Sermon: The Intense Joy of Exalting Christ and Humbling Yourself John 3:22-36

John Banner website_edited-1The Intense Joy of Exalting Christ and Humbling Yourself

John 3:22-36

Primary Truth Taught- The greatest joy people can experience is to lift up Jesus and humble themselves.

 

Introduction

Jesus and His followers have left Nicodemus to contemplate all that Jesus taught him. Our story moves now to the Judean countryside where there seems to be something a little odd.

John the Baptist and his disciples are baptizing and Jesus and His disciples are baptizing. To those who are watching is seems to them almost like a contest.

I can remember going to pastor’s conferences years ago and the first thing guys would say to you is…whatcharunnin almost like it was one word. Hi, how are you and how’s your church doing, whatcharunning? The success in ministry was gauged by the number in attendance or sometimes the number of those who were baptized. I can remember once a senior pastor so desperate to get one more baptism that I thought he was going to pay someone off the street to come in and get into the tank so he could dunk him or her.

To onlookers in Jesus’ day it seemed that this was what was going on in and around the Judean countryside. It’s as if John the Baptist and his disciples were on one side of the river and Jesus and His disciples on the other. To the Jews who just understood baptism as a ceremonial washing for purification really didn’t know what was going on.

I want to make a preliminary point here and that is Jesus was not actually doing the baptizing but it was His followers. This is made clear by 4:2…

John 4:1–2 (ESV)

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2(although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples),

The first part of today’s text is introductory material and I don’t want to spend too much time on it. John is simply stating the context and then the cause of the remarks made by John the Baptist.

John 3:22–26 (ESV)

22 After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. 23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized 24 (for John had not yet been put in prison).

25 Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.”

The real issue isn’t over what the Jews believed about purification. Many scholars get sidetracked here. John really never even answers the question directly.

 

John 3:27–36 (ESV)

27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

  1. Disciples are leaving John to follow Jesus
    look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.”

The Jews had it all wrong. Jesus and John are not in a baptism contest or even in a whatcharunnin contest. John has been getting his disciples ready to follow Jesus so it’s a natural transition from John to Jesus.

What does appear in verses 27–30 is that John the Baptist takes the conversation in a direction that seems to have nothing to do with purification and everything to do with who Jesus is (as the bridegroom) and who John is (as the friend of the bridegroom) and what’s happening in their ministries (as the bride leaves John and goes to the bridegroom)­—and especially how John responds to all this in his heart.[1]

So, Jesus is winning the baptism and discipleship contest and notice, John the Baptist is thrilled. This is why God appointed him in the first place, to get people ready to meet Jesus. This is why he was baptizing and why his baptism was called a baptism of repentance. This is why he was the one to first introduce Jesus to the world. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world…

  1. The Joy in Glorifying Christ

27 John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 29 The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

If we are to understand verses 27-28 we must see it as a way John is simply saying that God gives wonderful gifts and one of the greatest gifts is to transfer any praise that John would receive to Jesus. John does this by saying I am not…

Remember from weeks ago when we covered the first chapter and saw how John said…

We have heard this theme before. John 1:8: He is not the light. John 1:20: He is not the Christ. John 1:21: He is not Elijah and not the prophet. John 1:23: He is just a voice crying in the wilderness. John 1:27: He is not worthy to unstrap Jesus’ sandals. And lots more. John has humbled himself and exalted Christ already. Why does the writer bring him in again right here to do this again—humble himself and exalt Jesus?[2]

I want us to see together what John’s role is. We know from Chapter one that his role was to be the one to get the people ready for Jesus. He was going to in a sense make the highway straight for Jesus. Here, we see another aspect of John’s role.

John explains his role by telling a parable of the Bridegroom and the Bridegroom’s friend.

In ancient Jewish tradition when a wedding took place there was the Friend of the Bridegroom. Now in some ways this would be the best man of today’s weddings. However, back in the days of Jesus and John, the friend of the bridegroom didn’t just stand there smiling but had a big responsibility. He had to make all the preparations, get the people ready for the wedding…see John’s role? He was getting people ready for the wedding. The friend of the Bridegroom also had the privilege of presiding over the wedding. He was the one, as it were, who joined the hands of the bride and the Bridegroom. I pray we see this in John. Isn’t that exactly what he did? His job was to prepare everyone for the wedding and to announce the Bridegroom’s presence and place the hand of the bride into the hand of the Bridegroom.

When John did this, as the friend of the Bridegroom, nothing made him any happier than to see Jesus and His bride together.

The friend who attends the bridegroom, the ancient equivalent of a best man who organized the details and presided over a Judean wedding. [3]

The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.

John says that when he witnesses the bride and the Bridegroom together that there is no greater joy.

I hope we see then that John and Jesus were not in some sort of competition. When John’s disciples began to leave him to go be with the Bridegroom, John was overwhelmed with joy.

That’s why he said, 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

What is meant here is that Jesus must receive all the glory and John must be humbled. Humility for John and glory for Jesus was what brought John abounding joy. This joy, John realized, came from heaven as a gift to him.

All the attention is now focused on the Bridegroom and His bride. The best man is simply sitting in the pew smiling as the newly-weds receive the focus. The best man is overjoyed because all he’s worked so hard for is completed. His task is over the wedding has taken place and it went without a hitch. Once the best man steps down from the platform everyone forgets him because he is decreasing while the newly weds increase.

rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.

We see that John rejoices greatly and that his joy is complete. In other words, there is nothing imaginable that could add to John’s great joy. When he saw Jesus gathering followers, John was jumping for joy.

