Summary: There are many great dangers to our faith! But ultimately the response to all of these is the TRUTH of God's Word.
What is the greatest danger to your faith? Please don’t let that question slip quickly from your mind. Consider it carefully. What is the greatest danger to your faith? As we take a moment to reflect on that question I want you to think back to the three Scripture readings for today. Did you notice one of the things they had in common? In Genesis 6:1-8 we heard about the dangers that immorality and the wickedness of the world posed to the faith of believers before the Flood. That is certainly still a danger to our faith. Every day we face the allure of sin through the internet, movies, television and the ever increasing immorality around us. Or doesn’t that happen in Wood Lake since life here is pure and unsoiled by sin? And consider the message in our second Scripture lesson from Romans 9:30-10:4. The Apostle Paul reminded us of the unbelief of the Israelites who substituted their own “religion” for what God had revealed to them. Generations of Jews appeared to be zealous for God and religious people. They may have seemed to follow God’s commandments in their lives. But they tried to make themselves right with God in their way instead of his way. Once again that too is certainly a great danger to our faith as well. Because the pride in our sinful nature we are frequently tempted to think that our good lives and our religious behavior make us righteousness in God’s sight. And also recall the Gospel Lesson for today. In Luke 19:41-48 we again heard about the unbelief of the Jews and how they substituted their own “way of salvation” for God’s plan of salvation. And finally in our Gospel Lesson we heard about Jesus clearing out the Temple. Many of those merchants had let greed override their devotion to God. Yet another danger to our faith that can be added to the list!
So with all of these spiritual “landmines” around us and within us what should we do? First of all, we see that there isn’t just one “greatest danger” to our faith. There are many great dangers to our faith! But ultimately the response to all of these temptations and dangers to our faith is found in the Means of Grace—the Word and Sacraments. God promises us that nothing can separate us from his love. Jesus said that we are protected by “his hands” and his “father’s hands.” And yet we are told to remain faithful to the truth of God’s Word where those promises and God’s power to preserve us are found. Regarding the Scriptures then we make it our goal in life to “hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them.”
We find an example of this kind of Christian life in the Scripture upon which we will meditate during our sermon together today. The disciple whom Jesus loved describes it for us in his Third Letter. Listen as I read verses 1-8 of 3 John. (Read text.) A follower of Christ walks in the truth of God’s Word each day. Additionally, John tells us that Christians show their faithfulness to the truth as they work together with fellow Christians for the truth. Here we find the best defense against all the great dangers to our faith. Let’s consider both of those thoughts under the simple encouragement that John gives us as he says to each of us:
“SHOW YOUR FAITHFULNESS TO THE TRUTH”
I. Walk in the truth
II. Work together for the truth
So who was Gaius? Since Gaius was a very common name in the Roman culture we can’t say for sure. We know of at least three other men named Gaius in the New Testament. They were all associated in some way with the Apostle Paul. And there doesn’t seem to be a strong case that any one of those three Gaiuses is the man to whom John wrote this short letter. From 3 John we can determine that this Gaius was a faithful lay leader in his congregation. This Gaius had been offering his home as a place for traveling pastors and teachers to stay. John calls him a “dear friend” whom he loves. John says that he loves Gaius “in the truth.” By this he probably means that what makes his relationship with Gaius so satisfying is that it is rooted in the work of spreading the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They were connected by the truth of Christ, and they were joined in ministry through that same truth.
After simply identifying himself as “the elder” and addressing Gaius as “my dear friend…whom I love in the truth,” John then went on to identify a key behavior in a Christian’s life. It is faithfulness to the truth. But since there are so many people in the world today saying what Pontius Pilate said to Jesus, “What is truth?” it would be good for us to remind ourselves of the answer to that question. What is truth? Is there any truth? Can each person decide what truth is for himself or herself? The one answer to all such questions is that Jesus is the truth! Not only is he the truth but we also remember that he declared, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) Also recall that in John’s Gospel Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” So just as he is the truth so too Jesus’ teaching is the truth. And also recall what Jesus said about all the Scriptures. In John 17:17 he asked his Father in heaven to, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.” So to be clear, we can say that faithfulness to the truth means being faithful to what Jesus taught and what confirmed as the Word of God.