Memphis Belle

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John 3:22-36


“After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judea: there he tarried with them, and baptized.  And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came and were baptized.  For John was not yet cast into prison.  Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying.  And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him.  John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.  Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ [Messiah], but that I am sent before him.  He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.  He must increase, but I must decrease.  He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all.  And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth: and no man receiveth his testimony.  He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.  For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.  The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.  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 3:22-36).


A Servant’s Heart


“[Going to the Festival of Life in New York City] it’s also an opportunity to be stretched, yourself.  To be refined and challenged in ways maybe you never have been.  So keep it in prayer for even yourselves, if maybe the Lord would have you be part of it.  I know when I went to the Festival of Life in Grenada in 1992 with Mike and his team, I can definitely say I was stretched and I was challenged, and there’s a few things that even come to mind to me this morning, and I think one of the stories is probably a good place to start with for this text we’re going to be in, John chapter 3.  I can remember, even before we left for the Festival of Life, the Lord was already doing a work in my heart.  I was on the street evangelism team, we were going to have two teams because there were enough of us to break into two teams.  And the plan was when we got to Grenada we would each day break up into the two teams and we would go to various places on this island of Grenada and do street evangelism.  We had drama and skits that we had prepared, and we would just reach out with the gospel.  But we had two different teams, so two different teams needed two different leaders.  There was a pastor overseeing the evangelism parts, so he was taking one team, and there was another leader needed, and this pastor even once mentioned to me, he said ‘Hey, yah, Steve, maybe we should have you lead the other team.  And of course in that time in my life I thought that was a great idea.  I thought that was probably the best plan to have me lead this other evangelism team, and go around and just kind of be led in the Lord, and determine where we were going to evangelize, what town we’d stop in and whatever on the island of Grenada.  Well, it seemed like the right choice to me, but a little later before we left they picked another guy.  I’ll be honest with you, I remember, I started to struggle with some thoughts, some issues in my heart, this other guy, he’s now going to be the leader, and I was thinking ‘Why did they pick him.  What’s so special about this other particular man, that he’s gonna be the leader of the team and not me.’  I really struggled with that, to be honest with you, there was some stuff that was going on in my heart that I’m not proud about it today, in fact, I can even tell you that I wasn’t real nice to him initially.  So there was enough of this stuff going on that I wasn’t real friendly to him.  I guess you could say there was some jealousy and some envy, just ugly stuff in my heart.  Well the Lord dealt with that, and there was some dying that needed to go on in my heart, and to prepare me for ministry, to prepare me to even be here in New England today.  [Just three years later, in 1995, if you remember in the previous transcript, his father-in-law dropt him and his wife off at this dilapidated old building that become the local Christian radio station in the area.  And 12 of us met on Sunday mornings for Bible study-services.  2.5 years later we had to move because there were 125 of us.  A couple years later they had to move again, because they were pushing 400+ members.  When God’s gonna do a work in a person, there is a pounding down that takes place, a de-leavening, to get all the air out of the dough, all the vanity, pride and envy.  As you’ll see in the text, John the Baptist had none of this.]  And I think that’s true, it’s key, a servant’s heart is what we need, and there’s a certain attitude of humility, a certain type, a certain state to a servant’s heart.  And we’re going to see that today, as we go through John chapter 3, as we consider again this life of John the Baptist, a tremendous example to us.  And as we consider his heart, we certainly will consider a servant’s heart, and what it means to have a servant’s heart.  In fact, we’re going to look at six different points, six points that we can use as a gauge, as a measurement for our own hearts.  I’m going to basically ask you six questions as we go through the text, and you can let the Lord just minister to your heart and you can give the answer in your heart to that question, ‘Do we have, do I have, do you have a servant’s heart’ in the real sense of the word servant?  Well let’s say a word of prayer, and we’ll begin with verse 22 where we left off last week in John chapter 3. 

          ‘Lord, as we look at this text together we thank you for this opportunity to study your Word, and to consider these truths that are here.  And Holy Spirit we would ask that you would work in power in all our hearts, that you’d be upon all of us, upon even myself as we share your Word.  We need you to illuminate these truths, we need you to even expose our own hearts.  So we desire that, and we ask you for that.  We want to leave this morning even with a change in heart in different areas where it’s needed.  So we ask that you’d lead us, and be upon all of us, even upon me know as I share your Word, and I ask you this Lord, in Jesus name, Amen.’ 


