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2 John 4-6 | Inside the Mind of a Pastor | Andrew Gutierrez

March 4, 2018 Speaker: Andrew Gutierrez Series: Truth & Love

Topic: Worship Gatherings Passage: 2 John :4–:6

Please open your Bibles to 2 John. Our text for the mooring will 2 John 4-6. Follow along as I read those three verses. John writes this to the elect lady and her children.

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us, from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Father’s Son, in truth and love. I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father. And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another. And this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.

            I’ve entitled this message “Inside the Mind of a Pastor.” Will mentioned it in announcements this morning, but we are planning on bringing 21 men from the church out to a pastors’ conference in Los Angeles this week—a leadership conference. It’s one that we’ve gone to every year in the life of our church. We’ve taken a group of men. I think the first year was 12-13, and in the most recent years it’s climbed to over 20.

And it’s an amazing time. I wish you could all be there. I wish we could live stream it and see all that we are experiencing somehow. The conference is live-streamed, by the way, but I want to live stream like us riding in the car together there and eating meals together. I want you to see all that good stuff.

            This is a conference that we’ve gone to now for the fourth year here coming up. I want you to know a little bit about what happens this next week. You see, this conference is put on by the church that I used to be a part of, Grace Community Church, as did pastors Jason and Will. We all got to spend a good amount of time there. That was my home church before I even went to seminary and got my theological education there at the school that shares the campus, so I was there for 15 years.

Will and Jason were there for a number or years as they were studying as well. So, when we go back there (the three of us) it’s kind of like a homecoming. We see many of our former students and some of the adults that we pastored, and it is just a sweet time. There will be a lot of former students from the Master’s Seminary there this week from all over the world.

And here’s what happens in our lives at this conference. We walk around (specifically the three of us) going as it were home, and we can’t go five feet without running into another friend, another colleague that we’ve spent time with, studied with, ministered with, and we always ask the question, “How are you doing? How is your church?” things like that. I answer the question, how is your church? Probably (no exaggeration) fifty to a hundred times in those three days. And I love to answer that question.

There are a number of men that we come across throughout the week, when you ask how are things going in their ministry, the smile kind of leaves their face. Their head kind of goes down, and it’s difficult. I speak on behalf of the other four elders. We are living the dream. That’s how we really feel. Just speaking again on behalf of them, we love you. We don’t just say that because we’re supposed to. We say it because we mean it.

We have monthly elder’s meetings that often conclude about 10:00 to midnight. We start about 5:00 or so. Much of that time is praising the Lord for things, and giving reports of things that you are doing and the way that you are living out the truth. So when John writes in this passage, I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, we understand that great joy.

When we go to a conference and I come in contact with other pastors, whether they are other pastors in our city or other pastors from around the world, it’s a privilege to be your pastor. The other men would say the same thing, I know.

 I just want you to know that John is writing, and we’re hearing his heart here. We’re hearing what he thinks in his mind. We’re hearing the concerns that he has for these churches and these families. And they’re the same things that we get excited about with you. And they’re the same concerns that we have for you, and the same things that we want you to heed like John did with this family and these churches.

So I want you to see this morning a pastor’s joy and a pastor’s desire. You see that in this passage. And again I’ll say that when we (the five of us men) are put in a place to give a report about the ministry here at Canyon Bible Church of Prescott, it is a joy to give. I wish more pastors experienced that. We’ll pray that they do, but it is a joy to give a report of your lives here. When I’m asked this week about how our church is going, I’m not going to talk to them about programs. I’m going to talk to them about real stories from people and the ways you’re responding to the truth. I look forward to that.

Earlier this fall, a friend of mine who pastors a church in Huntington Beach asked me to come out and preach for him three services at their church. He also told me that I could have one of my sons come along with me, so we got to go to Huntington Beach (me and my oldest son). He asked me to preach three times, and he also asked that as you preach I want you to tell stories about what God is doing in your church. And I thought, can it be any better than this? I get to have my son with me. I get to preach three times and brag about what God is doing in your life. So, we can kind of see John’s heartbeat here. We can identify with John’s heartbeat.

