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A Percentage Problem

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The Message of John 4. John the Baptist and Jesus (3:22–36)

1. He cites a maxim: a man can receive only what is given him from heaven (27). Jesus repeats a form of this to Pilate in 19:11, explaining Pilate’s present power over Jesus. God’s sovereign rule means that ministers are allocated by him as he pleases and for his purposes.

2. He resumes his earlier stance (28) and refocuses on Jesus. This affirmation of Jesus’ unique and pre-eminent role enables John to reaffirm his own position as one sent ahead of Jesus as his servant.

3. John uses the vivid image of a wedding to re-express the emotion he feels towards Jesus and his commitment to the task he has been given to do for his Messiah (29). He, like the bridegroom’s friend, does not seek pre-eminence—it is not his day! Rather he rejoices at the union of the bridegroom with his chosen bride. The reference to Jesus as a bridegroom has echoes of Old Testament passages depicting Israel as God’s bride, and anticipates later New Testament teaching on Jesus as the bridegroom of the church.43 Used of Jesus against this background, it is another clear pointer to his deity (cf. Mk. 2:18–20).

4. He states a great principle of ministry. He must become greater; I must become less (30). Jesus must advance into the centre of the stage and John must retire to the wings, as the Messiah assumes his rightful rule in his kingdom and the bridegroom takes increasing claim over his bride. Few greater motto texts for ministry have ever been uttered. ‘Only a great man can accept his own demise with joy.’

What does it mean to serve Christ? That is an important question for us to consider. I am going to bet that almost everyone, if not everyone in this room wants to be used by God in some way. Now, some of the ways you desire or want or will be used are different than others, not everyone will be a preacher or teacher, or missionary. Sometime we can all get a little stuck in being used by God; our wheels spin and we do not get any traction. Today I want to use this story of John the Baptist and Jesus to help each of us examine our lives and hearts and take an inventory of our lives so that we can each make sure we are in the healthiest place to be used by God.
So let’s look at this story and see what principals John the Baptist teaches us. The situation arises from recalling John’s practice of baptizing. Now, remember just a few weeks ago when we studied ? John was the man in chapter 1- all of these people coming to him in droves to be baptized. He had disciples, and a big following, and people came from all around to hear him… and listen to what some of his followers say in .
So, when confronted with the drop of followers John responds in a way that shows us the heart of someone greatly used by God.
1- John reminds his followers who is in charge- A person can only receive what is given to them from Heaven- in other words John is saying we can only have what God has ordered us to have. This is almost identical to what Jesus says to Pilate later on in this Gospel during his trial.

11 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours. Yours is the kingdom, O LORD, and you are exalted as head above all. 12 Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. 13

