the Spirit without Measure

    For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God;
    for He gives the Spirit without measure. [John 3:34 NASB]

I have often heard it taught that only Jesus had the Spirit without measure. The idea comes from this verse by folks who believe that the second "He" is referring to the Father. Yet how would we read that verse if we believed the second "He" referred to Jesus. It would mean something very different.

I think that the Baptist may have understood that Jesus is the Giver and we are the receivers. It makes sense. God gives without limit. His measure, like his love, has no boundary. There is nothing we need that He will not give. He has given the Spirit to each of us without measure. Praise the Lord.

Teach me Lord to walk in a way that displays your Spirit without measure in my life.

... this devotion is part of a series about John the Baptist.

Messianic Testimony

Anyone who accepts his testimony can affirm that God is true. [John 3:33 NLT]

I wonder what the Baptist meant when he said "his testimony"? The Greek word μαρτυρία can be translated as witness, evidence, testimony or reputation. Later on in his gospel John quotes Jesus saying:
“I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” [John 8:12 NLT]
The religious leaders rejected his testimony at every turn. In reality Jesus often testified about himself claiming to be one with God. His life and ministry were a witness to the nature and character of God.

Yet even today many reject the witness of the Messiah. They find no evidence that Jesus was who he said he was. They discount his reputation. These, like the religious leaders of old, refuse to accept the testimony of Christ and those who have been changed by his testimony. In doing so they reject God.

We accept your testimony dear Lord. We affirm that you are true.

... this devotion is part of a series about John the Baptist.

He testifies about what he has seen and heard ...

He testifies about what he has seen and heard, but how few believe what he tells them! [John 3:32 NLT]

I often say that I am a Red Letter Christian. I think the words that Jesus spoke (i.e. the red letters) carry more weight than others in the bible. As the Baptist speaks here, Jesus has a greater knowledge than religious scholars and theologians because his testimony comes from his heavenly life before this life.

Misunderstanding this idea, many put the words of Paul, James or Peter on the same level as the words of Christ. Some do the same with Old Testament writings. It is why so many did not see Jesus as the Messiah. How so few believed what Christ told them. Yet some did believe his testimony and were transformed.

The challenge remains for us today. Will we read the scriptures through the testimony of Jesus or will we see his words through the filter of what others say about Jesus. When we read the bible, will we consider the life, teachings and ministry of the One who has seen and heard things in heaven? Or something else?

Open our ears to hear your testimony in our hearts Lord. And our inner eyes to see heavenly things.

... this devotion is part of a series about John the Baptist.

He has come from Above

He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less. “He has come from above and is greater than anyone else. [John 3:30-31 NLT]

I think that John the Baptist heard the incarnational story all of his life. From his mom and from his second cousin Mary. The tale of how the angel visited Mary and told her of a son that would be conceived by the Holy Spirit. And how John leapt in his mom's womb when a pregnant Mary visited their home.

From early on John knew who Jesus was. He knew that cousin was a hybrid. Part earthly. Part heavenly. John believed the story and accepted his role in it. It is why he lived simply. Why he preached repentance. Why he baptized. He humbly became less so that the One from above would become more.

With John I agree Lord. You must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.

... this devotion is part of a series about John the Baptist.

the Bridegroom’s friend

It is the bridegroom who marries the bride, and the bridegroom’s friend is simply glad to stand with him and hear his vows. Therefore, I am filled with joy at his success. He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less. [John 3:29-30 NLT]

John's description of his ministry as an usher or a best man at a good friend's wedding paints a beautiful picture. The wedding is never about the groom's, or the bride's, attendants. In a sense these roles only exist to serve the betrothed couple in their union. So it was with John and his forerunning ministry.

The picture painted, in these verses and many others, is what it means to be a minister of the gospel. In fact the image can be used to represent any sincere follower of Christ. The picture is one of love and humility. Of becoming less. Of serving a divine Friend. Of wanting His will, and His happiness, more than our own.

Teach us Lord what it means to decrease as you increase in our lives.

... this devotion is part of a series about John the Baptist.

I am filled with joy at his success.

John’s disciples came to him and said ... the one you identified as the Messiah, is also baptizing people. And everybody is going to him instead of coming to us. ... John replied ... no one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven ... I am filled with joy at his success. [John 3:26-29 NLT]

I wonder what it was like for the Baptist and his disciples to see John's ministry wane after Jesus's baptism? These short verses give us a peek into how differently John and his disciples are processing the rise of Jesus' ministry. The disciples seem to be experiencing a sense of loss. Yet John is filled with Joy.

I seem to remember an adage that speaks of how one experiences loss says more about their character then how they experience gain. It is sometimes difficult to watch another succeed. In times like these our own insecurities are often brought to the surface. And sadness, instead of joy, takes hold of us.

I think that the secret to finding joy in such times involves seeing another's success as something given from heaven. In that light, a competitive spirit is quelled. And success, in ministry anyways, is seen as an opportunity for rejoicing. Even so, having this perspective is a matter of grace and humility.

Thank you Lord for the many opportunities that we have to rejoice with our friends in their successes.

... this devotion is part of a series about John the Baptist.

If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.

The crowds asked, “What should we do?” John replied, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.” [Luke 3:10-11 NLT]

John speaks on several occasions of offering fruit of repentance. It bears noting that John's instruction is not a high minded call to attend worship services or to offer sacrifices at the temple. The evidence the Baptist wants is so practical in nature. Be generous with your clothing and your food. So elegantly simple.

In the ensuing verses he tells tax collectors to not illegally line their pockets with extra taxes. He tells others: “Don’t extort money or make false accusations. And be content with your pay.” The outcome that John wants is not the overthrowing of Roman occupation but of the sin that has held men captive.

Generally speaking, sinning and repenting are never private matters. Our sin affects our neighbors. Yet our repentance can affect them on an even greater scale. When we repent, our neighbors are clothed and fed by the generosity of repentance. And our communities are made better because of our repentance.

Teach us Lord to offer fruit of repentance that helps our neighbors and shows your love for them.

... this devotion is part of a series about John the Baptist.