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Sunday, June 17, 2018

posted Jun 17, 2018, 9:49 PM by Site Administrator





John 3:22-36

Key Verse 3:29


The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.


First, "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven" (22-28). Look at verses 22 through 24. At this time, there were two baptisms going on in Israel. One was in the Judean countryside by Jesus and his disciples. The other was at Aenon near Salim by John the Baptist. John's disciples testified that everyone was going to Jesus. It was a transitional time when God's ministry was transferring from John the Baptist to Jesus. Now John's ministry was near an end, but John was still faithful to his mission. Look at verse 25. An argument developed between some of John's disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. We don't know what kind of argument it was about, but anyway, because of this argument, John's disciples felt bad. Before, when all people flocked to John and received the baptism, they too were very honored. At that time, no one dared challenge them. But since Jesus started baptizing and everybody was going to him, John's ministry began to lose its fame. And now, even a man challenged them about certain doctrinal matter, and it seemed that he gave John's disciples a hard time; maybe, he prevailed. So John's disciples came to John and said, "Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan - the one you testified about - well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him." They knew what their teacher John the Baptist had testified about Jesus. They saw John shouting, "Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." They saw John saying, "I baptize with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.""He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me." "I have seen and testify that this is the Son of God." But they did not accept his teaching. They did not look at Jesus; nor did they follow him. They were bad students. They did not know why their teacher struggled hard to deliver the message of repentance and gave baptism to many. They did not know John's earnest desire to bring all men to Jesus Christ. Instead, they regarded Jesus as their competitor. What they suggested was: "We've got to do something to attract people back to us." What was John's reply? Let's read verses 27 and 28. 


27To this John replied, "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven. 28you yourselves can testify that I said, 'I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.' 


John refused his disciples' suggestion, saying, "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven." That was John's understanding and perspectives. So, John had no reason to compete with Jesus the Christ. John knew his position before God - a voice in the desert as the forerunner of the Christ. John never forgot this. When all people wondered if he were the Messiah, he did not go beyond his position. Now, his disciples tried to stir him up to compete with Jesus. But he told his disciples clearly, saying, "You yourselves can testify that I said, 'I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him." He kept his position as a voice in the desert to the end. When we serve God's ministry, we should keep this word in our mind. "A man can receive only what is given him from heaven." In the world, people struggle hard to climb up the ladder of success to occupy higher positions. But this expression shows that in the spiritual realm, no one acquires a certain position by his own struggles; instead, God assigns each person in his or her position according to his plan and purpose - to some people, as apostles, to some others as missionaries, to still others, as pastors or as shepherds or shepherdesses. Our struggle is not that we would occupy higher positions in God's ministry, but that we may be loyal and faithful to the task God called us to serve. Some people, enticed by the titles such as pastor, think that they can get it, if they have a greater title such as seminary degree, or even PhDs in theology. But that's a worldly way, not God's way. In Jesus Christ, there is no higher position or greater title we can acquire through our own struggles; instead, we can receive only what is given us from heaven. And as we give all our hearts and strength to serving God's purpose, God will surely make us very fruitful and exalt us highly. To anyone who serves God wholeheartedly comes honor and respect. When we remain faithful to the task God assigned to, on that day, Jesus will say to us, "Well done, my good and faithful servant!" That will be our true reward.    


Second, "He must become greater; I must become less" (29-30). In verse 29, John explains his position as a friend of the bridegroom using the parable of a wedding. Let's read this verse together: 


29The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom's voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 


