He must increase; I must decrease.
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It seems as though the cry of our flesh, from the moment we learn to form words, is “More!” At first our wants are simple. We want more of whatever we’re fed; more toys, more time before bedtime. As we age, our wants become more sophisticated. We want more popularity, more success, more money, more prestige. And I suppose the motivation of “more” follows you to the grave if you never have an encounter with God. Because without that encounter, your flesh has free reign in your life. It’s all you know, and you’re not even aware there’s another power that could be at the helm.
But when you do discover the God who has been wooing you every second of your life, and you yield to that love, “more” is less attractive than it has formerly been. The flesh is still there, but now your spirit is alive to worship, and you find that you are less —in a wonderful, humbling way — in the presence of Jesus.
Outside of the prayer of salvation, I’m not sure there’s a more powerful prayer than what John expressed in this verse. “God, empty me of me and fill me with You.”
If there’s to be more room for Jesus, a lot of things inside us have to become smaller. Things like our need to be right, or our insistence on having our preference. Things like having to have the last word, refusing to be the first to say you’re sorry, or shying away from the words, “I was wrong.” You can’t hold on to a big view of yourself when you’re in the process of becoming smaller, but that no longer matters. The awareness of God’s majesty is better.
Decreasing so that God can increase really comes down to paying attention to all the imperatives He’s given us in His Word:
- ”Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Philippians 2:3-4).
- “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited” (Romans 12:16).
- ”I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought” (1 Corinthians 1:10)
- “Aim for perfect harmony, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace” (2 Corinthians 13:11)
- ”Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12).
- ”Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13).
And all the rest.