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HE MUST INCREASE, #19

"He must increase, but I must decrease." (JOH 3:30)

The central theme that we find in JOH 3:22-36 is found in the words of our text, "He must increase, but I must decrease." The spiritual state of the church under Judaism at the time of Christ’s ministry was well described by the prophet in ISA 60:2-3, "For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth…." He is referring to spiritual darkness. This is teaching us is that at the time of the coming of Christ both the world and the church, the Israel of God, would be in a state of spiritual darkness.

"For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. [The prophecy of Christ: that light will be risen upon thee.] And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising."

As we see the world ripening for the Second Coming of Christ, we see history repeating itself. We see the darkness that has come upon the world in a spiritual sense. All the darkness is centered in one major problem, and that is the doctrine of the Pharisees. The "leaven of the Pharisees," or we’ll say, this "puffing up," in religion. Everybody aspires to be important, and if you’re going to talk about something, you expect to receive recognition. You have to remember to recognize this author, to give attribution to that man, and if you read the Bible, which apostle said this and which apostle said that: the eyes are always upon a man.

The problem was that they never understood what the Lord Jesus said, "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up." (JOH 3:14) How was that serpent lifted up? Those who looked unto that brazen serpent lived. There is death in anything outside of Christ, and those who look unto Christ live.

It doesn’t make any difference what keeps our eyes off Christ, even John the Baptist,

the very forerunner of Christ can be raised up above Christ in the minds of men.

This state of "gross darkness" which covered the Jews is so evident from the way JOH 3:22-36 begins. It says, "After these things." After what things? After Nicodemus, the ruler of the Jews, had come to Jesus by night to seek the knowledge of the way of salvation. Jesus had just told him that except a man be born again, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. He had just told him what it was to be born again: to be born of water and of the Spirit (of the Word - the washing of the water of the Word - and the washing of regeneration of the Holy Spirit). "Except ye be born" in this manner you cannot enter the kingdom.

After Jesus had taught all these things, He pointed out that He must be lifted up as the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness. He pointed out that in the way of obedience - as they obeyed - the miracle of regeneration took place. If they refused to obey, if they refused to look to Him, they died. It is in the way of obedience that the miracle of regeneration takes place. We obey, and as we obey, the miracle is performed.

"After these things" includes how the Lord Jesus had told Nicodemus that the Son of Man must be "lifted up: That whosoever believeth…should not perish, but have eternal life." (JOH 3:14-15) It was after He had told him that "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth…should not perish, but have everlasting life." (JOH 3:16) It was after He had so clearly explained what it meant to believe.

See how beautifully the Lord Jesus follows the command to believe with such a perfect illustration of what it means to believe. "For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned [he won’t come under this condemnation] but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (JOH 3:17-18)

Watch the beautiful distinction that Christ now places between those who believe and those who believe not (verse 19): "And this is the condemnation," those who believe not are under this condemnation. Examine your heart.

Here’s how you distinguish between believer and nonbeliever. Christ set it out so beautifully. "He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already…And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light." (JOH 3:18-20a)

Has your heart been washed by the regeneration of the Holy Ghost? Have you been cleansed by the washing of the water of the Word? Then you won’t love sin. He that "hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved." (JOH 3:20b) He gives the definition of those who believe (verse 21): "But he that doeth truth cometh to the light." See the obedience.

Jesus had just taught so earnestly the need of the new birth, and now "After these things" this draws our attention to three misconceptions about religion held by the Jews.

First, the Jews were still preoccupied and puffed up with the externals of their own man-made, ritualistic religion. They still did not understand the simplicity of the gospel. They strove, with John’s disciples, about Jewish purification.

 

"Then there arose a question between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purifying." (JOH 3:25) This purification is described in MAR 7:3-4, "For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables."

This is what they called purification. They still did not understand the washing of the water of the Word and washing of regeneration of the Holy Spirit. "After these things," after Jesus had so clearly taught these things, they were still striving with John’s disciples about the purifying of the Jews.

Second, the Jews attempted to gratify their envy of Christ (over the multitude that came to Him) by inciting the jealousy of John the Baptist, which prompted him to say, "He must increase, but I must decrease." (JOH 3:30) In order to accomplish their goal to defeat the Lord Jesus Christ, they tried to cause contention between John and Jesus.

