Wednesday, February 19, 2014

More of Him, Less of Me

"John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.
Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before Him.
He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.
He must increase, but I must decrease."
John 3:27-30
(KJV)



I am so deeply challenged every, single time I read these verses.
Upon first sight, I see this situation through only human, self-seeking eyes.
Looking at it this way, I feel such an overwhelming sense of pity for John the Baptist.

But, should I feel this way?

John's whole, entire life was never about him.
He spent years in obscurity and solitude preparing for a small window of time
in which he would preach and "prepare the way of the Lord".
Then, quickly and violently, his life would be snuffed out....in an instant....
without warning....all due to the whim of a sinister, plotting, evil-minded woman
whose wrath toward him was all rooted in the fact that he spoke the truth concerning her sinful ways.

To our knowledge, he never married.
He never experienced the joy of having his own children.
He never got the amazing opportunity of knowing how it feels to have a family of his very own.

His very purpose was weighty....
entirely necessary....
vitally important.
His job could not have been more significant.

Yet, he was never the main point.

And the most impressive thing about him...to me....is this....

he knew it.

He accepted it.

He didn't try to be someone other than who God intended him to be.

He didn't feel cheated.

He didn't go into a selfish, self-pitying state when Jesus arrived on the scene
and all glory and honor and attention went directly to Him.
He didn't sulk and walk away when Jesus began to draw all men to Himself,
and his own disciples began to lean Jesus' way.
After all, this is the very thing that was supposed to happen.
The focus was never intended to stay on John.
His moment in the sun would be short-lived,
and the minute his purpose was fulfilled,
he was to quietly secede into the shadows....
behind Jesus.

Jesus and John had a lot in common.

Jesus was John's cousin, remember?
They were related by blood.
There was a familial bond between them.
They were born only six months apart.
It took a Divine intervention miracle in the womb of each of their mothers
in order for them to be conceived.
John's parents were old when God chose to open his mother's womb 
and allow her to conceive and carry him full-term.

Jesus' mother was a virgin.
She had never had physical relations with a man.
It was virtually and entirely impossible for her to conceive a child...
until the Holy Spirit of God overshadowed her body and placed the seed,
which would become Jesus Christ, our Messiah, within her womb.

John knew that he was not the main point.
He always lived with the reality of that.
At what age did God reveal this to him?
We do not know.

But, by the time his ministry began, he was thoroughly convinced.
He knew his place, and he stayed within it.

I am touched every time I read the 29th verse.
For sake of clarity, I want to include a couple other versions here.

"He who has the bride is the bridegroom; 
and the bridegroom's friend who stands by his side and listens to him, 
rejoices heartily on account of the bridegroom's happiness. 
Therefore this joy of mine is now complete."
Weymouth
"It is the bridegroom who gets the bride, 
yet the bridegroom's friend, who merely stands by and listens for him, 
is overjoyed to hear the bridegroom's voice. 
 That's why this joy of mine is now complete."
ISV

Isn't that amazing?
This was John's perspective.
He truly wanted the very best in the world for Jesus,
and he knew his place was to stand by and rejoice with all his heart to watch Him shine.
It was enough for him to know that Jesus received all glory.
He knew Who deserved it,
and it was the thrill of his heart to give it to Him.
It was enough to realize that his mission had been accomplished,
that his scene had been acted out,
and it was time to step aside and allow the next scene to happen....
without him in it.

What would happen in our lives if you and I would live our daily lives 
operating fully and continually under the mindset of John the Baptist?
If we would truly realize....and fully accept....
that none of this is about us.
That it doesn't matter how it is affecting us.
That God is the only One Who ever deserves the glory.
That we are here to fulfill the Divine purpose He has designed for our lives,
and that in order for that to happen, we must step out of His way.

I SO want to get this.
I think it is one of the most important things we could ever learn
and also one of the strongest messages God has been endeavoring 
to get through to me during these afflictions of late.

