Decrease to Increase John 3:22-36
The world tells us to always fight for yourself. It will tell us that you must take care of yourself because no one else will.
The world wants us to believe that success is in what you do and where you are.
What if I told you success is not found in what you do for work.
Whether you ever win an event you go to.
Whether you ever own a home, vehicle, have more than a couple dollars to your name, or have a title of any kind.
You do not have to win anything to be great, you do not need to continually compare yourself to other people to see if you are great.
No, we only need to do what the man in this text today did.
Before we get to that I want to ask a question, “Except for Jesus Christ, who is the greatest person who ever lived?”
Google says that Jesus was number one but the next nine are, Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, Leonardo Da Vinci, Aristotle, Muhammad, Galileo Galilei, Alexander the Great, Charles Darwin, and Plato.
I bet many of you had many different people in your minds.
Maybe Alexander Fleming, the man who invented penicillin. Maybe Henry Ford, Mother Theresa, Mike Murphy, Sergeant York, or any number of people.
Maybe you thought of men and women of the Bible. Moses, Daniel, Joseph, Joshua, Paul, or many others.
Well, Jesus gives us this answer in Matt. 11:11 “Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist.”
That is amazing because John was not what most consider great.
He was not among the rich. He had no power, did not dress like most, he was in the desert in camels hair and ate honey and locusts.
He was what many today would call a religious fanatic and a whack job.
He was a little eccentric and weird. He was different but he was doing what he was supposed to do.
John was the forerunner of Christ. As that he was to do three jobs.
Clear the way. This was to remove obstacles that hindered people believing in the Messiah. He did this by calling out the religious leaders of the day and speaking the unvarnished truth to people.
Prepare the way. He pushed false notions to the side and prepared peoples hearts to hear what Jesus was to say.
Get out of the way. He knew that when Jesus came, he needed to get out of the way. He needed to submit all to him. And this is what made him great.
And it is to this last that we look in this sermon titled Decrease to Increase.
We all too often find ourselves trying to be something that we are not because the world tells us that we must do and do to be this great thing.
John knew that was not true and I pray that you will see this amazing truth too as we walk through this section in John 3:22-36
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.” 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.
There is a lot in this section but the first thing we see from John is...
God Placed You Where You Are
God Placed You Where You Are
We see here that Jesus and His disciples went into the Judean countryside and that His disciples were baptizing.
Well, right before this John had just baptized Jesus. But Jesus had been conducting all His ministry in Galilee and the Temple, not in Judea. That was the Baptizer’s area.
John’s disciples were baptizing too and they saw Jesus and His disciples baptizing and they had to go tell John. They were jealous and wanted John to correct this issue. They wanted him to correct those he had baptized because that was out of their bounds.
They wanted to correct this because it was disturbing them. They were losing their flocks of people. They were worried that they were losing their stature.
John answers them with a powerful word in John 3:27, “John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.”
All that they had before Jesus and His disciples began baptizing was from God. John was preparing and clearing the way. Jesus arrived. It was time to recognize that his role was turning into one to drive people to Jesus and not receive them to himself.
John recognized that what he had been and had been doing was directly from God. He knew it was not of his own power or skill, but from God alone.
We Christians must always remember the primary focus of our ministry: to exalt Christ and point people to him. Healthy relationships with other Christians will include our recognition of certain leaders, pastors, and teachers. But we must always remember that they, too, have the same commission. We should not allow ourselves to become prideful of the particular church, group, or leader with which we are associated. And we must do our utmost to resist any kind of competitive spirit. All of us are under the sovereignty of God. Envious or bitter comparisons make us ineffective. Our task is to follow Christ and see that he is exalted. (Bruce B. Barton, John, Life Application Bible Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993), 68.)
That is the attitude we all can have when we realize that every good and perfect gift is from the father above. He is the one who gives and takes. So when you are in a position of authority know it is because of the Lord. If that position plays out and something else changes, know God is moving always be watching out for Him and what He si guiding you to do.
John knew that everything we receive is from Him and not us.
You are a talented athlete, from God.
Gifted musician, from God; gifted rodeo athlete, from God; gifted at anything, from God.
He gave and placed you there.
Yes, you worked hard; yes, you committed the time; yes, you stayed the course but it was all from the Lord. He sustained you and He worked the people in your life to give that to you.
He is the reason, not us. So why do we get to thinking it is us?
Because we have a worldly mindset still. We have not been thoroughly cleansed of this because we are in it all day every day. It is hard to leave.
But we can do it when we learn that...
Serving God is Success Not your Role
Serving God is Success Not your Role
In verses 28-29 John makes it clear that they know he was not the Christ but was sent before him. He also makes it clear that his joy is in that service and now that Jesus has come, his joy is complete.
That is what we can be like when we realize that we as believers are sent before Christ.
What? You may ask.
We are here to go and be ambassadors for Him. We are in the ministry of reconciliation. We are going and sharing Christ because we are His witnesses and must go and seek to make disciples (Matt. 28:18-20; Acts 1:8; 2 Cor. 5:17-21).
