Follow by Email

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Samaritan Appointment

The Samaritan Appointment
John 4:1-26


For centuries... prior to Christ's coming... and then even after... there has been a bitter rivalry going on between the Jews and the Samaritans. And it all began back when the Kingdom was torn apart after Solomon's death...

When Rehoboam took over after his father's death... the northern tribes, under Jeroboam... Seperated from the southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin. And after Jeroboam was made King of Israel... he began an intentional path of idolatry.

Jeroboam wanted to establish his own “state religion” so that the people wouldn't be as tempted to return to the temple in Jerusalem in the south to worship. He figured that if they did that... then maybe one day... they'd throw him off as “King” and reunite with the south.

And each succeeding King after Jeroboam... got progressively worse until the Lord finally sent Assyria to conquer them. After taking many of the northern Jews into captivity... the Assyrian King began importing people from his other conquered lands into Samaria (the Northern Kingdom). (2Kgs 17:23-24)

These non-Jews not only began intermarrying with the Jews that remained behind... but they also brought their foreign gods with them... Eventually this pagan worship intermingled with the worship of Yahweh. (Which is called “syncretism”... an amalgamation of various religions into one. Kinda like Voodoo which blends elements of Christianity with Witchcraft and some other pagan practices.)

Then some years after the Northern Kingdom had been taken away... the Southern Kingdom was taken captive into Babylon... but were allowed to return some 70 years later...

Immediately upon their return to the land... they started rebuilding the temple and then the wall... the Samaritans offered to help... but because they were considered “half-breeds” and “mongrels” by the Jews... they were flatly rejected.

This rejection then caused the Samaritans to side with Israel's enemies and began centuries of mistrust and deep animosity. The Jews hated the Samaritans. The Samaritans hated the Jews...

By the time of Christ, though... the Samaritans had largely abandoned their idol worship and worshiped Yahweh... after a fashion.

You see... they accepted only the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of Moses) as Scripture and they worshiped God on Mount Gerizim... not Jerusalem. And because they only recognized a portion of the Scripture... they didn't have a complete revelation of the Messiah that was come...

Because they believed there would be one to come “like Moses”... but He'd primarily be a teacher... as we see from the Samaritan woman's statement in... Joh 4:25 HCSB ..."I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When He comes, He will explain everything to us."

Buy the idea of the Messiah saving anyone... or establishing a Kingdom... well, they just didn't have that clear picture yet.

Now, partly because of their long history of animosity... and partly because of their traditions... the Samaritans were considered to be “perpetually unclean”. The more orthodox Jews would avoid all contact with any Samaritan... even to the point of bypassing their entire region.

Many of the Jews would “never” eat any food prepared by Samaritan hands, or drink any beverage out of a Samaritan container. To do so would cause the Jew to become “unclean” himself.

* * * * * *

Now, I've given you a little of the history concerning the animosity between the Jews and Samaritans in order to illustrate and emphasize the differences between the typical orthodox Jew of the time... and our Lord Jesus Christ.

For you see... though Jesus was most definitely orthodox... He was so in the true sense. He followed the Word of God to the letter... not the traditions of men. Because where the orthodox Jew would ignore and bypass Samaria and all Samaritans because of their “traditions of the elders”....

Jesus would instead, seek out the lost... regardless of nationality... because the mission of the Jews was to spread the knowledge of God to “the nations”... not shut the nations out!

Isa 49:6 HCSB ...I will also make you a light for the nations, to be My salvation to the ends of the earth."

Psa 96:2-3 HCSB Sing to Yahweh, praise His name; proclaim His salvation from day to day. (3) Declare His glory among the nations, His wonderful works among all peoples.

Though His primary mission was to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel”... Jesus would not avoid Samaria... as we see throughout His ministry... which was one of the complaints the Jews had against Him... Luk 15:2 HCSB ..."This man welcomes sinners and eats with them!"

They would also try to use his readiness to minister in Samaria against Him... Joh 8:48 HCSB The Jews responded to Him, "Aren't we right in saying that You're a Samaritan and have a demon?"