He is stripping the pride off....layer by layer.
He is showing me that it is proud and presumptuous of me to lean unto my own understanding,
instead of trusting in His with all my heart.
It is proud and presumptuous of me to give one thought to how things are making me look,
how they are putting me out,
how they are forcing me from my comfort zone,
because none of this is in any way about me.
It is proud and presumptuous of me to think it is me who is doing anything,
because it is in Him that I live and move and have my being. (Acts 17:28).

I never thought of pride in this way before.
I always thought pride was manifested in other ways,
but I am learning that pride takes on many forms....
sometimes very sneaky, hidden, and surprising ones....
ones that are buried deep within the human spirit...
ones that will trip us up and hinder us from being all God wants us to be.

John the Baptist set the example by realizing his place,
accepting it,
and staying in it.
When it was time for him to step aside, he did so...
with an enormous amount of grace and surrender to God's bigger plan.


He stepped aside...humbly and meekly...and watched from a distance,
as Jesus took the stage...front and center.

I will forever be challenged by his words....
"He must increase, but I must decrease."

How did he reach that level of consecration?
How did he get to the place where it was just completely natural for him to understand
and accept the fact that Jesus was, and should always be, the main focus?

It is easy for us to say these words....they kind of just roll effortlessly off the tongue.
They have a very pretty ring to them.
Saying them makes us feel "holier" and somehow more spiritual.

He must increase, but I must decrease.

But do we really realize what this means?
As John did?

Jesus told His disciples in John 15:5,
"without Me ye can do nothing."
Nothing.
John knew this.
He recognized the fact that had it not been for Jesus coming into the world,
his life would have been empty....pointless....without direction.
There would have been no Messiah to go before and prepare the way.
There would have been no reason...no purpose....for his existence.
Would God have even opened the womb of his elderly mother and permitted him to be conceived?
Had he not been designed to fulfill this amazing role?

You and I were created for God's pleasure.
For His glory.
To live lives that will bring the very most exaltation possible to Him.
The Apostle Paul summed this up very precisely in Ephesians 2:10.
"For we are His workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus unto good works,
which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."

This life that we live, day by day, moment by moment,
is not about us.
We are "created in Christ Jesus unto good works"...

for the sole objective of serving our Creator.

We were not born to live selfishly.
God did not open our mother's womb without Divine purpose.
We are not where we are merely to stumble through each day, seeking our own interests,
trying to survive with no real reason for living.

God, help us to grasp this!
I am trying so hard to.
I must decrease, so He may increase.
There must be less of Cheryl, so there can more of Jesus.
Making this happen requires self-denial...
a humbling....
a stepping aside...
just like John was willing to do.
I am not my own.
Neither are you.
"For ye are bought with a price:
therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."
I Corinthians 6:20

John got this.
He knew his place.
He totally embraced it.

The other day, Zach and I were in a position of waiting in the car for a very long time.
While we did, we began to talk.
It was Divinely appointed.
I just know it.

We talked about a situation I went through several months ago that humbled me dramatically.
In the time that led up to it, I had approached it with such a spirit of fear,
and looking back, I can see how the enemy used that fear against me.
When it first transpired, it was hard...on my pride....
not that I realized that was what was hurting at the moment.
I never really understood the purpose for the humbling, until the other day in the car, as Zachary and I talked.
I finally came to realize and understand the lesson God was trying to teach.
From this point of hindsight,
I can see how much I needed to walk through that.
It was good for me.
And though I would not, in any way, want to repeat it,
I will never forget what I learned.
It has helped me, and for that, I am very grateful.

Little Mr. Wisdom began to speak.

"Mama, fear is a three-part process.
Did you know that?"

"What do you mean, Zach?
Explain."

"Okay, it is like this.
Fear starts out.
You are afraid.
You don't think you can do something, but you know you have to do it.
This leads to the next step, called pride.
Something rises up within you and you are bound and determined that you will do it.
You decide that you will not fail.
You decide that you can do this without anyone's help.
Which leads into the third phase, called temptation.
Temptation makes us take matters into our own hands and act.
We put all kinds of precautions into place, to make sure that we will not fail.
We lean to our own understanding.
We decide that just in case God doesn't help us, we will already have these safety nets in place,
so we will catch our own selves, if we fall."

