Tag Archives: sanctification

It’s Not About Me… John 3:22-30

Several of the churches in my area send postcards by mail advertising the latest sermon series or newly launched program. I’m always curious when the pastor’s picture is featured prominently on the card, sometimes to the point of dominating the message. What is church all about, really, and who takes center stage?

(John the Baptist’s words): “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. He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:29-30 ESV

After Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus, Scripture tells us that He and His disciples went into the countryside. People came to Him, and He baptized them. Some of John the Baptist’s disciples asked John about this, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness – look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” (John 3:26) It’s a perfectly understandable concern, really. John the Baptist had drawn crowds for quite some time, baptizing many for repentance from sin as he announced the presence of Jesus the Messiah. Now Jesus’ time had come; His public ministry was well underway. And, with that, John the Baptist had fulfilled his purpose. It was time to step aside.

How easy it would have been for John to let ego cloud his judgment. Had he shown bitterness, resentment, or envy at the fact that people were flocking to Jesus instead of to John, I suspect that many would have understood those feelings. Instead, John took his rightful place.

Egoism is a prevalent trait in our sinful world. As defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, egoism is a condition in which a person’s motives are driven by their own self-interest, sometimes with an overt display of self-importance. We see this all the time, don’t we? Be careful here. While we may be tempted to think that politicians, athletes, entertainers, or successful business executives have cornered the market on egoism, the reality is this: Even “regular” people like you and me can be overcome by an air of egoism manifested in feelings of entitlement, self-centeredness, or perhaps through overtly seeking attention for ourselves. We have many avenues through which we feed our egos – ever hear of Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr, Twitter…? Yes, I am as guilty as anybody when it comes to putting myself out there in social media and taking pleasure as the “follows”, “likes”, and “retweets” come. Don’t misunderstand me; I think social media is great. I get news and information via social media. I stay connected with friends through social media. I also take hiatus from social media from time to time when I start to feel like it is dominating how I spend my time.

What is really important? What is it that should supersede everything else? John the Baptist knew that it was Christ.

So, back to the postcards. Since egoism is such an easy trap to fall into, I suspect that many preachers and teachers are sorely tempted, and even give in to the temptation once in awhile. While some postcards prominently featuring the smiling face of the church’s pastor raise the question, I know not to judge a book by its cover. But I wonder what those preachers talk about in their sermons. Do they present the Gospel? Is their message focused on Christ and the fact that He suffered and died to save us from the eternal damnation we all deserve because of our sin? Or do they feed egos by telling their flocks that God wants them to be happy; He wants them to be rich. Is the message they deliver each week about Him? Or is it about the people and their quest for happiness and self-esteem? Do they take the stage accompanied by pounding music and raucous applause or do they quietly, humbly, and contemplatively step to their position to deliver the Word?

What about the music and those who deliver it? Are they more concerned about their appearance and what the congregation thinks of their presentation? As they lead worship, do they move or dress to draw attention to themselves, or are they entirely focused on leading the congregation in worshipping the Lord? In my church, the congregation commonly applauds after the choir or soloist sings and after various ensembles offer their music. To be honest, as a musician I’m a bit uncomfortable with the applause, and I constantly remind myself, “this isn’t about me.”

God called John the Baptist to a very specific ministry. John was to announce to the world that the Messiah had come:

Now this was John’s testimony when the Jews of Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Christ.” They asked him, “then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” “No.” finally they said, “Who are you?” John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’” Now some Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” John 1:19-27 ESV

My role as a Christian is to announce Jesus to the world as He commanded in The Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20). It is not to draw attention to myself in doing so. Yes, I want to sing well as a member of the choir and when I assist in leading worship. When I play bells, I want to hit the correct notes at the correct time at the proper volume. I want to do those things to give glory to my God and my Lord. I confess that I am sometimes tempted to relish in the applause when it comes; God forgive me. As a Christian, I must also lift my pastor and all who preach the Word in prayer, that they would honor God in presenting His Word and that they would present His Word faithfully, truthfully, and forthrightly.

John the Baptist announced Jesus’ coming to the world, just as he was called to do. And, as Christians, we are called to do the same. It’s not about us; it’s about Him.

Ponder This: What is my attitude towards God? What is my attitude in worship, especially when I play a leadership role in the service?

My Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, You and You alone are worthy of glory, honor, praise and worship. Even so, I confess that I sometimes forget that, as I focus on myself and what others think about me. I confess that I sometimes give in to the temptation to bask in the positive feedback others give me to the point at which it overshadows You. Forgive me, renew me, and continue to lead me on the path of sanctification. Help me use the gifts and talents you have so graciously given me to Your glory. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Sources:

Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Scripture text from BibleStudyTools.com

True Light ~ John 1:6-18

Have you ever felt like your life was muddling along with no real direction or no real purpose? Have you ever looked at what is happening in the world around you and wondered, “why?” Have you ever sensed that there is something bigger and better than what this world has to offer and wished you could wrap your mind around that concept? I believe that most of us have felt these things at one time or another.

There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light. There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testified about Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’ ” For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. ~ John 1:6-18

Absolute darkness

Absolute darkness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As John continues his introduction of Jesus, he refers to Jesus as the Light. The answers to the questions cited above can be answered through Him. You see, when sin came into the world it enveloped humanity in darkness. Sin seeks to blind us from God’s truth, and in doing so, becomes the focus of the human life. Why do we sometimes feel that we lack purpose? Why do people lie, cheat, steal and kill? Why don’t we readily see that God has a greater plan for us than this? It’s because of sin.