We can be joyful when we see others believe and then go on and become a mighty voice for the Lord.
We see that we did our service and we move to another. We have no idea what the work we do in one may impact later.
What this means is that you go and serve the Lord in all aspects of your life and continue to do so even if you feel that you are not doing anything.
You continue to point to him in all situations. You show Jesus to all people in all ways imaginable.
Your faith and commitment is serving the Lord and giving Him honor. Many will laugh and scorn. They will poke fun at you. They will say you are nothing you are a nobody.
You can look at them and say, “I’m just a nobody trying to tell everybody all about somebody who saved my soul” and that somebody can save your soul too.
That is what we can do when we recognize that our commitment and service to God is success not numbers or position.
When we are in Christ and serving Him we can rejoice because we are doing what He wants. We rejoice because we hear His voice telling us good job.
We work for the Lord we serve Him. We can impact people even if we do not see it or ever hear about it.
I have read of a man who was cast into prison as a prisoner of war. He was a Christian and wondered how he could serve the Lord there where talking could get them killed. He decided he could clean the cells. He asked at the peril of his life if he could. The guards listened as he explained it would benefit them too because the rank odor’s would be gone.
They relented and he cleaned. While cleaning he would share Christ as much as possible. After a time the cells were clean. People had more joy, even the guards. Finally a man from the outside was able to visit the man. He saw him skinny and ragged but beaming joy because he had been serving and a few had believed in Christ.
One man committed to serve regardless the peril. He was a nobody in the world. A prisoner who no one knew. But Jesus knew him and he knew Jesus’s voice. He served and had great joy and success because he knew serving God was success over what role he had.
That and he knew that he must...
Always Point to Christ Not Self
Always Point to Christ Not Self
Here is the pivotal verse. “He must increase, but I must decrease.” This is the battle cry we should all shout.
We should everyone of us stand up daily and say this because Jesus is the one and only way for people to have life. Jesus is the only reason why we have anything.
He must increase I must decrease.
He is glorious and I am but a servant. I am a slave I am not my own. I am His and He is mine but He is to be seen above and beyond me.
If we can live our lives like this, we can become powerful workers for the Lord. We can shine that light in the world that it so needs to see.
There are too many pastors today who are always reaching for a bigger stage and platform. They want to go to “real church.”
By this I mean they will not stay at a smaller rural church because it is too small and it will not give them the advancements they think they deserve.
They may have a doctoral degree and they think “because I have this degree I need to be in a church of 3, 4, 5,6 hundred or larger. Maybe a mega church.” They are seeking their platform and not the glory of the Lord.
They want to shine brighter than Jesus. They feel that they deserve that platform.
John did not feel that way. He said I must decrease. John was the man who paved the way for the Lord. John cleared the path. He was called the greatest man ever to live by Jesus. But he said I must decrease.
Just think if some of those gifted and educated men would stay in a small rural church and help people learn the Lord. Man, church would be powerful and not anemic now.
Since those men used the small churches as a spring board to “bigger and greater” stages, the small churches have trust issues and do not allow a new pastor to serve and teach. They know he will leave soon and he has nothing for them but to keep the doors open.
It is sad and tragic and unnecessary if men would begin to stand for the Lord in every situation and rest in the place He has placed them.
Decrease so He can increase.
The church body is not much different.
Many have left the small church for the big church because it offers more entertainment. It offers more classes. It offers more polished speakers. It offers more programs.
Well, maybe so but those are not what gives us power in the world. It is decreasing so He can increase.
If we are always chasing our pleasure and satisfaction in every aspect of life, we will never decrease so He can increase.
We will forever be seeking our passions and desires and wants above His desires.
John tells us that if we continue to do this then we will have the wrath of God remain on us. We are not obeying Him but obeying the worldly way. We are seeking our platform and desires rather than serving Him.
We can serve Him when we realize that we serve at His pleasure in anything we do, success is in serving Him, and true joy comes from always pointing to Christ over self.
We all have a role and they are not all the same. But in them all we always need to decrease so He can Increase. We do all we do to His glory and honor and not to our own. It is all for Him.
But never forget that every role and placing is important to God because He has set us there.
I want to close with this story from World War Two.
During World War II, England needed to increase its production of coal. Winston Churchill called together labor leaders to enlist their support. At the end of his presentation he asked them to picture in their minds a parade which he knew would be held in Picadilly Circus after the war.
First, he said, would come the sailors who had kept the vital sea lanes open. Then would come the soldiers who had come home from Dunkirk and then gone on to defeat Rommel in Africa. Then would come the pilots who had driven the Luftwaffe from the sky.
Last of all, he said, would come a long line of sweat-stained, soot-streaked men in miner's caps. Someone would cry from the crowd, 'And where were you during the critical days of our struggle?' And from ten thousand throats would come the answer, 'We were deep in the earth with our faces to the coal.'"
Not all the jobs in a church are prominent and glamorous. But it is often the people with their "faces to the coal" who help the church accomplish its mission.
Will you keep your face to the coal and seek to increase the Lord in all you do? Or will you try and be a pilot and seek all the glory?