How to Be the People God Wants Us to Be
How to Be the People God Wants Us to Be
The Gospel of John
Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - July 7, 2016
(Revised July 17, 2019)
*Tonight in the last section of John Chapter 3, God's Word puts the spotlight back on John the Baptist. In these verses, John gave a glowing testimony of praise for our Lord. But John's testimony also shows us some of the things we must do to be the people God wants us to be. Let's begin by reading John 3:22-36.
*One of the good things about the internet is that it's a great resource for finding out how to do things. I searched Google yesterday for the words "how to," and got over 21 billion results. A few months ago, my computer was barely running. After so many updates, it had gotten "confused." And after trying a lot of other things, I realized I only had two options: Buy a new laptop or reset mine with the flash drive backup. Amazingly, I was able to reset it. But I never could have done it without the help of a very nice man in a YouTube video. Saved me a lot of money!
*You can get all kinds of "how to" help on the internet. Our daughter Katie has two precious children, and after they were born, she found some wonderful resources. Her babies were sleeping most of the night by the time they were two months old. Their mother didn't sleep all night until she was in kindergarten!
*The internet is a good resource for "how-to" help. But an infinitely greater resource is the Word of God! The Bible will give us the greatest help we can ever get in life. And tonight's Scripture can help us be the people God wants us to be.
1. FIRST: GOD WANTS US TO TAKE CARE OF OUR TIME.
*God wants us to make the most of our time in this world. John the Baptist reminds us of this sure truth in vs. 22-24:
22. After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized.
23. Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized.
24. For John had not yet been thrown into prison.
*John was not yet cast into prison. The time was coming when he would be. John the Baptist only had about two years more to live. And the best source I could find estimated that he spent most of that time in prison. (1)
*But John the Baptist was still working in vs. 23. He was still serving the Lord. John was doing everything he could do, while he could do it, because the time came when he could do no more.
*In John 9, Jesus miraculously healed a blind man, and John 9:4-5 tells us that just before Jesus healed that man, He said this:
4. "I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work.
5. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.''
*Even Jesus had time limits on His work. And what was true about Jesus is also true of us. We must do all we can for the Lord while we can.
*Time passes by quickly! It's hard to believe that it's 2019, and it's harder to believe that 2019 is more than half over! Time passes by so quickly. And we must do all we can, while we can for Jesus.
*We need to pray like Moses prayed in Psalm 90:10-12. There this Old Testament hero said:
10. The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
11. Who knows the power of Your anger? For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath.
12. So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.
*Now it's interesting to me that Moses was 120 years old when he died. But this 70 to 80-year time limit basically holds true even today. There are well over 7 billion people in the world right now. But as of yesterday, there was only one person over 116 years old, a Japanese lady named Kane Tanaka. (2)
*Back in August of 2002, Adelina Dominguez went home to be with the Lord. At the time, Adelina was living in a nursing home in San Diego, California. And she was in the Guinness Book of Records when she died, because Adelina was the oldest person living in the United States. She was 114 years old! When a reporter asked Adelina the secret of her long life, she gave all the credit to God and His plan for her life. Adelina said, "I knew God had a purpose for my life." (3)
*Adelina got it! She knew how to make the most of her time here on earth. And yes, that means serving and worshiping in God's church. But making the most of our time also means daily time in God's Word, daily time with the Lord in prayer, time helping those who are hurting, and time spent with family and friends.
2. GOD WANTS US TO TAKE CARE OF OUR TIME. HE ALSO WANTS US TO PUT AWAY OUR PETTINESS.
*I'm talking about the kind of pettiness we can see in vs. 25-26:
25. Then there arose a dispute between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purification.
26. And they came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!''
*We can see an element of petty bickering and jealousy in these verses. The bickering is in vs. 25, where God's Word says: "Then there arose a dispute between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purification."
*The KJV says, "Then there arose a question between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purifying." But the idea behind this original word is a question asked during a debate or dispute or a matter of controversy. It's the same word used several other places, like 2 Timothy 2:23, where the KJV says, "foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes."
*William MacDonald explained that "It is clear from this verse that some of John's disciples became engaged in a dispute with the Jews about purification. What does this mean? Purification here probably refers to baptism. The argument was whether the baptism of John was better than that of Jesus. Which baptism had the greater power? Which was of greater value? Perhaps some of John's disciples unwisely contended that no baptism could be better than that of their master. Perhaps the Pharisees tried to make John's disciples jealous of Jesus and His current popularity." (4)
*So, there was a dispute. Then in vs. 26, there was jealously when some of the disputers went to John the Baptist and said, "Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!''
*John Philips said that "evidently, John's disciples viewed Jesus as one who owed his success to John the Baptist's testimony. They viewed Jesus' activities as an invasion of their own master's prerogatives and they nurtured hostility toward him as a result. But John the Baptist was above such pettiness and in vs. 27, he said, 'A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.'" (5)
*We can see elements of pettiness, bickering and jealousy in these verses. And if we are honest, we can sometimes see the same things in us. We have a natural tendency to make mountains out of molehills. We also have a tendency to make snap judgments.
