“Greater to Greatest” – John 3:22-36

February 23rd, 2020

John 3:22-36

“Greater to Greatest”

Aux Text: 1 Chron 29:10-19;  Philippians 2:1-11

Call to Worship: Psalm 147


Service Orientation: Life is not about us.   In and of ourselves we bring death to life.  Jesus brings life to death.  Humbly we need to make Jesus greater and ourselves less.


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  He must become greater; I must become less. — John 3:30


Background Information:

  • The Fourth Gospel was presumably written to the Asian churches among whom, according to Acts 19, the tradition of John the Baptist’s teaching on repentance and baptism had persisted. (Merrill C. Tenney, John:  The Gospel of Belief, 90)
  • After his conversation with Nicodemus in Jerusalem, Jesus retired to the country-region of Judea, near Jordan, where, by means of his disciples, he baptized (probably May-December in the year 27 A.D.). (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: John, 152)
  • (v. 23) The exact location of Aenon is uncertain.  Two sites are possible: one south of Bethshan, where there were numerous springs; another a short distance from Shechem.  Of the two, the former seems to be the better possibility.  Eusebius and Jerome both mention it; and the ancient mosaic Madaba map of sacred sites depicts an “Aenon near to Salim” (near the Jordan south of Scythopolis, the later name of Beth-shan.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 9, 52)
  • (v. 25) Religious they were, but for a Savior they felt no need. They preferred to wrangle over questions of “purification,” rather than go to the Lord Jesus for the Water of life.  (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 140)
  • (v. 25) The Jews sought purification through various sacrifices and washings prescribed by God through Moses. But centuries of human “adjustments” had transformed the way of humility before God into a hopeless maze of human effort.  The huge system was bent on self-preservation rather than in truly serving God.  Thus, for many religious leaders, John’s effrontery in preaching simple repentance and requiring public baptism was unacceptable as a form of purification.  (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: John, 67-8)
  • (v. 25) The particular incident that triggered John’s statement was a dispute his disciples had with a Jew about purifying.  This verse is compressed to the point of obscurity.  A little light may be shed on however, by the Qumran scrolls.  These show that there were Essene-type sects with a deep interest in ceremonial purifications.  If the suggestion that John the Baptist had had contacts with such a sect and had broken with it are well grounded, such a dispute as the one mentioned here would be very natural.  (Leon Morris, The New Int’l Commentary on the NT: John, 211)
  • (v. 26) What was the object of these Jews? Was not their motive a malicious one?  Were they not seeking to make John envious?  It would certainly appear so.  Why tell him of the outward success of Christ’s ministry if it were not to provoke the jealousy of His harbinger?  And cannot we detect the Enemy of souls behind this!  (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 143)
  • (v. 26) It is interesting to note that four of the greatest men in the Bible faced this problem of comparison and competition: Moses (Nm 11:26-30), John the Baptist (Jn 3:26-30), Jesus (Lk 9:46-50), and Paul (Phil 1:15-18).  A leader often suffers more from his zealous disciples than from his critics!  (Warren W. Wiersby, Be Alive, 56)
  • (v. 29) He compared Jesus to the bridegroom and himself only to the best man (Jn 3:29). Once the bridegroom and bride had been brought together, the work of the best man was completed.  What a foolish thing it would be for the best man to try to “upstage” the bridegroom and know that He had claimed His bride.  (Warren W. Wiersby, Be Alive, 56)
  • (v. 29) So far from being downcast at what is happening, John rejoices. (Leon Morris, The New Int’l Commentary on the NT: John, 213)
  • (v. 30) “He must grow greater; I must grow less” are John’s last recorded words in this Gospel. (F. F. Bruce, The Gospel of John, 96)
  • (v. 30) Only a great man can accept his own demise with joy. Little does he realize how tragically that will take place–through imprisonment, suspense, and finally death.  (Roger L. Fredrikson, The Communicator’s Commentary: John, 90)
  • (v. 31) It is John’s plan in writing this book to show “that Jesus is the Christ” (20:31), and one way he does this is to emphasize that Jesus does not take his origin from the earth. Being “from above,” he is superior to all on earth.  (Leon Morris, The New Int’l Commentary on the NT: John, 215)
