John 3:25-30, NIV

25 An argument developed between some of John's disciples
and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing.
26 They came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, that man who
was with you on the other side of the Jordan--the one you
testified about--well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going
to him."

27 To this John replied, "A man can receive only what is given
him from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said,
'I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.' 29 The bride
belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the
bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when
he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is
now complete.
30 He must become greater; I must become
less."


 

December 21, 2010
Someone tried to stir up trouble. An argument developed. As though
it was time to debate the pros and cons, the ins and outs, ups and
downs, of all this God-centered activity along the Jordan River.
"John, that other guy is gaining more popularity than you are; you
better do something about that!"

In response, John the Baptist sounds so sure of himself. If it were
the Gospel writer, John, doing the talking I could better understand
the confidence. He had the benefit of living and working with Jesus
for three years before Jesus was crucified. He saw the risen Lord,
and his ascension. After that the disciple/apostle had many more
years for his beliefs about Jesus to be solidified and confirmed
by other believers. But what did John the Baptist have?

What has Jesus done up to this point which would have made
John the Baptist such a firm believer? He didn't seem to need
additional evidence. When he baptized Jesus, John saw "the Spirit
come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him." He
heard a voice assuring him this was the promised one, the Son
of God who would baptize with the Holy Spirit.

John the Baptist, more than anyone else, seems to grasp the
greatness surrounding the birth and life's work of Jesus. His
understanding of Jesus probably developed and grew from the
re-telling of the supernatural circumstances involving his own
birth, and in the resulting expectations of John's parents.

John fully understood and accepted his role as the forerunner
of God's anointed one. He was the groomsman, not the groom.
The perfect groomsman whose joy was equal to the groom's!
He naturally bowed, and with a swoop of the hand, fastened
all eyes on the main event, Jesus - Immanuel, God with us.
    

                                                                More journal entries


August 12 1982
It was bound to happen. Things can't run smoothly for very long.
John and Jesus plus their disciples--all sharing the same river, all
baptizing and preaching repentance and the kingdom of God.
Into this blessed experience of unity, someone raised a question
which started some trouble and stirred up these peaceful waters.
The question created discontent and jealousy, and appealed
to the pride of John and his disciples..

Which is more natural--peace or strife? The questioner was
agitating for strife, may have been looking to create some
excitement. Just touch John's pride and see what happens.


August 13 1982
Some who had been baptized by John are disturbed because
now it's the "in thing" to be baptized by someone else, Jesus of
Nazareth. Their charismatic preacher is beginning to lose his
clout. And that makes them unhappy, others might think them
silly, gullible or that they had acted with too much haste. Everyone
wants to be on the winning side.

The whole matter of being cleansed--what does it all mean? It's
not answered here in this passage, but Jesus refers and returns
to that subject often.

The greater mission of Jesus was to baptize with the Holy Spirit
of God. I heard a sermon by Myron Augsburger just the other night
at the Mt. Gretna Campmeeting Tabernacle. In it he said: The sign
of the Holy Spirit is love, love that is joyous, peaceful, patient, kindly, generous, faithful, gentle, self-controlled.

Joy is the sign of love.
Peace is the state of love.
Patience is the expression of love.
Self-control is the restraint of love.   (He went all through the
fruit of the spirit mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23, but I couldn't
write fast enough to note them all.)

The concluding benediction included these thoughts: Long for God
in your seeking and seek God in your longing. Find God in your
loving and love God in your finding.

 

August 18 1982
Who should I learn from and identify with in this passage, John
or Jesus?
John--who was wise and big enough to let Jesus become
greater than he.
Or Jesus--who kept moving on, not conforming
to please people, but ever growing and changing in his ministry
and persevering in doing his Father's will. 
Accepting life when its
good; but not staying there. He didn't allow success to build a
cage around him, to make him its captive.

The Jews were saying, "John, you shouldn't allow this man to
copy you. He's becoming more popular than you are. That's bad
news for you."

But to John, Jesus was good news. How not-normal! For John,
preaching the kingdom went beyond personal ambition, pride
and self-advancement. His motives, when tested, were pure. Wholly
for the Other, not for self. When John heard the voice of Jesus, he
recognized it as the Word sent from God and it filled him with joy.

A kingdom man is humble because his own pride and reputation
is not at stake. He bears witness to God alone--not to his own
cleverness or ability or knowledge or special brand of 'the truth'.
He can accept his own decline because he lives in God's presence
and sees God's hand in all things working out His will, and its OK.
John exhibited this attitude: I do the best I can, keeping my side
of the Covenant, practicing the disciplines necessary to live in
God's presence, exercising the gifts he gives me, and the rest, the
results, is up to Him. That's a beautiful message from a truly
great man.--No wonder Jesus referred to him as the greatest
in the kingdom of heaven.


August 19 1982
John, referring to Jesus' ministry of preaching and baptizing--
A man can receive nothing at all, unless it is given him from heaven.
True in God's eyes, but not in man's eyes. There are a lot of
self-made success stories. Even professional clergy can do mighty
works, great things in God's name (Matt 7:22) without being a part
of the kingdom. Just as it rains on the just and the unjust, so
success comes to the just and the unjust--in the Church as well
as in society as a whole.

To you, my questioner, my life appears on the decline and you
think I should cling to my position and defend it. I choose not to
fight, but to accept that my mission must phase out so Jesus'
mission can take root and grow. I must move over and give him t
he space to surpass me and soar.

How could John see things so clearly? It must have been that he
sat in the presence of God, in study, prayer and meditation, for
so many years. How can John be so devoid of pride and personal
ambition? Probably the same reason he could see so clearly.

Based on his own life experience, John believed a man could do
nothing unless enabled to do so by God. That's how he lived--
simply, and in faith. Strength comes from God as does all wisdom, knowledge, truth, skills, gifts, abilities. Life apart from God was
unthinkable to him. That's not the typical way of thinking. I can
remember years of my life when God didn't enter my thoughts
from one Sunday to the next. We labelled it practical atheism, or
living as though God didn't exist. I wouldn't own up to it, but
the label fit
pretty well.


August 21, 1982
On the banks of the Jordan River, John's happiness was complete.
There was nowhere else he would rather be than out there in that
wilderness preaching and baptizing. Doing that for which God
had equipped him, to which he was
called. That's why
imprisonment was such a trauma and tested his faith so severely.

John was intent on completing his mission and fulfilling the purpose
of his life, not realizing that this completion would mean his death! Restrained and in prison, he lost it, although he was still within
God's will. In confinement he was targeted with attitudes and actions
which didn't seem as though they came from heaven. He learned
some people received strength from the devil. They took God's
good gift of life and created hell out of it, especially for their enemies.


August 22, 1982
I need a word of Scripture to ponder during the day. What is the
word from God for me today? He must increase. He must gain top
priority, not in words but in reality. And as He increases in my
spirit, I will gain accordingly.


November 24, 2001

This section is about baptism and controversy and contains a
long quote. John was the Baptist; Jesus was God's one and only
Son. Both were secure in their identities and there was no conflict
between them. The conflict was with those around them. Some
who came to John for baptism felt threatened because now
more people were going to Jesus. A good thing was turning sour.


November 26, 2001

This is a case study on how to phase out and let another succeed
you. John is very gracious and does not cling to past glory. John
did his job as he understood it and did not envy Jesus who
received the greater role. God gifted me to be the fore runner.
Now that the One from above is here, I am the groomsman but
he is the one who gets the bride. I look on and am happy, full of
joy for the groom. He will increase; I will decrease.

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