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Last week we found out that to follow Jesus, we must hate darkness. We don’t hate people who participate in darkness. We hate darkness.
We also discovered that when Jesus referred to darkness, He was referring to wild parties, drunkenness, sexual promiscuity, immoral living, quarreling, jealousy, greed, obscene stories, and foolish talk.
We’ve also been warned that there will be people who try to excuse all of these sins, but we should not be deceived because the anger of God will fall on all who disobey Him.
We should take no part in this darkness. Instead, we should expose it. Why? So people can be set free. The truth is what makes you free, not trying to make everyone feel good about their sin.
Truth and grace working together is how we lead people to Jesus. You can’t have one without the other.
We must love people enough to tell them the truth even when they don’t want to hear it. And we should extend grace as we wait patiently for them to step into the truth.
Let’s not forget that we can’t earn our salvation. Everything I just talked about is a result of your salvation.
Believing in Jesus Christ is the only way to receive salvation. It’s the only way to receive the power you need to leave darkness behind.
Because when you truly believe in Jesus, you follow Jesus. And He is with you every step of the way.
Prepare the Way
We ended last week in the middle of John chapter three. We were studying the conversation Jesus had with a religious leader named Nicodemus. After this conversation, Jesus and His disciples went into the Judean countryside to do some baptizing.
You know, this is one of the things I love about Jesus. He often retreated to what I would call “the woods”. He loved to be out in nature, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. And I am right there with Him.
So here they were, out in the wilderness baptizing people in probably the most serene environment. John the Baptist was also close by doing some baptizing of his own.
In case you are unfamiliar with John the Baptist, we just have to head back to John chapter one for an introduction:
John 1:6-7 NLT – God sent a man, John the Baptist, to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony.
So, John’s assignment was to prepare the way for Jesus. And he did this by baptizing people in water so they could show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven (Luke 3:3).
Jesus and his disciples were over here baptizing. John and his disciples were over there baptizing. John’s disciples heard that Jesus was baptizing and they got upset.
“John! This is our assignment! What are you going to do about Jesus and His disciples over there baptizing? They’re taking our job!”
In today’s work culture, the boss would have to go over to Jesus and say, “Hey, Jesus. I know you’re probably more qualified to baptize than John, but John and his team are getting really upset. Can you just, you know, stop?”
We still act this way! I mean, have you ever watched someone serving at church, (whether it be singing, or preaching, or whatever) and thought to yourself, “I should be doing that. I’d do a better job.” Don’t raise your hand.
But this is a true story about John’s disciples. They were upset because Jesus and His disciples were baptizing and complained to John about it. What did John the Baptist say?
John 3:27-28 NLT – John replied, “No one can receive anything unless God gives it from heaven. You yourselves know how plainly I told you, ‘I am not the Messiah. I am only here to prepare the way for him.’”
Then John said something next level:
John 3:30 NLT – He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.
Oh man, I don’t know if I’ve ever heard this before. We’re so obsessed with climbing the corporate ladder and becoming the one in charge that we would never think of elevating one of our coworkers instead of ourselves.
But John the Baptist had a rare mindset that we all should adopt:
My life is not about me.
Nope, I’m here to elevate God. And when we elevate God, that often means elevating others above your own agenda. We are here to serve, not to be served.
Alright, so what I want you to remember about this story is that John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Jesus. Everyone say, “Prepare the way.”
He didn’t come to build his own life and his own business and his own following. No, he came to get everything ready for someone else.
I’m setting the stage for my main point today. But first, let’s talk about the very next story in the book of John.
This is one that we looked at a few weeks ago because it illustrates how Jesus so masterfully joined grace and truth together. We’re talking about the story of the Samaritan woman at the well.
Last time, I showed you the full version of the story from the TV series called The Chosen. It’s so powerful I wanted to show you an abbreviated version of the story for a refresher. Take a look:
Every story in the Bible is so rich in meaning. Last time, I pointed out how Jesus used grace and truth to lead this woman to salvation. But this time I want to point out something else.
Did you catch the part where Jesus told the woman that she was the first person He told that He was the Messiah?
Get this. He told a woman who was rejected by everyone else the most important thing we all need to know. Then she went and told all of her friends and family about the Messiah and many believed because of her testimony.
You know, Jesus probably could have accomplished the same thing by walking into the village like a boss, working a bunch of miracles and healing everyone who came near. But no. He’d rather partner with this woman.
Instead of doing it all by Himself, Jesus reached out to a woman that most of us would probably look over, and partnered with her to reveal Himself as the messiah to an entire village.
