the best use of the various parts that compose the human machinery-brain, bone, muscle, head, and heart.&-Sons and Daughters of God, p. 171.

Inside Story

Tuesday June 24

Diotrephes--Power and Pride (3 John 9, 10).

How does Diotrephes show the spirit that is really at work in his life? 3 John 9, 10.

Through malicious gossip, a refusal to accept other church leaders, and the abuse of church power, Diotrephes demonstrates that though he claims to have the truth, the truth is not in him. A philosophy of "the end justifies the means" characterizes those in the church who seek to further their own ambitions at the expense of true Christian conduct:

"What is lying against the truth?-It is claiming to believe the truth while the spirit, the words, the deportment, represent not Christ but Satan. To surtnise evil, to be impatient and unforgiving, is lying against the truth; but love, patience, and long forbearance are in accordance with the principles of truth. Truth is ever pure, ever kind, breathing a heavenly fragrance unmingled with selfishness."-Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, March 12, 1895.

What is the real contrast between Diotrephes and Gains?

We can presume from the letter that these two men were both converts to Christianity and began with love for God. Gains maintained that first love, which is expressed in doing good, particularly within the church and among its members. Diotrephes, on the other hand, treats the church like any other organization and as his own power base.

How does John describe Diotrephes' main problem? 3 John 9.

In his self-love, Diotrephes follows the precedent of Satan, who desired to be first-even above God. (See Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28.) The temptation to self-aggrandizement has affected individuals and churches and inevitably leads to sub-Christian behavior. In seeking to be preeminent, lording it over others, any such church dictator is in direct opposition to the words of Jesus: "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you" (Matt. 20:25, 26, NIV).

For consideration: How can the church make sure people do not abuse their power?

Inside Story

Wednesday June 25

Demetrius--Well-Regarded (3 John 12).

Why is Demetrius commended? 3 John 12.

Nothing specific is mentioned, but the most important criterion is mentioned: "Truth itself speaks well of him" (3 John 12, TEV). Having spoken against Diotrephes, John wishes to identify a person who will be of support to Gaius. How important good friends are in the church, who share the same aims, and reveal by their actions their Christian convictions.

What is the highest commendation? Micah 6:8.

It is the commendation of God that you have said and acted rightly. In contrast to the power-seeking and pride of Diotrephes, Demetrius is an example of one who follows the Lord's requirements: "To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8, NIV).

At the end of Job's troubles and worries, God was able to say that he was right, unlike his friends. It was even so with Demetrius. To this commendation John adds his own testimony, that Demetrius is someone he trusts. He emphasizes the point by saying, "And you know that our testimony is true" (3 John 12, NIV). See how much trust there needs to be among true Christians!

Write out what you would wish to be commended for, in humility and not pride. Is it enough to be well spoken of by others?

We all make mistakes, and our judgment may be defective. So we should not be particularly concerned to ensure that others speak well of us, but that we meet with God's approval. What do we wish to be known for? What is to be our epitaph? Sometimes people write their own, sometimes this is done by others. But for Christians, the desire is for God to write our epitaphs. To be called a "friend of God" is surely the most-yearned-for recognition.

Demetrius is to be emulated in the matters for which he was approved, though his part in Scripture is so brief. Our parts may not be major ones, but we can all seek to be commended as was Demetrius.

For reflection: If you were to write your own epitaph and describe yourself honestly, for what would you wish to be remembered? How do you wish to be regarded?

Inside Story

Thursday June 26

Imitating Good (2 John 11,13,14).

It is said that we learn by copying. What are we to imitate? 3 John 11..

Unfortunately, it often seems that people choose to copy bad examples more than good ones. John closes this brief letter with this primary thought-find out what is good, and make sure to imitate that. Although he does not say so specifically, John could have followed Paul's lead by saying, "Therefore I urge you to imitate me" (I Cor. 4:16, NIV). And it would be harder to find a better person to imitate than John, who is such a good example because of his close relationship with Jesus.

"The pure, those who are good and do good, are very near to Jesus. The disciple whom Jesus loved most was John, because he was the closest imitator of His character and was imbued with the spirit of love."-Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases, vol. I 1, p. 26.