Our Lord Jesus Christ wasn't afraid of those who were the “cast off” of society... the sinners... the lepers... the Samaritans... and neither should we.

In this “Samaritan Appointment”... we see some characteristics of Christ on display... that we would do well to imitate in our own daily encounters with the people around us... and we begin with...

I. His Mercy Seen

Joh 4:1-9 HCSB When Jesus knew that the Pharisees heard He was making and baptizing more disciples than John (2) (though Jesus Himself was not baptizing, but His disciples were), (3) He left Judea and went again to Galilee. (4) He had to travel through Samaria, (5) so He came to a town of Samaria called Sychar near the property that Jacob had given his son Joseph. (6) Jacob's well was there, and Jesus, worn out from His journey, sat down at the well. It was about six in the evening. (7) A woman of Samaria came to draw water. "Give Me a drink," Jesus said to her, (8) for His disciples had gone into town to buy food. (9) "How is it that You, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?" she asked Him. For Jews do not associate with Samaritans.

In the early part of Jesus' ministry... when His ministry overlapped John's ministry... during that time when John was “decreasing” and Jesus was “increasing”... John's disciples took it kinda personally when Jesus began to “siphon” off some of John's followers.

And as we can see from our passage today... that the Pharisees knew of this too. So, Jesus decides to go back to Galilee. Now... there's any number of reasons why people say Jesus left the area... but I can guarantee you... it wasn't because He was afraid of the Pharisees... We have numerous accounts of His encounters with those folks... and they always ended up with the “short end of the stick”.

No... I think some better reasons would be that maybe Jesus wanted to let John's ministry continue until it was over... Or maybe... since Jesus knew of the Pharisee's interrogation techniques... He decided to avoid them for the moment.

After all... His time was not yet. He probably didn't want to be asked a bunch of messianic questions just yet and become “revealed” too soon.

And... just as He saw Nathaniel under the fig tree before He called him to be a disciple... I believe Jesus also saw a troubled woman at a well in Samaria near Sychar...

And in an amazing act of mercy... Jesus went into a “defiled” and “unclean” land... and at the appointed time... He speaks with this woman... and He asks her for a drink of water!

We can only speculate on the astonishment of this woman... that a strange Jewish man would not only speak with her in public... but also ask for a drink of water!

Because you see... Jewish men simply didn't speak to women in public... not even to their own wives! It would appear to be the height of forwardness for a man to speak to a woman... and especially at a well!

The Jews and Samaritans were very familiar with the stories of Isaac and Jacob... and how that their wives were first encountered at the local well... so Jewish men tended to avoid that scenario and any image of impropriety.

But Christ's mercy overrides customs... He not only spoke to a woman... He spoke to her at a well... and He asked for a drink of water from the hands of someone who was unclean and caused everything she touched to become unclean also.

Folks... if Christ were afraid of that which is unclean... He never would have visited this earth which sin had turned into a perfect dunghill.

He wasn't afraid to associate with the downtrodden... and neither should we. The mercy He showed toward Samaria and this Samaritan... should be the example we strive toward in our own dealings with people of other races and cultures...

Then next we see...

II. His Generosity Displayed

Joh 4:10-14 HCSB Jesus answered, "If you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would ask Him, and He would give you living water." (11) "Sir," said the woman, "You don't even have a bucket, and the well is deep. So where do You get this 'living water'? (12) You aren't greater than our father Jacob, are You? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and livestock." (13) Jesus said, "Everyone who drinks from this water will get thirsty again. (14) But whoever drinks from the water that I will give him will never get thirsty again--ever! In fact, the water I will give him will become a well of water springing up within him for eternal life."

Christ is able to read our hearts like an open book. He instantly knows what our deepest needs are... and He stands prepared to fulfill those needs.

He read this woman in an instant and immediately began to turn their conversation from the physical realm to the spiritual. It takes her a while to catch on... and she struggles to make the transition... But in His infinite mercy, He gives to her the most generous offer of her life...