JOH 3:26 says, "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." Thus they tried to promote jealousy. They tried to get John to come against Jesus.

Third, the heart and conscience of these Jews was not cleansed by the washing of regeneration of the Holy Spirit because they remained under the condemnation of unbelief. Their hearts were still filled with evil thoughts; therefore, they would not come to the light of the Word. JOH 3:32 says, "And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony." What the Lord Jesus Christ has heard and seen from the Father of life, He testifies to, "and no man receiveth his testimony." They remained under the condemnation of unbelief. They refused to hear.

Their actions were such a positive indication of their unbelieving heart. Many people will ask, "Do I have grace? Do I have salvation? Have I been converted?" If you have any sight at all, you can tell whether it’s day or night. If you can tell whether it’s pitch dark or the bright sun is shining in the heavens – if you can distinguish between those two – you should be able to distinguish between life and death. Jesus explained it so beautifully. Do you come to the light? Do you come to the Word to see if your heart has any uncleanness that needs to be washed out? Is it your desire to come to the light or is the light your condemnation? Do you flee from the light because it reproves you for your evil deeds and your love of those evil deeds?

Their actions indicate the unbelief in the heart of the Jews. The Lord Jesus says that you know them by their fruits. I don’t have to tell you whether or not I love the Lord. I don’t have to make a big profession and say that I believe, that I have accepted Jesus. My attitudes and actions speak much louder than all my professions put together. What is the nature of my conversation? What does my heart dwell upon? What are my actions? The actions of the Jews spoke so loudly that you didn’t have to ask them whether or not they believed.

John the Baptist rebuked the diabolical attempt to stir contention and jealousy in his heart, saying, "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." (JOH 3:31-32)

John was taking their eyes off of him and telling them to look unto Jesus. He said that what Jesus had heard and seen from the Father was what He testified, and that’s why all men came unto Him. "He must increase, but I must decrease." John the Baptist mission was not to capture and hold the audience as a powerful preacher but to get people to turn and look unto Christ, not unto himself.

In context with JOH 4:2, verse 22 says, "and there he tarried with them, and baptized." It is speaking about Jesus and His disciples. Look at JOH 4:2. "(Though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples)." It was His disciples that were baptizing, yet verse 22 alone would give the impression that Jesus Himself was baptizing.

What does this teach us? It teaches us the principle that whatever is done by Christ’s sent servants-indeed, all that is done upon the authority of His Word, is done by Christ Himself. I’ll give you another passage of Scripture to confirm this. If I am preaching to you the authority of the Word of God, it is not Ralph Bouma that is speaking to you this morning. It is Christ in person. Christ is the Word of God. "Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God." (2CO 5:20)

God is speaking to you through His Word. The authority is in the Word, not in the man. This is what is so important that you and I learn to understand: that the man is but a voice, crying in the wilderness. A voice is nothing to be seen. John declared himself to be: nothing more than a voice crying in the wilderness, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord."

The place where John was baptizing, when these Jews strove to fill his heart with jealousy and contention, is also very significant. Where was John the Baptist when the Jews came to try to get him all upset and stirred up with jealousy and contention? JOH 3:23 says, "And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized."

What does that tell you? When you learn to understand the true meaning of a couple of those words, it tells you much about where he was in such a time. The word Salim means cannot be shaken, or stirred up, or it means perfect peace. John was in a place where he could not be shaken or stirred up. These Jews came there to stir him up, and he was at the place of peace. This tells us that God had prepared him. How would he come to such a place of perfect peace? He tells us that as we follow along.

John was baptizing at Aenon, "because there was much water there." This teaches us a very important principle also. The word Aenon signifies the place of springs. "There was much water there." He was not at the River Jordan now. These water springs were furnishing "much water."

That tells us the same principle that we learn in JOH 2:6-7. We have these waterpots, which were for the purifying of the Jews. What did Jesus do in the beginning of miracles? Jesus did not make a command and say, "Water turn to wine!" The Lord did not perform the miracle in a conspicuous way. It was as the servants obeyed that the miracle was performed.