According to the Jewish marriage custom, the bridegroom and the bride, once pledged to marry, were regarded as husband and wife, but they did not live together for one year. Instead, they stayed at their parents' house studying the Bible to learn what it meant to be husband or wife, and to learn all practical customs such as how to prepare the Sabbath. A strange thing is that there was no specific appointed time for the wedding ceremony. Instead, near the end of one year, the bridegroom sent his most trustworthyfriend to the bride's house to take care of the bride until he came for the wedding. The mission of this friend was to keep andprotect the bride sound and safe from all harms and evils until his friend, the bridegroom came. So, even though the friend was with the bride, the bride belonged to the bridegroom. Then, when the bridegroom came for the wedding ceremony, someone shouted, loudly, "The bridegroom is coming. Come and welcome him!" Then people came out, welcomed him and performed the wedding ceremony. And the bridegroom took the bride. At the same time, the mission of the friend of the bridegroom was over. So when he heard the voice of the bridegroom, he was happy and joyful, because he had finished his mission successfully for his friend, the bridegroom. His mission was over. John the Baptist regarded himself as the friend of the bridegroom, who took care of and protected the bride until the bridegroom came. Even though so many people came to him, received the baptism and even followed him, he knew that they did not belong to him, but belonged to Jesus Christ, the bridegroom. When the bridegroom, Jesus Christ came and took the brides, John was very joyful because he had finished his mission successfully. He said, "That joy is mine, and it is now complete." John found amazing joy to be trusted as the bridegroom's best friend. John found complete joy in taking care of the brides of Jesus. He found great joy when people accepted Jesus as their Savior. He was so happy because he saw the beautiful, smiling, and happy face of his friend with his brides. He was a truly happy person because of Jesus. But John's disciples were not joyful when everyone was going to Jesus because they were not Jesus' friends. The Pharisees were jealous when people went to Jesus because they were not Jesus' friends, but competitors. 


John's understanding of his position as a friend of the bridegroom shows us what we are doing as shepherds for God's flock. We are preparing people for Jesus to come and take them as his brides. We are taking care of the brides until the bridegroom comes to take them. Sometimes, we feel very difficult, because not all the brides are good and mature. Instead, many of them are worldly; instead of giving their hearts to their bridegroom and waiting for him to come, their hearts go after many attractive looking things of the world. So we struggle hard to turn their eyes and hearts from such things to Jesus, their bridegroom. Some of them are very rebellious that they are not like brides, but like goats with two horns. We suffer a lot to bear with them. Some of them even go after other seductive people instead of waiting for their true husband. So we too have to go after them all the way until our feet blister. We want to prepare them as pure virgin brides who love Jesus alone. The apostle Paul gives his own job description, saying, "I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him." (2Co 11:2) For this purpose, he zealously wrestled with them, sometimes challenging them to repent, sometimes, encouraging them, sometimes, watching them quietly. Then, when they repented, when they really loved Jesus, he was overjoyed, happy and thankful.


It is our great privilege that we are chosen to be Jesus' friends to take care of his brides until he comes. What great joy we experience when we see, once wayward and worldly sheep become lovely brides for Jesus, saying, "I love Jesus. Oh Lord, whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you." (Ps 73:25) How happy we become when once rebellious sheep become so obedient, even beyond human understanding. When an ordinary person grows up to be a great man of God through our care, our joy is complete. At the Friday meeting, after hearing young disciples' sincere testimony, and seeing how they struggle to love Jesus and serve him, we are overjoyed. When the testimony meeting is over, we are so happy and thankful for their love for Jesus that we all pray so loudly and passionately. We indeed have the joy of the friend of the bridegroom. "That joy is mine and it is now complete." 


Jesus regarded Simon Peter as his best man. So after his resurrection, he visited Simon Peter, and asked, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you," Simon answered. Then, Jesus entrusted to Peter his most precious treasure, his brides, his sheep, saying, "Feed my lambs." Jesus gave us this important task to take care of his brides because he regarded us as his best men, reliable and trustworthy. This is our thanks topic. Paul says, "I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me trustworthy, appointing me to his service." (1Ti 1:12) Who are we that Jesus King of kings considered us most trustworthy that he sent us to take care of his most precious brides? Now it's our turn to prove ourselves worthy of his trust and of this privilege by taking care of Jesus' brides faithfully praying for them, and teaching them the word of God, until they are ready for the wedding ceremony with their bridegroom. Let Jesus be proved right that he chose us to be his friends to take care of his brides.The apostle Paul says, "As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received." (Eph 4:1) When he comes and takes his brides, we will see his smiling face and our joy will be complete because we love him.


