Dethroning Christian Myths: He Must Increase, But I Must Decrease

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Dethroning Christian Myths: He Must Increase But I Must Decrease by Jamie Rohrbaugh | Blog

I saw a photo that was being shared on Facebook the other day that said, “Lord, empty me of me, so I can be filled with you.” This is based on John the Baptist’s words, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Sounds great, doesn’t it? Too bad it’s not Biblical.

Whoaaa. Every really spiritual reader just did a double-take. 🙂

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    Yes, I know, saying that the statement above is not Biblical is rather inflammatory. But I’m about to prove it to you from the heart and Word of God, and I think you’re going to like it. The new perspective is going to rock your world and draw you closer to your Heavenly Father than ever before. Are you ready?

    Background for “He must increase, but I must decrease”:

    The phrase “He must increase, but I must decrease” comes from John 3:27-36. In this passage, John the Baptist is talking with his own disciples and some Jews about the Law. They had been arguing about ritual purification, and they came to John to settle their argument. John took the opportunity to explain to them that things were changing.

    He explained that he (John) was not the Christ, but that Jesus had arrived from Heaven. He talked of the new day that was upon them; about the transition from the Law to the Kingdom. John was the last prophet under the Law. But Jesus ushered in the Kingdom, which is based on true relationship with God by grace.

    So when John said “He must increase, but I must decrease,” he was talking about the fact that the Law was being fulfilled, and the new day of the Jesus’ Kingdom was dawning.

    But Christians have taken these seven words and turned them into a mantra with a completely different meaning.

    When Christians say “He must increase, but I must decrease,” they don’t mean “I represent the Law and Jesus represents the Kingdom; my time is over and Jesus’ time is here.”


    When Christians say it today, they are taking it completely out of context. What they really mean is:

    Start-quoteLord, get rid of everything that’s me, because I believe You can only be glorified in me if I don’t really exist. If You can just get rid of me, then You will somehow be able to glorify Yourself in me.”

    And we say that with the best intentions, and God knows our hearts when we do.

    But the problem is that it has never been God’s dream to kill you.

    It’s true that God wants your old, unregenerate self to be killed off, and He has already done that work. If you have been saved from sin by faith in Christ Jesus, your unregenerate self is already dead. Second Corinthians 5:17 tells us: 

    Start-quoteTherefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” 

    This “new creation” is a totally new creature; something that has never existed before. In Christ, you have become a new man.

    And now, as a new creation in Christ Jesus, you have sanctified goals, dreams, and desires. You have spiritual gifts, a personality, and talents… all of which the Lord has given you on purpose.

    When you ponder the Biblical truth about who you are in Christ, you can suddenly see how useless it is to try to get God to kill you again. It’s like saying:

    Start-quoteLord, undo all Your work, please. All the spiritual gifts, dreams, personality, and desires You’ve put in me… please get rid of those. I know You’ve made me new, but You didn’t do a good enough job. I’m pretty sure You couldn’t possibly glorify Yourself in me the way You made me.”

    Isaiah 29:16 says, “For shall the thing made say of him who made it, “He did not make me”? Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it, “He has no understanding”?

    Yet that’s completely what we are saying to God when we tell Him to empty us of ourselves so that we can be filled with Him.

    O Christian–new man in Christ that you are–I have good news for you today: It’s not God’s dream to undo His work in you. It’s not God’s dream to kill you.

    God’s dream is to have all of Him in all of you. That’s the Kingdom perspective.

    Pastor Bill Johnson says, “Jesus didn’t come to earth to demonstrate what God could do. Jesus came to earth to demonstrate what man could do when filled with God.”

    That is so true.

    God redeemed you to Himself so that you could walk in relationship with Him, manifesting His glory on the earth (Romans 3:23). He filled you completely with His Holy Spirit.

    Now, as His child, you are a representation of Him. In order to represent Him to the world, you’re going to need your gifts, dreams, and desires. God gave you those gifts on purpose, and He knew what He was doing.

    So God cares about what matters to you. You are His baby. He doesn’t want you to empty yourself of you. So, instead of “He must increase, but I must decrease,” what should you be saying? Just this:

    “All of God in all of me.”

    That is the truth of the Kingdom.

    Tomorrow, I will post more on this topic, including the how and why you are God’s dreamBut for now, would you just thank God for the gifts and dreams He has given you, and ask Him to fill all of you with all of Him?

    Image courtesy of Procsilas Moscas on Flickr via Creative Commons license.


    1. Leslie Holman says:

      I completely see what John the Baptist truly meant, and I’ve taken it that way. However, I know that many people do not take it to mean that they must disappear completely… some take it (incorrectly, I realize that) to mean that their will, their wants, their desires, their perceptions, need to be conformed into Christ’s, that their lives should revolve far more around Jesus’ Will than their own.

