How can Jesus become more popular where we live? Part 2

“He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30

Another way for Jesus to become more popular where we live is to REJOICE IN ATTRACTING OTHERS TO JESUS EVEN AT OUR OWN EXPENSE. When John’s the Baptist’s disciples were jealous of Jesus’ growing popularity, John said to them, “You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent before Him.” (John 3:28). John explains to his disciples that he was only a forerunner, not the Messiah himself. God’s plan for John was to prepare people for Jesus’ ministry. It was God’s plan now for Jesus to increase in prominence and for John to decrease in prominence. Jesus’ growing popularity was in part due to John doing his job so well. Rather than seek the limelight for himself, John was content to be an instrument to glorify Christ.

“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. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.” (John 3:29). In the first century, the friend of the bridegroom was an assistant, not the main participant in a wedding. He was responsible for making wedding arrangements and waiting for the groom to return with his bride to the groom’s house for the wedding banquet. The friend of the bridegroom did not expect to take center stage. With this comparison in mind, John rejoiced fully in Jesus’ success. John was simply the “friend of the bridegroom,” but Jesus is “the bridegroom.” In effect John says, “When I see crowds of people leaving me and going to Jesus, I am thrilled because Jesus can do for them what I could never do. For their sakes and His, I rejoice!” He says, “It fills my heart with joy to see them leaving me and going to Jesus.” And a heart full of joy has no room for jealousy.

John then says,He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30). Some have misunderstood this verse to mean that you must die to yourself and that there be less and less of you so that there can be more and more of Christ in you. But in the context, what John means here is that Jesus “must increase” in popularity and he “must decrease” in popularity. After all, John was the forerunner; Christ was the Messiah-God. If he was preparing the way for the Messiah, then surely the Messiah would need to be better known than the forerunner.

Don’t you want to see this where you live? Don’t you want to see Christ grow in popularity in your community? Don’t you want to see more people in your community talking about Jesus Christ and what He is doing in and through your church? Don’t you want to hear your neighbors and co-workers talking more about Jesus? Are you willing to set aside your own preferences to attract more unbelievers to Jesus? With God, all things are possible.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, this planet is Your stage to show Your grace and truth off. Please forgive me for wanting the attention that belongs only to You. Thank You for the grace that continues to heal the deep wounds of my soul so that my need for attention is much less than it used to be. I am merely a voice, but You are the living Word Who changes peoples’ lives. Nothing thrills me more than to see people come to You in faith for Your gift of everlasting life. I pray that my family, my friends, my neighbors, my church, my acquaintances, and even my enemies will begin to focus more on You and talk more about You, Jesus, than anyone or anything else. You are the Real Deal. You can do far more for them than I ever could. For this I am eternally grateful. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Jesus cares about the little things in our lives

“When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. And he said to him, ‘Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!’ ” John 2:9-10

We have learned from Chapter 2 of John so far, that our joy (represented by wine) can be restored when we release our problems to Jesus (John 2:1-4) and when we respond to Jesus with total obedience (John 2:5-7). Another way to restore our joy is to realize that Jesus cares about the little things in our lives (John 2:8-10).

After the servants at the wedding banquet filled each stone pot to the brim, Jesus said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” (John 2:8a). John tells us, “And they took it.” (John 2:8b). As far as we know, Jesus had not told the servants about the miracle that He was going to perform. To them, they were carrying a cup full of water not wine. But when the master of ceremonies tasted what was brought to him, he got a mouthful of wine that was better than anything he had ever tasted before.

“When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. And he said to him, ‘Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!’ ” (John 2:9-10). The master of the feast observed that it is a universal custom to serve “the good wine” first and then the “inferior” wine “when the guests have well drunk”   and their sense of taste has become less discerning. John is not suggesting that Jesus created more wine for drunken guests. He is simply emphasizing the supreme quality of wine that Jesus created out of water. 

Some Bible teachers have insisted that the wine Jesus created was no more than grape juice. But the word for “wine” (oinos) here is the word for fermented juice of the grape. Paul uses this same word when he writes, “Do not be drunk with wine [oinos]” (Ephesians 5:18). The same Bible that condemns drunkenness (Ephesians 5:18) and cautions against a misuse of alcoholic beverages (Proverbs 23:29-35; I Timothy 3:3, 8) recognizes wine as one of God’s gifts (Psalm 104:15: Ecclesiastes 9:7). God created the grape from which the wine is made. But God is not to be blamed for peoples’ misuse of His gifts. Each human being is responsible for their own sobriety.

