A Bible study through John 1-6
Have you see the above symbol as a bumper sticker on a car or adorning someone’s cap? I remember when I first saw it over five years ago and thought it was some weird rock band symbol or something. However, when I finally found out what it stood for, I’ve loved it ever since
HE>i = He is greater than I
It serves as a constant reminder of the daily decision we must make to humble ourselves so that Christ may be magnified in our lives. It puts into four simple symbols John the Baptist’s succinct but powerful declaration that “He must increase, but I must decrease.” John made this statement when one of his followers noted how Jesus was attracting more followers and taking some of John’s disciples as well. So he asked what John felt about this after so many years of successful ministry. John’s answer was filled with humility and one that would rarely be heard among church leaders in America today. We would do well to learn from John’s example of humble leadership and pursuit of God’s kingdom above personal success.
“You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.”
I love how John uses the image of a wedding and how the friends of the bride and groom do not stand in jealousy at their happiness but rejoice with them. Having just been in a beautiful, Christian wedding of a dear friend this past weekend, this concept is experiential and fresh in my mind. As I stood up on stage watching the radiant bride walk towards her smiling groom, there was not one ounce of jealousy or competition, just pure joy. I was so happy and excited for both of them and felt the completeness of joy as they joined their lives together in the beautiful covenant of marriage.
This is what our attitude should be towards the growth of the church and building of God’s kingdom. We should not be competing against one another or vying for personal growth in our specific ministries. Rather, we must view the church as Christ’s bride and rejoice with the Bridegroom as He grows and builds up His kingdom here on earth. If we correctly understand this concept, we can be like John who rejoiced and felt his joy become complete as his disciples left his ministry and started following Jesus. Truly, John the Baptist lived out what he preached!
But what about us? Do we possess the humility to allow our own personal ministries to diminish as long as the kingdom of God grows as God intends? Do we rejoice in the success and growth of other Christian groups, ministries, or influences? Or are we self-centered and missing the point that we’re all part of a bigger story that’s not about us, but all centered around Jesus Christ? Can we honestly say as John did that as more people follow Jesus—no matter how they come to Christ or where they fellowship—our joy is complete?
The church is Christ’s Bride. The kingdom we are invited into is Christ’s. The ministries we have the opportunity to serve in are Christ’s. Nothing in this life and world is for our own benefit or glory. It’s all meant to point to and exalt the One who gave His life to save the world. Therefore, let’s take our eyes off ourselves and focus them on Christ, rejoicing with Him as He watches His bride grow and become all that He intended her to be. And may we daily resolve to abide by and live out this simple declaration: