April 5, 2009
Faithfulness & Self Control
Rev. Ray Dupere
Scripture reading 3 John 1:1-13
One of the things I always find interesting is the fact that we have this tendency as human
beings is to put people in boxes. We want to know what their job is and that helps us to put
them in a box or we want to know where they come from and that helps us to put them in a
box. I don’t know why we do that perhaps it has to do with the fact that we don’t have enough
time to get to know well and so we need to quickly find a box to put them in. I’m sure that
people out there in Rockville who don’t know me, if all they knew about me was I’m a 62 year
old balding guy, who’s certainly a little overweight and pastor of Union Church they’d put me
in kind of a wimpy little box and maybe leave me there. I don’t know what they would do if
they found that I once upon a time were a green beret. As a military officer I was trained to be
a Special Forces and served in a Special Forces Unit. Perhaps they’d take me out of that box
and then kind of scratch their heads wondering where to put me. But we do that, we put people
in boxes. I think sometimes the world puts Christianity in a box, besides the box of putting it in
“do not touch” you know, that box. They also put in the bigger box of “you don’t touch
Christianity if you’re a man.” If we were to count heads today there’d be more woman here
than men. So you don’t touch Christianity if you’re a man because “it’s not manly.” It’s not
“macho”. I mean after all, think about it. In church what do they talk about? Love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness. I mean how “unmanly” can you get right?
We’ve been talking about The Fruits of The Spirit. If anybody really had the mind to kind of
make fun of Christianity all they would have had to have done is come to one of the last few
weeks and discovered we’d been talking about The Fruits of The Spirit and they’d be out here
real fast. But that’s only if they don’t pay attention to what the scriptures really saying.
Fortunately for those of us men here God did give us two manly fruits: Faithfulness and self
control, two things of which we have not. Men are far more unfaithful to their wives than
wives are unfaithful to their husbands. That’s historically the case. And let’s face it guys the
one thing we do not want to have to be in all of our lives is self controlled. I mean think about
it. Why do guys fear getting married, because they “might” be controlled? We don’t want to
be controlled. But even so, if you were going to classify on a surface level any of The Fruits of
The Spirit as being manlier he’d have to say faithfulness and self control. Those would be the
The thing you have to keep in mind is these are Fruits of The Spirit and ultimately in the truest
sense of the word of what all of these things mean. The love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. In the truest sense of what all of these
things mean none of us have any of these fruits, and you have to hear what I said, in the truest
sense of what these things really mean none of us have any of these fruits except by the
presence and the power and the working of the Spirit of God in our life and that only comes
thru faith in Jesus Christ, because apart from faith in Jesus Christ we don’t have the presence
of the Spirit in our life. Apart from faith in Jesus Christ our bodies have not become the temple
of the living God, the presence where the Spirit of God dwells. So as we talk about these Fruits
of The Spirit we have to keep in mind that is what they are. They are The Fruit of The Spirit;
they are the fruit of the presence of God at work in your life and my life.
Now let’s look at these last two that we’re going to look at, faithfulness and self control. The
apostle John by this time is probably somewhere around 85 or 90 years old. He’s writing to
various friends of his that he’s known over the years, in this case Gaius, we don’t know what
church Gaius was a part but he says in verse 2 “Dear friend, I pray for you that you may enjoy
good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well.” Verse
3 “It gave me great joy to have some of the brothers come and tell me about your faithfulness,
your faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth.” One of the things
that we have to be really careful of when we contemplate this fruit of The Spirit called
faithfulness is to not put the word in the box that means only, ‘oh that person will always do a
good job if you give them something to do, their faithful.’ Because that is our typical tendency
when it comes to the use of the idea if faithfulness, somebody who does a good job, somebody
you can rely on, somebody who when given a task will follow it through to completion. And
yes, that’s true, the meaning of that word includes that but our problem is unfortunately is that
tends to be the fullness of the meaning that we give to the word. When [in fact] the fruit of The
Spirit called faithfulness starts with clinging to the truth of God. Clinging to the word of God
and because the person who is faithful in the sense of it being a fruit of The Spirit, is because
that person clings to the truth of God. They are someone that because they believe God’s word
means something they then believe when they make a promise it should mean something and
therefore follow through and do what it is they’ve committed to do. You see we have this
tendency to take the word faithfulness and put it in a box titled ‘things to do’ and we are
satisfied that somebody is faithful as long as they do what they say they are going to do and we
never ask our selves what does the word really mean in a biblical context. This is what it really
means. Faithfulness to the truth because you have to keep in mind, there are many people in
this world who are people who will do what they are committed to do and many of them
haven’t got a clue who Jesus is. They don’t know what it means to trust Christ. They don’t
know what it means to be forgiven. They don’t know what it means to have come to grips with
and embrace the promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ. Yet there are people who will do
what they promise to do but in a biblical sense they can’t be called faithful. Because
faithfulness in a biblical sense has to start with an embracing, not just an acceptance of the
truth, not just an acknowledgement of the truth, not just even a belief in the truth but a
wholehearted embrace and taking into and clinging to and doing the truth of God. So he says
[John] “it gave me great joy to have some of the brothers come and tell me about your
faithfulness to the truth and how you continue to walk in the truth.”
