Your Most Trusted Source (John 3:31-36)
Topic: One Truth: Your Word is Truth Passage: John 3:31–3:36
I. Deepening Distrust
If there's one thing 2020 highlighted, it was the ever-deepening distrust of once trusted sources. For example, when Gallup pollsters first asked about public trust in mass media, throughout the 1970s the positive response stayed between 68% and 72%. As of last September, that number sat at 40% (and that's actually up from the all-time low of 32% in 2016).
Everywhere we turn, we are being told that we simply cannot trust sources we once turned to for important information about our finances, or our health, or our legal system, or our elections, or our mental health, or our political leaders, or pretty much any current event. Strangely, it seems some would have you believe that the only people you can trust are the ones telling us over and over again that we can't trust anyone.
So... where do you turn for the information you need to make important decisions? Who or what is your most trusted source? Let's bring that question with us as we return to our ongoing study of the Gospel of John. Turn if you would to John 3, verses 31-36.
II. The Passage: “Whoever Receives His Testimony” (3:31-36)
You may recall that the third message in this series focused on the ministry and faith of John the Baptist (John the 'baptizer'). As we considered what chapter one revealed about John, we also looked at chapter 3, specifically verses 22-30. Let me go back to a few of those verses in order to lay the ground work for our main passage this morning. When John's followers anxiouly informed him about the popularity of Jesus and how “all are going to him”, this is how the Baptist responded in verses 27-30...
“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.”
So just as we saw in 1:19-34, John was always pointing others to the One who was to come; to the Christ. Now, as we move into the remaining verses of this chapter, let me suggest that we discover the same thing we saw earlier in verses 16-21. The similar language here in 3:31-36 indicates that, once again, the Apostle John is breaking in to offer his readers some more theological commentary on what they've just heard.
We might ask, “Is there a key idea that has prompted John to interrupt the account?” I think there is. If you scan over verses 31-34, you'll notice a number of words and phrases related to the idea of bearing witness or one's testimony.
The word “speaks” in v. 31, “bears witness” in v. 32, “testimony” in v. 32 and 33, and the phrase “utters the words” in v. 34. In light of that repeated idea, let me suggest that John is making three point here about the words of Jesus. For example...
1. The Words of Jesus are Above All Other Words (vs. 31, 32)
Take a look at what John tells us in verses 31 and 32:
He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all.  He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony.
Now clearly, these comments are connected to what John the Baptist has just emphasized to his disciples in verses 27-30. Combine that with John's testimony about Jesus in chapter 1, verse 30: “This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’” For anyone who might continue to over-exalt John, the Apostle doesn't want them to miss the truth that John himself declared: Jesus is (v. 31) “above all”.
But please don't miss how the language in verse 31 also points us back to verses 11 and 12 of this same chapter. Look back at what Jesus taught there:
Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.  If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?
Those are the same ideas we find in vs. 31-32! Who was Jesus talking to in that earlier passage? To Nicodemus, a Pharisee, a “teacher of Israel” (v. 10). So John is wrapping up this section, not simply in light of Jesus and John the Baptist, but also in light of Jesus and Nicodemus. What do these two men have in common? They are both “earthly” sources. That doesn't necessarily make them bad or untrustworthy. It simply means they can only provide information from a limited, earthly perspective.
In contrast, the testimony of Jesus, the words of Jesus, are above all other words. Why? Because (v. 32) He alone “bears witness to what he has seen and heard”. Only the Word who was with God in the beginning (1:1), only the Son who was at the Father's side, can truly make God known (1:18).
Brothers and sisters, friends, when it comes to information you need to make important decisions, especially the most important decisions, Jesus Christ should be your most trusted source. Is he? Are His words above all other words in your life? Is His testimony the controlling influence, the guiding light, in your outlook and choices each day? Sadly, for many of us (maybe most of us), there are many other sources, many other voices that seem to be placed “above all”. Think about some of these:
Others' Opinions can often take first place when it comes to how we think about ourselves and the world around us. We listen and then conform to what we believe is appealing (or at least acceptable) to others. We are hungry for approval. We long to belong. Maybe it looks like classic 'peer pressure'. Maybe its a parent or a boss or a mentor we aim to please. Whatever form it takes, we are often guilty of placing the opinions of others above the words of Jesus.
The 24-Hour News Cycle can also dominate our thinking when it comes to information. We often choose sides and immerse ourselves in the partisan 'echo chambers' and constant commentary of those whose livelihoods actually depend on the culture wars, and thus, seem uninterested in the hard work of actually bringing people together. We tell ourselves “I'm staying informed,” but the hours of intake of news coverage and the screeds of talking heads can leave us with categories and priorities and animosities that are simply “earthly”.
