I want to invite your attention away from ourselves today and to Jesus especially, as we look at the matter of Extinguishing Ego. Now all of us have an ego. Not to have an ego is to be dead. We usually use ego in a negative sense. It is just an awareness and appreciation of yourself. Of course, we talk about people having lofty egos and using it in that way. But it is an awareness of yourself. What we want to see today through the eyes and actions of John the Baptist is how to extinguish ego and put Christ where He needs to be in every life, where He needs to be high and lifted on that throne.
We change scenes today. We move away from the nighttime scene with Nicodemus…this Pharisee and leader of the Sanhedrin...who had come to Jesus by night, who asked about the keys to heaven. Jesus responded by saying, "Your problem is you need to be born again."
We move now to scenes as Jesus is traveling with His new band of brothers…His disciples who are going with Him and following Him. What we find in today's encounter, in John the Apostle including this is there are really two bands of disciples. There are the disciples of Christ. Then, there are also the disciples of John the Baptist.
You remember it was from the disciples of John the Baptist that the original disciples came to Jesus. It was John the Baptist who baptized Jesus. It was John the Baptist who said, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!" Some of the disciples of John began to follow Jesus. We see both of these groups are in force in the region as we come to our text today.
Our focus of our text is going to be John, chapter 3, verses 29-31. But what I want us to do is to back up to John, chapter 3, verse 22. In order to give us the background and to bring us up to the events and what I think is the crux of the story today.
So we come to John 3:22 and we see there are these two groups. It begins by saying, "After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He remained with them and baptized." So the group that is with Jesus…His disciples, His band of brothers if you will…are baptizing in Judea. It says, "Jesus is with them baptizing."
Of course, John, chapter 4, verse 2, tells us that Jesus Himself did not baptize anyone, but His disciples were the ones actually in the water doing the baptizing. So John the Apostle points that out. That becomes necessary for the story as it unfolds. Jesus and His disciples are now in the land of Judea, away from Jerusalem, and they are baptizing.
Verse 23, "Now John [This is John the Baptist] also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there. And they came and were baptized." So John and his ministry are continuing. He is continuing to baptize those. He is continuing, no doubt, He is continuing to preach repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. His mission, no doubt, is to point people to the Messiah. So he is over here in Aenon near Salim. He is also baptizing because there is a lot of water there in order to immerse the followers of John.
Verse 24 says, "For John had not yet been thrown into prison." Now just a sideline for free. John is going to see his ministry come to an abrupt end. What we'll need to understand is that it is not that John's ministry has somehow escaped the protection of God. It is not when John is successful and baptizing that John doesn't have to worry about anything ever happening or that the measure of John's ministry is that He is going to be, you know, successful all through is life.
That's not how God operates our ministries. He can call us home at anytime. We can still say our joy is complete and our ministry is full. But at this point, John is free. So he is out there baptizing. Then 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 was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!"
Now all of a sudden we are told a dispute arises between some of the Jews and some of those who are John's disciples about the matter of purification. That's all we're told. What's interesting is the term purification doesn't get brought up again. It's strange that it's mentioned that the dispute is over purification. Yet, John's response…he's going to give here in a few minutes…never mentions anything about purification.
At first, it seems as though the comment about purification is given to us just to lead us into the next scene. But I think what we want to remember throughout this whole discussion this morning is that this really is about purification. John is going to answer that question in a most marvelous and phenomenal way.
So John's disciples are challenged by some of the Jews. You know it probably went something like this: The Jews come up to him, and they see they are baptizing. They say, "Hey, I see you're baptizing. That looks like one of our purification rituals we go through." Because the Jews had a baptism that they would do for purification purposes, and the dispute arose about that. So they bring the matter to John.
In verse 26, it says "And they came to John and said to him, "Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified—behold, He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!" In other words, we have a question here about the purification. Is yours not very good? Because some of your disciples have left. They've gone over here to Jesus, and He's also baptizing. Did yours not stick? Is yours not as good? Does yours not purify? This is perhaps the discussion since the word purification is how the Jews presented it.
So they bring this argument to John, and it's as though why are they leaving you and going to Him? Is what you're saying not true? Is what you're saying failing? Do they need a better purification? Is that why they've chosen to go after this Rabbi instead of staying with you?
The disciples are scratching their heads. They are not quite sure how to answer this. They don't know why this one Jesus is also baptizing, and why they are not just content with the baptism of John the Baptist. So they bring this to John. John seems to give an answer that has nothing to do with the situation at hand.