Joh 4:10 ..."If you knew the gift of God, and who is saying to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would ask Him, and He would give you living water."

There are quite a few people out there who might think that they're “God's gift”... but the only Gift that God ever gave in that sense was His Son. Jesus Christ is literally... “God's gift to mankind!”

Woman... if you only knew who I truly was... you'd be asking me for a drink... and I'd give you 'Living Water'!”

Now... this woman knew what living water was... After all... everyone knows that water in a pool, pond or cistern isn't “living” water... it's stationary... stale... and stagnant.

No... “living water” was water fed by a stream, river or fountain... It moved... it was “alive”... it was always fresh! And this well... Jacob's well... though it was over 100 ft deep... yet, it was fed by an underground stream... so IT was “living water” too...

But Sir... you don't even have anything to keep water in. You don't have a rope to lower it into the well to draw the “living” water out. Where and how are you going to give anyone this “Living Water”?

Our patriarch, Jacob, dug this well himself and gave it to us. Even 'he' had to use a rope and container to draw water out. You're not better than our patriarch... are you?”

Just as Nicodemus took a little time transitioning from the physical to the spiritual... Joh 3:4 HCSB "But how can anyone be born when he is old?" Nicodemus asked Him. "Can he enter his mother's womb a second time and be born?"

This woman had similar difficulties... but Jesus persists... because anyone who drinks this H2O will have to keep drinking it in order to survive... But the water that He offers... not only to her... but to all of us... this living water is eternal life!

It's not the Holy Spirit... because He hadn't been given yet. The Living Water that Jesus generously offers is salvation... eternal life... to all who believe!

Isa 12:3 HCSB You will joyfully draw water from the springs of salvation,

Isa 55:1a HCSB "Come, everyone who is thirsty, come to the waters...

The generous gift that Jesus offered to this woman... which He offers to all who will believe... is the same generous gift we must continue to broadcast and shout from the rooftops... “COME TO THE WATERS AND DRINK DEEPLY!”

III. His Patience Unveiled

Joh 4:15-20 HCSB "Sir," the woman said to Him, "give me this water so I won't get thirsty and come here to draw water." (16) "Go call your husband," He told her, "and come back here." (17) "I don't have a husband," she answered. "You have correctly said, 'I don't have a husband,'" Jesus said. (18) "For you've had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true." (19) "Sir," the woman replied, "I see that You are a prophet. (20) Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, yet you Jews say that the place to worship is in Jerusalem."

Jesus' patience appears to be a little shorter with Nicodemus than with this woman. He told Nicodemus... Joh 3:10 HCSB "Are you a teacher of Israel and don't know these things?" Jesus replied.

And this is probably because Nicodemus... being a “leader” and a “teacher” of Israel... would be held to a different standard... Jas 3:1 HCSB Not many should become teachers, my brothers, knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment

But Christ's patience is easily seen throughout this conversation with the Samaritan woman.

She doesn't quickly get the spiritual meaning of the “Living Water”... and then still thinks “in the natural” that maybe she does want some of this water so she won't have to make all these trips to the well!

Then... after Jesus tells her to go get her husband and she makes an attempt to distract Him from THAT topic by saying she doesn't have a husband...

In all of this... we can see that even though He's displaying a lot of patience with her ignorance... her ignorance won't give her a “pass” on her sin... Salvation is her ultimate need... and she needs to be faced with her sin so she can be brought to repentance...

So Jesus tells her... Joh 4:17b-18 HCSB You have correctly said, 'I don't have a husband,'" Jesus said. (18) "For you've had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true."

You see... Jesus isn't simply pointing out her sin... but just how great that sin was. She was living contrary to the Law in more ways than one. Even the most liberal of rabbi's would only allow 3 husbands in a lifetime...even in the case of death!

She had her three... and then some... not to mention that the man she was currently living with wasn't even her husband at all!

When she makes the statement... Joh 4:19 "Sir,"..."I see that You are a prophet. She appears to be shaken... and is no longer trying to hide her sin. Matter-of-fact... many believe that it's at this point... this is her “confession” and her beginning to turn away from sin...