So for this morning a pastor’s joy and a pastor’s desire. First, in verse 4.

1.  A Pastor’s Joy

A pastor has great joy brought to him when he hears of Christians and their children walking in the truth. Now, whether that’s their actual biological children or just the people that they’ve influenced to come after them in the line of faith, a pastor has great joy brought to him when he sees the truth continuing on.

Verse 4, John writes: “I rejoiced greatly to find some of your children walking in the truth, just as we were commanded by the Father.”

So John had somehow heard a report about this lady and her children, or as some people think, it is about a church and the churches that came after her, or the churches that she had birthed. Either way, John is rejoicing over the fact that there are people walking in the truth and people after them walking in the truth. And this causes him to rejoice.

He’s heard this report. He says, I’ve heard the report of some of your children walking in the truth. He’s heard about certain people in the church who are responding to the Lord and are responding to the father’s commands, and they’re obeying and they’re thriving. This is what brings him joy.

Now he says that he is rejoicing in the fact that they are walking in the truth. I want to point out a few things about that phrase. What is the truth? What does walking in the truth mean? The truth is the good news about Jesus Christ. They’re walking in the truth of the gospel.     

They believe that the cross and what he did on the cross and his resurrection are central to their lives. The cross and the resurrection matter to them for eternity. They trust him for eternity because of the fact that he came and died for their sin, and they embraced him as their Savior and Lord. He rose again showing that they have a future hope with God the Father.

This is the truth that they are walking in. This is the truth that changes how they deal with their money. This is the truth that deals with how they deal with their time. This truth is everything to them. And they are not just responding to it once in a while, they are walking in it. This is a habitual pattern—a pattern of their life. They are walking in the truth. They are living each day in the truth of what Christ has done in the gospel, and they are living each day seeking to obey everything that they have been taught by the Lord. We see that here.

They are walking in the truth just as we were commanded by the Father. They are knowing what the Lord has said. And they are seeking to conform their lives to it because of how the gospel has changed them. This is what makes a pastor’s heart smile—when people receive the word and say, my natural instinct is to do the opposite of it; my flesh doesn’t want to obey it, but I trust my Lord. I trust what he did for me at Calvary. I trust when he says something that is the thing to do. And they do it.

And they do it regularly, consistently, faithfully. That is what brings a pastor joy. Not a building, not a number of programs, not publicity, but to see their children walking in the truth. A pastor’s heart smiles when he sees generations after him walking in the truth. And listen, these generations, Christian generations aren’t as long as biological generations. Biological generations—you live maybe to be 20 years old and have children or 25 and have children, or 30 and have children, or older and have children. And it takes time for generations to happen.

Christian generations can happen in a week. Someone is led to Christ. They go on and lead another person to Christ. So now, all of the sudden, the person that led that first person to Christ has a great grandchild in just a week.

 John is rejoicing in the fact that this lady has been walking in the truth, and her children have been walking in the truth. And I think part of the reason John is rejoicing here (at least I know part of the reason I rejoice in these types of circumstances) is because when you see a spiritual grandchild, you know that the spiritual child you have understands the Christian faith.

You pour yourself into a disciple, a child, a Christian child of yours, a disciple of yours, and you see them thrive, that’s one thing. But when they believe that God is so glorious that they want to then pass him on themselves and see another person birthed, it gives glory to Christ. You know that that spiritual child of yours gets it. They are living not just to receive all that Christ has done for them. But they living to receive all that Christ has done for them and to pass it on, so that other people would experience the relationship with God the Father that they have.

So I can see why John, as a spiritual grandfather, is so ecstatic. His children want to pass on their faith. That’s what the Lord intended to happen. John knows that. He was with the Lord, and now he’s seeing it carried out in the church. This is why a pastor rejoices so much over spiritual grandchildren.

