In writing to one of his converts, Gaius, John commended him for many things. First, John was pleased that Gaius knew the truth. If we are to be true to God, we must know the truth. In our day with so many tools available to us, there is no reason for any Christian in America to be ignorant of the Word of God. It is vital for our spiritual growth that we read, study, memorize, and meditate on the Bible.
It is sad to say, but many who know the truth do not practice the truth. John commended Gaius, not only for knowing the truth, but also for walking in the truth. “For I rejoiced greatly, when the brethren came and testified of the truth that is in thee, even as thou walkest in the truth. I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 John 3–4).
We who know the truth must be careful to practice that which we know. One of the saddest things to witness is the horrible sins of people who know the truth. Biblical knowledge is important, but it is of no profit if it is not practiced.
John also commended Gaius for his care for missionaries. “Beloved, thou doest faithfully whatsoever thou doest to the brethren, and to strangers; Which have borne witness of thy charity before the church: whom if thou bring forward on their journey after a godly sort, thou shalt do well: Because that for his name’s sake they went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles” (3 John 5–7).
Gaius had extended hospitality toward the itinerant evangelist/missionaries who had ministered in his church. John pointed out that these missionaries labored “for his name’s sake.” They had one driving motive for serving the Lord—the name of Jesus Christ. I have often been asked, “Did you love the Japanese people when you went to Japan?” The fact is that I did not know any Japanese people when we went to Japan. Missionaries do not go to the unevangelized people because they love the people. They go because they love the Lord.
After we began to minister to the people of Japan, God gave us a great love for the Japanese people which abides to this day. The faithful missionary does not have an ulterior motive. His or her motivation is the love of the Lord. “For the love of Christ constraineth us…” (2 Corinthians 5:14).
John said those missionaries labored while “taking nothing from the Gentiles.” In other words, they purposely made themselves dependent on God’s people. One of the most difficult things in missionary life is to be recipients of the goodness of others. But this is God’s plan for missions.
It has been my joy for the past forty years to visit missionaries all around the world. I have watched as God knit the hearts of missionaries with the people with whom they were working. As a result, missionaries and their churches have cared for widows and established homes for orphaned and abandoned children. Through the years, missionaries serving with Baptist International Missions, Inc. have been used of God to provide for those who could not help themselves. This is the pure religion of which James 1:27 speaks, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” Wherever there is biblical missions, you will see Christians practicing pure religion.
Bill and Terry Craig went to Japan as missionaries in the mid ‘70s. They had two daughters, but their third child was stillborn. When they were told they could not have any more biological children, they began to explore the possibility of adoption. Within a few years, they had adopted three children. They now have twenty-one adopted Japanese children. What God has done for and through the children adopted by the Craigs is amazing. These young people are now pastors, missionaries, business people and godly examples of Christians. That is pure religion. The last time my wife Virginia and I were in Japan, we had lunch with Bill and Terry and two new children they had recently adopted.
Missionaries with a passion to evangelize the lost and to establish independent Baptist churches have also seen the need to minister to the physical needs of the people to whom they are ministering. Our son, Tim, and his wife Donna adopted an abandoned Indian girl in Bolivia. They started homes for boys and girls in Bolivia that, as of last month, care for 150 sweet children. In Romania, Ed and Carole Hembree were greatly used to start churches and train leaders in that needy country, and they also started a home for homeless children. In Uganda, missionaries have been used of God to start churches and to train workers for God’s kingdom, and they have a very successful ministry to orphans in different parts of the country.
A person with a tender heart cannot see the physical suffering of others and turn a deaf ear to their cries for help. I am proud to be associated with godly missionaries around the world who—by their godly lives and their benevolent spirit—have been the hands, the feet and the heart of their Saviour to those in need. This is “Pure Religion.”
This article was originally published in the Winter 2012 edition of The Baptist Voice.