Notice, if you will…verse 27, "John answered and said, 'A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, 'I am not the Christ,' but, 'I have been sent before Him.' So "John answered and said, 'A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.'" Well, that's a great statement. But at first, you're wondering what does that have to do…what is he saying?
There is a concern over whether your baptism is any good. Why are people leaving your group and joining this new group? John answers the question if we'll just decipher it for a minute. He says, "I know this One who was with me, who I testified about, I know people are leaving me, and they're going to Him. But the reason they are being given to Him is they are being given to Him from heaven. No one would go except from heaven."
Notice with me: "A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven." In other words, those who are leaving my discipleship and are joining up with Jesus' discipleship are doing so because they are led of God to do so. They are going to Jesus because heaven is sending them to Jesus. They are leaving me. They are going to Christ because they are seeing Jesus for who He is. I'm not upset about it, Disciples. I want you to know they wouldn't be leaving except that heaven has entered into their heart. Heaven has led them to go to the Messiah.
So he says in verse 28, "You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, 'I am not the Christ,' but, 'I have been sent before Him.' "You know," he tells his disciples, "I never said I was the Christ. People came to me and asked if I was Elijah. They asked if I was Christ. I firmly denied it. My role has always been to go before Him and to prepare the way for everyone to find the Messiah. My role has always been to say, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"
It's always been to open the way and the path so others would find the true Messiah. In that verse, he's saying, "You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, 'I am not the Christ…' In other words, I'm not the end of the journey. I'm not the reason for you coming. Jesus is the reason. Jesus is the point. He is the goal. He is the One who is high and lifted up. He is the One I want everybody to eventually find and when they find Him, great. "I am not the Christ,' but, 'I have been sent before Him.'
I emphasize that verse over and over and maybe try to beat it into the ground. Because I think that is something for those of us who do know Christ the Savior. That is an essential element of our life we must never forget. We are not the end of the journey. This church, this room, this ministry is not the end of things. Youth ministry…the end of youth ministry is not to get people in a youth group. The end of children's ministry is not to get people to attend Vacation Bible School and to get them in children's ministry. The end is to move them to Jesus. It is to send them to the Messiah.
We are with those who have gone before, who witnessed to people at work, who witnessed to those in our own family in order to point them to Jesus. Not to be excited and settled with the fact of our own success, or our own ministry success, or our own clean living, but we want to point others to Christ. That's how exactly how John responds to his disciples. He's saying, "Don't sweat it. This is exactly what God intended for my ministry to do."
I believe, my friends, this is exactly what God always intends our ministry to do. Our friendships, if we would be honest, if we're a believer, we're on a mission. That's to lead people to Christ. Our parenthood, if we'll be honest, is to lead our children to the Savior.
Our place in an owning a business, our place in supervising at work, our place in being quarterback at school, our place of leadership, however it may fall, is really as a believer to lead others to the Savior. It's not to be settled with us being the end of someone's journey or the object of someone's praise. We, instead, want to be pleased when they go and find Christ through us and not us despite Christ.
So he says in verse 29, "He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears Him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. Well, if wasn't cryptic enough, now all of a sudden we start talking about a wedding feast. They say, "What about the purification? People are wondering why they are leaving you and their joining to this other band over here. Is your purification ceremony not sufficient? Is your baptism not sufficient? Is your function not sufficient?"
He first answers, "Listen, this is God's plan. This is what God sent me to do. Not to be the end rabbi, but to send them to the true Rabbi." Then, he throws in this bridegroom illustration. Let's look at it for a moment. John the Baptist is headed somewhere. 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 bridegroom's [what?] voice…" Isn't that interesting? "He…rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice."
Of all the things you can talk about a wedding feast, the ceremony, the prayers…of all that you could look at, he's focusing on the voice of the bridegroom. Now it begins by saying "He who has the bride…" Who is the bride? Well, it's these people. That's you. That's me. Okay? "We are the bride of Christ." That is a term commonly used in Scripture.
Who is the bridegroom? Well, the bridegroom is Jesus. He's the husband. Okay? He is the groom in the ceremony illustration here. Who is the friend or the best man I guess? Who is the friend of the bridegroom? Well, that's John the Baptist.