I want you to listen to Psalm 71. Psalm 71 is written, and it’s evidently a person at the end of their life. A person that has walked with God, and now it is coming to the end of their life. And listen to this Psalm that is sung as a prayer. This person writes this in Psalm 71:14-19.

14 But I will hope continually
    and will praise you yet more and more.
15 My mouth will tell of your righteous acts,
    of your deeds of salvation all the day,
    for their number is past my knowledge.
16 With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come;
    I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.

17 O God, from my youth you have taught me,
    and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
18 So even to old age and gray hairs,
    O God, do not forsake me,
until I proclaim your might to another generation,
    your power to all those to come.
19 Your righteousness, O God,
    reaches the high heavens.
You who have done great things,
    O God, who is like you?

I love that line. “God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.” Our hope for you as pastors, elders, overseers, shepherds is that you would live—not just the Christian life that seeks to receive blessing from God—but you would live the Christian life that says, God, how can I make much of you? How can I serve you? How can I make you known?

That’s living a God-centered life as opposed to a me-centered life. John sees this lady living an other-centered life. He sees the fact that she’s got spiritual children. He rejoices in that fact. Richard Baxter, a puritan pastor, wrote about the importance of glorifying God by passing on his fame to other people. He said this.

If you will glorify God in your lives, you must be chiefly intent upon the public good and the spreading of the gospel through the world. The alternative [this writer says, according to Baxter] was a private narrow soul always taken up about itself, that sees now how things go in the world. Its desires and prayers and endeavors go no further than they can see or travel. [And then Baxter writes this.] Let us not be content to simply say, as long as all is well in my lifetime…

Baxter understood what excited John—the fact that the faith is being passed on from generation to generation to generation. This is largely the testimony of our three-year-old church. People pouring into the lives of other people to see them grow. You are not known to be a consumeristic people who come just to get, just to receive. You are known as a people who seek to serve and pour out and benefit others. And I just want to highlight that I wish that was more normal, but we’re grateful for your testimony.

People serving in children’s ministry, people praying for people throughout the week, people putting in hours and hours and hours to faithfully teach in a variety of venues, people texting each other Scripture to help build one another up, people praying for one another and their spiritual needs, adults serving in student ministry with junior high and high school kids, and that’s just scratching the surface. There are a lot more.

This is the testimony of this church. And we understand why John greatly rejoices. He doesn’t say I rejoice. He says he greatly rejoices. So, you’ve kind of been given an insight into what brings a pastor joy—to see his children walking in the truth and to see his children after them walking in the truth.

2.  A Pastor's Desires

Secondly, I want you to see what a pastor desires. This is found in verses 5-6. A pastor desires that the people under his care would love each other. If you want to know more about the definition of love you can go back and listen to last week’s message on 2 John 1-3. We defined love a little bit, didn’t we? And you can see that in the verses previous. For the pastor desires that his people under his care would love each other, would continue loving each other.

Verse 5: “And now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning—that we love one another.” 

I find it interesting here that John writes to this lady and says, I ask you to do something. The command to love another person was actually given by God. I mean, this is an act of obedience. It’s not—hey, I suggest you love other people. This is a—you must love other people. This is what God has commanded. I find it interesting that John says, I ask you. He’s making a request. He could make a demand. Dear lady, you must love one another, but he says, I’m asking you.

It’s interesting here. You can see this in the writings of the apostles. You can see this in the New Testament. If they believe that someone is predisposed to follow their lead, to respond to their teaching, they make requests. You think of Paul to Philemon. He asks Philemon to receive the runaway slave Onesimus back.

 But to those who are not prone to responding rightly to the apostles or to God himself, they rebuke and admonish and warn and charge. It is just interesting to me that you see, evidently, John believing that this lady will respond the right way to the Lord and, therefore, the right way to his request. I’m asking that you continue on and love each other.

