9 Minute Read

TODAY’S BIBLE READING:

Judges 19:1–20:48
John 3:22–4:3
Psalm 104:24-35
Proverbs 14:22-24

TODAY’S BIBLE VERSE(S):

John 3:29-30 (CSB): “He who has the bride is the groom. But the groom’s friend, who stands by and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the groom’s voice. So this joy of mine is complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.”

REFLECTIONS ON TODAY’S BIBLE VERSE(S):

The sinful human nature is utterly self-centered. Its focus is continually on itself.

It is found in the proud person who cannot stop talking about themselves. It is also found in the timid, shy person who is so consumed with the fact that they might say or do something that would make themselves look bad that they are essentially paralyzed with fear.

When we listen to Jesus, though, we realize that “self” must go.

At the moment we are saved, we are bought with a price and no longer belong to ourselves (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). Since we are now the property of King Jesus, we are to “deny ourselves” daily (Luke 9:23). Essentially, since we are the property of King Jesus, we are supposed to be about His business, not ours.

This is something that John the Baptist understood. Let’s look at some of the verses that were in our reading today in John 3.

John 3:25-26 (CSB): “Then a dispute arose between John’s disciples and a Jew about purification. So they came to John and told him, ‘Rabbi, the one you testified about, and who was with you across the Jordan, is baptizing—and everyone is going to him.'”

Some of John’s followers got into a dispute with some other Jews about purification (a.k. John’s baptism). I suspect that Jesus and His disciples were brought up in that conversation because of what John’s disciples tell him.

Essentially, John’s disciples said: “John, you’ve been talking up Jesus’ ministry. You’ve done Him some big favors. But, John, it’s backfired on you. Everyone is going to him and your crowds are shrinking. What are you going to do about it, John?”

John 3:27-28 (CSB): “John responded, ‘No one can receive anything unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah, but I’ve been sent ahead of him.'”

In these words, John affirmed Jesus’ ministry. He said that Jesus was receiving Heaven’s blessing because He’s the long-awaited Messiah.

John recognized who Jesus was and, therefore, was content for Jesus to get the crowds while his own attendance shrank.

Now, listen to what John says next …

John 3:29-30 (CSB): “He who has the bride is the groom. But the groom’s friend, who stands by and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the groom’s voice. So this joy of mine is complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.”

John noted that Jesus was enjoying relationship with His people and they were coming to Him. John was content to be the best man, as he relished in the joy of Jesus and His followers.

And, then John said something profound. He tied up everything in one short sentence.

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”

John was content for Jesus to gain in popularity even at his (John’s) expense. Why? Because that’s what John understood His job to be. He pointed people to Jesus so it was only to be expected that he would find joy when people went to Jesus.

Friend, you and I need to have John’s sentiment. We need to have his words as a heart attitude:

“He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Unfortunately, it is rare among Christian ranks. We see heart attitudes that want to increase as Jesus decreases when we see things like:

  • Those who do ministry making sure that pictures and video are taken so that others can applaud their efforts.
  • Those who sing in worship services craving the applause at the end.
  • Those who preach being more desirous of the congregation’s applause than Heaven’s applause.

If we really want to gain Heaven’s approval, we need to be broken. We need to have a heart that finds it repugnant to focus on self. We need to have a heart that genuinely wants all of the praise to go to Jesus. We need to have a heart that refuses to touch the glory.

And, this my friends, is an attitude that God loves and so many so-called Jesus followers find appalling. You don’t believe me? Then go to a Christian bookstore and try to find the section of books on “brokenness.” In fact, try to even find one book that is written almost entirely on the theme of denying yourself.

If we are brutally honest, so much of contemporary Christendom has the veneer of Christianity but, inside, is simply a polished off way to meet the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 John 2:15-17).

If we are a genuine follower of Jesus, then we will want Him to break us of our self-centeredness. We will want Him to break us of our self-will. We will want Him to develop the heart attitude within us that says; “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

How does God break us?

It’s been Kim’s and my experience that very difficult life circumstances are God’s tool of choice.

  • Maybe He lets you embark on a task that you think you can easily do by yourself … but He lets you fail … repeatedly.
  • Maybe He lets you experience the loss of a job, or the loss of health, or the loss of a child so that you are reminded just how frail you really are.
  • Or, maybe He lets you experience Him in a wonderful time of renewal and revival that leaves you realizing how empty you are apart from Christ but how wonderful He really is.

On and on I could go of ways that God may bring about the desired attribute of brokenness in our lives.

But let me end by showing you that while brokenness may seem so distasteful to us, it is actually a way to sheer joy. It is a way that we develop the ability to savor just about every single blessing that God comes our way.

I once took a mission trip to Honduras. We focused on meeting spiritual needs and physical, tangible needs. I saw abject poverty when we went into a “squatter village” near El Progresso. We gave some of those children some trinkets and you’ve never seen a smile as big as what they had.

But, then, on the plane back t the United States, the stewardess was handing out snacks and drinks. A guy, sitting a few rows in front of me, called for the stewards’ attention. He griped at her and said: “My Coke doesn’t have enough fizz.” I shook my head in disbelief when he said that. I had just come from a place where children would have LOVED to have his Coke … and he was unsatisfied.

You see, the one Honduran children who felt unworthy LOVED what we gave them. The American who was full of himself despised what he was given.

If we allow God to break us, where we are content to make our lives about Him and not us, we will find that our joy level goes up because we will be so much more grateful for His goodness that comes our way each and every day.

Matthew 5:3 (CSB): “Blessed are the poor in spirit (destitute, broken), for the kingdom of heaven is theirs.” (emphasis mine)

If you want to read further on this, I would highly recommend Nancy Leigh DeMoss’s book, “Brokenness, Surrender, & Holiness.”