He Must Increase – John 3:17-36

This message is a part of our series on the Gospel of John.
Find the rest of the messages in this series here.

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Have you ever been afraid of something and then, once you experienced it, it wasn’t scary or threatening, instead it was fun? My 8 year old daughter Haven has been tall enough to ride big rides at Holiday World for a while, but she’s been afraid.

Her brother, Lincoln who is 5 has just this season gotten tall enough to ride some of these rides and his personality is “jump first ask questions later” so he was all about riding a big ride.

So because he was going to ride, Haven rode as well and she loved it. Now she is picking out bigger rides that she wants to ride.

Maybe you have experienced something like this in life- a job you were worried about ends up being great.

A difficult conversation you were anxious over gores smoothly.

A repair on your car ends up being cheaper than you feared it was going to be…

A project at the house ends up being easier than you thought it would be…just kidding, that never happens.

Fear can be a good emotion. When fear keeps us from being overly risky, that’s good. When fear act irrationally, that’s bad.

In this passage John shows us the fear that keeps many people from coming to Jesus.

I hope by the end of this message you’ll see if your fear is making you irrationally hold back from what God is calling you into…

I’m going to read this passage and I want you to follow along with me and look for the fear.

Read John 3:17-21

17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

21 But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.

Did you see the fear?

It’s back in verse 20.

The way the NASB translates the end of verse 20 is:

“does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”

People don’t come to the light, to Jesus because lest their deeds be reproved, lest their deeds be exposed.

The NASB translators and the KJV translators have used different sides of the same coin, because the original wording has to do with being found out.

We know, emotionally there’s a bit of shame in being found out.

The idea here is that people don’t come to the light because they know in the light their sin will be on display, their blemishes will be seen and they will be ashamed and convicted of their sin.

4 reasons fear of the Light is irrational:

  1. Condemnation is already upon us.

    “He who does not believe is condemned already” – 18
    The condemnation was already here.
    Jesus did not show up to a neutral word and make some good and others bad. Christ arrived in an evil world to save all that would come to Him.

    We think in terms of “getting caught.”
    This is why, even when we’ve done nothing wrong we get anxious. When a policeman pulls out behind you have done nothing wrong, you start to sweat. You start watching him in your rear view mirror. Why? We’ve been conditioned toward fearing getting caught.

    You are already caught. Jesus not a patrolman who has resigned himself to just catching the worst offenders who happen to come by while he’s on duty- He knows all, sees all.

    Your sin is already known. Your condemnation is already laid down.

  2. The light does not expose darkness, light eradicates darkness.

We fear coming to the light because it will reveal our sin, but what Jesus Christ the light has come to do is remove our sin. To eradicate the darkness. The dark and the light will not coexist. Wherever the light lands, darkness is expelled.

When we allow the light into our lives it pushes the darkness out!

You don’t turn on the lights to see how dark it is… You don’t come to Jesus to see how bad you are, you come to Jesus to have the darkness removed.

Now, I’ll grant you that your eyes might take a while to adjust to the brightness of his glory, but the Light will eradicate the darkness!

We are afraid of being exposed and the whole reason Jesus came was to cover us.

  1. A love for the dark brings compounding guilt.

John says in verse 19 that the condemnation is that the Light has come and we LOVE the darkness.

Here’s the real guilt- it’s that we prefer the dark.

It’s that we like it in the dark. We feel comfortable in the dark.

It feels good.

Jesus offers to walk with us in the light and we’d prefer to remain in the dark. It’s been this way ever since the very first sin.

Adam and Eve sin and God comes calling for them. They hide.

  1. The light shows us God’s Glory.

The contrast that John gives us between those who love the dark and those who love the light.
While those who love the dark, remain there because their deeds are evil, those who love the light come into the light so it may be seen that “they are wrought in God.”

I don’t come to the light because I’m so good and I want you to see my goodness in the best possible lighting…

I come to the light because I want to see what in my life has been wrought in God, made by God, brought about by God, carried out in my life only through the goodness of God.

Romans 7:18For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.

Any good in me is God in me.

I think if you will realize this, you’ll no longer fear the light. You’ll love the light.

I want to ask you a question and before you simply answer it and dismiss it, I want you to ask yourself this question on a deep soul level.

You know the right answer in the sense of what you’re supposed to say, what is the correct response.

I want you to find the right answer meaning is it true…

Do you Love God?

In the next section of verses we have a practical application of what loving the Light, loving the Lord looks like. The main example is in the life of John the baptist, but we get just a little glimpse of it in the lives of the disciples and Jesus in the transition verse of 22.


After these things came Jesus and his disciples into the land of Judaea; and there he tarried with them, and baptized.

What we can read in the span of a few hours took place over the course of more than three years, and all along the way Jesus and the disciples were spending time together, growing closer together, coming see and learn more and more about Jesus.

Greek Model vs Hebrew Model…

As Jesus’ ministry is growing, the disciples of John the Baptist come to him concerned. They say in verse


And they came unto John, and said unto him, Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him

30He must increase, but I must decrease.

John didn’t love Jesus because Jesus helped him succeed. John loved Jesus because Jesus was worthy of love.

This should be our attitude. We should love Jesus not because of what He can give us, not because we want something from Him, but because He is worthy of our love!

You know, I was thinking the other day and I can’t remember the last time I went to an ATM.

It used to be that whenever I wanted to buy something, I went to the ATM. Now I have plastic cards and apps that pay for everything. I don’t need cash, so I don’t go to the ATM anymore.

I didn’t go to the ATM because I thought the ATM was so great, it was just a machine to get what I wanted or what I needed for that day…

If God is your ATM dispensing spiritual goods when you want, you don’t love Him, you just love His gifts.

God is not your spiritual ATM.

John’s response is that Jesus must increase and he must decrease.

He’s speaking specifically of Jesus’ ministry and his ministry, Jesus’ influence and his influence, but he’s also pointing to something deeper and he goes on to make this clear to the disciples.


It’s all about Jesus because of His:
Credentials (31)

31He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all.

Its his ID, his badge. It shows where he’s from and why he has authority to go where he’s going…


It’s all about Jesus because of His:
Credentials (31)

Experience (32-33)

32And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony.

33He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.

He is able to tell us of what he has seen! He told Nicodemus, I could speak to you of heavenly things but I must focus on the earthly because of your disbelief…


It’s all about Jesus because of His:
Credentials (31)

Experience (32-33)

Power (34-35)

34For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.

35The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.

There is nothing that Jesus can’t do!


It’s all about Jesus because of His:
Credentials (31)

Experience (32-33)

Power (34-35)

Impact (36)


He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.

It’s all about Jesus because without Jesus we have nothing.

The larger Americano is just more water…

The caffeine is in the Espresso.

More espresso, more caffeine…

More Jesus, more power.
More Jesus, more grace.

More Jesus, more peace.

More Jesus, more joy.

Some of you have so watered down Jesus that there’s no Jesus left.

You’ve increased and He’s decreased.

You’ve embraced the dark, and shut out the light.