The next step after a person is faced with their sin... confesses it... and repents of it... is to find out “What comes next?”

You Jews worship at the temple... We are told to worship on this mount... What's right? What do I need to do now?”

And in Jesus' final response, we see...

IV. His Deity Revealed

Joh 4:21-26 HCSB (21) Jesus told her, "Believe Me, woman, an hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. (22) You Samaritans worship what you do not know. We worship what we do know, because salvation is from the Jews. (23) But an hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth. Yes, the Father wants such people to worship Him. (24) God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." (25) The woman said to Him, "I know that Messiah is coming" (who is called Christ). "When He comes, He will explain everything to us." (26) "I am He," Jesus told her, "the One speaking to you."

What a victory He's won here! The grace of God can soften even the hardest and most callous of hearts... and this carnal and wicked woman... bowing to the One who sits on the “mercy seat”... wants to know... “What's next?”

And also notice... that even though these things are hidden from the wise and prudent... Jesus now reveals them to this woman who has been made humble... He's unveiling spiritual truth to babes...

And I'm sure the answer she gets isn't what she expected because Jesus basically starts out by telling her...

A day is coming when that issue will be irrelevant! You won't worship here OR there! But until that time... the Jews have it right. You Samaritans don't believe in the whole Bible... so, you don't have all the necessary information you need to worship properly.”

But one day... 'where' you worship won't be nearly as important as the 'nature' or your worship!”

You see... the “spirit” Jesus is speaking of here isn't the Holy Spirit... but the human spirit. He's telling us that worship must be internal... not external. It will proceed from the “heart” and not ceremonies and rituals.

So when Jesus tells this Samaritan woman that true worship will be in “spirit” and “truth”, He's saying that this heart worship will be consistent with the Scriptures and will be centered on the incarnate Word of God!

She's still somewhat confused and expresses her hope that she'll understand all this much better when the Messiah comes... because... Joh 4:25b He will explain everything to us.

But she won't have to wait... because the One she seeks has come! Joh 4:26 "I am He," Jesus told her, "the One speaking to you."

Jesus had avoided revealing Himself to the Jewish people because what they expected wasn't what He came to do... this time. He didn't come to lead a revolt and throw off the Roman yoke...

He came this time to save. And because of the faith of this Samaritan woman... she has earned the honor of being the first person to hear Jesus' open declaration that He is not only the Messiah... but God incarnate.

He said... “I am”... the first of His many “I am” statements in this gospel... Connecting Himself forever as the Lord... who at the burning bush... declared to Moses... “I Am that I Am!”

* * * * * *

Jesus' encounter with this Samaritan woman illustrates to us three non-negotiable truths about salvation...

First... salvation comes only to those who recognize their desperate need for the spiritual life they don't have. Living water is given only to those who are spiritually “thristy”...

Second... salvation comes only to those who confess they're sinners... repent of their sins... and come to Christ for forgiveness. Before this woman could embrace the Savior... she had to acknowledge the full weight of her iniquity.

And third... salvation comes only to those who embrace Jesus Christ as their Messiah... and sin bearer. After all... salvation is found in no one else!




