“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30 NKJV)
In the life of faith we are faced by a conundrum. Throughout our growing up years we are always measuring our height against other people. I remember as a young boy taking violin lessons going to my teacher’s house and standing up against the door post to see if I had grown taller than the other students that were marked on the door. This tendency towards comparison is natural to our human sinfulness. We long to increase our own selfhood and it is even better if we are taller than other selves. This can result in a sense of animosity or inferiority when we feel that people are outperforming or outshining us. This is not a new struggle, the followers of John the Baptist wrestled with this as well. “Rabbi, he who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you bore witness—look, he is baptizing, and all are going to him” (Jn 3:26). They noticed their master, and by extension themselves, being apparently diminished in significance and it was a cause of great distress to them.
John's response is completely outside of our natural experience, "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” (John 3:29-30). John's startling statement is that if you are a friend of Jesus then you should expect that your efforts will ultimately result in people forgetting about you to go follow Him. John’s followers want the notoriety and popularity that comes from being one of the big shots, while John has only one goal, to diminish until in the end the only person people are seeing is Jesus. John is lightyears ahead of Jesus’ own disciples who are busy trying to figure out their own niches of importance because of their association with Jesus. Not until after the resurrection will the disciples finally realize the great spiritual law, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
This principle strikes hard at my own importance, if I am a follower of Jesus, no matter who I am or what position I may hold, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” I do not have permission to be offended when someone does something that I find hard to take, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” The call of Christ is to follow Him and abandon self, it is a hard call but absolutely necessary if we are to become like Him. Remember that He too, though acclaimed by the crowds, would in a few short years decrease to the point of death, even death on the cross, that all might be reconnected to God.
Oh to come to a place, like John, where we are so identified with who Christ is and what He is about that we gladly pour ourselves out for Him. Then, like John, we will come to an amazing place where we can rejoice in the victories of Christ even if our part is only ever noticed by God. This is a change that needs to happen daily in my own heart experience with Christ. Please join me this month in praying the prayer, “Lord Jesus, please increase in my heart and life today that I may decrease and see as You do and rejoice in your victories.”