Verse 4: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.”
Certainly that would be true of his physical children. Have you ever done an analysis, those of
you who are parents? Have you ever ticked off in your own mind and heart which of your
children are walking in the truth and which are not? I can tell you right now, Avril and I, it
breaks our hearts to say so, but one of our children is not walking in the truth. One is and one
is not. I wish it were not so. I wish it were different. I wish I could have joy in knowing that
both of my children walk in the truth but they don’t. But that’s not wholly what John is talking
about it here. He’s talking also about children in the sense of people that he has personally
been involved with and was responsible for their coming to faith in Christ and so they are his
children in the Lord. He’s saying that he finds great joy in knowing that those who he brought
to faith in Christ are “still” walking in the truth.
Then in verse 5 he says, speaking again to Gaius, “Dear friend you’re faithful in what you’re
doing for the brothers” You see now faithfulness here in this verse is referring to things he
“does.” Before he was referring to Gaius clinging to the truth and now he’s referring to the
faithfulness that follows from that with regards to the things he does for the brothers and sisters
in Christ. Especially, he says, even those who are strangers to you but yet they name the name
of Christ and so you do good things for them and he praises him for that. So he has, so far,
praised Gaius for his faithfulness. The next thing that happens a little later on in verse 9 is that
he doesn’t praise Diotrephes. It says “I wrote the church but Diotrephes who loves to be first
will have nothing to do with us. So if I come I will call attention to what he’s doing.”
Evidentially even more so than he’s calling attention to it here and now. You see not everyone
is faithful, even in church, not everyone is faithful. Even in church not everyone does what
they do with the right motives. This man Diotrephes obviously had some kind of position of
authority or responsibility in the church but it evidently it wasn’t because he clung to the truth
of God. It evidently it wasn’t because he cared about the brothers and sisters in Christ. He
somehow or other had managed to work himself into a position of responsibility in the church,
apparently a fairly high position of responsibility because it says he’s someone who loves to be
first. He was not faithful at all. In fact John has all kinds of things to condemn him or to judge
him for. He judges him for wrong motives, he judges him for not being helpful to other
brothers and sisters in Christ. He judges him for kicking people out of the church who don’t
agree with him. And note by the way that John is judging this man Diotrephes.
One of the mistakes we make in church is ‘we should not judge lest we be judged’ and so we
somehow or other develop this idea that we should never ever say anything to anyone in
church who might be doing something that perhaps they shouldn’t be doing because ‘we don’t
want to be judgmental.’ Well John the APOSTLE didn’t seem to have a problem with being
judgmental so much so that he put it down in black and white FOREVER. Remember Jesus
said: “The word of God will endure forever.” These judgmental statements of the apostle John
are going to be around forever. Don’t be shocked by that. Every person that you meet in a
restaurant, the waitress, the person taking your money at the gas station, the person across the
street from you or next door to you, every person you meet everywhere in this world is going
to spend eternity somewhere. Where they spend eternity is going to be based on a judgment
call of God. Don’t forget, we have to be careful with this idea that we should never judge. If
somebody is in sin as this man was, we need to be people who are willing to call brothers and
sisters in Christ on the carpet for their sin. Its part of what’s called being faithful to the truth.
It’s a fruit of the spirit. Obviously there are ways to do that and there are ways to not do that
but we certainly need to be careful to make sure that we are people who rightly divide, rightly
understand, and rightly appreciate what the word of God does say and what it does not say.
