Over the past few weeks, we have been looking at ‘More’. Are you fed up with that word yet? I’m not! However, this week we’re going to look instead at the word ‘less’.
The bible passage is from John 3 starting at verse 23:
23 Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptized.24 (This was before John was put in prison.) 25 An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. 26 They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.”
27 To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. 28 You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ 29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. 30 He must become greater; I must become less.”
He must become greater; I must become less.
John the Baptist knew that his ministry was to prepare the way for the Messiah, Jesus. His disciples were concerned when they realised that Jesus was baptising more people than John was. They were worried that Jesus was taking the attention away from John (and, by association, themselves?) and so they came to tell him. We know that John is still baptising because the text says so, so when the disciples say to him that ‘everyone’ is going to him, we know it’s an exaggeration; a bit like when one of the kids comes home and says that they want a new ………………. because ‘everyone’ at school has one. It’s not true. They just want John to realise the seriousness of the issue. If Jesus keeps on like he is, people won’t be interested in John anymore and he (and they) will become old news and obsolete.
John knows who he is though, and he knows who Jesus is. His story of the bridegroom and the best man (I think that’s who they’re talking about, don’t you?) shows that he recognises that his job is to be the supporting actor in the story and that, as Jesus’ ministry grows, so his is going to shrink and that is ok.
He must become greater; I must become less.
More of Him and less of me.
As we desire more of Jesus and the Holy Spirit in our lives, satisfying our thirst, filling us to overflowing, we need to recognise that it means that there will be less room for our will, our desires, our plans. As we become more fully what God has created us to be (so still us; just the redeemed, purified, sanctified us!), we need to allow the attention to be transferred from us to Jesus. We pray it all the time, don’t we? I want people to see Jesus in me.
For people to be able to see Jesus in us, we need to get out of the way.
-No longer will we consider what we want but what God wills.
-No longer will be making our plans for the future but rather asking God what his plans are.
-No longer will we be worried for our own reputation but for God’s glory.
So how do we do that? How do we learn to put aside our ego, our plans, our will for the sake of Jesus and his Kingdom?
We’ve touched on it over the past few weeks’ letters. We choose to drink of the living water that Jesus offers us. We ensure that we are connected to the vine (John 15) by praying, reading our bibles, maintaining our relationship with Jesus all the time. We ask for the more of God that we seek. All of those things will begin to change us. We will begin to want the things that God wants. We will start to reflect more and more the character of Jesus in us as we grow in the fruits of the Spirit. We will slowly find that we desire God’s glory more than we want to make a name for ourselves.
And it might hurt! There will be things that we are called to let go of that we would really rather keep. There may be plans and hopes and dreams for the future that we have to say goodbye to and even knowing that God’s plans are perfect and so much better than our own, it might still be painful to do. There might be friendships / relationships that we have to allow to end because they have drawn us away from God rather than towards him.
John 15 (The Passion Translation): “I am a true sprouting vine, and the farmer who tends the vine is my Father. 2 He cares for the branches connected to me by lifting and propping up the fruitless branches and pruning every fruitful branch to yield a greater harvest. 3 The words I have spoken over you have already cleansed you. 4 So you must remain in life-union with me, for I remain in life-union with you. For as a branch severed from the vine will not bear fruit, so your life will be fruitless unless you live your life intimately joined to mine.
5 “I am the sprouting vine and you’re my branches. As you live in union with me as your source, fruitfulness will stream from within you—but when you live separated from me you are powerless. 6 If a person is separated from me, he is discarded; such branches are gathered up and thrown into the fire to be burned. 7 But if you live in life-union with me and if my words live powerfully within you—then you can ask whatever you desire and it will be done. 8 When your lives bear abundant fruit, you demonstrate that you are my mature disciples who glorify my Father!
John 15 describes the gardener pruning the vine so that it will grow and be more fruitful and we aren’t just warned that it might happen to us, we are promised that it will. As we desire more of God, so he will prune us and work on us and in us to make us more fruitful. Learn to expect it and embrace it knowing that God who has created us knows what is best for us. Learn to desire it because bearing fruit is what we are called to do and it will enable us to be more fruitful.
When I was thinking of a song to share with you that summed this up, this one came to mind. I’ve shared it with you before and no doubt will again over the years! It is written by Colin Fairclough and is called Christ in Me. Here’s the link for those who receive emails.
1 Christ of Glory, Prince of Peace,
Let thy life in mine increase;
Though I live may it be shown
‘Tis thy life and not my own.
Dwell within, that men may see
Christ, the living Christ, in me.
2 Answer now my soul’s desire,
Purge my heart with holy fire,
Soothe the hurt with gentle balm,
Breathe within my life thy charm,
Fill me now, so shall there be
Christ, the holy Christ, in me.
3 Gracious Lord, thy grace apply,
Both to save and sanctify;
All my life wilt thou control,
Calmly ordering the whole,
That the world may ever see
Christ, and only Christ, in me.
Oh please, God! More of you and less of me!