Nowadays we don’t usually need to change our names when we are converted. This is the beauty of living in a nation influenced by the Christian faith. We do however need to ensure where our spiritual nourishment comes from. We also need to cut any ties that link our history with the occult. That evil distorts how we view God's call on our life and service. Psalm 139:23–23 — ‘Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.’ The worry is that within those called to be leaders there lies a latent ‘Diotrephes’. This creature of the soul is itching to spring up and dominate. To keep this carnal ‘creature’ under control requires all the power of the cross and searchlight of God's word.
Diotrephes loves to be first. If we are honest with ourselves we all have similar tendencies. However there can only ever be one who holds first place in the Church. ‘He (Jesus) is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy’ (Colossians 1:17–18). Deny the Lord this right and immediately self-will stirs. Unseen, yet always nearby, the forces of Darkness will fan self-will into an ego inferno. Too many local fellowships have been reduced to spiritual cinders by egotistical warring parties whether in pulpit or pew.
Diotrephes had powerful lips that spoke malicious words. He aimed to alienate his followers from the apostle John and others. Was it envy or fear which motivated such opposition? Would his true spiritual condition be unveiled in the presence of this apostle? Unless we are in a right relationship with Jesus Christ we will feel threatened by the person who is. The fragrance of the Lord within offends and causes aggressive reaction in those whose odour is of the flesh. Diotrephes could have been a man mighty in the Lord’s service, but he squandered it through an unsanctified attitude. Lust for power and a destructive mouth can never edify the people of God.
The apostle urged his readers not to imitate what is evil but what is good. Why? ‘Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God’ (3 John 11). This referred to an ongoing condition stretching over time and not merely an uncharacteristic lapse. Had Diotrephes once ‘seen’ the Lord as the gospel was presented to him? What had crept into his life and found opportunity to kill his vision? Jesus promised the pure in heart would see God. This leader must have allowed the impure to impair his spiritual eyesight. Jesus warned: ‘The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness, how great is that darkness (Matthew 6:22). Spiritual eyesight has its slow loss caused by the glaucoma and cataracts of faithless and immoral living. Unless treated it blinds with devastating spiritual consequences.
We look to the Lord by faith to be saved. We need also to continually look to the Lord to combat the diseases of the spiritual eyes. Jesus calls men and women out of spiritual darkness and desires them to walk in His radiance. It is essential for congregational leaders to have good eye-sight. Only then can they keep their eyes focused on the Lord. When this happens the local Body of Christ enjoys harmony, testimony and effective mission.
Ray Hawkins July 2nd 2017.