Often when I read John’s Gospel, there’s one verse that jumps out at me. It’s found in chapter three, verse thirty:
“He must increase, but I must decrease.”
This time, instead of just admiring it and leaving it to it’s own self, I decided to study it.
Decrease is defined in Webster’s 1828 dictionary* as:
“DECREASE, v.i. [L. To grow.] To become less; to be diminished gradually, in extent, bulk, quantity, or amount, or in strength, quality, or excellence; as, the days decrease in length from June to December.
He must increase, but I must decrease. John iii.
DECREASE, v.t. To lessen; to make smaller in dimensions, amount, quality or excellence, &c; to diminish gradually or by small deductions; as, extravagance decreases the means of charity; every payment decreases a debt; intemperance decreases the strength and powers of life.” (Italics mine)
Lets look at some of these points. Decrease means to:
-made smaller in...excellence
The first step to take in our journey of decreasing ourselves and increasing Him(Jesus) is to look at the Lord.
When we turn our eyes from looking at ourselves, to looking up at the Lord, any supposed greatness in our lives pales. We see how great He is, how amazing, how majestic, how much more He is than we are.
Isaiah found this out:
“And one called out to another and said ‘Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory. And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke.
“Then I said, ‘Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.”**
Calvin says in his Institutes:
“It is evident that man never attains to a true self-knowledge until he has previously contemplated the face of God, and come down after such contemplation to look into himself.”
Once we have looked on God’s glory, we cannot think ourselves to be glorious or worthy of fame and honour. The example is told of a man standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon, staring out into that great creation, and then, folly of follies, sticking out his chest and declaring, “Look at me! How amazing I am! How lofty! How great!”
It’s just too ludicrous- we cannot, in our right mind, after beholding the Lord’s goodness, faithfulness, glory, and majesty, stand in awe of anything but Him.
C.J.Mahoney, in his book Humility (which I highly recommend), suggests that every time we are prideful, we lift ourselves up against God and say that we are greater, more important, etc. That is definitely not decreasing and lessening ourselves!
When we are in the process of decreasing, we increase Him. As less and less of me is left, more and more of Him is in me and my life. “You cannot serve two masters,” says Jesus, and although He was referring to money, the same can be applied in our study of John 3:30- I cannot serve myself and God at the same time. Someone must defer. And it cannot be God. It must be me!
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,” -1 Peter 5:6
*if you can’t afford to buy Webster’s 1828 dictionary, like me, you can still use it- check outwww.1828-dictionary.com - yay internet!