Friction

Remember, why are we going through the book of John? To find out who Jesus is. To see Him, to see what the scripture actually says. To take our ideas of Who Jesus is, and compare them, and let our false ideas fall away. Let’s go on.

 

John chapter 3, beginning in verse 22. John the Baptist is coming back into the story.

 

After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized (for John had not yet been put in prison).
Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.”

 

Okay. So Jesus has disciples, and one of them, we know, is the man who wrote this gospel. John the author. And John the author used to be a disciple of John the Baptist. So Jesus takes his disciples and is teaching and going around and baptizing people, and yet John the Baptist is still doing this.

And then an antagonist, (it just says, “a Jew,” which, actually, they all were,) comes and gets into an argument and THEN he tries to get John the Baptist burned up because Jesus is also baptizing, and moreover, John’s disciples are leaving and going to Jesus.  Among them, John the author, who is telling this story.

 

What do you expect to happen? If this happened in a modern church, what would you expect to happen? You would expect John the Baptist to trash talk Jesus.

How many times has someone left a group for another congregation, and people shake their heads or speak cutting words? It’s because we are all out to build our own following, and if someone isn’t with us, we’re against them.

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But this isn’t what John the Baptist does. Listen to what he says.  

 

John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ 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.
He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all.”  

 

He humbly recognizes that Jesus is greater. In fact, he goes on to complete defend Jesus- and to make it clear that he backs everything Jesus says.

 

“He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

 

And then see what happens:

 

“Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples), he left Judea and departed again for Galilee.”

 

What does Jesus do? He mercifully changes things so that his servant, John, is not dishonored any longer.

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I know I’ve said before that the only perfect person in the bible is Jesus, and we have to weigh the actions and words of all the other people. But here, John gives us an excellent example to follow. Actually, they both do.

 

Especially those of us who want to be teachers.

 

Look back at the first statement John makes- “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.”

 

This is interesting. If we, who love the word and love to teach it, have received knowledge, insight, or wisdom, we ought to remember that it all comes from heaven. It’s all from God. We know and understand nothing on our own. So when we teach, we are only passing on what we have received ourselves, undeservedly.

 

And so, if another teaches more or even better, instead of being envious of their ministry, following, gifts, or publishing contract, we should acknowledge that they, like us, are only passing on the gifts from heaven they received. We shouldn’t discredit them or down talk them. We shouldn’t try to build our reputation by putting down another’s.

This reminds me of 1 Corinthians, chapter 1, beginning in verse 10. Let’s read it in the Voice translation.

 

My brothers and sisters, I urge you by the name of our Lord Jesus, the Anointed, to come together in agreement. Do not allow anything or anyone to create division among you. Instead, be restored, completely fastened together with one mind and shared judgment.  I have heard troubling reports from Chloe’s people that you, my siblings, are consumed by fighting and petty disagreements.
What I have heard is that each of you is taking sides, saying, “I am with Paul,” or “I am with Apollos,” or “I am with Cephas,” or “I am with the Anointed One.”  Has the Anointed One been split up into many small pieces? Do you think Paul was crucified for you? Were you ceremonially washed through baptism into the name of Paul? Absolutely not!
Now I am thankful that I baptized only Crispus and Gaius,  so none of you can falsely declare you were baptized in my name.  (Now wait, as I think about it, I also baptized the household of Stephanas; if there are others in your community whom I baptized, I cannot recall at this moment.)
The mission given to me by the Anointed One is not about baptism, but about preaching good news. The point is not to impress others by spinning an eloquent, intellectual argument; that type of rhetorical showboating would only nullify the cross of the Anointed.

 

And this is the message to all of the teachers in the church- to come together in agreement. To not allow anything or anyone to create division among us. To be restored, completely fastened together with one mind and shared judgement.

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It’s interesting here that Paul talks about baptism, and how he did not baptise much. And remember above, that is says, Jesus himself did not baptize, but his disciples did it. It was for the same reason, I believe, that Jesus did not. So that no one would be able to assert his importance over another. “I was baptized by Pastor Big Wig of the Great City Church.” “…Oh yeah? I was baptized by Jesus himself.”

No, but we are all baptized, humbly, by the person who came before us in the church.

In fact, this is how we receive so much- through humility and teachability, by learning from those who have gone before us.

 

And so if we are lacking in revelation and understanding, we should not puff ourselves up and tear others down. We should humble ourselves, and learn, and seek the Lord.

And then let it be true of us what John said-

“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.”

I’m not going to lie, it’s not easy to do. I write and teach and want to share the good things God has given me, and it’s hard to be passed over or ignored, or to feel put aside. It’s not wrong to have a yearning to use our gifts, or to teach the things we’ve learned.

But I have to watch carefully that in my desire to do this, I’m not pushing for the sake of my own fame, or glorifying in my own success. When I write, or sing, or create, or teach, and it goes well, it’s exhilarating, it is.