*Recently I retired, and last Sunday I was in the congregation at our new church. The worship service started, and I was singing heart-felt worship to the Lord. Then I noticed two older men in the aisle about twenty feet in front of me. They were still talking. I instantly thought, "Come on guys. Talk time is over! You're going to be disturbing the people around you."
*Then this second thought flashed in my mind: "You know nothing about those men!" I'm sure that second thought was from the Lord. About a minute later, I looked in their direction again. They had stopped talking, and the man who was still there was wiping away tears. I was ashamed, and asked God to help that hurting man with his problems.
*Let me ask you: How long has it been since you jumped to conclusions? How long has it been since you got riled up about something that really didn't matter in the long run?
*Things like petty bickering and jealousy can do great damage to God's Church. And the devil will do anything he can to divide and distract God's people.
3. GOD WANTS US TO PUT AWAY OUR PETTINESS. HE ALSO WANTS US TO HUMBLE OUR HEARTS BEFORE HIM.
*We need to humble ourselves the same way John the Baptist did in vs. 27. Again, John simply said, "A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven."
*John recognized the fact that his own ministry was beginning to be overshadowed by Jesus. But John the Baptist wasn't jealous for a moment. He honestly and openly humbled himself before the Lord. That's why in vs. 28, John was able to say, "You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, 'I am not the Christ,' but, 'I have been sent before Him.'"
*It would have been easy for John the Baptist to take advantage of people. But John spoke the truth. He stood by the truth. He lived by the truth. And part of the truth is: We are not the Christ!
*Christians: We don't know it all, but we know the Savior who does! And we aren't perfect yet, but we know the Savior who is! John the Baptist knew it too. That's why in vs. 30, also John said, "He must increase, but I must decrease."
*God wants us to humble our hearts before Him. And God wants to help us be humble. That must be one of the reasons why He designed us to need sleep every night. God gives us an everyday reminder that we are not as strong as we think we are.
*This is also why in Romans 12:3, Paul wrote: "For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith."
*God is telling every one of us: "Don't think of yourself more highly than you ought to." In other words: "Humble your hearts before God and other people." And humbling our hearts makes sense when we remember what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 4:7. There Paul asked, "Who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you glory as if you had not received it?"
*What good thing, what talent, what ability do we have that did not come from God? -- Not one. The places where we live, our jobs, our mental and physical abilities, the freedom we have, our families, our friends, our spiritual gifts, our ability to take a single step or even breathe, -- all of these things ultimately came from God!
*So, God wants us to humble our hearts. And the best way to do it is by comparing ourselves to Him. God's Word can help us, so please listen to these verses from Isaiah 40:
13. Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or as His counselor has taught Him?
14. With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him, and taught Him in the path of justice? Who taught Him knowledge, and showed Him the way of understanding?
15. Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, and are counted as the small dust on the balance; look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing.
17. All nations before Him are as nothing, and they are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless.
18. To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him?
21. Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22. It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.
23. He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless.
25. "To whom then will you liken Me, Or to whom shall I be equal?'' says the Holy One.
26. Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, Who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power; not one is missing.
*Our God is awesome and almighty! We are nothing compared to Him. He can do all good things! And the more we keep our eyes on Him, the easier it is for us to humble our hearts.
*God will surely bless us when we humble our hearts. We know this because James 4:10 says: "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up!" Thank God for that!
4. GOD WANTS US TO HUMBLE OUR HEARTS BEFORE HIM. HE ALSO WANTS US TO HAVE THE FULL JOY OF KNOWING JESUS.
*This is a crucial truth for us in vs. 28-29, where John the Baptist spoke about his joy and said:
28. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, 'I am not the Christ,' but, 'I have been sent before Him.'
29. He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.
*Here John the Baptist was greatly rejoicing in the marriage of his Master, Jesus Christ. But let me ask you a serious question that sounds silly at first: Was John the Baptist a Baptist?
*Well, in a way he was, but certainly not like we are today. And this is a significant truth. John the Baptist was the last prophet before Jesus. And in fact, John was one of the greatest prophets of all time. We know this is true, because in Luke 7:28, Jesus said, "I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist. . ."
*And though John's life story is told in the New Testament, he was in a way the last Old Testament prophet. The last verses in the Old Testament foretold John's coming. He was to be like Elijah, so in Malachi 4:5-6, God said:
5. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
6. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the earth with a curse.''
*All of this is important, because of something John said in vs. 29, so please listen to it again. John first talked about Jesus, then John talked about himself. And John said: "He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled."
*John the Baptist called himself "the friend of the bridegroom." In other words, John was saying: "When it comes to this heavenly wedding. I am just one of His friends. I am helping to prepare the wedding, because that's what friends do." John the Baptist said, "I am one of the joyful friends."
*But Church, what does the Bible call us? -- Yes, John 15:13-15 shows us that we too are friends of the Lord. But Ephesians 5 and Revelation 19 show us that the Church is also the Bride of Christ!
*And this points us to a great truth, believers: That as great as John the Baptist was, and as close as John was to the Lord, we have a relationship with God that John the Baptist never knew in this world.