Saturday, January 23, 2016

Setting Star...Rising Son

Setting Star...Rising Son
John 3:22-36

Joh 3:22-36 (Geneva) After these things, came Iesus & his disciples into the lande of Iudea, and there taried with them, and baptized. (23) And Iohn also baptized in Enon besides Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized. (24) For Iohn was not yet cast into prison. (25) Then there arose a question betweene Iohns disciples and the Iewes, about purifying. (26) And they came vnto Iohn, and saide vnto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Iorden, to whom thou barest witnesse, behold, he baptizeth, and all men come to him. (27) Iohn answered, and saide, A man can receiue nothing, except it be giuen him fro heauen. (28) Yee your selues are my witnesses, that I sayde, I am not that Christ, but that I am sent before him. (29) He that hath the bride, is the bridegrome: but the friend of the bridegrome which standeth and heareth him, reioyceth greatly, because of the bridegromes voyce. This my ioy therefore is fulfilled. (30) He must increase, but I must decrease. (31) Hee that is come from an hie, is aboue all: he that is of the earth, is of the earth, and speaketh of the earth: hee that is come from heauen, is aboue all. (32) And what hee hath seene and heard, that he testifieth: but no ma receiueth his testimonie. (33) He that hath receiued his testimonie, hath sealed that God is true. (34) For hee whome God hath sent, speaketh the woordes of God: for God giueth him not the Spirit by measure. (35) The Father loueth the Sonne, and hath giuen all things into his hande. (36) Hee that beleeueth in the Sonne, hath euerlasting life, and hee that obeyeth not the Sonne, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.


Introduction

The old and the new are frequently in conflict with one another. Many people tend to hang onto the old... as if it should remain forever. Others tend to embrace all things new... many times simply because it IS “new” or “untried”.

There are many examples of what I'm talking about. For instance... I love the King James Bible. I was raised with the King James. I've studied the King James. When I quote a scripture...or I do a search in my computer Bible program... I search using King James words. I think King James.

I have changed... a little... and have now embraced the New King James. I find that the updated language makes it a little easier... not only for me to read... but for me to explain to someone else...

There are some changes between the KJV and NKJV that I really don't like though, and you'll probably hear me mention them from time to time...

Others though, prefer even more radically different translations such as the NIV, ESV, RSV, NASB, etc.

And still others have even gotten away from actual translations and use paraphrases like the Living Bible and The Message.

But... which Bible is the best Bible to use? Should a church body ask for uniformity? Some do... It is, after all, difficult to follow along when someone is reading... let's say... the Living Bible and you've got the NASB or KJV...

Or... should we embrace all of the translations chalking it up to personal preference and the idea that diversity is a good thing...

(Honestly... I'm really glad that many churches now have started using overhead screens... because with that... regardless of the translation you prefer... you can always follow along with whatever the preacher is using that day... Just as I've proven this morning in displaying and reading from the Geneva Bible...)

But you know... the Bible has almost always had a controversy concerning different translations. The Catholic Church did everything they could to eliminate new translations of the Bible from the very beginning... even to the point of burning the translators at the stake...

They did this because they knew that if the Bible was translated into the language of the people... then they would no longer be able to control people's thoughts...or worship...

When the Geneva Bible was printed in 1540's... it quickly became the most popular Bible in the world. (But... that could be because it was the first one readily available to the people.)

It was the Bible that Shakespeare used... It was the Bible of the Reformation... It was the Bible that was originally brought to America with the Pilgrims.

It was also the first Bible with chapter and verse divisions... and it was the first study Bible. It had notes at the bottom of the page like study Bibles do today. I have got a couple of these... and they read very similar to the KJV...

But in the late 1500's or early 1600's... King James decided that another English Bible should be printed... without any study notes. You see... he didn't like a few of the comments in the Geneva Bible's study notes they brought into question something that was dear to his heart... “the Divine Right of Kings”. So... he was very interested in a whole new Bible without notes.

When the King James Bible was first printed in 1611... for many years it was the “new kid on the block”. It wasn't an instant success... but it did eventually overtake the Geneva Bible in popularity.

The same controversy that occurred back then... occurs now. Which is better? The Old? Or the New? There's a struggle to cling to the old all the while the new is gaining ground.

Change is never easy. When I worked for Marriott and the WFF... whenever I was moved in to take over the management of the custodial and maintenance staff from an outgoing manager... everyone knew that change was coming. Some would be okay with it... some wouldn't (those usually got fired).

Right now this church is undergoing a change. The pastor that was here is gone. You're looking for another pastor. You know that the new one will be different than the old one.

He'll have his own style of preaching... relating to the church members... interacting with the community... Change is going to occur. Adjustments are coming... of that you can be sure.

Some may like the changes... some may not... but they are coming...

