When my son was three, he started noticing that my wife orders her Coke at the restaurant with no ice. He asked her why she didn’t want ice and she said, “When you get ice, over time, it dilutes the drink. Plus, with ice, you get less of a drink because of displacement.” He then asked me, “Are you ‘No ice’ or ‘Yes ice’?” I told him, “‘Yes ice’ because I would rather my drink be cold than to have a lot of it.” That seemed to satisfy him, though I’m sure he didn’t understand.
If we imagine our lives as those cups, ourself as the ice, and Jesus as the drink, we can learn a spiritual concept. The more we have of ourselves inside of us, the less we can have of Jesus. If we want more of Him, we have to empty ourselves of selfish desires. The problem is that we prefer the cold, watered down version of Jesus because it’s comfortable to us. All the while, Jesus is asking us to get rid of the ice of self so we can be more like Him.
John the Baptist is one of the greatest examples in the Bible of a ‘No ice’ person. In John 3, his disciples came to Him and said, “Hey, that guy you baptized the other day, and testified that He was the Messiah, is baptizing people down the river and our people are going to Him!” In verse 30, John replied, “He must increase, and I must decrease” (AMP). He understood that his comfort wasn’t the most important thing. Letting Jesus increase was.
The question to each of us is, “Are you ‘No ice’ or ”Yes ice’?” Do you want to be full of Jesus or of yourself? If you want to be full of Jesus, then you must decrease so He can increase in your life. You’ve got to put His desires above your own. You must daily deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him (Luke 9:23) in order to truly be a ‘No ice’ person. That’s struggle each of us face daily. We could all use a little less ice and a lot more Jesus.
When I picture John the Baptist, I picture a Grizzly Adams kind of man. Bearded, tough, and furry clothes. The Bible describes him as a guy who lived in the wilderness and ate locust. I wonder what people thought of him when they saw him. I wonder if they took one look at his exterior, made a judgement, and discounted his message or dismissed him as crazy. Sure, on the outside, he was rough, but on the inside was a heart and spirit we should all strive to have.
I believe he was able to amass a great following based on his heart. How many people do you know who have charismatic personalities, yet are very humble? Those two things rarely go together. Usually the person who enjoys being the center of attention doesn’t give it up happily, but John knew his place and his calling. When Jesus came along, he had no problem yielding the stage to Him. To me, that’s what admire most about him.
When some of his followers came to him to tell him that Jesus was baptizing not far away, they expected him to get upset. After all, his name was John the Baptist. Baptizing people was kind of his thing. His followers were a lot like us. They didn’t like to yield the stage, and they really didn’t like that Jesus was taking people from their ministry. How dare He? After all, it was John who baptized Jesus. But John knew what was going on and he didn’t let his pride get in the way of his calling
In John 3:30, John showed us what was behind his wild and rough exterior when he told his followers, “He must become more important while I become less important” (GNT). That’s the attitude that each of us should strive for each day. We should make Jesus more important in our life while we become less important. We should understand that our lives were created to serve His purpose, not ours. Each day, we should be looking for ways to have Him increase in our lives. If you want to fulfill your purpose, you have to lose the pride that tries to make your name known so you can make Him known.
I think we can all agree that there is a difference between saying something and proving something. When we were kids, we all had that friend that told tall tales. He was related to famous people. He was going to be on TV. He had a hundred dollars. You name it, he either did it or had it. After a while, we found the phrase, “Prove it!” It turns out, he could tell you just about anything, but he couldn’t prove any of it. Without proof, we had no reason to believe the things he said.
When I was younger, I heard someone ask, “If you were to be accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to prove it?” That’s a tough question we should all think about. A court can’t convict anyone unless there is some form of evidence against them. In some cases, that evidence comes from first hand witnesses. Other times it comes from physical evidence left behind. What evidence are you leaving behind for others to know you are a Christian? Can others eye witnesses tell by how you live that you’re a Christian?
In Matthew 3:8, John the Baptist was out at the river baptizing people when the religious leaders came to take a look. One of the things he said to them was, “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God” (NLT). He knew they were manufacturing false evidence to try to prove they were righteous, but their lives contradicted that evidence. Jesus later said they were whitewashed tombs. They looked good on the outside, but were full of death on the inside.
Today’s devotion is not to say that you earn salvation by your works – that’s what the religious leaders were trying to do. It’s saying when you truly experience the power of God in your life, it changes you. Your life changes inside and out. You find that going to church isn’t evidence that you’re a Christian – living for God is. When you experience the power of salvation, you begin to leave evidence everywhere that you have repented and followed Christ. My challenge to you today is to take an honest look at the evidence in your life. What does it point to? Is it manufactured or is it natural from a changed heart and life?
Have you ever told a true story to someone who didn’t believe you? That what happened to Gabriel. Zachariah was carrying out his priestly duties working his assigned shift at the Temple. He was chosen by lot to be the one who entered the sanctuary to burn incense. While he was in there alone, Gabriel appeared next to the smoke. He told Zachariah that the prayers for a child that he and Elizabeth had prayed were heard by God and that they would have a son named John. After Gabriel spoke prophetically about John, Zachariah said, “Do you expect me to believe this? I am an old man and my wife is an old woman.”
After hearing that, Gabriel made Zachariah mute until the child was born. When he returned home, I’m sure he motioned to Elizabeth about why he couldn’t speak. It was clear later, that they had communicated about this. Elizabeth believed the message from God. She had long prayed for a child and now God was answering her prayers. Even though she felt like she was beyond child bearing years, she had the faith to keep praying for a child. God honored her faith and answered when she could only believe it was Him. He proved to her that nothing is impossible to Him and it’s never too late to answer a prayer.
Gabriel also met with Mary about Jesus’ birth. While talking to her, he told her about Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Mary rushed to see Elizabeth. When she entered the house, the baby and Elizabeth were filled with the Holy Spirit according to Luke 1:41. Elizabeth then prophesied over Mary. One of the things she said is good for each of us to hear. In verse 45 she said, “Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of the things that were spoken to her from The Lord.” God speaks to many of us about what He wants to do in our lives. As we get older, and time goes by, we quit believing what a God spoke to us.
Elizabeth reminds us that when God speaks a promise, we are blessed to keep believing it no matter how much time goes by. We choose to believe that it’s too late for God to move, act or fulfill His promise or we choose to believe that nothing is impossible. Elizabeth chose to keep praying even though the mirror told her she was too old. She kept believing even though history told her she was beyond the time for pregnancy. She kept trusting God’s promise instead of the reports she got from the doctors. She reminds us that those who can believe through all of that are blessed.
When her son was born, the people wanted to name him after his father as the tradition was. She rejected what her neighbors and community thought she should do and insisted on doing what the angel told her husband. The neighbors then went to Zachariah since she wouldn’t budge. Surely he wanted the honor of having his child named after him. When they asked him, he wrote on a tablet, “His name is John.” Immediately he could speak. The first words out of his mouth were blessings, praise and thanksgiving to God. He didn’t praise God because his tongue was loosed. He blessed God because He had answered his prayer.
Today, let your tongue loose to praise God even before you get your answer. Trust Him to be faithful to His promise to you. He has not forgotten what He said He would do. He will fulfill it in His time so that you will know that it was all God and no one else’s doing. God doesn’t care whys the doctors have said. He doesn’t base His promise on what family history says. He doesn’t even care what everyone else says. He cares about you and the promise He made. He cares that you keep believing in the hard times, through the dark nights and when all else fails. His word will not return void. He will do what He said He would if you believe.