“He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:30
Many Christians today are so indoctrinated by the philosophy of the world that we tend to forget what discipleship is all about. We start thinking that things are all about us, and we find it quite strange that the Lord would require any sort of sacrifice from us. But Jesus calls us to self-denial.
Point People To Jesus
Jesus left Jerusalem with His disciples and went to Judea, where He took up the ministry of baptism. When the disciples of John the Baptist noticed that Jesus was baptizing more people than John was, they became zealous for their master. They went to John and said, “The One you pointed to is baptizing, and now everybody is going to Him!” (see John 3:26). But of course, that’s why John had come—to point people to Jesus.
These men are so typical of us. We latch on to a favorite pastor or leader and become divided from other Christians over our loyalty to a person. But God is doing something much larger than any one church or group. One of the biggest obstacles to people getting involved in the church is the way Christians bicker and debate and argue—quite often over insignificant things. There are certainly vital issues that we need to stand for and times when we need to rise up against false teaching. But most of the divisions that take place in churches have little or nothing to do with the defense of the faith.
Unity Among Christians
We need strength and unity among Christians today. For this we need to get ourselves out of the way and together look to Jesus. “You yourselves heard me say that I am not the Christ,” John told his followers. “I’m like a friend of the bridegroom, and I’m glad that the bridegroom is now center stage!” (see John 3:28-29). John the Baptist, in his humility, beautifully deflected the situation and turned his followers’ attention back to the Lord. Like John, we need to point people back to Christ.
“He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30), John emphasized. His answer summarizes the goal of the Christian life: more of Jesus and less of me. Self—not the Devil, not the world—is the greatest obstacle to Christian maturity. Self-centeredness, self-importance, and self-seeking are encouraged and promoted from every conceivable avenue in our day. But Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).
This applies to our personal lives as well. The Lord may ask us, for the sake of His call on our lives, to deny ourselves the comforts of home or familiarity. We may need to deny ourselves a relationship that is interfering with God’s will for us. Perhaps we’re called to deny ourselves certain liberties that we enjoy but that could possibly stumble a weaker brother or sister.
Denying ourselves is not always easy. Sometimes it’s extremely challenging. But just because something is difficult doesn’t mean that God is not in it. He is transforming us into the image of His Son. As we decrease, He increases the presence and the life of Jesus within us.
It is easy for us to get wrapped up in our church and our ministry and practically forget that there are Christians outside our own borders. We can become consumed with the precious plans we have laid for our lives. But everything we do is about the centrality of Jesus Christ. We must fight to keep Him at the center of everything.
Let Christ Increase
John the Baptist was able to do this because he was truly humble. He sought to do nothing but what God had appointed him to do. It’s all about Jesus. He must increase. We must decrease.
In what area of your life might you need to deny yourself? “I want to increase My presence in your life,” the Lord may be saying to you. “I want to work through you, but you are in the way.” Deny yourself. Drop that attitude. Open your heart to that brother or sister. Let go of that position. Withdraw from that situation. As you let Christ increase, you will see a blessing in your situation.