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Food for Thought - Musings

Lessons from John the Baptist

One of the verses that I have carried within me over the years comes from the lips of John the Baptist. The words are found in John 3:30 where John the Baptist states: I must decrease and He [Jesus] must increase. This verse challenged me to not think more highly of myself than I ought, and to remember that I am neither Lord nor Savior of myself or anyone else.

As I recently read through the verses prior to John 3:30 I discovered something equally as challenging. These verses showed me that in his statement in John 3:30, he was not merely acquiescing to an obvious reality that he could no longer ignore, nor were his words, “I must decrease” spoken with regret or a longing to return to his former days of glory. No, there was more going on than that. The preceding verses give us a glimpse into the condition of John the Baptist’s heart. As I read verses 25-29 of John Chapter 3, my admiration for John the Baptist grew, as did my conviction of my need to examine my own heart. The scene described in the passage is this:

John’s disciples are upset that a newcomer, Jesus, is baptizing people and that the crowds that once followed their beloved John are now following Jesus. John’s disciples are incensed by this turn of events and voice their feeling of injustice and anger to John the Baptist. His disciples are providing John with the perfect opportunity to vent, to declare, “You are right, this is not fair”, or “I can’t believe this is happening after I have been faithful all these years”…or some other negative or even disparaging remark. But John the Baptist takes the road less traveled, showing us the condition of his heart in the process and his level of trust in God. John the Baptist responds:

1. “A person cannot receive anything unless it is given them from heaven.” Here John affirms his belief and trust in the power and wisdom of God. He is saying God is in control and that if this is what God wants then this is what he (John) wants. John the Baptist is yielded and submitted to the will of God. In essence he is saying not my will but God’s will be done.

2. “You know I have told you before, I am not the Christ but I have been sent ahead of him.” John knew who he was and, more importantly, he knew who was not, and in fact communicated this to others. John the Baptist did not belittle his ministry or himself. He was self-aware and able to hold and embrace all that he was and was not - without self-condemnation or the temptation toward self-aggrandizement.

3. “He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. So this joy of mine has been made full.” Here we see that John not only trusts God, owns who he is and is not, but John also rejoices in the way God is using Jesus. John was not threaten by Jesus but able to celebrate what God was doing in and through Jesus.

4. “I must decrease and He (Jesus) must increase.” John knew it was time to get out of the way and begin to support and applaud what God was doing in and through Jesus. So he did!

Now take the John the Baptist heart exam. Use the questions below to determine the condition of your heart. The goal is not self-condemnation but self-awareness. This is an exercise about discovering and observing, NOT judging.

1. Can you trust God even when another seems to be prospering (career, possessions, investments…) more than you? If yes, what heart attitudes help you do this? If no, what heart attitudes hinder you from being able to do this? Share this with God. When is saying yes to God’s will most difficult? Why? What does this tell you about your heart, the level of your trust in the wisdom, goodness and love of God? Share all this with Jesus.

2. What is the calling and giftedness that God has graced you with? What are the limitations that you have? Can you own and embrace who you are and who you are not with gratitude, or do you experience it with regret? If you can embrace all you are and are not with gratitude, what heart attitudes help you do this? If you do so with regret, what heart attitudes hinder you from being grateful to God for how God has created you? Share this with God. When is having gratitude most difficult for you? Why? What does this tell you about your heart, the level of your trust in the wisdom, goodness and love of God? Share all this with Jesus.

3. Are you able to find joy in the success and blessing of others even as your success seems to be decreasing? ? If yes, what heart attitudes help you do this? If no, what heart attitudes hinder you from being able to do this? Share this with God. What does this tell you about your heart, the level of your trust in the wisdom, goodness and love of God? Share all this with Jesus.

4. Are you willing to decrease if that will help others to more fully embrace their calling? If yes, what heart attitudes help you do this? If no, what heart attitudes hinder you from being able to do this? What does this tell you about your heart, the level of your trust in the wisdom, goodness and love of God? Share all this with Jesus.


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