It is the lifelong need for all of us to embrace what John the Baptizer declared of his own life 2,000 years ago. As his own ministry was fading in popularity and preeminence, John responded to those asking him why this diminishing of his work was happening to him by saying, “Jesus must increase. I must decrease.” This same release must also come to own our hearts’ motivations as Christians. We must not be content to merely quote John, but to also emulate him in this manner of living as he swapped his limelight for the shade. A thousand times a day we are presented with opportunity to either inflate ourselves at the expense of God’s glory in our lives, or either to humble ourselves so that He alone would be magnified. Like, John, I also must decrease so that He might increase. So must you. Some may be tempted to think that this would lead to a miserable existence, but those who have tasted its fruit well know that the key to their contentment is dying to self and living in a manner that always hopes to bring Christ to the front of what is seen in our lives. To learn to live in Christ and for Christ is to receive the promise of the abundant life that Christ spoke of. Yet we are also shown repeatedly in God’s Word that to live for one’s own glory is the inviting of trouble into our days.
“For Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen, because their speech and their deeds are against the Lord, defying his glorious presence.” – Isaiah 3:8
Isaiah’s ancient statement pulls no punches as the prophet called things exactly as he saw them. Without mincing words, he tells us above how the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the capital of Judah, came to suffer their demise. He uses simple words, as did John the Baptizer, and he informs us that the people had spoken and lived in a way that defied the glory of God. How they lived had underestimated the magnitude of who God is and had overestimated their own significance. They had learned to anchor their purposes outside of their Lord… but God loved them too deeply to allow this to go uncontested. Remember, these were not pagan idolaters. These were people of God’s covenant. These people were His eye’s apple and the objects of His relentless grace and blessing. How many times had He rescued them? Blessed them? Provided for them? Their response was to spite the very God who chose them and they selected a path of self-love which the holy and jealous God of Heaven could not bless. Both bible history and secular records chronicle that these very people were ultimately brought to ruin. That unfortunate end was not God’s desire for them and it was certainly not what His people wanted for themselves. Yet it is what occurred because they refused the invitation to grace that God extended to them. That same grace is there for us today – grace to swap out one path for another. Yes, He is giving you the grace to give Him the glory.
We have choices today and, in my bottom-line thinking, those choices really end up being one choice: my self or my Savior. May God grant us the appropriating of His grace so that we may find the deep joy of self-decreasing as we become aware of His increasing from our lives. Let us serve others with gladness as Christ told us that, in doing so, we are truly serving Him. You have been twice-born to be a giver, so put to death that part of you which craves to be a constant receiver, or even a taker. Love swallows the desire for vengeance so let ill-will toward all others be buried. Mercy and grace will partner with one another to slay and bury the regrets in your life that refuse to silence themselves – you don’t have to listen to the accusations of your past. Above all things, don’t live in fear because your Almighty Father also happens to be the Master of all other things and people; look continually to Him and find the strength and courage that your self can never provide for you. You were created for His glory, redeemed for His glory, are being sustained for His glory and will, in the end, die for His glory and arise for His glory. Jesus Christ is and always has been the tethering cord of your purpose. Let us not seek to use Him for our own name but may we remember that He uses us for His. Go ahead and make the swap.