John 4:1 Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John 2 (although Jesus himself did not baptize, but only his disciples)… ESV
“You can learn more from a book if you stop and
ask it questions than if you just read it passively.”
John Piper on Bible reading
Why would John have side-noted “Jesus himself did not baptize?” John knew what his purpose was; to use baptism with water to point to “He who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” He clearly wanted to protect Jesus from the Pharisees and establish the difference between his external baptism and what Jesus was doing. “Jesus himself did not baptize” because His greater purpose was to accomplish an internal transformation with a new birth and “living water” that would become “a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”
It was “living water” that would make new birth a possibility for Nicodemus. It was “living water” that took Jesus to the place Jews believed was a mix of spiritually corrupt Israelites and pagan foreigners to offer that new birth to a Samaritan woman. “Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony” of “living water.” It was “living water” that revealed true worship doesn’t happen because of an external ritual or a place, but because “the Father is seeking true worshippers to worship him in Spirit and in Truth” in the most unexpected places.
John 15:5 I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. [NRSV]
So far John 15 has been all about repetition. Over and over these verses have reminded us our purpose is to abide in the “true” vine. [Down through Jewish history the vine became the symbol of Israel. During the Macabees period of history, the symbol of the vine was on the coins of Israel. It was over the main doors of the synagogues. (Antiquities of the Jews by Jewish historian, Josephus (5.5.4)] The symbol of the vine had become more about the nation than God. Even the purchase of gold to add a branch or a single grape to those synagogue vines could be considered an act of worship.
It’s easy to be distracted from what “true” worship is and the fruit it’s meant to produce. Jesus says “Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.” Jesus’ challenge is to accept this one truth: a relationship to Him is the reality of a connection to God Himself. He is the only “true” vine and the branches are carefully, and artfully cultivated and pruned to produce the “true” fruit of worship: “to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” [Westminster]
Colossians 2:16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ…22 These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.
17 reality, however, is found in Christ
* 22 things that are all destined to perish with use
23 self-imposed worship…[ 3 versions]
– lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence NIV
– no value against fleshly indulgence NASB
– no effect when it comes to conquering a person’s evil thoughts and desires TLB
Sometimes I begin by reading a passage of Scripture and jotting phrases that catch my attention [see above]. My go-to version is usually the NIV. I frequently re-read the same passage in a few other versions hoping slightly different words will gel into a focus. Then the hard part begins: to trust God really has something in that Word that will nourish faith in my daily life. I try to write a sentence or two based on those phrases. Today that focus seems to be either/or.
Either you learn how to live every day as if “reality, however, is found in Christ” OR all you’re investing yourself in is “self-imposed worship.” Is it possible, even likely, the very best spiritual nourishment we choose, reading the Bible, praying, service, church attendance and even writing a blog about faith, can become self-imposed worship of rules and regulations, not Christ?
We all know the answer to that question is yes. The Scripture is very discreet about how it words *verse 22 so I will be too. “Reality, however, [that’s] found in Christ” requires the same diligence of daily nourishment for our hearts that food does for our bodies. Both kinds of nourishment are subject to the same natural processes. Unless our investment is able to renew the reality of Christ in us and become our true worship that has real “effect when it comes to conquering a person’s evil thoughts and desires” it’s just the waste of “self-imposed worship.”