You need to also remember that for this new pastor that you ask to come here... this will be a change for him too. He may have a little or a lot of experience in pastoring... He might be right out of seminary... or he may have been pastoring for many years... The dynamic within each church body and every town is different.

New pastor or old pastor... experienced or inexperienced... there's going to be a learning curve for him and his family. You need to know this... Expect this... And, give him a break.

Oh... and that's something else that needs to be remembered... family. He'll probably have a wife who will have about the same amount of experience being a pastor's wife... as he has being a pastor.

She may or may not be familiar with all the “rules” of being a pastor's wife... or she may have been around long enough to have written some of those rules herself...

And it's important to remember... she may not know how to play the piano or teach a class... You really DON'T get “two for the price of one”. Though she's a pastors wife... her ministry is to support his ministry... She just might have a job outside the church.

Then there's children... As a preacher's kid... I went through this change a few times in my own life. It's never easy... especially for the kids who left all their friends behind. You really have no idea how traumatic it is for the kids... Some may be beautiful little saints... then others may be more like I was...

* * * * * * *
You know... our Lord Jesus also went through some changes too, didn't He?! The second Person of the Trinity... the Creator of all that is... In the infinite wisdom and foreknowledge of God... left the splendors of heaven... and came to this sin filled earth... to save all those who would believe...

Php 2:6-8 KJV Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: (7) But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: (8) And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Joh 1:1, 14a KJV (1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God... (14a) And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us...

Talk about changes... The Creator became the creation... Immortality became mortal (in the flesh)... the Divine became man... the One Who gave mankind the Law became the One Who fulfilled that same Law... the One Who established the Old Covenant based upon works of the flesh is the same One Who brings in the New Covenant which is solely based upon the grace of God.

Jesus didn't despise what had gone on before His incarnation... He came to complete that which man himself couldn't complete... and then to escort the old out... and usher in the new

Because when the Master comes... the servant must step aside... And this is what we see in our passage today...


I. The Star Sets...

Joh 3:22-30 NKJV 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. (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!" (27) John answered and said, "A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. (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. (30) He must increase, but I must decrease.

Something that's really only implied from the synoptic gospels that the apostle John spends a little more time emphasizing... is the fact that there was some overlap between John the Baptist's ministry and Jesus' ministry.

The synoptics only mention John, really just in passing... and by the time Jesus' begins His ministry... John appears to already in prison. The apostle John, however, gives us much more about John the Baptist than any of the others do.

It might be because the apostle wrote his gospel last... and he spends time with the Baptist because there are still many of his followers around. They hadn't been converted to Christ yet... and the apostle wanted to emphasize not only Jesus' superiority to the Baptist... but also that the Baptist himself, recognized that... John 3:30 He must increase, but I must decrease.

You see... it would appear that from the very beginning of Jesus' ministry... some of the Baptist's disciples took offense that Jesus was beginning to take away from their Master...

In our passage today... Jesus and John are both baptizing... Jesus in Judea and John in lower Samaria. And apparently some of John's disciples got into a discussion with a Jew... probably a Scribe or Pharisee... concerning purification.

Now this purification they're speaking of was more-than-likely about the connection between the Jews ritual purification ceremonies and baptism. You know... if you did one... would you need the other? No one really knows... that's just my speculation when looking at the context.

Now, this discussion appears to have “set off” some of John's disciples about Jesus... John 3:26b "Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!"

They appear to be really upset by the fact that Jesus has drawn away some people. So-much-so... that they can't even speak His name. They say... “He who was with you beyond the Jordan...”

And John's response shows us that he is full aware of not only Who's in charge... but of What his own ministry is... and that his star is going to fade...

He tells them, basically... “This is all determined in heaven!”, “Anything anyone receives in life and ministry... is given to them from heaven alone.”, “God's got this!”

Then he continues to remind them of what his ministry is... “I told you I wasn't the Christ...”, “I'm the forerunner.”, “I'm the one who prepares the way for Christ!”