Look at verse 30. John says, "He must become greater; I must become less." At the wedding, the most gorgeous looking person should be the bridegroom. So the bridegroom wears the most beautiful and expensive tuxedo, and is adorned with many beautiful and glorious items like diamonds or sometimes, a beautiful sword. Or sometimes, in order to praise his glory, the bridegroom's friends prepare special ceremony with military band and many soldiers in their uniforms saluting to the bridegroom. At the wedding, the bridegroom must become greater; he must be the hero and star of the day. All his friends wear nice suits only to magnify the glory of their friend, the bridegroom. If any friend of the bridegroom wears more beautifully and luxuriously than the bridegroom, people will be confused, and this friend will bring great dishonor to the bridegroom at his wedding. John the Baptist says, "He must become greater; I must become less." So far, as John had worked hard to prepare the hearts of people for Jesus Christ, he had received the spot light, and he became great. Now, it was the time the bridegroom was coming. John knew his role, and he knew that Jesus must become greater, and for this, he must become less. He was happy when everyone was going to Jesus because Jesus was the bridegroom, and he was his friend. In our life, Jesus must become great because, figuratively speaking, he is the bridegroom at the wedding, and he is the hero and star in our lives. Our heart's desire is to fulfill God's purpose upon our life so that the glory of God may be revealed in and through our lives. But, practically, how can we reveal his glory and fulfill his purpose upon our life? Many people fail to make Jesus great in their lives because their life philosophy is: "He must become greater; I must become greater too." They never do anything great. It is only possible to make Jesus greater when we have one single desire to reveal his glory by any means, even at the cost of our own life. We must remember that Jesus is the bridegroom at the wedding, and he is the Hero and Star in our lives. "He must become greater; I must become less." 


Third, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life" (31-36). Look at verses 31 and 32. "The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. 32He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony." Here, John testifies about Jesus, saying, "Jesus is from above." It means that Jesus is fundamentally different from all because He is the Creator God, whereas all other things are the created beings. We are from the earth, and belong to the earth. But Jesus is from above because He is the Creator God. Also, the expression, "above all" shows Jesus' supremacy. Jesus is above all - above our understanding, logic, and consensus. So, what he says and testifies must be amazing and great - the words of the one who is from heaven, and who is above all. Yet, amazingly, John says, "but no one accepts his testimony." It seemed that thousands' people were following him all the time. But John testifies against them that none of them accepted his testimony, even though they enjoyed his grace. Here, we see that attending Jesus' Bible study or even receiving his healing touch, or doing many religious things is different from accepting his testimony. We can do all these things mindlessly, just going through the motion - these are not so personal; we can do them without thinking too much - going to Bible study, attending worship service, handing out some gospel tracks,... But accepting his testimony is very personal - testimony is already personal, and when you accept his testimony, it means that you agree to whatever he says, and because that's how you see, you live in the way he shows - thus, your life changes according to his words. Such people who accept his testimony cross over from death to life - they are the ones who hears the voice of the Son of God and accept his words. We do a lot of Bible studies; we hear God's message every week. But all these should not be just something we do mindlessly or as a routine of our Christian life; instead, through all these, we must accept God's testimony very personally. As we study God's words, we must respond to them very personally. 


No one accepts his testimony. But there are some people who accept it, and when they accept it, something great happens to them. Look at verse 33. Let's read this verse together:


The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful."


When some people accept Jesus' testimony, agreeing to what he says, their view and perspectives change, and say that God is truthful. The expression, here, the expression "has certified," indicates their complete confidence in God's truthfulness - there is no doubt, it is absolutely clear. That's what happens to everyone who has accepted Jesus' words personally - their views and perspectives change; their eyes are open to God's truthfulness and thereby, they talk about it - God is truthful. When people don't accept Jesus' testimony, everything is vague and conceptual - God's will, God's goodness, God's love, eternal salvation and eternal condemnation,... everything is conceptual, not real. At that time, these people talk about God's grace all the time. They mindlessly say, "Once saved, forever saved." "I am saved when I was four years old." "If this is not God's will, he will make it known to me." They think that no matter what they do, either good or bad, God loves them and blesses them. So, they ignore whatever God says in the Bible; instead, they do whatever they see fit, as a result, there is no true repentance, or no true submission or commitment to God; everyone talks about God, so everyone looks like a Christian, but at the same time, no one looks like a Christian. But when people accept Jesus' testimony, Jesus' words, when they accept God's word really, their attitude toward God changes and thereby, their life changes completely. They do not insist their own way, or their own desires; instead, they submit themselves to God's will and purpose and live for God. They are real children of God. When you accept Jesus' testimony, when you accept one word of God really, this change occurs in your life and you become the one who certifies to the world that God is truthful.


