He Must Increase, I Must Decrease

He Must Increase, I Must Decrease

He Must Increase, But I Must Decrease 


  • “Pray dangerous prayers.”
    • Patience, endurance, greater faith, constant sense of your abiding presence, etc. 
    • Are we ready for God to answer those prayers? 
    • Process before the prize (James 1:2-3). 
  • Dangerous prayer: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
    • God’s answer to John’s prayer? He was imprisoned, beheaded, and humiliated. 
    • No doubt everyone here want’s Jesus to increase—but are you ready for that prayer to be answered? 
  • Does that mean that desiring God to be increased, means a sentence of misery and loss? Does my desire for happiness and fulfillment have to be sacrificed for the sake of God’s glory? 
  • Does God’s glorification always come at the expense of my satisfaction? 

The Necessity of Jesus’ Exaltation 

  • Interesting that this text begins with an argument (v. 25). 
    • Spurns John’s disciples to come to John, “Why is everyone leaving you and going to Jesus?” (v. 26). 
    • Followers seem defensive: He was with you—not the other way around. You bore witness to him; you baptized him, he didn’t baptize you. 
    • The group is getting smaller, they’re going to the new teacher down the road; followers perspective is that this doesn’t make sense. 
    • Embarrassing—if your baptism is so good, why are they going to Jesus? 
  • In response John informs them that this isn’t happening by accident: this is how its supposed to be. 
    • This is the edict of heaven (v. 27, 6:37). 
    • This is the fulfillment of his own personal testimony (v. 28). 
    • The is the bridegroom’s time (v. 29). 
    • Because of this: he must increase, but I must decrease (v. 30). 
  • John view’s Jesus exaltation as an absolute necessity that is built upon his own humiliation. 
    • These two truths are inseparable: the increase of Jesus results in the decrease of John. 
    • For one to happen, the other must occur; two realities dependent on each other: in order for people to know Jesus they have to forget about John. 
    • Again: are we ready for God to answer this prayer? For in order to Jesus to increase in our lives we must decrease—and that is absolutely agonizing. 
  • We want Jesus to magnify his worth through our success and esteem, not our failure—yet, in reality, often the only way God can magnify his worth to us and the world is through trail, struggle, and difficulty. 
    • 2 Corinthians 1:8-10: 
      • “So utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself…we felt that we had received a sentence of death”—ever felt that way?
      • Paul sees a purpose in this suffering: “But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but God who raises the dead.” 
      • God’s ultimate goal for Paul wasn’t to be comfortable. God’s ultimate purpose for Paul wasn’t to never have heart ache and despair—God’s ultimate purpose for Paul was that he become absolutely dependent on the power and sufficiency of God. 
        • And the only way he could do that was to lay him bare on the altar of sacrifice; to absolutely break his will to find any sufficiency in this life. 
        • To bring Paul to where he says as the Psalmist, “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25). 
      • In order for a radical hope in God’s power to increase in the heart of Paul, there had to be an immense decrease in Paul’s self-reliance. 
    • 2 Cor. 12:8-10
      • Paul is pleading for relief from some chronic bodily ailment that makes him physically weak. 
        • The agony and heartache this gives him is seen in the fervency and frequency of the request. 
        • Jesus answer is “No”—but “No” for a purpose: because through your weak and broken body I can magnify the sufficiency of my grace and power. 
        • Would that answer satisfy you in a similar situation? 
      • Paul doesn’t say, “But Jesus”—no he boasts in this truth, coming to this radical conclusion: when I am weak, then I am strong. 
        • Sound similar to another verse American Christianity has absolutely abused: Phil. 4:13. 
        • Paul isn’t saying He is going to give you strength to run for a touchdown on Super Bowl Sunday so that you look good. 
        • He is saying he shows his strength and grace through the crippled man with MS who comes to worship every chance he gets. Or the blind woman at the nursing home who knits blankets for newborns. Or the prisoner who is sharing the freedom of Christ behind bars. 
        • He empties us of our strength, so that He can fill us with reliance upon him so that His name is magnified and not our own. 
    • He must increase. But in order for that to happen, we must decrease. 
  • But, does this mean that we are just consigned to a bitter existence in which we are forsaking our own happiness and fulfillment? 

The Joy in my Humiliation 

  • Contrast between John and his disciples: they are worried, John is rejoicing (v. 29). 
    • There is no somber spirit, not self-pity, but a man whose joy is absolutely overflowing in unbridled enthusiasm that he being completely forgotten. 
    • How is possible that such joy can be experienced when everything he has worked for is vanishing?
  • John gives the answer in v. 29. 
    • John is just the best man; when the groom comes in, the spotlight is on him. 
    • But notice something: he focuses on the “voice” of the groom. 
      • Before this point, John identified himself—and has been identified before he was born—as the “voice crying in the wilderness, preparing the way of the Lord.” 
      • But now, another voice is here, and John’s voice is growing silent and being forgotten—His entire identity is fading away. And he is rejoicing. How? 
    • Because he absolutely in love with the groom. 
      • This type of joy in willing humiliation only comes from a deep love for Jesus. 
      • He knows that this is the moment they’ve all been waiting for. This is about Him, not the best man standing in the shadows. 
      • John takes joy in his humiliation because Christ is already exalted in his heart (Luke 3:16). 
  • Also: This joy—I am convinced—can be experienced because John knows that what is now happening is far greater than him.
    • Whatever temporary happiness John may have received from trying to keep his following, by exalting himself, by making a name for himself, is nothing compared to the joy that will come from what is happening now with Jesus and his people. 
    • The eyes of faith look beyond the current passing moment of pride, selfishness, selfish ambition, self-exaltation and look for a greater joy that is coming through our willing humiliation for the cause of Christ (Heb. 10:34). 
    • What this means then is that God is not wanting you to exalt Jesus at the expense of your joy, but to magnify Him so as to complete your joy. 
    • Phil. 1:20-21
  • In this realization—that my number one aim is the magnification of Jesus Christ for the completion of my joy—there is a great freedom which transforms us. 

The Freedom of this Transformation 

  • Notice the connection between v. 26 and v. 35: all are going to him…The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. 
    • His disciples are concerned that John is losing everything, and John’s response is: none of it was ever mine. 
    • And again, there is this deep sigh of satisfaction, like the best man watching his best friend run through the waiting crowd with his bride as the photos are taken and the rice is thrown. 
  • There is a blessed freedom in realizing that this life isn’t about me. 
    • That is isn’t about my success or notoriety; that it isn’t about my personal achievements of passing pleasure; that isn’t even about my pride/shame and what people say or think about me. 
    • That its ok if Jacob’s name is forgotten; its ok if Jacob’s name is derided and scorned; its ok if Jacob is racked with constant chronic pain; its if Jacob’s dreams aren’t fulfilled; its ok if Jacob’s hopes aren’t realized. 
    • Because it isn’t about Jacob—its about him and his exhalation through my humiliation—and in this I discover absolute, satisfactory joy. 


  • By no accident that we live in the most self-obsessed generation, and yet is one with most highly dissatisfied and depressed generations we’ve seen. 
  • I am  convinced that self exaltation eventually leads to self-loathing. The higher the pedestal, the greater the clarity of your sins. 
  • Yet, within the new birth (which discussion happens right before this) we are given a new desire (v. 21): that, through us, God’s work and worth will be magnified. 
  • That is something to pray about—are we ready for God to answer?