We’re all familiar with the concept of dieting. It’s when you recognize that you’re not where you want to be (in terms of weight). You declare to yourself, “I must decrease,” and you proceed to identify types of food — things that you normally like to eat — that you will stay away from such that you can achieve the goal of improving your overall appearance and health. Nobody likes to do it — we often crave what we know we shouldn’t be eating — so it takes real determination and focus on the goal in order to succeed.
(A few years ago, my wife and I decided we would diet together. By the time we were done, we had lost a combined 26 pounds! OK, she lost 25 pounds and I lost 1 but enough about that).
After their first Passover together, Jesus and His disciples begin their ministry in earnest, preaching repentance and baptism to all who will listen. And many do heed the call and are baptized.
Meanwhile, at another location not far away, John the Baptist is also preaching repentance and baptism (as he had been doing for quite some time) and he is also baptizing people such that his number of followers is growing as well.
At this point, John could choose to take pride in the size of his flock. He could continue to try to grow his group, perhaps even competing with Jesus and His disciples for converts such that John could have the “largest branch in the Church.” Some of the people even egg him on, saying Hey, that Jesus “to whom THOU barest witness, behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to HIM” (John 3:26). In other words, “You got him started, and now his group is growing bigger than yours.”
John, however, refuses to be caught up in pride. He reminds the people, “I am not the Christ… [I am His] friend which standeth and heareth him…[in] this my joy therefore is fulfilled” (John 3:28-29).
And, he goes a step further. Seeing that his growing fame and expanding number of followers could easily lead to an unhealthy level of pride, and recognizing that Jesus is the one who has to be promoted to all mankind, John makes the profound statement:
“He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)
You could say that John is going on an “I must decrease” diet (from a spiritual perspective).
He has identified that the growth of his own personal flock is potentially unhealthy to the body of Christ. So, he is willing to reduce the size of his flock, encouraging the people to leave him and follow Jesus. It’s not necessarily an easy thing to do — our human spirit craves attention, importance, success, etc. — but John is willing to cut these out of his “diet” in order to improve the health of the body of Christ.
Are there things that we can decrease within ourselves today that will improve our own spiritual health and thereby contribute to the improved health of the body of Christ? Here are some things you may want to consider decreasing as part of your own “I must decrease” diet:
Pride: How often are our thoughts and actions aimed at increasing our own personal image or importance as opposed to pointing people toward Christ? Redirecting praise that comes our way such that it is praise to the Lord will help us to decrease our own personal craving for praise while providing an example to others of what the Lord can do.
Self-Centeredness: How much of our time, money, and creativity are used for spiritual activities (including helping others) as compared to how much is spent on ourselves? Any shift in this balance (increasing the first and decreasing the second) is a step in the right direction.
Disunity: What causes disunity in the Church? In general, it happens when we form sub-groups within the Church that compete with other sub-groups in the Church, forgetting for the moment that the enemy is actually the devil, not each other. John the Baptist recognized this in the verses above, which is why he made sure that his followers understood who their allegiance should be toward. Decreasing our allegiance to sub-groups that divide the Church and increasing our allegiance to The Church of Jesus Christ as a whole will surely help the Church be successful in its mission.
Anytime that we can decrease something in our lives that benefits the cause of Christ, it’s something that’s worth considering. Less of me and more of Him is the attitude that the Lord wants us to have.
Try the “I Must Decrease” diet — you won’t lose any weight, but you may help gain a kingdom!
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.