  • (v. 31) Here is declared the infinite superiority of the Lord Jesus Christ over all mortals. Christ is “from above”–the only begotten of God–and as God in flesh He is far above any and all men.  (Oliver B. Greene, The Gospel According to John, Vol. 1, 186)
  • (vss. 31-36) One of the difficulties in the fourth Gospel is to know when the characters are speaking and when John is adding his own commentary. These verses may be the words of John the Baptist; but more likely they are the witness and the comment of John the evangelist.  (William Barclay, Daily Study Bible Series: John, 144)
  • (vss. 31-36) Since verse 30 all verbs are in the third person, “he.” When John the Baptist spoke, he used the first person, “I.”  Possibly, then the words following verse 30 belong instead to the Gospel writer John, who is expressing general truths for all people.  (Gary P. Baumler, The People’s Bible: John, 59)
  • (v. 33) Those who received Jesus’ testimony believed that he was the Son of God come from heaven, the Messiah. Their belief in his testimony was their “stamp of approval” on the truthfulness of God’s action (sending his Son).  In other words, they tested the testimony and found it to be true.  “To set one’s seal” {NIV – “certified”} to something was a way of saying, “I have identified with this.”  In ancient days, a person would impress his personal mark on a seal and thereby label the object so sealed as belonging to him or her.  (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: John, 72)
  • (v. 34) The meaning is now plain, that the Spirit was not given to Christ by measure, as if the power of grace which he possesses were in any way limited; as Paul teaches that to every one is given according to the measure of the gift, (Eph 4:7) so that there is no one who alone has full abundance. (Calvin’s Commentary on the Gospel of John, 140)
  • (v. 34) Jesus so completely says and does all that God says and does, and only what God says and does (e.g. 5:19-30; 6:37-40; 8:29), that to believe Jesus is to believe God. Conversely, not to believe Jesus is to call God a liar (cf. 12:44-50; 1 Jn 5:10).  (D. A. Carson, The Gospel According to John, 213)
  • (v. 34) The prophets of old who spoke for God were led, empowered, and inspired by the Holy Spirit; John the Baptist himself was “filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb” (Lk 1:15). Yet the Spirit’s ability to empower them was limited by their sinful, fallen human natures.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: John, 132)
  • (v. 36) This is the only passage in the Johannine Gospel and Epistles in which “wrath” is mentioned. The word does not mean a sudden gust of passion or a burst of tempter.  Rather, it is the settled displeasure of God against sin.  It is the divine allergy to moral evil, the reaction of righteousness to unrighteousness.  God is neither easily angered nor vindictive.  But by his very nature he is unalterably committed to opposing and judging all disobedience. The moral laws of the universe are as unvarying and unchangeable as its physical laws, and God cannot set aside either without violating his own nature.  The rejection of his Son can be followed only by retribution.  Acceptance of Christ is the personal appropriation of God’s truth–an appropriation that might be compared to the practice of endorsing a check to cash it.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 9, 52-3)
  • (v. 36) Christians who allow tolerance in exchange for the confrontation of genuine love have made many reject Christianity as irrelevant. When truth is sacrificed on the altar of tolerance, no one hears the truth of what God did for us by sending his Son to die on the cross.  The fear of risking offense ought to make us examine whether or not we really believe what we think we believe.  (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: John, 72)
  • (v. 36) wrath. (He uses it six times in the book of Revelation.)  This verse parallels Jn 3:18 and makes it clear that there can be no neutrality when it comes to the witness of Jesus Christ:  Either we trust Him or we reject Him.  (Warren W. Wiersby, Be Alive, 59)
  • (v. 36) This saving faith, comprises believing and obeying; hence, as frequently in the NT, apeitheō (“disobey”) is used here as the antithesis to pisteuō (“believe”). (F. F. Bruce, The Gospel of John, 98)
  • (v. 36) The Greek word here rendered “believeth not,” {NIV = “rejects”} is quite different from the one translated “believeth,” at the beginning of the verse. It means something much stronger than “not trusting.”  It would be more literally rendered, “He that does not obey, or is disobedient to.”  It is the same word so rendered in Rom 2:8; 10:21; 1 Pt 2:8; 2:1-20.  (J. C. Ryle, Expository thoughts on John, Vol. 1, 190)