"And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece [the Jews did not understand the washing of regeneration by the Spirit of the Word of God]. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim." (JOH 2:6-7)

What was that water? It was the symbol of the washing of the water of the Word. These waterpots were standing there for the purifying of the Jews; they contained a couple of firkins of water, and the Jews would come and wash their hands and pots and do their "purification." The Lord Jesus said to fill them up to the brim. The servants filled them up to the brim, and as they obeyed, the miracle was performed, because in the next verse Jesus says, "bear unto the governor," and it was wine. The miracle was performed as they obeyed, and this is how the work of regeneration works. The water became wine, a symbol of rejoicing.

John’s ministry began in the "wilderness of Judaea," in the dry and the thirsty land, in the place where no water was and "in the region round about Jordan." (MAT 3:1-5_ The only water was in the river, the River Jordan, and Jordan is a type of death. That’s where his ministry began. He bore faithful witness of the Lord Jesus Christ, and His ministry now became a place of "springs." As his ministry went forth, and as he proclaimed the gospel, his ministry became springs of water springing up in a dry and a thirsty land. It became a place of peace. It became a place of settled foundation, a place that could not be shaken up, where you could become stable and firm on your feet. You could come to perfect peace. It became a place of refreshment and peace.

JOH 3:22 says, "After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea;

and there he tarried with them, and baptized." Our Saviour had just finished speaking to Nicodemus, teaching him the need to look to Him. I want you to understand this teaching: look unto Jesus and you shall live. "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up." (JOH 3:14) As the serpent in the wilderness was lifted up, the command was that whosoever had been bitten and looked unto that serpent would live. In the way of obedience, the miracle was performed: they lived in the way of obedience, as they heard and were persuaded.

Do you know what the word faith really means? "Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the Word of God." (ROM 10:17) The word faith means persuaded, convinced. As we become convinced, we begin to obey, and as we obey, the miracle of regeneration is performed.

When the Jews came to John to work discord and discontent, John knew there was only one way to persuade them. By the hearing of the Word! There was only one way to persuade them to believe, and that was to direct their eyes away from all their externals of religion unto Christ.

See how John strove to accomplish this, by taking their eyes off of himself and fixing them on Christ. "John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. [See how John reasons, using the logic of looking away from him unto Christ.] Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him." (JOH 3:27-28) I must decrease, but He must increase. Look away from me, and look unto the True Light. "Ye yourselves bear me witness."

Now watch verse 29. See how he so blessedly sets forth the beauty that there is in Jesus: "He that hath the bride is the bridegroom." What they’re saying to him is that all people are coming to Jesus instead of to John, and he uses that very contention to argue that He that has the bride is the Bridegroom. I’m not the Bridegroom: He is the Bridegroom.

"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." (JOH 3:29) He’s pointing out to the Jews and the Pharisees that his joy is fulfilled in hearing the voice of the blessed Bridegroom. Hearing my voice is nothing; hearing His voice we have joy, and my joy is therefore fulfilled.

See how you and I decrease and Christ increases as we stand and hear His voice. How our joy is fulfilled if our ears are opened to truly hear the words of Christ, that we may hear them and do them! Look how our joy will increase. Our normal selves become dissolved in our adoration of Him. John the Baptist says, he "which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled." That’s how He increases and I decrease, because I become totally dissolved in the joy that there is in the Lord Jesus Christ. The man and flesh become absolutely nothing.

We become unconditionally surrendered, totally dissolved in the joy that there is in Christ, and that takes us back to the beginning of miracles. The water was turned into wine, the symbol of joy and rejoicing. As we hear his voice, our hearts are filled with the joy of His salvation; then we become free from all the powers of sin and Satan - all of this puffing up of the Pharisees and all their religion. We become delivered from that pride, which is in you and me by nature.

In a further effort to persuade them, John attempts to direct their eyes to that Heavenly Bridegroom, and to take their eyes off of his calling. Do you know how devastating it is when Satan can get you and me to worship a man because of his calling, because of his credentials, or because he is prominent?

I remember, a man told me that a certain pastor we were about to have come, had been through the schools of theology and was a Doctor of Divinity. "Don’t you think that should make an ideal preacher?" MAT 11:25 says, "At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." Do we have credentials because of man’s wisdom? The answer is no. Our credentials consist of only one thing: we are the friends of the Bridegroom and we stand and hear His voice. Our credentials have to be centered in seeing that Christ is lifted up, not the man.

"He must increase, but I must decrease." (JOH 3:30) As you and I learn to know what that is, to stand and hear the Bridegroom’s voice, our natures become totally dissolved in His. Then we become nothing, and He becomes everything. The Jews, the scribes, and the Pharisees had absolutely no cloak for their ignorance.