Trustworthy leaders are hard to find in this world, and church leaders should truly be models of good behavior and sound teaching. Without being proud and arrogant, we can encourage others to follow what is good in any leader. For "whoever does good belongs to God" (3 John 11, TEV).

If we are searching to imitate good, where should we go? 1 Peter 2:21, 22..

Obviously to the source of goodness, God Himself. Once again, we are directed back to God in Christ, the theme of all John's writings.

Remind yourself of all that John has had to say on this theme. For example, see John 1:18; 12:45; 14:9; 1 John 4:14, 15; 5:11, 12; 2 John 9.

John's message should go with us, ringing in our ears. Reread John I and I John 1. See how John speaks so clearly of how God is made unmistakably plain in Jesus. And as we think of Jesus-His life, atoning death, resurrection, heavenly ministry, and His soon retum-what should be our message to this sad and dying world?

In his closing greetings, how does John communicate his continued interest in his friends? 3 John 13,14.

Inside Story

Friday June 27

For Further Study: Quickly review all three of John's letters. Try to write down in 20 words or less your summary of his message.

On being in unity: "Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth. 3 John 2. God wants each one of us to find his place, and when each one is in his place, doing the work that God has given him, there will be perfect unity."-The Upward Look, p. 157.

On personal religion: "Personal religion is of the highest importance. John wrote to Gaius, 'Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth' (3 John 2). Health of body depends largely upon health of soul; therefore whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever you do, do all to the glory of God. Personal religion is revealed by the deportment, the words, and the actions. It causes growth, till at last perfection claims the commendation of the Lord, 'Ye are complete in Him' (Colossians 2: 10)." --Mind, Character, and Personality, vol. 1, p. 27.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do we achieve true happiness in the church?
  2. How do we determine what is good to imitate?
  3. In looking at the three persons mentioned in this letter, what insights do we have into their characters?
  4. What was the main problem in Diotrephes life?
  5. What can we learn from the way John wrote his letters to these churches and members?

Summary: Like the early church, today's church has many problems, outside and in. Consequently, we all need to make sure we are imitating the good, and living true and honest Christian lives. The greatest goal is to hear from God His commendation as we enter into eternal fellowship with Him and with the saved from every age.

Inside Story

God's Spirit Moves Mountains, Part 3

Maye Porter

Pastor Nick and Pastor Norman were not welcomed to Mamosi as they had expected. But the village leaders allowed them to stay if they would not preach. The pastors agreed, but villagers stopped by their house to "story," and stayed as the pastors had worship. The next day the pastors were delighted to be invited to speak to the village at morning worship. After worship, the religious teacher invited them to speak again that evening. The pastors spoke every morning and evening during the five days they were in the village. And during the day villagers stopped at their house to learn more of God's love.

The pastors discovered that the people did not have Bibles, and did not know even simple Bible stories. So the pastors used Bible stories from which to draw wonderful gospel lessons to satisfy the spiritual longings of the people.

On Thursday the mission plane came back as promised. This time the villagers wailed, "Don't go yet! There is so much you haven't told us!" But the pastors had to leave, so grate vilagers loaded the little plane with gifts and food from their gardens.

"Please bring us Bibles when you come back," they begged. "We want to read for ourselves the stories you have told us." Pastor Norman promised to bring Bibles when they returned. "When you come," they said earnestly, "stay longer, so you can teach us how to use our new Bibles." The pastors nodded, climbed into the plane, and waved as they sped down the grassy airstrip.

Pastor Nick and Pastor Norman are still hoping to return to Mamosi. When the mission plane returned to New Britain, it had mechanical problems, and the pastors could not get to Mamosi. The villagers are still waiting for their Bibles.

But the people of Mamosi have not given up. They have sent word to Pastor Nick confirming their desire to have the two men return. "There are now people in two other villages waiting for you to come and preach to them," the message said. The message was signed by the leader who had told them to leave the village.

God's Spirit is working, especially in isolated areas such as the mountains of New Britain. Pray that Pastors Nick and Norman can return to Mamosi soon. Pray for more preachers and the means to send them to all the villages that have asked for God's Word in New Britain, the South Pacific, and throughout the world.

Maye Porter is associate child-ministries director in the Papua New Union Mission.

Inside Story

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Last updated on June 21, 1997

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