In his own words, John relayed this powerful and almost poetic sounding statement of his heart:
I must become less so that HE would become more! His actual words were even stronger with Christ being the first focus, rather than himself: “HE MUST INCREASE, … but I MUST DECREASE!”
This is the toughest part of true Christianity, and what separates Christianity from mere religion.
Think about this: Religion is usually man focused.
It’s something we do. It’s dogma. It’s rules. It’s ritual. It’s tradition. It’s morality.
Its priority seemingly is placed upon “God” or — a “god,” but it's actually man focused.
Religion has sufficiently been defined as man’s attempt to reach God.It’s something we ‘do’, sometimes even taking on the definition of something we ‘are’ (religious), again, meaning, because of something we are doing or a way that we are acting, we are defined as ‘religious’.
Some generalize it as a way to define someone who believes something spiritual, something religious, but even at its core, that is still focused on man.
Christianity comes along and flips religion on its head rather than being focused on man, it is all about focusing on following Christ. Christianity focuses on something Christ has done, which gives reason, meaning, and hope; rather than what we can do to try and achieve reason, meaning, or hope. If religion is defined as man’s attempt to reach God, then Christianity is God’s attempt to reach man; but, will man accept, believe, and receive God’s invitation?
Christianity is about what God has done, is doing, and will do. Where religion will always fall short.
Christianity is about identity, not activity.
This is why John comes to a willing place, desiring MORE of Jesus and less of Himself.
If John could have done it on his own, don’t you think he would have?
Paul is the same way.
Once known as Saul, before his God encounter, was THE MAN. He even one time, in a tirade, spews His accomplishments and accolades as a Jew. If there was any reason for Saul to be self-sufficient as far as cultural value went, Saul had it together.
But, when he encountered the presence of God … everything changed.Paul said it a few different ways: ”To live is Christ, to die is gain.”
“I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I that lives.”“I, and my selfish, self-centered, self-gratifying, self-reliant, self-focused ways have died. The old me is gone. The person I was NO LONGER exists. BUT, it’s CHRIST that now lives in and through me.Paul is saying that to be fully surrendered, fully available, and fully obedient to God is to fully die to self.
As it pertained to embracing life in Christ, Bonhoeffer said it this way: “Come and die.”The crucifixion of “self” is a tough concept to comprehend. If carrying a cross was easy, the road wouldn’t be so narrow.
Could it be that the reason so many people struggle with authentic faith and obedience to God is because the cross is not incredibly appealing to our flesh?
Could it be that the reason so many people are “deconstructing” faith today is because they never died to self?
At the end of the day, the reason religion is so prolific is because we love us, some us.
We want to make everything about ourselves, if we were to be truthful.
Yet, authentic, obedient, faithful Christ followers are those who willingly come to the place where they recognize themselves as a grateful part of the story, but not the point of the story. They are those who understand the beauty and privilege of being a part of HiS story, and desire to make more of Him, rather than more of themselves.
This is why John said what he said.
This is why Paul said what he said.
What is it that we say today? Are we willing to come completely to the end of self? Are we willing to embrace and carry our cross, humbly and obediently denying self, so as to make more of Him?
“The believer needs to acknowledge that his flesh deserves nothing else than the curse of death. Let us pray that we may know what the flesh exactly is and how it must be crucified. What is lacking today is not a better living but a better dying!”
- Watchman Nee