The baptism of John the Baptist and Jesus was the baptism of immersion


Beginning with verses 22-24, chapter 3 of John, “After these things Jesus and his disciples came into the land of Judea, and there he remained with them and baptized.  Now John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there, and they came and were baptized.  For John had not yet been thrown into prison.”    So here we see where we left off last week, that Jesus and his disciples are baptizing, but also we see John is baptizing, what turns out to be not too far away from the area that Jesus is baptizing, in this area of Aenon Salim.  We are told that John has chosen this particular area that he’s in, it says in verse 23 he was baptizing there because there was much water in that area, there was much water there.  So, a lot of water.  That’s why he chose to do his baptizing there.  That does say one thing, that it’s not likely that the baptism that John the Baptist was doing and Jesus was doing was that of “sprinkling”.  You don’t need a whole lot of water to sprinkle.  But you do need a lot of water to do baptism by immersion.  And I think it’s pretty clearly seen in this text that the baptism that John was doing, John the Baptist, but also Jesus, was by  immersion.  And there’s also other reasons for that too, that’s what baptism by immersion shows us, what it demonstrates, what it represents.  As it says in Romans, and we’ll consider this later today, in Romans chapter 5, baptism by immersion very wonderfully speaks the message of the gospel, that Jesus Christ died, was buried, and was raised to life.  So each time a person is baptized and immersed into the water, there’s this testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ [which gospel we just viewed in the previous transcript].  And Paul says too in Romans that when we are baptized, we’re also showing that we are being unified, we’ve united with the death of Jesus Christ, and we’ve also been united with him in his resurrection.  So then, Paul writes in Romans that now we walk in Christ in newness of life.  So there’s this statement in baptism of new life, that with Jesus you can find life.  So as we go today to the State Forest, of course we use baptism by immersion, baptism doesn’t save us, but we believe Biblically that’s what they did, and there’s a reason in doing that, baptizing that way.  But as we’re going to do that, people will be baptized, they’ll be immersed in the water there at the State Forest, but there will be this witness, this declaration.  [For those that believe in the old apostolic way of being baptized as a way of asking Christ into one’s life, as shown in the book of Acts, realize some of the reason why they might have believed that the “water” spoken of by Jesus when he was talking to Nicodemus of being born of water and of Spirit, in the process of being born again, represented the water of baptism, was that right after this statement to Nicodemus, Jesus the next day goes out and starts baptizing.  The two events, Jesus’ explanation to Nicodemus, and Jesus actually going out and baptizing, are right there back to back in the same chapter of John.  Rabbi’s say that with God, there are no coincidences. Sabbatarian Churches of God view it this way, and their heritage goes right back to the beginning of the Church in Jerusalem and Asia Minor. Just a thought.]  Very simply, but powerfully demonstrating the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Good reason to even be praying as you drive over there, ‘Lord, speak to all the different people that come, that will be watching the baptism, speak to their hearts, and even draw some to Christ, even through the baptism.’  We’re told in verse 24, this is occurring before John was thrown into prison.  Later, not long from now, he’s going to be thrown into jail, imprisoned.  Herod is going to do that to him, because Herod is going to become very upset with John.  We know that Herod was intrigued by the message of John the Baptist, but yet at the same time, John boldly proclaimed the truth, and he stood for certain things.  And because of that, Herod is going to take John and throw him into prison, and then if you know your Bible, it won’t be too long after that John the Baptist will even die a martyr’s death.  So, it’s possible too, as we consider this baptism later, that there will be some people that will be watching.  We know, last time it took place, there were some people that were scoffers, they really didn’t appreciate what we were doing.  And it’s possible as we go out there today, there will be some people that won’t appreciate what we stand for.  But that just means, like Herod, Herod didn’t like John the Baptist because he was convicted of his sin.  What John the Baptist stood for was truth, and that truth really went to the heart of Herod, and convicted him of his own lifestyle.  [Herod had taken his brother’s wife, and had married her himself.]  So as we’re doing that today, if there’s any that don’t really like what we’re doing, and express it, well you can just know, it’s because of something going on in their heart.  [And as this age gets more and more evil, this animosity to true Christianity and toward Messianic believers in Yeshua as well, will grow in intensity.  If you’ve just noticed the number of murders, rapes, and gruesome crimes that have been increasing in number and brutality, just this news coming across ( ), it is clearly evident that our society is getting more and more Godless, God-hating, and dark.  And as last week’s transcript showed, Jesus said people don’t want to come to his spiritual “light” because they love that darkness, the darkness of their own deeds and evil hearts.]  There’s conviction going on.  In fact, we just read in verses 20 and 21 of John chapter 3, “For everyone practicing evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.”  So people don’t come to the light, they’re hostile against the gospel, against the light, because of their own deeds, because of their own issues in their heart. 


A dispute between John the Baptist’s disciples and the Jews over purification


We’ll let’s continue with verse 25, “Then there arose a dispute between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purification.  And they came to John and said to him, ‘Rabbi, he who is with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold he’s baptizing and all are coming to him.’”  We’re not exactly told the details, but we’re told here by the apostle John, he mentions this dispute that is taking place between the disciples of John the Baptist and some Jews.  If you have the NIV, it says “a certain Jew”, rather than “Jews”, and it’s really probable, because of the Greek, that it was just an individual, or maybe there were some with him, but there was a prominent individual that was having this dispute upon the subject of purification with the disciples of John the Baptist.  Now what’s the big deal about purification?  Why was there a dispute?  Well as you remember too, in the ministry of Jesus, there are times where he upsets the religious leaders over this very issue of purification, and of what is being clean, and how do you become clean, and if you’re unclean, what’s the ceremony to go through to be clean.  It was an issue that even the religious leaders come at Jesus for.  And that is because ceremonial purification was significant to the Jew, it was significant also because of the Law.  We’ve been studying on Wednesday nights about the Law, and God very clearly teaches the people that you need to be ceremonially clean, and if you become unclean, and there’s ways you can become unclean, now there’s a process for you to become clean.  In some instances it included water as part of the process, part of the ceremony in various ways.  But in Jesus’ day the religious leaders, because of legalism, because of the attitude, the pride of hearts, there were other things that were being taught, the traditions, that made this purification thing even a bigger deal.  In fact, they taught that some of their traditions related to this were more important, more weighty, than even the Law, the Word of God.  So they really held the people in bondage.  Some of the teachings they had, traditions where if you even got the dust on you from an area where a Gentile had passed through, if the dust that had touched the Gentile touched you, you were unclean.  That was something they added.  That made life pretty difficult.  Obviously there always was an uncertainty, I mean, dust.  Dust has been around for awhile, touched a few people, I’m sure.  It even got stranger, there’s one particular group that taught, religious leaders, that this demon, supposedly, called Shibna would often come, and he would sit upon a man’s hands as he slept, so you would become unclean.  This was their tradition.  So because of that, and we have even seen an allusion to that in chapter 2, where in chapter 2 where Jesus did the miracle using the water pots, those water pots were part of this whole deal where they believed you could become unclean, possibly the demon Shibna has sat on your hand, so when you ate, you needed to go through a ceremonial process that they came up with to become clean, and there was this whole ritual, and you had to do it at every course during the meal.  [And this was never a valid part of God’s written Word, and Law, the Torah!]  So, purification was significant to the Jew in the time here that we’re reading about.  And hence, there is this dispute, we don’t know necessarily the details, but we know also baptism at times was part of the process of this purification.  They would baptize vessels, immerse vessels in water, cups and brazen vessels, things like that, to make them clean, and also we know that a Gentile would have to be baptized in order to convert to Judaism.  So, baptism was also part of this purification process.  We don’t know necessarily why there’s a dispute, but it is going on.  [And perhaps wherever you had the religious leadership involved, there was a financial payment going on for “religious services rendered”.  Jesus and John the Baptist by what they taught, were threatening to undo this elaborate ceremonial system the religious leadership had in place over the people.]  We know what happens from the dispute, is that then John’s disciples come to John.  Evidently in the dispute, Jesus becomes part of the subject, and because of that, now they come to John, John the Baptist, the disciples of John, and they bring this concern, and the concern is ‘Hey, this guy that you had mentioned, that you said you saw the Spirit come upon, this one you pointed to, this Lamb of God you said, man, his ministry is really taking off.  In fact, he’s been baptizing not far from here, and there’s just crowds coming.’  In fact, they use the word “All”, which isn’t necessarily true, because John the Baptist is baptizing.  They say “all”, and based on the response of John the Baptist, there’s a sense of potential envy and jealousy there, ‘His ministry is really taking off.  In fact, he seems to be taking a lot of your people, John the Baptist, your ministry seems to be diminishing, and his seems to be growing.’  Well that can be an awkward situation, an uncomfortable situation to face when somebody comes to you and says ‘Your ministry’s getting smaller and that guy over there, his ministry is getting bigger’, that can make you a little uncomfortable.  And certainly the reply you have will tell us a little bit about your heart.  And John’s reply, John the Baptist, his reply to this concern, shows us a little bit about his heart.  And his heart was not like my heart was during that time in Grenada, that’s for sure.  His heart is a lot different.  He’s got the heart of a true servant.  And with his response we have a question where we can gauge our own hearts, as we consider if we’re truly servants.  Verse 27 from there on, his response makes it real clear that he’s not so concerned about his own ministry. 