The questions to be answered are . . . Why is John the Baptist so quick to diminish his significant, world changing mission?  What does JB see about Jesus and himself that could help us enrich our lives?


Answers:  John knows that we are all sinners doomed to suffer God’s wrath.   Jesus is Creator and Lord over all.  Everything we have and are comes from Jesus.  Therefore, magnify Jesus.  Because we are nothing but damned outside of Jesus.  But, “In Christ” we are co-heirs with Christ, His Bride and Temple.


The Word for the Day is . . . Humble!


Pride in the Hebrew means literally “a bubbling up or a foaming over.”  It is the attitude of self-exaltation at the expense of honoring God. …Pride regards self as fundamentally more significant than anybody else.  (Stuart Briscoe; Choices for a Lifetime, 188)


Pride is the only disease known to man that makes everyone sick except the person who has it. (Buddy Robinson as quoted by Charles R. Swindoll; The Tale of the Tardy Oxcart, 465)


Why is life not about me?:

I-  All that I am is derived.  (Jn 3:27 see also: Jn 1:10-13; 15:5; 1 Cor 4:7; 15:10; Phil 2:13)


Christian living, therefore, must be founded upon self-abhorrence and self-distrust because of indwelling sin’s presence and power.  Self-confidence and self-satisfaction argue self-ignorance.  The only healthy Christian is the humble, broken-hearted Christian.  (J. I. Packer, A Quest for Godliness, 196)


Humility rests on self-knowledge; pride reflects self-ignorance.  Humility expresses itself in self-distrust and conscious dependence on God; pride is self-confident and, though it may go through the motions of humility with some skill (for pride is a great actor), it is self-important, opinionated, tyrannical, pushy, and self-willed.  “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prv 16:18).    (J. I. Packer; Rediscovering Holiness, 149-50)


The essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride.  Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that are mere fleabites in comparison:  it was through Pride that the devil became the devil . . .  It is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began.  Other vices may sometimes bring people together:  you may find good fellowship and jokes and friendliness among drunken people or unchaste people.  But pride always means enmity—it is enmity.  And not only enmity between man and man, but enmity to God.  (C. S. Lewis; Mere Christianity, 109, 110-11)


What sin makes God seem more irrelevant?  God wants to fill us with his Holy Spirit, but when we are proud we are already full of ourselves.  There’s no room for God.  Augustine characterized pride as the great political enemy in the City of God, the usurper that wants to unseat God and enthrone itself.  (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 82)


Once I was pondering why our Lord was so fond of this virtue of humility, and this thought came to me–in my opinion not as a result of reflection but suddenly: it is because God is supreme Truth; and to be humble is to walk in truth, for it is a very deep truth that of ourselves we have nothing good but only misery and nothingness.  Whoever does not understand this walks in falsehood.  The more anyone understands he is walking in truth.  (Teresa of Avila, The Interior Castle, VI:10:6)


Thomas a Kempis believed that an accurate self-knowledge always leads to humility.  “Whoso knoweth himself well, is lowly in his own sight and delighteth not in the praises of men” It follows that if we aren’t lowly in our own sight and are dependent on the praise of others, then we don’t know ourselves very well.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 124)


When we’re honest, we have to recognize that every day in a thousand different ways we are all tempted to make ourselves the center of the universe.    (Alistair Begg in a sermon entitled Saying No To Slander)


  1. My existence comes from Another. (1 Chr 29: 10-13; Ps 100:3; 119:73; 138:8; 139:13-16; Acts 17:24-25; Col 1:15-16; Heb 1:2)


  1. Any wisdom I have comes from above. (Prv 2:1-5; 11:2; 15:33; Lk 21:15; Eph 1:17-23; Col 1:19-20; Jam 1:5, 17; 3:13; 2 Pt 3:15)


The more people know, the more they realize what they do not know.  So the greater the scholar, the humbler the person, almost invariably.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapter 12, 459)


Why do you possess the talent, skills, abilities, resources, looks personality, experiences, intellect,  reasoning ability and parents that you possess?   They’ve all been given to you.  You had nothing to do with the initial gift.  What you do with what you have been given makes all the difference in the world.  But, the wisdom of JB is that he recognizes that everything he has and all that he has become is a gift from God and that it would be wise to consider how best to use what God has given him for God’s purposes and glory.   God has not given you what you possess to boost your ego or your self-centeredness.   You are who you are by the grace of God.  Wisdom will always remember this. — PK


Do you have the wisdom of JB?   Jesus gives us wisdom from above.   We reject His testimony because we are stupid.  Even though Jesus sees what we cannot see.  Like a man in a helicopter can see up and down a winding, mountain road.  A truck has 20 cars behind it because it is laboring through the mountains. There are cars wanting to pass but they do not know what is around the next bend.  The man in the helicopter knows. That is wisdom from above. Jesus always has wisdom from above.   He sees what we cannot see.  — Tim Keller/PK


It is only from the view of eternity that you can tell someone what to do in time.  (Tim Keller; Witness 1991).


Every Spiritual leader and teacher is giving us second hand knowledge and testimony about life.  Only Jesus is giving us first hand knowledge.    (Tim Keller; Witness 1991).


If you don’t think life is a mystery . . . you are very young.   (Tim Keller; Witness 1991).