 This is gentle shepherding. He’s not walking around pointing his finger at everyone, saying, you must do this; you must do that. He knows that she is predisposed to do this. This is part of her testimony, so he asks her to continue on. Now at any point, if she starts sinning and starts failing to love people in the church, he can certainly say, listen, you need to love these people.

It’s just interesting to see the shepherding of the apostles when they sense that someone is going to listen to them. They make requests. They appeal to these people. I appeal to you, brothers, who hear and things like that. So he asks her, this dear lady, to do something, and he wants to be very clear.

I’m not giving you anything extra to do. This isn’t me coming in and saying, I know you have faith in Christ and I know he told you to do these things. But if you really want to live spiritually, you need to do this extra thing. He makes it very clear, he’s not giving her anything new. This is just what he’s received from the Lord. He is just a messenger.

“Now I ask you, dear lady—not as though I were writing you a new commandment, but the one we have had from the beginning.”  We’ve had. You and I have had. Someone else is in command over me and you. Even though I am making a request of you, even though I am your elder (verse 1), even though I am an authority over you in a scriptural sense, we are both under obligation to obey the command of the one who has given us the command.

I’m not writing you a command that comes from me. Why would that be significant to John? Because the church in second and third John is threatened by false teachers. Look at verse 9. To go on ahead and not abide in the teaching of Christ, they add more commands to the Christian faith. You see this happen in the churches of Galatia. These false teachers added burdens onto the believers.

So John is making it very clear. I’m not giving you any extra things. I’m just reminding you of what our Lord told both of us. I’m not writing you a new commandment, but the one we’ve had from the beginning, that we love one another. Now, the beginning … the beginning of what? Genesis 1, creation? He says, I’m writing you a new commandment we’ve had from the beginning.

I believe he’s talking about the beginning of the new covenant era—the era that began when Jesus was teaching in the upper room. He broke the bread and said, this is my body, and this is my blood of the new covenant. There was something new happening in those moments. Something different happening.  He took that Passover and transformed it into the Lord’s Supper. There is something new happening here.

The prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel are happening where people would be given a new heart and respond to the Lord with a new heart. There is something new happening. We see it ultimately culminate in Acts 2 at Pentecost. This is a new covenant community. John is referring her back to that beginning. How do we know that? Because he talks about the fact that they were given a command at the beginning.

John’s not giving her a new command himself, but a command that was new at a certain point in the past. Where is it found? John 13. John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you.  This is Jesus in the upper room. (We did this a few months ago.) Jesus in the upper room telling the disciples, I’m giving you men a new commandment.

The only spiritual leader who can give you new things to obey is Jesus because he is God. He says I am giving you men a new commandment that you love one another. Now as I mentioned back in John 13, the command to love one another isn’t something new. The new part of it is Jesus saying, I’m giving you a new commandment that you love each other as I have loved you. You look at the love that I demonstrated in my incarnation—that is how you love each other.

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35).  And in John 15, verse 12, later in the upper room, he told them this: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

So the new commandment was given by Jesus. Love as I have loved you. John is saying, I’m not writing you a new commandment, it’s just the one we’ve had in the beginning. He said that. So, lady, keep loving people in your family and in your church, just as Jesus has loved you.

And that is how we respond. John is telling us by extension, Canyon Bible Church of Prescott, 2018, you love each other just as Jesus loved you. This is what we’re talking about. Love one another. Last week, I mentioned the fact that I believe that myself and others think that we love better than we actually do. Whoever says, oh, I’m just horrible at loving other people. Now everyone thinks that they love wonderfully. But we often think that we are better at it than we are.

Because often times, we think that love is a feeling. Oh, we’ll love someone if they treat us well. That is just reciprocation. That’s not love. Love lays down your rights and preferences for the good of another. Love loves people who are currently your enemies (Romans 5:8). That is what Christ did for us. Love is self-sacrificing, not always self-fulfilling. Love serves, sacrifices, humbles, has compassion. This is the command for us: to love each other as Christ has loved us.

