Sermon for Sunday October 17th, 2010


Imitation by Steve Shepherd

3 John 1:9-1:12

INTRO.- Who’s your favorite TV or Hollywood actor or actress? Past or present? Considering today’s actors and actresses, older may be better. Oh really? Maybe not.

ILL.- I discovered an internet site about the religion of famous actors of the past. Here is what I found.
1 Humphrey Bogart Episcopalian (lapsed)
2 Cary Grant Anglican (lapsed); part-Jewish;
3 Jimmy Stewart Presbyterian
4 Marlon Brando minimal Christian Science
5 Fred Astaire Episcopalian
6 Henry Fonda Christian Science (lapsed)
7 Clark Gable Catholic
8 James Cagney Catholic
9 Spencer Tracy Catholic
10 Charlie Chaplin Anglican; agnostic
11 Gary Cooper Catholic (convert)
12 Gregory Peck Catholic
13 John Wayne Presbyterian; Catholic
14 Laurence Olivier Anglican
15 Gene Kelly Catholic

1 Katharine Hepburn nominal Episcopalian; atheist
2 Bette Davis Baptist/Episcopalian family background;
3 Audrey Hepburn Christian Science
4 Ingrid Bergman Lutheran
5 Greta Garbo Lutheran
6 Marilyn Monroe Christian Science, temporary - Judaism
7 Elizabeth Taylor Christian Science, Reform Judaism
8 Judy Garland Episcopalian
9 Marlene Dietrich mostly nonreligious but superstitious
10 Joan Crawford raised Catholic; Christian Science
11 Ava Gardner Southern Baptist

From what I read, most Hollywood actors and actresses didn’t practice their faith even if they had any faith! You wouldn’t want to be like most of them! The only actor that had much faith at all was Jimmy Stewart who was devoted to his family and to his Presbyterian Church.

I suspect that many of today’s actors are no different or are no better. I did read that Denzel Washington is a practicing Christian of the Church of God in Christ. His father was a Pentecostal preacher.

Who would you be if you couldn’t be you? Or is there someone that you’ve always wanted to be like?

I personally believe that we all would change something about us, that is, about our appearance or our personality if we could. Hopefully, all of us who are in Christ would want to become more like our Savior. Maybe not in our younger days, but as we age and mature in Christ we surely want to be more like Him!

I think we all realize, of course, there are some people we wouldn’t want to be like. But we all imitate or reflect someone in life. We all take on the characteristics of another person. We all learn from one another.

PROP.- John tells us about two different people in the church; one to follow and one, we wouldn’t want to follow.
1- What not to imitate
2- What to imitate


9I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. 10So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church. 11Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good.

Obviously, we want to imitate good and not evil. This doesn’t hold true for everyone, but it should for us.

ILL.- I heard one that a preacher announced there were 726 different sins in the Bible. Shortly after that he got bombarded with requests from people for that list because they thought they were missing out on something! Some evil things are pleasurable and many people want in on them!

According to our text, we don’t want imitate evil men either. Who might that be? A man in the church by the name of Diotrephes. Let’s note what is not good about him and what we shouldn’t imitate.

Diotrephes, who loves to be first. What is this? I assume Diotrephes was the kind of person who wanted to be first about everything or be number one.

ILL.- Late in his life, Sir Winston took a cruise on an Italian ship. A journalist from a Rome newspaper encountered the former prime minister to ask him why he chose to travel on an Italian line when the stately Queen’s line under the British flag was available.

Churchill gave the question his consideration and then gravely replied: “There are three things I like about Italian ships. First, their cuisine, which is unsurpassed. Second, their service, which is quite superb.” And then Sir Winston added, “And then there is none of this nonsense about women and children first.”

ILL.- In 1949, Norman McGowan was the personal valet to Winston Chuchill. McGowan said, “It was Sir Winston Churchill’s standing order that when he returned by train from a trip that his dog Rufus should be brought to the station to meet him. Rufus would be let off his leash to dash to his master and be the first to greet him.

“One day I happened to be standing close by. Rufus ignored his master and came leaping all over me instead. “Of course, Sir Winston loved Rufus too much to blame him. Instead, he turned to me with a hurt look and said quietly, “In the future, Norman, I would prefer you to stay in the train until I’ve said hello.”

It sounds like Sir Winston Churchill liked being first in all things. If this is true about him I’m not sure I would have wanted to be around him very much.

Self-centeredness is not a good trait. Wanting your own way all the time is not a good thing. Diotrephes was apparently a very self-centered man or church leader. And I’ve seen a number of church leaders and preachers like that over the years.

