“He Must Increase But I Must Decrease”

“He must increase but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

This statement was true for John the Baptist in a very literal way, in which it will not be for us: John’s ministry and popularity would decrease, as more and more of those who were seeking God in his day went to Jesus instead of to him (:26 “all are coming to Him”, etc.)  But even though our current circumstances differ from John’s, this scripture is still a penetrating prescription for what must happen to each of us in Christian discipleship. This MUST happen to us if we are to grow personally as disciples in Christ: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”  But we need to understand that this is the exact OPPOSITE of our natural inclination, which is to INCREASE, not decrease:

— We want OUR name to be known. The goal of many in life is to “make a name for ourselves” but we need to be willing for our name to be LOST and entirely overlooked as we serve in total obscurity. It is the name of JESUS which it is our mission to make known, not our own.

— We want OUR will and way to be done — and many of us would admit that advancing our will is even the focus of most of our prayers to God! But as disciples we are instead to lose our will to HIS. “Not my will but Thine” should be the “daily Gethsemane” prayer of the disciple.

— We want to become “strong” — but in fact it often serves God’s Kingdom purposes for us to become WEAK instead, so that HIS strength and grace may be demonstrated through our weaknesses (II Cor. 12:9).

It should be noted that this self-decreasing is just the opposite of what many teachers and church leaders promote today: self-gain, self-esteem, self-actualization, etc. To all of this John the Baptist says an emphatic “NO!”: “He must increase, but I must decrease” is the Biblical prescription for genuine disciples!

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, features the text of my sermons, book reviews, family life experiences -- as well as a brief overview of the Lifeway "Explore the Bible" lesson for Southern Baptist Sunday School teachers.
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