Summary: Looking at John the Baptist’s words that he must decrease and Christ must increase teaches us to do the same.
First Baptist Church
September 22, 2002
When you think about words, the word "DOWN" doesn’t have many positive meanings. It’s a word reserved for cowards, losers and bear markets. It’s a word that is to be avoided or ignored. When you attach it to other words it brings them down, such as — down and out, down hearted, downfall, down-scale, down hill, downer and down under. Of course, what’s worse for the word down is its opposite, "UP".
The word UP has many positive connotations. It’s reserved for winners, heroes and bull markets. Add the word "up" to other words and look what happens — upscale, up and coming, upwardly mobile, upper class, and upstanding.
When we think about our present world, we have been deluged with the philosophy that our sight should be to move up in the world. It plays into our egos and delights us to no end. Up is a word that signifies one who has power. It’s assumed that the direction of greatness is always up. UP, UP, UP! People rise against the odds, they ascend to fame and power.
Yet, with that in mind, the words of John the Baptist startle us. John tells his disciples "Jesus must increase and he must decrease." It would seem that the greatest oxymoron would be the phrase "DESCENDING into GREATNESS." It seems absurd, yet that is exactly what John was saying to his disciples.
As we look at the yearning of our souls, what will it take to open the eyes of our heart and soul and scream out to God to fill us, fill us until we can’t take it anymore. Have you ever laughed so hard that you couldn’t take anymore laughter? Have you gotten to the point of laughing so hard that your stomach hurts, your eyes are tearing? It feels so good, yet anymore laughter and you think you’ll burst!
That’s the type of filling in our souls and hearts I’m talking about. Not a cheap imitation, but the real thing. You see, we have a lot of choices out there. We can take a lot of imitation or generic products. Some of them may make you think they’re the real thing, but your soul knows the difference. (Butterscotch example)
In this instance, notice that the real butterscotch looked better and tasted better. By itself it is an obvious choice. However, once you wrap that around some flour, sugar, vanilla, eggs and make it into a desert, it is much more difficult to tell which is the real one.
The same holds true in the world. When we stop and look at Jesus, we believe and are certain we should have all of Him. We should invite Jesus into our lives and submit ourselves to Him. And that’s what God intended for us. Yet, we become so caught up in the world and all that it offers us, and pretty soon we forget about "Jesus alone" and we become consumed with the desires of the world and before we know it, everything becomes blended. We aren’t sure what’s true and what’s false. Everything has become so clouded and in a strange way, we may find that we’re comfortable. But that comfort lasts for only a short while and we end up with a longing, and this time it’s even deeper than before.
Now we have a choice. . . do we go forward with reckless abandon and embrace Jesus, or do we settle for what we already have, simply because we know that this is far safer than grabbing hold of Jesus.
Let me stop here and ask you, are you with me? Do you know what I mean about that choice? Because the deepest desires in our heart are predicated on what choices we make.
So now, let’s look at John the Baptist for a few moments and see what we can learn from him.
This passage occurs immediately after Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus. During that conversation, Jesus told Nicodemus that he needed to be born again and of course Jesus said the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16.
After that conversation Jesus and His disciples traveled about 50 miles to an area called Salim. It was located along the Jordan River and this is the only recording we have of Jesus baptizing people. John the Baptist was at the same place, baptizing people on the other side of the Jordan River. An argument developed between John’s disciples and another Jewish man. We aren’t certain what it was about, but the end result was that John’s disciples came back to John and questioned what Jesus was doing.
They told John, "that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan -- the one you testified about -- well, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him." You see, these men were loyal followers of John the Baptist. Now this new guy comes into town and they didn’t like it one bit. To them it was competition. If you owned a store and it was the only one of its kind in town, and suddenly someone else opened a competing store, you may not be very excited about it.