John had labored for years building his ministry. He had gained recognition, fought the folly of the religious establishment, created a brand, and established his message. While others sought to lift up John and assign him a unique place in history, he would instead point to another. John knew his role. He was the forerunner, the preparer of the way, the prophet. It is said that at the zenith of his ministry all of Jerusalem and Judea were coming to the wilderness to hear John and receive his ministry. (Mark 1:5) One day John’s disciples pointed out another ministry that, in their eyes, was competing with his ministry. They were drawing larger crowds, they were the hot new thing in town. Instead of standing his ground, protecting his territory, buying a larger tent, or procuring better singers John simply said, “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” (John 3:30, NLT) John’s ministry did fade away until the very end when he was murdered because he dared to point out sin in the personal life of a government leader. But that is a topic for another day.
I doubt that I pulled the wool over your eyes for very long. The John described above is of course John the Baptist. Somehow we picture this oddly dressed guy, hip deep in water, with a few folks hanging out at the river with him. But John had a thriving, well known ministry. Which is why, when Jesus’ crowd began to overtake John’s those with him became a little worried and jealous. But John the Baptist’s words also ring true for us. “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.”
As we walk with Christ we too must become less for Jesus to become more. There must be less of self, less of sin, less me, less of mine and more of Jesus; more love, more obedience, more grace, more forgiveness, more joy, more peace, and more of God’s Word. I often hear folks express a desire for more of God in their lives. That is fantastic, right, and wonderful. But the way to receive more of God, the way to walk deeper with Jesus, is to be willing to lay aside our own self. People don’t like to hear that. We’d rather have a formula where we get to add Jesus to everything else in our lives. Instead Jesus declared, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:24–26, NASB95)
I don’t know what part of self God is asking you to lay down today. What I do know is that in order for Jesus to increase in my life, the importance of “I” must decrease. And I know that the same is true for you as well. What that means for you is between you and Jesus. Perhaps what is most important is to have John’s attitude as our own. To be eager for there to be less and less of us and for there to be more and more of Jesus.