As a conclusion, John says in verse 36, "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." In English translation, the meaning of this verse is not clear, because it uses two different terms - "eternal life" and "life." But actually, in the original Greek text, both "eternal life" and "life" in verse 36 are the same word, "zoe," that truly fulfilling, meaningful and happy life the author the apostle John talks about in John's gospel continually. Whoever believes in the Son has zoe. "Belief in Jesus" brings you "zoe" eternal life, that truly happy and fulfilling life. Here, we must think about the meaning of believing in him. It does not mean to say, "I believe in Jesus." But rather, it means that we put our trust in who he is - "believe in him." For example, he is the good shepherd who knows his sheep, who knows his sheep's strong points and weak points, who knows what his sheep are going throughWhen we really believe that he is our good shepherd who knows our struggles, pains, sorrows and agonies, there we find deep peace, joy and strength that we will not be defeated by such challenges; instead, by faith in him, we can become strong and courageous and even aim to do something great. When life's challenges come, when difficulties rise, we must believe in who he is - he is our good God who has a good and great plan for each of us; we must believe in who he is - he is the Almighty, and everything is in his control. When we believe in who he is, we enjoy zoe, eternal life, that truly fulfilling, meaningful and happy life, and we rise above all challenges. When you believe, you live.


But whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him. We must not reject the Son no matter what. We remember how Judas Iscariot rejected Jesus. Even though he was one of the twelve apostles, even if he had served God's work together with Jesus for 3 years, when a money matter came up, he chose money over Jesus; he opened his heart to money and closed his heart toward Jesus; that's how he rejected Jesus. Don't reject Jesus only because of some money matter, some career matter, because on such people, God's wrath remains. Also, we remember how Judas rejected Jesus by giving into his ill-emotion; when Jesus exposed his betrayal publicly, he was upset and angry with him; he gave into his sense of bitterness and hatred, and thereby, was determined to do something harmful to Jesus. Don't give into your ill-emotion such as bitterness, anger, or jealousy; when you do so, only Satan enters you. When they reject Jesus, the Son of God, they will not see zoe at all; instead, God's wrath remains on them. 


As we live as Jesus' disciples, there may be many challenging moments; sometimes, we are discouraged; sometimes, we are upset; sometimes, we are scared. Yet, no matter what, one thing we must remember is this: Whoever believes in the Son has zoe, but whoever rejects the Son will not see zoe. Eventually, the conclusion we must have is to believe in the Son. There is no other option. That's why the Bible declares, "The righteous will live by faith from first to last." You may be pressured on every side; you may be persecuted; you may lose a lot. Yet, when you believe in the Son, even in the midst of such challenges, you have "zoe," that powerful life working in you. Who can understand this secret of faith in the Son? Paul says, "But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  8  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  9  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." (2Co 4:7-9) So, in all circumstances, keep you faith in the Son, saying, "And I still believe..."


In today's passage, we learn the deep love and loyalty of John the Baptist for Jesus Christ. John said, "That joy is mine, and now it is complete." He also said, "He must become greater; I must become less." Because of his burning love and passion for Jesus, John the Baptist was happy. Seeing Jesus' smiling and happy face made him so happy and joyful. He was a truly happy man because of Jesus. That's the joy and happiness only those whose hearts and lives are completely dedicated to Jesus can have. Let's pray that we all may have the same testimony - that joy is mine and it is now complete. Let's pray that we all may live as pure virgin bridesfor Jesus Christ our bridegroom. We are waiting for his coming for our wedding ceremony. Let's pray that we may find the brides of Jesus Christ on our campuses and take care of them faithfully so that they too may be prepared as pure virgin brides for him. When Jesus comes, our joy will be complete. 


One Word: That Joy Is Mine And It Is Now Complete!