He must increase, but I must decrease.
John 3:22-36 from the daily reading in the One Year Bible
After these things Jesus and His disciples came into the land of Judea, and there He was spending time with them and baptizing. 23 John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and people were coming and were being baptized— 24 for John had not yet been thrown into prison.
25 Therefore there arose a discussion on the part of John’s disciples with a Jew about purification. 26 And they came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you have testified, behold, He is baptizing and all are coming to Him.” 27 John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’ 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.
31 “He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32 What He has seen and heard, of that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. 33 He who has received His testimony has set his seal to this, that God is true. 34 For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. 36 He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”
He must increase, but I must decrease. These words, this sentiment of John the Baptist should also be true of us, both in our own lives and in how we perceive ourselves in the world. John was not concerned about his own popularity or the success of his ministry. John said: You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Christ,’ but, ‘I have been sent ahead of Him.’ In John 1:23, John the Baptist had responded to those questioning who he was saying: "I am A VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS, 'MAKE STRAIGHT THE WAY OF THE LORD,' as Isaiah the prophet said." John knew who he was in relation to Christ. He was not concerned about building his own earthly ministry or kingdom. For him it was not about having more of his own disciples. In John 1:29-38 it says: The next day he (John) saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, ‘After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John bore witness: “I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, ‘He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Two of John’s disciples became the first of Jesus disciples. We too, like John, have been called to share the good news of the kingdom of God. Jesus has called us to make disciples. In Matthew 28:19 Jesus says: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations,” These are not to be our disciples though. We are not to build our own ministry and following. We are to prepare the way of the Lord. Jesus tells us whose disciples they are to be. He says: “baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.” They are His disciples. They are children of God. All that we do and all that we say should be to point them toward Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, their sins. We should not be concerned with or count the number of those who follow us. Like John, we should prepare disciples for Christ. He must increase, but I must decrease.
An important key for having and maintaining that kingdom view about all that we do is to recognize that in our own lives it must also be true. He must increase, but I must decrease. In Matthew 16:24, Luke 9:23 and Mark 8:34 Jesus says: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.” In Galatians 5:16-25 Paul speaks of the process of denying self. He says: But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. If we will be honest with ourselves, we will admit that to some extent many if not all of these deeds of the flesh are present in our lives. They are what we are to deny. They are the I that must decrease. If you have ever tried to break a bad habit or overcome an addiction, you know that it is a difficult, lifelong daily process. That is what we are faced with in denying ourselves. Paul continues: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. So there is another way. If we strive, trying to deny our flesh in our own strength, trying to overcome the flesh with the flesh, it may lead to self pride another problem of the flesh. Instead we are to overcome the deeds of the flesh by the Spirit. Rather than working every day for our entire lives to crucify our flesh, we should fill ourselves with the Spirit. We are vessels. We can only hold and contain a certain amount. If we are so filled with the Spirit of God that there is no room left in us, then there will be no evil flesh in us. Rather than focusing and warring against our own flesh, striving to put to death the deeds of the flesh, we should focus on and fill ourselves with the Spirit. You see John has the order correct, he says: He must increase, but I must decrease. If we focus first and foremost on allowing Christ to increase in us, we ourselves will decrease, there will be nothing left of us.
Today’s text ends saying: He who comes from above is above all, he who is of the earth is from the earth and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. What He has seen and heard, of that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. He who has received His testimony has set his seal to this, that God is true. For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him. The world will deny that obedience to God and Christ is important. The world will say whatever seems right in your own eyes is right. The Bible also has something to say about whatever. Philippians 4:8 says: Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ; precious Holy Spirit increase in me and in my life that I, my selfish desires and deeds would decrease. Holy Spirit fill me to overflowing with the fruit of the Spirit, with: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, until there is no room for evil in me. Help me to live and walk in the Spirit focusing on and dwelling on what is: pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise. May all of this be true in my life so that also as I relate to the world, I would make disciples of Christ, that Your kingdom would come and Your will would be done, on earth as it is in heaven. May I say and live as John that: He must increase, but I must decrease. Amen.