Remember when Jesus says not to be judgmental? You have to look at the context that He
says it in. And what’s the context? Simple; he says do not judge your brother until you have
first checked out in the mirror your own eye to make sure that you’re ok regarding what you’re
talking about. He doesn’t say don’t be judgmental. He says don’t be judgmental and in being
judgmental be a hypocrite in doing so. It’s called being faithful, like I said, faithful to the
truth. It’s a fruit of The Spirit to judge yourself. It’s a fruit of the spirit to properly judge one
another. PROPERLY judge one another to make sure that we all then are living the kind of
lives that we ought to be living.
Let’s go on to the self control verses beginning with the one in Proverbs 25:28. “Like a city
whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self control.” Picture a city, with an opera
house, with a museum next door to the opera house, a beautiful park that in all respects is
actually what you would love Rockville to be. The kind of city that people would throng to
either for work or play or to live and in the context of those days if that kind of city didn’t have
strong walls it would be a sitting duck. The proverb here is saying: the person who has all of
their ducks in order in their life and looks like they should look but lacks self control, they are
in trouble, they’re just begging for trouble because trouble will come to them. “Like a city
whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self control” The next one from Acts 24:25.
“As Paul discoursed on righteousness, self control and the judgment to come, Felix [who was
the governor at that time of the area that he was standing before.] Felix was afraid and said
‘that’s enough for now, you may leave. When I find it convenient I’ll send for you.” ‘Don’t
want to hear about self-control and judgment and those kinds of things. Righteousness, God
expects me to be holy, God expects me to be good, and God expects me to control my lusts?
To live a pure life, don’t want to hear that kind of stuff. You, out there? I don’t want to hear
about self control, not on your life.’
1 Thessalonians chapter 5 verses 6-7: “So then let us not be like the others who are asleep, but
let us be alert and self controlled. For those who sleep, sleep in the night and those who get
drunk get drunk in the night but since we belong to the day, [since we live in the light, the light
of the truth of God’s word] let us be self controlled.” Let us be different than the world. If you
think about it, I mean, there’s a lot of things about the libertarian party quite honestly that I
like. But there’s one thing I don’t like about the libertarian party. They’re libertarians. They
don’t care what you do, as long as you don’t step on other peoples liberties as far as they’re
concerned do whatever you want. You don’t want to be self controlled don’t be self
controlled, that’s all right just don’t step on my liberties when you’re practicing your
unselfcontrolledness. No. See, we need to be self controlled, putting on faith and love as a
breast plate and the hope of our salvation as a helmet. 1 Timothy chapter 3:2 is about leaders
in a church setting, I don’t know if you’ve ever thought about this, but the word of God tells
us, quite extensively actually, that about half of the entire book of Titus in the New Testament
is devoted to telling us what kind of people we should pick to be on counsel and the Diaconate.
Now by the way my comments here are no reflection about anyone currently on counsel or
Diaconate. Don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here, all I’m saying is if you’ve ever
wondered what kind of person should we choose to be leaders in the church there’s a list of
them and this verse is just one verse out of the list. “Now the overseer must be above
reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self controlled, respectable, hospitable, able
to teach.” And it goes on. So, one of the things we should look for in leaders in a church
setting is people who are self controlled. 2 Timothy chapter 1:7. Here’s a manly verse for you
guys. “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power, and love, and self
discipline.” [Or self control] And then the last verse and I’ll close with this verse. Why are we
to be this way? So we don’t look like the rest of the world. God forbid that any of us should be
no different in our appearance to the world out there than the rest of the world is to the world
out there. Please, if you do nothing else with your life in Christ at least say to God ‘make me
different than the world’ because look what the world is like. There will be terrible times in
the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive,
disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without
self control, brutal, not lovers of the good. You’ve heard that song before”they will know we
are Christians by our love by our love, they will know we are Christians by our love.” Right?
Well let’s add to that song, and also by our joy and our peace and our patience and our
kindness, and goodness and our faithfulness and our gentleness and our self control. Let it be
said of us that people know we are Christians because we know Jesus Christ and because we
know Jesus Christ we have the spirit of God in our lives, because we have the spirit of God in
our lives we have then opened ourselves up to the fullness that God wants and says “spirit,
please work out in me the fruit that shows that you are abundantly present within me. The
Fruit of The Spirit.