 

But I am learning more and more  the idea of using these things to please the Lord- and sometimes that means my gifts are not noticed or valued by the world. When that happens, it’s easy to look at others and be envious of their large platforms and ministries.

I have always wanted to be liked, I want so much to be affirmed and valued and praised. But I want my heart to be so turned towards the Lord that I delight in his affirmation and praise, and I can give and teach to one or thousands, and either way, I am satisfied.

I’m not there. I want to see a post go viral, of course. I want to sing and have audiences want to listen. And there are times when the Lord asks me to do things that I’m loathe to do because I’m afraid of what people will think.

But when I see this in the scripture, how John humbled himself, and in return Jesus mercifully made the situation less awkward and painful, It makes me trust him more. It makes me feel more willing to do some of these things that I’m scared of doing.

I want to fix my eyes on Him, the author and finisher of my faith. I want to do like Jesus says to Peter at the end of this book- to stop thinking about others and just remember that Jesus says, “What’s that to you, even if I were to let him live forever? You follow me.

That’s how to avoid friction. We all just keep going towards Him, right?

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The book of John (1)This post is part of an ongoing series going through the book of John. You can subscribe by email using the link on this page, or you can browse by passage at the lead page. Just click here.

 

Like a Dove

 

Before we go any farther, I want you to know that this John, the Baptist, is not the same John that the book is named for. I know, it’s confusing. So many biblical names are hard to pronounce, or similar to other names. But the writer of the book of John is John, one of Jesus’ disciples, or followers. He’s going to come into the story in a little bit, but so far he’s been talking about a different John. The one we call John the Baptist. Let’s keep going, because John the Baptist has a little more to say about Jesus before the story shifts to Jesus himself for the rest of the time.

Starting in verse 29, Chapter 1, in the book of John.

The next day he (John) saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”

 

Here John is talking to some of his followers. Back then, there were few books and no internet, and if you had the desire, and the time, and the resources to learn, you would find a person you considered wise, and go to them and ask to learn from them, or be their student. Like an apprentice. The word for this student was disciple. And the word for teacher was Rabbi. There’s a lot more to know about that, but that’s enough for now.

John the Baptist is with his disciples, and he teaches them these things about Christ. And the reason why we know what he taught is because John, the writer of this book, was one of John the Baptist’s disciples. So here he writes what was actually taught to him. John the Baptist taught that Jesus was before him, and ranks before him, and not because Jesus was born first, because he wasn’t. But because Jesus existed from the beginning, which John the Baptist knew because John the Baptist was filled with the Spirit of God.

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And here he talks more about this Spirit. How he saw the Spirit descend like dove onto Jesus, and remain on him. And also, how “He who sent me to baptize…” Who was this “He?” God, and probably through the Spirit.

 

So much here about the Spirit of God, the invisible, mysterious, confusing, beautiful person of the Trinity, who descends like a dove.

 

And even more- that Jesus will baptize with the Spirit. What does this even mean? How can you wash with the spirit? Or be immersed in the Spirit?

Who is this Spirit?

 

Let me tell you what I know of Him.

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The Spirit of God is the still, small voice that leads you to the Lord. Many people call it their conscience, but it is not only that. 

The Spirit of God is a distinct person from you. He has his own voice, His own knowledge, His own will.

Before you are a child of God, the Spirit does interact with you some. He leads you to God. And I have heard of people being protected and encouraged by the Spirit even before they knew who He was. 

But once you have turned to Christ, and submitted your heart to Him as Lord of it, the Spirit is so much more. The Bible tells us that one who has been washed from the sins and become a child of God is marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit, as a deposit. Every believer has the Holy Spirit. He is her constant companion, and He is the presence of the Lord to her, as well. He reveals the Lord and his will to us, just as he did for John. He told John to baptize- and He told John who the Christ was. He does the same thing for us.

 

In my own life, my relationship with the Spirit began with long walks in the woods. I remember thinking of bible stories where people heard from God, and asking Him if I could hear him, too. The voice I heard in response was not  booming voice from the clouds, but instead, I can only describe it as bubbling up responses to my questions, within my own thoughts, but that answered my thoughts. Sometimes, it would be a Scripture quotation, but other times I heard distinct, first person answers to things I asked of the Lord.

 

I asked my pastor at that time, if that was normal. If everyone could hear the Lord like this. He answered me very diplomatically, by saying that there must be some, for many love the old hymn, “In the Garden.”

 

“I come to the garden alone,

While the dew is still on the roses,

And the voice I hear, falling on my ear,

The Son of God discloses…

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,

And He tells me I am His own,

And the joy we share as we tarry there,

None other has ever known. “

 

Even the end of that hymn suggests the same question I had- Do others hear this voice? It is rarely spoken of. It’s such an intimate, personal thing, this conversation with God. I think we hesitate to speak of it because it seems prideful to suggest that we can personally hear the voice of the Lord. It also seems, from a worldly point of view, crazy. Like some split personality thing or something.