The words of the master of the feast demonstrate that a transformation miracle has taken place whereby Jesus created out of plain water a superior wine to any previously served. We will discover in John 3 another type of transformation miracle when Jesus gives His gift of eternal life to a sinner who believes.  

When the servants obeyed Jesus, this tells us that it is our job to fill the water pots, but it is Jesus’ job to change the water into wine. For example, in your marriage, it is your responsibility to love and serve your spouse, but it is Christ’s responsibility to change him or her. Don’t try to do something that only Jesus can do. He alone can change the personality and habits of your spouse. Trust Him to do what you cannot. It is our responsibility to share the gospel with people, but it is Jesus’ job to transform them. Simply share the truth with those without Christ and let the Holy Spirit convict them of their need for Him.

A miracle happened on that day in Cana of Galilee. This is such a beautiful picture of grace here. Initially, it appeared that Jesus was going to refuse to replenish the wine. But as He listened to His mother and looked into the faces of the wedding party, He reconsidered. People are more important to Jesus than schedules. Jesus changed His plans to meet the needs of some friends at a wedding feast. His first miracle was motivated not by famine or terrorism, but by concern for friends who were in a bind.

Christ not only cares about the major difficulties in our lives like death, disease, and disaster, but He also cares about the smaller things in life like running out of wine at a wedding reception, having a flat tire, a toothache, or even losing an ear plug when you desperately need to sleep.

If we are to experience Jesus’ transforming grace and the joy that results from this, we must realize that Jesus Christ cares as much about the little things in our lives as He does about the big things.So, go to Him with what concerns you. Make your relationship with Him your top priority, and He will fill your hearts to overflowing with His peace and power so that you may have a joy-filled life.

This miracle of changing water into wine could not have happened without the request of Mary as she admitted the problem. It couldn’t have happened without the presence of Jesus for them to bring the problem to Him. It couldn’t have happened without the willingness of the servants to work hard to do whatever Jesus commanded them to do. And it couldn’t have happened without Jesus’ concern for the little things in life.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, Your grace transforms lives, even when it comes to the little things in our lives that no one else thinks is important. You are a kind and caring Lord Who not only sees the little things in our lives, but You also do something about them. Knowing this, motivates me to come to You in prayer. My prayers never fall on deaf ears. You hear and You answer. And my life is filled full of joy! Thank You my Lord and my God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How can I restore my joy?

“His mother said to the servants, ‘Whatever He says to you, do it.’” John 2:5

We learned in John 2:1-3 that releasing our problems to Jesus can restore our joy. Another way to restore our joy is seen in the next few verses.

While Jesus and His disciples attended a wedding banquet in Cana of Galilee, the unthinkable happened – the hosts ran out of wine (John 2:1-3). To the Jews, wine symbolized joy.  Running out of wine at a wedding banquet in the first century was so serious that lawsuits could be brought against you by the offended guests. The presence of wine stated that this was a special day and that all the guests were special guests.

Jesus’ mother informed Christ of the problem and He let her know that she was no longer in control (John 2:4). He was no longer under obligation to do what she wanted when she wanted it. He was now obligated to fully obey His heavenly Father not His earthly mother.

Inviting Jesus to the wedding banquet made it possible for the supply of joy to be renewed and refreshed. But the simple fact that Jesus was there did not bring the joy. It did not replenish the wine. To have your joy restored, you must be willing to do whatever Jesus tells you to do.

“His mother said to the servants, ‘Whatever He says to you, do it.’” (John 2:5). At that moment, Jesus ceased to be a guest and became the One who was in control of the whole wedding.  And at that moment, a miracle began to happen. It is easy for us to be willing to have Jesus as a guest in our lives, but are we willing to turn over the controls and “do whatever Jesus tells” us to do? Only then will we see Christ do miracles in our lives.

I greatly admire Mary because she is the mother of the Messiah. For those of us who respect her, it is important to listen to what she told the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”

What does Jesus say to do to have everlasting life? He says, “whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Have you made this decision to believe or trust in Christ alone to give you never-ending life? The moment you do, Christ gives you everlasting life and He comes to live inside of you through His Holy Spirit (cf. 7:37-39) so that His joy can fill your life to the brim!

“Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece.” (John 2:6). The Jews would use the water in these stone water pots for purification. They would come to the pots and let water run over their hands. It wasn’t a matter of sanitation but of ceremony. It did nothing to clean them physically or to wash them spiritually. It was simply an outward show.

An outward show, then or now, has never been able to produce joy. Simply coming to church and going through the motions will not produce joy in your life. They will put you in the place where you can find joy and put you around the people who will help to enhance your joy. But if you hear God’s Word without doing His Word, you will become even more miserable than you were to begin with. If we say the prayers but refuse to listen to God’s Spirit as He speaks to us, then our prayers will only produce emotional and spiritual conflict in us. If we read the Bible with no intention of obeying it, then we will only provoke guilt within ourselves.

“Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the waterpots with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim.” (John 2:7).  The servants heard Jesus speak, and they responded in obedience. They began the process of filling the stone jars with water. Each of these jars held between 20 and 30 gallons of water, and there were six jars. That’s up to 180 gallons of water. It would have taken a lot of time and energy to accomplish this task. Trip after trip to the well to draw water and pour it into the jars. And we don’t know how far it was to the well. It would have been tempting to do a half-hearted job. After all, Jesus only said to “fill” the jars with water. He didn’t say how far to fill them. And “fill” is a word that can be interpreted in many ways depending on how hot it is and how late in the workday it is. Anything over half way is full, isn’t it? That’s what potato chip companies seem to think. But these men didn’t think so. When Jesus told them to fill the jars, they took Jesus’ words quite literally, and they filled them all the way “to the brim,” just shy of overflowing. This was more than enough to meet the need that this newly married couple had encountered.

Do we want God’s joy in our lives? (Pause) To receive that joy, we might even be willing to be obedient to God – to a certain extent, right? But are we willing for our obedience to reach all the way to the brim even when the obedience that Jesus asks for doesn’t make sense to us? Or when it requires more work than we had originally intended on giving? Or when it forces us to rearrange our priorities and our schedules like these servants had to do? You see, the amount of joy that we experience is in direct proportion to the amount of obedience that we give. The greater our obedience, the greater our supply of joy will be. Jesus said, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love… These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:10-11). When Jesus tells you to do something, never do it halfway because Jesus wants to give you joy to the full.

I don’t know where the brim is for you, but I know that to get there, you must do whatever He tells you to do even when it doesn’t make sense. Even when it is inconvenient or painful. It will require hard work. It won’t be easy. You must ask yourself, “How badly do I want the joy that God has to offer?”

Prayer: Lord Jesus, please forgive me for the many times I have treated You like a guest in my life, instead of the Lord of my life. You make it clear that wholehearted obedience to You will give us joy to the full. How easy it is for me to go through the motions without giving You my heart. Lord Jesus, You do nothing halfway and nor should I. The more I know You and what You have done for me, the more I want to serve You as a way of saying “thank You,” even if it does not make sense to me. Please take all that I have, including my obedience, and use it for Your glory. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Releasing my problems to Jesus

“And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, ‘They have no wine.’” John 2:3

There is no such thing as a perfect wedding. There are always going to be problems – some of them small and some of them large. In John 2:1-11, Jesus and His disciples were attending “a wedding in Cana of Galilee” where Jesus’ mother, Mary, seemed to be the wedding coordinator (John 2:2). A big problem took place at this wedding celebration. “They ran out of wine.” (John 2:3a).

To the Jewish people, wine symbolized joy. Running out of wine at a wedding banquet in the first century was so serious that lawsuits could be brought against you by the offended guests. The presence of wine stated that this was a special day and that all the guests were special guests.

I can imagine that the bride was getting pretty anxious about this time! I can hear her saying to her mother, “My wedding day is not supposed to be like this! I’m supposed to be filled with joy. But instead, I’m worried about what everyone is going to say or do when they discover that we have run out of wine.”

