He Must Increase, But I Must Decrease

There is a phrase in the New Testament that has always intrigued me, but I’ve never felt like I completely understood what it means or how to fully put it into practice.  The words are recorded in the Gospel of John, and were spoken by John the Baptist to his followers.  A discussion took place among the disciples of John the Baptist shortly after Jesus began his public ministry.  Large crowds were following Jesus and His popularity was growing.  The news of Jesus’ miracles and teachings was spreading like wildfire throughout Judea and Galilee, and John’s disciples wanted to know what he thought about this newcomer everyone was calling the Messiah.  (John 3:26)  John’s response was clear, concise and powerful.  He declared, “He must increase, but I must decrease!”  (John 3:30)

A powerful statement and a life-changing challenge for every follower of Jesus! But, what does it look like for Jesus to increase and for us to decrease?  How do we point people to Christ and to what He did for us on the Cross?

In the Greensboro News and Record on Good Friday, there was a picture of a man standing on street corner in Greensboro, holding a large, ten-foot cross, and a huge Bible, pointing and looking toward the sky.  A plaque with the name, “JESUS” was attached to the cross.  The caption above the picture read, “Preachers Bloom At Easter, Too.”  While that may be a good way to get attention, I don’t think this is what John the Baptist meant when he said, “He must increase.” In fact, actions like this quite possibly cause others to think less of Jesus.

How can Jesus increase and we decrease?  First, we must be clear about who we are, and why we are here.  A healthy self-identity, and a clear understanding of our purpose is foundational to life in general, but it is even more important, if we hope to point others to the Savior.  John the Baptist knew his role was secondary to the Messiah.  He understood Jesus was the “One from above,” the “Bridegroom.”  Speaking of Jesus, John said, “I’m not worthy to untie the straps on His sandals.”

Why was this important for John the Baptist?  For the same reason it is important for us.  A clear self-identify is critically important in ministry.  Our self-identity, however, becomes clear in light of our relationship to the Messiah.  It’s all about knowing Him and serving Him as Lord.  John’s life and ministry were dedicated to pointing people to Jesus!

When the religious leaders sent representatives to John the Baptist asking him to identify himself, John’s responded without hesitation, “I am not the Messiah.”  He also added, “I’m not the prophet many were expecting.”  When they pressed him for an answer, John said, “I am the voice of one crying the in the desert, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord.'” He not only knew who he was, he also knew who he was not, and why he was here!

John came to point people to Jesus, the Messiah.  In reality, that is our purpose as well, to point people to Jesus.  But, here’s the most important question, “How, and when do we point people to Jesus?”

I believe we have opportunities to point people to Jesus every single day.  Not by standing on a street corner with a cross in one hand and a Bible in the other. We point others to Jesus by the way we interact with our neighbors, coworkers, fellow students, bosses, employees and families. We point others to Him when our daily choices reveal Jesus’ attitude toward the poor, the hungry, the homeless, and those who are suffering around the world.

The truth is, many will see Jesus, only if they see Him in us.  It has been said that the closest some people ever get to Jesus, is by “doing-life” alongside of one of His followers. Does this happen in your life?  Do you mirror Jesus? Do others see His patience, His compassion, His forbearing spirit, and His unconditional love in you?

What are we doing so He will increase and we will decrease?


About Larry Doyle

Larry is the Director of Missions for the Piedmont Baptist Association. He has served overseas with the International Mission Board (SBC), in Charlotte NC as the Director of International Ministries, and as a pastor in North Carolina and Kentucky. He is married to Rebekah Hill, a native of Greensboro NC, and has two children and three grandchildren.
This entry was posted in Matters of the heart, Spiritual renewal. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to He Must Increase, But I Must Decrease

  1. James Jordan says:

    It inspires awe to contemplate how John the Baptist’s life could be one of self-sacrifice motivated by Jesus’ identity even before Jesus’ Passion. Truly the faith of John and his followers must have been so profound- compare also to Peter and Jesus’ Disciples after the Passion!

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