1. So, the first question:  Am I discouraged by another’s success?


John has this situation, they’re coming to him because Jesus’ ministry is growing, and his ministry of baptism is getting smaller, evidently.  And John replies a certain way, and the question to you and I is: Am I discouraged by another’s success?  Or am I encouraged and blessed, even when someone else surpasses me?  Just an honest question you can ask yourself.  Imagine today, we go to the State Forest, and as we’re there we’re doing our baptism, and at the other end of the beach there’s another church doing a baptism.  And as you look over, there’s a long line of people being baptized with this other ministry.  In fact, there’s like a hundred people lined up, and there’s a big crowd, there’s a lot of excitement and worship going on, and you look over at our baptism, it isn’t quite as big, I mean, it seems smaller.  In fact, the people that have gathered at the State Forest just to barbeque and to be there now see this large baptism, and they’re all focused on that, and they don’t even notice our baptism, and I mean, they don’t even care because of this other ministry and their baptism.  That’s sort of what’s going on, it appears, with Jesus and John the Baptist.  So how would we respond in that case?  I mean, the truth is that at times, some of us in our hearts, we’d say ‘You know, they’re using some kind of carnal method, I mean, those people aren’t really saved, they’re paying them to do that, you know, they’ve never had a baptism before, that’s why they have so many people.  They’ve waited years to do that [laughter]’.  I mean, there’s all kinds of things you can start thinking to justify, and to make an excuse, and to justify and vindicate yourself.  What would be our reaction in our heart?  What would we say about the other ministry?



Then the question: What should be our reaction?  Would we be rejoicing?