Notice what he says here with all of this put together. He talks about John the Baptist. "The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears [His voice] him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice…" Now think about this scene for a moment. The friend of the bridegroom would bring the bride to the groom. Then, he stands there…no attention on him. All the lights are flashing on the bridegroom. All the rice is being thrown toward the bridegroom.
The friend of the bridegroom...or like today's best man…stands off to the side. He's out of the limelight. He's watching this, and he's rejoicing. He's rejoicing at what? The voice. Why? Well, you have to remember when John's gospel began. It spoke of John the Baptist in what particular way?
It said he was what? He was a voice crying in the wilderness. But now he's saying, "There is a greater voice. You're hearing that voice. I'm standing in the shadows of this great ceremony. I'm rejoicing because the bride is hearing the voice of the bridegroom. I'm rejoicing at a greater, more powerful voice."
You see we preach on Sundays. We teach in Bible studies. We witness to people maybe even during the week. We talk about Jesus. We talk about salvation. We talk about what the Bible says. We talk about our own experience. We are essentially a voice crying in the wildness of someone's life. Maybe it's your life who doesn't know God, who doesn't have an appreciation, or isn't even sure, as you would be in the wilderness, not even sure which direction to go.
There is a voice that cries in the wilderness. That is to witness of the things of God. But we're not satisfied they hear our voice. Oh, we're worried if all they hear is our voice. Our joy comes when we step into the shadow, and we see them hear the voice of the bridegroom. When they hear the voice of heaven, when they hear the voice of Christ, when that One from heaven…that voice from heaven leads them to the One from heaven, Jesus. That's when we rejoice.
We don't rejoice because someone sat quietly and listened to our dispensing of the plan of salvation. We rejoice when they hear God in that plan, and they respond to the voice of God. John the Baptist was saying, "Listen disciples, I'm not upset they are leaving me. All I am is the friend of the bridegroom. They are the bride going to the bridegroom. They are hearing a greater voice now."
It's like…remember when John and Andrew came? They are in the very first chapter. They hear John saying, "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!" It says, "…they left John and they followed Jesus." Why? Because they heard the greater voice. They began to hear the voice of the bridegroom. So they hear that voice.
So he says again in verse 29, "He who has the bride is the bridegroom..." The bride belongs to the bridegroom. It's the bridegroom that is the end of the journey for the bride. Okay? "…but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice." Notice this now, "…therefore, this joy of mine is fulfilled." Now can you say that about your life?
Oh, I tell you people all throughout world go through their entire life looking to fulfill joy, looking to have a happy life, looking to have joy. They try money, sex, drugs, alcohol, jobs, careers, education. They try all kinds of things. What they are looking for is to have some joy in life.
Here is John saying that my joy comes when the focus goes from me to Jesus. Now listen to me. When you extinguish your ego, your joy will be fulfilled. When you can successfully deflect people's attention off you and to Jesus…When you're up here and you sing the most beautiful solo, and people are talking about the Jesus of the song and not you, your joy can finally be fulfilled.
Now this doesn't make sense in our American mindset. We think, no, my joy is to get fame. It is to get notoriety. But as a believer, our joy comes when Jesus gets the fame and Jesus gets the notoriety and when they hear his voice. John says, "That's the completion of my life's journey. It's the completion of my life's purpose and goal. My joy is fulfilled."
Now you know why John the Apostle said a few verses earlier…he was not yet in prison. You see John's not going to be here long. It seems the fulfillment of John's life and ministry is to point people away from himself. It is what he sums up in the great verse of John 3:30, "He must increase, but I must decrease." There is a divine "must" in that statement. "He must increase..."
If we're to have our joy fulfilled, if we're to have a joy-filled life, if we're to have our purpose in this world fulfilled, then "He must increase..." We have to decrease. Jesus has to increase. Oh, you may be known for something. You may have a great talent or skill. It may be something directly seen in a religious exercise like a church service or ministry. It may be something indirectly seen at school or work. Well my friends, you're joy is fulfilled when the attention decreases off you and increases on Christ.
John says, "My purpose for living is accomplished when they go to Jesus." Will that get you to sign up to work for the children's department? Will that get you to volunteer to go on visitations and to realize the goal will not be to have a church building named after you when you die? But the goal will be when they don't even remember you. They don't remember who came and witnessed to them, but they can't forget about Jesus. They don't remember what you said. But they can't forget the voice of the One who called them to salvation. He must increase; we must decrease.
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