The Secret to a Successful Christian Life
Text: John 3:22-30
Perhaps the most important grace for ministry is that of humility. Love is obviously the chiefest grace, but the importance of humility is emphasized by the fact that lack of it is a common sin in ministry. It is a particular sin for those in places of responsibility.
“And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.” 1 Thes 5:12-13
Esteem them, but don’t exalt them. Now John was one of the greatest men who ever lived. But it wasn’t his particulars that made him great, but his person. It wasn’t so much his clothing as it was his character. It wasn’t so much his diet as it was his declaration.
Thus, if the greatest who ever lived gives the secret of his life, we should pay attention. John declares in v30 a key text for all servants of Jesus Christ, especially those in particular roles that may tend to pride. However, it has its application to all.
I. THE SURROUNDINGS IN WHICH HE REVEALS HIS SECRET v22-26
John continued his ministry for a short time after Christ commenced his.
v22 – After having dealt with Nicodemus, the Lord leaves Jerusalem where he had performed many miracles and many had begun to follow Him, and moves into the surrounding area of the city.
v23 – Tells us John was in Aenon, which many debate about where it actually was. The important thing is that wherever it was it was near where Jesus was ministering, because John’s disciples were aware of what was happening through Christ’s ministry. Both these ministries were experiencing blessing. People are responding to their preaching and they are both are baptizing people. The Spirit was working harmoniously through both ministries. And of course, Satan hates harmony in God’s work and division is always his aim.
v25 – “a question” i.e. a dispute. Nothing friendly about this. It may have been to do with discerning the difference between the baptism of Jesus and John, versus the Jewish purification rites. “then” – i.e. at the time of blessing upon both ministries. “the Jews” – i.e. the religious leaders.
v26 – Having given place to the devil, John’s disciples reveal the real issue they were having. It was all about the numbers and comparing the success of a ministry based upon its following. This comes from a competitive spirit.
II. THE SOVEREIGNTY THAT ADDS SUCCESS TO THE SECRET v27
v26 wasn’t a question, but it comes from a questioning spirit and John answers. The first thing John does it acknowledge God’s sovereignty. This is a truth we all need to remember. True success is in the hands of God alone. John is applying this to his own ministry. Everything he had achieved was in God’s hands, not his own. But by implication he is also revealing the same about Christ’s ministry. We must be convinced of God’s sovereignty in God’s work. Read history, and see how the most faithful men often laboured for a long time without seeing much. The extent of God’s blessing in external evidence may ebb and flow. And when things ebb, often there’s a criticism from others. Turn – 1 Cor 3:1,4-6
It’s easy for those who are experiencing blessing to criticize others not in blessing. But we must be careful. Men have seen God move quickly, built great churches, and seen them emptied before they were finished their ministry. And sometimes God may make the tide to go out because of sin, and at other times it goes out just because He wants to purge the church. No church can receive anything except it be given from above.
III. THE SERVICE THAT REFLECTS HIS SECRET
1. The reminder of his service – v28
He reminds them of his purpose. He had complete contentment about where he was meant to be. His disciples were wondering, and we might have wondered if John had done something
2. The result of his service
John continued in the work. And that’s what we must do. We are not to get weary in well doing…
3. The rejoicing in his service – v29
Here is one of the most difficult things to do in the work of God. Rejoice in another man’s blessing. Can you rejoice in the blessings of others, or are you envious? 4. The recognition of his service – v29
The bride is the church and bridegroom is Christ. “hath the bride” – i.e. Christ already has His bride. It’s the start of Christ’s ministry, and yet John gives recognition to the fact that Christ HAS a bride. An elect people. And since Christ HAS a bride, John knew the ministry of Christ would be successful. That He would fulfill His purpose of giving himself for the bride to redeem her and cleanse her. Do we recognize that Christ has His bride? HE WILL NOT FAIL!
IV. THE STATEMENT THAT REALIZES THIS SECRET v30
This is the secret to a successful Christian life. We’ll follow up on this next week, but I want you if you’re here without Christ to see this is the key for salvation. To have salvation requires you to decrease yourself.