Well, our reaction should be “Praise God!, praise God!  Look at all those people, praise the Lord, he’s working in their hearts, man he’s blessing that ministry.  The kingdom of God is being furthered, greatly expanded.  Praise God!”.  We should be rejoicing.  I guess the question is: Would we be rejoicing?  That statement “And all are coming to him”, those words can be hard to hear if there is pride in our hearts.  ‘That guy’s doing better.’  And those are words that are hard to hear if there’s pride in my heart.  It can be tempting to begin to question, you know, ‘Why him, Lord?’  ‘Why not me?  Man, I’ve been faithfully serving you, I’ve been counting the cost, I’ve been sacrificing.’  John the Baptist, you know, has been eating bugs in the wilderness.  He’s been working hard, and yet this other guy’s now got a bigger ministry?  I mean, there can be those types of questions, those types of concerns.  It’s just the reality of our hearts. [And yet, when you look at the actual size of John’s preparation ministry for Jesus’ arrival, it must have been huge.  Disciples of John the Baptist those that had been baptized in John’s baptism had been found as far away as Asia Minor, as the apostles learned when they spread out carrying the gospel on their missionary journeys.  John also knew the purpose for his ministry, and that it was to pave the way, lay a foundation, a spiritual foundation, for Jesus’ ministry to follow.]  Well, I hope, I pray, that my heart, more and more would be like that of John the Baptist, and likewise, your heart too, that.  Well see as we go on.  Here’s his response, initially.  John 3, verse 27, he answered and said “Man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.”  Well the first thing that he clearly mentions here is that whatever ministry is going on, if God is working, if there’s something good, it isn’t because of any man to begin with.  It’s because God has done it.  God has given that portion of ministry, whether it be small in our eyes, or large in our eyes, God ultimately, if there’s good going on, well it comes from the Lord.  And that says too then that we don’t deserve anything.  If it comes from God, and it doesn’t come from us, I mean, it’s just a blessing from God that he would even use us.  So, we don’t deserve anything.  And therefore it’s a privilege to be used by the Lord in whatever the context might be, in whatever the degree it might be.  God gives as he chooses, he may want to bless another church in this area of central New England much more than our church, he may want to bless another individual in this church [or another church entirely] with a tremendous visible ministry more so than yourself.  God does as he chooses.  He blesses and he gives as he chooses, and that’s his prerogative.  I know there are times, as I look back over the last number of years, we’ve been here 8 years now in this town, and looking back, there’s times I’ve gotten a little discouraged, and said ‘Why not more, Lord?  Why not more, Lord?  Why aren’t things bigger?  Why isn’t more happening?’  There’s times, different seasons, I’ve had those questions.  And sometimes I even looked to other places and said ‘Why is it easier for that guy?  I mean, man, it just seems easier, I don’t even think that guy has to fast and pray, I think he just has fun, and, and man, you’re building his church up, Lord, I know he’s got an easier life, it’s very clear, he’s happy, never having to struggle, why is it easier, Lord?’  [That poor guy he just described.  When the spiritual ‘fit hits the shan’ that guy will probably crumble.  Besides, I’m reminded of the Tenth Fleet.  It was a military naval fleet that didn’t possess one single ship.  It was located in a building.  It was placed over the command of the entire US Naval Air Forces, Navy and Army Air Corps along the eastern seaboard, and when they would triangulate the location of a German U-boat from its radio transmissions, they’d send the information to the nearest military organization, whether that be an aircraft carrier out in the Atlantic, or some PBY or B-17 out of a land airbase along the east coast of the US.  The carrier, and their pilots, or the B-17 or PBY pilot would get all the glory for marking “Paid in full” on that U-boat that was sunk.  The Tenth Fleet got nothing, no credit whatsoever.  Most people, even today never even heard of it.  Yet it was vital to the destruction of 7/8ths of all U-boats sunk in the Atlantic Ocean.  Your ministry plays a  vital part in the huge plan Jesus is working out here-below, furthering the kingdom of God.  You may not precisely see what Jesus is doing with your ministry, but rest assured, if it is of God, he is doing something vital with it.  We’re in a spiritual war with the devil and his demons, and the world he’s influencing.  And prophecy---all prophecy shows---we with Jesus win in the end.  You may not understand fully your part, but you’re part of a whole here.  That’s what this website is all about---creating unity within the body of Christ---to create a unity of actions and giving, a spiritual unity, a unity between the various spiritual-military elements of God’s army.  Right now, we’re waging an information war against the enemy, proclaiming the Gospel of Salvation and also the good news of his coming kingdom physically to earth---the Millennial Kingdom of God.  Later at Jesus’ return, at the time of the resurrection to immortality, we will actually rise up in the air and mount spirit white stallions, and ride them back down to earth, to conquer those that are trying to destroy the earth.  Read Revelation 19:1-21.  Get the big picture.  You may only be a tiny part of that big picture, but it’s important, nonetheless.  So stop feeling sorry for yourself, pick up your spiritual rifle, put a clip in it and get back on the line.  OK?]  You know, if you get like that, you can get in a funk, and that funk can get pretty ugly if you stay there very long, that’s for sure.  Some of us do, and some of us have been in that situation.  I remember though, one of those times, I was that way, had been a couple days.  For whatever reason I got into that type of mindset, ‘Just doesn’t seem fair, Lord, that it’s going that way over there and it’s not going that way here.’  And I got that way, and got into this funk, and of course, I wasn’t real happy and nice to be around as a result.  But I remember, as I was doing that, in this funk, I was thinking about things, and it seems the Lord brought some thoughts to my mind, and there were thoughts of my older life before Christ.  Vivid images came into my mind.  I’m like, ‘Why am I having these thoughts?’  But then there was this sense that came upon my heart, ‘You know, I really don’t deserve anything.  As I consider my former life, very clearly Christ saved me, he then eventually moved me to California, [and gave you a wife, a wonderful wife!---to help you minister], and then prepared me to come here.  God did that because he chose to do that.  And if I had just gone on my own course, man, I wouldn’t be where I am today anyway.  And this sense came over me, man, ‘I don’t deserve anything.  Why am I even having these thoughts?  I am just blessed to have what I have.’  And to be honest with you, I have repented.  And man, my attitude changed tremendously.  I left our home with a completely different outlook, because I had repented of those thoughts.  Maybe you’re here today, and you need to do the same.  There’s jealousy, there’s envy in one degree or another in your heart, and you’re not just being content with the blessing that God has given you in your life, whether it be ministry or another thing.  And what needs to happen is repentance.  And repentance goes a long way, that’s for sure, in changing our attitude. 


2. So the second thing is: ‘Do I understand where the goodness and power come from?’


Well, John answered and said “A man can receive nothing unless it is given to him from heaven.”  So this man knows where goodness and blessing comes from.  Do I also understand that blessing, goodness, anything good in my life, comes from one place, it comes from God, that it comes from above, and it doesn’t come from within?  That’s a second question I can ask, perspective.  Man, that’s a good perspective in my heart, I realize if there’s anything good going on, God has done it, therefore, all the praise and glory goes to him.  There isn’t this sense about me and my place and all that type of stuff.  If there’s anything truly good going on in a person’s ministry, the credit goes to God, if there’s any power to heal, any power to encourage, any power to transform, any power to save, any power to bless, on and on, any power at all, it’s because God has given the power, and certainly not myself or anybody else.  And that simple understanding, living with that understanding, helps me change my perspective.  Really, there’s an attitude of humility that comes with that.  John Sheen once said this, he said, “The proud man counts his newspaper clippings, the humble man his blessings.”  There’s two different outlooks, one guy says ‘Man, look at all these things in the newspaper about me.  Man, I’ve done a great job.’  The other guy says, and he sees that in the newspaper clipping, ‘Praise God!  Look what the Lord has done!’  ‘The grace and mercy of God’, two different outlooks on life, two different perspectives.  Which one is yours?  The one you have really makes a difference in your life, that’s for sure.  There was a wealthy man, I can’t say his name exactly, I think it’s Baron von Weltz, he was a wealthy man, had titles and things, one of these tremendously wealthy people in Europe, and prestigious.  Well he decided to renounce his titles, his estates, his revenues, all those things, he forsook that, and he went to the mission field, he went to British Guiana, where he eventually died.  Filled a lonely grave.  Renouncing his title, he said “What is to me the title well-born?” he had this title ‘well-born’, “What is to me that title when I’m born again in Christ?  What is to me the title ‘lord’ when I desire to be a servant of Christ?  What is to be called ‘your grace’ when I need to have God’s grace.  All these vanities I will away with, and all else I will lay at the feet my dear Lord Jesus.”  He says, ‘All that doesn’t mean anything.  Man, calling me ‘your grace, lord, well-born, in that culture, this wealthy man.’  He decided to leave all of that because of the grace of God, the Lordship of God, the fact that he was born again, that was what it all meant, that’s what was important to him.  So as the months go on here in our downtown, in this building, if anything good goes on here at all, any measure of goodness, it’s come from one source, it’s come from God himself, because he’s decided in his grace and his sovereign will to bless in one capacity or another.  Nobody can take credit for it.  That’s the clear teaching of the Word.  And therefore there’s no room for competition.  If God wants to bless another place, go for it God, praise the Lord, expand your kingdom.  Because it’s the grace of God, anyway, that he would even choose to use us at all. 


