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John part ten

John 3:23-30

An English judge & politician, John Selden once wrote:
“Humility is a virtue that all men preach, that none practice and everybody wants to hear about.”
Today we’re going to look @ a man who exemplified humility, John the Baptist.

We know that is important to be humble & we can say the all the right things to make people think we are humble, but there are times when we realize that we don’t really mean it when we say things that are humble.
Humility is an important & desirable characteristic…
It is a godly virtue…
It is something we love to see in others, but something we don’t always like to practice.
Humility is the opposite of pride…
And while it is easy to possess pride, humility is hard to obtain…

St. Augustine said: “It was pride that caused the fall of humankind. If you ask me what are the ways of God, I would tell you that the 1st is humility, the 2nd is humility, and the 3rd is humility.”

         Would you agree that when people talk about humility, they are often talking about how someone lacks humility, rather than they possess it?
A genuinely humble person doesn’t draw the attention of others, so we tend to overlook that quality in others.

Sometimes we don’t notice humility in others because it just isn’t there!
Sometimes we don’t notice humility because a humble person doesn’t seek attention or “the spotlight”.
         After Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, the focus shifts to John the Baptist.
If you recall from earlier in our series, God sent John the Baptist to tell people about Jesus before Jesus began His ministry.
JTB was to prepare the way for Jesus.
         But, in this passage, Jesus’ ministry is growing as more & more people follow Him.
And naturally, as Jesus’ crowds get larger, JTB’s crowds get smaller.
And an argument starts between the followers of JTB & the Jewish leaders about baptism.
And then one of JTB’s disciples comes to him & complains that Jesus is baptizing also.
I think this dude is a little hot under the collar because he doesn’t even use Jesus’ name & everyone knew who he was talking about…

And you know he is jealous because he exaggerates when he says that “everyone is going to Him instead of coming to us.”

         This guy is saying ‘our numbers are down… our budget is down… the sky is falling… you’d better do something about this!’
John the Baptist handled the situation with humility…
He said that his calling was from God.
John 3:27 “John replied, ‘No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven.” (NLT)
John the Baptist clarified his role on team Jesus…
JTB knew his role!
And he deflected praise to God…
You know, when some people are praised or complimented for something they have done, they just say, “It was nothing”.
They might say, “It was nothing” and belittle their actions or they may belittle themselves.
There may be some truth in considering ourselves or our actions to be “nothing”, but it is at best only ½ of the truth.
The other half, the more important half, is this: we need to give credit to the One who alone deserves the credit… and that is to God.
In fact, all of our praise in church and in life should be to God, for without Him, we truly are nothing.
When Jesus did many great things, who did He tell the people to praise? The Father!
Jesus never wanted people to go around praising Him… that is genuine humility.
When the Apostle Paul did wonderful things, he always gave God the credit for what was done.
Paul admitted his weaknesses, but he also acknowledged God’s strength.
In his mind, the 2 went together (II Corinthians 12:10).
We are weak, God is strong.
Genuine humility will admit both, but its greatest desire is that God will get all of the credit!
And here, JTB gives credit to God for his ministry & his role.
And he also reminds his followers that he had always said he was not the messiah

John 3:28 “You yourselves know how plainly I told you, ‘I am not the Messiah. I am only here to prepare the way for Him.’” (NLT)
Sometimes we get into trouble when someone tells us who they think we should be & if we’re not careful…
We can fall into that trap of becoming who others want us to be.
John says he wasn’t anyone other than who he said he was.
He was the one who tried to point people to Jesus.
John knew who he was not & he knew who he was… v.28b
How many people do you know who are trying to be something they are not?
Those people are often frustrated because they’ll never get there.
You know, a great by-product of humility is that it frees us to be who we truly are meant to be…
Humility frees us up to be who God created us to be…
And, the practice of humility will make our lives and relationships so much easier and so much better…
And it will make our witness & example so much more Christ-like & appealing to a watching world…
JTB never had to pretend to be something he was not.
Humility freed him up to be who God made him to be & what God had called him to be.
Have you experienced this freedom to be who God made you to be & to do what God has called you to be?
I hope so, because it is a miserable existence to try to be something you are not…
And there is no greater joy than doing what God has called you to do.