Jesus never told us to erase our ambition.  Jesus never said to shun all thought of rewards.  He told us to turn from earthly ambition and to shun earthly rewards.  He said in effect, “Put yourself last here on earth, and in heaven you’ll be first.”  That’s a trade, not a complete denial!  That thirst for glory you feel in your heart is part of what makes you human–Jesus just wants us to focus it on heaven, looking for our rewards there.  (Gary Thomas, Sacred Marriage, 151)


The difficulty that some see in John the Baptist calling his own ministry “earthly,” is quite needlessly raised.  It is evident that he calls it so “comparatively.”  Compared to the teaching of Scribes and Pharisees, it was not earthly, but heavenly.  Compared to the teaching of Him who came from heaven, it was earthly.  A candle compared to darkness is light; but the same candle compared to the sun is a poor dim spark.  (J. C. Ryle, Expository thoughts on John, Vol. 1, 184)


  1. My abilities, position, and resources are from Another. (1 Chr 29:10-13; Jn 15:5; Rom 12:3-9; 13:1-7; 1 Cor chps 12 & 14; 15:10; Eph 4:7-13; Jam 1:17; 4:2; Heb 5:4)


If a man is displaying gifts superior to mine and having greater success than I am, it is because God has given those to him.  That is the proper philosophy by which to evaluate the successes of others.  Someone may have more education than I and may be prospering.  He may have a nicer home, a larger or happier family, prestige.  But the Scriptures say, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven.”  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: John, 91)


Talent is God given.  Be humble.  Fame is man-given.  Be grateful.  Conceit is self-given.  Be careful.  —John Wooden


What jealousies, what heartburnings, what resentfulness we might escape, if we would only remember that someone else’s success is given to him by God, and were prepared to accept God’s verdict and God’s choice.  (William Barclay, Daily Study Bible Series: John, 143)


The more others magnify us, the more we must humble ourselves, and fortify ourselves against the temptation of flattery and applause, and the jealousy of our friends for our honor, by remembering our place, and what we are, 1 Cor 3:5.  (Matthew Henry’s Commentary: Vol. V, 893)


If a person will accept God’s verdict, he can become something for God.  If he rejects that verdict of nothingness, he is, of all men, the most nothing!  If a man will believe what God says about him, he will admit to what he really is and will enter by faith into what he should be in Christ.  (James Montgomery Boice, John, The coming of the Light, 255)


There is an unhappy human tendency to play down the successes of others and to uplift our own.  If someone is doing well, we attribute it to the “golden spoon” or being at the right place at the right time.  But if we happen to be particularly successful, it is because of our prowess, intelligence, and hard work!  But the proper philosophy by which to evaluate our own successes is to remember that “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven.”  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: John, 91)


I have seen this truth literally revolutionize people as they see that God has sovereignly created them with the gifts and abilities they have.  They are set free!  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: John, 92)


You need to remember, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven.”  When that heavenly philosophy is operating in our lives, it produces security, joy in God’s work, humility, and freedom.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: John, 93)


Whatever place we have in life, he asserted, we have from God.  He spoke the general truth.  We have what we have and we are what we are because God has given it to us.  We need to work within that reality to the glory of God.  (Gary P. Baumler, The People’s Bible: John, 57-8)


Each man, says John, has his allotted gift or ministry from God; his responsibility is to fulfill that.  (F. F. Bruce, The Gospel of John, 95)


He has what God has given him, that and no more.  He cannot be anything more than the forerunner.  God has not given it to him to intrude on the place of the Messiah.  (Leon Morris, The New Int’l Commentary on the NT: John, 212)


He that gives may take.  What we receive from heaven we must take as it is given. (Matthew Henry’s Commentary: Vol. V, 894)


II-  I’m here for Him.  (Jn 3:29-30 see also: Mk 9:41; Jn 15:19; Rom 1:6; 8:9; 14:8; 1 Cor 6:19; 15:23; 2 Cor 10:7; Gal 3:29; 5:24;  Jam 2:7; 1 Pt 2:9-10)


It would ease life a great deal if more people were prepared to play the subordinate role.  So many people look for great things to do.  John was not like that.  He knew well that God had given him a subordinate task.  It would save us a lot of resentment and heartbreak if we realized that there are certain things which are not for us, and if we accepted with all our hearts and did with all our might the work that God has given us to do.  To do a secondary task for God makes it a great task.  (William Barclay, Daily Study Bible Series: John, 142)


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, Life Application Bible Commentary: John, 68)


John’s task had been to bring Israel and Jesus together; to arrange the marriage between Christ the bridegroom and Israel the bride. That task completed he was happy to fade into obscurity for his work was done.  It was not with envy that he said that Jesus must increase and he must decrease; it was with joy.  It may be that sometimes we would do well to remember that it is not to ourselves we must try to attach people; it is to Jesus Christ.  It is not for ourselves we seek the loyalty of men; it is for him.  (William Barclay, Daily Study Bible Series: John, 144)


The herald of the Christ meant to say that to every one God has assigned a place in his eternal plan, and that he, the Baptist, has no right to lay claim to an honor which had not been given to him in heaven.  (William Hendriksen, NT Commentary: John, 148)


