Daily Devotion for September 24, 2014
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
An inventive song based on the Apostles' Creed, from Third Day.
Prayer to Conform to God’s Will
O Lord God, I am so lukewarm towards you so much of the time, in so much of my life. I try not to admit it to myself, but I read your Word and I can see the gap between what you want for me and what I do. I make excuses. You tell us to pick up our cross and follow Jesus, imitating Him in all we do, but the lure of property, politics, entertainment — all of the matters of this world — is powerful. I concern myself with them constantly, ignoring the plain and simple message of the Bible. I live too much in the secular world, anxious for status and concerned about my future.
Have patience with me, mighty God, and forgive me. Do not spew me out, as you have warned you might do with the lukewarm. Fill my soul with the fire of your Word and help me grow, to put more and more confidence in you and less and less in the world before me; forgive me my sins and help me to live in them less and less today, and every day, that I might more perfectly follow your commandments. In Christ's name I pray,
Prayer for Strength
Holy Lord God, let me always remember your words, that we should put on your armor and be strong, not in our own power, but in the strength of your might. Help me to stop calling on my own power and learn to call upon the power of your Spirit, that dwells always within me and loves me, and waits only to be called. Embolden and empower me to fight evil wherever I may find it, and to tell the world of your grace in Christ Jesus.
[How can I tell someone about Christ today?]
Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honor and glory for ever and ever.
(Additional prayers may be found at Prayers for All Occasions.)
God be with you 'til we meet again.
The Foundation of Virtue
Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.
~ (Saint) Augustine of Hippo
John 3:22-30 (ESV)
The Humility of John the Baptist
After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he remained there with them and was baptizing. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because water was plentiful there, and people were coming and being baptized (for John had not yet been put in prison).
Now a discussion arose between some of John's disciples and a Jew over purification. And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness — look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him.”
John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Notes on the Scripture
The accounts of Jesus' ministry in Galilee, in the three Synoptic Gospels, begin after John the Baptist has been arrested. (E.g. Mark 1:14) John's Gospel, however, gives us important views and accounts of Christ that are omitted from the Synoptics (no doubt one of the reasons he felt impelled to write it), and this passage is one of them.
Before discussing the main point, though, notice odd little sentence, never explained or amplified, about a dispute over purification. It seems out of place. An editor of a modern book would line through it; there is no background for it, there is nothing it explains, and it leads nowhere. Not another word is said about it. But its very purposelessness is evidence of the authenticity of John's Gospel.
Secular scholars actively seek reasons to cast doubt on the authenticity of John (and every book in the Bible). But if we take this passage at face value, how could it be anything but a first-hand memory recollected by an old man? There is no calculated theology here; we can almost hear John saying, “Oh yes, there was this dispute about purification,” and then leaving the thought to return to his main thread. Rambling, in short, is a sign of authentic recollection.
ut John does have a main point to make, and it is directly relevant to modern Christianity. A perpetual problem that arises at the intersection of Christian doctrine and human nature is pride in the size of one's church; for preachers and teachers, pride of followers; for Christian writers, pride of readers. Jesus tells us that we have no teacher except Him, we should call no man teacher except Him. (Matthew 23:8-11) But what church has no ambition to grow? What preacher does not glory in finding ever greater crowds to hear him, what writer does not yearn to find his book on the best-seller list?
Is their joy in their success purely a celebration that the glory of God is abounding? No — there is almost always sinful pride involved. It may be just a speck, but even for a successful preacher with a true sense of humility, it presents constant temptation. We have, let's face it, celebrity preachers whose celebrity seems as important to them as their message. There is something in every religious leader that wants to be the head of a megachurch or the author of a bestselling book.
And the antidote God has provided is right here, in John 3. John's disciples, just like the vestry of a church that wants to grow, is jealous because Jesus is stealing John's parishioners!
But John is pure humility before Christ. His happiness could not be more genuine. “Therefore this joy of mine is now complete,” he says. He does not want to gain “members” — he wants to lose them to a better teacher!
John's Gospel gives us this vignette that we might always remember: When we witness to Christ, it is to the glory of God, not the glory of ourselves. Our reward is from God: a treasure laid up in heaven for us; not a sense of importance on earth. We do not measure our service by our personal success, but by our humility. If we feel God's pleasure, it is enough. If we know we have served Him faithfully, it is everything.