God Time March 6-10
Monday March 6
22 After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea. He remained with them there and baptized. 23 John also was baptizing in Aenon toward Salim, because much water was there. And people came and were baptized. 24 For John had not yet been put in prison.
John the Baptist is training his students and baptizing those who come out to see him. He is in Aenon now. We are told this is a good place because there is plenty of water in the Jordan River. The Jordan does not have a steady flow of water, but is relying on the rains. Aenon is located near Beth She’an, which is where the Jordan River Valley and the Jezreel Valley meet. More chance for water to come in from the surrounding mountains. Beth She’an is a major Roman city at the time with a large population. So, we see instead of Jerusalem, John is now baptizing people from another urban center.
It appears Jesus and his disciples are taking up John’s former ministry of baptizing people outside of Jerusalem. And Jesus is doing ministry influenced by John’s model.
This is how God designs the way we live out our lives of faith and influencing the world. We learn from others who go before us.
So, Jesus is following in John’s ways, but John’s followers don’t see it as all that positive.
Who has been an influence on your faith? Thank them.
Tuesday March 7
25 Then a dispute arose between some of John’s disciples and the Jews about ceremonial cleansing. 26 They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you bore witness, look, He is baptizing, and everyone is going to Him.”
We don’t know what this dispute is about, but it looks like the Jewish leaders are trying to stir the pot between John and Jesus. My guess is Jesus has a baptism ritual that is different than John’s. God told John this would happen. John explains in chapter one.
33 I didn’t know he was the one, but when God sent me to baptize with water, he told me, ‘The one on whom you see the Spirit descend and rest is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’
Through Jesus, baptism is more than just a sign of forgiveness of sin. When we are baptized, we are connected to the Holy Spirit. He will take a larger and larger role in our lives as we are open to him.
But, John’s disciples aren’t as concerned about what Jesus is doing as they are that he is doing anything at all. John’s followers look at Jesus and his followers as rivals and not as co-laborer’s in expanding the influence of God.
Individual Christian churches are gatherings of people, and people can get jealous of what other people are doing. It is as simple as that. The Ten Commandments call this “coveting.” “You shall not covet your neighbor’s congregation,” as it were.
American emphasis on the bigger and bigger still, will always drain a congregation’s spiritual influence because the focus is exactly the opposite of the focus taught by the head of the church, Jesus.
Paul understood the correct model Jesus gives him. When Paul writes to churches, he is writing to the whole city. The church at Ephesus or the church at Corinth, for instance. Not individual congregations but the church is all the Christians gathered in a city. Individual congregations are simply part of the the larger family which is the Church. When Jesus looks at Christians gathered in any church this morning he doesn’t see the individual congregation, he sees all the Christians of the community.
We live in a celebrity culture. How might that influence how we look at pastor’s of mega churches (perhaps any size church?)?
Wednesday March 8
27 John answered, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.”
When we are connecting people to God we are being used by God in the way he has chosen. All the influence we have comes from God and so it is not about who has the best church or the biggest church, it is simply who is following Jesus and being open to his power to be a light in the world where they are at. Honestly, God is certainly not that impressed in a human way, by the size of any individual congregation anyway.
I think of Los Angeles where I live. It is estimated that all the Christian churches in greater Los Angeles reach about 4% of the people. That leaves over 7.5 million people unreached. So, any individual congregation that has 10,000 people gathering together on any given Sunday for instance, in this town, is a tiny blip. Only 99.9987% of the population to go. Not that big of a deal is it?
It isn’t “how many” Christians that concerns Jesus anyway. He never once mentions this. What Jesus focuses on is how do Christians of various churches treat each other. In his great prayer from John chapter 17, Jesus prays for Christians of various groups and denominations and individual churches to get along with each other. He prays that we all are united in love and encouragement.
How can social media be an awful witness to Jesus when it comes to Christians speaking to and about other Christians? How could it be helpful?
Thursday March 9
28 You yourselves bear witness of me, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but ‘I have been sent before Him.’ 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom. But the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.
Jesus comes to bring joy that we might have full joy. John receives this. He is glad that God is using his cousin, Jesus, in such powerful ways. John is thrilled. Using the metaphor of marriage, John speaks of Jesus, the groom and his bride, the Church. Those who are in God’s family. John connects Jesus and his Church together. The best man is not perturbed that the groom is getting married. He is not jealous that the groom has such an awesome bride. The best man rejoices at the blessings of his dear friend.
We are thrilled that other brothers and sisters in Christ are receiving God’s joy in their lives. Whether it is in this community or any community. In this hyper-political age this is especially helpful to remember. Christians on the left and Christians on the right ought be each others biggest encouragers in what they hold in common. Christians who disagree over doctrine do well to agree on Jesus who died for all of us in order to forgive our sins, including the sin of being negative toward those with whom we disagree.
As Martin Luther wrote, We are to ‘defend our neighbor, think and speak well of him, and explain everything about him in the kindest way.’
God doesn’t have much time for this current political hysteria to preoccupy his family, anyway. God has a world to save and he does this through us sharing the joy and love of Jesus with everyone.
Be a light instead of a judge when it comes to other brothers and sisters of our faith.
Friday March 10
30 “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
That’s it. Our job in life as Christians is to continue to be an influence of those who come after us. Jesus calls it “making disciples.” Being a positive role model of joy and forgiveness. Investing our time and resources in the generations that follow. As we invest in the lives of those who will come after us, we continue to expand God’s good in the world around us.
Looking back over the years, someone invested in you and left a legacy for you that you don’t even know. These are those who were used by God to bless your Christian community. The greatest legacy we can leave now is to grow in your own faith that you might be a blessing on those who come under your influence and investment. Who knows, 100 years from now, people may not know your name, but they will know someone loved them enough to be open to God to give the blessing of having invested in someone else who influenced someone else, who blesses them that day. To God be the glory.
Who are you investing in from the younger generations today?