JTB gave them a picture…
John 3:29 “It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the best man is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at His success.” (NLT)
This doesn’t make a lot of sense to us, but it would have made perfect sense to the average Jew.
JTB is using a Jewish wedding to explain his role.
The best man had a special role in the wedding.
His job was to conclude the ceremony by taking the bride by the hand & bringing her to the groom & placing her hand in the hand of the groom.
And then the best man would fade out of the picture.
Today, the Father of the bride has this responsibility.
The Father of the bride takes his daughter’s hand & places it in the hand of the groom & is essentially saying, “I have handed this woman over to this man… you are now to be the object of her devotion and love and from this moment on, I willingly accept a minor place in her life.”
Many fathers recognize the meaning of this & that is why there are often tears before the service starts or during this part of the wedding ceremony.
         So, let’s figure out the roles in what JTB is saying…
The bridegroom is Jesus… that is consistent throughout the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.
Normally, the bride is the church, but in this story, the bride is Israel… the Jewish people.
And who is the best man?
JTB.
You see, it was JTB’s role to bring the bride, Israel, to Jesus.
And that is what JTB has been consistently doing… pointing people to Jesus.
“Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world…”
His whole purpose was to tell the Jews that their Messiah had come.
And when John says “…the best man is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success.”
You have to understand that the groom was not allowed to speak a word until the hand of the bride has been put in His hand & then the wedding had concluded & the best man had completed his job.

So, JTB is saying that when he heard Jesus’ voice, he knew his job was done.
And JTB says that he has joy… he had done what was asked of him.
He has joy because people were leaving him & following Jesus.
As the best man, he had led the Jews to Jesus…
& now that Jesus was speaking, his job was done…
But his followers didn’t understand this at all…
they thought people leaving JTB to follow Jesus was a sign of failure.
JTB says no! no! This is a sign of success!
I’ve been trying to get the bride & the groom together & now it is happening.
John is happy that he has lost his congregation!
Imagine that!
I think that’s why we have to be careful when we use the world’s standards to judge the success or failure of our lives or for that matter the church…
That’s why I love one of the phrases my mentor Roy Lauter always used to say:
“The scales of this world are okay for weighing pig iron or manure, but not for weighing the things of real value.”
         JTB is telling us, you don’t have to be #1 to be happy…
When God gives us a job to do & we do it, we can be happy even if no one else knows we have done what God has asked us to do.
Dan & Hope Owsely serve faithfully in Brazil doing the job God has given them.
And you can tell they have joy by fulfilling God’s call even though none of us really know the sacrifices they have made to serve the Lord.
And we can have that joy from serving too…
Next we find the secret of JTB’s success…
John 3:30 “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (NKJV)
Shouldn’t this be the goal of all of our lives?
That Jesus would be magnified in us!
That we would not be caught up in what others think of us…
That we would not get caught up in trying to be #1…
It is not the prominence of our position, but in the performance of our task.
God doesn’t care if you can’t preach like Charles Stanley… He probably hasn’t called you to that… but if He has called you to that, you’d better get on it.
God doesn’t care if you can’t speak Portuguese & minister to Brazilians… He probably hasn’t called you to that… but if He has called you to that, you’d better get on with it.
But He has called you to something…
Ask God to show you what to do & then do it with all of your heart & to the best of your ability…
God will be pleased & you will have joy.