Verse 6, John provides a further definition of love.  “And this is love …” And this is good. We’re told to love each other, and John himself is going to tell us, this is what I mean: “that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, just as you have heard from the beginning, so that you should walk in it.” So, let me restate this for you. Jesus gave a new commandment, love one another as I have loved you. This is how you do that. Obey the rest of the commandments for each other. That is what he is saying.

If you love someone, you will be patient with them. You will obey the command to be patient. If you love someone, you’ll be hospitable to them (1 Peter 4). If you love someone, you will not do them wrong. If you love someone, you will be faithful to them. If you love someone, you’ll sacrifice for them (Ephesians 5). If you love someone, you will bear with them.

So it is like the Lord tells us, under the two commandments—love the Lord your God and love one another—come all the rest of the commandments. So love each other by obeying all the rest of those commandments. That is what John is teaching us. Look at Romans 13:8-10.

8 Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.

The entire law, summarized in the Ten Commandments, but includes many, many others that all fall under the Ten Commandments. When you love another person, the law is fulfilled. 

9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

All of those things—don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t covet—they all fall under love your neighbor as yourself.

10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.

So, telling a person ‘I love you’ does not demonstrate your love. Maybe I should say does not demonstrate your love alone, does not prove it. People often say they love another person. All the while, they abuse them for years. It is not what we say, it is what we do. People say they love someone and selfishly use them and damage them. That’s not love of another, that’s love of oneself.

Love is an action. To quote the former rapper turned rock band, DC Talk, “Love is a bird.” Those who grew up in Christianity in the 90s will appreciate that illustration. Love is action. Love is a will. Love is a desire to serve. Love is commitment. Love is humbling yourself for the sake of another.

That is what John is calling this lady to, and her children. John wants this lady to continue living in this fashion. He wants us to live this way as well. That is what he has for the church. Now John himself was changed by that upper room experience—by his time with Jesus in the upper room.

 If you read the gospel accounts of the disciples, we know that they’re often saying the wrong thing, or not believing enough. But one of their other witnesses is that they were always arguing. They were always comparing their faithfulness with Jesus with another person’s faithfulness with Jesus. Which immediately made them unfaithful to Jesus, ironically enough. They were constantly arguing and bickering. We know that they were even arguing and bickering in the upper room.

You think of the upper room as this great place where Jesus is bringing the disciples in, and it is that. But it is also full of a lot of other horrible things. Judas leaving finally to go and betray Jesus. And the bickering of the disciples.

There was an account of the rich young ruler who rejected Christ, and that account comes pretty near the end of our Lord’s life. Evidently, he’s on his final journey to Jerusalem when this happened. Shortly after that account, two disciples go up to Jesus on the road, and they ask him (evidently privately), Jesus, when you enter your glory, can we sit on your right and on your left?

You know what the other disciples did when they heard this request? The text says they became indignant. You know who one of those disciples was? John. Jesus rebuked.   He not only rebuked the others who were indignant, but he pulled them all together as sort of a team meeting, and he rebuked them for thinking selfishly instead of selflessly. And he said, the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many. Implication? You serve one another instead of seeking to be on top all the time.

Our Lord taught that to John—the one telling us to love one another. John, perhaps just days later, would have been in the upper room with Jesus and see Jesus washing all of the feet, including his own, which is something not even a Jewish servant would do. That was for a Gentile servant. Jesus washes the feet of the disciples and says you do the same thing for one another.

So John is just relaying the experience that he’s experienced. He’s relaying what happened to him. You want me to love this way. I know it’s not natural, but love this way. Christ told us to do this, and John was there when Christ told him to do that. John saw Jesus demonstrating sacrificial love in the washing of feet. And if you think that was amazing, John was evidently the only disciple at the cross seeing Jesus demonstrate his sacrificial love again on the cross, dying for sinners.

