Becoming Less is a Pursuit of Joy
“He must become greater; I must become less.” – John 3:30 (NIV)
Most of us are familiar with this declaration from John the Baptist. This is a verse that rivals even John 3:16 in popularity, probably because it’s short enough to fit on a coffee mug. But, lest I be too cynical, it’s also popular because it’s good. There is something about John’s simple and profound declaration that makes the heart of every Christian glad. And, in a sense, this seems strange. Why should “becoming less” excite us? Why should we rejoice at the prospect of self-denial? What would motivate us to embrace our own smallness?
John says he does it for his joy.
In the verses preceding, John tells his friends that he is like the best man in a wedding. And as Jesus comes and rescues his bride (the church), John stands by and cheers him on, eager to see the marriage come together. He says that he finds his joy in this role, and his joy “is now complete.” John says he doesn’t get lasting joy from soaking up the spotlight. He doesn’t get full joy from being big. John’s joy comes from pointing the spotlight on another, and becoming smaller in the process.
The same is true for us. Becoming less is actually a pursuit of everlasting joy. Like John, when we find our role in this great story God weaved together before the beginning of time, that is where we finally find our satisfaction. And our role is not to soak up the spotlight. Our role is not to make ourselves big, famous, noticed, and loved. Our role is to feel small. To become less. To look in wonder as Jesus becomes greater and stand before him mesmerized.
John Piper put it this way, “Insignificance in the presence of greatness is the capstone of joy.”
And we know this is true. When we stand before a stretched out ocean, when we look over a sunset from the top of a mountain, when we lay beneath the stars in the country, or when we behold a wonder like Niagara Falls— do those moments ever make us think about our greatness? Of course not! We never reach a destination like that and pull out a mirror, spending our time admiring our own reflection. Instead, we feel small. We get lost in something so much bigger, so much greater than ourselves. And we feel alive.
This is the goal of a life marked by John 3:30. Get lost in the greatness of the glory of Jesus. Become less. And do it for your joy.
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