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Look Above

The Gospel of John  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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The Baptist gives a great example of how to deal with disagreements

Notes & Transcripts
John 3:22–36 ESV
After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized (for John had not yet been put in prison). Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
PRAY…

PRAY…

It has been said that whenever you have 2 Baptists in a room you will probably find 3 opinions. Opinions on just about anything and everything. Baptists have been known historically as people of the book (meaning the Bible), but we are also well-known to disagree with each other. Now, that is not just because we are an obstinate belief system. We believe that each and every follower of Jesus Christ has equal standing before God. Therefore, each and every opinion seems to have equal weight. Thus, disagreements are common. If your opinion and my opinion are different and equal, then how can we come to terms? Unless it is a clear teaching of the Bible we are disagreeing over, there is plenty of room for disagreement. But we are also called to be unified in our love for one another. So when we disagree, we must be charitable. We must be loving. We must seek the betterment of even those we are in disagreement with. But how do we do that?
In the way our current culture is working, disagreement is akin to war. To disagree is to hate. To hold an opinion that is the opposite of another is to think the other is not worthy of life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness. I am not saying this with joy or glee. I find this tendency to split over every little thing to be sad. I am of the opinion that this current attitude, if continued unchecked, will result in the death of this nation. Setting this country aside for a moment, this attitude is killing churches. Again, let me say that there are many clear teachings of Scripture, on these there is no compromise. Yet, the attitude of having a church your way or going to go find another one is what I am talking about. In the passage before us today, the first Baptist, John the Baptist, is going to give us an example of how to respond to disagreement. An example that could change the way we react in the church and in the culture.
Let me remind you once again that the Gospel according to John is a unique book in the New Testament. While it does chronicle events in the life of Jesus, it does it differently than the other 3 Gospels. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all tell the events like a reported. Outlining the time and place and order of events. John, on the other hand, writes for a slightly different reason.
John 20:30–31 ESV
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
John writes so that we may have life by believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. So, as we approach each passage in the book, we need to ask ourselves, how does this story help me believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God? In the last 2 weeks, we looked at an encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus. Jesus makes it very clear that unless someone has been born from above, they cannot know the love of God fully. Jesus came to provide the way for us to be born from above. And we can know that we have been born from above if we are characterized by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives instead of the deeds of the flesh. Now, we are going to go back to someone we left back in chapter 1, John the Baptist. We know from the other Gospels that he will lose his head fairly early in the ministry of Jesus. But this Gospel writer doesn’t tell us about that. Instead, we will see the Baptist point to Jesus above all else. So, let’s jump in at verse 22.
John writes so that we may have life by believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. So, as we approach each passage in the book, we need to ask ourselves, how does this story help me believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God? In the last 2 weeks, we looked at an encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus. Jesus makes it very clear that unless someone has been born from above, they cannot know the love of God fully. Jesus came to provide the way for us to be born from above. And we can know that we have been born from above if we are characterized by the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives instead of the deeds of the flesh. Now, we are going to go back to someone we left back in chapter 1, John the Baptist. We know from the other Gospels that he will lose his head fairly early in the ministry of Jesus. But this Gospel writer doesn’t tell us about that. Instead, we will see the Baptist point to Jesus above all else. So, let’s jump in at verse 22.
John 3:22–24 ESV
After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized (for John had not yet been put in prison).

The setting

1. The setting
1.1. So we have John the Baptist doing what his name would imply, baptizing. Apparently, not too far away, Jesus is baptizing also. We see in 4:2 that Jesus actually didn’t baptize anyone, only his followers did. Do you see the potential problem right out of the gate?
1.2. You might remember that the Baptist had baptized Jesus. You might also remember that some of the Baptist’s followers left John and followed Jesus. Now we have 2 baptisms going on. To be clear, these were not the kind of baptism we see after Jesus’ resurrection. This was, most probably, a baptism of repentance. A sign that someone was plunging themselves all in to following God.
1.3. The baptism we practice as a church is believer’s baptism. We get that example from the Great Commission and the book of Acts. There we see that baptism is a sign and a symbol of a change of the heart. It is a sign that the old life of sin has been crucified with Christ and buried and that the new heart has been raised to walk in newness of life. But these meanings had not been given yet at this point in John’s Gospel. So, some folks were being baptized to follow John the Baptist and his teachings. And others were doing the same for Jesus.
1.4. Finally, from these 3 brief verses, we see that the Gospel writer, John, knows what happened to the Baptist because we read in verse 24 that the Baptist had not yet been put in prison. It’s like the Gospel writer is saying, I know what happens to him, but I want you to know what he said before he died. Let’s move on to verses 25-26.
John 3:25–26 ESV
Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.”
2. The argument

The argument

2.1. They begin by arguing about purification. We don’t know what the argument was exactly. And it really doesn’t matter. Apparently, there was a difference of opinion between those who followed Jesus and those who followed John the Baptist. And they are discussing it.
2.2. But when John the Baptist’s followers come to talk to him about it, purification is not even in the discussion any more. Now it is about the fact that Jesus is baptizing and drawing more people to him. I just want to be crystal clear on this. The Gospel writer makes no attempt to explain what the initial disagreement was, but sides have been drawn and now it is about who has more followers. Do you see the change? A small disagreement that now has people taking sides.
2.3. I have seen this happen in churches. Small disagreements turning into big arguments and both sides trying to drum up support for their side. We can see it happening here, very early in Jesus’ ministry. And we continue to see it today. So the stage is set. The argument is engaged. Now let’s look at how John the Baptist deals with the argument.
John 3:27–30 ESV
John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.”
3. A change of focus

