The Increase of Christ

The Increase of Christ

Home Church Service 4/2/2022

Life & Light Community Church began in the early months of 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. What began as an opportunity for me, my wife and step-kids to continue to worship together, has now evolved into a ministry that has expanded to include close friends, family and those who are simply hungry for the word of God. You can find us on Facebook, so please, feel free to reach out and join us.

When our small group meets for worship, we like to discuss what we are learning, in the moment. Sometimes that happens right after the message and at other times we will address something during the message. These messages are designed to be interactive, discussing what we are learning right after I have addressed each point of the message. You will find the questions at the end of each section. In most formats they will appear in bold. Use these questions as a guide to meditate on the points being discussed. Allow the Holy Spirit to search your heart and above all, be honest with yourself and the Holy Spirit. After all, He knows any way!

“He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. He must increase, but I must decrease. He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. What He has seen and heard, of that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. 33He who has received His testimony has set his seal to this, that God is true. For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

                                                                                  John 3:28–36 (NASB95)

Our passage this morning comes as John, the author of the gospel account, turns our attention back to John the Baptist. Jesus and His disciples are baptizing in Judea, while the Baptist and his disciples are nearby at Aenon. A discussion breaks out between the disciples of the Baptists and some Jews about purification. No details are given about the discussion but the disciples of John return to him and complain about the people now going to Jesus to be baptized.

John the Baptist remains true to his mission and points out, once again, he is not the Christ. He reminds his disciples that a man can get nothing unless it has been given from above. Once more the Baptist repeats his ministry is to go before Jesus and announce His coming. The Increase of Christ is the next natural step in proclaiming the coming of the Messiah.

All attention is on the bridegroom as the wedding nears, even the friend of the bridegroom fades into the background. The Increase of Christ must take place because He is above all things, is loved by the Father, and He testifies to what He has seen and heard. Those who believe in the Son have eternal life, those who do not obey the Son will not see life.

When Christ, the bridegroom comes, all eyes will be on Him. Christ is to be honored above all things, for He alone can speak of the things of heaven. The Increase of Christ will bring eternal life to those who believe and obey, while those who do not obey will find only the wrath of God.

In this message we seek to answer the question, “What is the purpose of The Increase of Christ?”

The purpose of The Increase of Christ is to place Christ above all things and to bring obedience to Christ above all things.

1). The first purpose of The Increase of Christ is to place Christ above all things.

Christ must be above our traditions, rituals, governments, habits, wants and desires.

John the Baptist compares himself to the best friend at a bridegrooms wedding who rejoices with the bridegroom but is not the center of attention. It is not his day! He rejoices with the bridegroom who is about to be united with his bride. There is only one bridegroom; and he is the focus of the friend’s attention. It is not the friend who brings joy to the guests, community or the bride; it is the bridegroom.

As the friend, John the Baptist had a specific ministry, for a specific time, with a specific purpose. His purpose was to prepare the guests, community and bride for the coming of the bridegroom. His purpose was to prepare the world for the coming of Jesus and to identify Him as the Messiah, the Lamb of God, when He arrived. In the Old Testament, God was likened to a bridegroom and His people to a bride. In saying that Jesus is the bridegroom who had the bride, John is implying that Jesus is the divine husband of God’s people. As such, all of God’s people belonged to Him.

John emphasized the fact that Jesus spoke what He had heard from the Father. He is the Father’s representative in word and deed. “From above” or “above all” means superior and preeminent. Jesus, who came from heaven, is the superior and preeminent One. He is above all. Jesus was “from heaven” or out of God Himself. A person of this world can only speak of the earth and of earthly things. They come out of the earth; thus, they can only know earthly things. To speak of heaven is to speak of ideas and speculations. Only one from heaven can speak of heavenly things. John sets out to make it clear this is Jesus alone.

From every perspective Jesus proved to be the One who is above all. The depth of our understanding and gratitude for the new birth God offers in Christ will always be shaped by our vision of what Jesus set aside when He came to earth. The One who is “above all” set aside all that was rightfully His in exchange for the single privilege of being our Savior. This thought alone should move us from beyond simple belief to belief with full trust and obedience.

Jesus makes a startling statement in Luke 14:26:

“If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple.”                                               

(Luke 14:26 NASB95)

How do we justify this statement coming from the One who gave His life for us? Doesn’t the Bible tell us that God is love? If God is love, how can He tell us to hate those who are closest to us? How do we honor our father and mother and hate them at the same time? The word “hate” has a comparative force here. While it may sound strange to us, to love this and to hate that, is a typical way of expressing comparison in the Bible.

The idea is not that we should hate our families or even our lives. What is in focus here is a comparative love. Your love for Jesus should be so evident, so all-consuming, that when compared to love for family, it almost seems like “hate.” There should be no question to those around you, that if a choice had to be made, between family and Jesus, the hands down winner would be Jesus. Now, listen carefully, we DO. NOT. STOP. loving people the way we do now – our love for Jesus must simply outgrow our love for others and other things.

