Introduction: Confusing Jealousy.
Jealously is a confusing thing. When someone mentions the word “jealous” it is hard to think of it as a virtue. But the confusing thing is the Bible tells us God at times becomes jealous. Therefore, that means there is a pure, holy, divine jealously. There is a jealously that is not sinful. We are not going to spend much time today discussing healthy or holy jealously, because that is not what our text is about. But I did want you to know jealously is something you should consider digging deeper into. In his famous book, Knowing God, JI Packer has a wonderful chapter on the jealously of God.
We are exploring the dangers of jealously today. We have all seen the destructive power of jealously. We are all well aware of the dangers. Jealously has lead to murders, war, slander, and many other vices. In many ways jealously flows from desires for good things. We may long to have a successful career in order to provide for our families, help support our local church, or missionaries seeking to advance the Gospel among the nations. These are examples of good desires. But we might become jealous of a fellow employee who got a raise, or new position, and we did not. Perhaps we worked harder, had more education, more experience, and any other factor that might come into play. But we become jealous of them. If we are not careful that jealously can become very destructive very quickly.
In our text today John the Baptist and his disciples faced a similar circumstance—READ John 3.22-26. Near the beginning of the Gospel of John we saw that John the Baptist had an vibrate growing ministry, so much so religious leaders came from Jerusalem to see his ministry (John 1.19). But in our text here we see that John the Baptist ministry is now a declining ministry while Jesus Christ’s ministry is growing. John’s disciples clearly have become jealous. They are looking to their leader—their mentor—on how they should handle this jealously they are feeling so deeply. Let’s examine how John the Baptist helped his disciples walk through their jealously in the hopes we will learn how to handle our jealousies as well.
Theme: When our jealousies begin to run wild, we must train our hearts and minds to respond with, “Christ must increase and I must decrease.”
1. Training Our Minds—John 3.27-28.
John first answer to their concerns flows from a SOLID theological foundation—READ John 3.27. Our Savior says something similar at the height and most stressful in His ministry. In John 19 Jesus has been beaten, publically flogged, and Pontius Pilate is having a discussion with Jesus why people hate him so much. Pilate can’t figure it out:
When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above…”—John 19.8-11a
John the Baptist recognizes the authority he has was given to Him. The same authority that gave him authority also gave authority to Jesus. John the Baptist understands that if he were to be jealous, bitter, angry about Jesus then that would say something about what he believes about God. Jesus’ ministry is thriving while John’s ministry declining. Jesus’ ministry is gaining more influence, while John’s ministry is loosing influence. But the way John guides his thoughts and the thoughts of his disciples encourages everyone to trust God. Dangerous jealously says, “If I was in charge I would handle this differently. God, why would you put that guy in charge? I would never choose Him. Why are you giving that person success?” Whether it is consciously, or subconsciously, our unholy jealousies are telling us we don’t trust God. Our hearts are saying God is not always good. Obviously you can hear how these are dangerous thoughts. These types of seeds will grow into poisonous fruit. Theologically we are questioning the sovereignty of God.
Divine jealousies are jealous for God’s glory. Divine jealousies plant seeds that will grow fruits that allow us to taste the sweetness of faith, hope, and love. John’s disciples knew John’s theology was leading to true repentance. They knew where he and his disciples stood theologically. But they were putting into question the theology of Jesus and His disciples. John’s second response reminds his disciples of what he has previously said—READ John 3.28. John reminds his disciples of his purpose—the reason he was born. John the Baptist’s purpose was to point others Christ.
2. Training Our Hearts—John 3.29.
Divine jealously always has this at the heart of our jealously. Divine jealously says, “As long as people are increasing in their affections for Christ as a result of this then I am happy.” Divinely jealously wants to see others thrive. This leads directly into John’s next statement—READ John 3.29.