Along these same lines, another source that is often exalted “above all” is Entertainment. To illustrate this point, you may recall that in 2017, the CEO of Netflix famously said,
“There are only a certain amount of hours which humans can tend to activities, and Netflix’s goal is to occupy those moments–and deliver the utmost joy to the consumer during that opportunity. You get a show or a movie you’re really dying to watch, and you end up staying up late at night, so we actually compete with sleep,” [he said of his No. 1 competitor]... “And we’re winning!”
We often forget how hours and hours of entertainment intake can actually shape our hearts and minds, many times, in ways we aren't even aware of.
(What we might call) Biography has also become a 'most trusted source' for many people. The personal testimonies of those who have struck it rich or risen to celebrity status or survived some great adversity or injustice are often accepted as more persuasive then objective reality. For example, can we really say that biography has not been exalted “above all” when a human being with a “Y” chromosome and a penis can tell us that he is actually a woman, and we not only believe him, but celebrate this supposed 'knowledge'?
Finally, there's what we might call Trauma. Many of the hard things we endure were not things we chose. But we do choose how to respond to the wounds with which they leave us. How many times have those hurtful voices from the past drowned out all the other voices? Or the pain itself lies to us, saying things like, “You'll never be free of this. What happened will always define you. You'll never be good enough.” When the voice or voices of trauma rise above the words of Jesus, what can we do?
Brothers and sisters, friends, these are just some of the sources that might inform us on a daily basis (e.g., traditions, worldly-isms). And many of these are unavoidable, and many can be helpful if kept in perspective. But that can only happen when Jesus Christ is your most trusted source; when His words are above all other words in your life. Look at verses 31 and 32 again:
He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all.  He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. [moving on in our main passage, we're also reminded that...]
2. The Words of Jesus are the Words of God (vs. 33, 34)
Those closing words should remind us 1:11... “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” That's not stating an absolute, but more of an 'in general' observation. Obviously, there were those who received Jesus and his testimony. And that's where John goes in verses 33 and 34. Look at what he tells us...
Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true.  For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure.
When someone does embrace the fact that the words of Jesus, the testimony of Jesus, the revelation of Jesus is above every other source of information, he or she “sets his seal”, that is, approves wholeheartedly that “God is true”. What does that mean? It means a right recognition of Jesus is a right recognition of God. Why? Well, in this passage, its because the testimony of Jesus is composed of (v. 34) “the words of God” himself. And when Jesus spoke, he spoke as a man to whom God had given “the Spirit without measure”.
Why are the words of Jesus above every other source? Because they are the words of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit! Have you embraced them as such? Do you do so on a daily basis? It's critical we do so. Why? Because...
3. The Words of Jesus are the Words of Life (vs. 35, 36)
Listen to the final two verses of this passage... [v. 35] The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand.  Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
Not only has the Father given Jesus the Spirit in fullest measure, but he's also “given all things into his hand”. Could there be a fuller, more authoritative source to be your guiding light, your controlling influence? And as we've talked about before in this series, and as we see in verse 36, all of this really, really matters because our perspective on, our posture towards Jesus really is a matter of life and death; of one's eternal destiny. Do we “believe” his testimony? Have we submitted in obedience to Christ? If we have, let's receive His testimony every single day.
III. Nehemiah Over Netflix
As I asked at the outset, who or what is your most trusted source? What source or sources are shaping you? Some of John's original readers still seem to revere John the Baptist beyond the boundaries of what was true and proper. Others may have been influenced by certain Jewish teachers, or even pagan philosophers. Whatever the specifics, John wanted them, and God wants us, to understand that the testimony of Jesus should always have the highest place; should always be your most trusted source of information; of truth.
If you believe that, how might prove it in your daily life? As you may know, both quantity and quality are extremely important when it comes to the word of God in your life. Will you, more and more, choose Nehemiah over Netflix or the news; Psalms over social media? But along with that, will you do more than read? Will you... listen? Will you... meditate? Will you wrestle? Will you bring your hardest questions? Will you strain to hear the voice of God as he speaks to YOU through Scripture?
The look and direction of your life are shaped by who or what you listen to, who or what you trust. If you truly trust God through Jesus above all, then listen to God through Jesus above all. Jesus Christ came into the world to suffer and die for us, that we might trust him for eternal life. He rose again from the dead, that we trust him and listen to him, each and every day. Will you talk to God this morning about doing that very thing and confess the ways you haven't?