A change of focus

3.1. If this were a current event, we would expect the party that was feeling slighted, namely John the Baptist and his followers, to march right over and tell Jesus and His followers a thing or two about proper etiquette. You shouldn’t outdo the one who got you started. After all, John the Baptist was drawing crowds to be baptized before Jesus came on the scene. John the Baptist even baptized Jesus! And John the Baptist actually told some of his followers to go with Jesus. And now you are not reciprocating. You need to send some of your followers back our way. Or at least that’s how I would imagine it.
3.2. Instead of that kind of attitude, the Baptist just let’s his followers know that they are focused on the wrong thing. He tells them that he wasn’t building his own ministry. God was building it (a person cannot receive even 1 thing unless it is given from heaven). Then the Baptist reminds them that he TOLD them it was going to be this way because he never claimed to be the Christ, but rather the one who came before Christ.
3.3. Then the Baptist gives a quick illustration from a wedding. If I can tell it in a modern way, imagine the groom and the bestman waiting down by the altar. They are both waiting for the bride. And when music starts and the back doors of the church open and she comes walking down the aisle, they are both elated. The groom because that is his bride, and the bestman because his friend has his bride. The Baptist then says his joy is complete BECAUSE Jesus has a growing number of followers.
3.4. And then he says, he must increase, but I must decrease. These should be the focus words of any ministry. Jesus must increase, I must decrease. The Baptist gets it. The whole of his ministry was to point people to Jesus. Now that they have seen Jesus, the Baptist’s ministry must come to a close. And then to make it extra clear, he goes on to talk about how great Jesus is in verses 31-36.
John 3:31–36 ESV
He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

Look up

4. Look up
4.1. The Baptist recognizes that he is a mortal being. He is of the earth. He speaks in an earthly way. But Jesus comes from above and, as such, is above all earthly things. And while the Baptist can only tell you about earthly things because that is all that he has seen, Jesus tells about everything! So, when Jesus says, You must be born again, or from above, you know that it is true. And not only do you know it is true here on earth, you know that it is a true statement about God and God is true.
4.2. Then, in verse 34, the Baptist makes it even more clear that Jesus has come from God. He says that the one sent from God utters the very words of God and we can know that because He provides the Spirit without measure, or without limit. Or, to say it another way, the Spirit of God is how we can understand the words of God. And this is a principle I try to remind you about as often as the text allows me. There are 2 things that need to be present in any Gospel conversation: The Word of God and the Spirit of God. And this is why I say prayer is the first step of evangelism. We must have the Spirit of God working before us, with us, through us, and after us. He is the one who will give the hearer understanding. We can try to explain the truth until we are blue in the face, if the Spirit of God doesn’t give understanding, nothing will change.
4.3. Then, in verse 35, we see that the Father loves the Son so much that He has given Him everything. So, Jesus is fully God. Jesus is the Son of God and Jesus IS God. There is no mistaking this truth. The Gospel writer made this clear back in chapter 1.
John 1:1 ESV
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
John 1:14 ESV
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
4.4. So, once again, the Gospel writer proves that Jesus is the Son of God. But how can we have life in Him? Verse 36. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on Him. Believing in Jesus is more than simply the words I believe. Because notice how the Gospel writer changes the terminology. It goes from belief to disobedience. And the reverse is true. Belief in Jesus should result in obedience to Him. In chapter 14 of this very Gospel, Jesus says, If you love me, you will keep my commandments. Belief in Jesus, love for Jesus, carries with it the mandate to obey Jesus’ commands.

Look Up

4.4. So, once again, the Gospel writer proves that Jesus is the Son of God. But how can we have life in Him? Verse 36. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on Him. Believing in Jesus is more than simply the words I believe. Because notice how the Gospel writer changes the terminology. It goes from belief to disobedience. And the reverse is true. Belief in Jesus should result in obedience to Him. In chapter 14 of this very Gospel, Jesus says, If you love me, you will keep my commandments. Belief in Jesus, love for Jesus, carries with it the mandate to obey Jesus’ commands.
As I bring this message to a close, listen to what we have learned. When we get into a situation where we disagree with others and we start to act on that disagreement, we should change our focus from our own hurt feelings or demand to be right and look at Jesus. He must increase, we must decrease. Then, before we take even another breath, we should look up. Jesus is the one we are seeking to please. Jesus is the one we must obey. If we claim to be His, we must follow Him. Not our own pride or wisdom, but His.
Now, I will tell you that I firmly believe if more Christians followed this simple technique, many arguments would die. The original Baptist gave us a great example on how to keep the main thing the main thing. Oh that we Baptists who live centuries later would follow that example.

Come to Jesus

I am very aware that this message has been directed at those who already know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. They are the ones who have received the understanding from the Holy Spirit. If you do not understand these things, or if you have more questions, let me give you just a few more words of Scripture.
- for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
- but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
- For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
- because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God? Do you believe that God raised Him from the dead? Would you commit your life to Him by confessing Him as your Lord today?
Let’s PRAY…
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