Today’s Bible Reading:

2 Chronicles 14-15
Revelation 4
Haggai 2
John 3

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 paralyzed with the fear that they might say or do something that would make themselves look bad.

When we listen to Jesus, 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 told him.

Essentially, John’s disciples said: “John, you’ve been talking positively about 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’ identity and ministry. He said that Jesus was receiving Heaven’s blessing because He was 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 Jesus prepared for His wedding, as he (John) embraced his diminishing position.

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

John 3:30 (CSB): “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 … and left him (John).

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

John 3:30 (CSB): “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Unfortunately, this attitude is so rare among the masses of people who claim to be Christians. We see heart attitudes that desire to increase as Jesus decreases when we see things like:

  • Those who do ministry, hoping that their actions will be captured in videos or pictures that can be shared on social media. If they are honest with themselves, they crave the applause of others.
  • Those who sing or play an instrument in worship services, craving the applause at the end.
  • Those who preach, being more desirous of the congregation’s applause than Heaven’s applause.
  • The possibilities could go on and on.

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 (the few that still exist) and try to find a book on “brokenness.” In fact, try to find just one book that is written almost entirely on the theme of denying yourself. Spoiler alert: You probably won’t find anything because those books just don’t sell.

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 sends 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, on the flight back to the United States, the stewardess was handing out snacks and drinks. A guy, sitting a few rows in front of me, called for the stewardess’ 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, a Honduran child who felt unworthy actually 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.”

* * * * * * * * * *

Lord Jesus, I know that there is more to the Christian life than I am experiencing. I know that there is more love, more power, more of a lot of the things that I desperately need. Please fill me with Your Spirit. Help me as I comply with the principles that would allow me to be filled. Then, as I am filled, I will actually enjoy being broken before You, celebrating when you are glorified even if it means that I am diminishing. I pray this in Your Name. Amen.

Photo by Zach Lezniewicz on Unsplash