There is a famous story of Muhammad Ali on an airplane. Apparently Mr Ali did not want to fasten his seatbelt, and a flight attendant stopped and ask told him he needed to buckle it, Ali responded “Superman didn't need no seatbelt” and the flight attendant responded “Superman didn't need no airplane either.”
We can all fall victim to this sort of trap, thinking that we are the ones that are in charge. John reminds us that our first job when we want to be used by God is faithfulness, God takes care of the rest. John’s heart was to be faithful to those God drew to his ministry, and trust God to keep bringing those who God intended to be there.
I am just a NOBODY trying to tell EVERYBODY about someone who can save ANYBODY
2- John returns the focus on Jesus- I am by no means a professional photographer, but I know a good picture when I see one, and I know when a camera is out of focus. This picture of Jesus is blurry, right? Yes, Jesus is represented in the picture somewhere, but it is kind of hard to make him out. John reminds us that when other people, or other circumstances challenge us and push us to lose focus on Jesus, what we should do. In verse 28 John returns the focus back to Christ.
Have you ever wondered why a pigeon walks so funny? According to an interesting article in the Detroit Free Press, a pigeon walks the way it does so it can see where it’s going. Because it can’t adjust its focus as it moves, the pigeon actually has to bring its head to a complete stop between steps in order to refocus. This is the way it walks: head forward, stop; head back, stop. Don’t laugh -- that’s how it goes!
The same can be said for us, many times we too need to stop, and refocus. Making sure that we are giving a clear picture of Jesus to people.
3- John was content to play the background- Third, John uses the example of a best man and a groom at a wedding. Now, I have officiated quite a few weddings at this point in life, and I have learned that it is poor etiquette for anyone to try and upstage the bride and groom. If you are the chosen to be a best man or the maid of honor for a wedding, what is the most important job you have? Show your love, support, and happiness for your friend, not steal their day! The attention should never be on you!
One of my favorite musicians is a Christian Hip Hop artist named Lecrae Moore, and he wrote a song a few years ago that is one of my favorite songs to listen to before I am about to do something for the Lord. It is called “Background” And I would like to read some of it to you.
It's evident you run the show, so let me back down You take the leading role, and I'll play the background I know I miss my cues, know I forget my lines I'm sticking to your script, and I'm reading all your signs (Aye) I don't need my name in lights, (Aye) I don't need a starring role Why gain the whole wide world, If I'm just going lose my soul? And my ways ain't purified, don't live according to Your Word I can't endure this life without Your wisdom being heard So word to every dancer for a pop star 'Cause we all play the background, but mine's a rockstar Yeah, so if you need me I'll be stage right Praying the whole world would start embracing stage fright So let me fall back, stop giving my suggestions 'Cause when I follow my obsessions, I end up confessin' That I'm not that impressive, matter of fact I'm who I are, a trail of stardust leading to the superstar I could play the background I could play the background 'Cause I know sometimes I get in the way So won't You take the lead, lead, lead? So won't You take the lead, lead, lead? And I could play the background, background And you could take the lead Yo, I had a dream that I was captain of my soul I was master of my fate, lost control, and then I sank So I don't want to take the lead, 'cause I'm prone to make mistakes All these folks who follow me, goin' end up in the wrong place So just let me shadow you, just let me trace your lines Matter of fact, just take my pen, here, you create my rhymes 'Cause if I do this by myself, I'm scared that I'll succeed And no longer trust in You, 'cause I only trust in me And see, that's how you end up headed to destruction Paving a road to nowhere, pour your life out for nothin' You pulled my card, I'm bluffin', You know what's in my hand Me, I just roll and trust you, You cause the dice to land I'm in control of nothing, follow You at any cost Some call it sovereign will, all I know is you the boss And man, I'm so at ease, I'm so content I'll play the background, like it's an instrument
4- John then confessed that following Jesus is a percentage issue- Can we just confess that no one is 100% sold out for Jesus 100% of the time? NO ONE. We all have moments of fluctuation when it comes to faith. When I do premarital counseling one of the biggest things I go over with couples is that the idea that marriage is 50-50 is a lie! Marriage is 50-50 less than 25% of the time. Marriage fluctuates, and anyone in this room who is married will tell you so. One of is sick and the other is well, one of you lost a job, or has a migraine. Marriage is constantly fluctuating from 60-40 to 90-10 to 70-30, and the quicker we realize that the healthier our relationships can be- and I think it is the same thing with Jesus.
I think John was used to greatly by God because he had self-reflection. He was able to admit that he still needed work- as our good friend Jim has told me on my occasions, I am not as good as I out to be, but Praise God I am better than what I was!
Some days we say we want to be used by God, but our hearts and lives tell a different story. You see, being used by God is less about what you SAY and more about what you DO. Let me give you an example. We say “God use me” and someone asks us for a donation and we tell them no, a cowoker wants to engage us a in conversation and we spend our entire break looking at FB or on the phone, we are asked to serve on committee or team at church and we decline because we are too busy- then we say “I wish God would use me” and God says I AM TRYING TOO!!!!
This is why we need self reflection, we need to be able to say, like need to decrease and he needs to increase.
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