3. Next point:  ‘Is my speech consumed with myself, or is my speech consumed with Jesus Christ?’


Verse 28, John continues in his  response, he says “You yourselves bear me witness that I said ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’”  So he reminds them of things he’s already said.  And that tells me a little bit too.  There was a certain pattern with John the Baptist in his speech.  And his speech obviously reflected his heart.  And that brings me to our next point.  Is my speech consumed with myself, or is my speech consumed with Jesus Christ?  The answer to that question also is certainly significant.  Remember Jesus said, in Luke chapter 6 “For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.” ‘Out of the abundance of his heart his mouth speaks.’  What I say is certainly a barometer of what’s going on in my heart.  If I’m talking a lot about myself, that tells you a little bit about the condition of my heart.  If I talk a lot about myself, that’s because I like myself.  I like to tell you about myself, because I think highly of myself, and I think a lot about myself, and that’s why I’m always talking about myself.  It goes on and on and on.  And certainly some of us are like that, or have been like that.  D.L. Moody once, referencing Dr. Binar on Christian growth, he said this, “Dr. Binar once said that he could tell when a Christian was growing.  In proportion to his growth in grace, he would elevate his Master, talk less of what he himself was doing, and become smaller and smaller in his own esteem, until, like the morning star, he faded away before the rising sun.”  I think that’s great.  And it’s true.  And as you listen to people, if they’re talking a lot about Jesus, that means there’s some good things going on.  But if they’re talking a lot about themselves, and maybe they’re a Christian, maybe they want to be in ministry, maybe they want to serve, but they’re talking too much about themselves, there’s a pride issue.  There’s a perspective issue, there’s not humility in their hearts.    [Comment:  If you’re in a ministry, and “circumstances are beatin’ the over-lovin’ crap outa you, well, Jesus is merely humbling you for what he’s given you to do.  Grin and bear it, something good’s gonna come out of it.  Then give the glory to Jesus when it happens.]  So I guess the question to you then is, ‘What’s your speech like?’  You say you’re a Christian, do you talk a lot about Jesus?  I mean, if you’re really just in love with him and impressed by who he is, you can’t help but talk a lot about him.  But if your speech is consumed with “I” and “me”, and “this is what I’ve done”, and “this is where I’ve been.”  I tell you, people like that are depressing to be around anyway, you know.  And they’re always trying to one-up you.  You know, if you tell a story, they’ve always got a better one, where they’ve been, and what they’ve experienced.  That’s depressing.  Well, anyway.


“The friend of the Bridegroom”


Verse 29, John goes further, he says “He who has the bride is the bridegroom, but the friend of the bridegroom who stands and hears him rejoices greatly because of the bridegrooms’ voice, therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.”  Now what is John the Baptist referring to here?  He’s referring to this custom, and he’s using this custom in his day to depict a certain truth.  But in his day the wedding custom in that time was, the best man was essentially in charge of a lot of the affairs of the wedding.  The best man, the friend of the bridegroom, he invited the guests to the wedding, he made preparations for the wedding, and finally upon the completion of the wedding, he escorted the bridegroom and the bride into the bridal chamber.  And of course, if he heard some good things from the bridegroom at that point, coming out of the chamber, if he heard, ‘hey, good job, things have gone great, man, what a blessed wedding….’, I mean, he would be pleased.  He had done all this work, did his best, wanted to make the bridegroom happy, and if things had gone well, at the end, he had that sense, hey, the bride is happy, the bridegroom is happy, therefore I’m thrilled because I was used in that context.  That’s what John the Baptist is referring to here.  You see what really drives his heart.  What truly drives his heart isn’t his own success, it isn’t his own reputation, recognition, or fame, but simply pleasing Jesus, simply hearing the voice, having a relationship with the bridegroom, having an interaction with the bridegroom, that is what drives his heart.  In fact, that’s what he says.  He says, with that, “therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.”  ‘I am thrilled.  I’ve heard the bridegroom’s voice, I’ve done the task that I was….I’m actually thrilled he’s spoken to me, we have this relationship, I’ve pleased him.’  So, then our next point to gauge and measure my own heart, and do I have a true servant’s heart:


