Bible Ballistics: Vol. 12 No.18 Increasing Or Decreasing???
As many prepare to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ this week, I’d like to send you Christmas greetings with a spin. Instead of “merry and bright” (and there’s nothing wrong with being merry or bright) may we consider what we have done for our “New born King”, or have we spent all our time and efforts on our own gratification and satisfaction? Paul called the Philippians to “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus”…..who willingly took on the “form of a servant”. John the Baptizer also had the heart and mind of a servant; he was born to play “second fiddle”! Not a thing that most of us want to consider; for we balk at not being first in anything and everything, and we continually push our children to –win “first” place, be in the “first” chair, get the “leading” role, be the “star” player on the sports team. Yet God calls us to serve! Jesus IS the “bright and morning star” and in HIS presence and Kingdom we ought to be the ones subject to HIM, not the ones dictating to HIM our every whim and want! (See Philippians 2:5-11)
Let’s see what John the Baptizer had to say when asked about Jesus’ increase as John was decreasing?
“Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying.
26 And they came unto John, and said unto him,
he that was with thee beyond Jordan,
to whom thou barest witness,
behold, the same baptizeth,
and all men come to him.
27 John answered and said,
A man can receive nothing,
except it be given him
28 Ye yourselves bear me witness,
that I said,
I am not the Christ,
but that I am sent before him.
29 He that hath the bride
is the bridegroom:
but the friend of the bridegroom,
and heareth him,
of the bridegroom’s voice:
this my joy therefore
30 He must increase,
but I must decrease.
31 He that cometh from above
is above all:
he that is of the earth
and speaketh of the earth:
he that cometh from heaven
is above all.
32 And what he hath seen and heard,
that he testifieth;
and no man receiveth his testimony.
33 He that hath received his testimony
hath set to his seal
that God is true.
34 For he whom God hath sent
speaketh the words of God:
for God giveth not the Spirit
35 The Father loveth the Son,
and hath given all things into his hand.
36 He that believeth on the Son
hath everlasting life:
and he that believeth not the Son
shall not see life;
but the wrath of God
abideth on him.” John 3:25-31
Consider the things that John reveals to us—he knew who he was, and he knew who JESUS was—the Son of God. Let’s consider what John recognized about himself and his successor! John said of himself:
27—a man can only receive what God gives—
28—I told you I wasn’t the “Christ”–
But I am the one sent ‘before’ HIM—
29–I am not the bridegroom—
But the friend of the bridegroom—
Who stands by HIM—
Who hears HIM—
Who rejoices to hear HIM—
Whose joy is fulfilled in HIM—
30—I must decrease (for HE must increase)–
31–I am of the earth (HE is of heaven)—
John knew and understood that true joy comes in being what God called him to be, and doing what HE called him to do, and we ought to do likewise! John was sent to be the ‘forerunner’ of Jesus, the one who would prepare the way—not be the way! The Apostle John told us this in chapter 1.
“15 John bare witness of him, and cried, saying,
This was he of whom I spake,
He that cometh after me
is preferred before me:
for he was before me…..
23 He said,
I am the voice of one crying
in the wilderness,
Make straight the way of the Lord,
as said the prophet Esaias……
26 John answered them, saying,
I baptize with water:
but there standeth one among you,
whom ye know not;
27 He it is,
who coming after me
is preferred before me,
whose shoe’s latchet
I am not worthy to unloose……
29 The next day John seeth Jesus
coming unto him, and saith,
Behold the Lamb of God,
which taketh away the sin of the world.
30 This is he of whom I said,
After me cometh a man
which is preferred before me:
for he was before me.” Portions of John 1:15-30
Oh, to know my Lord so well, that I would recognize Him at every turn; that I would know my place of service, my sacrifice of love, my opportunities sent from Him to make a difference in the hearts and lives of others (more often than not without even knowing that I’ve touched them)! This is the true joy of living for Jesus, and celebrating Christmas all year long. People who come into our home often ask why I have my nativity sets (and I have several) out during the rest of the year, and I almost always reply by telling them that I love Jesus and I want others to know that HE is worthy of our praise, love and acknowledgment every day of the year—not just at Christmas time and/or Resurrection Sunday! Our love for Jesus will be seen in our everyday interactions with others, both near and far, kith and kin, those we love easily and those we struggle to love, for it’s all about Jesus (and only in HIS power can we do anything!)!