The Pharisees’ doctrine is wrong, yet see how they cherished that doctrine, and how they defended it until every root that doctrine they could cling to had been severed. Why is that true yet today? There is a Pharisee within each of us. It is a natural desire to stand up and be something. Outside the grace of God, we’re neither able nor willing to give it all over and become totally dissolved in the joy of hearing the Bridegroom’s voice. When you and I truly understand that joy, then we’re able to take everything else and put it aside.

Show it to me in the Word of God. You should be able to stop any pastor at any point in his sermon and say, "Read it to me out of the Word of God." If he can’t do it, tell him the only joy to be found is in the voice of the Bridegroom. It’s the voice of the Bridegroom that speaks and fills those fountains, those springs of water, with peace. The springs of water that flow forth with peace for the soul come from the words of Christ Himself: "thus saith the Lord."

Where is our foundation? Where’s our heart, our first love? Is it for the Word of God? Even unto His own disciples, our Saviour pointed out that the love which brings one into the bridechamber comes as a Divine gift from the Father. You and I have nothing to boast of if we can say that we understand and know the love of God: it is only what we have received. "What do you have that you did not receive?" If we have come into the bridechamber where we hear that blessed voice of the Divine Bridegroom, it is a gift of the Father.

The Lord Jesus told His own disciples in MAT 16:13-17, "When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven."

What do you and I have to boast about? Nothing. Do we know what it is to stand and rejoice as we hear the voice of the Bridegroom? Do we know what it is to become totally dissolved in the joy of being a friend of the Bridegroom? Do we have some knowledge of this? If we do, does that mean we can point a finger at a fellow man, as if we stand above him? No. What do you and I have that we did not receive? If we have it, we have received it as a free gift from the Father of Light.

Notice the same principal taught in the case of Lydia. Much has been said about what’s written concerning Lydia. "And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul." (ACT 16:14)

Your heart and my heart are closed, covered, and sealed with blindness – with spiritual deadness – until the Lord opens our hearts. You and I will never rightly understand the Word of God until we hear the Word by faith. ROM 10:17 says, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." It’s not hearing this or that professor, but it is the Word that quickens.

"Whose heart the Lord opened [Notice the word that], that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul." When you examine "that she attended unto" in the original Greek, it means that she observed to do those things which were spoken by Paul. When faith goes into action, we see it. She observed in order to do. The Lord opened her heart "that she attended unto" Paul’s words. As the Lord opened her heart and faith entered, the evidence was that she observed and acted upon those things spoken by Paul.

Is this now a "works" religion? No, works are the outworking and evidence of salvation. They are the fruit of and the vehicle whereby salvation is transferred into our hearts. It is as our works go into action that we see the beginning of life. A dead person has no movement, nor action, but as the Lord quickens, we start seeing movement. What is the movement? We start hearing the voice of the Bridegroom, and that compels us to action. There is the evidence that we have life.

If you’re continuing in sin, if you cannot come to the light because your deeds are evil and the light is your condemnation, don’t claim grace. If you do truth, you’ll come to the light. The Lord says that I’ll be able to see it by your fruit. Lydia "attended unto," those things which were spoken by Paul. What was the result? She and her house were baptized.

These principles teach how the hearts of Christ’s bride are drawn unto Him in adoration. This certainly does not justify the kind of fatalism that allows a person to rest upon the inability to save himself. The Lord opened the heart of Lydia, and Lydia attended unto these things, but the Lord hasn’t opened my heart, so that justifies me in resting on my inability to repent, and in putting all the blame on God because I am living in sin." No. We come into the adoration of Christ by putting into action what He says.

JAM 4:2-3 says, "Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts." Our Saviour reasons thus, using our own logic: "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?" (LUK 11:13) Why is it then that we continue in sin? We have no desire for Christ. We don’t ask for the work of the Spirit in our hearts. JAM 4:3 says, "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts."

There are many who ask, but they want to receive upon their own terms! JOH 3:30 says, "He must increase, but I must decrease." This goes against the natural man’s ways. Therefore as James says, "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts." John the Baptist says that as He increases, we decrease.

