‘“He must increase, but I must decrease.”’
‘“He must increase, but I must decrease.”’
Perspective is important. Naturally each of us sees the world from our own vantage point. It’s easy to become a bit deluded from that position, as if everything revolves around us and our little world. It doesn’t. In reality our lives are ‘like grass… a flower of the field… the wind passes over it, and it is gone. Its place remembers it no more’(Psalm 103:15-16). Even so, develop a right perspective and although we’ll likely be forgotten by this world, we’ll not only be remembered by God, but can enjoy His presence now and for all eternity.
John the Baptist had the right perspective, as shown by his words in this study text ‘“He must increase, but I must decrease”’, which is a quote from John to his ‘disciples’(John 3:25). We can learn from his attitude. John was a substantial figure, and could easily have become deluded by his apparent gravitational pull, seeing followers orbiting around himself. Even Jesus said of him that there had never ‘“arisen anyone greater than John”’(Matthew 11:11), in the whole BC era!
Yet John understood his place and where the true centre of gravity lay. He said, ‘“He who comes after me is mightier”’(Matthew 3:11), and as the verse after this study text adds ‘“He who comes from above is above all”’(John 3:31). That’s Jesus, the light above all, the divine centre of all reality, around whom everything truly revolves, as this gospel from John’s namesake the apostle John begins: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God… The light shines in the darkness… John [the Baptist]… came as a witness, that he might testify about the light… The true light that enlightens everyone was coming into the world… The Word became flesh, and lived among us. We saw His glory… John testified about Him’(John 1:1-15). The apostle Paul wrote something similar, describing Jesus as ‘the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation… before all things, and in Him all things are held together’(Colossians 1:15-17).
So the role of the greatest person in the BC era was to point to God in Jesus; and our proper role, with Paul, is to point back. That’s an even ‘“greater”’(Matthew 11:11) position to be in, for several reasons.
First, we now have God’s salvation plan through Jesus fully revealed, ‘“the way”’(John 14:6). Our journey becomes safe and destination secure when we demote ourselves to the passenger seat with God at the wheel. Otherwise we’ll crash and burn! Jesus is the driver who’s paid the fare ‘died for our sins’(1 Corinthians 15:3), and is inviting us to get in for His journey, ‘“Come to me, all you who labour and are heavily burdened, and I will give you rest”’(Matthew 11:28). We can’t get there alone, but must adopt the position, ‘“‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’… for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted”’(Luke 18:13-14).
Even more though, we become not just His passenger but His bride! John describes himself like the best man, ‘“friend of the bridegroom”’(John 3:29), but Jesus as the bridegroom, and we, as scripture shows more clearly elsewhere, are the bride. So this is a very close relationship, described as a profound ‘mystery’(Ephesians 5:32) in which rightly we become ‘subject to Christ’(Ephesians 5:24), who nevertheless ‘nourishes and cherishes’(Ephesians 5:29) us. This is a delightful ‘“decrease”’ indeed!
It’s His story, but we are very intimately involved and cherished, like in a marriage even, where the ‘“two will become one”’(Ephesians 5:31). So we can be described as being ‘in Christ’(2 Corinthians 5:17) and likewise ‘Christ is in’(Romans 8:10) us, i.e. ‘the Spirit of God dwells in you’(Romans 8:9). This is part of His increase too, as ‘Christ is formed’(Galatians 4:19) in us, so we can say with Paul that in a sense, ‘it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. That life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself up for me’(Galatians 2:20).
Naturally then we become part of His mission too, and so part of His increase in that way as well, again as Paul taught, we are ‘ambassadors on behalf of Christ’(2 Corinthians 5:20), just as Jesus commanded: ‘“Go and make disciples [of Him, not us]… I am with you always, even to the end of the age”’(Matthew 28:19-20). Then we’ll take our place in His fully realised increase, in the ‘holy city, New Jerusalem… like a bride… “God’s dwelling… with people”’(Revelation 21:2-3).
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