Maybe you have had similar thoughts. “My marriage is not supposed to be the mess that it is. Parenting isn’t supposed to be filled with so much stress. Christianity is not supposed to be like this. I’m supposed to be overflowing with joy – or so I’ve heard – but nothing seems to be going right. My joy is gone.” You may not know where your joy went. You just woke up one morning, and the supply had been completely drained. Some things have come along that you didn’t anticipate that have stolen your joy. Maybe some people have come into your life, and by their attitudes or actions, they have depleted your joy. Perhaps you have overbooked your schedule and lost your joy as a result. Sometimes we can lose our joy because of sin in our lives.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, may have been the one responsible for coordinating this wedding feast. It would have been embarrassing for her to admit that she had not planned on enough wine. Embarrassing or not, she was willing to admit that there was a need. She said to Jesus, “They have no wine” (John 2:3b). That’s what we have to do too. We have to admit that there is a need – that we are running out of joy. It may be because of our own choices or the choices of others, it does not matter. What matters is that we admit that there is a problem because then we can do something about it.

That’s what Mary did. When she realized that there was a problem, she took the problem to Jesus. She said to Him, “They have no wine.” (John 2:3b). She didn’t try to solve it in her own strength. The fact that Mary came to Jesus indicates she believed He could resolve the problem. This tells us that Jesus is concerned with the everyday things in life that we face. This family may not have exhibited a lot of wisdom in how they planned for the wedding celebration, but the wisest thing that they could have ever done was to invite Jesus. The very presence of Jesus at this wedding opened the possibility to a miracle.

And you know something? Jesus is also here with us today. The Bible tells us that He died for our sins…was buried… and on the third day He rose from the dead (I Corinthians 15:3-6). He is alive today and His power is available to everyone who believes in Him. With Jesus’ presence in our lives, there is enough power to resolve whatever problem you may be facing and build a life that is filled with joy.

When Mary came to Jesus and communicated the problem to Him, His response toward her may seem a little cold and harsh to us in the twenty-first century. “Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.’ ” (John 2:4). Literally, Jesus says, “What to Me and to you, woman?” This may seem disrespectful to our modern ears to address one’s mother as “woman,” but this was an acceptable term in that day (cf. John 19:26; 20:15).

There may be times when we bring our requests to God for what we think would bring joy into our lives – but God’s response seems cold and harsh. It seems like the windows of heaven are closed. But the response that Jesus gave to Mary was to let her know that she was no longer in control. He was no longer under obligation to do what she wanted when she wanted it. He was now obligated to fully obey His heavenly Father not His earthly mother.

When it comes to asking God to do certain things in our lives, God is under no obligation to do things our way or in our time. He commands us; we do not command Him. God knows better than we ever could what will bring us the most joy and when is the most beneficial time for Him to answer our requests. God does miracles and He answers prayers, but He does it in His time and in His way.

There is one prayer that Jesus will always answer with a “yes” as soon as that prayer is offered up to Him. That is the prayer for forgiveness. After King David had sinned against God, he prayed to Him, “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” (Psalm 51:1-2). Notice that David did not ask God to forgive him according to David’s goodness or righteousness, but according to God’s “lovingkindness” and “the multitude of” His “tender mercies.” That is called grace – receiving what we do not deserve.

As believers in Jesus, we still sin after we are saved from hell (I John 1:8, 10), but all God asks us to do when we do sin is “confess our sins” to Him “and He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I John 1:9). Confessing our sins restores our fellowship or closeness with God after we have sinned against Him.

If you do not have Jesus in your life, the Bible invites you to believe or trust in Him alone for His unlimited forgiveness of all your sins – past, present, and future. “All the prophets say it is true that all who believe in Jesus will be forgiven of their sins through Jesus’ name.” (Acts 10:43; cf. Colossians 2:13-14). He will then come to live inside of you and fill you with His joy (Romans 8:11; 15:13; Galatians 2:20).

If your joy is gone, or if you have never found joy because you are living a life that is contrary to what God says, then come to Jesus as you are. He will work the miracle of forgiveness. He will fill you with His joy.

Prayer: Dear Lord Jesus, I come to You now as a broken cistern that is deplete of any joy. I have stubbornly insisted on living my life my way instead of Yours. Instead of turning to You to restore my joy, I have continued down a path that dishonors and hurts You. Most of my problems I have brought on myself through my foolish and selfish decisions. I am deeply sorry for all the pain I have caused to You and to those close to me. Please forgive me my Lord and my God. Thank You for washing away my sin and restoring Your joy in my life. I release my problems to You. I give everyone one and everything to You, my Lord. In Jesus’ name. Amen.