4. Is my joy, is my satisfaction based simply on knowing and hearing Jesus---And on pleasing him?


Is that my joy?  Is that what I base my joy on, is that where I get my satisfaction, from simply knowing and simply pleasing Jesus?  Or am I always looking for acceptance and approval elsewhere, looking for satisfaction from something else other than Jesus alone?  Well, that is certainly a way to gauge my own heart…..there will be times where he’ll speak to me in unique ways as I serve him, what a thrill.  The joy of just serving the Lord and being used by him.  Those powerful times where he even ministers to me as I’m just serving him.  That’s all that mattered to John the Baptist, and I think that’s a good question then, a way to consider my own heart.  And that’s where our hearts need to be, man, that’s a good life.  As Gustave Dorey was putting the finishing touches on the face of Christ in one of his paintings, an admiring friend stepped quietly into the studio, and she looked just with this gasping breath upon the painting.  Dorey sensed her presence, and he said graciously, ‘Pardone, Madame, I did not know you were here.’  She answered ‘Messeur Dorey, you must love him very much to be able to paint him thus.’  ‘Love him, Madam, exclaimed Dorey, I do love him, but if I loved him better, I would paint him better.’  I think that’s a great little story.  She’s saying, ‘Man, you must really love him, you’ve put a lot of time into that painting, just how beautiful, you didn’t paint him all ugly, you just painted a beauty, that painting.’  He said ‘If I loved him more, I’d even put more effort into that.’  So somebody has said if we love Christ better, we would indeed serve him better.  So, what was driving the heart of John the Baptist?  Man, he just wanted to please the Lord.  He just wanted to be near him and hear his voice.  I know in serving the Lord, man, there are times, just in simply serving, because you’re responding in obedience as he’s leading you, and you’re serving him, there are times he speaks to you, there are times he ministers to you, to equip you for a situation you’re going to encounter, to help you in a particular time, there’s a trial, a testing, there’s a challenge that you’re facing as you minister, and then he ministers to you, and ah,  it’s pretty sweet.  I think that’s what John is saying, that’s what’s in his heart.  ‘My joy is just fulfilled.’  And to have joy fulfilled, and I mean, that’s the goal in life, right?  To get to the end and go, ‘Ah, joy is fulfilled.’  So, based on the road you’re going on, I mean, where’s that road going to take you?  Are you going to be able to say that at the end too ‘My joy is fulfilled?’  ‘I’ve lived life in a certain way that I’ve just got an overflowing joy.’  That’s that Greek word, joy.  There’s so much joy because of what has happened.  The only way that’s going to happen in your life, is if Jesus Christ is your focus.  Because in the end you’re going to stand before him, and you’re going to be with him as a Christian.  And if Christ isn’t in your heart, well, there’s no way without Christ to truly say “My joy is fulfilled in me.” Well, speaking of motives of hearts, reasons to serve the Lord, Hudson Taylor was interviewing some young people who had volunteered for the Lord’s service.  He asked several practical questions to find out how well qualified these people were for the life they were anticipating, as they wanted to go and be missionaries.  One such question was “And why do you wish to go to a foreign mission field?”  One replied “I want to reach others across the sea because Christ has commanded us to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.”  Of course, that’s a noteworthy answer.  Another said “I want to go because millions are dying without ever hearing Christ and the gospel message, the only one that can save them.”  Others had similar answers.  Well Hudson Taylor looked at them thoughtfully for a moment and said “All of your motives are good.  But I fear they will fail you in times of severe testing and tribulation, especially if you’re confronted with the possibility of having to face death for your testimony.  The only motive that will enable you to remain true is stated in 2nd Corinthians chapter 5, verse 14, Christ’s love constraining you will keep you faithful in every situation.”  And that’s what Paul says.  The love of Christ constrains me, I have this tremendous love for him, that moves me, and that’s why I do what I do. [i.e. the love of Christ controls me, is controlling my thoughts and actions.]  That’s why he was willing to be stoned and rejected and despised, to do all the things that he did, because he had a passion for Jesus Christ.  You see that in John the Baptist, and that is true of a servant’s heart.  So what about your heart?  I will say this, I do believe that in the Church in America, this is part of the issue.  Why are the things the way they are in our nation today?  It’s because as a Church, it lacks true passion for Jesus Christ.  We’re just so full with all the other stuff in the world, so divided and so busy with so many other things, there’s no passion in the Church.  There’s just this complacency, there’s a dryness.  And may God in his grace rekindle the fire in our hearts, that there’s a passion for Jesus Christ, there’s a passion when I come to church, there’s a passion when I open the Bible, there’s a passion when I pray, because the love of Christ constrains me.  John the Baptist says ‘Man, my joy is fulfilled, because I’ve just been serving the Lord, and he’s blessed me, and ministered to me.’  I don’t need recognition, I don’t need fame, I don’t need anything, I just need Jesus Christ.  And I’m sad, and it’s sad to say, and I’m sure many of us agree, that’s lacking in the Church today, and if the Church would just wake up, man it would change the state of things in America, that the people in our nation could look and say ‘There’s a Church that has a purpose, there’s some people that know what real joy is all about, and satisfaction.  I want that, because they clearly know it and they’ve clearly got it.’  And so many people look in other places for joy, when it’s found in Jesus Christ.  That’s where it’s at, in him alone. 


