Thursday, August 18, 2016

Enjoyment of Jesus Christ - Reflections upon John 3:22-36

John 3:22-24 "After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He was spending time with them and baptizing. 23 John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and people were coming and were being baptized— 24 for John had not yet been thrown into prison."

I thought today we would break away momentarily from our study on the spiritual gifts to consider the chief end for which they are given: namely enjoyment of Jesus Christ. We can scarcely miss the significance of Jesus' miracles, teachings and conversations that stretch from John 1:19-3:21. In today's post we want to consider the importance of John the Baptist's testimony about Jesus and Jesus further remarks following John's testimony in John 3:22-36. Specifically, we want to consider the joy we can find in Jesus Christ as the treasure of our soul. The appearance of the "bridegroom" theme in this text prompts us to focus in on how Jesus causes joy in John the Baptist's life. John the Baptist is recorded saying in John 3:29 "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." These remarks are as a pebble thrown into a pond, with the ripples extending from center to circumference. Each verse in John 3:22-36 is affected somehow by the presence of Jesus and the joy He brings. 

Furthermore, the additional remarks Jesus makes at the end of John 3 propels the reader to further consider why it is a joyful enterprise in relating to Jesus Christ on a Personal level. In my own life, the need for enjoyment of Jesus Christ must be met as I face what can be, at times, not-so-joyful trials. Such trials drive me to him. To see Jesus in His Person as the true source of my joy requires further illumination from the Holy Spirit as I attend to the scriptures, prayer and daily reliance upon Him. John the Baptist's words in John 3:30 echo this particular point, wherein he says: "He must increase, but I must decrease." 

As we consider this stretch of scripture, we can note the following of what is entailed in the joy of Jesus Christ...

1. Sovereignly given joy. John 3:24-27
The sequence of John 3:24-36 opens with the disciples of John discussing matters of ritual purification. To have one's conscience purified was, and still is, a matter of utmost importance. How one can obtain peace of mind and heart is pursued very much by every religion, philosophy and effort of people. How could human beings ever hope to experience the joy that comes with all accounts being settled in the courts and chambers of the deepest innermost being? John the Baptist responds to his disciples by explaining the only way such joy can be obtained in John 3:27. We read in John 3:27 "John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven."

The joy of peace in the heart is a Sovereignly given reality. True joy is a "top-down" working of God by the Person of the Holy Spirit. In other contexts we discover that the reality spoken of here begins with the New Birth (see John 3:3,6; Titus 3:5-6; James 1:17-18; 1 Peter 1:23). Further thoughts carry us to consider how other spiritual realities such as the strength to live for God in spiritual maturity or "sanctification" is credited to God working in proportion to our cooperation (see Galatians 2:20; Philippians 2:12-13). John Gill in his commentary notes on this point: 

"Yea, this is true of every man, who has nothing of his own; and whatever he has in nature, providence and grace, is a gift to him; and all he enjoys is in a way of receiving: nor can he receive it,
except it be given him from heaven; from God who dwells there...who is the author and donor of every gift, temporal, spiritual, and eternal; particularly he cannot perceive, and discern spiritual things, nor receive Gospel truths; as it appeared to John his disciples could not, unless spiritual light is given from above."

So the enjoyment of Jesus Christ, as with any spiritual grace, must first be Sovereignly given by God to be placed in my otherwise empty hand. Let's notice a second truth about the enjoyment of Jesus Christ, namely...

2. Source of such joy is Jesus Himself. John 3:28-30
As John the Baptist expounds further on this joy that is Sovereignly given by God, we discover that the joy given is not some ethereal, abstract quanity we call "joy". Instead, the joy given is none other than in whatever is connected to the Person of Christ Himself. John the Baptist likens his particular ministry to that of being the "friend of the bridegroom". 

In the days of the first century, the "friend of the bridegroom" was responsible for helping to set the arrangements for the wedding and the events that would bring together the groom and bride-to-be. He was usually the closest friend of the groom, hand-picked as one who could be trusted to make the union of the groom and his bride to go forth without a hitch. The Holman New Testament Commentary remarks: 

"So the bride and bridegroom imagery is well established in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. As the friend of the bridegroom, John emphasized his delight and joy rather than jealousy over Jesus’ arrival and instant popularity. It is said of the pioneer missionary, William Carey, that when he was close to death he turned to a friend and said, “When I am gone, don’t talk about William Carey; talk about William Carey’s Savior. I desire that Christ alone might be magnified.”

The question before us is this: do we enjoy Jesus for the perceived benefits He can bring, or is the joy we have in Jesus Himself? Is Jesus enough? Is He truly my joy? Is the joy of the Lord really our strength (see Nehemiah 8:10)? The Apostle Peter states it best in 1 Peter 1:8 "and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory." Is it no wonder then why John the Baptist was prompted in decrease, so that Jesus might increase. Jesus was His source of joy. 

So enjoyment of Jesus Christ is Sovereignly given, sourced in Jesus Himself and then finally...

Seals us to enjoy Jesus ever more. John 3:31-36
We read in John 3:33 "He who has received His testimony has set his seal to this, that God is true." What does it mean to have the "sealing of God" on one's life as a Christian? A seal in this sense represents an impression one would had found on wax sealing a document or perhaps an impression or words signifying a building constructed in the name of some dignitary. 2 Timothy 2:19 speaks of such a seal upon the Christian - "Nevertheless, the firm foundation of God stands, having this seal, “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who names the name of the Lord is to abstain from wickedness.” Other texts such as Ephesians 1:13-14 reveal to us how such a seal protects us from totally defecting from the faith in the face of sore trials that will most definitely occur prior to our departure from this world. Such a sealing speaks not only of one's position before Christ, but the power to live out and to persevere. Included in our sealing is the fact of the worthiness of Jesus Christ as above all others and things (John 3:31-33); the words of Christ to sustain us (John 3:34-35, also see John 6:67-70) and warnings to those who have not yet trusted in Jesus Christ (John 3:36). 

The joy of Jesus Christ confronts unbelievers who are finding their joy in the flesh or the things of this world. The joy of the Lord Jesus Christ also causes believers to audit their own hearts to see whatever distractions or worries are attempting to quench the flame of love. 

Closing remarks
Today we considered what it means to enjoy Jesus Christ. We noted three important truths about the joy of Jesus Christ as derived from our time in John 3:22-36..

1. Sovereignly given joy. John 3:24-27

2. Source of such joy is Jesus Himself. John 3:28-30

3. Seals us to enjoy Jesus evermore. John 3:31-36

May we be those who enjoy Jesus every day.  

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