So now you know why it matters to John, the pastor, that we all love one another. You can almost hear him saying, this is the way to live. I’ve seen this from the Lord; I’ve experienced it. I actually love Peter now. Before, I didn’t. Live this way. Love this way. Now, as your pastor, I know that love isn’t always easy. As a fellow believer, who still has the flesh, I know that loving one another isn’t always easy.

So, what if you don’t love a brother or sister like you should? I want to help you in that way. Four steps if you find yourself not loving another believer in the way that you should. These are four pastoral steps. Four ways of me shepherding you this morning, if this is you.

First, confess a “me first” mentality. Our lack of love is always based on a “me first” mentality. I don’t like how they treated me; therefore, I don’t love them. Whereas Jesus says, love your enemies. Bear with them. Put on compassion. So if we are taking a “God first” mentality, we will love our brothers and sisters.

When we fail to love them, it’s because we are taking a “me first” mentality. So just admit that first and foremost to the Lord. Lord, I too often care more about what I feel than what you say. I more often care about what I feel than what you say. I’m agreeing with you that I have a “me first” mentality.

Second, listen to Jesus speak in the upper room. If you need to go back to John 13 regularly, go back to John 13 regularly. Jesus said, just as I have loved you, you also love one another. Now, don’t do what our flesh wants to do here. Well, I’m not God. How can I love them? You believe that Jesus sent his Holy Spirit to be your helper? Then don’t ever say that. We’re not God, but we have his Spirit.

 Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. If Jesus gives a command, here’s the good news, he gives the power to obey. Just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.

So, confess a “me first” mentality. Second, listen to Jesus speak in the upper room.

Third, realize that Jesus loves them as much as he loves you.  So speaking of being at odds with another believer—another person at church, another person in your family, whoever it may be. Being at odds with another believer, we need to realize that Jesus loves them as much as he loves you.

Many of you are reading through the New Testament epistles. We are reading them together. I wonder if you’ve been struck by what he says in Romans 14, Romans 15. There is evidently a theme with Paul when he writes to a church that has conflict with one another. He tries to show them both that you both stand before God. You are both loved by God. You are both the slaves to a new master. It’s not that you have a position and you’re closer to God than they are. You both stand before God. Paul tried to show us that in Romans.

He does that in a number of other books where there is conflict. In Colossians, and even in Galatians, there’s conflict in the church, and evidently, it is an ethnic conflict—Jew and Gentile. And he says that Christ is in all. Gentile believer, look across the aisle at the Jewish believer who you normally don’t want to associate with. Christ is in her. Jewish believer, look across the aisle at the Gentile believer who you don’t want to associate with, who you don’t understand, who annoys you. Christ is in her.

Realize that Jesus loves them as much as he loves you. Romans 15:7: “ Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.”

So, confess a “me first” mentality, listen to Jesus speak in the upper room, realize that Jesus loves them as much as he loves you, and …

Fourth, wear Jesus.  I get that from Colossians 3. Turn there if you will. This is one of those passages that I believe Christians should have marked up. If you’re a Bible marker, here you go. If you’re not, memorize it and mark it up in your mind and in your heart. By the way, verse 11, to make a point I made a little earlier, here there is no Greek and Jew, circumcised, and uncircumcised, barbarians, Scythians, slave, free, but Christ is all and in all.

So what do you do with that, when the Barbarian and the Scythian kind of annoy us in the church, when we’re of a different opinion than the person who is circumcised or uncircumcised, when we are Greek, but we have a different culture and obedience than the Jew? What do we do when we are at odds?

12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.  14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 

So what do you do when you’re having trouble loving a brother or sister? In the end, you put on Christ. You be Christ to them. I know I’ve told this story before, but we have a lot of new people, so I will tell it again.