5. Next point: “He must increase, but I must decrease”


Verse 30, I tell you, this verse should be on our refrigerators.  I say that a lot.  But this is another one.  “He must increase, but I must decrease.”  Just so willing, Jesus’ notoriety, his ministry was growing, John the Baptist’s is fading off the scene, not a problem, he understood that was the real deal anyway.  That was God’s purpose.  And he says  “He must increase, but I must decrease.”   You know, is that the condition of our heart?  That is the next point, to gauge my own heart.  What can be said about the attitude of my heart?  Is my heart “He must increase, I must decrease”?  Is that our desire?  Is that something that we think and say?  You know, it’s a painful process, it’s not an easy thing to go through.  But when we see who Jesus is, and we understand who we are, then I think that should be all the more the desire of our hearts.  Just wanting to disappear so that Jesus can be seen, he can reign.   I remember, in fact I was looking through an old journal for1995, I had been here just a short time, was doing the radio ministry, we had gotten it on the air in the fall of 1994.  At that particular time Bob had come, was volunteering, and was part of this little ministry.  So when my wife and I had moved here, we had this guy Bob, and that was it for the ministry here in this town.  And we had left a larger church which had all the things of fellowship, and the blessings of having a lot of things like that around you, friends and things.  Well I had come with a certain understanding too, that God was calling me to be a pastor of a church, to plan a Bible study, and that it was his intention to raise up a church, and to assist Christian radio.  That was the vision on my heart.  So I had done internship training and pastoral training out west, and was doing some more in New Hampshire, and due for certain reasons the internship in January 1995 ended abruptly, it ended abruptly, not because of myself, but there were a few guys in the internship and the pastor up there wasn’t pleased with these guys, they weren’t taking it seriously, so as a result he just canceled the whole deal.  And so I was kind of a victim of that.  He expressed that he had wanted to come down here to this town and work with me here.  But suddenly this internship stopped and all I was doing was the radio.  I remember, we’d come back late at night from NH, I was driving, it was late one night, and my wife was at that time visiting family in California, I was driving back and man, I was confused.  You know, I was telling the Lord, ‘We got the radio going, and I’m doing that, but now the internship is over, my training has come short, I mean, are you saying Lord….you just put a desire on my heart, you got me out here with that desire, so you could just have me do radio.’  And I told the Lord ‘Radio, is a tremendous privilege, but I’m really not good at it, it’s very embarrassing.’  I mean, even this morning I stumble through my words, me a DJ?  I mean, there’s nothing smooth about my speech, I mean, you guys know that.  But just so God is glorified, he raises up fools for Christ, that’s for sure.  But radio is a whole another deal, you know, when you got to be on that microphone.  Right?  So, there was that, and I had this passion though to be a pastor.  So I was confused.  To be honest with you, I was discouraged.  Radio is a tremendous opportunity, but that’s just not what was driving this heart right here at the time.  Well I came back, my wife came back from California, and she could tell I was discouraged, I was wrestling through this.  So she was talking to another pastor in the community, and he had mentioned, ‘You know, your husband needs to get away, there’s a place, Singing Hills, up in Plainfield NH, they let pastors go up there just to seek the Lord.  It was free of charge, which was right down my alley.  So he mentioned it to my wife, she mentioned it to me, so I went to Plainfield NH.  And it was an interesting time, during the winter, it was February, so nobody was there, up in the mountains.  I had this entire retreat facility, they took me to the kitchen with a big refrigerator, walk-in cooler, said ‘Help yourself, you got that whole place to yourself, nobody’s here.’  Lodges and buildings, little creepy too, you know, being alone up in the mountains.  But it was snowing too, there was a snowstorm, and I was there for a couple days seeking the Lord, and God was ministering to my heart.  And this will sound crazy, I don’t want to sound sentimental or anything, I still want to be macho, I don’t want to go too far the other way.  But this is the thought that occurred to me, and I read it recently, and I thought of this text, what he says here.  And as I was going through the Scriptures, God was ministering to me.  And this one particular night I was looking out the window, and the lights were on, the deck out there, you know you can only see so far with the lights, but it was snowing, it was big snowflakes, it was really snowing a lot.  So it was beautiful, and I was alone, it was quiet.  I was looking out the window and considering and watching the snowflakes, and that truth came to my mind that every one of those flakes is completely different.  They look like they’re similar, but they’re all completely different.  As I was watching the snow accumulate, that reality hit me, that as each one accumulates in the snow it completely disappears.  And the snow is accumulating, but those snowflakes, they look nice for a moment, and then they’re gone.  But they’re part of the whole process.  And God just kind of spoke to my heart.  ‘That’s the heart you need, Bill, just be a snowflake for Christ [laughter], just don’t be a flake, just be a snowflake.’  [laugher]  But you know, let me use you, but disappear, man.  Let me use you in the overall effect of my kingdom growing and increasing, but just disappear, man.’  And I heard my pastor say that many times out west, ‘he didn’t want to leave his thumb-prints, he didn’t want to leave any fingerprints on anything in this ministry, just make Jesus be seen.’  Chuck Smith said “I won’t put my name on anything, you’re not going to find any buildings around here with ‘Chuck Smith’ on it, it’s all Jesus Christ, let’s keep the focus there.”  And that should be the attitude of our hearts.  And so there’s a dying that went on in my heart then.  I left that time going ‘OK Lord, if it’s just radio, I mean it’s a privilege to even use me in that, I’ll do that.  Just to be used, I’ll sit in a little studio in this town, we only know a couple people, no one else even knows us, that’s fine, I’ll do that if it’s what you want me to do.’  But it was just a couple weeks later, the end of February 1995 that the Bible study started on Sunday morning.  Suddenly God just moved it, we started a Bible study, and here we are now seven plus years later.  [Shortly after that I started attending this Bible study.  At first there were only about 12 of us meeting in that tiny moldy radio studio building .  2.5 years later we were meeting in a larger rented building with 125 attending in regular church services.  When this sermon was given in 2003 they had moved to an old mill in the middle of town, signed a lease, fixed it up and now have 400+ members meeting.  That’s what happens when the Lord moves, as we step out of the way, just being a snowflake in his hands.]   So, is my heart “He must increase, I must decrease”?  Is that our heart?  You know, if you’re ministering, and you’re the focus, one way you can tell is people start to cling to you, and they want you to do the ministering, rather than somebody else.  That’s sometimes an indicator that ‘I’m getting in the way here too much, I should be pointing people to Jesus Christ.’  If they start clinging to me, then maybe I’m trying to be their savior rather than pointing them to the Savior, and that is Jesus Christ.  Oswald Chambers said “If my holiness is not drawing others to him, it is not the right kind of holiness.  It is only influence which awakens undo emotions and evil desires in people and diverts them from heading in the right direction.  A person who is a beautiful saint can be a hindrance in leading people to the Lord by presenting only what Christ has done for him, instead of presenting Jesus Christ himself.  Others will be left with this thought, ‘What a fine person that man is’, and if people need us, and that’s what their opinion is, ‘What a fine person that person is’ rather than ‘you know, Jesus, this guy talked about Jesus, this gal talked a lot about Jesus.  You know, Jesus, what about Jesus.’”  Another said, “God loves to see me not his servant but himself who serves all.”  So does he look and does he see himself in you?  Franklin said “The most acceptable service of God is doing God to man.”  That’s the most acceptable service, working and presenting Jesus Christ, letting God work through you.  So our prayer, our prayer should be, “Lord, do what only you can do, so no man can take the glory for what your great and mighty hand has done.”   [I think of my first pastor and what he taught us.  He said the greatest miracle of God wasn’t the physical creation of the heavens and earth, but the creation of born-again believers, the power of God opening one carnal, deceived mind to the truth of God.  Churches grow by the divine calling power of God’s Holy Spirit doing only what God can do.  All our human efforts at evangelism, without God, will amount to nothing.  We have to step out of the way and let God do only what God can do.  Another comment:  As this evil age of man draws to a close, we will find our true Christian ministries being shut down---we will be forced to “diminish”.  Don’t be discouraged when this “famine of the Word” begins to occur.  Jesus Christ’s 2nd coming is very near.  He is about to increase in the sight of man, as he returns in his full brilliance, brighter than the sun.  Our John the Baptist works are to herald the Lord’s soon coming and herald the gospel of salvation he tried to teach Nicodemus (Matthew 24:14; 28:18-20).  Jesus will let us know when we are finished, when he allows us to be diminished completely.]