Fog

Fog (Photo credit: rchughtai — “not very active”)

Sadly, many of the very people Jesus came to save didn’t recognize Him. That continues today. Our world is cloaked in darkness; the evidence of sin in the world is all around us. Sin causes humanity to reject God’s truth, embracing human wisdom instead. It motivates us to seek position and power for ourselves, even if we have to climb over the backs of others to succeed. Sin rationalizes sin, from the driver cutting off the driver alongside him because of a perceived driving discourtesy all the way through the spectrum to a society rationalizing killing the unborn in the name of “choice”.  Sin clouds our vision as it seeks to forever separate us from our Creator.

English: Flame. Around the base are the words ...

English: Flame. Around the base are the words “Jesus – Light of the world” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jesus didn’t come to light the way to a more prosperous life; He didn’t come so we could be happy campers on planet Earth. Jesus came as the True Light to expose sin for what it is and to win the victory over sin once and for all. As sin seeks to envelop us in darkness, Jesus brings Light into the world. Through Him the darkness is overcome and we instead live under His grace and truth. Are we who believe perfect and free of sin? Of course not. But through Jesus, the Light of the World, we are saved from the eternal separation from God that sin delivers. Through His sacrifice on the cross we are sanctified (made perfect) and freed from the bondage of sin. We look forward to spending eternity in the glorious presence of our Creator. Until that day comes, we seek to live lives that glorify our Lord and Savior.

As John’s account of Jesus continues to unfold, let us walk in the Light together as we seek God’s Truth for humanity.

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for sending Jesus to save us from sin. Help me to live a life that witnesses to the promise of salvation that comes only through Him. In His name I pray, AMEN.

Light Piercing the Darkness ~ Jeremiah 25:1-14

“And the LORD has sent to you all His servants the prophets again and again, but you have not listened nor inclined your ear to hear, saying, ‘Turn now everyone from his evil way and from the evil of your deeds, and dwell on the land which the LORD has given to you and your forefathers forever and ever; ~ Jeremiah 25:4-5

English: Okienko Zbójnickie Cave in Kraków, Po...

English: Okienko Zbójnickie Cave in Kraków, Poland Polski: Okienko Zbójnickie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I remember as a Boy Scout we went spelunking on one of our weekend camping trips. We entered this narrow, wet cave in groups of eight. Each of us had a flashlight, and I had the map. As we entered the cave and rounded the first bend the outside light from the entrance quickly gave way to complete darkness. At one point along the way we all turned off our flashlights and experienced a scary, overcoming darkness. Within a few seconds we felt completely disoriented and scared. We quickly turned our lights back on and held tightly to them as we completed our journey.

In this passage, God’s words through the prophet Jeremiah are words of anger and warning of consequence for sin. For 23 years, Jeremiah has proclaimed God’s wrath to Israel and for 23 years Israel has chosen not to listen. In this passage, God’s sovereignty is on full display as He lays out the consequences for Israel’s sin. (Read on, though; there is a Light to come!)

Note that God refers to King Nebuchadnezzar as “servant” in describing how this foreign king will come against Israel and bring them into exile in Babylon. They will be in exile for 70 years. At the end of the exile period, God says He will punish Babylon for its deeds. After all, even in His anger, Israel is still God’s chosen people.

Human wisdom says this is unfair. However, we must always remember that God is completely sovereign over His creation. He can use whomever he wants, even those who do not acknowledge Him, to carry out His good and perfect will. This is a tough pill to swallow. We all sin and the message here is that God is angered by that, and sin bears its consequence. For Israel, the consequence was to be a successful invasion by a foreign power.

There is no good news in today’s Jeremiah passage. But in order to understand where we humans stand in relationship to our sovereign God, we must understand His wrath over sin. Is God as angered by our sin as He was over the sins of Israel in Jeremiah’s day? The Bible tells us He is. In fact, the Bible tells us that we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23) and the punishment for sin is death. What hope do we have? Where do we turn?

Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 6:21-23

Cross & Clouds

Cross & Clouds (Photo credit: John H Wright Photo)

In ourselves there is no hope. If we rely on our efforts, our knowledge, our works, to appease God’s righteous anger with our sin we become like a group of boy scouts trying to find our way through a dark, wet cave with no flashlight; we will get nowhere. Recognizing that fact, God paid the price in full for our sins. Justification for sin comes through the shedding of blood, and Jesus shed His blood on the cross in our behalf. The Light of the World has overcome the wet darkness of that cave of sin. Jesus, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords humbled Himself to die, that we who believe in Him would be forgiven and spared the punishment we deserve. That is Good News, indeed!

Ponder this: At we read about God’s wrath we must never forget that God shows His love and mercy through Jesus. Isn’t it comforting to know that through Jesus we are forgiven? Who in your world needs to hear this Good News?

 My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, I know I sin every day. I ask Your forgiveness as I seek to turn away from my sins and live a life that glorifies You. Thank you for Jesus’ sacrifice in my behalf for I know it is through Him and Him alone that I am reconciled to You. In His name I pray, AMEN.

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