“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
As Christians we often have an attitude contrary to the words of John the Baptist in this passage. We take on the mind-set that for Christ to increase we must increase as well. The perception of our participation in the work of God has been inflated to the point where Christians view the advance of God through their own blessing or position. We do not understand how our decrease could be advantageous to the increase of the working of God around us. Yet, that is what this passage calls us to.
It is hard to grasp the understanding and calmness of John the Baptist in this passage. In the preceding verses his disciples come to him with the concerns that people are going to Jesus instead of John for baptism. There is an attitude of concern and maybe even competition on behalf of his disciples. Isn’t John “The voice calling our in the wilderness” (John 1:23), doesn’t he call the people to “repent” (Matt. 3:1-2), and isn’t he the one referred to by the prophet Isaiah (Isa. 40:30)? They had heard him testify about Jesus but they could not see how fewer people coming to John for the baptism of repentance and purification, and more seeking out Jesus could advance the Kingdom of God. What would this mean for them?
John the Baptist makes it clear that all authority, power, position, reputation, and even message is given from heaven. He then sets himself apart from Jesus, elevating Jesus in verses 31-34. For, Jesus comes from heaven and testifies about what He knows, baptizing with the Holy Spirit and fire (Matt. 3:11). John the Baptist, being only a man, can only testify to the things of earth which he knows, baptizing with water for repentance (Matt. 3:11). He makes it clear that he is only a messenger while Jesus is the Son of God. The Father gives “all things” into the hands of Jesus and it is only those “who believe in the Son” who have eternal life. John the Baptist is telling his disciples that their message and baptism pale in comparison to that if Jesus. Thiers is for purification while His is for salvation. It is the working of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in the lives of people that is important and not John or his disciples. He says, “I must decrease so I can point more people in the direction of Jesus and not retain them with my message.” For John the Baptist, it is not about his message or the blessings he receive but about pointing others to the Son of God.
Often as Christians we claim to know that our role is to be pointing others to Jesus and the salvation only He can bring. Yet, there are many times we allow our message, our position, and our desires to be in opposition to people coming to Jesus. I do not say this lightly or with the presumption that this occurs out of malice intent or even with the knowledge of our opposition, though at times it may. We allow our lives for Christ to become a distraction to the gospel message.
As Christians we are a new creation in Christ Jesus, yet we still struggle with our human nature and earthly desires. John the Baptist was aware that while he knew his role was to prepare the way for Jesus and point people towards Him, he did so from an earthly point of view. We also must be aware of this. It is our human nature and earthly desire that does not understand how our decrease could promote His increase.
I am aware that often my thoughts, troubles, and desire can distract me from God. Often it can be good and right things that are distractions. I can get so focused on myself, my calling, and my blessings that I get distracted from God. Sadly this may even hinder others from focusing on God. Oswald Chambers says, “The more you realize yourself the less you will seek God.” Yet, we must seek to live with the attitude we find in John the Baptist, we must seek to decrease so Christ can increase.
Once we put our trust in God and become followers of Christ, a whole new world of opportunities and blessings open up to us. We must fight against the desire to see these opportunities as “rights”. As children of God we are endowed with rights and responsibilities, yet we must use our right to relinquish our rights to God and allow Him to choose for us and direct us. Otherwise it becomes more about us and less about Him. We increase and He decreases.
Often we seek things we feel are our rights as believers or things we believe God desires for us, yet we seek ourselves over God. It may be the single person who desires to be married, the married couple who desires a child, or one called to vocational ministry who seeks a position. Things which are good and desirable, yet our desiring can be a hindrance to Gods working and presence in our lives. Chambers says, “Whenever right is made the guidance in the life, it will blunt the spiritual insight. The great enemy of the life of faith in God is not sin, but the good which is not good enough.”
May you be encouraged in your life of faith and may that life be lived in pursuit of pointing others to Christ above all. May you decrease so that He may increase. As Christ pours out His blessing upon your life, may you never seek the good things of God above God himself. As John the Baptist was in complete surrender to the will and nature of Christ, I pray the same for all of us as we seek to live a life of faith and obedience.