He is Greater than Me
HE > me
JOHN, the Book, the Man – Part 7
March 4, 2007 Dr. Rick Isbell
John 3: 22-36
The Word of God is powerful when you
- Read it
- Sing it
- Pray it
- Quote it
- Meditate on it
You never know how God is going to use His Word in your life…
You may be like the little old lady who was at home and she heard a burglar coming through the door so she called 911, then jumped to her feet and as he enter the room she began to shout at him: Acts 2:38… Acts 2:38… (“Repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus for the forgiveness of your sin”)… as she just repeatedly shouted ‘Acts 2:38’, the burglar simply sat down in the floor with his hands on his head and waited for the cops to arrive. When they did, they asked him why he surrendered so easily. He said, “Because the old broad kept yelling that she had an axe and two .38s!”
Today’s passage is certainly a powerful one that I pray will penetrate your heart and mine
- It contains a foundational principle that will set the stage for your entire Christian walk with the Lord.
22 After this, Jesus and His disciples went to the Judean countryside, where He spent time with them and baptized. 23 John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water there. People were coming and being baptized, 24 since John had not yet been thrown into prison.
3:22-24 For a short time the ministry of John the Baptist overlapped Jesus’ ministry.
- The Judean countryside must have been alive with the teaching of both these great preachers of repentance and God’s kingdom.
- Both John and Jesus had disciples, large crowds followed both of them, and
- both baptized.
- The site of Aenon near Salim is likely about midway between the Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea
- John states here that, This was before John was put in prison (24)
- This statement shows once again how this Gospel, the fourth one, supplements the other three Synoptic Gospels.
- It implies that readers knew about John’s imprisonment from reading the other Gospels or from common church tradition.
25 Then a dispute arose between John’s disciples and a Jew about purification.
3:25 The zealous disciples of John the Baptist found themselves at a disadvantage in an argument.
- A certain Jew asked why he should join John’s group.
- He argued about purification or ceremonial washing.
- There were already Pharisaic washings in place, why should Jews follow another washing, John’s baptism?
- Besides, the group following Jesus was larger (v. 26).
26 So they came to John and told him, “Rabbi the One you testified about, and who was with you across the Jordan, is baptizing—and everyone is flocking to Him.”
3:26 John’s disciples may have been angry and jealous.
- Their group, their church used to be the top dogs
- Biggest one in town but now people were going over to hear Jesus more than John
- Maybe this Jewish leader thought that if he could get the two groups to war against themselves, then the problem of this Jesus movement would take care of itself and self-destruct
27 John responded, “No one can receive a single thing unless it’s given to him from heaven.
3:27 John’s greatness is revealed in his reply.
- He said, A man can receive only what is given him from heaven.
- God is sovereign in bestowing His blessings on one’s ministry.
- If Jesus’ movement was expanding, then it must have been in the will of God.
28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but I’ve been sent ahead of Him.’ 29 He who has the bride is the groom. But the groom’s friend, who stands by and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the groom’s voice. So this joy of mine is complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”
3:28 John reminded his disciples that they were forgetting part of his teaching.
- He had clearly taught that he was not the promised Messiah but was only sent ahead by God to do a work of preparation for the Messiah
3:29-30. In Jesus’ growing influence, John found his own joy fulfilled.
- He illustrated this for his disciples by referring to a custom at Near Eastern weddings.
- The friend of the bridegroom was only an assistant, not the main participant in the marriage.
- The assistant acted on behalf of the bridegroom and made the preliminary arrangements for the ceremony.
- But his joy came when he heard the bridegroom coming for his bride.
- John the Baptist’s work was to prepare for the arrival of Christ, the “Groom.”
- John baptized only with water, not with the Spirit.
- Therefore Jesus must increase and John must decrease.
- That was the divine order and John the Baptist recognized it
- And willingly, with joy accepted Jesus’ growing popularity as God’s plan.
31 The One who comes from above is above all. The one who is from the earth is earthly and speaks in earthly terms. The One who comes from heaven is above all.
3:31 Here John the author/disciple developed the theme about the supremacy of Jesus, which John the Baptist spoke of to his followers
- Since Jesus has come from heaven, His words surpass those of any religious teacher.
- Each human teacher is limited by his earthly boundaries (he is from the earth and is from the earthly).
- But the Logos from heaven is above all
- He is preeminent
32 He testifies to what He has seen and heard, yet no one accepts His testimony.
3:32 Jesus is speaking from His knowledge and vision of Heaven and His understanding of the Father
- Yet in spite of this clear reliable witness, mankind as a whole has rejected His message
33 The one who has accepted His testimony has affirmed that God is true.
3:33 So obviously, the message of Jesus has not been universally rejected, has it?
- When someone receives the message of Christ into their lives and lets it change them, they are giving their proclamation that God is truthful
- The reverse of that would be to reject this testimony of Jesus, which is to call God a liar, which blasphemy and you suffer the consequences of that act.
34 For God sent Him, and He speaks God’s words, since He gives the Spirit without measure.
3:34. Jesus gives the perfect truth of God as He speaks the words of God,
- because He has the full endowment of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit without measure.