*We have this relationship, because right now, we are the Bride of Christ! So, who has more joy at the wedding? -- The friends or the bride? Of course, it's the bride! Or it should be.
*That's why we can have infinitely more joy in this world than John the Baptist had. And it's not because of our goodness, it's all because of God's amazing grace! Thank God we were born on the resurrection side of the cross!
5. GOD WANTS US TO HAVE THE FULL JOY OF KNOWING JESUS CHRIST. HE ALSO WANTS US TO TRUST IN THE TRUTH ABOUT JESUS.
*But What is the truth about Jesus Christ? In vs. 30-36, John the Baptist tells us.
 AND FIRST, JOHN STRESSED THAT JESUS IS DIVINE.
*This is the main reason why in vs. 30, John said, "He must increase, but I must decrease." Jesus is divine! Then in vs. 31, John explained that "He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all."
*God's only begotten Son, Jesus Christ was no ordinary man. In all eternity past, He was one with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. Jesus is above all created things, "For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him" (Colossians 1:16).
*That's why in vs. 31, John said, "He who comes from heaven is above all." Then in vs. 35, John said: "The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand." Jesus is above all, and He owns it all! Our living Lord is no ordinary man. Jesus is divine!
*I love the way C.S. Lewis put it in his book, "Mere Christianity." There Lewis wrote: "I am trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him. (They say) 'I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.'
*That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg, or else he would be the Devil of Hell.
*You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool. You can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon. Or you can fall at His feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about Him being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to." (6)
*Christians: We choose to fall at Jesus' feet! We choose to call him Lord and God, because Jesus Christ is Lord of all! That’s the truth.
 JESUS IS DIVINE. AND HE IS DEPENDABLE.
*In vs. 32, John said this about Jesus: "What He has seen and heard, that He testifies. . ." In other words: Jesus has seen it all. He has seen the deep, invisible things of God, because He is the only begotten Son of God. Jesus has even seen the end from the beginning, because He is the Lord God Almighty.
*Jesus has seen it all, and He has heard it all. He has heard the deepest things from God the Father. And He has heard the faintest cries from hurting hearts. Jesus has seen it all, and Jesus has heard it all.
*But also in vs. 32 John said, "no one receives (Jesus') testimony. That is: No one receives the Lords' testimony, unless they respond to the convicting power of God's Holy Spirit, and believe the truth about Jesus.
*Jesus Christ speaks the truth worth trusting. And everybody should receive His testimony, because it is divinely dependable. That's why in vs. 33-34, John the Baptist said this about Jesus:
33. He who has received His testimony has certified (or "set to his seal") that God is true.
34. For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure (to Him).
 JESUS IS DEPENDABLE. AND HE CAN DELIVER US FROM DEATH.
*John the Baptist made this truth clear in vs. 36, when he said: "He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.''
*Jesus Christ is the one and only source of everlasting life! And Jesus is able to give us everlasting life, because He miraculously took our death when He died on the cross for our sins! Jesus suffered all of the shame, all of the pain, and all of the punishment that belonged to you and me. Think about how much Jesus suffered on the cross.
*Up at the church in West Monroe, we had a Prayer Room off the foyer. It had a few chairs, and a little dresser for storage. One day I was looking for an Operation Christmas Child brochure, and I reached way back in the drawer without looking.
*On Easter that year, we had a special display that included a life-size crown of thorns. The thorns on that crown were about two inches long. And I did not know that after Easter someone stored that crown of thorns in the drawer.
*But I found out when I ran one of those thorns about halfway down into my thumbnail. "Oww! -- What was that?" It was just a little stick from a thorn. But it hurt. And I thought: "How much more did Jesus hurt for me?" He wore the crown of thorns. He suffered the agony of the cross. He took all of the punishment for our sins!
*Thank God for the cross! Thank God for the resurrection of Jesus Christ! And Christians: Thank God for the everlasting life we have in Him!
*How are we going to live this new life that the Lord has given to us? God wants us to: Take care of our time, put away our pettiness, humble our hearts before Him, and have the full joy of knowing Jesus Christ.
*But it all starts with trusting in the truth about Jesus. Call on the Lord to save you, and start living the life God wants us to live. Would you please bow for prayer.
(1) "How long was John the Baptist in prison?" - Answered by Rob J Hyndman - 5 June 2012 - http://bibleq.net/answer/5317/
Adapted from Rick Warren's Week 3 Sermon for "Forty Days of Purpose
(4) BELIEVER'S BIBLE COMMENTARY by William MacDonald - Edited by Arthur Farstad - Thomas Nelson Publishers - Nashville - Copyright 1995 - "The Ministry of John the Baptist in Judea" - John 3:22-36
(5) Adapted from EXPLORING THE GOSPELS: JOHN by John Phillips, Kregal Publications, Grand Rapids - "John the Baptist's Witness" - John 3:22-30
(6) SermonCentral illustration contributed by Joel Smith - SOURCE: C.S. Lewis, "Mere Christianity", pp. 55-56