“A man can receive nothing, unless it has been given him from heaven…I am not the Christ…He must increase, but I must decrease.”1
I have always found myself reminded of this particular scripture spoken by John the Baptist in response to a discussion regarding Jesus Christ baptizing sinners and how everyone appeared to now follow Jesus and not John. Rather than take offense at this news, John offers a perspective so rarely given in this type of situation; humility.
The Greek word tapeinos (tap-i-nos’) means depressed, i.e. (figuratively) humiliated (in circumstances or disposition):--base, cast down, humble, of low degree (estate), lowly.
Based on this definition, one would think it implies a sense of shame or embarrassment but I believe the intent is much different. I don’t believe God has any desire to shame, humiliate or embarrass you through acts of humility but there are things in one’s life that humility will put to shame:
“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.”2
Everything you and I have in this life comes from God except these things cited in the above scripture.
“Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation, or shifting shadow.”3
So from a biblical standpoint, exercising humility empowers you to cast down the deeds of the flesh.
It is good then that we thank God for the gifts bestowed upon us out of our own recognition that it is not through my own strength, power and ability that they were acquired; I receive these gifts through the love, grace and goodness of Almighty God.
The Holy Spirit is helping me to understand that if I desire to move into the position of greater faith, trusting the Lord in every facet of my life:
He must increase, I must decrease.
Unfortunately for many of us, our lives are hampered because Christ doesn’t increase. We go through our life wanting more of Christ but find ourselves experiencing less. Less joy, less peace, less grace, less power, less love; we experience less when you should be experiencing more!
I believe John reveals for us a principle that connects what God gives and my ability to receive what He gives to me. It is the principle of humility; God exalts those who humble themselves before Him. Here are some examples of what is revealed in scripture regarding those who live in humility:
“…and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”4
“Because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God, when you heard His words against this place and against its inhabitants, and because you humbled yourself before Me, tore your clothes, and wept before Me, I truly have heard you, declares the Lord.”5
“O Lord, Thou hast heard the desire of the humble; Thou wilt strengthen their heart, Thou wilt incline Thine ear.”6
“My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; The humble shall hear it and rejoice.”7
“But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, ‘God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’...Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.”8
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you at the proper time…”9
In each of these verses, we are instructed to humble ourselves before God, even when the situation dictates how we should act; we must act with humility. This is what John recognized. His followers saw more and more people flocking to Jesus now and their natural response was that Jesus was taking from John. I believe that John recognized that Jesus is Lord, Lord over the baptism, Lord over repentance and forgiveness, Lord over those who follow Him, and Lord over John’s life.
In order for Jesus to be Lord of my life: He must increase, I must decrease.
By resisting the temptation to respond from where our pride and ego reside, we can move to the position of humility. More often than not, we allow our emotions to affect our behavior; this is what happened to John’s disciples. They saw all those people following Jesus and came to John seeking a response. Rather than allow his emotions to affect the will of God in his life, John yielded to humility because he recognized the superiority of Jesus.
When I experience impatience, it is the result of my emotions responding to a situation by declaring, “I’m better than this!” When humility flows through me, I am responding to the situation by acknowledging, “Christ is greater than me.” Responding this way allows God’s patience to have its perfect work in me.
As I meditate on this thought, I began to see what the Holy Spirit was enabling me to discover in my life:
That God calls me to depend upon Him in my thoughts and behavior.
I realize this is not a new revelation for many, but enough Christians don’t truly grasp this truth that it bears repeating. God empowers me with the ability to think and act by humbling myself in His presence. I do this by recognizing that, I’m always in God’s presence. God has given me a solution to every problem I face. This is the fruit God gives to the believer who humbles himself in the presence of God.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law.”10
This spiritual fruit counteracts the thoughts and behaviors I produce on my own.
In my next post, I will continue this discussion.
I acknowledge that Jesus Christ lives in me and that I choose to humble myself in your presence. I choose to cast down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of You, I will bring every one of my thoughts into submission and obedience to Christ, my Lord. I give You thanks that even now, You are giving me opportunities to demonstrate humility in my life, that I may prove what is good, acceptable and what is the will of God for me. You've given me the fruit of the Spirit and I want it to be plentiful in my life. May my life honor You in all that I think, say and do. Amen.
- John 3:27-28; 30, NASB
- Galatians 5:19-21, NASB
- James 1:17, NASB
- 2 Chronicles 7:14, NASB
- 2 Chronicles 34:27, NASB
- Psalm 10:17, NASB
- Psalm 34:2, NASB
- James 4:6; 10, NASB
- 1 Peter 5:6, NASB
- Galatians 5:22-23, NASB
- Luke 11:10, NASB
- Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, By James B. Strong, S.T.D, LL.D., Riverside Book and Bible House, Iowa Falls, Iowa 50126
- Unger's Bible Dictionary, By Merrill F. Unger, Moody Press, Chicago
- The Layman's Parallel New Testament, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, Michigan
- The Ryrie Study Bible (New American Standard Version), Edited by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Publishers, Chicago, Illinois, ISBN 0-8024-8920-6