The Lust for Leadership

Peter Leithart commenting on Diotrephes in III John 1:9-10 in his book From Behind the Veil. 

Though the specific situation of Gaius’ church is not replicated in every church, the threat of prideful members and leaders like Diotrephes is a perpetual threat. John instructs churches of all times to pay attention and watch out for men in the church who lust for leadership. Watch out for the ambitious man. Watch out for men who refuse to bow to authority, take advice and counsel, resist necessary rebukes and exhortations. Watch out for the men and women in the church who fill the church with gossip and evil words about the leaders in the church. Watch out for people John says, who refuse to receive brothers, who close themselves off from Christians who are not part of the in group. Watch out for these Judaizing tendencies. 

 This is all the product of pride, of wishing to be first, and it destroys the fellowship of the church. This is evil conduct of the most serious nature. If we are going to be judged by how we treat the “least of these my brothers,” then we had better be very careful to avoid pride, ambition, gossip, slander, evil words, and resistance to counsel. We ought instead to be cultivating humility, service, edifying speech, and submission to the authority of those set over us. 

Two Types of Fear

Pastor Leithart commenting on I John 4:18, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love”
“John is not contradicting the rest of Scripture when he says that perfect love dispels fear.  He assumes, with the rest of Scripture, that here are different sorts of fear.  We have a right fear of God if we are awed by his power and majesty.  We have a right fear of God if our fear of God draws us close to him. We have a right fear of God when we honor him as our Maker, Lord, and Savior.  John is talking about a cowering fear, the fear that God is out to get us, the anxious worry that we will not stand in judgment.  Johns is talking about the fear of Adam, the fear that came from a bad conscience and drove Adam to hide in the garden. This kind of fear is driven out by the love that God has shown us…fear moves us, and the difference between right and wrong fear is the directionit moves us. Adam feared God, and hid in the garden. Wrong fear drives us away from God’s presence.  Right fear draws us closer, in awed fascination and quaking love toward the God who is a consuming fire.” (From Beyond the Veil, p. 157-158)

What Does the First Amendment Prohibit?

Pastor Leithart commenting on I John 4:1, “ Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God”
“We live in a dazzling carnival of religious options. You can find a hundred and one varieties of Christianity, anything to suit your taste-classical Christianity, country Christianity, crunchy Christianity, be-bop Christianity and hip-hop Christianity. And that’s not even to mention the hundreds of NRMs-New Religious Movements-invented every year in this country. Our culture wants to persuade us to just accept it all: let a thousand flowers bloom. Celebrate the diversity and richness and variety of the American religious life. Above all, make no judgments. Don’t examine, test, judge.  That is the main thing the first Amendment prohibits, which, freely paraphrased, says, “Thou shalt not test the spirits.” 

Open God’s Ears by Opening Your Own

“When our hearts are assured by God, we have confidence in prayer. We can ask whatever we want because we keep his commandments and live in a way please to God [I John 3:22].   John is not talking about ‘works righteousness,’ as if we could coerce God into doing us favors by our good works.  But he does say there is a causal connection between effective prayer and obedience: ‘whatever we ask we receive from Him, because [hoti] we keep His commandments.’ If you prayers are not being answered, examine yourself. Ask if you are walking in obedience. If you want God to open his ear to you, open your ears to him.” (Peter Leithart, From Beyond the Veil, p. 127)

Do You Act Like an Alien?

“Unfortunately the modern church has too often tried hard to avoid being strange. Modern Christians have adjusted to the world’s standards.  We don’t want to sound unscientific, so we find ways to reinterpret Genesis 1 so it fits with current scientific theory.  We don’t want to look odd, so we conform our fashion sense to that of the world, without considering whether or not God has something to say about our clothing. We don’t want to be uncool, so our tastes become identical to the world.  This makes things a lot easier.  There’s no conflict between the church and the world when the church imitates the world. We don’t seem alien and strange, as if we have come from another planet, but we are acting against our nature: we are children of God, children of the resurrection, but we behave the same as the children of the devil, as if we were still in the same old, dead flesh as everyone else.” (Peter Leithart, From Beyond the Veil, p. 115)”

You Still Need Teachers

Peter Leithart commenting on I John 2:27, “His anointing teaches you all things.”

“Christians have sometimes taken John’s statement out of this context and concluded they don’t need any human guidance or instruction. Even Christians who do not renounce teachers in principle act as if they don’t need any help, as if they the can survive and flourish in the Christian life without any instruction from anyone. The rebellious child who refuses to listen to his parents; the husband who won’t take counsel about how to deal with a troubled marriage; the young man with credit card debt who keeps trying to solve the problem without getting help: refusal to hear instruction is not a sign of spirituality, but a sign of arrogance, and a sure prescription for failure. Teachers are God’s gift to the church; we can’t prosper if we are contemptuous of God’s gifts.” (From Beyond the Veil, p. 104)

Seeing God

Peter Leithart notes that many Christians see God the Father as this cold, harsh, angry God who needs to be appeased by the kind, loving Jesus.  However, this separates what the Scriptures have joined together. In the Bible, Jesus is God. There are not two gods, one angry, one loving. There is one God. He is love. This love is seen as the Father sends the Son, the Son dies for his people, and the Spirit is poured out so that the people might love each other.

“You want to know what God is like, really? Take a look at the gospel. If you have seen Jesus, if you have seen him in the  manger, seen him tempted in the wilderness, seen  him passionately fighting the Pharisees who oppress his people, freely offering himself on the cross, powerfully rising again from the dead-when you have seen all this, you have seen God who is love.   Jesus did all of this out of his love for us, and because his Father sent him out of love. You want to see the love of God, read about Jesus. For whoever has seen Jesus has seen the Father.”  (From Behind the Veil, p. 151)