Perhaps the pastoral spirit of the apostle John is nowhere more clearly seen than in the 4th verse, when he says, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”  I fear that this is a sentiment that is foreign to most pulpits, and is in fact a complete stranger to the religious concepts of most professing Christians.  Why should I say so?  I say it, because the general drift of the modern church age is so antinomian, and because such an incorrect emphasis is placed on evangelism, that it seems that the modern evangelical preacher’s greatest joy is to count the number of decisional scalps he can hang on his belt.  This was not at all the attitude of John.  Nor did he rejoice to see his church affecting social change, or winning battles in the political arena.  These were not the things which delighted the heart of John.  I do not say that he did not rejoice to see souls won to Christ, for every true Christian rejoices, even as do the angels in heaven, when a sinner is brought to repentance.  However, John’s lengthy experience had taught him that there were many who seemed to start out well, who fell out of the race, and descended into perdition.  Very quickly all of God’s sober ministers learn to view even the most hopeful cases of apparent conversion with a certain caution, even as they would remain cautious and unpresumptuous about themselves, bringing their bodies under subjection, lest by any means when they have preached to others they themselves should be castaways.  Let us remember who is talking here.  This is not an old withered preacher whose evangelical zeal has died out, and has preached to a small congregation of old folks who are all Christians for so long, that he has forgotten what it is like to see a sinner converted and baptized.  This man was there at the very birth of the church, when three thousand souls were swept in on the day of Pentecost, and believers were added to the Lord in multitudes day by day.  He had witnessed the mighty operations of the Spirit of God, had no doubt taken part in preaching messages that were blessed to the salvation of hundreds, if not thousands.  Nevertheless, even with this experience behind him, and with the unction of the Spirit upon his work, John still says that his greatest joy was to see his children walking in truth.

To see a Christian walking in truth is the happiest thing of all, because it manifests that the work of conversion is genuine.  There is very much religious excitement that often even leads to a profession of faith and baptism, which after all is not lasting or genuine.  Stony ground hearers, thorny ground hearers, and wayside hearers, abound all about.  But when John saw that the seed was bearing fruit in his children, some thirty, some sixty, some an hundredfold, this fulfilled his joy.  It was a wonderful thing to him to see sinners professing faith in Christ, but doubly wonderful to see those same sinners persevering in the faith of Christ, manifesting that the truth of God had really taken root in their hearts.

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