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John 3:30 Deep Dive // Are You Jealous of Jesus?
"Jesus must be great in my life, not me." — Natalie Abbott

As humans, we have a perennial tendency to focus on ourselves. We are all hungry for glory, and can try to put ourselves in the spotlight instead of Jesus. And John the Baptist's words in John 3:30 help us to see this sneaky tendency we all have—our longing for greatness—and put it in its proper place. John understood who he was, and he understood who Jesus was, and that made all the difference. Join Natalie Abbott, co-founder of Dwell Differently, as she unpacks the context of John 3:30 for us today, helping us see the starting point for our humility, and how dwelling on the true greatness of Jesus is the antidote to our struggle against focusing on ourselves.

JULY DWELL VERSE

“He must become greater; I must become less.” — John 3:30

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EPISODE TRANSCRIPT: Hey, welcome back to the Dwell Differently podcast. It's Natalie, and we are talking about our verse this month. It's the first of the month, so this is the teaching episode, and it is such a joy and a delight. (READ MORE)

Why and how do I get to do what I get to do? I get to take God's Word and really think about it and pray over it and learn it, and then I get to teach it to you.

It is just my absolute joy and the verse that we're learning this month, it's definitely not a very long verse, but man, as I have sat in this verse over the last couple weeks, and as I have let it kind of speak to my own heart, and as I've learned it and learned the context around it- it is convicting. So, without further ado, I am so excited to talk about it with you because I'm hopeful that something that I say will impact you and help you as you grapple with this verse yourself. Our verse this month is from John 3:30. It says this, “He must become greater; I must become less.”

That's talking about Jesus. That's John the Baptist. That's what he says about Jesus. Jesus must become greater. I must become less. I would not say about myself that I'm a naturally prideful person, but ouch. As I have this verse in my mind, as I'm thinking about the greatness of Jesus, as I'm kind of grappling with my own sense of greatness and my own desire for glory, this verse just keeps coming back and slapping me in the face.

Jesus must be great in my life, not me. He is the one that deserves the glory, not me. I must become less. We’re going to look at this verse in its context. I'm going to read it to you in the passage where we find it, and then we're going to talk about how John can say this about Jesus and how he can say this about himself.

Because that is a really hard thing to say about yourself—I must [00:02:00] become less. But John says it and John means it. And we're going get to a place where hopefully we start to be able to say it and mean it. Let’s read the passage in its context. It says this,

" 22 After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. 23 Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptized. 24 (This was before John was put in prison.) 25 An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26 They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”

27 To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ 29 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. 30 He must become greater; I must become less.”[h]

31 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. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33 Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34 For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God[i] gives the Spirit without limit. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.

Did you see it in that passage? You've got John's disciples and they're jealous that everyone's going to Jesus. And wondering, “What are we going to do?” And to this, John replies, “This is who I am—less. And this is who Jesus is—great.”

We’re going to look at what John says— “Jesus is great and therefore I can be less.” And just as an aside, John's disciples, they call Jesus "that man," which I actually love. They don't call him Jesus.

John has clearly pointed him out as the Messiah already, but they're like, “That guy over there. He's doing what we're doing. He's our competitor and everyone's going after him.” And to this, John says, “I'm not worried about my job security. I'm not worried about what Jesus is doing. In fact, he should become greater and I need to start being less.”

That's what John's answer is, and we're going to figure out why John says it. He says it because he believes it. Because he believes that he is less, that Jesus is greater, and that true humility comes from dwelling on truth.

Let’s look at ‘John is less, Jesus is greater’, and then our application is that true humility comes from truth.

John says this about himself, “I must become less.” Why does he say that? He says it because it's true and he understands his purpose. In this passage, notice that he says, “I am not the groom.” He also says, “I am not the Messiah.” Then he says, “I am from below and I can only speak to earthly things.” But in the rest of the gospel, we also see other things that are both said [00:06:00] about John and that John says about himself.

We’re going to look at a couple little verses here to help fill out this picture of John's understanding of who he is. John, the gospel writer, who was a disciple of Jesus, says this about John the Baptist in his gospel right from the very beginning. In chapter one, starting in verse six, after he's just introduced who Jesus is and that he is the light and that he has come to overcome the darkness, he says this about John,

6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

 

Notice that John, the gospel writer, wants us to know who John is.

That John is not the light, that John is only a witness. To the light. He has come to testify so that people would believe in Jesus. So that people would come into that light and that they would find life. John calls Jesus the light of life, but we're not going to go into that. We're talking about John here.

Then just a little bit later in chapter one, there are these priests and Levites, and they're sent from the Jewish leaders and they all want to know, “Who is this John the Baptist guy? Is he the Messiah? What's he doing?”

Well to them, John says, “I am not the Messiah.” He says this twice right here in just the first couple chapters of John, “I am not the Messiah.” He understands it, right? What he does say about himself is this, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness. Make straight the way for the Lord”. It's from Isaiah 40, verse three. He quotes it. It's a passage of the Bible. It's talking about the Messiah and he's coming, and God is going to make a way and that voice calling out into the desert wasteland, “Hey, there is life! There is water! There is joy! There are things to be had. There is one [00:08:00] coming, and he is the Lord.” That voice is John.

John quotes this passage in the Old Testament, knowing what the Old Testament says about the Messiah, and knowing that he is the herald of the Messiah. He is the groomsman. He tells his disciples this. He also says to them, when they say to him, “Hey, well, why are you baptizing them?”

