Don't be a Groupie!

John 3:27-28

John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.

Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before Him.

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A quick review: My last post in John’s gospel was on Saturday the 28th. There was a debate, apparently, between John’s disciples and some Jews over the subject of purification. Then some of John’s disciples came to him and pointed out that lots of people were going to Jesus for baptism, instead of to John.

Here we have John’s reply: Everything he had was a gift of God, including those who responded to his ministry. People who responded to Jesus were to be received with thanksgiving, and not with criticism. John was completely clear that there was to be no division between his followers and the followers of Jesus.

John then reminded his loyal followers that he had told them before that he, himself, was not the Christ. He was the messenger, the forerunner, to proclaim that Christ was coming. He did not try to elevate himself above Christ; he did not, in false humility, deny the calling that God had put on his life. He simply went about doing the work he was called to do.

I’ve been thinking about John’s statement here for several days. If we would all simply do whatever it is that God has called us to do, not elevating ourselves or calling attention to ourselves, there wouldn’t be so much division and dispute among believers. We fuss and fume about things we just ought not to even be discussing. I’m not talking about points of doctrine here, or anything God’s Word very clearly defines.

I’m talking about the apparent need we have to raise ourselves above others in our service to Christ. Our tendency to follow the latest hue and cry that some famous preacher, speaker, or writer has been teaching, and raising that person (without his knowledge or consent) to a level far above most other believers.

After all, if he/she is famous and has thousands of loyal supporters, he/she must be right. Right? And we should get on the bandwagon. We tend to become groupies–to align ourselves with fame and power.

I’m not terribly fond of bandwagons. I’ve seen to many “greats” become full of pride and self, and come tumbling down from the heights to the depths of ignominy.

That won’t happen if we simply do what God has called us to do, and quit worrying about what someone else may be doing.

Am I saying that if we simply follow God’s call, we will never suffer? No, of course not. But we will not be pulled into the trap of money, fame, adulation and worldly praise. We’ll go about our work until Jesus comes, or God calls us home.

Reflecting

The holiday season, starting with Thanksgiving, always makes me a bit nostalgic. Most of my memories are good, warm, fun; filled with laughter good food, friends, family. There are, of course, some that are outstanding.

One that comes to mind, because this Christmas marked our 50th as a married couple, is the first Christmas after our first child was born. He was only four months old, but he was totally fascinated with the pretty decorations, the lights, and the pretty music. How do I know he liked the music? Because he waved his chubby little arms in perfect time to it. And he still loves music 🙂

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We took him up to Iron River, MI, that Christmas. His Kreger grandparents were so excited. Mike was the first grandchild on both my side of the family, and Terry’s. Having little kids, even infants, makes Christmas all the more special. Maybe that’s because the very first Christmas, even though it wasn’t called Christmas yet, was all about a Baby.

There were Christmas trips to South Carolina to visit my parents. One memorable trip stays in my mind. We were in the mountains, and it was growing dark. We were driving an old van, and Terry had been concerned about some mechanical issues, and he traveled with tools stowed in the back. Our four teens were stretched out on mats and blankets, dozing off and on. And then it happened. In my memory, I think it was a broken timing chain. I could be wrong. But it wasn’t something Terry could fix with bubble gum and safety pins 🙂

I don’t remember if someone stopped to offer help. This was pre-cell phone, so I’m pretty sure it was either another traveler or perhaps a cruising police officer. In any event, we got a tow into the nearest town, where there was a garage still open. The owner kindly agreed to help us, and he worked while we snacked on vending machine junk food. It was fully dark by the time we were back on the road, due to the help and kindness of strangers. We could have been stranded for two or three days if people hadn’t been willing to help us.

Christmases with the grandchildren haven’ t been frequent, because there’s a lot of distance. But for the last 15 years or so, we’ve been able to enjoy Christmas with our daughter and her family. When I think about it, how fast they’re growing up, I hold each season of the year, not just the winter holidays, especially close to my heart.

I don’t know how many more Christmases I’ll enjoy before the Lord takes me to heaven. Each one will be treasured because of the One we honor; because of family and friends, because of memories of Christmases past.

Who knows, there could even be a great-grandchild sometime in the next few years 🙂

Disagreement

John 3:25-26.

Then there arose a question between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about purifying.

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 And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, He that was with thee beyond Jordan, to Whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to Him.

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The baptizing work that both John Baptist and Jesus did during this period seems to have been a continuation of John’s habit of baptizing those who repented of sin and gave their lives to living separated from sin.

We don’t know the specific nature of the dispute between John’s disciples and the Jews, except that it concerned purification. Some of the Jews may have felt that only the priests could perform a rite of purification; they did not recognize that John was sent by God. And of course, they didn’t recognize Who Jesus was, either.

John’s disciples complained that “everyone” was going to Jesus for baptism. This is much the same as our tendency to say, “Well, everyone else is doing so-and-do,” in an effort to justify our own behavior. John’s followers were apparently protective of him, and felt that Jesus was, in a sense, poaching on John’s territory.

They, too, clearly did not understand yet Who Jesus was.

I think it is interesting, in this passage, that there was already dissension among followers of John and of Jesus, trouble in the church before the church was even established.

Psalm 133:1-3.

 “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!

It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments;

As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore.

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Baptizing Work of Jesus and John

John 3:22-24.

After these things came Jesus and His disciples into the land of Judaea; and there He tarried with them, and baptized.

And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.

For John was not yet cast into prison.

Jesus and His disciples had traveled south into Judaeah (Judea), where they stayed for a time. He preached and taught and baptized there.

