THE GOSPEL OF HEARTFELT BELIEF
Putting Jesus First
Jerry A. Collins
There are any number of things in our lives that demand our attention. From building our marriages, to parenting our children, to doing our jobs. The challenge for any believer is to accomplish all of this and never compromise our allegiance to Jesus Christ by disobeying His Word. How can my relationship with Jesus Christ be developed so that I apply righteousness to my marriage, my parenting, my job? We are going to learn that putting Jesus first, making our relationship to him and with him the greatest priority, will enable us to apply righteousness in our lives. What does it mean to put Jesus first and how can we do that. John 3:22-36 provides us with some answers.
1. We must spend time developing our spiritual lives 3:22-24
We learn in this section that Jesus and John were baptizing in the same area. In 4:2 we learn that it was actually Jesus disciples who were baptizing while Jesus was with them. The point, though, is that Jesus was spending time with his disciples. To be the Lords disciple was to be with him. So, a disciple is one who spends time with His teacher or master.
Christlikeness means spending time with the people you want to lead. There is no leadership without spending time. I can make an impression at a distance but only make an impact close-up. Leadership is being a change-agent. Inciting change in peopleís lives toward Christlikeness comes through discipleship. You will probably lead and be led by the people you spend time with one-on-one or in very small groups. So will your wife, your husband and your children! If we want to be impacted by our relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ then our obedience to the Word of God and Christís teaching must focus our lives. For instance, I will not apply the Word of God to my marriage situation if I do not make time to learn what it says about husbanding and apply that. My life-change is directly proportionate to the priority I place on the teaching and applying the Word of God. The impact of the Word of God upon your life is determined by the amount of time you put into studying, understanding, learning and applying it to your life. Time equals impact! You determine where your priorities are by where you spend your time. Quality time is a myth. It is the quantity of time you take to do something that determines the level of impact that results. Where are you spending your time? Is that where the bible says you should be using your time? How is your use of time there assisting you in fulfilling Godís priorities for your life?
Vss 23-24 tell us that John and his disciples were baptizing too and apparently his influence was growing. We also learn that there was a period of time when Jesus and Johnís ministries were simultaneous and overlapping before John was arrested, thrown into prison and executed vs 24. We learn this here because this is the setting for the problem dealt with in the remainder of this section. In other words, the conflict about to take place is the result of Johns disciples viewing their ministry as in competition with Jesusí ministry. They were having difficulty placing Jesusí message and ministry on a higher level than Johnís.
2. We must never view Jesus priorities in competition with ours 3:25-30
In vss 25-26 Johns disciples tell him that Jesus is also baptizing. They perceived a conflict with Jesus because of a confrontation they had with another Jew who disputed the validity of their ministry. Apparently this Jew was resistant to johnís message and his baptism of repentance. It could be that he was arguing of the superiority of the Jewish ceremonial washing according to the Law of Moses and viewed this baptism as irrelevant. What is interesting is that Johns disciples return to him to complain not about this Jew who disputed with them but about Jesus who was also baptizing and by the way was gaining more followers all of the time vs 26. Why would they end up frustrated and upset not with the Jews but with Jesus? It may be that during the dispute this Jew had pointed out to them that not only does he not think their baptism is relevant but their competition, Jesus, is doing better than they are in gaining followers of this baptism! They are distressed that Jesus and his disciples are more successful than they are. They could not even bring themselves to say Jesus name but refer to him as the one who was with you...about whom you testified. It sounds and looks like they resent Jesus. So they complain everyone is going to him. They look at Jesus as their competition rather than the culmination of their ministry.
Let me suggest that whenever we view our ministry as something we are doing for God rather than participating with God in what it is He is doing, we will end up being in competition with God. John himself recognizes this and tells his disciples that His God-given ministry was not to be the Messiah but to introduce the Messiah vss 27-28. He is the forerunner and Jesus is the grand frinale. In other words, John was not doing his own thing but Gods thing. He received this ministry from God vs 27. He was not in competition with Jesus but cooperating with him. He illustrates this with the analogy of marriage in vss 29-30. Jesus is the bridegroom and John is the friend of the bridegroom. The friend is not distressed when the bridegroom appears at the wedding to take his bride. He is elated vs 29! The friends task is to bring the bride and the groom together. In other words, John is telling them that Jesus ministry is greater than his vs. 30. The greater that Jesusí ministry is the happier John is. This is the way it must be he says in vs 30. In other words, this is the plan and purpose of God for him. Jesus must have the preeminence. John was never threatened by Jesus ministry and he was content in his own ministry as a forerunner and pathfinder. He was willing to fade form the picture.
Let me suggest than when we understand our ministry in light of what it is God is doing, we will never be in competition with God. And our goal is to make Jesusí priorities our own. His ministry ours. Jesus defines our ministry as husbands, wives, children. He defines our ministry to our enemies, our employers and employees, to one another, to the wayward brother, to the lost, the poor, the rich, our neighbor. Our ministry must never be in competition with the one Jesusí has given us.
3. Our focus must be on heaven not on the earth
The reason why Jesus is different from every other leader, religious or secular, is because He was from heaven with a heavenly perspective and heavenly priorities. the rest of us are from the earth with earthly priorities vs 31. In other words,
(1) Jesus is superior because of where he came from vs 31.
(2) Jesus is superior in that of which he speaks 32. His message is also heavenly. Christlike leadership focuses peoples attention toward heaven and helps them see how things look from heavenís point of view. We use an idiom that says I got this straight from the horses mouth. That is what we can say of Jesus teachings.
(3) Jesus speaks with the fullest measure of the Spirit vs 33-34. Since He speaks the truth as God the Son, He speaks with full and complete authority as the only one who has the Spirit without limit. The point is that not even the prophets of Israel could claim to have had the full measure of the Hs during their ministry. So everything he teaches and does has heavenly significance!
(4) He is uniquely loved by his father and been given full authority 35. You cannot simply go any higher than this! Who is John or who are we compared to the Son? Why would you try to defend John against Jesus when Jesus is of the highest rank?
(5) Jesus is the one upon whom the destiny of every human being rests 36. Accepting His testimony declares God to be true. Rejecting that testimony is to call God a liar and place you under the wrath and judgment of God. That wrath resides or abides or remains on this person. Jesus must be first in our lives because he is first! Everything we do has implications for eternity. We can lay up treasures in heaven or in the earth. We can live for this side of the grave or the next. We can sow seeds to the flesh or we sow seeds to the Spirit. We can draw near to God or become friends of the world. We can participate with God in what he is doing or we can compete with God with what it is we are doing. Put him first!