Ah, fellow-servants of Christ, take to heart this word–“John also was baptizing.”  His season of popularity might be over:  his light might be eclipsed by that of a greater:  the crowds might have become thin; but, nevertheless, he plodded on and faithfully persevered in the work God had given him to do!  “And let us not be weary in well doing:  for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal 6:9).  (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 142)


It is not easy to see another’s influence growing at the expense of one’s own; it is even less easy to rejoice at the sight.  But John found his joy completed by the news which his disciples brought.  (F. F. Bruce, The Gospel of John, 96)


True humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less.  (Timothy J. Keller, Ministries of Mercy, 64)


As Mrs. Browning had it:  “All service ranks the same with God.”  Any task done for God is necessarily great.  (William Barclay, Daily Study Bible Series: John, 142)


This single thought, if it were duly impressed on the minds of us all, would be abundantly sufficient for restraining ambition; and were ambition corrected and destroyed, the plague of contentions would likewise be removed.  How comes it then, that every man exalts himself more than is proper, but because we do not depend on the Lord, so as to be satisfied with the rank which he assigns to us?  (Calvin’s Commentary on the Gospel of John, 133)


Nothing so defiles Christianity and gives the enemies of truth such occasion to blaspheme, as jealousy and party-spirit among Christians.  Whenever there is real grace, we should be ready and willing to acknowledge it, even though it may be outside our own pale.  We should strive to say with the Apostle, “If Christ be preached, I rejoice:  yea, and will rejoice” (Phil 1:18).  (J. C. Ryle, Expository thoughts on John, Vol. 1, 171-2)


It is God’s plan that the Messiah must continually increase.  The servant, however, must of necessity decrease.  It is never the part of the servant to displace the Master.  This lesson is something that must be learned in every age.  (Leon Morris, The New Int’l Commentary on the NT: John, 214)


John saw Jesus’ increasing popularity not as a concern, but as the fulfillment of his ministry.  Far from upsetting him, it brought him great joy.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: John, 127)


The measure of success for any ministry is not how many people follow the minister, but how many people follow Christ through the minister.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur NT Commentary: John, 127)


Instead of feeling sorry for himself, John actually rejoiced in the popularity of the newcomer.  (James Montgomery Boice, John, The coming of the Light, 253)


To recognize that all spiritual insight and advance comes from God is to be freed from jealous efforts at comparison.  It is to recognize that all Christ-centered and totally committed service, whatever the results, ranks equally with God.  Any task done for God is necessarily a great work.  (James Montgomery Boice, John, The coming of the Light, 254)


III-  The Son has eternal life . . . not me.  (Jn 3:36 see also: Jn 1:4; 3:15-16, 36; 5:21-24, 39-40; 6:27, 33-35, 40, 47-54; 8:12; 10:10, 28; 11:25; 14:6; 17:3; 20:31; Acts 3:15; Rom 5:17-21; 6:23; 2 Cor 4:10; Phil 2:16; Col 3:4; 2 Tm 1:1, 10; 1 Jn 1:1-3; 5:11-13, 20; Jude 1:21)  


As Churches decay and fall away, they think less of Christ and more of their ministers.  As Churches revive and receive spiritual life, they think less of ministers and more of Christ.  (J. C. Ryle, Expository thoughts on John, Vol. 1, 183)


The love which God the Father has for the Son is the same love with which He also embraces US because we are hidden with Christ in God.   This singular, peculiar love with which the Father loves the Son is ours because Christ is in us and we are in Christ, hid with Him in God.  (Oliver B. Greene, The Gospel According to John, Vol. 1, 192)


When Jesus speaks it is instant-communication from heaven, not a relayed broadcast.  Never did any prophet say, “verily I say unto you.”  Always it was “Thus saith the Lord.”  Clearly they spoke FOR God.  Jesus speaks AS GOD.  (C.S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on John, 59)


Coming to Christ is more than a “life or death” matter.  The choice is actually LIFE or WRATH, with death but the usher.  With hell created to satisfy the wrath of God, it is not a nice alternative.  (C.S. Lovett, Lovett’s Lights on John, 59)


We can never have too high thoughts about Christ, can never love Him too much, trust Him too implicitly, lay too much weight upon Him, and speak too highly in His praise.  He is worthy of all the honor that we can give Him.  He will be all in heaven.  Let us see to it, that He is all in our hearts on earth.  (J. C. Ryle, Expository thoughts on John, Vol. 1, 174)



Worship Point: Our worship will be in Spirit and in Truth in proportion to the extent we adopt the Spirit of JB: “He must become greater, I must become less.”  (Mt 18:4; 23:11-12; Lk 9:48; 22:26)


The proud and lofty man or woman cannot worship God any more acceptably than can the proud devil himself.  There must be humility in the heart of the person who would worship God in spirit and in truth.  (A. W. Tozer, Whatever Happened to Worship?, 84)


