Have you ever been reading your Bible when you came across a phrase or an idea that you’d read hundreds of times before but then, suddenly, a bomb seemed to drop in your mind? I encountered two of those just this week.
A little confession here. I struggle to love God. It’s not because I don’t trust Him, or becuase I take issue with some of His dealings on Earth. Truthfully, I’ve never had much difficulty with either of those. It’s just that for some reason I can’t seem to move out of a longterm valley which the Lord has led me into. When I say longterm I’m talking four years now. In this valley I’ve faced spiritual laziness and lethargy, some occasional and various doubts, but worst of all, and probably the cause of it all, self-exaltation.
My latest attempt at reigniting my love for God has been through sermons. I’ve recently discovered the “staff picks” on Sermon Audio. Since I struggle with looking at myself too much, a sermon entitled “He Must Increase, I Decrease” slapped me up side the head. Before I talk about the sermon or the John the Baptist quotes, let me just say that you can’t always judge a sermon by its title. But in this case, you can.
Neil C. Stewart preached this sermon to ministers about putting Christ first in their lives. I’m no “minister” at the pulpit, but I am called as a husband and father to be a minister in my home.
I pretty much stink at it.
This near hour-long sermon woke something in my spirit which I hope never leaves: a renewed budding and expanding feeling of gratitude and love toward Jesus for his love. And it all comes from the example of perhaps one of the greatest preachers to ever live–John the Baptist.
Imagine his ministry of calling Israel to repentance. Everyone was going out to get baptized and prepare their hearts for God. People were changing! Then suddenly his ministry slinked into the shadows of Jesus’ ministry. Did John get upset? Not for a moment. He was fulfilling his calling and rejoiced in Jesus. He was able to give up any thoughts for his own reputation by focusing on the One who indeed deserved to receive all the glory.
I am not the Christ
John reminded his disciples of this in John 3:28, and we should remind ourselves of this as well. It’s not about you, Neil Stewart says. It’s been a long time since I applied this pithy phrase to my own self. And the biblical version is “I am not the Christ.” It seriously is not about me but about Him!
He must increase, I must decrease
Another wonderful phrase! If I’m to love God, then simply put I need to stop making it about myself. I also need to make it more about Him. One day the Lord will return. He will restore His kingdom, save His people, and punish His enemies. For those of us who like to watch war movies (or have even gone to war) and think we have a small idea of what kind of horrors happen there, we have no idea what kind of horrors people will face when the Son of God returns to pour out wrath on His enemies (John 3:36).
This is sobering. To think that I am trying to make a name for myself all the while ignoring the greatest commandment Jesus gave: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind.” (Luke 10:27)
We should make these one liners a mantra to set our gaze back on Jesus. “I am not the Christ,” and “He must increase, I must decrease.”
Here’s another link to Neil C. Stewart’s sermon–it’s well worth the listen. Here are two quotes from it also.
“Could John be saying that if we live in our ministries if it’s all about me and not about Christ, what are we doing? We’re not believing in the Son. We’re not obeying the terminus ad quem of the universe; we’re despising Christ and we are exhalting ourselves.”
“You said, ‘Lord, Lord!’ with your lips but you lived, ‘Me! Me!’ with your lives.”
–Neil C. Stewart sermon “He must increase, I decrease”