‘A man can do nothing unless it has been given him from heaven.
You yourselves bear me witness, that I said,
‘I am not the Christ’, but ‘I have been sent before Him.’
‘He who has the bride is the bridegroom;
but the friend of the bridegroom,
who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly
because of the bridegroom’s voice.
And so this joy of mine has been made full.
He must increase, but I must decrease.’”
Not too many entries ago I learned a lesson in humility from my dear brother John the Baptist. In John 1 folks had taken notice of his giftedness of tongue and holiness of life and they wanted to know about him. “Hey, who are you?” It was red carpet rolling time and he could have milked their question for all it was worth. “Well, I am the only person besides Christ who is specifically prophecied of in the entire Old Testament. I suppose you could say I’m ‘the man.’” But John is not about the business of promoting himself – He is about the work of promoting Christ. “I am just a voice, a simple voice sent to plead and implore you to behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He’s the important one, I’m just a noisy gong sent to set your attention on Him. Behold the Lamb, not me!”
Well, John the Baptist is giving lesson number two in humility to us here in his final recorded sermon. A dispute has arisen among his disciples. They’ve become a bit jealous of Christ’s disciples. “Wait a minute, why are folks going to them instead of to us? Hey John, what’s up with that?!” John doesn’t bite as we would. He has no pity party that the Jesus group is growing more than the John group. He’s not about clubs, He’s about Christ! And if people are coming to Christ – that’s what really and truly matters! Well we would do to heed his words and follow his example.
His response? “A man can receive nothing, unless it has been given him from heaven.” John has consistently reminded folks that One greater than himself was coming. “Look to the Lamb, not to me!” John also has come to the point of realizing that we have NOTHING to be presumptuous or proud about. EVERYTHING we have is a gift from God – EVERYTHING! We have created and accomplished NOTHING on our own – every good and perfect gift comes from the Father of lights in whom there is no shadow! Therefore, everything we have should be used for the furthering of the Kingdom of God not for the furthering of the kingdom of us! What John has and is, what his disciples have and are, what you and I have and who we are is all from and all for Jesus Christ – the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. We would have nothing without Him. We would be nothing were it not for Him. Therefore, let us use what we have been given – all that we have been given – as a means of seeing more men, women, and children glorifying Him, not glorifying us. John understood that and wants his disciples to as well!
He understands it to the point of telling them plainly, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” It doesn’t matter one iota if John the Baptist drifts off of the scene as long as Jesus the Savior moves to center stage. John is disposable – so am I – so are you. The sooner we realize that fact the more boldly, humbly and fervently we will serve. May everyone I encounter see more of Jesus and less of Lori. Don’t behold me, behold Him. I can give you nothing of eternal significance. Christ can give you everything of eternal worth. As one who has heard John’s call from the mouth of another who heard it from another who heard it from another, etc.; as one who by grace has responded to that call I now join with John begging others to look not to me but to Christ. It is He alone who takes away the sin of the world. It is He alone that is worthy of our attention and devotion. Look to Him dear one. Let Him increase and let everything else in this fallen and feeble world decrease.
May we all learn from John the Baptist. “Let us endeavor in life and death, to hold the same views of our Lord Jesus to which John here gives expression. We can never make too much of Christ. Our thoughts about the church, the ministry, the sacraments [and ourselves], may easily become too high and extravagant. We can never have too high thoughts about Christ! We can never love Him too much. We can never trust Him too implicitly, lay too much weight upon Him, and speak too highly in His praise. He is worthy of all the honor that we can give Him. He will be all in heaven. Let us see to it, that He is all in our hearts on earth.” (J. C. Ryle)
Increase dear Savior. Increase in my heart. Increase in my mind. Increase in my living and in my loving. Swallow me up Lord Jesus and move me out of the way that You might shine. Make me a mirror that reflects your glory not a sponge that seeks my own.
Decreasing, by grace,