He says this, “I baptized with water,” John replied, “But among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”

John not only understands who he is, but he also understands the greatness of Jesus. That he is the one whose straps of his sandals, John says, I can't even untie those. That is how great Jesus is.

Let's look at what John says about Jesus now. We've already seen him quote Isaiah. He knows that he's the herald to the Messiah. He knows who the Messiah is. It's Jesus, and this is how he tells the people that Jesus is the Messiah.

John sees Jesus coming toward him and he says this, “Look the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. This is the one I meant when I said, A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.” And then he goes on to say, I have seen and I testify that this is God's chosen one. John has a full picture of the Messiah from the Old Testament.

He knows that God is sending a lamb to take away the sins of the world, to replace the sacrificial system once and for all. That this Messiah has come and that it is Jesus. And that's who he points to when he says, “That's the one. I have seen it and I testify. This is God's chosen one.” John has a full picture of the [00:10:00] true greatness of Jesus.

And then let's look back at what he said to his disciples, because there's a whole lot in there. After he says “He must become greater; I must become less,” John says why. He says, “Why must Jesus become greater? Why must his name become more famous than mine?” Because of this—

31 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. 32 He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. 33 Whoever has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. 34 For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God[i] gives the Spirit without limit. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.

 

John sees the greatness of Jesus. He knows that the greatness of Jesus is how he can become less important in his own eyes because the importance should be placed on Jesus.

The glory belongs to Jesus. Look at a few of the things that he says Jesus is fully great in. Sometimes when we talk about Jesus becoming great, I just want to differentiate for you here, it's not that Jesus wasn't fully knowledgeable like he needed to grow in wealth or love or spirituality.

So, we're going to look at all the things that John says and we're going to see how he is actually fully great in all of those things. John says Jesus is fully great in authority because he says that Jesus is above all, okay? He also says that Jesus is fully great in wisdom and knowledge because he speaks the words of God.

He also says that Jesus is fully great in wealth because Jesus owns [00:12:00] everything. He is fully great in love because he is fully loved by the father. He is fully great spiritually because God has given him the spirit without limit. And finally, Jesus is the owner and the giver of eternal life. These are all the things that John says in that one little passage about how great Jesus is.

John says Jesus must become greater, or increase somehow, not because he's growing in those things, but because he's becoming greater in fame, renown, and glory. If you remember, that is the kind of greatness John's disciples were worried about, isn't it? They weren't worried about Jesus' fullness of spiritual life or his fullness of wisdom, they are worried about Jesus becoming great in the eyes of other people.

And that's exactly what John says Jesus must become. He must become glorious and great. It simply has to happen. He knows because it was all foretold in the Old Testament. He knows that Jesus is Messiah. He's not. He knows that Jesus is worthy of all praise and honor and glory and that the fullness of Jesus' greatness will one day be revealed on the last day.

But for now, Jesus's glory, renown, and fame must grow. And John says, “I need to fade into the background.” John can say these things because John knows who he is. He has joy in fulfilling his purpose, and because of that, he is able to be rightly humble.

So, let's look at that final point. We can be humble because of the truth that we are focused on. True humility comes from understanding and focusing on truth. That's [00:14:00] what John is doing here. He's not focused on himself. He is focused on Jesus and the greatness of Jesus. As we dwell in the greatness of Jesus, it naturally inclines our hearts to think less about ourselves.

Because we are finite limited people, not like all the things we said about Jesus. We are only capable of dwelling on one thing at a time. I know some of you people think that you're multitaskers, but you're really not. That is no such thing. We are only able to think about one thing. And let me just be honest with you about the thing that I focus on the most—and I would challenge you, as this month progresses, to think about how often you think about this same thing. I mostly think about myself. First thing in the morning when I wake up, I think about me. Throughout the day, my thoughts return to me, to my needs, my problems, my schedule. Is anyone going to see that I did this or that and thank me? Is everybody going love this? Is anybody going to tell me that I did this or that? I hope no one ever finds out this about me. I am thinking about myself constantly, and even when I'm thinking about other people, I'm thinking about what they're thinking about me.

I don't know if it's just me, but I'm thinking that it might just be you too. After all of that thinking about how we naturally focus on ourselves, I just want to remind you that one of the things that makes Jesus truly great is that he was humble. That he thought of us, that he laid down his life for us, and because of that, because of his servant heart, because he did those things, God exalted him above every name.

In fact, I'm going to read for you Philippians 2, and we're going to close with that. This is how Jesus displayed his greatness.

Jesus, [00:16:00] Who, being in very nature[a] God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature[b] of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

 

Jesus, who is the greatest became the least in order to save the least and make them great. As you memorize and meditate on this verse, would you think about how Jesus himself, though he was the greatest and deserves to be made much of in every way, he deserves all fame, all glory, all of it, he made himself the least in order to seek you out, to save you, and to serve you and to make much of you.

How much more does he deserve for us to make much of him? He is truly great. As we go forward, I just would say to you, let these words sink in. Let them really affect you. As you think about all those little pernicious things that come up, that crop up, that seek glory for yourself, that want to be thanked, that want to be noticed, would you combat those thoughts, those prideful thoughts with this verse?

“He must become greater; I must become less.”

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Natalie Abbott

Natalie Abbott is the co-founder and Chief Content Officer of Dwell Differently. She lives in Missouri with her husband and 5 kids.

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