“The true way to be humble is not to stoop until you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your real height against some higher nature that will show you what the real smallness of your greatness is.”  (Phillip Brooks as quoted by E. Skoglund; Burning out for God, 11)


The Self-made man worships his maker.  —Rick Warren


Gospel Application: Christ, Who is preeminent and Lord over all became less so we could become greater (Phil 2:5-11; Col 1:15-23).  He became poor so we could become rich {Co-heirs with Christ} (Jn 1:12-13; Rom 8:17; Gal 3:26-4:7).  He became a slave so we could become children of God (Jn 1:12-13; Rom 8:12-17; Gal 3:26-4:7; Phil 2:1-11).  He became accursed so we could become blessed {The Temple of the Holy Spirit}(Gal 3:13).  He became estranged from God so we might become the Bride of God (Mt 27:46; Mk 15:34).  We must be “born again” into this reality (Jn 3:3-7; 2 Cor 5:17; 1 Pt 1:23).


John has already made it clear in this chapter that we must all be reborn.  In our natural condition we will not accept Christ’s witness.  The world, as a whole, is not interested in the truth that Jesus came to bring.  John sorrowfully makes it plain that people do not receive his witness.  (Leon Morris, The New Int’l Commentary on the NT: John, 216-7)


The image of the Bridegroom would have been significant to the Jewish people, for Jehovah had a “marriage covenant” with the nation (Isa 54:5; 62:4ff.; Jer 2:2; 3:20; Ez 16:8; Hos 2:19ff.).  Alas, Israel had been unfaithful to her vows, and God had to put her away temporarily.  Today, God is calling out a people for His name, the church, the bride of Christ (2 Cor 11:1-3; Eph 5:22-33).  One day the Bridegroom will come to claim His bride and take her to her home in heaven (Rv 19:6-9; 21:9ff.).  (Warren W. Wiersby, Be Alive, 57)


Spiritual Challenge: Look to Jesus and die to self (Rom 6:6; Gal 2:20; Eph 4:22; Col 3:9)Die to your pride.  Die to your agenda.  Die to your ego.  Die to your expectations (plans).(Prv 18:12; 22:4)


If you should ask me what are the ways of God, I would tell you that the first is humility.  The second is humility.  And the third is humility.  Not that there are no other precepts to give, but if humility does not precede all that we do, our efforts are meaningless.  — St. Augustine


We are never more like the Devil than when we are filled with pride. — Pastor Les Smith


The way to true honor is to be humble.  No man ever was so praised by Christ as the very man who says here, “I must decrease,”–the humble John the Baptist.  (J. C. Ryle, Expository thoughts on John, Vol. 1, 173)


Until we are broken, our life will be self-centered, self-reliant; our strength will be our own.  So long as you think you are really something in and of yourself, what will you need God for?  I don’t trust a man who hasn’t suffered. (John Eldredge as quoted by Simon Guillebaud, Choose Life, 365 Readings for Radical Disciples, 10/6)


Why do we get offended?   Because some area of pride in our life has been assaulted.  Why do we find it hard to forgive?  Because some area of pride in our life has been wounded.  Why do we want to retaliate and take revenge?  Because some area of pride in our life needs defending.  How can we resist being offended, find it easier to forgive, and not want to take revenge?  Kill the area of pride in our lives. — PK


Satan fears virtue.  He is terrified of humility; he hates it.  He sees a humble person and it sends chills down his back.  His hair stands up when Christians kneel down, for humility is the surrender of the soul to God.  The devil trembles before the meek because, in the very areas where he once had access, there stands the Lord, and Satan is terrified of Jesus Christ.  (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 21)


God can never entrust His kingdom to anyone who has not been broken of pride, for pride is the armor of darkness itself.  (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 17)


The greatest saint in the sight of God is the man who is most thoroughly “clothed with humility” (1 Pt 5:5).  (J. C. Ryle, Expository thoughts on John, Vol. 1, 172)


The more guilt and shame that we have buried within ourselves, the more compelled we feel to seek relief through sin.  As we fixate on our jaded motives and soiled conscience, our self-esteem sinks, and in a pernicious leap of logic, we think that we are finally learning humility.

