“He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:29–30
There’s an old hymn that I love that we don’t often sing called, “O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go”. Each verse of the hymn speaks to some aspect of who God is to us and our relationship or response to him. The second verse in particular has always stood out to me. Somehow the imagery and the message of the verse just speaks to my heart. They also touch on the reality that John the Baptist is dealing with as his ministry winds towards its conclusion and Jesus’ ministry begins to grow.
Here’s verse two: “O Light, that followest all my way, I yield my flickering torch to Thee; my heart restores its borrowed ray, that in Thy sunshine’s blaze its day may brighter, fairer be.”
Notice how the commitment of the prayer is to surrender what little light we have to the blazing light of the savior that his light and glory may be even greater. Our glory is to make Jesus even more glorious.
This can be a hard adjustment for the sinful heart to make. John’s disciples had difficulty with the adjustment. They were jealous for their master and one can surmise that they felt their own importance diminishing as the people’s attention was drawn from him to Jesus.
“Rabbi, He who was with you beyond the Jordan … He is baptizing, and all are coming to Him!”
John’s reply was that he was like the friend of the bridegroom. He was happy to do his part and then to let all the attention pass to the groom and his bride. And then he says those words that he’s most famous for saying, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”
The apostle Paul, when he wrote his first letter to the Corinthians, would make a similar point by quoting the prophet Jeremiah, “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.”
Friends, John knew, and every great man of God has known, that as we live our glory is most glorious when it is employed to add to the surpassing glory of Jesus.
To be sure, Jesus doesn’t need us to add to his glory. All that he’s already done has been of such a character and magnitude that it’s glory will only continue to expand and grow as we grow in our understanding of it, but as children of God we’re beginning to understand that our greatest joy, our purest and highest purpose is to add to the honor and glory of our Savior, Lord, and God.
“He must increase, but I must decrease,” is a hard lesson for the sinful heart to accept. Only a heart humbly surrendered to Jesus and converted to the Spirit can begin that journey. But I promise you that there’s no greater joy that seeing Christ glory grow. Like it or not our glory will fade and pass away but His glory will abide and grow forever.