The Apostle James goes on to identify the heart problem which is the cause of such a double standard: we want God’s salvation, but we want to be washed and cleansed from sin so that we can love it, cherish it and live in it. The Apostle James reproves this. "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." (JAM 4:4-8)

Do we like friends? Sure, that’s our nature. Who wants to be rejected by all men and put outside of the gate, out of the camp, and bear the reproach of Christ? Our Saviour says, "Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets." (LUK 6:22) That’s against our human nature, but if we’re going to be the friend of the world, we’re the enemy of God!

JAM 4:5 continues, "Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?" Our attitude, our whole spirit that dwells within us, is lusting to envy, to build us up to be something great. Verses 6-8 say, "But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. [We decrease, God increases.] Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you."

Do we have to live fatalistically in our weakness? No! "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you." In the way of obedience the miracle of regeneration is performed. Verse 8 says, "Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you, Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded." ("You double-minded" are those who want to serve both self and God and have a double standard.) He says to cleanse your hearts: "purify your hearts." As the Lord humbles us, we decrease, and He increases. The more Christ increases in our estimation, the more we decrease in our own eyes.

When I was younger, there were certain classes of people that I really didn’t like to identify with. The older I get, the smaller that pile of stones that I have to throw at other people becomes. Sometimes it comes to a point that I have to say before the Lord, "If there’s room for me, then anybody can come in." Now I know there’s room for anybody in His kingdom, because I have learned to see what it means to humble myself before the Lord, to see that I have deserved death, and that if I differ from others, it is only by the grace of God.

When we learn to understand this, the light of the Bridegroom shines in our hearts. Then we see the perfect, white raiment in which He stands before the Father; we see the filthy garment that we are in by nature. The thought that He would remove our filthy garments and clothe us in His white raiment should move each of us to consider, if He is that gracious to me, then who is there left that He couldn’t cleanse?

The Lord has left the gate open wide enough that the greatest of sinners can come in, yet it is so narrow that the slightest sin cannot enter. That’s why we have to keep decreasing in ourselves. We need that stripping process. Everything of self, everything of our pride, everything that’s from the old nature-all of this lusting to envy, and all of these things that buildup self-must be stripped away. The Lord isn’t going to put His white raiment over the top of our filthy raiment. He removes our filthy raiment, and that’s when we stand naked and open before the eyes of God, waiting to be clothed with that perfect robe of His righteousness. That’s how we decrease and He increases in our sight.

Satan’s "gospel" teaches that fatalism would be a good response to God’s sovereignty. If God is sovereign, faith has to be given, and I can’t do anything. However, all that is required is to feel our need of Him! Jesus says in MAT 11:28-30, "Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."

See how absolutely wrong it is to live by the secret will of God! DEU 29:29 says, "The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law." If we find ourselves outside the friendship of Christ, the fault is with us, not Christ! PRO 2:1-5 says, "My son, if thou wilt receive my words [Where does the responsibility lie? ‘If you will receive my words’ means are you willing? Not whether you’re capable, but are you willing?], and hide my commandments with thee [if you’re willing to receive my words and take my commandments and hide them in your heart, and meditate upon them]; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom, and apply thine heart to understanding [we’re willing to apply our hearts to these things]; Yea, if thou criest after knowledge, and liftest up thy voice for understanding; If thou seekest her as silver, and searchest for her as for hid treasures; Then shalt thou understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God." [Oh, that comes so close to home, doesn’t it? Can you show me one person, by nature, that has as much drive for knowledge and spiritual understanding as they do for filthy lucre, for the dollar?]

Where does the work of regeneration begin? It begins with a change of attitude: that we get our priorities straight, that we do not set our hearts upon the things of this life and the things that promote ourselves. Our willingness to decrease, that He might increase is the basis of our faith. Are we seeking knowledge as we seek hidden treasure? Is that grounds for fatalism? Oh, no. This is the Word of God that goes forth to every creature.

See how blessedly John the Baptist deflated all the Jews’ expectation of inciting a controversy. They came all puffed up: they had a plan, and they were going to put a big commotion into operation. He deflated it: he took the lower place. Do you know how to deflate a controversy? When we can truly take the lower place, people can come to us to try to incite division, but they can’t even raise a quarrel because of our humility, because we’re willing to be nothing and let Christ be everything. John took the lower place, reminding them that he was only a messenger. He didn’t try to claim that he was anything. He took that lower seat and said that he was only a messenger sent to run before his Master. He only came to serve.