On the contrary, a poor self-image reveals a lack of humility.  Feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, inferiority, and self-hatred rivet our attention on ourselves.  Humble men and women do not have a low opinion of themselves; they have no opinion of themselves, because they so rarely think about themselves.  The heart of humility lies in undivided attention to God, a fascination with his beauty revealed in creation, a contemplative presence to each person who speaks to us, and a “de-selfing” of our plans, projects, ambitions, and soul.  Humility is manifested in an indifference to our intellectual, emotional, and physical well-being and a carefree disregard of the image we present.  No longer concerned with appearing to be good, we can move freely in the mystery of who we really are, aware of the sovereignty of God and of our absolute insufficiency and yet moved by a spirit of radical self-acceptance without self-concern.  (Brennan Manning, Ruthless Trust, 120-1)


God praises humility and punishes pride.  That’s why God’s greatest servants will always be those humble men and women who care less for their own glory and more for God’s glory.  In God’s kingdom, the only way to achieve greatness is to shun it.  And the only way to be wise is to understand these facts:  God is great; He is all-knowing; and He is all-powerful.  We must respect Him, and we must humbly obey His commandments, or we must accept the consequences of our misplaced pride.  (John Ragsdale, How Do I Deal with Anxiety and Fear?, 21)


The root reason for rejecting the testimony of Christ is that, “men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (3:19).  Men are so depraved their hearts are hardened and their understandings are darkened, and therefore, do they prefer the darkness to the light.  (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 151)


If people were flocking to Jesus, that was because the Father willed it so.  The words also apply to the believer whose salvation is a gift from God.  It could never have been acquired otherwise.  (Leon Morris, The New Int’l Commentary on the NT: John, 212)


His humility was the key to his greatness, just as it was with Moses, and it is the key to any greatness of ours, whether we serve in a great or small place.  We should rejoice in the success of others, for we are bound together in Christ.  (R. Kent Hughes, Preaching the Word: John, 94)


And why is it that men receive not the testimony of this One who “cometh from heaven” (v. 31), who testifies of what He has seen and heard (v. 32), and who has the Spirit without measure (v. 34), yea, who is none other than the Son beloved of the Father (v. 35)?  It is because they are earthly.  The message is too heavenly for them.  They have no relish for it.  They have hearts only for things below.  Others are too learned to believe anything so simple:  it is still to the Jews a stumbling block, and to the Greeks foolishness.  (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 151)


It is impossible to have spiritual maturity and pride at the same time.  (Rick Warren; The Purpose Driven Church, 338)


Humility is the foundation of all virtues. (Confucius as quoted by Ken Gire; The Reflective Life, 54)


The beginning is the ending.  To wit:  God begins where we end.  — Steve Brown


Humility is not a popular human trait in the modern world.  It’s not touted in the talk shows or celebrated in valedictory speeches or commended in diversity seminars or listed with corporate core values.  And if you go to the massive self-help section of your sprawling mall bookstore, you won’t find many titles celebrating humility.  The basic reason for this is not hard to find:  humility can only survive in the presence of God.  When God goes, humility goes.  In fact you might say that humility follows God like a shadow.  We can expect to find humility applauded in our society about as often as we find God applauded.  (John Piper, Future Grace, 85)


At the root of the problem was an increasing sense of opposition and jealousy toward Jesus among John’s disciples.  Since Jesus came on the scene, they complained, “everyone” was going to him.  Bigger and bigger crowds followed Jesus as fewer and fewer came to John.  Was that right?

To this day we see similar disputes played out in our churches, whenever we care too much about ourselves and our popularity instead of Jesus and his gospel.  (Gary P. Baumler, The People’s Bible: John, 57)


Get humble and abasing thoughts of yourself.  The humble is ever the patient man.  Pride is the source of irregular and sinful passions.  A lofty, will be an unyielding and peevish spirit.  When we over-rate ourselves, we think that we are treated unworthily, that our trials are too severe:  thus we cavil and repine.  Christian, you should have such thoughts of yourself as would put a stop to these murmurings.  You should have lower and more humiliating views of yourself than any other one can have of you.  Get humility, and you will have peace whatever be your trial.  (John Flavel, Keeping the Heart, 87)


Just as pride was the beginning of sin so too is humility the beginning of Christian discipline.  (St. Augustine as quoted by Alistair Begg message, Submitting to God – Pt 1)


Life, as we perceive it, is based upon the condition of our heart.  This is very important because the gifts of the Spirit must pass through our hearts before they are presented to the world around us.  In other words, if our hearts are not right, the gifts will not be right either.

When the heart has unrest it cannot hear from God.  Therefore, we must learn to mistrust our judgment when our heart is bitter, angry, ambitious or harboring strife for any reason.  The Scriptures tell us to “let the peace of Christ rule [act as arbiter] in [our] hearts” (Col 3:15).  To hear clearly from God, we must first have peace.   (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 81-2)


It is my belief that a massive program of personal and corporate praise could put a large number of psychiatrists out of business and empty many mental institutions.  The quintessence of all of our mental and nervous disorders is over-occupation with the personal ego; namely, self-centeredness.  When the personality becomes centripetal, that is, ego-centered, it disintegrates.  Out of extreme self-centeredness arises defensiveness, hostility, and aggressive, antisocial behavior.  According to the psychiatrists, these are the symptoms of mental sickness which require one to be hospitalized.  To make one’s self his center is self-destructive.  Jesus affirmed this principle when He said, “Whosoever would save his life shall lose it, but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it” (Lk 9:24).  (Paul E. Billheimer, Destined for the Throne, 117-8)


Ego means Edging God Out.  (Carolyn Weese & J. Russell Crabtree, The Elephant in the Boardroom, 17)


Spiritual Challenge Questions:

  1. Humility and thinking less of one’s self goes against everything that is within us. Our natural inclination is to think highly of one’s self . . . not to diminish one’s status.   Why do you think we have this natural tendency?  Where does it come from?   


