Popularity Contest

“A man can receive only what is given him from heaven…He must become greater; I must become less.”  John 3:22-36

Jesus takes off after talking to Nic to go out into the countryside for while and in the course of this they baptize and He taught His disciples.

John A picks up on John B at this time to bring the chapter point home a little stronger.  John B’s disciples ended up in an argument over ceremonial washing with some Jews which set them off.  John A doesn’t get specific here about the subject exactly but does make it a point to mention the argument and what resulted from it.

The more I know about religious attitudes the less I seem to want to be party to them.  I don’t care whether they are liberal or conservative or somewhere in between.  These labels and practices are so much a part of man’s efforts to please God without actually serving Him whole heartedly that it boils down to a waste of time and mental energy.  I don’t know which is worse here the religiosity which causes the unbendable closed thinking or the liberal view of never pinning anything down.  Both sound to me like a godless way to live.

John B’s disciples also were jealous of Jesus’ disciples baptizing up the way a bit.  They came to John to complain, “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.”  This seems strange to me.  The fact that they acknowledged John B’s testimony concerning Jesus but still followed John B amazes me.  Their teacher just told everyone Jesus was the Messiah and the Prophet who was to come yet here they are worried Jesus would take away from John B’s following.  I mean, follow my logic here, isn’t that what’s supposed to happen naturally?  John claimed over and over again that He wasn’t the Christ but was here to announce His arrival and all the John B’s disciples were concerned with was whether he was being upstaged or not.

OF COURSE JOHN B WOULD BE UPSTAGED!

Jesus was the Messiah, God With Us, the King of kings, Lord of lords.  How could there be any other result?  John B’s followers were worried they would be on a losing team, if I know my human nature, or may be they were simply so loyal to this man they couldn’t move themselves to Jesus.  It’s like a contractor who likes one brand of tool over another in some ways.  No matter how much better the other tool is, there’s no convincing him that his tool of choice should be discarded for something he’s not used to and has never used.  We get so used to our habitual lifestyles and viewpoints we tend to push away anything better.

Jesus is better than everything, everyone and every other teaching because He offers life and a change of heart without all the self-worth crap the other religions teach.  God relegated all men over to death (worthlessness) so that He might have mercy on all (infinite worth).  This teaching isn’t a pretty slogan but a way of saying everyone belongs to God now.  Once Jesus conquered death by rising from the grave, the world belonged to God.  Technically, may be, it never belonged to anyone else but in spiritual terms God couldn’t redeem us (buy back our souls) without paying a price He set.  The wage of sin is death.  The price of rebellion against God–choosing to be our own gods–is death or eternal separation from Him. 

John B troubleshoots his follower’s misunderstanding without missing a beat.  I think it’s important to quote this section: 

“A man can receive only what is given him from heaven.  You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of Him.’  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.  He must become greater; I must become less.

“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.  He testifies to what He has seen and heard, but no one accept His testimony.  The man who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful.  For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit.  The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in His hands.  Whoever believes in Him has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.”

John A, through John B’s words, gives us a conundrum.  If we choose to believe in the Son of God, we must accept His testimony about what is true.  The only way to validate it is to accept it–did you catch that?  Another thing which jumps out at me here is the John B’s turn of the phrase in the lst sentence: “whoever rejects the Son…”  Those who have not heard about the Son of God cannot reject Him.  Those who hear and refuse to follow what He says or commands, reject Him because we cannot in one sentence accept Jesus as a superior and in the next disregard His superior commands.  There is no way to accept Jesus but to move into obedience.

Not everyone who says “Lord, Lord…” will enter the kingdom of heaven because not all those who call out His name willingly submit to being His.  Just because we use the name of Jesus in a sentence doesn’t mean we obey Him, trust Him or believe Him.  We might believe things about Him, but that is not the same as believing Him.  If what He says is truth, then everyone who follows Him should learn that truth and live up to it.

Let me give you an example from history.

Abraham Lincoln fought the for the emancipation of slavery according to the history books I read in school.  However, the reality is more complicated than that.  Honest Abe fought to hold the Union together because the southern states wanted to secede from it.  The profits from the south sustained in some measure the north at times.  Although many histories claim the major reason for the war was emancipation, the primary reasons were economic and power fragmentation.  Slaves were freed, yes, and that constituted a major portion of the war propoganda, but even after the war slavery existed in some midwestern states for a time–until popular opinion pressured these places to relent.

We have lived up to the unity of power and economic ideals of America but not to the emancipation of slaves.  Yes, slavery is over, but the attitudes toward African Americans continues to be less than the ideal stated in the constitution which says, “We believe that all men are created equal…”  So those who are “freed” move into poverty and struggle to make life work, are given few chances to better themselves or make better lives for their children.

We believe Honest Abe worked for the deliverance of the slaves as part of his agenda, for he did believe in it, but the truth is that wasn’t his main goal.  Jesus, on the other hand, tells us He is the only way, the only truth, the only life and that no one comes to the Father except through Him.  Abe may not have lived up to his own rhetoric in his heart but Christ did.  History doesn’t have much to say about Jesus other than the gospels–unless one reads the gospel of Thomas from the apocryphal writings.  What we do have as records show a consistent man/God who fought for a lifestyle and teaching a way of freedom from man’s legalism.  This freedom equalled being children of God and growing to be like Him in everything by exposure and constant influence.

Jesus, John B and John A all show us that the only truth is found in Christ.  To actually follow Him is to follow His teachings, believing and practicing what He taught without deviation or adjustment.  We cannot add anything to Jesus and we certainly have no right or need to subtract anything from Him.  So our best bet is to follow Him whole heartedly or give up and find something which fits the paradigm we wish to serve.

I vote for Jesus.  He must become greater and I must become less self-absorbed.

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2 Responses to “Popularity Contest”

  1. tlc4women Says:

    Jesus said that if they weren’t against him they were for him. Paul said to follow him as he followed Christ. I believe that there are those that understand the concept of Jesus but for whatever reason don’t swim in the deep end of the pool. I like your example of Lincoln. His motive may not have been for abolishing slavery but he wasn’t against it.

  2. jonnysoundsketch2 Says:

    He was actually for it but didn’t think it would be wise to abolish it until after the war. But to get some of the north into it and the blacks to fight as well (they were outmanned by the South), Abe had to jump to it before he planned to from what I understand.

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