John the Baptist describes this ministry of making Christ look good like a best man at a wedding. In some senses we can get this, but in other ways it is difficult. It is difficult because the best man in the ancient world did a lot more than they do now. The best man in the ancient world was responsible for making sure the entire wedding ran smooth, so the bride and groom could remain stress free. One of his main responsibilities was to take care of the bride and make sure she gets to the wedding. Once she arrived his duties were done. John says his role was to make sure the bride arrives to the wedding so she can embrace her husband. And when John sees his best friend and his bride there together at the altar, uniting together, he has nothing but joy. It is a joyous thing for Him to see someone having so much joy in Jesus. John the Baptist literally says, “Therefore this joy of mine is now complete.”
Friends, there will be many times in our lives when things will not go our way. For instance, there have been, and will be, times when people leave our church. They may not leave in a mature helpful way but if someone will thrive in Jesus somewhere else then we should have nothing but joy. Our attitude toward them should always be our affections “rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice” becoming more sweet to them. This does not mean that everyone who leaves is also leaving because they will thrive in Jesus more. This is purpose of things like church discipline. Sometimes people are not running toward Jesus but running away from Jesus. It is not loving to let people run away from Jesus. We should be not be rejoicing when we see people hearing less of the bridegroom’s voice.
This all to say we need train our hearts when it comes to dealing with our jealousies. Well trained hearts will default into thinking through how our jealousies are cluing us into the purpose of our jealousies. And our jealousies can be used to grow our affections for God and others as well. Or our jealousies can be used to destroy our affections for God and others. I hope and pray we will see many growing in their affections for Jesus in our church. But because of the power of sin in the world there will also be times when people are on a road to destroying their affections for Jesus and it is our role as God’s people to lovingly warn them.
3. Training Our Response—John 3.28, 30.
Hopefully you can already see how these thoughts and affections will greatly effect our conduct. These things will effect the way we treat people. It will effect the way we live.
Have you ever heard the term “first responders”? A first responder is someone who designed and trained to respond to emergency situations. When our thoughts and affections become filled with jealously all Christians are designed to respond the same way John the Baptist did—READ John 3.30. The question is have we trained our thoughts and desires to respond others succeeding this way? Have we trained our hearts and minds to quickly ask, is my jealously about God’s glory or my own?
In the late 19th century a gifted minister named FB Meyer saw his church dwindled as many went to sit under great preaches like Campbell Morgan and Charles Spurgeon. One Sunday he literally stood at the front door of his church and watched 1000s of people walk by his church to go see these preachers. One day he went to hear Campbell Morgan preach, and afterward he went home weeping. He cried out to God saying, “This man is such a gifted preacher, what should I do?” The next day FB Meyer began asking people, “Have you heard Campbell Morgan preach? Man, he must increase and I must decrease!” FB Meyer knew thousand of people would come to Christ, gain affection for Christ, through this man’s preaching. He had the heart of John the Baptist. Is this our approach to those we are jealous of at work? Is this our approach to those we are jealous of how much they make? Is this our approach to those who kids are better behaved than ours? Is this our response to our jealous desires?
Whenever we feel that jealously growing our hearts dear friends, we must be reminded of the thoughts, affections, and conduct of John the Baptist. It was the aim of his life to see Jesus increase and himself decrease. And the reason this is the aim of John the Baptist is because this is the aim of Jesus Christ. Why did Jesus go to the Cross my friends? Because He was jealous for God’s glory. Jesus’ jealously led to His own destruction, but laid the foundation for our reconstruction. When we adopt the thoughts and affections of the Cross, then we continue the ministry of Jesus Christ.
This week consider someone you know you are jealous of. It will take some true honest reflection. It will be hard to admit to yourself, but once you have consider doing a few things. We know Jesus prayed for his enemies. Pray for the person you are jealous of. Thank God for the position or gift they have that you do not have. Also, consider making a commitment right now to contact that person, and tell them something nice. Tell them how you see the grace of God at work in their life.