This is a good time to back up a little bit to when Jesus and the disciples were baptizing. We find out in John chapter 4 verse 2 that Jesus didn’t actually do any of the baptizing. His disciples were doing it all.
Once again, Jesus could have done it all Himself. And people were probably pressuring Him to do so. But he’d rather partner with the disciples and let them do all the baptizing.
Alright, let’s recap. We have the example of John the Baptist working hard not to build his own platform, but to prepare the way for Jesus.
Then we have Jesus giving away the important job of baptizing to the disciples. He didn’t even baptize one person. He fully entrusted His disciples to do it.
And then Jesus finds an outcast woman, reveals Himself for the first time as the Messiah, and then fully entrusts her to lead her village back to Jesus.
This is incredible!
The Parable of the Harvest
Now, I am going to turn it over to Jesus to tie this all together in a parable. After His conversation at the well with the Samaritan woman, the disciples were worried because Jesus hadn’t eaten in awhile.
Some of you can fully identify with the disciples here. I mean, if we miss a meal, we might not make it, right?
While they were urging Jesus to eat, Jesus used the opportunity to teach them something. He said, “I have a kind of food you know nothing about.”
You have to love these perplexing one-liners from Jesus. I call them a hook. He says something that makes you go, “Whattt?”, which causes you to lean in for what comes next.
Of course, the disciples responded in a way that we probably would too. They looked at each other and said, “Did someone bring Him food while we were gone?”
I’m sure Jesus had a good laugh about this first. But then He explained it to them:
John 4:34-38 NLT – Then Jesus explained: “My nourishment comes from doing the will of God, who sent me, and from finishing his work.
Notice that Jesus had the same mindset as John the Baptist. He wasn’t here to elevate Himself. No, He was here to do the will of God.
And He wasn’t here to do His own work. He was here to finish God’s work.
John 4:34-38 NLT – You know the saying, ‘Four months between planting and harvest.’ But I say, wake up and look around. The fields are already ripe for harvest. The harvesters are paid good wages, and the fruit they harvest is people brought to eternal life. What joy awaits both the planter and the harvester alike!
Jesus is comparing farming to salvation. Just like farmers have to plant, and wait, and then harvest, when we lead people to Jesus, we also plant, wait, and then harvest. And He goes on to explain:
John 4:34-38 NLT – You know the saying, ‘One plants and another harvests.’ And it’s true. I sent you to harvest where you didn’t plant; others had already done the work, and now you will get to gather the harvest.”’
Notice He didn’t say, “One plants and the same one harvests.” No, He is making a point here that we have to work together to lead people to Jesus.
Some are responsible for planting the Word of God in the hearts of others. Other’s are responsible for harvesting by leading them to eternal life.
There you have it. In three different ways, we’ve discovered something else about following the way of Jesus:
To follow Jesus, I must pursue partnership.
This isn’t about me. It’s not about you. It’s about what we can do together.
You know, every time we gain clarity on following the way of Jesus, it sheds light on Satan’s attempts to kill, steal and destroy.
This is why there is so much pressure to be more successful that those around you; to be the boss; to develop a following. It’s because Satan doesn’t want us working together. He wants us off doing our own thing.
Many of us often think, “No one could do it as good as me, so I guess I’m just going to have to do it myself.” I’ve been there. And all I can say about this attitude is pride comes before a fall.
Y’all, God has spent literally years trying to get this across to me. Not too long ago, I never asked anyone to do anything because I either thought I could do it better, or they didn’t want to do it anyways.
And you know what that got me? Overwhelmed. Burnt out. Full of myself. Lacking relationships. Waterlocked. I got to a place where I couldn’t go any further on my own. So I was also dissatisfied.
This is what life looks like when we don’t pursue partnership with others.
God designed us to work together. We are the body of Christ. We each have a specific function. We are to discover it and develop it and then bring it alongside others to make it complete.
Ephesians 4:16 NLT – As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.
You have a special assignment in the body of Christ. And when you engage in your assignment, you help everyone else grow. When we all engage in our own special work, we become healthy and growing and full of love.
We can’t do this without you. This can’t just be the leaders in our church and no one else. This can’t just be 50% of our church. No, we all need to engage in what God has called us to do and bring it all together.
We can’t allow ourselves to be jealous of someone else’s gift or assignment. We can’t fall into the trap of thinking some gifts are more important than others. No. Every person in the body of Christ is equally important.
We need you. If you choose to take a back seat, this church will never become what God intended for it to become.
But if we all fully engage in our own special work and then bring it all together, this church will accomplish infinitely more than we could ask or think.