In the meantime, John the Baptist was still working just south of the Sea of Galilee, where there was plenty of water, and was baptizing people there. The exact location of this place is arguable, but it isn’t the place as much as the work he did that is important.

He had not been arrested and imprisoned yet, but the time was drawing near.

I’ve often wondered if John knew his time on earth would be short; if he was aware that prison awaited him, and probable execution. Perhaps he was so zealous because he did understand that his time was short, but that’s just supposition on my part.

In any event, these three verses serve as a transition from the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry near His home town of Nazareth, to the more southern reaches of Israel where He spent a great deal of time.

The Gospel of John focuses on Jesus’ work in Judea, while the synoptic gospels tend to talk more about His work near Galilee. This is not a contradiction; it is simply a difference of focus because of John’s presentation of Jesus Christ as the Son of God.

Walk in the Light

John 3:20-21.

For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

But he that doeth truth cometh to the Light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

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I’m using John 3:20 again because the contrast is so important. In verse 19 we learned that men love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil.

The next verse, verse 20, elaborates on that theme. Those who do evil hate the light. They do not want the light to expose what they do under cover of darkness. Darkness is the friend of evil because it covers their evil deeds.

I’ve lived long enough to remember a lot of evil. Some of it wasn’t exposed until years later, but sometimes it was done in the light and discovered quickly. I’m thinking of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, for instance. I was not a supporter of JFK, but his murder was indeed evil. What we need to remember, though, is that the planning and working out of the details was done in secret. There are still theories out there, never proven, about who was really behind his death. Lee Harvey Oswald was the one who pulled the trigger, but we are still “in the dark” about who was behind the entire plan.

There are other examples, but this post is not for the purpose of bringing any more attention to the perpetrators of evil.

My point is that we all–even those who claim to be Christians—are guilty of hiding our sins under the cover of darkness. Or, as is true of some things that used to be considered crimes, we legalize them so we don’t have to hide any more. What we forget is that when sin becomes legal, we lose just a little bit more of our conscience as a nation.

What do I mean? Well, I remember a particular western TV program that my dad loved. But one night, one of the characters used a four-letter word. Dad got up and switched off the TV (no remote controls yet–this was in the early 60’s) and we never watched that show again. There was a lot of pushback from viewers, but it didn’t matter. The choice had been made that the show should be more “realistic.” And a chip of good moral conscience in our nation broke off and was crushed.

Now, you can scarcely find a TV program or a movie that isn’t full of profanity, and the F-Bomb has become the only adjective that some people know. And it all started in the darkness of some editing room when a producer or director or editor decided not to cut the language out.

What sins do Christians hide under cover of darkness?

Pornography. Adultery. Reading material that is impure and poisonous. I don’t really think I need to go on. So much of it has to do with sexuality, which is what Satan first poisoned when he tempted Eve, then Adam, to disobey God. The very first thing they noticed after that moment of disobedience was that they were naked. It had never concerned them before. So they stitched together some fig leaves to cover themselves, and they tried to hide from God as the evening twilight fell.

It didn’t work then, and it doesn’t work now. A day of reckoning will come, in which every one of us will answer to God for what we have tried to hide under cover of darkness.

The good news is v. 21. When we do that which is right and good, we have no need to hide. We can live outside of the darkness, and walk in the Light, because He is the Light.

Some people feel that living such a goody-goody life is boring.

I have never found God to be boring.

I have, however, found that to knowingly choose to hide in darkness leaves me feeling ashamed and as if I need a bath.

Walk in the Light. You’ll never regret making a choice that you can do in the light.

Christ, the Savior

Merry Christmas! As we honor the birth of Jesus Christ, may we humbly remember the real meaning of this day. Amidst all the wrappings and gifts and feasting, the laughter and time set aside for family, may we never lose sight of the reason: Christ, the Savior, is Born!

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Light and Darkness

John 3:19-20.

And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

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JESUS is the Light of the World (John 8:12). The Light came to the world, and some received the Light. He is still the Light of the World, and some still receive Him.

But even His own people, the Jews, as a nation, refused Him. They wanted a great king who would overthrow the oppression of Rome, but Jesus was nothing but a Nazarene, a carpenter, of no account when it came to matters of importance like whether or not they should pay taxes to Rome.

In spite of clear prophecy; in spite of His miraculous works; in spite of His fulfillment of Old Testament scripture, His own people refused, as a nation, to receive Him.

They preferred to stay in darkness rather than to step into the Light. The Bible tells us that men love darkness rather than light because, in the darkness, their evil deeds are hidden.

We shouldn’t be surprised but such a concept. We know very well that when we want to do wrong, we prefer not to have a bright light shown on us. We prefer our sinful behavior to be hidden, because we want others to think we’re something we are not.

What we forget is that Jesus IS the Light. We cannot hide from Him.

Proverbs 20:27. “The spirit (conscience) of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts of the belly (the hidden things of the heart).

He sees. He knows us. The amazing thing is that still, He loves us and continues to offer salvation through the shed blood of Jesus, and His resurrection, if we will only believe and receive the Light.

Sometimes I grow so weary of the evil that is perpetrated in our country, and around the world, in the name of what is right. We have become so tangled in lies and accusations and counter-accusations that it’s hard to find the truth.

God knows. He understands why we want to do things under cover, in dark basements, secretly and away from the light. The day will come when all of us will answer to Him for our refusal of the Light, and the evil deeds we pursue under cover of darkness. There will be no way to avoid the Light when that day comes.

All of us need to stop and consider what we do in secret, thinking we’re hiding it from God.