ILL.- I once had a church board member say to me, “I AM the church board.” And he was one of about five board members but I guess he thought he “ran the show.” He tried to but it didn’t always work.

Any time, any one person in the church be it preacher, elder, deacon, or teacher tries to run the show and get their own way, they are wrong! All things are supposed to be done for the whole church and to please Christ who is the head of the body!

I Cor. 14:26 “What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.”

Romans 14:19 “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”

We’re not here to please ourselves but to please the Lord in all things and edify or build up one another in the church. If what you do, doesn’t edify or build up people then stop doing it!

What else did Diotrephes do that we should not do? John said that Diotrephes will have nothing to do with us. I guess he wouldn’t have anything to do with certain people in the church.

ILL.- I had a church member from many years ago say to me in regard to a new family in the church, “They are not our kind of people.” Well, what kind were they?

I realize that not everyone clicks with everyone else in the church. There are some people that you have a better relationship with than others, however, we should never shun another brother or sister in the church. As best we can, we should always speak to one another and demonstrate kindness to all.

What else did Diotrephes do that we don’t want to do?

10So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.

He sounds like a bad dude! And he was. He was a big gossip, which is a no, no. A malicious gossip, wanting to hurt others.

ILL.- One preacher wrote about his church, “Tongues have always been a problem in our church, but it isn’t speaking in tongues.” It was malicious gossip.

Diotrephes wanted to control the church. He wanted some people in and some people out. He was something of a dictator.

ILL.- Ray Rickert told me once about a new preacher in a Baptist church. One of the board members pulled him aside immediately and basically said to him, “You do what I want in this church. I control it.” That new young preacher went into the pulpit and immediately called for a congregational meeting. He told the people what that man said to him about controlling the church. The congregation took an immediate vote and booted the man from the church board and also, the church!

I get the idea from John that we don’t want to imitate anything about Diotrephes. It’s like some other scriptures.

Prov. 14:7 “Stay away from a foolish man, for you will not find knowledge on his lips.”

Prov. 3:31 “Do not envy a violent man or choose any of his ways.”

Prov. 4:14 “Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evil men.”

What not to imitate. You don’t imitate evil or dumb people.


11Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. 12Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone—and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true.”

We are to imitate good, good in people and all good! The good man in this text is Demetrius.

12Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone—and even by the truth itself. We also speak well of him, and you know that our testimony is true.”

Do you know of someone is well spoken of by most people? If so, imitate that person. That person obviously has some very good qualities in his or her life.

ILL.- Abraham Lincoln (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865) served as the 16th President of the United States from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. He successfully led his country through its greatest internal crisis, the American Civil War, preserving the Union and ending slavery.

Before his election in 1860 as the first Republican president, Lincoln had been a country lawyer, an Illinois state legislator, a member of the United States House of Representatives, and twice an unsuccessful candidate for election to the U.S. Senate.

He introduced measures that resulted in the abolition of slavery, issuing his Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and promoting the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution. Six days after the large-scale surrender of Confederate forces under General Robert E. Lee, Lincoln became the first American president to be assassinated.

Lincoln is quoted as saying:
- I have never studied the art of paying compliments to women; but I must say that if all that has been said by orators and poets since the creation of the world in praise of women were applied to the women of America, it would not do them justice for their conduct during this war. I will close by saying, God bless the women of America!
- If you look for the bad in people expecting to find it, you surely will.
- In regard to this Great Book, I have but to say, it is the best gift God has given to man. All the good the Savior gave to the world was communicated through this book.
- America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves. - I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.
- I don’t know who my grandfather was; I am much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.
- If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, I’d spend six hours sharpening my ax.
- The time comes upon every public man when it is best for him to keep his lips closed.
- Most folks are about as happy as they make their minds up to be.
- Don’t worry when you are not recognized, but strive to be worthy of recognition.

If Lincoln did say all these words and many more, then I would say he was a man worth imitating in life!

Any time we see a good person, saying good words and doing good in life, they are worth imitating. And we all need to look for that good in others, instead of the negative.

I Cor. 11:1 “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.”

All of us may well have some Christ-like qualities in our lives and then should be imitated by others.

Heb. 6:11-12 “We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.”

Heb. 13:7 “Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.”


Romans 12:9 “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.”

Hate what is evil. Cling to what is good. Every human person will follow one or the other. And because of Christ, because we are in Christ we must cling to the good in others. And this good must be seen in us in order for others to follow and imitate. That’s the imitation of life for us in Christ.

Albert Schweitzer said, “Do something wonderful and people may imitate it."