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He Must Increase, But I Must Decrease

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The Quest for Christlikeness

 

These were the humble words of John the Baptist (John 3:30), whose public ministry lasted less than one year, and ended shortly after Jesus appeared on the scene to begin His own public ministry. And yet, Jesus said later about John the Baptist, “I say to you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Lk 7:28).

What a great commendation regarding John the Baptist from the mouth of our Lord! What a great encouragement to Christians, that the pathway to greatness in the Kingdom of God is humiliation and condescension. After all, this was the path our very Lord took, “He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8). But then came exaltation, “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the Name which is above every name…” (Phil 2:9).

If this was the path Christ walked, how much more those who call Him, “Lord.” At the core of the fall, and of all human depravity is idolatry and the desire for self-exaltation in each human born into this world. Every sin in our society, explicit or implicit, public or private, personal or communal, goes back to the issue of elevating the great idol of “self” above Christ.

This is what makes redemption in Christ so attractive! Not only are we rescued from the penalty of our sin, and given Christ’s righteousness (positionally), but we are rescued from the power of our sin, and at its core, rescued from the sinful desire for self-exaltation. And though we are not perfect, the heart cry of every believer is “Christ must increase, but I must decrease!”

We long daily to die to ourselves, that Christ would be made much of in our hearts and lives. We long for Jesus to be exalted in our pursuits, passions, possessions, plans, prayers, and in our relationships with other people. Above all, we exalt Christ when we fulfill His mission of making disciples.

May we live to exalt Christ, brothers and sisters, even in our confession of sin, and our quest (by God’s grace) of Christlikeness. “He must increase, but I must decrease.”