My life verse is John 3:30 – “He must increase, but I must decrease.” The word “must” is the Greek word dei, meaning “it is necessary.” It is actually the same Greek word that Jesus used earlier in the chapter in the well-known exchange with Nicodemus. Christ declared, “Ye must (dei) be born again” (Jn.3:7). As believers, we understand the necessity of being born-again when it comes to having our sins forgiven and securing a home in heaven. But I wonder how many of us really grasp the truth that Jesus increasing in our lives is just as necessary when it comes to living a truly fruitful Christian life that is well-pleasing to God.
What exactly does it mean for Christ to increase in our lives? In a general sense, it means that He is becoming bigger, larger, greater, more prominent and preeminent to our entire being and existence every day. And if that is the case then we will be consequently decreasing. We will be denying self more and more. Whether it’s self-pleasure, or self-glory, or self-dependence, we will be telling ourselves “no” and telling Jesus “yes.” It’s what the apostle Paul was speaking of when he said, “For to me to live is Christ” (Phil.1:21). Life is from Jesus (He’s the originator), through Jesus (He’s the sustainer), and to Jesus (He’s the purpose or goal). Since this is true, then, naturally, Christ needs to be increasing in our lives.
Now, in a more specific sense, let me give you three practical ways that Jesus can increase in our lives. In other words, how can you know if you are decreasing and if Christ is increasing? For the believer who is genuinely growing in grace, these three things will be evident:
1. You Will Deal with Sin
Jesus is not going to share your hearts’ throne with any sort of sin – He can’t and He won’t! Righteousness and unrighteousness don’t mix; wickedness and holiness don’t hold hands. If Jesus is going to increase in your life, then you will have to confess and forsake any sin the Spirit of God puts His finger on. This is part of the ongoing process of sanctification; as God’s Spirit reveals what is right through His Word, you must bow to that and obey. A refusal to do so shows that self is still in control which means that Christ’s power cannot be fully manifested through your vessel.
Quick confession when the Holy Spirit reveals something to you declares that you want Jesus to increase in your life, that you desire “Nothing between my soul and the Savior”, as the old hymn writer said. Dealing with sin sometimes is unpleasant; sometimes it involves confessing things to others or making restitution. But this is absolutely necessary if you want to keep moving forward in your Christian walk. Much more could be said, but understand that Jesus increases in our lives when we stay in the habit of confessing sin as need be.
2. You Will Depend on Him
This is living by faith; if Jesus is going to increase in your life, then you must depend on Him everyday and not yourself. Four times in Scripture we find the phrase, “The just shall live by faith” (Hab.2:4, Rom.1:17, Gal.3:11, Heb.10:38). Faith is dependence on God to do for you what you could never do for yourself. It is the same response whether we’re talking about salvation or sanctification or service; we trust God to do for, in, and through us what we cannot possibly do ourselves. When we choose to trust, Jesus chooses to meet our need in that area with Himself – again, whether that’s getting to heaven, or living holy, or witnessing to someone. We are denying ourselves (our own resources and wisdom) when we are consciously aware of Christ within us and drawing upon Him. John 7:38 states, “He that believeth on me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” The word “believeth” is in the present tense. In other words, as we keep on believing (keep on exercising faith), the Spirit of God will keep flowing through us producing in us the very life of Jesus. And so, the more we choose to live by Biblical faith, the more we decrease while Jesus increases.
3. You Will Delight in Service
Again, if Jesus increases in our lives then that’s going to look like something. It’s certainly going to look like the fruit of the Spirit, because those are His qualities. But it’s also going to look like service towards others. Listen to 1 John 2:6, “He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” Jesus walked about on earth “doing good” (Acts 10:38). He came to serve others (Matt.20:28). If we are abiding in Him then we are going to do the same! One evidence of Christ increasing in your life is continual selfless acts of service. Do you spend time discipling others? Do you give money to someone who truly has a need? Do you visit those who are sick and hurting? Do you clean the church without anyone asking you to because you see a need that hasn’t been met? Do you fix up someone’s house or car if you’re able to? Do you take care baskets to the elderly folks in your neighborhood? There are countless ways to show God’s love by serving other people. If these areas are lacking in your life, it could be that self is still too much in control. Ask God to give you a fresh love and servant’s heart towards others, and watch Jesus increase in that way!
There are many other areas we could address, but these three give us a good starting point. Remember, it is absolutely necessary for Jesus to increase in our hearts if we want to hear “well-done, good and faithful servant.” This is not optional, it is not just an opinion, and it is not something to do if we get around to it. A serious Christian will be daily looking to Jesus and wanting Him to take more and more control of his life. Keep dealing with sin as the Spirit speaks to your heart, keep depending on Christ, and keep involved in service towards others. May all of us cry out everyday: Increase Jesus this my plea; more of You and less of me!