3 John 4 – I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.
What is truth? (John 18:38) If we are looking for a scriptural basis for the answer to this question (and, by the way, we are), then my mind immediately takes me to John 17:17: ‘Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.’ Jesus is speaking to the Father in Heaven in this passage. He is not saying, “your word is a truth.” He was declaring God’s Word to be truth. Literally.
Here’s another scripture to contemplate concerning truth:
Psalms 119:160 The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.
John is advanced in age at this point. He is leaving his final legacy, for the Christians that remain in the world, through his letters. He has spent the final 5 or 6 decades of his life waiting for the return of the Savior. I can only guess that in his old age, even though he certainly awaited the imminent return of Christ, he must have started to believe he would taste death.
Put yourself in his place for a moment. You spent a few years of your young adulthood walking with Jesus. You witnessed the miracles, the teaching and the compassion He had. You spent countless hours of alone time with him. You are so confident of His love for you, a love you know you do not deserve, that you call yourself the disciple that Jesus loved throughout the biography you wrote.
Aware of the hopeless state of the world and sinners without Christ, you’ve now spent your life spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ and discipling others: “teaching them to obey all that [He] has commanded.” Matt 28:20
Ultimately, let me put it this way. The apostle John must have understood the ravaging effects of sin better than almost anyone who ever lived. Seeing firsthand the power of God in Christ to heal, the transfiguration, the crucifixion and the resurrection could not have allowed John to be lazy in his Christianity. This is my opinion, but I do not believe John could have been lackadaisical in his Christian life. I cannot imagine a John with besetting sins. I do not imagine John indulging in his Christian liberty so he could ‘enjoy sin for a season.’
No, my dear Christian reader. John desired holiness. He longed for the holiness of Jesus Christ until his death and was utterly aware at all times that Jesus paid for the sins of those who would believe. No Christian who believes that Jesus paid for every sin should want to enjoy the pleasure of sin. This is called grace-abuse and is condemned by Paul. (Romans 6:1-2)
So John is looking at his children in the faith, those men (and women) who he has led to the Lord or has been teaching the apostle’s doctrine. John sees them walking in the truth. There are two components to this I find striking: walking and truth.
James says to be a doer of the Word and not just a hearer only. James 1:22-23 It is important to understand that justification by grace through faith is not an excuse to act any way we want. The regenerate man will have an aversion to sin. A forgiven creature will walk in obedience…not to produce salvation, but as the fruit of salvation. So first of all, it is important to know that John’s spiritual children are walking. They are doing the work of God. They are working. They have energy and are putting forth effort to please the Lord and fulfill His commands.
Secondly, they are walking in truth. Back to the earlier paragraphs, “thy Word is truth.” John 17:17 God’s Word is truth. It is the only basis for truth. Denial of God’s Word has been the source for more heresies, false scientific beliefs and pain and suffering in this world than any other single event. Ignoring God’s Word is as dangerous as denying it, by the way; look at Eve in the garden…she chose to believe things outside of God’s Word, contradictory to God’s Word…and the result was disastrous. You cannot be indifferent about the bible any more than you ought to be contrary to it; you must believe it.
So John has NO GREATER JOY than to hear that his children walk in the truth. He is HAPPY because he knows these believers are actually doing the work of God. They are really being obedient to God’s desires. They are worshiping in spirit and in truth. John 4:23-24
This is a vital point. There are many today who are worshiping God in spirit. People who are emotional about God. People who really want to serve something outside themselves. A good example is the program of Alcoholics Anonymous. In this program, men and women are encouraged to rely on the god of their own understanding in order to quit drinking. Tens of thousands of people have found hope for their life. They’ve gotten jobs and families back, and they’ve started to be productive members of society, especially compared to their old selves. But at what cost? By being taught to trust the god of their own understanding, these men and women have been led into idolatry: sin they readily enjoy as the fulfillment of the lust of their own heart…but this is quite contradictory to the biblical gospel which commands people to repent and believe the gospel.
When you have worship with spirit, but without truth, you have idolatry. When you have worship with truth but no spirit you have cold orthodoxy… or nothing but religious ritual.
As well as doing the correct work of God, walking in truth includes a description of what you are NOT doing. As a Christian walking in truth, you ought NOT be sinning. You ought NOT be violating the very commandments of God, the violation of which put Jesus on the cross. Yes, walking in truth is not just doing God’s work part of the week and enjoying secret sin the rest. It requires a life dedicated to Christ-likeness, self-denial and sin eradication!
Are you walking in the truth? Do you walk in the Word of God? Do you test your actions and your thoughts against the Word of God? Or do you worship the way you want to worship? Do you choose your activities and trust that God will approve of you because you are sincere?
I’m afraid this is a problem for many Christians as well as non-Christians. We don’t expect non-Christians to walk in truth, but if you are saved by grace through faith today, you do not have an excuse. You’ve been given revelation from God in the bible, the Holy Spirit to guide you and teachers to help you. Do not be like the world. Worship God the way He wants. Walk in the truth.
Trust me, if you do, you will be the cause of much rejoicing.
John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.