 

And so over the years I have shut out the voice in doubt or confusion, or I have cultivated it in times of distress and need. Sometimes people have encouraged me in it, and sometimes I have been taught that it is imaginary, or even evil.

 

For most of my life, I have been quiet about it except among those who I know also embrace it.

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But I am writing about it now because the Spirit himself has told me to. In the past, I have been afraid of rejection, especially from other believers that I think will condemn me as a heretic, or as a fool.

But I believe the Spirit wants to speak to His people, and I’m writing to you, now, beloved, to say that He wants you to hear Him. I know now what it sounds like, I know it to be true what it says in John 10, that…

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me…”

I am learning it, anyway. I am learning to recognize it, and not shrink away.

Hearing the Voice of the Lord through the Spirit is the single most rewarding, beautiful part of Christianity to me, and I feel actual sorrow for the believers who reject this experience and blessing. I see so many believers who lovingly run to the fountain of salvation, but shy away from this intimate, powerful, actual experiential way of knowing the Lord. I believe that embracing the Spirit of the Lord is the only way to see true abundant life, as Jesus promised, and that by quenching the spirit, by holding your hands up in fear of this strange, mysterious spiritual experience, you deny yourself the inheritance that the Lord has promised you and live as though you had no living God at all, only a written history of what he used to do for other people. 

This is strong language, but I have been in so many groups of Christians- and I tell you, it breaks my heart to see people who say they are believers but they miss this most wonderful blessing that comes from believing.

 

And so I give you my testimony- that I love the voice of the Lord, and I wish for you to know it and be blessed by it, too. And if you have any doubts or hesitations, I ask you to consider this verse, and to take its advice.

“This is what the Lord says, he who made the earth, the Lord who formed it and established it—the Lord is his name: ‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”

 

I have much love and affection for you as you seek the Lord in this matter, and I know He will be faithful to answer you. 

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This post is part of a seriesThe book of John (1) going through the book of
John. If you’d like to follow along, you can subscribe or head to the lead page and go at your own pace. Just click here

 

 

 

The Baptist

This post and series is now a podcast! You can listen instead of reading by just clicking here. 

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There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that through him everyone might believe. He was not the light, but he came to bear witness concerning the light…

Let’s talk more about John for just a few minutes. . Let’s skip forward a few verses, to 19.

And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

He came baptizing people for repentance. There’s more about him in other places in the Bible. He was the son of an older couple who had been infertile for a long time. The book of Luke says his father was visited by the angel Gabriel and told that he would be born, and named John- in fact, Gabriel said more than that. He said, “

“…he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.  And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

After John was born, his own father was filled with the Spirit and prophesied, which means, he spoke God’s words, and said this…

“…you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
   for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,
to give knowledge of salvation to his people
   in the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God,
   whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high
to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
   to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

And he was. John came before Jesus, he was born only months before Jesus was. The book of Matthew says he acted like a prophet- not like a normal man. He wore strange clothes like the prophets from the old Testament did. He went out to the wilderness of Judea, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And people went out from the town to hear what he had to say, and this is what he told them:

Repent!

Repent. It’s a word that means many things. In the Greek, it’s “metaneo,” which means to “change one’s mind for the better, to reconsider,” which is how we usually think of it. We usually translate it to mean, “Hey! Admit you’re wrong and change!”

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But in the Hebrew language, the word is nacham, or nichuwm, which is sometimes translated “comfort.” In the way of “to sigh, to be sorry, to pity, to console, to ease, to comfort.” In fact, it’s similar to a word that means, “God comforts us.” There is even a verse that says,

“Comfort, comfort my people,” says the Lord. “Speak comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned…”

And John came saying, “Repent! Prepare the way for the Lord!”

Was he saying, “Turn from your sins and be better!” Or was he saying, “Take heart! The sin-conqueror is coming!”?

Maybe both.

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I think of John coming ahead of Jesus, and getting people in the mood for the real thing.

He was like an appetizer, opening up people’s hearts and minds and saying, “Get ready! It’s about time!”

He baptized people in water for the repentance of sins. Baptism was a ceremonial washing that usually signified conversion- like when a person wasn’t Jewish, and they wanted to be. They were fully immersed, and cleansed. But there were other times to wash- like the priests, before they went into the temple to meet with God. Or normal people, when it was about time to give their gifts to God or celebrate Him. They washed fully to clean themselves and get themselves ready for God, because he’s holy.

So John came washing people, and getting them ready to meet Jesus, who was holy.

And the story goes on- the religious rulers have more to ask him.

(Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.”
And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”
The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!”

And John did just what he was supposed to do. He pointed to Jesus. 

This is what I want to do. In these posts, I want to point to Jesus. I want to call out to you, to everyone, and say, “Hey! There is comfort! Turn and come see Jesus, he’s the BEST!”

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The book of John (1)
This post is part of a series going through the book of
John. If you’d like to follow along, you can subscribe or head to the lead page and go at your own pace. Just click here