- The Old Testament prophets had the Spirit only for limited times and for limited purposes.
- Jesus represents the very Spirit, Himself
- For God sent Him… John says here… he also refers to that same thought 38 more times in this Gospel.
- John wanted to absolutely, without question or pause, to affirm Jesus’ deity and heavenly origin,
35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hands.
3:35. The relationship between the Son and the Father is one of loving intimacy and complete confidence.
- The Son has all the authority to accomplish the Father’s purposes
36 The one who believes in the Son has eternal life, but the one who refuses to believe in the Son will not see life; instead, the wrath of God remains on him.
3:36 Man has only two options:
- Believe in the Son or
- Refuse to believe in the Son
- Refusing to trust in the Son of God is willful disobedience to the clear message of God and therefore according to John, the wrath of God remains on you.
- “Wrath,” God’s necessary, righteous reaction against evil,
- remains (menei) on the unbeliever.
o It means that this wrath is future, but it also exists now.
o Endless sin and endless disobedience will result in endless punishment
If you have never turned your trust from yourself, to God, then I hope you will resolve that before you leave this place today.
- Later in this service I will give you the opportunity to come down here and tell me that you want to give your life to Christ and get out of God’s wrath and into His grace and mercy.
- We can help you with that today.
I want all of us to memorize a verse from this passage today… it is real easy…
It was probably John the Baptist’s greatest statement recorded in the Bible:
John 3:30 “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
That is why I titled this message: HE > me
That is your formula for life.
We home school our girls and they are in algebra right now.
- We the parents are learning a lot as we teach it to them
- There are formulas to figure out just about anything in your daily life
- Actually I am learning a lot… Kim already knows it all… I know that I married way over my head!
- She felt sorry for me and married me
This is your new life formula: HE > me =
- Getting out of your slump
- Finding that inner spark you once had
- Getting your priorities in order
- Navigating through the maze of your life
HE > me
There are two parts to this formula:
1. He must increase
- God the Father – Jesus the Son – God the Holy Spirit are exalted above all others and everything else in the our lives and in the life of our church.
2. I must decrease
- My wants and desires take a back seat
- My needs are superseded by the greater Kingdom good
- I am here to minister first and if I get something out of it, great… if not, then I minister anyway
Beyond my own enjoyment and success of life there are four results in the Kingdom of God when get this formula right:
1. God is Glorified
To “glorify” means to “render honor” or to “magnify”. The purpose of the church is to render honor / give glory to / magnify God.
It is not about glorifying the celebrity pastor
- Not about worshipping the worship team
- Not about basking in the beauty of the building
- Not about getting wrapped up in your pet ministry or pet project
- Not so much about following my vision, but rather, following Jesus’ plan
It is about turning every heart and head toward heaven and proclaiming, “Oh Lord, My God, the majesty and glory of Your name transcends the earth and fills the heavens!” “Glory to Your name!”
HE must increase… I must decrease.
2. Church is Unified
John 17:20-21 (shortly before His crucifixion after he had prayed for Himself and then for His disciples, Jesus was thinking about Leaclair Baptist Church and he prayed,) 20“I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their message. 21May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You.”
Some of you have asked me my opinion about the ongoing fiasco at Bellevue
- I believe Bellevue and all other churches have been dealt a black eye by a few disgruntled goats who want to have things their way or else they will tear the whole thing apart
- Pastor Steve Gaines and others in charge have made some mistakes but who among hasn’t?
- I glad there has not been a News camera in my face to record every mistake I’ve made here over the last 4½ years.
- The website that is seeking to destroy this man and his staff and that great church has only been up since August and already has recorded over 650K visitors to read the venom that is spewed there.
- Galatians 5:19 “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the Kingdom of God.”
- Vile sexual sins and drunken orgies are equated to discord, dissensions and causing factions in the church.
HE must increase… I must decrease.
3. Scripture is Exemplified
Acts 2:42 “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to prayers.”
46 “And every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all people. And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved.”
The early church where God was a moving church
- A hard working church
They modeled the scripture
- continually studying it
- being taught
The church in which God is glorified is not only a Bible preaching church, but it is a Bible living church! (1 Pet. 2:12)
James 1:22 “Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only...”
His Word becomes the play book of our church, not my desires or yours.
He must increase… I must decrease.
4. Believers are Multiplied
Remember that passage I read a moment ago about Jesus praying for us?
- I stopped short on reading the whole thing
- There is a reason that Jesus prayed for us
John 17:20 I pray not only for these, but also for those who believe in Me through their message. 21May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You. May they also be one in Us, so the world may believe You sent Me.
23I am in them and You are in Me. May they be made completely one, so the world may know You have sent Me and have loved them as You have loved Me.
I believe that discord and hard feelings between church members, on church staffs, on deacon bodies and in the pew has done as much damage to the cause of winning the world to Christ as any other evil that exists.
The old chorus says,
“We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand,
We will walk with each other, we will walk hand in hand,
And together we'll spread the news that God is in our land
And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
He must increase… I must decrease.