I’ll never forget having a conflict with another brother in Christ. And like most conflicts, I was perfectly right, and he was perfectly wrong. Okay? And there was a man who had discipled both of us, and I was with him. I was with this third party who had discipled me and also had discipled the brother that I was having a conflict with, and I told this man about the conflict and laid out my case, laid out the other guy’s case (probably unfairly because that’s what we do when we disagree with someone).

And, this friend of mine said (I’ll never forget the words; I’ll never forget the jewelry store in downtown LA that we were in), you’re right.  But … Can you just stop with “you’re right”? You’re right, but you need to be Jesus Christ to him. And he brought me to Colossians 3.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones … We are chosen. We are holy to God. We are loved by God. Put on then, as ones chosen by God, holy to the Lord, loved by the Lord, put on a compassionate heart. When you are around a brother or sister, when you are in a disagreement with a brother or sister, when you are finding yourself not having a love for this brother or sister, number one on this list, start with being compassionate toward them.

Let everything flow from that. That’s difficult, isn’t it? Because when we have disagreements, we’re at war. You think the British had compassion with the Nazis? No, they were at war. But when we are at war, we put on compassion for the other person.

Do whatever it takes to see them with compassionate eyes, not with angry eyes. Compassionate hearts. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness … When you are at odds with someone, try being kind to them.

Try being kind to them. Go out of your way to serve them. It’ll probably scare them, but try to serve them. Write them a kind note without bringing up the thing that is dividing you. Just tell them, I have prayed for your soul today. I love you. I’m grateful for what Christ has done in your life. I just wanted to tell you that. I’m cheering you on.

Put on a compassionate heart, kindness.  Humility gets low. When we are at odds with one another, we are trying to get high, trying to have one up on the other person. Humility gets low. Humility gets low, bent down, puts a towel on, and washes feet.

Compassionate heart, kindness, humility, meekness. Meekness. Meekness restrains your power. Meekness is when they say something that’s clearly wrong, you don’t send an email to twenty of your friends telling them why that person was wrong. You could. But you don’t. When they say something in anger, meekness says I’ll respond with forbearance. Not being meek says, then I’ll fight back. You were wrong; then I get one wrong, too. You sinned; I can sin too. And you sin back. Meekness doesn’t do that.

Compassionate heart, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Patience. Patience means that you can be annoyed for a long time and still love the other person. Bearing with one another. If anyone has a complaint against another, forgiving each other—here we go again—as the Lord has forgiven you. You hear echoes of the upper room here, don’t you? As I have loved you, you love one another. As I have forgiven you, you forgive one another.

So if you’re lacking love for another believer, confess a “me first” mentality, listen to Jesus speak in the upper room, realize that Jesus loves them as much as he loves you, and wear Jesus, put on Jesus.

How amazing would the testimony of the church be to the world if we simply obeyed Colossians 3?  We hear of churches splitting, don’t we? We hear of church conflict a lot. It makes its way out into the community. Unbelievers roll their eyes and think, here they go again. This has become the norm. Church splits. Conflict.

When Christians begin shooting at each other, they not only kill one another, but the stray bullets hit other people. What’s worse, is they incite other people to take their side, pick up a gun and kill people on the other side. You may think, in light of what we’ve gone through as a nation in past years, that that is too severe of an illustration. But it is not. Jesus equates anger with murder.

Churches tend to destroy themselves with conflict because for too long winning has taken precedence over preferring others to self. Winning becomes the pursuit, not reconciliation.

We all have preferences in the church. We all prefer the music to be one way and not another. We prefer the children’s ministry to do one thing and not another. We prefer our Bible study leaders to do one thing and not another. We prefer; we prefer; we prefer. When our preferring becomes more important than our loving and denying ourselves, we are in jeopardy. And we are no better than any other church.

Churches split because our positions become idols, and we will kill for our idols. Churches thrive because self-denying love becomes a pattern. Walking in love. We live for the good of others, and therefore we magnify Christ. Churches thrive when we are okay with not getting our way. Churches thrive when we are offended and we choose to love in response. Churches thrive when that happens, and Christ is magnified.

