I Must Decrease
The image and likeness that we were created in was hidden due to sin and Lord Jesus shared His glory but to fully receive that my sinful thoughts and desires must decrease and His will must prevail in my life.

I Must Decrease

Before the date of arrival of a king announcements were made for the people to get ready to hail him but various other preparations were made. John the Baptist was entrusted with the similar task of preparing the Israelites for the coming of the King of kings through repentance and seeking forgiveness. Most Jews resented this for they believed that since they were chosen of God there was no need for them to undergo baptism for circumcision ensured their direct relationship with God.

      What was the role of John the Baptist? – Prophecy regarding John the Baptist was first made by Prophet Isaiah that he was ‘to prepare a way for the Lord to reveal His Word that ‘stands forever’ and this proclamation was to be made ‘in the wilderness’ (Isaiah 40:3-8). Wilderness results from the sinful acts of man and Adam and Eve were sent out of the presence of God in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:23-24).  Moses had to flee into the land of Midian after murdering an Egyptian man (Exodus 2:15) and Israelites were in the wilderness for forty years for their unbelief. It is in the wilderness of sin that we require a reminder to return to the LORD and in the state of utter sinfulness all of humanity needed to be reminded to repent, seek forgiveness and be ready to get into God’s presence.

      John the Baptist accepted that he was not the Messiah but the one tasked by God to ‘make straight the way of the LORD’ (John 1:20-36). God does not require someone to straighten paths for Him but it is customary to announce a king’s coming to ensure proper upkeep of the area that a royal was to travel and to proclaim his likely coming, through warnings to the people to get them ready to receive him. People would then cleanse themselves, wear clean good clothes and welcome the royal visitor. Humanity in their sinful state could not be in the presence of the Son of God, hence the call by John the Baptist to repent and seek forgiveness. People were called to realize their sinful state, seek the coming Messiah and then John the Baptist revealed the manner in which He will forgive their sins by identifying Lord Jesus as the ‘Lamb of God’. The prophecy regarding John’s role clarified his role where God declared that ‘I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before Me’ (Malachi 3:1). John was the messenger of God carrying His message of the coming Messiah.

       Gabriel, God’s messenger angel, appeared to Zacharias, the priest on duty in the temple, to convey the message of birth of a son in answer to his prayer and asked him to name the child John. John the Baptist was named by God before his birth and that ‘many will rejoice at his birth; he will be great in God’s sight; will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:11-20). This was evident when upon hearing the greeting of Mary the child in Elizabeth leaped in her womb and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41). It was the mother who was blessed through the child. God declared to prophet Jeremiah,  ‘before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations’ (Jeremiah 1:5). Like Jeremiah, John the Baptist was ordained before his birth to ‘turn many of the children of Israel to the LORD their God and that he will go before the Messiah in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children’, disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord’. There was similarity in the prophecy of Malachi 4:5 about turning the hearts of fathers to their children. Prophet Elijah warned against Baal worship and John warned against sinful living and both challenged the king of their time about his sinful living. 

      The Holy Spirit warns about sin before, during and after commission to stop but this gets stopped after continuous life of sinful living by an individual. Extreme cold causes numbness of body parts and after a while one stops feeling pain of numbness. In this state after sometime one is likely to sleep off and finally freeze to death. Sinful living is similar and one forgets the ill effects of sin on one’s life and for waking up shock treatment is required. John the Baptist did this through his admonition to people ‘Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come’, a statement sure to cause anger and self introspection (Luke 3:7).  John the Baptist was to prepare the people and point them toward the Messiah; witness about Him and identify Him to the people and then withdraw. John the Baptist identified the Messiah as ‘The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world’ and further informed that He was ‘preferred before me for He was before me’ confirming His eternal existence for Lord Jesus was born 6 months after John. He confirmed to all who listened that ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained upon Him’ and that ‘this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit. I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God’. John again told his disciples ‘Behold the Lamb of God!’ cofirmking His role of being the sacrificial offering for the sins of humanity (John 1:29-36).

       Before Lord Jesus’ second coming special powers will be given to the two witnesses from God as ‘fire proceeds from their mouth; they can shut heaven and stop rain; power over waters to turn them to blood and to strike the earth with plagues’. They will be killed and resurrected after three and a half days and called up to heaven by God and they would be announcing the second coming of the Lord as a Judge (Revelation 11:3-11). John the Baptist revealed the love of God and His mercy and grace made available through His Son.

     Uniqueness of John the Baptist – John the Baptist identified these things about the Lord – first, He is eternal for He is preferred over me for He was before me. Second, He was to be the sacrificial offering for our sins for He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Third, His work is eternal and empowering for He will baptize with the Holy Spirit. Fourth, He is much superior to any living being for He is the Creator and ‘I am not worthy to even untie His sandals’.  Lord Jesus honored John the Baptist that, ‘Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist’ (Matthew 11:11). Fifth, John was filled with the Holy Spirit before birth and was aware of Lord Jesus’ being the Son of God and the Divine Lamb. Sixth, though Gabriel announced the coming of the Savior Lord to Zechariah, the priest, yet John the Baptist declared His coming thus breaking the 450 years of Divine silence after prophet Malachi’s period. Seventh, he was chosen by God as a forerunner of the Messiah, the herald who announced the coming of the King of Kings. Eighth, John the Baptist preached with the power of Prophet Elijah, calling Israelites to repentance, rebuking the king and persevering in faith despite strong opposition and persecution. Ninth, he was the chosen and Spirit filled bridge between the Old and New Testament declaring the end of one and onset of the other; end of the Law and beginning of the Promise. Tenth, he was the only prophet who predicted Lord Jesus coming and also witnessed His works for others saw an image but John the Baptist saw the Lord in flesh and baptized Him in fulfillment of the Law.

