Sunday, January 14, 2007

Focus on Jesus

The idea of this sermon came from a message heard at the 2007 United Methodist Congress on Evangelism.

Intro.: I get excited about preaching.

  1. I get excited about studying scripture.

  2. This is nothing new – I remember in the first few years as a Christian. Each day I would have breakfast with my prayer partner, Steve Wong, who was also the best man in my wedding. I leave breakfast and walk over to the library. finding a corner seat. I had my favorite corner – it was on the first floor right next to the Bible reference section of the library. I would sit with a blank sheet of paper and begin to study the scriptures.

  3. It opened my eyes – it made me appreciative of God's word – a time that I still remember with great joy.

  4. I had learned that Jesus had to be first.

  5. But it was a lesson that early believers found hard to learn. Let's look at a passage that describes one example.

Read: John 3:22-36


Trans: Most of us are familiar with the first part of John 3

  1. The late night visit Nichodemus made to Jesus.

  2. It was during that visit that Jesus tells us that "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again."

  3. And it is to Nicodemus that Jesus gives that wonderful verse that we all have memorized - For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,f that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

  4. But Jesus leaves Jerusalem and that is where we find him in today's passage.

T.S. During the next few minutes I want to look at three players in this incident in Jesus' life.

  1. John's Disciples are jealous

    1. This was not the first time that Jesus had crossed John's path.

    2. Most of the first two chapters of John help us to understand that John had the task to introduce Jesus to the world - "There once was a man, his name John, sent by God to point out the way to the Life-Light. He came to show everyone where to look, who to believe in. John was not himself the Light; he was there to show the way to the Light."

    3. John knew his role, but his disciples did not quite understand.

    4. Jesus is now preaching along the Jordan river. The exact location is not known. But John is there is as well and we are told that the place is called Aenon. The name itself is from a Greek word meaning "Double Spring" and John tells us that it is a place where "the water was abundant". Many people think it was located at a spot along the Jordan River about 20 miles south of the Sea of Galilee.

    5. Do you get the picture, Jesus is baptizing on one side an John on the other.

    6. And John's disciples get jealous - “Rabbi, you know the one who was with you on the other side of the Jordan? The one you authorized with your witness? Well, he’s now competing with us. He’s baptizing, too, and everyone’s going to him instead of us.

    7. Their leader was no longer the center of attention. Their leader was no longer being followed – they were jealous.

(Ill.) Erwin Lutzer, the pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, once said, "Envy is rebellion against God’s leading in the lives of his children. It’s saying that God has no right to bless someone else more than you."1

    1. Ultimately God is in control – and if we are able to leave our lives in His hands, then jealousy is not an option. It is only wen we are not trusting God, that Jealousy begins to sneak in.

  1. John is the best man

    1. Though his disciples were bothered by Jesus' activities, John was not.

(Ill.) You see, John understands the Messiah's coming as being a part of a wedding – a holy, a heavenly, an eternal wedding. In the American wedding the best man has the responsibility to help and assist the groom in his preparations. In the first century during which the Jesus lived, there was on additional responsibility. When the groom is in place, it is the best man's responsibility to go and get the bride and present her to the groom.

    1. John was not the focus – his role was to be best man. It was his job to bring the bride to the groom. It was his job to bring the people of God to God, to Jesus, the groom.

    2. The brides responsibility is focus her attention on the groom. The church, today, is the bride, and we must focus our attention on the groom.

  1. But we need to focus on the groom - Jesus

    1. And that is the point. We must focus our attention

    2. And I am sometimes at fault here. I really enjoy the fact that you appreciate my ministry of the last five years.

    3. But it becomes easy to relax in the fact that you appreciate me – and to forget that our attention must ever be on Jesus.

    4. The church is not about its pastor (regardless of how good), the church is not about its building (regardless of how beautiful), the church is not about me or you. The church is about Jesus.

    5. John understands this – listen: The One who comes from above is head and shoulders over other messengers from God. The earthborn is earthbound and speaks earth language; the heavenborn is in a league of his own. He sets out the evidence of what he saw and heard in heaven. No one wants to deal with these facts. But anyone who examines this evidence will come to stake his life on this: that God himself is the truth. The One that God sent speaks God’s words.

    6. So how does this work out in practice? How do we know when we have lost sight of Jesus? Let me suggest two tests that can help us evaluate our priorities::

      1. When we fail to put people before the the things we do, we have taken our eyes off of Jesus' priorities.

      2. When we become more concerned about how we look to people than by how people look at Jesus.

(Ill.) Elisha Hoffman helps us put this into perspective. Elisha was born in Pennsylvania and spent his life as pastor there. Once while visiting one who had been through deep trial, she cried: “Oh, what shall I do? I don’t know what to do!” Then her face brightened and she said, “I must tell Jesus!” On his way home, the words of the woman came to the pastor’s mind, and that night he wrote the comforting him, "I Must Tell Jesus"2.

I Must Tell Jesus

I must tell Jesus all of my trials;

I cannot bear these burdens alone;

In my distress He kindly will help me;

He ever loves and cares for His own.

I must tell Jesus all of my troubles;

He is a kind, compassionate Friend;

If I but ask Him, He will deliver,

Make of my troubles quickly an end.

Tempted and tried I need a great Saviour,

One who can help my burdens to bear;

I must tell Jesus, I must tell Jesus;

He all my cares and sorrows will share.

O how the world to evil allures me!

O how my heart is tempted to sin!

I must tell Jesus, and He will help me

Over the world the vict’ry to win.

Chorus I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!

I cannot bear my burdens alone;

I must tell Jesus! I must tell Jesus!

Jesus can help me, Jesus alone.3

Conclusion: Are you willing to tell Jesus all of your trials?
Are you willing to put your focus on the groom?

Are you willing to follow Jesus?


1Morgan, R. J. (2000). Nelson's complete book of stories, illustrations, and quotes (electronic ed.) (270). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

2Tan, P. L. (1996, c1979). Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations : A treasury of illustrations, anecdotes, facts and quotations for pastors, teachers and Christian workers. Garland TX: Bible Communications.

3Eckert, P. (1998). Steve Green's MIDI hymnal : A complete toolkit for personal devotions and corporate worship. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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