The following is a series of short exhortations, brief commentary and writings to convey thoughtful meditation on God's Word. I have chosen the Gospel of John as the subject. These articles will not run contiguously on this blog but peppered throughout and in the midst of other articles (though some might be posted consecutively). I pray that these will be a blessing and an edification for the saints.
25 Then there arose a question between some of John's disciples and the Jews about purifying.
26 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.
27 John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.
28 Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him.
29 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.
30 He must increase, but I must decrease.
Well it certainly has been a very long time since I visited with you all here! I have been extraordinarily busy with various studies and teachings at church, and this had consumed much of my time.
I am glad to be here among you once again and am thankful for your attendance.
Let us continue now in this series of devotional exhortations and teachings!
We see here before us the disciples of John the Baptist and the Jews arguing about the rite of purification. Today we see something similar among churches regarding baptism (full immersion vs. sprinkling for example). This turned to the subject of Jesus and how He was actually baptizing more people than the Baptist (though He Himself didn't baptize, but His own disciples).
The Baptist's reply is quite compelling and worthy of meditation:
"A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven". He rightly recognized that anything we receive, are granted, and allocated is given by the authority of heaven, sent forth from the very throne of God, the Ruler of all!
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
Now sometimes "good gifts" come in such a way that will not be immediately apparent; sometimes we are struck with trials and tribulations that can frankly leave us reeling from their impact, and we wonder how such things we receive from heaven can ever be considered "good". Yet these fiery trials have the express purpose of purifying us, drawing out our sins and imperfections so that our GOD, like the Divine Goldsmith that He is can purge these things that make us spiritually weak, resulting in holy resolve and might and a likeness of Jesus that can be accomplished no other way (See ROM 8:28; PHIL 4:6; COL 2:7; 1 THESS 5:18; JAMES 1:1-4; 1 PET 4:12-13).
Any ministry, any holy task, any God given duty that we may be assigned could be a life-long experience - or it may be for only a season in our lives. It's important that we hold those things that God gives us with an open hand, rather than clenched tightly in our fist - "it will hurt less when He takes it back!", as Corrie Ten Boom said.
Also, in conjunction with such ministry, we also realize that we can accomplish nothing, except by the grace of God is given to us from heaven. We are mere clay vessels and the best we can do is simply rest, relax and trust Him as we yield to the LORD, believing that He will accomplish His awesome work through (and IN!) us!
It is an unfortunate reality that some who have received a legitimate ministry from the LORD, and have been faithful in it, don't realize that - at times - such ministry is short-lived, only for a season, because God intends something else for them down the road. And they persist in something that should be left behind, as God has accomplished through us all that He intended.
We try to sustain such a ministry, to bring new life and vitality and begin to resort to our own efforts to keep it going. This will result in our frustration and fatigue; it's been wisely said before: "What I strive to attain, I must strive to maintain."
Not so with John the Baptist and all humble servants of the LORD. He, like all saints who love the LORD, acknowledges that "It's not about us! It's all about JESUS our LORD and HIS Kingdom, HIS purposes, HIS agenda".
7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;
8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence;
9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:
10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: (See also EPH 3:10-12).
Just as the Holy Spirit never draws attention to Himself, but is intent on witnessing to and glorifying the LORD Jesus (JOHN 16:13-14), so too John the Baptist: it is his JOY to witness of the LORD, to see the Bridegroom receive His due glory and worship. He willingly takes the lower seat, that the LORD may be exalted. And so shall we gladly point to the LORD, seeking His glory and expect no attention for ourselves.
This is the great and profound truth that we all as Christians acknowledge and endeavor to practice in our daily lives:
"He must increase, I must decrease"! By allowing the LORD to do His work of sanctification in us just as we received His work of justification, we gain a greater likeness of Christ by His empowering Spirit of grace - He increases in His likeness in our lives and the likeness of our "old man (our sinful nature; see ROM 6:6) decreases.
Think of a glass that you begin to fill with water: as the amount of water increases, the amount of air decreases; once that glass is entirely full of water, there is no more room for air. The glass is completely full.
Charles Spurgeon spoke of the two aspects of a Christian: the first being mortification - that is, the putting to death of the flesh, the sinful self by the Cross of Christ; also of vivification - that is, the bringing of new and holy life in Christ by the power of His resurrection!
Will we ever be fully conformed to Christ, and attain perfect holiness in a practical sense in this life? Paul the apostle admitted that he had not yet attained such a level of holiness:
12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus.
13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.
And yet, like the apostle Paul, we ought to "press" and "[reach] forth" for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus, and this is possible ONLY by the grace of God which enables us to be conformed to Christ:
29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
May we decrease by dying to self, and may the LORD Jesus Christ increase with resurrection power as He lives His Life through us, His beloved!