He must increase and I must decrease. —John the Baptist
When we co-operate with God the Holy Spirit, we become less and less visible and Jesus becomes highly noticeable in our leadership and life roles. The old nature’s self-affirming and self-promoting tendencies are subordinated to the new nature’s predispositions toward declaring and boasting about Jesus to others.
John the Baptist (JB) is one of history’s best examples.
JB was a fascinating and unorthodox leader. Scripture portrays his life running in tandem with the earthly life of Jesus. A few months before the Holy Spirit overshadowed the virgin Mary and supernaturally fathered Jesus, JB was conceived by his parents. It was a God-miracle, inasmuch as JB’s mother Elizabeth had previously been barren and she and her husband were both well advanced in age.
A few months before JB’s birth, newly pregnant Mary visited really pregnant Elizabeth. The Bible says when Mary came through the door, JB was filled with the Spirit and leaped in Elizabeth’s womb. It was the God-orchestrated introductory meeting between The Greatest Leader ever and one that many count among history’s most excellent, follower-leaders.
When they next meet, JB was baptizing converts in Israel’s Jordan River. His ministry was in full bloom. He was a towering, tell it like it is, extremely popular and well known leader with a massive following.
When Jesus was still a virtual unknown, JB declared to the masses that he was just a forerunner to one much greater. JB said he was not worthy to loosen that coming leader’s sandals. And he also declared that while he baptized with water, this other leader would baptize with fire and the Holy Spirit!
Back to the water scene.
Jesus came to JB to be baptized. When JB spotted Jesus coming toward him out of the crowd, he declared Jesus was The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. When JB dunked him and Jesus rose from the water, the Holy Spirit descended, alighted and remained on him…in the physical form of a dove. Immediately, from heaven, Father God’s voice thundered, This is my beloved Son IN whom I am well pleased.
What a climatic meeting! It was if God said to one great leader, this is The Greater Leader. No doubt, JB got that message, because soon after baptizing Jesus, he made that clear to his followers and the general public. John 3 contains the story of Jesus’ increasing stature in leadership. His emergence was a source of much angst among JB’s entourage. They were quite jealous and agitated that many of his followers were defecting and following Jesus, The Leader. But, JB was sincerely overjoyed, because it was the fulfillment of his God-given mission…to pave the way for Jesus’ starting and leading a movement that now numbers in the billions.
The Decreasing Principle
In response to the demands of his followers that he do something to stop the bleeding, John 3:30 records JB saying to them and the public, He (Jesus) must increase and I must decrease. In this spectacular moment, we are given a clear picture of a truly difference-making leader practicing the state-of-the-art, Caregiver (Servant) Paradigm of Leadership…and its’ Decreasing Principle.
Questions: At the height of his power and popularity and occupying a huge stage of influence, how does one of history’s greatest leaders consciously decide to become a public follower of The Leader…without reservation or condition throw his support to another and urge his followers to Follow The Leader? How did JB die to himself and his life and leadership ambitions and willingly allow Jesus to occupy the throne in his heart? What made it possible for him to resist all the temptations to retain the spotlight and instead, give up the trappings of top leadership…to willingly choose to decrease in visibility and notoriety, so that Jesus could become the most prominent leader of the day and history?
The Answer: Head Over Heels
I believe the answer to those questions is JB was head over heels in love with Jesus. It was that love that moved him to be more than willing to decrease, so that Jesus would increase. JB received, reciprocated and wanted to pass along the love of Jesus to others. He received and was totally secure in the love Jesus had for him. He was Jesus not JB-centered. His greatest desire was pleasing Jesus and he knew that to do that meant pointing people away from himself to Follow The Leader.
Please carefully consider what I’m about to say.
It’s one thing to love Jesus and know he loves you, but quite another to be madly in love with him and to also receive his amazing love for you. Those who, like JB, go deeper with God are completely certain of his unconditional love. They know they are his beloved and his love is not about performing or earning, but about unmerited favor and receiving. They look nowhere else for real deal love. They receive Jesus’ unconditional love and are undivided and wholehearted in giving their love completely to him. They are over-the-top passionate for him and single-minded in their devotion to the Lord. He is the higher beat of their new hearts, the who and the what they value and desire to please above all. They have eyes for only him, their Dream Lover. Jesus is the epicenter of their lives and leadership.
In contrast, others have an intellectual knowledge about Jesus rather than the heart knowing that JB experienced. They reserve their highest love and affection for self, other people or things. Instead of dying to self, they continue to retain the throne, pursue the things of the world and seek to please themselves or others, by living and leading by sensual feelings, human reason and relative truth.
Closing Food for Thought
If we want to be outstanding leaders and live special lives, we mustn’t permit anything or anyone to diminish our thirst and hunger for Jesus. Like JB, we must avoid the world’s life and leadership lures, or they’ll choke our desire for more of Jesus and cause us to live and lead far below our God-possibilities. With singleness of purpose, we who want more of him and the truly better way of living and leading, constantly seek him and his presence. We cry out to him day and night, like babies crying for milk or deer panting for water. As we draw closer to his side and heart, our strength is renewed and we are changed by his Spirit into individuals and leaders capable of true greatness.
And astonishingly, we discover he loves and wants us more than we love and want him!
Our unimpaired love for him is the wellspring of leading and living like Jesus the man. Like JB, we’ll deny ourselves, become living sacrifices so that Jesus is honored. We’ll be totally committed and devoted to him, worship him alone and become living examples of his Caregiver Paradigm of Leadership. As JB did, we will live its two key principles…The Decreasing and IN Principles. And, as we live them, we unceasingly glorify Jesus by letting The Rose of Sharon be in full bloom in our hearts, lives and leadership…so all who look at us, see and honor him and not us. We become Jesus-In-Skin…decreasing in visibility, as he radically increases.
Give yourself a living sacrifice to God. — Paul
Let each surrender our longings to the glory of Jesus and feel if our lying in the dust would elevate the Lord by so much as an inch, let us still lie among the pots of earth. — Charles Spurgeon
This article is an excerpt from Cecil O. Kemp Jr.’s new leadership book titled: Follow the Leader (Secrets to Being a Genuinely Difference Making Leader).