And to make it even clearer to his disciples... he uses an illustration of the difference between the Bridegroom... and the Friend of the Bridegroom...

John 3:29 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.

The one who has the Bride is the Bridegroom. The Friend of the Bridegroom does all that he does for the Bridegroom... not himself. He's the one who invited all the friends. He's the one who planned the party. He served as the Master of Ceremonies. And at least in Galilee...he was the one who went to the Brides house... got her... and brought her to the Bridegroom!

The Friend of the Bridegroom did a lot of work... but it was for the Bridegroom... not himself... Therefore... John 3:30 He must increase, but I must decrease

* * * * * * *
There is a very real danger when a minister... when the ministry God gave them becomes a recognized success. People are joining the church... Baptisms are happening almost every Sunday... Everyone seems to be hungering for the Word... Everyone is really faithful in attendance!

It's very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that “I must be doing something right!”, and then begin to look more at themselves as the source of their success...

When the truth is... they DID DO SOMETHING RIGHT to begin with... they obeyed God and then got out of the way.

Any ministry that's given to us... is given to us by the owner of that ministry... God! It's His... not ours!

And because it's His and not ours... and because His ministry is successful... the true friend of God... like the friend of the bridegroom... rejoices... his joy is full... but, not for himself... but that God is glorified!


II. The Son Rises...

Joh 3:31-36 NKJV 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. (32) And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. (33) He who has received His testimony has certified 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. (35) The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. (36) 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."

It's obvious that John desires only God's plan and purpose. It's really difficult for anyone who has had any measure of success to willingly give that success up and assist in transferring everything over to someone else.

Mankind's natural inclination is to cling to what they have... as John's disciples wanted to do. They may want other people to have their own success in their own ministries... but to willingly turn over what they have to someone else?

And when someone can do that... be honestly and sincerely glad that someone else is rising... even as they're descending... Well, that shows a person's true character... doesn't it. It show us that their interest is more in God... than themselves.

John knows his ministry. He is to point to Christ, and he continues to do so to the very end. He tells us that...

Joh 3:31 NKJV 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.

The Baptist knew that he was from earth... and earthly. I mean... he walked around in animal skins and ate locusts and wild honey... You just can't get much “earthier” than that!

He knew that his own origin was from earth and that his ministry dealt primarily with the lower ranges of spiritual life--

The call to repentance... preparation of the people's hearts and lives for the coming of and the reception of the King...

But those higher realities of the kingdom he only saw as “in a mirror, dimly...” (1Cor 13:12a), and imperfectly... Because he saw them from below... not from above...

His origin, activity and teaching were bound in by the limitations of the earth... whereas... Joh 3:31 NKJV He who comes from above is above all... He who comes from heaven is above all.

The Son has origins that are not only divine... but eternal as well... “Guys... He not only is above me... He is also above all teachers who have gone on before... and will ever come in the future...”

After all... “heaven is His throne”, and “the earth is His footstool”. Everything He has seen and heard... He tells us about it. He doesn't keep what's important for us to know from us! And... He testifies from immediate knowledge!

Joh 3:34 For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure.

But most people don't listen... they don't “receive” His Word. John's disciples were claiming that everyone was going over to Him... when in reality... though He had large crowds following Him... most people rejected Him... and continue to do so even today.

And that, folks... is the greatest tragedy of all... because...

Joh 3:35 The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into His hand. (36) 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."

That is the simple... plain... and easy to understand truth of the gospel. To believe in the Son is to have everlasting life. This is a present reality. It's not merely a future hope... it's a present possession.

Everlasting life is given to you the moment you believe in Jesus. You have passed out of death into life... and you will never come into judgment...

However... those who don't believe in Christ... those who don't believe and obey the Son... not only don't have life... they will never see it so long as they remain in unbelief.

Just as those who believe have liferight now”... so also those who don't believe have condemnationright now”. Though it's true that one day all who don't believe will be condemned... it's also true that because of their disbelief... they are presently in a state of condemnation... and the only thing that can deliver them is saving faith in Jesus Christ.


Invitation