6.  Last point:  Do I see the difference between Jesus who came from heaven, and myself, a mere human?


Let’s read to the end of the chapter and we’ll make a concluding point or two.  Verses 31-36, “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.  And what he has seen and heard, that he testifies and no one receives his testimony.  He who has received his testimony has certified that God is true.  For he who God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure.  The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into his hand.  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.”  So the last point, John had another perspective, here’s the question.  The last thing to measure my heart by.  Do I see clearly the awesome difference between Christ himself and a mere earthly person, a mere earthly human, myself?  Do I see the difference between Jesus, he came from heaven, and myself, just a person, an earthly human?  That’s what he’s saying here in verse 31.  He says ‘He who comes from heaven is above all, Jesus has come from heaven.’  So naturally, he gets all the glory.  Naturally, his ministry, his influence should be the greatest.  I’m just a little old man.  The best I can do is, you know, be used on one level.  But he is the Son of God.  ‘He who is earthly speaks of the earth, but he who is from above sees and speaks from that perspective.’  So he understood the real deal.  He understood where the power came from, and that is what his perspective is.  So naturally he was willing to decrease, and let Jesus increase.  And the same will be true in your life, and the same will be true in my life.  The more I see Jesus for who he is, the more I just want to get out of the way.  Why would I possibly want to be in the way?  Why would I possibly want to present myself, my own intuition, my own abilities, my own reasonings to others, when Jesus Christ himself, the Son of God wants to minister through me?  Drastically different.  I can maybe say something witty, I maybe can do a little tap dance, but Jesus can work through me with power, and he can melt a heart, he can make a lasting impact, he can transform a mind.  So why would I want to get in the way?  That’s what a servants attitude should be.  Jesus, you know, get me out of the way.  And sometimes he’ll get you out of the way.  You know you’ll get up on Sunday [or Saturday] morning, and you’ll just stumble through the message.  You’re like, ‘Bum deal, that was embarrassing.’  God will say ‘I got you out of the way,  [chuckles] so I could work, because Scriptures went forth, and people were sitting there, and truth hit their mind, and I began to work in their hearts.’  So, well, he says ‘What Jesus has seen and heard, that he testifies, and no one receives his testimony.’  Sadly, that’s true in many, many instances.  So “He who has received his testimony has certified that God is true.”   When somebody hears the words of Jesus Christ, and responds to that, he is then saying, ‘Yes, I do believe that God is true, and I receive his Word, and now I respond to his Word and I obey his Word.’  “For whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure.”  John the Baptist knew and understood that as the Son of God, the Spirit was upon him in fullness without any hindrance, the full deal.  And nobody has really had that experience of having the Holy Spirit, the full, complete fullness in that sense, in the sense of what he’s referring to here---that Jesus, God the Son had the full measure of the Holy Spirit, and without any limitation whatsoever.  “The Father loves the Son, and has given all things into his hand.”  And it’s fitting that we end with verse 36, because maybe some of us are here for just this verse this morning.  “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life,”---it’s that simple, if you believe in Jesus, you put your faith in him, the Bible says you’ll have everlasting life, life that starts in the here and now, and life that will continue from this point on [into eternity].  But there’s no neutrality with Jesus---“but he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”  It’s not just an option, ‘Well, I can go there or I can stay here, and here isn’t so bad.  If you chose not to, “he who does not believe the Son shall not see life”, and not only that, “but the wrath of God abides on him.”  John, the apostle John, doesn’t use that word “wrath” too often.  In fact, this is the only time he uses it in the Gospels.  And then it comes up a number of times as he writes the book of Revelation.  [But remember, the book of Revelation is the direct revelation of Jesus Christ, given to John in vision.  It was not Johns words, even, but direct revelation from Jesus.]  And that word “wrath”, it comes up six times in the book of Revelation.  And if you want to understand what that wrath is, you go to the book of Revelation, and you see that the wrath is that God is a righteous God who will one day completely destroy sin, and destroy everything.  And what will remain is that which is in Christ, that which has been perfected and is in Christ, and has been covered in his blood.  So, verse 36, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life.”


Are you worthy of being saved?


 But there is a question for those of us that are saved here today, for those of us who have Jesus in our hearts [by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit].  You’re saved, I guess you could ask the question ‘Are you worthy of being saved?  Are you worth being saved?’  And here’s a story, Bishop Moore tells a story of a little boy who was swimming one day in a lake when suddenly he suffered some type of physical difficulty and could swim no farther.  The boy struggled for his life, he had gone under twice when he felt the strong arm of a man lifting him.  The man had seen little boy’s desperate plight and had swum out to save him.  The man took the boy safely to shore, and after making certain that everything was well, turned to leave.  The little boy said ‘Thank you sir for saving my life.’  The man replied ‘You’re welcome son, see to it that you are worth saving.’”  Bishop Moore said he has never forgotten those words, for he was that boy whose life was saved by a man who didn’t even leave his name.  A good question for the Christian to ask is “Am I worth saving?”  God in Christ has made a large investment in the life of each of us, and he has every right to expect a return on his investment.  [cf. see the parable of the pounds.]  So as we read about a servant, a servants heart, in fact, as we have been saved, our natural response should be ‘God, you’ve saved me.  I all the more should live for you, and live a life that is pleasing to you.’


Summary of points


So, six ways to measure a servants heart.  1. Am I discouraged by others successes?  2. Do I live knowing where true goodness and power comes from?  3. Is my speech consumed with myself, or with Christ?  4. Is my joy, satisfaction based simply on knowing and hearing Jesus?   5. Is my heart “He must increase, I must decrease”?  6. And do I see clearly the awesome difference between Christ himself and me, just an earthly person?  Let’s close in prayer….[transcript of John 3:22-36, from a sermon given somewhere in New England.]

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