Our lives are full. We work hard, learn new things, spend time with people, and work on our character. But why? What’s the motivation behind all that we do? It’s a tricky question, but using a passage in John and a few reflective questions, this post will help you evaluate what your end goal is.
In John 3, Jesus and John are separately baptizing people near the Jordan. It just so happens that many people are going to Jesus instead of John, and John’s disciples start worrying. They come to John and say, “Look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.” Let’s jump into the passage here:
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.”
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.
John’s response to his disciples’ worrying must have taken them by surprise, because it was full of joy. In a moment that he could’ve felt jealousy or even anger, he was instead totally taken over by his awe of Jesus. Selfishness didn’t stand a chance. The points he made are powerful!
1. Everything is a gift from heaven: When the disciples first bring their 'problem' to John's attention, John begins by responding that 'a person can receive only what is given them from heaven'. John knows that any good thing he has is a gift. He doesn’t feel entitled to a certain status.
2. The bridegroom’s friend: John compares himself to a groom’s best man on his wedding day. He’s simply an assistant, there to help the groom and share in his joy. Have you ever seen a best man try to steal the show at a wedding ceremony? Hopefully not. It would be pretty cringe-worthy! The attention is obviously supposed to be focused on the bride and groom. John places himself in this servant role: a friend who is filled with joy at simply Jesus’ presence.
3. “He must become greater; I must become less.” John won’t be satisfied until every bit of attention and glory is shifted off himself and onto Jesus.
4. Jesus is above all: While Jesus is sent straight from God, John is an earthly creature: from the earth, belonging to the earth, and speaking as one from the earth. John doesn’t let selfishness or pride block him from this obvious reality. Could there be any competition? John places Jesus on the pedestal, and accepts his own servant status.
This perspective is powerful! When I compare myself to Jesus, why would I ever want glory for what I do? In fact, how could I stand it, knowing that people are focusing on me instead of Jesus? I am simply his servant, his attendant, and his friend who loves him more deeply than I could love any ego boost.
So, let’s think. In all the good we do, in all the self-improvement we strive for, in all the bad things we avoid, what’s the end goal? To become a better, more-liked person? Or to showcase Jesus in our lives, to constantly set him in front of others?
This is a tough issue though, because it’s hard to discern our true motives. How can you really know if you’re seeking your own glory instead of God’s? Prayer is crucial.
It’s also helpful to ask yourself the following questions, because they make the concepts less abstract. Take a minute to think about your answer to each one, using specific examples from your life.
How’d you do? Please don’t be too hard on yourself. We all tend to focus on our reputations, but Jesus has graciously provided a better way for us. I hope this has been a joyful reminder to you! Jesus is above all, and it’s a privilege to live our lives to draw attention him. Let’s keep this end goal in mind as we live our day-to-day lives.
Hello! I'm Anna, a college student living in the Midwest. I'm a strong believer in uncontrollable laughter, powerful words, and a morning cup of coffee. I pray these posts will encourage you to live a full life with and for God: unhindered. Look forward to new posts every Monday morning!