John 3:30 “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (NKJV)
You know, humility is not the same as low self-esteem…
As C.S. Lewis wrote:
Humility does not mean that we think less of ourselves, it means that we think of ourselves less.
The humble person considers others as more important and tries to lift them up.
It is fulfilling Jesus’ command to love our neighbor as ourselves.
A humble person has a desire to treat others better than you would yourself because you’re following Jesus’ command.
We don’t humble ourselves because we want to impress God, but because His love is in us… & we want to follow Jesus’ example of humility…
And at Christmas we celebrate Jesus example of humility…
The King of Glory… the King of Heaven humbled Himself & came to earth to be born in a barn…
He left the riches of heaven to be a poor carpenter…
He humbled Himself to come to us to show us what He is like…
And He humbled Himself as part of a greater plan of love to pardon our sin…
And Jesus was willing to humble Himself to the point of death… death on a cross…
Jesus made His way to Calvary… carrying your cross and mine…
And upon the cross, He forgave those who didn’t know what they were doing…
He forgave the truly guilty criminal who was crucified next to Him…
And in one humble act, the blood He shed covers our sin…
Do you see it?
The only man who ever had a right to be self-centered and selfish was Jesus…
But He chose not to be…
God with “skin on”… chose to be selfless…
He chose to be humble…
He chose to live for God the Father…
He chose to die not only on a cruel cross… but He chose to die to His own ways and to live for the will of His heavenly Father…
And Jesus’ method of reaching the world through you and me is the same as the Heavenly Father used to reach us through Christ…
Self-sacrificing love…
Total selflessness…
Total humility…
That’s genuine humility…
Something far too many people are not seeing and experiencing enough from those of us who follow Christ…
Let us strive for genuine humility…
And when we make humility a part of our lives, let us give God the praise & glory.
For it is because of Him that humility is even possible…
I believe the Lord is calling all of us to a life of selflessness…
A life of humility…
A life of giving ourselves away in love & service to God & then to all others.
That is a transformed life… changed from the inside out…
We must give ourselves to God once & then continually…
         It is like being married…
You give yourself to the other on your wedding day & yet…
Marriage is a continuous process of mutual self-giving…
That selfless lifestyle is what Jesus has called us to…
A life of genuine humility…
         And what does this lifestyle of genuine humility look like?
There is much more to genuine humility, but here is a start…
The humble person will not be upset if he/she is overlooked or not
recognized.
The humble person doesn’t care if others get the credit for their work…
The humble person doesn’t fish for compliments…
The humble person has no problem accepting his/her need for help from God or from others…
The humble person knows his/her limitations & weaknesses & acts accordingly…
The humble person will not have a problem accepting criticism or compliments from others…
The humble person will readily & willingly admit when they are wrong… ouch!
The humble person does not have a problem asking for forgiveness…
The humble person grants forgiveness to others because he/she knows they have also wronged others at times…
The humble person will always seek to improve & grow in maturity…
And, the humble person will not be concerned about his/her image before others.

St. Thomas Aquinas, said that humility means seeing ourselves as God sees us. Humility means knowing that every good we have comes from God as pure, that we depend on him for everything.

St. Therese of Lisieux, writes: “The beginning of all holiness is humbly admitting that without God we can do nothing, but that with, in, and through him…everything is possible.”

So, Family of faith…let’s practice humility, and be free from the anger or discouragement we feel when we are overlooked or slighted in some way.
Let’s regularly pray for the grace of humility and be grateful for even the difficult times that come our way to practice it.
You may be asking…”How do I know that I have given myself to God in this way?”
Dear ones, just silence your heart before God…
And see if anything arises to the surface of your mind that you have not surrendered to Him…
If anything prideful or proud is shown to you by the Holy Spirit of God…
Then it belongs to the Lordship of Jesus…
Just surrender it and He will fill you with more of Himself…
All of me for all of Him… and all of Him for all of me…
E. Stanley Jones calls it The great exchange…
He gave His all for me…
And now I have to choose to give all of myself to Him.
He can’t give His all to me if I haven’t given all of myself to Him.
I must choose to deny myself…
Choose to give up my will… and pick up my cross…
Humbly walking with our Lord daily… that is genuine humility.
         So, that I can say with JTB… “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (v.30)

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