09/05/S – He Must Increase, I Must Decrease

Judges 20:1-48; John 3:22-30; Psalms 104:24-30; Proverbs 22:20-21

NT: “After this, Jesus and his disciples went to the Judean countryside, where he spent time with them and baptized. John also was baptizing in Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water there. People were coming and being baptized, since John had not yet been thrown into prison… So they came to John and told him, “Rabbi, the one you testified about, and who was with you across the Jordan, is baptizing — and everyone is going to him.” John responded, “No one can receive anything unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah, but I’ve been sent ahead of him.’ He who has the bride is the groom. But the groom’s friend, who stands by and listens for him, rejoices greatly at the groom’s voice. So this joy of mine is complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.”” (‭‭John‬ ‭3:22-24, 26-30‬ ‭CSB‬‬)

For a time, John the Baptist’s and Jesus’ ministry overlapped. Both were teaching and baptizing people at the same time. As more and more people followed Jesus, John’s disciples became concerned at John’s diminished following. When John’s disciples confronted him about it, John’s response showed great humility and understanding. Ministry is not, nor should be a competition. Ministry is not, nor should be about drawing attention, validation, or worth to ourselves. John the Baptist was very clear on who he was and what his role was. He was also very clear on who he was not. He was not the Messiah. He was the “voice crying in the wilderness” calling people to prepare for the coming Messiah – and when the Messiah came, John was to point people to Him. Jesus was (and is) the bridegroom. The church was (and is) the bride. John was simply a groomsman, and he wasn’t about to compete against the Bridegroom for the affections of the bride. In fact, he rejoiced to see the Bridegroom united with His bride. “He must increase, but I must decrease,” said John. How do we apply John’s mature and humble perspective on ministry to our lives? It is so easy, in an attempt at building notoriety, to draw attention to ourselves… to all the things that we have done… to all the people who may follow our leadership or be influenced by our words or ideas. It can be very tempting to pad your resume to build yourself up in other people’s eyes. But the point of ministry is not to draw attention to yourself – it is to point people to Jesus. The Apostle Paul said that it is in our weakness (not our enhanced or inflated portrayal of ourselves) that Christ is made strong. Instead of building ourselves up, we should boast in the Lord and the great things He has done in us and through us despite our weaknesses. It is so easy for church congregations to begin competing with one another – “stealing” congregants from one another – trying to “one-up” each other – even bad-mouthing each other. What would happen if we saw the whole church as the bride, and not individual congregations vying for God’s attention? What would happen if we saw pastors, not as grooms, but as groomsmen to the Bridegroom Jesus Christ? What would happen if we, instead of competing against each other, had one common cause: to see our Lord Jesus Christ united with His radiantly beautiful bride that we all have an opportunity to edify, teach, and grow? Maybe, the Lord would actually receive the glory that is due His Name, and people from all walks of life would desire to come to Him and follow Him. That would be joyous!

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