He Must Increase, I Must Decrease?
“But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy, unblemished, and blameless in His presence”
I normally will build up to my point in each devotional, but let’s just get right to it:
GOD DOES NOT EXPECT CHRISTIANS TO DECREASE SO CHRIST CAN INCREASE.
I’d love to put an exclamation point at the end of that statement, but I’ll leave it as it is. When John the Baptist said, “He must increase, I must decrease,” he was not talking about himself as a person (see John 3:30). He was not trying to appear humble to look good in front of a congregation. He was not exuding false humility “so that” he could point to Jesus.
HE WAS TALKING ABOUT THE MOSAIC LAW.
John the Baptist preached Moses not Jesus. He taught Israel to repent back toward obeying Moses not toward obeying Jesus. How can I say that? Because the Old Covenant was still in full force because the Cross had not yet happened. Each time he yelled, “Repent!” he longed for a Messiah to come along and put an end to his legalistic ministry of teaching 613 commandments given by Moses to only the Israelites. We are Gentiles, we were not included. But then again, even if you’re reading this as a Jew, you still have to turn to Jesus and away from Moses (see Hebrews 3:3-12, 10:26-29).
John wasn’t attempting to get the approval of those following him by appearing meek. He was expressing the need for grace and truth, the need for Jesus.
“For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)
There’s not much good news in the four gospels. Sure, there’s some, but it’s mostly Mosaic Law being taught in order to get self-righteous people to see they were absolute failures at obeying it. Why? So they would repent from the Law and toward grace; toward faith in the One who would save them from their Mosaic infractions (see James 2:10, Galatians 3:10). Now this is what would decrease, Law teaching, not John. Not me or you, dear Christian.
Law observance–not Law itself–would soon fade away. Once Christ went to the Cross it would become obsolete for all who would believe in the Son of God (see Matthew 5:18, Hebrews 8:12-13, Romans 6:14, 10:4).
John was talking about–LAW. LAW. LAW. LAW. LAAAAAAAAAAW.
So when someone tries to use the passage of “I must decrease, He must increase” as a Christian to prove their humbleness, they just don’t understand what actually happened to them the moment of their salvation–NEWNESS.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)
“But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy, unblemished, and blameless in His presence” (Colossians 1:22)
“In Christ you have been brought to fullness.” (See Colossians 2:10)
Are we just going to ignore these passages to appear modest? Are we going to say the Cross didn’t fully work so we still need to decrease? Why not just take God for His word and believe what He says about us? Why not just believe what Jesus did to us not just for us? Is it because we still sin and make mistakes? If that’s what you think friend, dear believer, let me tell you something:
YOU ARE NOT YOUR MISTAKES.
You are not your accomplishments. You are not your mundane actions and attitudes. You are a spotless, holy, blameless, new creation, child of God, set apart, currently-seated-in-heaven RIGHTEOUS SAINT. Separate your who from your do to understand this. We don’t need to mix the Covenants or twist John the Baptist’s words. Just be yourself! Yeah, I said that! Be you!
Before salvation should we decrease? Even to that I’d say no. The Pharisees sure thought such a thing, that way they could put on a show of humility. But not you, Christian. It was the Law which needed to decrease so that grace could come in! For us? We don’t decrease–we died! Our spirits were literally crucified with Christ! Dead, not decreased! Buried, not decreased! Raised back to life as new! NOT DECREASED! (See Romans 6:6-10, Galatians 2:20, 2 Corinthians 5:21).
What should you do? Increase! Learn! Grow! Mature! Don’t decrease as a Christian but flourish and have your mind renewed! Walk out who you are! Increase, increase, increeeeeeeease! (See Galatians 5:22-23, 2 Peter 3:18).
“But Matt, I need to give God all the glory!”
Friend, He already had all the glory! Why do you think He remade you and then connected Himself to you? He wants to live through you! Jesus said He has now given you all the glory! (See John 17:22).
“Matt, that seems so conceited!”
But it’s not! It’s called confidence in what God has done to us! It’s what Jesus wants! He didn’t recreate you so you could lie about yourself! He wants you to express Him! This is how you will exude the glory of God within you!
I’ll tell you what’s conceited, ignoring what God has done to you in order to earn the approval of legalists. What’s conceited is retrofitting John the Baptist and Moses into what the Cross has accomplished for all who have believed.
“But I gotta make disciples of disciples! We have to produce!”
Do you? What would happen if you didn’t? Punishment? No. Jesus was already punished plenty. I’ll tell you what would happen: THE ROCKS WOULD CRY OUT, “JESUS IS LORD! BELIEVE!” (See Luke 19:39-40). God would still find a way–BECAUSE HE IS GOD! The salvation of the world is His responsibility not ours! Who do we think we are?! We are not God!…We are His children. His creations.