  1. What are some early indicators that pride is raising its ugly head in our hearts and minds?


  1. What must happen before one would be inclined to follow Jesus’ teaching and JB’s example and humble one’s self? What changes must take place in our thinking for this to begin to happen?


  1. Why is it just plain silly for someone to be proud of himself? If we think clearly and logically, what is there about who we are and what we are that militates against self-exaltation? 


Why is it that we blame fate for accidents but take credit for a hole in one?


If you pray for humility, be careful.  Humility is learned through humiliations!  (Simon Guillebaud, Choose Life, 365 Readings for Radical Disciples, 9/6)


Humility is like underwear—essential, but indecent if it shows.  —Barbara Johnson


So What?: The Son has life (see point III above).  Without Christ we are condemned already (Jn 3:18, 36).   When we become less, God makes us more (Ps 25:9).   The Servant becomes the greatest of all (Mt 18:4; 23:11-12; Lk 9:48; 22:26; Jn 13: 1-16; Phil 2:1-11).  Less is more.  Grace upon grace comes to the humble (Prv 3:34; Jam 1:9; 4:6; 1 Pt 5:5-6).  Life is in Jesus (see point III above).  Death is in us (Rom 5:12-21; 6:16-23; 7:5, 11; 8:2-6; 1 Cor 15:21; 2 Cor 1:9; 4:10-12; 1 Jn 3:14).  Seek Jesus and live (Mt 6:33; 7:7-8; Lk 11:9-10; 12:31; Rom 2:7).


At the very end of the gospel (21:20-23), Peter is reminded that what counts is not comparing yourself with other people and seeing whether your status is higher or lower than theirs, but simply following Jesus.  (N. T. Wright, John for Everyone, Part One, 37)


God is One.  You are a zero.  And if God stands next to you, you become a ten.  And if you are a double zero, you become a hundred.  Etc.


I cannot be occupied with two objects at one and the same time.  To “decrease” is, we take it, to be less and less occupied with ourselves.  The more I am occupied with Christ, the less shall I be occupied with myself.  Humility is not the product of direct cultivation, rather it is a by-product.  The more I try to be humble, the less shall I attain unto humility.  But if I am truly occupied with that One who was “meek and lowly in heart,” if I am constantly beholding His glory in the mirror of God’s Word, then shall I be “changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Cor 3:18).  (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 149)


What matters is a man’s reaction to Christ.  If that reaction be love and longing, that man will know life.  If it be indifference or hostility, that man will know death.  It is not that God sends his wrath upon him; it is that he brings that wrath upon himself.  (William Barclay, Daily Study Bible Series: John, 146)


He makes it very plain that believing on Jesus is the way to heaven, and by contrast, the way to hell is simply to refuse to believe on Him.  It is not necessary to murder, lie, steal, get drunk, or commit adultery in order to be eternally lost.  All one need do to be lost is refuse to believe on Jesus.  (Oliver B. Greene, The Gospel According to John, Vol. 1, 192-3)


God’s wrath is his final judgment and rejection of the sinner.  To put off the choice is to choose not to follow Christ.  Indecision is a fatal decision.  (Bruce B. Barton, Life Application Bible Commentary: John, 74)


The greater the mercy that the Lord Jesus offers, the greater will be the guilt of those who neglect and reject it.  (J. C. Ryle, Expository thoughts on John, Vol. 1, 175)


If it is not “given” to us the fault is all our own.  We “have not” because we “ask not” (Jam 4:2).  Or, we “find” not, because we are too lazy to “search” diligently for the precious things of God.  (Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John, 145)


Now if it be the office of Christ to save what was lost, they who reject the salvation offered in him are justly suffered to remain in death.  (Calvin’s Commentary on the Gospel of John, 111)


The degree to which you die on the altar is the degree to which you will experience true joy in reality.  As the altar burns away the selfishness and ego and the self-protection, you will find you are free of the fear, of the necessity to defend yourself, and the necessity to be anything but His.”   (Steve Brown Romans Vol 2, #15)


   He must become greater; I must become less.  — John 3:30



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