Let’s face, for some in the first century, to choose Jesus was deciding against family, and there are many who face this same decision today! The point here is to count the cost of your life in Christ. He is to be above all people and all things. A life in Christ – call it discipleship – takes reflection and focus. If we cannot walk the path of rejection that Jesus walked, we are not ready for the journey of faith Jesus calls us to take.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

How does your life point to Christ as the true joy-giver?

Does your life reflect an all-consuming love for Jesus? If so, how? If not, why?

Is there an area of your life where Jesus is not yet “above all?”

How have you experienced the path of rejection Jesus calls us to take?

The purpose of The Increase of Christ is to place Christ above all things and to bring obedience to Christ above all things.

2). The second purpose of The Increase of Christ is to bring obedience to the Son above all things.

We must move beyond belief to obedience in all things – even the hardest of His commandments.

Humankind is under condemnation, from God, because of sin, but there is greater condemnation for those who reject the testimony of Jesus. This testimony comes in several ways – through creation, through the revealed word of God, the Bible and through the testimony of those who believe and have placed their trust in Christ – thus, no one can say they have not heard the testimony of Christ. Those who hear and receive the testimony of Jesus, believe He is the Son of God come from heaven, the Messiah. These have tested the testimony and found it true. This is their “seal of approval” on the truthfulness of God’s actions.

I mentioned earlier that “from above” or “above all” means to be superior and preeminent. Jesus is superior because of origin. Jesus is from above, from heaven, from the very presence and heart of God. By contrast, John the Baptist is from earth, derived from a human process of generation – a human mother and father. Jesus is superior because of His word. Because Jesus is sent from the very presence of God, He testifies to what He has seen and heard. The words He speaks are God’s words. Because God is truthful and the very expression of truth, so too are the words of the One who came from Him.

Jesus is superior because of resource. Not only is the Spirit given to Jesus, because He is the beloved Son of the Father, everything the Father possesses has been made available to Him – everything has been placed in His hands, without measure. To “set your seal” to something is to say, “I have identified with this.” Those who trust and obey Jesus need not wonder if they have eternal life. He who has the Son, as in present ownership, has eternal life. Thus, eternal life begins with spiritual rebirth, the question then becomes, “How does our way of living demonstrate the fact that we expect to live eternally?”

To disobey the Son is to reject Him. To reject the Son’s testimony and the gospel is to cut ourselves off from the benefits available through Jesus. Those who are disobedient will not see life – they will not experience God’s eternal life. The words “no one,” simply mean the “vast majority.” In our day and age, there have been so many people reject the Lord’s word, it can be said that “mankind as a whole has rejected His message.” It is a sobering thought to read through the prophecies of the time before Christ’s return and see how many people die because they refuse to repent of their sin and believe the message of Jesus.

Jesus takes obedience a step further in John chapter 14.

“If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.”                                                     

  John 14:15–17 (NASB95)

Here Jesus equates our love for Him to our obedience. Notice that Jesus does not point to just a few of His commandments but rather to ALL of His commandments. And yes, it is the plural form indicating all of His commandments. We know how difficult it is to follow just His command to love one another, how in the world can we obey ALL of His commandments? Jesus gives us that answer as well. He is going to ask the Father to send the Helper to come and lead us into all truth.

This, of course, is the Holy Spirit, here referred to as the Spirit of Truth. But here is the truly amazing thing about the Holy Spirit. Jesus says the world will not, in fact cannot, receive Him. The world cannot see Him or know Him, but He shall live with us forever. In this way, we are able to be obedient to all the commandments Jesus has given for those who call Him Lord and Savior. It is not easy, but we are expected to follow the commandments of Jesus without question and without hesitation. He has shown us how to live them out and He has now provided the support we need to see it through in our daily lives.

Questions for discussion/reflection:

How does your life demonstrate you are expecting to live forever?

Where are you struggling to obey Jesus?

How are you experiencing being obedient to Jesus?

How have you felt the support of the Holy Spirit in trying to be obedient to Jesus?

The purpose of The Increase of Christ is to place Christ above all things and to bring obedience to Christ above all things.

We are responsible to decide today whom we will obey. God wants us to choose Him and to choose life. God’s wrath is His final judgment against those who disobey – against sinners – it is His rejection of the sinner. To put off the choice is to choose not to follow Christ. Indecision is a fatal decision. We have decided to follow Jesus, therefore our role is to build a following for Jesus, to make His name known, to compel others to praise Him and give their devotion to Him.

This was never going to be an easy lifestyle, but we have made the choice and Jesus has committed Himself fully to be with us until the end. Through the Helper, we have One who is with us always, leading us into all truth and acting as a guide that we may be faithful and obedient followers of Christ, living our lives in obedience before the world around us. As our bodies grow weary, Christ will be our strength; as our minds grow dim, Christ will be our wisdom and discernment; as our wills are tempted, Christ will be our reward, and as our souls grow discouraged, Christ will be our encouragement.

We do all things for the glory of God through Christ our Lord,

Amen and amen.

Next week: Passover – Exodus 12:3 & 5-6 and John 19:14& 17-18

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