“You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:28-30
John the Baptist, with much joy, gave testimony to the fact that Jesus was the Savior and the long awaited Messiah of Israel. He concluded his witness in the passage above by making an astonishingly humble statement that is so counter cultural even in Christian circles in our age of narcissism: “He (Jesus) must increase, but I (John) must decrease.”
My hope and prayer this Lenten season is that Jesus must increase and we must decrease. He increases and we decrease when we obey, praise, honor and proclaim him.
We decrease and He increases when we spend more time with Him daily in reading the Bible and praying; in church and outside of church listening to His Word and worshiping Him in Spirit and truth.
We decrease and He increases when we admit our guilt when we are confronted by the Word of God instead of resorting to blaming others, anger, rationalization, self-justification, and self-adulation. It is important to allow a godly sense of guilt to do its work which is to convict us of our sins and lead us to repentance and amendment of life.
We decrease and He increases when we surrender to Him as our one and only King, when we abandon all other “kings” and follow Christ our King. Do not deceive yourselves into thinking you have no other “kings” in your life that daily try to edge Jesus out of being your only love and King. Everyday we are bombarded by the lesser kings of self-love, the feeling of “I have got this”, and the self-deceiving belief that “no one should correct me because I am morally fine” in addition to other well-known kings of fear, unbelief, sex, pleasuremania, power, gossip, lying, manipulative behaviors, deceit, and materialism, etc.
This Lent is a great opportunity to turn in these false and oppressive kings and let Jesus reign over the totality of your life. When we surrender, He fills us with humility, love, joy, peace, hope, and mind-boggling heavenly awe of Him that renders the clamoring and siren calls of other kings totally inept and unattractive. Brothers and sisters, we must decrease so that Jesus may increase in our lives and in the world. He must be valued above everything, everybody else in our lives and above our own selves. As St. Augustine rightly said, “Jesus Christ is not valued at all until He is valued above all.”
In practical terms, set time aside this Lent for prayer and fasting. Pray that God will forgive you your sins and bring power and blessings into your life and the lives of others. In addition to your bible reading of at least one chapter a day, read through the 39 Articles of Religion, one Article a day and you will finish the Articles before the 40 days of Lent are over. In fact, you have one extra day to go to your favorite beach or your secret ice cream place and be happy without feeling guilty! More importantly, you will discover how gracious and glorious our Lord Jesus Christ is indeed.
I now invite you to cast yourself on God in full surrender so that you may decrease and Christ might increase in you and fill you with the fullness of His joy and blessing. This is the only way we will become His powerful and grace-filled witnesses in the world.
The Rt. Rev’d Dr. Felix Orji, OSB
Bishop | Anglican Diocese of CANA West