Take a step back

HT EP Psalm 119.81-96*, Isaiah 33.13-22, John 3.22-36. 28th August 2016


Last Thursday evening I had the wonderful opportunity to meet two young people to discuss their wedding in November. I could tell they were very much in love and completely comfortable with each other. Weddings are times for celebration. They celebrate two people coming together in the presence of God to confirm their commitment to one another. They are surrounded by their family and friends. Some are bridesmaids, flower girls and of course there is the best man. The best man cares for the groom right up until the point where the rings are handed over. Then they step back, allowing the groom and the bride to take their moment. It is interesting how John uses the analogy of a wedding to express his commitment to Christ and the task that has been given to him. He refers to himself as the bridegroom’s friend, in other words, the best man. John understands his task is reunite the brides with the bridegroom. The children with God with Christ himself. Through using the idea of a wedding, John shows how he rejoices in this task. It is a happy and joyful occasion! Yet John’s main point magnifies his position and conveys the great principle of his ministry. John says “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Jesus must advance to the centre, the forefront of all ministry and John must step back, and let Jesus take the lead as the Messiah assumes his rightful rule in his kingdom and claim over his bride, his people of the church.
The cadence of this story echoes down to us. First of all, if we haven’t already, we need to accept our relationship with Jesus is that of a marriage. We are that close to him. He is committed to us as we are required to be to him. Now we all know earthly marriages do not always flow easily. There are ups and downs, falling outs and making amends. However, Christ never falls out with us, never leaves us or turns his back on his commitment. It is us that often fail to do what is expected or required of us because we are human. Yet the words of John can help us to develop a deeper relationship with God and our place in the partnership.
Like John, we need to continually remind ourselves to step back, to become less, to decrease, in order for Jesus to increase in our lives. But what does that mean? Firstly, it means to grow in awareness of Jesus being from the very presence and heart of God. He is ruler of all and so He is the one who witnesses and minsters to all people. It is Jesus, not us, who ministers to the heart of people who we meet. Secondly, Jesus is the spirit filled, beloved son of God and this means he has the resources to minster to others. Whereas we pray to God for the resources we need, Christ already has them. This frees us from worrying if Christ can do what needs to be done or worrying about if Jesus can give us what we need. The thought is almost absurd! But important. We are not God. Like John, we are not the Christ but signs posts to the way of Christ.
This is an important point. We are not in control. God is. For some this is a hard thing to take on board. We like to feel we are in control. We like to think we are the captains of our own ships. But letting go is the most wonderful gift God gives us. Letting go of our preconceived ideas of how things should be, of how people should act and behave. Of letting go of our negative attitudes and just stepping back to allow God to work in our lives and the lives of others. Fighting and complaining against the seeming injustices that we are experiencing betray our willingness to trust totally in God. In humility standing back, decreasing ourselves in the presence of God enables us to see the Holy Spirit working His purposes out in our lives and in the lives of those around us. Through working with God in this way we humbly accept our secondary role in our partnership with him.
Through this partnership we are to grow in faith in Christ, in gratitude for his love and blessing on our lives and our new lives in his kingdom. In our lives we have the opportunity to encourage others to follow Christ, to respond to his great and eternal love. To experience a fullness of life beyond the world’s petty expectations, destined to corrupt and decay. To come to the Father, receive His spirit and become truly free.


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