I sat there....dumbfounded....speechless....trying to grasp the depths of Zach's words.
God uses this child so many times to clarify and sustain me.
I am amazed at the power of God that works through him
and the way God fills his mouth with messages for me...directly from Heaven.

He had just sat there, across the car from me,
and totally, completely, and entirely unraveled the mystery.
It was so plain.
He was exactly right.
Directly on target.
This is exactly what had happened in my humbling situation.

Bless his little heart, he was there...through it all.
He saw my struggles...my efforts....my tears....my fear....ahead of time.
He watched as my fear went into pride mode and my determination to get things right.
Then he watched temptation knock on my door,
he saw me open it and follow it right into the realm of over-rehearsal,
over-preparation, over-creating and reinforcing safety nets to the point that I became self-reliant....
which is never, ever, ever a good thing.

Oh, how often we follow this process!
When God wants total surrender.
Total trust.
Total relinquishment of self.

God is all-sufficient.
He is all-powerful.

He must increase, we must decrease.
Part of that process means letting go of our own safety nets.
It means turning away from our own understanding and relying solely upon His.
It means letting go of the reins and turning them entirely over to Him.
It means cutting loose of the shore line and launching out into the deep.
It means falling back into His arms, when we can no longer touch bottom.
It means allowing Him to completely and absolutely take over every, single thing about us.
It means surrendering self....totally and entirely....to His command.
It means acknowledging our own inability and realizing we can do nothing at all apart from Him.
It means taking every morsel of the limelight off of ourselves and pointing it all upon Him.
It means stepping out of His way and allowing Him full access to do whatever He desires to do.
It means full and complete relinquishment of every ounce of control.
It means wanting with all of our hearts for Him to receive every shred of the glory.

When I think of John the Baptist, I think of a humble man.
One who was truly "over" himself.
One who did not esteem himself more highly than he should.
One who knew that every part of his purpose had to do with promoting Christ.
One who laid aside every personal, selfish ambition to make sure the world knew who Jesus was.

I long to be like that.
I often pray for God to help me.
I want my very sincerest desire to be that God is glorified in and through my life.
I want the focus to be on Him and Him alone.

I am often impressed by the words of a dear, humble pastor whose ministry is a true blessing to me.
In his prayer, before every sermon,
before he has even begun to preach,
he faithfully prays these words,
"Hide me behind the old, rugged cross."

His words challenge me every time I hear them.
How could it possibly be better or more eloquently requested?


Hidden behind JESUS...
and His old, rugged cross!
Could there be any sweeter way to live?


12 comments:

  1. No sweeter place to live Cheryl! Loved this! Blessings friend. ♥

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    1. Thank you so much, dear Nannette! You are such a dear blessing to me! How I thank God for allowing our paths to cross. He surely knows who and what we need. Love you, dear sister!

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  2. I enjoyed your inspiring post and the encouragement to look at John's attitude and his work alongside Jesus. I so want to get this also. We are here to honor and glorify our Lord.

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    1. YES, amen! So happy you stopped by today...it was such a blessing to meet you! Love, Cheryl

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  3. It must never be about "ME," but always about Jesus! John knew who he was and also knew who Jesus was. It was revealed to him. Thank you for sharing with us here at "Tell Me a Story."

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    1. So true, Hazel! Thank you for stopping by! Love, Cheryl

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  4. Great post, as always! Thanks for pointing us to Jesus!

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    1. Thanks so much for stopping by today and leaving encouragement behind! I so appreciate your kind words....thank you, sweet friend! Love, Cheryl

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  5. John's attitude is truly something we should imitate! Thanks for linking this up with the Faith and Fellowship Blog Hop!

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    1. Thanks for the link-up, Susannah! Love, Cheryl

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  6. Good word!
    Thanks for linking up with Woman to Woman's Word Filled Wednesday! God bless!

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