He must increase, but I must decrease.
New International Version
He must become greater; I must become less
New Living Translation
He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.
International Standard Version
He must become more important, but I must become less important.”
He must increase – his authority and influence in our lives, our thoughts, our words, and our actions must grow.
John the Baptist understood the Kingdom principle of Christ as being the Lord of His life and realized that in order to fulfill God’s will for His life that the things that were important to him had to take a back seat to the calling that God had placed on His life.
We must decrease – The purpose of our lives is to point the world towards Him. We are not to form religious affiliations to glorify ourselves, or to set up a religion of our own. As the light from the evening moon fades away and is lost in the rays of the rising sun, who we are in the flesh is to fade away in the glory of His light. It should be an honor for any one of us, to accept in humility, and with a willingness to be esteemed as nothing–if we can honor Christ.
The greatest honor that any one of us can have is that we are permitted to lead sinners to the Lord Jesus Christ. There is nothing so honorable, and that will bring more joy, both in heaven and here on earth as sharing Christ and the gospel. We find our greatest purpose and honor as we stand near the Son of God, leading the perishing to His cross.
Any one of us–be we a person or a ministry–that has selfish ambitions for personal, financial gain, or self-promotion from the presentation of the gospel and under the guise and cover of Christianity is in danger of eternal damnation. There are many who promote a form of “Self Christianity”–a perverted presentation of that gospel which glorifies themselves and their ministry all the while using Christ as a tool for their own purpose, for their own glory, when in fact we are to be His tools for His purpose, and for His glory.
It is not only in the ministry that we find this taking place. In the flesh we are drawn to find our own self-worth and our own self-importance. If we, however, use our identity–use our “self”–to reflect the grace we have received in Christ Jesus, interacting with our family, our church, friends, and relationships, replacing Jesus as Lord with our own ambitions and our own needs as Lord; that at its heart, is another form of idolatry, no different from adultery, physical abuse, or bowing before a statue of Buddha.
Many unbelievers observing this is in us, do not reject Christianity, but the “Self Christianity” they see in us. We, with our own flesh, become the stumbling block of others coming to know Jesus Christ, eclipsing His glory with our worship of our own self-importance instead of that of the Son of God. When unbelievers are around you, what emanates from your words and actions? Is it you or Jesus Christ?
Much of the world has become polluted with the “Self Christianity” version of the gospel, so much so that we now have ordained openly homosexual priests and ministers proclaiming their perverted version of the gospel. I recently read an article discussing whether or not to accept atheists as chaplains in the military. There are numerous ways to pervert the message of the cross, but there is only one way to follow Him and that is in righteousness and truth.
To help us with this dilemma, Paul gives us the formula to overcome this syndrome.
I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. Galatians 2:20
There is a humility–an emptying of ourselves–when we crucify our flesh, our carnal man, our own selfish wants and desires with Christ, which results in a divine liberation that comes with understanding of what it means to crucify yourself with Christ. Let’s look at our own Lords example:
Philippians 2:5-8 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!
You can begin this process of taking on the same attitude that Paul instructs us to take here in Philippians by acknowledging your own “human feelings or emotions”—all of them: the good, the bad, and the ugly. See them for what they are in truth to yourself and before the Lord… Look clearly at the hurts and wounds you have suffered at your own hands and from the hands of others, such as lies, deceit, game-playing, manipulation, and hypocrisy, etc., and crucify them with Christ. Look at you own natural defenses, be honest with yourself and offer that person before the Lord and His mercy. Let Him open your eyes and free you from yourself: Let Him become your fulfillment.
Turn away from all the carnal, anti-Christ satisfactions of the secular world that is pushing Jesus from the center of your life and replacing Him with “you”. Surrender your will to Him so He can renew you. Let Him be Lord of who you are.
Ephesians 4:18-24 Some have a dark understanding and are separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them because of hardened hearts- they’ve lost all sensitivity and they are given over to sensuality and indulge in every kind of impurity. You, however, did not come to know Christ that way. You have heard and know the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is corrupted by its deceitful desires; be made new in the attitude of your minds; put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.
Here is what Paul is saying, die to your “self”, reduce who you are, and increase who He is. That’s what being “born again” is all about: putting away the old self, along with all its illusions, and putting on a new self, a new creation in Christ. And in doing this, even as our Lord was, you become an instrument of God’s will, dedicating your being, your talents, and completely becoming His servant for His benefit and the benefit and salvation of others and their needs.
Mark 8:34-37 Jesus said, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?
When we die to ourselves we no longer have to wrestle with selfishness that can impede the effectiveness of His Spirit in our lives, which compromises our contribution to the Body of Christ. Fear in the flesh becomes nullified when we realize that we have nothing to lose (we are dead); we have been crucified with Christ. God requires that we live boldly for him in each area of our lives. This can only be accomplished by truly dying to ourselves. As you submit yourself to Christ, and reduce who you are, He increases. And in Christ . . .
- We have direct access to the throne of grace through Christ Jesus
- We are assured that God works for our good in all circumstances.
- We have been established, anointed and sealed by God.
- We have not been given a spirit of fear but of power, love, and a sound mind.
- We are born of God and the evil one cannot touch us.
- We are God’s temple.
- We are seated with Jesus Christ in the heavenly realm.
- We can do all things through Christ, who gives us strength.
- We are Strong in the Lord and in the Power of His Might