"And John replied, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease.’” —John 3:30 (NKJV)
Do you feel yourself shrinking? Do you feel Christ becoming more and more "at large" in your life? I don’t. If anything, I feel the opposite. Most of my day is filled with pursuing my wants, being concerned about my needs, thinking about my plans and praying about my dreams.
Jesus? Oh, He’s there. But He’s not taking over. More and more I’m starting to realize that I really want Him to take over. I need Him to take over. What I need is for Christ to permeate my life. I need to sense His presence all the time. I need to hear His voice. I need to know His heart for people. I need to take His words to heart and start living them out in my actual life.
When you reach this point in your life, you begin to realize the simple power and wisdom of the spiritual disciplines. Suddenly the idea of fasting and observing silence and simplicity is something that your very soul craves. To many of us, the idea of spiritual disciplines sounds like a means to take away our freedom in Christ, a way to drag us down and force us to observe the law. That’s not what the disciplines are all about.
Sure, some churches and more than a few leaders have misused the disciplines in the past. Sometimes we can allow others to place their expectations of perfection upon us and bind us up in the pursuit of an outward appearance of holiness.
But, when a follower of Christ reaches the place where he realizes that his flesh is much too weak, even when his spirit is most willing, the disciplines become an escape route from the bondage of sinfulness. The spiritual disciplines are like turning the spoon away from your own mouth and using it to dig a tunnel under the fence of sin and into the sunlight of freedom.
Jesus’ parable of the Pearl of Great Price (Matthew 13:44), where those who find a great treasure joyfully run out and sell everything in order to get it, is a great picture of what our attitude should be. We’re not to worry about how much the pearl costs; we should be worried that we might not be able to sell things fast enough to get the money to buy that pearl. When we truly understand just how utterly fantastic God’s kingdom really is, as compared to our own kingdom, then the idea of giving up time and food and money and worldly success is nowhere near as precious.
Jesus has some pretty strong words for those who call themselves by His name in Luke 14:27: "Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple" (NIV).
Taking up my cross means my own death. It means the end of my personal kingdom and the beginning of His. My prayer is that God would give me the strength to daily deny myself, take up my cross and follow Him. I want to go where He¹s going. I want to walk with Him.
What will it cost me? My car? My house? My dreams? My job? Great. What else? I want to kick my kingdom to the ground and dance while it burns.
I’m ready to follow Him now. "He must increase, I must decrease."[Keith Giles is currently writing his own story about his time in the wilderness, serving as a pastor at The River in Tustin, Calif., and putting together a few subversive projects of his own in his spare time.]