Is that where you and I are? Do you and I understand what that humility is, that we’re able to bow humble hearts before the Lord and enter His service? "Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him." (JOH 3:28) He was only sent by Christ to run before Him, to be His servant.

In total contrast to the Jews’ objective to incite jealousy in John’s heart, John directs them to look by faith unto Jesus. They come trying to get John excited, as though Jesus was taking over his ministry, and He says, "I don’t even want you to follow me! I want you to fix your eyes on that blessed Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ." That’s when the miracle, the beginning of miracles, will take place in their hearts, that their hearts might be filled with joy. What he’s pointing out to them is that their hearts are nothing but a desolate desert, an empty place, and that joy in that blessed Bridegroom is found by looking unto Jesus.

"He that hath the bride is the bridegroom [‘He that hath the bride,’ the one that the bride has run to, is the bridegroom, not me. Then John directs them to look by faith.]: 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." (JOH 3:29)

Where is our joy? Is it our chief joy that the Holy Spirit takes those precious things of Christ and reveals them unto us, that we can hear that precious Bridegroom’s voice speaking to us personally, fixing our eye of faith upon that blessed atonement and the love of the Father? John sets forth the love of the Son, who He must be lifted up. He sets forth the love of the Father, available to "whosoever believeth." He puts all responsibility right back on you and me. Do we believe? Then He comes and tells us what it means to believe.

Does the light condemn you, or do you come to the light? "He that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest." I don’t have anything to hide, and if there be any evil within me, I come to the light that I might discern it, so that I can repent of it. I do not cherish sin.

The older we become, the more we learn to see the sinfulness of sin. We learn to understand those things that, as children, we didn’t even realize were sins. They become so grievously sinful when we really learn to see them in the light of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now John explains that the obvious effect of looking to Christ is that our lives are filled with joy and consolation in Him. He goes on to tell them, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (JOH 3:30) That’s the blessed effect: that you and I can come to humble ourselves before God, that we become nothing in His sight. "From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores." (ISA 1:6)

Not only do we decrease as our hearts rejoice in the Heavenly Bridegroom, but our will becomes dissolved in His will. 2CO 3:17 says, "Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." By nature, you and I are bondservants of Satan and sin, but where the Spirit of God is instilled in the heart, "there is liberty." What is true Christian liberty but to be delivered from the power and the filth of sin? It is to be washed from sin, to be delivered from all that spiritual adultery and be set at liberty from Satan and all his power.

See the immediate effect of becoming a recipient of the Spirit of Christ in 2CO 4:1-2. "Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty [See what the immediate effect], not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God." That’s the effect of the Spirit of Christ.

JOH 3:32 says, "And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony." Why was this? The scribes and Pharisees were not able to believe the simple truth about Jesus because it conflicted with all their dos and don’ts, from which they had fabricated their own "commandments of men." Notice 1CO 1:22-23. "For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness."

This reminds me of a time I was working with an attorney preparing a brief. He knew before we started that we were allowed to have a total of 25 pages. When he had pegged 120, I said, "Do you realize that we’re beyond the bounds? Do you realize that you’ve got more than we can have?" So he threw it out, and we put together 25 pages. This is what we have to do with all our religion that’s outside the Bible. We have to put away all those 120 pages of church doctrines and start over with "thus saith the Lord."

The haughty, legalistic Pharisee in our heart by nature cannot stoop far enough to come to the foot of the cross as an empty-handed beggar. There’s where we need God’s grace to be able to give it all over and to stoop to the point of being a humble, empty-handed beggar before God.

Jesus taught us the acceptable posture of heart in the perfect prayer. MAT 6:10-12 says, "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven [Unconditional surrender to the will of God. See the beggar’s language in the next two verses]. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors."

Our lesson concludes with JOH 3:35-36. "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand [See the authority that the Father gave His Son for such unconditional sovereignty]. He that believeth on the Son [those who learn to reverence that authority] hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him."

The most precious distinction of our identification with Christ, that the Saviour gave to those of us who believe, comes out of JOH 3:17-21: those who heed the light, those who do truth, are the believers. Those who are under condemnation (the light is their condemnation) are the unbelievers. Amen


These on-line sermons are a ministry of Gospel Chapel located in Conrad, Montana. We also have a  daily devotion. See also our sermon notes.

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