But let’s go back to our passage in John 3 and take note of what John the Baptizer had to say about Jesus, as he responded to his followers who were concerned about Jesus’ increase and his own decrease!
27—a man can only receive what God gives—
and Jesus received the task to redeem mankind—
28—John wasn’t “Christ” but JESUS was—
29—Jesus is the bridegroom—
and HE brings joy to HIS own—
30—HE must increase—
31—HE came from above (John/human –Jesus/deity)—
Because HE IS from above, HE is over ALL—
32—He testifies of what HE has seen and heard—
in heaven, from His father, to reveal life to us—
33—To receive HIS testimony is to receive GOD—
God IS true—
34–Jesus, whom HE sent, IS truth, and speaks truth—
For HE has the limitless power of the Holy Spirit—
35—Jesus IS the Son of God—
God loves HIM—
And God has given ALL things into HIS hand—
36—Jesus IS the giver of life to all who believe in HIM—
Those who believe NOT shall not see life—
but will have the wrath of God abiding on them—
WOW! What a message; what insight, what humility, what glory to so know our own calling that we can speak God’s truth in power, and authority knowing that we are doing HIS work not our own!!! It’s what we are saved and called to be and do!
“In the mean while his disciples prayed him, saying, Master, eat.
32 But he said unto them,
I have meat to eat
that ye know not of.
33 Therefore said the disciples one to another,
Hath any man brought him ought to eat?
34 Jesus saith unto them,
My meat is to do the will
that sent me,
and to finish his work.” John 4:31-34
Are we so busy seeking His blessings that we don’t have time to fulfill HIS call upon our lives. As John Bunyan portrayed in Pilgrim’s Progress, we are on a journey to God’s kingdom, and we have a work in this world as we go! So many today preach and teach the idea of an endless heavenly “slot machine” that pours out the blessings of God in material ways, with no thought that God has called us and saved us to be a reflection of His love to the world, doing HIS work, being HIS witness. It’s so sad that we have so often missed Ephesians 2:10 while camping out on verses 8-9. While we don’t work for our salvation, we do work for our Lord because of the salvation that HE has afforded us at the cross. It’s NOT about me—it’s about JESUS, and if HE came to do God’s will and finish God’s work, how could we expect less from ourselves, we whom HE has saved by HIS own blood?
“For by grace are ye saved
and that not of yourselves:
it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works,
lest any man should boast.
10 For we are his workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus
unto good works,
which God hath before ordained
that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10
Jesus himself warned us of the danger of missing HIM:
“Not every one that saith unto me,
shall enter into the kingdom of heaven
but he that doeth
the will of my Father which is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me in that day,
have we not prophesied in thy name?
and in thy name have cast out devils?
and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them,
I never knew you:
depart from me,
ye that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:21-23
So as you celebrate the birth of The King, in whatever way you may do that, will you be celebrating The Newborn KING, Jesus, or something else?
“And this is the will of him that sent me,
that every one which seeth the Son,
and believeth on him,
may have everlasting life:
and I will raise him up
at the last day.” John 6:40
My Christmas prayer for you and yours is that you will see JESUS in truth and grace; that you will take this special time of year and focus not only on the ‘babe… in the manger’ but also on the Redeeming work that HE accomplished at Calvary!!! He truly came that we might have HIS life in us!
“I am the door:
by me if any man enter in,
he shall be saved,
and shall go in and out,
and find pasture.
10 The thief cometh not,
but for to steal,
and to kill,
and to destroy:
I am come that they might have life,
and that they might have it
11 I am the good shepherd:
the good shepherd giveth his life
for the sheep.” John 10:9-11
Praying that you know Him, and if you don’t, that you will come to know HIM today!!! It’s why HE came, and it is truly why I/we celebrate!
“And she shall bring forth a son,
and thou shalt call his name JESUS:
for he shall save his people
from their sins.
22 Now all this was done,
that it might be fulfilled which was spoken
of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child,
and shall bring forth a son,
and they shall call his name Emmanuel,
which being interpreted is,
God with us.” Matthew 1:21-24
“Jesus saith unto him,
I am the way,
and the life:
no man cometh unto the Father,
but by me.” John 14:6
Amen and Amen!!! Merry Christmas—and in Charles Dickens style, “God bless us every one” in JESUS!!!