Why not just be and rest and let God do what He wants through us? “Gotta” make disciples and “gotta” produce? That seems like a lot of pressure to me, yet a vine never pressures a branch to produce, which is what our relationship is with the Spirit of Christ (see John 15:5, Galatians 5:22-23).
Further, that word disciple isn’t mentioned in any letter to any church in the New Testament, not once. Don’t you think if making disciples of disciples was so crucial, Paul, Peter, Jude, John, James–they would’ve told the ecclesia about it at least one time? But they didn’t. In the book of Acts, which was recorded acts not doctrine–which means the body of Christ was getting things in order and purging immature theology–this was the last time disciples was used.
Disciples simply describes followers who learn. Once the early Christians realized we have something much better than following–that we are in–that word wasn’t used by any group of believers again (see Hebrews 3:6, Colossians 3:3, 1 Corinthians 6:17). If a person must harp on that term, I think the best way, for them, is to not look at making disciples as an individual goal, but as a corporate thing for the entire body of believers.
We can be disciples of Dora the Explorer if we wanted. David Koresh had disciples, so did John the Baptist. Even Jesus did before Pentecost. WE NOW HAVE SOMETHING SUPERIOR! AN EVENT WHICH HAPPENED IN ACTS 2! THE SPIRIT IN US AND US IN HIM!
God is inside of you, Christian. You are inside of Him. Like cereal in milk and milk in cereal. Separate yet one. The milk is not following the cereal and the cereal is not following the milk. You are one.
“But whoever is united with the Lord is one with Him in spirit.” (1 Corinthians 6:17)
We are learning from within not following someone. We are new creations who have the Spirit of God. We are called to live and be and express our Creator with ease. He does the rest as we rest in Him. He’s who woos and calls and molds. We are the branches, not the vine. Branches grow without stress or strain, depending on the vine for everything; and the vine definitely isn’t telling the branches to decrease! He wants us to grow, organically!
It pains me to hear Christians told they need to decrease so Jesus can increase. The truth is, we each have all we need for life and godliness (see 2 Peter 2:13). The only thing that should decrease is our old actions and attitudes which don’t match up with who we now are. Even better, it is God who causes this growth over the course of our lifetime, not us (see Philippians 1:6, 2:13, Colossians 2:19).
God isn’t expecting us to lie about ourselves so uber-critical people, religious relatives, and Law teachers can say, “Oh look at them. How modest. How meek. God is so proud of their humility.”
Be you. If your personality is loud and boisterous, be you. If it’s quiet and you enjoy a more low-key atmosphere, be you. You need to be you, Christian. Life will never make sense until you begin expressing your true self. Don’t fall for the lie that false humility is the way to go, and don’t you ever talk bad about yourself. The Spirit within you will counsel you when you get off track, but make no mistake, He’s never guiding you to be less of you. He’s renewing your mind to your absolute righteousness instead. He’s teaching you how to live moment by moment gently and patiently, both, with yourself and others.
So today, my friends, know this: If you’ve placed your faith in Jesus, increase in who you are. Be being filled. Don’t decrease. If you haven’t, today is your day of death and resurrection, not simply decreasing. Believe Christ has saved you from your sins and He will. Unbelievers don’t need to be less of themselves so Jesus can be more in them. He won’t even join them until they’re new. But once He does, He does so permanently because we’ve been made perfect in our identity by one offering, His body on the Cross. Perfection doesn’t need to decrease. Therefore increase, and grow (see Hebrews 10:10,14, Philippians 4:13).
A prayer for you: Father, thank you for my new identity. You gave me this identity as a young boy, when I first believed, but because of two-timing teaching I didn’t understand it. For so long I thought I had to keep decreasing, but that’s a big fat lie. I needed to increase, mature, and grow. Keep teaching me more about this truth. Right now, I lift up all who are reading this, directly to you. I’m sad for those who’ve been beat down by Mosaic legalism. Just because someone on stage tells them they need to decrease so Jesus can increase, they put on a show of self-abasement. They talk bad about themselves to appear humble. Dad, please take them deeper into the knowledge of what you’ve done to them as your child. Help them to discern the Old Covenant of Law from the New Covenant of grace–of Jesus. Help them to be able to point out the false teachings about their identity as your kids. Even when they hear hypnotizing music in church, such as “More of you…and less of me…take ev…ry…thing…” As a believer, this does not apply to them. It’s not, “More of you and less of me,” it’s both of us. It’s a beautiful relationship. We thank you for this. In Christ’s name, amen.
This devotional is from my upcoming book, The Christian Identity, Volume 3. Check out my other bestselling books here!