January 15, 2006: You, Too, Can Receive The Ultimate Compliment

Let us pray: Dear Savior, thank You for calling us to faith! Thank You for instilling in us Your kindness, love and forgiveness. Thank You for making us special—eternally special through Your gift of salvation. May we always exhibit and show forth the kind heart that You have bestowed upon each of us.  Amen


TEXT: John 1: 43-51

Fellow Redeemed Sinners:

No one likes to hang out with an arrogant person. Hearing someone bray about how wonderful, smart, or beautiful they are gets really old after while. Perhaps that is why most of us aren’t very good at accepting a compliment gracefully. It makes us feel uncomfortable when others single us out. We don’t want to be associated with arrogance, so we mumble an acknowledgment and sheepishly change the subject.

However, when a compliment is genuine and truthful, it really is a wonderful thing. And today we see Christ complimenting my favorite disciple, Nathanael, also known as Bartholomew. Since Jesus didn’t hand out a whole lot of personal compliments—recall the woman who likened herself to a dog eating crumbs from the master’s table, John the Baptist, and a few select others—we should study this little lesson in depth. And when we do, we see that:



Jesus is beginning His public ministry. He is actively engaged in calling the disciples, those who would be closest to Him over the next 3 years and who would carry on His work after He was gone into heaven. First He calls Peter and his brother Andrew. Next, He finds Philip, a friend of those two brothers, and invites him to come and “Follow Me.” And finally Philip completes the chain by telling his friend Nathanael about Jesus, too. Note the personal touch in all this. Note how Christians give birth, as it were, to other Christians. Certainly that applies to us today, as well.

Now, from Philip’s own words to Nathanael, we see that these men were believers in the Old Testament Messiah. They already had faith in the coming Lord. They just didn’t know yet that the Lord was already among them! “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

Nathanael is perplexed by it all. He doesn’t fully understand the impact of those words. Wasn’t the Christ to come from Bethlehem? So, he foolishly blurts out: “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (This also reveals to us that Nazareth was considered a backwater village of nobodies.) But Philip is persistent, just like we should be. After all, truth is truth and eternal salvation for souls is at stake. So, he replies honestly, yet cryptically: “Come and see.” And Nathanael does.


Now come those amazing, complimentary words. “When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, ‘Here is true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” To better understand the meaning of these words, let me take you into a Greek lexicon, or dictionary. (I have one right here.) The word translated: “false” has various interconnected meanings. They are: “deceit, cunning, treachery, stealth—coupled with wickedness, also the verb form can mean to: falsify or adulterate.” Since Jesus can read human hearts, and since He is totally truthful, Christ is basically saying of Nathanael: “Here’s a believer who has a kind, honest, sincere heart. What you see is what you get. Here’s a man who doesn’t play games. One who doesn’t manipulate others for his own purposes.”

To me, this is the greatest compliment ever given to a human being. And you and I should embrace these words and put them into practice. So, let me ask: When you singles date, what qualities do you look for in others? Some look for wealth, or physical appearance, or mental ability. But none of those things can compare to a kind heart. For if a person has a kind heart literally all problems between people can be fixed and overcome. That’s because a kind heart puts love and forgiveness into daily practice. It comes naturally. Indeed, the older I’ve gotten, the more a kind heart becomes my chief criteria in judging others. If they have it, they’re worth my time and energy. If they do not, well, let’s just say it’s going to be trying….


By Christ’s own definition, Nathanael possessed such a heart. But, like all humble, honest souls, Nathanael would not have said that he was born that way. In fact, no one is born that way. We’re all born sinners with a built-in arrogance, a built-in “me first” attitude. We’re all born know-it-alls. So, how did he get such a heart? By God’s grace through the power of faith born of God’s Word of truth. As I said earlier, Nathanael was already a believer at this time. The Old Testament had convinced him that God was sending him a Savior to save him from himself. The Spirit had worked through the Old Testament to reveal to him how God would send His Son to earn a kind heart for him and to then give him that blessed gift. A true Israelite was one who believed in the grace of God. So by calling him that, Jesus was saying: “Here’s a believer, a recipient of My love and forgiveness, even though He doesn’t understand it fully as of yet.”

The little interchange that follows between Christ and Nathanael reveals Christ’s all-knowing nature and Nathanael’s faith when confronted with divinity. Suddenly his life has changed. Suddenly eternal forgiveness and Godly truth stand before him. What else can he do but blurt out: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”?

And then, on the basis of this honest confession, Jesus promises him greater wisdom and wonders. He even makes a reference to His future ascension into glory where angels received Him and angels walked and talked that day with the disciples—including Nathanael.

You, Too, Can Receive the Ultimate Compliment! In fact, you have and you are. For real repentance leads to humbleness, and humility leads to a kind heart, and a kind heart leads to thankfulness, faith, praise, and blessing—just as in Nathanael’s case. So, cultivate the kind heart that Christ has transplanted within you. Don’t be afraid to show it to the world. And seek to transplant it to others, as well. After all, where would any of us be without it? Amen