John’s mission in life was to point people to Christ; to make His highway straight; to introduce Israel to her Messiah. As he did this Jesus was glorified. In order to do this effectively John had to subordinate himself, he had to humble himself more and more. The dynamic at work was that John started before Jesus and John’s fame was growing. Most today would find joy in that. However, John’s desire was that his fame would be passed to Jesus and that all who followed John would begin to follow Jesus.

Do you think that our role is somewhat similar to John’s? I think so. We too must never draw attention to ourselves. We must always practice humility while building up our Lord, praising Him rather than seeking praise for ourselves.

Are you decreasing while Jesus is increasing? Are you nothing more than a voice as John called himself…a voice crying in the wilderness.

I want to tell you John’s secret. If you have ever thought that fortune and fame would bring you happiness, let’s take a minute and learn from John.

What he tells us is that his happiness and joy is at its fullest and richest when he is humbling himself and maximizing Jesus. If you think fortune and fame will make you happy, you’ve been taken by the world’s scam.

There have been many studies done showing that almost across the board lottery winners end up in misery. The divorce rate is four times higher than the national avg. Bankruptcy, suicide, murder, is also higher. If you live through it and your family lives through it, chances are you’ll die broke and unhappy. These things are what happen when we think like the world and seek to exalt ourselves.

Instead, John tells us that when Jesus is increased our joy is increased. Conversely, however, when we are increased our joy is decreased.

So, let’s allow John the Baptist to teach us his secret of joy and happiness. When Jesus is most glorified in our lives, we are most joyful.

  1. The Logic of Glorifying Christ

31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

John wants us to see today that not only will we discover abounding joy as we focus on and honor our Lord but also it makes good sense. Let’s look to John’s logic…
John very quickly answers the question, why should we glorify Christ?
A. Jesus Christ is Glorified Because He is above all
31 He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all.
John the Baptist makes a clear distinction, Jesus came from above. He came from the Father. He also came with the Words of the Father. He is to be highly exalted because He alone is from above.
Have you honored Jesus because He is far above you?
B. Jesus Christ is Glorified Because His Testimony is True
32 He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. 33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true.
I am worn out by the lies we hear in the political arena. Depending on the polls or what is perceived to get the candidate the most votes, they’ll say anything at any time. They lie over and over again. I cannot say this across the board but except for the rare politician they all are liars. The line in a movie says that when they’re not kissing babies they’re stealing their lollipops is very accurate. We should be very skeptical when a politician says anything.
I want to explain something to you. Whenever you hear a lying politician let that remind you of our King who never lies. Whatever Jesus said in the Bible is absolutely 100% trustworthy. Someday when our Lord returns we will be under a monarch system of government. We will be under a King’s authority. To have a perfect sinless King leading us is by far the best form of government the world will ever see. King Jesus tells us the very Words of God.
John 1:14 (ESV)

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Have you honored Jesus because He has told you the truth?
C. Jesus Christ is Glorified Because He Gives Us the Holy Spirit
33 Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.
These two verse seem at first not to really go together. But I want to show you that when we realize why Jesus sends the Holy Spirit the meaning of these verses become clear. First, Jesus did not send the Holy Spirit to us for us. This is where most people get it wrong. They seek more and more of the Holy Spirit so that they can do more things so they will get the attention. The reality is that Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit in full measure for the purpose of glorifying Him.
John 16:12–14 (ESV)

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Holy Spirit will glorify Jesus. Now when the One whose job it is to glorify Jesus is sent to us and dwells within us His mission is expanded so that we too begin to glorify Jesus.
One of the ways we do this is to believe the Words Jesus has told us…
14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

The gift of the Holy Spirit is to equip the believer to understand, believe and obey the Words of Christ and this is one way we honor our Lord and Savior. Remember it is about Him. We must decrease and Jesus must increase.
D. Jesus Christ is Glorified Because He Gives Us Eternal Life
35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

I want us to be blown away by this last section. Notice what is going on here…
The Father loves the Son in ways we could never imagine. Because of this great love for the Son He has placed all things in His hands. This is why when we look at the Bible we must take it in context…Because Jesus has been given all things and His greatest gift to His Father is to rule well and to cooperate with the Father in acquiring a Kingdom, Jesus gives us the Holy Spirit to us so that we will be His people and bring glory to Him so that the Father’s plan for His Son is accomplished. The greatest way Jesus can honor His Father is to give us the Holy Spirit so we can honor Jesus. The greatest way we can honor Jesus is to do so for all eternity. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life;
Do you see that even our eternal salvation really isn’t for us so much but it is for Jesus? We believe in Him, He is glorified and we are given eternal life.
I think John the Baptist had this whole thing figured out… The Intense Joy of Exalting Christ and Humbling Yourself

The best thing you can do for the good of your soul, for your abounding joy, and for Your Savior is to exalt Jesus and humble yourself. Ask yourself this question often…Is Jesus increasing and am I decreasing? If the answer is yes you will have joy. If the answer is no they your life will be incomplete and undone and you will not find happiness.

Declaration of Grace

In the mercy and grace of Almighty God, Jesus Christ was given to die for us, and for His sake God forgives us all our sins. To those who believe in Jesus Christ He gives the power to become the children of God and gives to them the Holy Spirit. May the Lord, who has begun this good work in us, bring it to completion in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen

 

[1] Sermon by John Piper on John 3:22-30

[2] Sermon by John Piper on John 3:22-30

 

[3] The Gospel According to John by D A Carson 211

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