And instead of people who know about our problems outside our church rolling their eyes and going, there they go again, people outside go, that’s not normal. That’s different. Yes, it is because Jesus Christ was not normal. He did not respond the same way the world responds. He laid down his life for sinners. Brothers and sisters, we are susceptible to the same thing every other church has been susceptible to. We must hear our brother John tell us to love one another. And in 1 Peter 4, Peter tells the church—by the way, he says, love one another earnestly.

Have you ever watched a track and field event? Summer Olympics and you see two runners coming to the line at the end and they reach out? That’s the word “earnest.” Love each other by trying hard. Work at loving each other. Extend yourself to love. Love one another earnestly because love covers a multitude of sins.

If you think that your default position is, I just kind of love people—you know, I’m just really good at love—be careful. Love takes work and effort and humility and meekness. Love one another earnestly. Peter would tell us.

So you have been brought into the heart and the mind of a pastor and elder this morning. We rejoice to know that our children are walking in the truth and even their children are walking in the truth. And we are so concerned that our people would love one another.

I’m going to invite Brad and Dave up at this point. This isn’t just one pastor’s heart—John or mine. This is your elders’ hearts as well—all five of us. And just because we normally pray after a message—and I don’t want that to be a routine thing—I want to bring these two up and ask them to pray. So here’s what the prayer request is going to be. I’m going to ask you not to mentally check out of this prayer. Let’s have however many people are in here agree as these men lead us in prayer and come before the throne, crying out to our Lord, answer these prayers.

Hear the prayers. Pray that our children would walk in the truth. And I’m not just talking about biological children. I’m talking about anybody that comes after us. I want Brad to pray for the Sunday when Canyon Bible Church of Prescott meets and none of us are here. We’re all gone, and there are other generations. So maybe there’s a kid in student ministry right now and they’re in Kindergarten and they’re here until they’re 57 and they’re the last one that is here. And they leave and there’s another group of people here. I want Brad to pray for that group that they would continue walking in the truth.

Secondly, I’ll ask Dave to pray for our love for one another knowing that it’s not just a given. Ahh, we’re Christians; we just love. We’ve got to earnestly work at this. So, I’m asking Dave to pray for our ability to love one another. And I’m asking all of us to pray that you agree with our leaders and you would go before the throne and say, answer this prayer. I can’t wait until one day in heaven when we look back on the fruit of this prayer.

Brad: Let’s pray.

Lord that is our heart. The day is coming when none of us will be here, but your praises will go on. We don’t know where these children are. We don’t know who will walk in the door. But we plead that we will be devoted to you and devoted to the truth of your word, that the love that we see happening now does not stop, that the truth that is proclaimed goes on forevermore, regardless of where we are. We don’t know them, Lord, but you do. You will bring them to yourself. You will bless us with children and grandchildren, and we plead that we are faithful to pass that baton to them that you have passed to us. Lord, may you be glorified in this place forevermore.

Dave: Father, we do love your truth. We love the truth of the word. You gave it to us. It’s from you. It helps us to such a degree. We love it. We think of the letter to the church of Ephesus that we find in the Revelation to John, and we think of the error that they fell into, focused on the truth as they were. Their love diminished over time. And Father, we pray that you would keep us mindful of that and keep us from that error. Father, in response to that we pray that you would not diminish our love for the Truth. We don’t dial back on our doctrine. It’s not 50% doctrine and 50% love. Work in us to aim for 100% truth and 100% love, knowing that to really know the truth is to love well. Father, I pray that also, that love that would continue would be here in future generations after we are gone. Please work in us that we would be known among ourselves and to the world as people of truth and people of love.

Andrew: Lord, in your time on earth, you were the embodiment of grace and truth. John taught us that. We want to line up behind you. Full of grace. Full of truth. We ask you to answer these prayers according to your name. Amen.

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