By Tim Sullivan


It was a very special day. Both John the Baptist and the Lord’s disciples were baptizing new converts in the Jordan River. Jesus was present as well, “though Jesus himself baptized not, but his disciples” (Jn. 4:2). One can only imagine the joy he felt as He watched them all, echoing the sentiments of his heavenly Father, who has “no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (3 Jn. 1:4).

Not everyone present was entirely pleased. The disciples of John and some of the Jews were somewhat disturbed by the proceedings. “He that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness,” they said, “behold, the same baptizeth, and all men come to him” (Jn. 3:26).

Why did the presence of Jesus and his disciples bother them so? Perhaps they thought that the ministry of baptism belonged only to John, and that those others were encroaching on his territory. This would not be the first or last time that Gospel workers worried over such a thing. This very same concern befell the very same John who later penned this Gospel!

Mark 9:38-40:
And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name, and he followeth not us: and we forbad him, because he followeth not us. But Jesus said,
39 Forbid him not: for there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me.
40 For he that is not against us is on our part.

It seems that we are all prone to want to parcel out a little work for ourselves that we can call “our own.” Now, in the right perspective, that is a good thing, for every man indeed is given his own work.

Galatians 6:4:
But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.

But a man’s “own work” must be the work the Lord gave him to do, or else it will be work done in vain.

Mark 13:34:
For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch.

Our work is “our own” insomuch that it is our assignment. But we do not do it on our own, for we are labourers together with God.

1 Corinthians 3:8:
Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. For we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.

This is something that John clearly recognized.

John 3:27:
John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.

John understood that his work was not to bear witness of himself. He knew that he wasn’t the Christ. Neither was John trying to make a statement about himself – that he was faithful or spiritual or anything else. His sole concern was that he witness for Christ.

John 3:28-29:
Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but that I am sent before him.
29 He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.

John the Baptist kept his life and work in marvelous perspective. He neither disparaged nor assigned over-importance to his personal contribution to the Gospel of the Kingdom. “He must increase,” he said, “but I must decrease” (Jn. 3:30). This marvelous truth is the same for our lives. Before Christ can increase, we must first decrease.

I own a “red-letter” version of the Bible. All the words of Christ are printed in red letters. Naturally, most of those red letters are found in the Gospels. But no matter who is speaking them, when they are the words of Christ, those words are lettered in red. In this example, the speaker is Paul, yet his quotation is “red-lettered” because he is quoting Christ.

Acts 20:35:
I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

This was a revelation to me. I asked myself, “If someone were to write the story of my life, how many words would be red-lettered? How much of my testimony is about me, and how much is about Christ?”

John 7:18:
He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.

I absolutely love the straightforwardness of the Word of God. Whether I am talking about how good I am or how despicable I am, I am still talking about myself, and in so doing, seeking a kind of glory. Jesus taught us to seek a higher glory.

John 8:54:
Jesus answered, If I honour myself, my honour is nothing: it is my Father that honoureth me; of whom ye say, that he is your God:

It is fine to receive honour, so long as the honour we seek is not the honour that comes from men.

John 5:41, 44:
I receive not honour from men.

44 How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?

The honour that comes from God comes only to those who honour him.

1 Samuel 2:30b:
... For them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.

It is an act of despising the Lord to boast of one’s own achievements in the ministry, as if you could have accomplished such success alone.

Isaiah 10:15:
Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood.

No axe can fall a tree by itself. It has no real value until it is picked out for use. Just the same, until the Lord chose to use us, we could do nothing useful for Him. As Paul wrote, “Where is boasting then? It is excluded” (Rom. 3:27). All of our boasting must be on account of the Lord’s work, and not our own.

Psalm 34:2:
My soul shall make her boast in the LORD: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad.

In God we boast all the day long, and praise thy name for ever. Selah. (Psalm 44:8)

John the Baptist understood this truth. There was no room in his heart for concern over who was getting credit for doing the baptizing. “A man can receive nothing,” he said, “except it be given him from heaven.” “He must increase,” he said, “but I must decrease.”

Our life is like a five-gallon vessel that starts out full. Christ has room to come in only to the extent that we first go out. All too often, I fear, he cries out, “The place is too strait for me: give place to me that I may dwell” (Isa. 49:20). But when we eliminate those things that are only taking up space in our lives, then we give him room to dwell in our heart. Then, “as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (2 Cor. 6:16).

The earnest desire of Paul was to see Christ magnified in his life.

Philippians 1:20:
According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.

The more we magnify the Lord, the smaller we are in comparison. We magnify him, allowing him more and more place in our heart. His abiding presence in our life is what causes the ways of the carnal man to decrease. When we magnify the Lord, we take our eyes off the problem and put them on the solution!

Psalm 40:16:
Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: let such as love thy salvation say continually, The LORD be magnified.

Psalm 70:4:
Let all those that seek thee rejoice and be glad in thee: and let such as love thy salvation say continually, Let God be magnified.

Magnify the Lord with thanksgiving.

Psalm 69:30:
I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.

Magnify the Lord with your spiritual prayers.

Acts 10:46a:
For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God....

Magnify the Lord and watch as he changes your life.

Psalm 34:3:
O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together.



From the May 2006 issue of The Vine & Branches