      1. Hi, Leslie. Thanks for reading!
        I agree that we should be conformed to Christ in every way. But since He is the Author of all creativity, and the Creator of all things, we can each function fully in our giftings and be very different from one another, yet still be conformed to Christ.

        The mindset I was going after here was the mindset that says “I’m no good, Jesus, so I need You to make me really small so nobody can see what You made.” Many people do think that way, but that is not a Biblical attitude at all.

        God didn’t make junk when He made any of us. Each of us is precious and unique and beautiful and worth dying for, in His opinion. So we simply need to let all of Him flow through all of us, and we won’t have to worry about stealing any of His glory. He’ll get it all, and He’ll be able to use us as His hands and feet to demonstrate His power on the earth–in the unique way He made each of us to carry it!

        Thanks again for reading, and for commenting!

        1. I love this!!! So good and so true! The church body needs to know this in their hearts! Thank you for sharing this.

    2. Rebecca Jones says:

      I confess, I read it that way. I thought I needed to let go of something.
      Praying is the spirit is important. The Holy Spirit helps you understand the Bible. And I have learned a great deal from Joseph Prince, I agree that people are being disqualified, from God’s blessings.

    3. Gail Purath says:

      You’re right that that phrase is about John the Baptist’s specific call, not a call for Christians.

      But John’s call is not unlike the call for all Christians to die to self, give up selfish desires, and take our focus off ourselves and place it on others and God, living for Christ, not for ourselves, not being confident in our abilities but confident in Christ’s power and strength within us.

      Galatians 2:20
      “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

      Luke 9:23 -24
      And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.

      Romans 6:8
      Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him…

      Romans 12:1-3
      And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. 3 Because of the privilege and authority God has given me, I give each of you this warning: Don’t think you are better than you really are. Be honest in your evaluation of yourselves, measuring yourselves by the faith God has given us.

      As you say, God doesn’t want to undo His work in us, but neither did He want to undo His work in John The Baptist, so I don’t see a problem with Christians using this phrase to mean they want their lives to be less of self and more of God. I’ve never heard anyone use it to mean that they should get rid of their God-given talents – but I’ve heard many use it to say they should give those God-given talents to God’s purposes and not their own.

      Thanks for letting me share my view.

      1. Hi Gail. Thanks for reading my blog!

        Everything you said above is true. However, I have heard many of God’s people say this phrase to justify denying their God-given talents, or hiding them. It may simply be a function of who we are around, and who we see saying what. But I always encourage people, instead of praying “None of me, God, and all of You”–to pray, “God, all of You in all of me.”

        That point is simply that Father made each of us to fill a very specific role in His Body. And unless we step up to put our hands to the plow as everything He made us to be, a gap exists in His Body that cannot be filled by anyone else. So both are true: we must completely die to self and live for Christ and Christ alone–but we also must acknowledge that He didn’t make a mistake when He created us, and He needs us to be everything He made us to be, bright and shining for the world.

    4. Gareth Davies says:

      I think you have been brainwashed by Bill Johnson. Your view is way too triumphalist if and leads to arrogant believers. John the Baptist is simply saying my work if preparation is now getting less so Jesus work can begin.

      1. No brainwashing here. Actually, if you read the Scriptures, there is no room for anything BUT triumph in Christ Jesus.
        Thanks for reading and for sharing your thoughts. Blessings to you.

    5. Charles Bernhard says:

      We continue to grow in Christ and As we live and learn And he forms us into who he wants us to be “ he is the potter we are the clay “ he draws Stuff out of us As we go through our walk with him so we can be more like him “ Christ like “ as soon as we except Christ his work is not Finished in us ! As we die to our own selfish desires and become aware of things he wants us to work on “ fruits of the spirit “ getting rid of lusts of the flesh . All Scripture is profitable you can read something one day and God could speak to you or i in a different way ten years from now as we have grown in him and go wow I’ve read that verse I don’t know how many times and today it just spoke to me so I would encourage you not to be too critical and hope everyone can grow more in Christ and lose more of themselves and walk in humility he’s not done with you yet until he calls you home

    6. Stephen A. Manning says:

      Interesting…especially since I have never once read or heard of that passage being couched n the manner of your response…and I have been in the Church my entire life, being the son of a Pastor.

    7. When you say accept the Lord Jesus, do you mean the plan that Jesus gave the disciples, matthew 28:19 baptize all the world, John 3:5 you Must be born again of the Water and the Spirit, and apply the blood which is in the Name of Jesus Acts 2:38, according to scripture it’s the only saving Name of God.

    8. clarence reed says:

      Jn 3:27, John the Baptist was simply encouraging his followers to turn their attention to following the Lord Jesus Christ! Their Salvation and Growth would come through the Lord Jesus, not John!

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