“He must become more.
I must become less.”
John the Baptist’s followers were amazed by their leader’s statement about Christ’s increasing popularity and John’s decreasing fame. “What’s wrong with him?” they wondered. “Doesn’t he realize this is bad for him?”
Deep down, their concern was about themselves, not John. “What about us?” they might have been thinking. “This is not good for US. We were disciples of the popular guy. We were up and coming, well-known. But this guy is cornering in on our market, and our résumés are suffering.”
Confession: I am so very guilty of this. Every time I submit a magazine/Web article or post a blog, there is at least a hint of selfishness. Underneath the good desires (I hope others are encouraged by my journey; I hope my work honors God) are seedier ones. Will people like it? Will this make me better known? Will this lead to bigger writing assignments and opportunities?
I long for completely pure motives, but I know that on earth I’m simply not capable of them. My old nature will always taint my motives, and I have to constantly face this truth. I recognize the selfish motive, acknowledge it to God in confession, ask for His help, and move on–until selfishness creeps in again. It’s a never-ending battle.
At times I get tired of it, sometimes so tired I want to give up: I want to stop submitting, stop posting.
But I feel called to persist, and John the Baptist’s words encourage me to keep fighting. John said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” He didn’t say, “He’s great; I’m not. That’s it.” A process is implied in his statement. The Amplified version adds these words: “He must grow more prominent; I must grow less so.”
Now I know John the Baptist was a prophet. I know there is a prophetic sense to these words: they are referring to Jesus being lifted up as the Savior of the world and of John being seen as Christ’s servant, His herald. Perhaps John wasn’t speaking about a heart process at all but merely the actual events that were about to take place. He may very well have been so in tune with God’s plan that he wasn’t referring to his own selfishness at all.
But when I say them, that’s exactly what I’m referring to. I’m a lot more like John’s followers than I am like John. Though I know and understand more and more the overwhelming majesty and greatness of Christ, the reality is that I lose that viewpoint all the time; I feel that I should be the center of attention. THAT’S my battle, and the process hinted at in John’s statement encourages me to keep fighting it: “Christ must grow more prominent. I must grow less so.”
So I can GROW in decreasing (that’s a cool paradox). Exalting Christ can become greater and greater in my motivations. I can become less and less. Like Paul learned contentment, I can learn this.
I have a personal teacher who helps me with this very difficult lesson. In Colossians 1, Paul tells the believers at Colossae he continually prays that God will fill them with the knowledge of His will through the wisdom and understanding the Spirit gives so (they) may live lives worthy of the Lord, please Him in every way, and bear fruit.
I know God’s will for me as a writer; it is for HIM to be exalted through my writing.
And the Spirit, my teacher, is not only able to sanctify my motives, the Spirit is also fully capable of using my writing to exalt God at the same time!
The Spirit will enable me to please God with my pen and keyboard, to bear fruit through my words,
AND to “live worthy” as a writer.
Now THAT is Good News!
*Here are a couple of stanzas from the hymn “Holy Spirit, Truth Divine” by Samuel Longfellow (brother of the famous Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) that perfectly express the ideas in this post (and in far fewer words—oh, to be a poet).
Holy Spirit, Truth divine,
Dawn upon this soul of mine;
Word of God and inward light,
Wake my spirit, clear my sight.
Holy Spirit, Love divine,
Glow within this heart of mine;
Kindle every high desire;
Perish self in thy pure fire.