      But John the Baptist was well aware of his own place in relation to the Lord and he died without seeing God’s plan of salvation fully unfold in Lord Jesus. He missed out on seeing the crucifixion and resurrection of the Savior declaring victory over death. He was aware that his baptism was unable to save a person and Apollos and the other twelve disciples of John had to be later baptized into the Holy Spirit (Acts 18:24-26 & 19:1-7). John the Baptist expressed his joy at Lord Jesus’ work, comparing himself to the friend of the bridegroom ‘who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice’. Then accepting his place he announced, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’ (John 3:29-30). This is the most striking aspect of his character; lived a severe life in the desert yet rejoiced that God’s cause was advanced through him

      The important points of his statement are, firstly, temporary nature of his work but the eternally enduring work of the Lord. Secondhis baptism was introductory but baptism of the Holy Spirit by the Lord was permanent. He was like the bright red and orange light appearing in the east before sunrise announcing the coming of the ‘Light of the world’ and like the early morning light, he must sink out of sight at ‘Son rise’. Gospel is revelatory of the vileness and depravity of mankind versus the sufficiency and completeness of Lord Jesus’ sacrifice, the redeeming power of His blood and the prevalence of His intercession for mankind. Third, John the Baptist prophesied in line with Isaiah 9:7, ‘Of the increase of His government, there shall be no end’. Fourth, His contentment, John the Baptist was filled with contentment on seeing the greatness of the Messiah and His ministry (John 3:29). King David praised God in like manner, ‘In Your hand is power and might; in Your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. Now therefore, our God, we thank You and praise Your glorious name’ (1 Chronicles 29:12-13). Fifth, His humility, he was in danger of being mistaken as the Messiah, and whom our Lord pronounces as the greatest of prophets, formed the most lowly estimate of himself (John 3:28). Sixth, His absolute unselfishness, he never tried to remain in the spotlight but pointed all towards the Savior, ‘the Lamb of God’ (John 1:28). Seventh, his cheerful withdrawal, John the Baptist declared, He (Lord Jesus) must increase for he came for and lived for this.

       Why must the Lord increase? – The increase and dominance of the Son of God over everything was and is God’s plan which cannot fail. The reign of the kingdom of the Messiah Lord is to the ends of the earth and His role as deliverer was declared immediately after sin entered the world (Psalm 2:7-8 and Isaiah 9:7). The Holy Scriptures declared His coming repeatedly and He alone must reign.

      What does this increase mean? – Individual felicity is clearly evident in the lives of all who have the Lord as their Savior and their contentment increases with this increase. Second is about social elevation when the evil beast in man’s heart is defeated which then makes all relationships holy and honorable. Third is of national advancement, for while comparing the nations having increase of the heavenly Word with great empires like Egypt, Babylon and Rome, we see that all were destroyed.

     How is this increase to be secured? – Andrew brought his brother Simon who was later called Peter, Philip brought Nathanael declaring to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote’ (John 1:40-51). Witnessing to others and lighting the lamp of God’s love in their hearts is the way. Second, by organized advance upon the strongholds of darkness, John’s disciples were perplexed and annoyed at Lord Jesus’ popularity but ‘John answered and said, ‘A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven’ and then declared I am not the Christ (John 3:26-27). With this the devil lost all chances of creating a breach between the Master and His herald. Man was created in God’s image and likeness which was clouded by sin (Genesis 1:26). After gaining access to the Divine heavenly family through faith in the Messiah, we behold God’s glory as in a mirror and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory (2 Corinthians 3:17-18). For this transformation, we need an unveiled face, an open heart giving up all our thoughts, anxieties and expectations for only then can we be face to face with Him. Otherwise we are focusing and looking at our issues only and turn our back towards Him and when we are spending time with someone with our back towards him closeness in relationship can never result. This veil could be our personal issues, preconceptions or expectations and we must turn our hearts to Him and seek His help for this. He is the Living Word and we behold Him in the written Word and develop intimacy with Him under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (John 1:1). Lastly, transformation is a slow and gradual process that continues throughout life when His Spirit influences our spirit, our mind and thoughts and this change then spreads into the soul, influencing our feelings and desires. Lord Jesus has transplanted His glory that He received from God the Father into us, we are required to clean the dirt of sin from the mirror of our lives to let it shine (John 17:22). 

       Believers place in the kingdom – Lord Jesus honored John the Baptist but also clarified a believers’ place vis-à-vis the Old Testament saints. The Savior declared, ‘Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he’ (Matthew 11:11). All believers are blessed with the indwelling Holy Spirit to ‘teach us all things and to remind us’ of Lord Jesus’ Word. Like John the Baptist said our decrease and His increase in our lives would result in bearing fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).

       LORD God the Father has chosen us and placed us under the tender and loving hand of His Son to show us the ‘real image and likeness’ into which He wants us to get transformed. This gradual change involves my sinful nature, my thoughts and desires getting changed as per the holy nature of the Savior. He must be seen in my life, His love, His mercy, His grace, His forgiveness and His coming in search of the lost sheep. He has given us all the required facilities to take the message of His love to others.

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