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June 5, 2014

You Must Increase: The Call of Mutual Submission

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Written by: Duane Covrig
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John the Baptist was a figure of a powerhouse. He had a miraculous call to prepare the way of the Lord. He did that mission well. Then the Lord came, his job was done. It was time to wind down “John Baptist Ministries. “I must decrease, but He must increase.”

Fading glory is harder to bear than never having glory in the first place. Fading attention is harder to endure when you have had lots of attention. What makes it hard, is not mainly the erosion of status, as moving into less lime light can be enjoyable. What makes it hard is the distorting feeling of a lost mission or lost identity.

John was a great preacher, teacher and prophet. After his announcement that Jesus must increase, John faded, not only by choice, but also by circumstances. He preached less and less. His disciples were encouraged to follow the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. Finally, he was imprisoned.

These changes affected his identity. His rural and wilderness identity was challenged by the walls of his cell. His constant interaction with people, teaching and helping them, was silenced by solitary confinement.But he still had the ability to speak the truth, and he did. Then his head was cut off which ended his speaking mission.

Lessons from the phrases –

I have heard John’s phrase applied by many a humble leader transitioning out of a pastoring, teaching, and administrative position. I think that is a good use of this phrase. There are times that transition of fading will be chosen, at other times it will be forced on the person by a group or social action, and still other times by illness or death. Each of these sources of fading require a person to adapt psychologically or socially to shifts of meaning.

In addition, I am concerned this phrase might at other times be misunderstood and misapplied.

In this post I explore 10 aspects of this phrase that might be helpful in experiencing this phenomena and helping others experience this useful social process:

  1. Ultimately this phrase is about God. This is what the Godhead has done from ages past. They do it naturally. They did it for each other and then they did in for humans. Jesus—forever a man, fully man—descended ALL the way down. He emptied and decreased himself to increase humanity. In one sense, Jesus will always be descending—His humanness is with Him, His deep service to humanity. In another sense, God lifted Jesus up, forever to be exalted, because of this decreasing. First and foremost, this phrase is about God’s mindset even or especially when He leads from His throne. He is not thinking about His glory but our well-being. When John the Baptist doubted Jesus’ identity, wondering whether His work as the baptizer had got off course (doubt is always one of those psychological journey’s in fading) Jesus gave the best evidence. Jesus threw himself into a day of laboring for humans. I believe John understood the evidence. God was here to fix human problems (heal the sick, preach good news, etc.). In essence, Jesus was not only doing more than John was able to do (yes, more miracles, more often and more effectively), but John understood and believed he was seeing the Son of God in action. Jesus’ blood was the only blood that could cleanse the world. God was greater because He had, from eternity, positioned Himself as servant of ALL. “He that is greatest among you must be slave of all.” God had descended to be with humans in human form and dying on the cross to save humans and restore them to their highest dignity (Philippians 2). That is why this phrase is foremost a divine self-statement, a point of existence, sovereignty, glory, and strategy.
  2. Secondarily, because we are made in God’s image, this phrase is for humans. We do well to think this phrase in our relationship with God. We are a vapor that is here today and gone tomorrow. He is eternal. We are finite in our thinking and HE LITERALLY KNOWS ALL. We are so fragile. Our minds so easily distorted. We are most sober when we say, “he must increase, I must decrease” because it is factual. We will fade. Ecclesiastics reminds us of that. This is the attitudinal stance we should have toward God.
  3. This phrase has constant sociological application to our varied social experiences. In different situations and different projects we will need to resort to this prhase. It starts in the home: with husband and wife, then with children to parents and then between siblings. While God gave it visibility in the way they related to each other and their creation, and while John the Baptist gave it meaning in human response to the divine, this phrase has most practical usefulness as we use it liberally with others. When someone backs away from their agenda and tries to help someone accomplish theirs, when someone sacrifices to help someone else take a vacation or buy a new computer, and when we let someone else lead us, we decrease so another can increase. Social groups who do this well will thrive like God does.
  4. Mutual submission is probably the best way to talk about this principle.As a social currency,it would afford those who are not Christians the opportunity to engage in this discussion and benefit from the valuable power of this principal. Groups that start to believe and practice this view may not even know God but experience the dynamite power of change it can bring. It is not wise to resist this universal social process. The Trinity never did. Families that do pay a terrible price of chaotic consequences. Those who resist and give up on God are given over to strong delusions and spiral downward. Families, groups, and teams quickly become dysfunctional when this principle is absent.
  5. NO ONE PERSON EVER OPERATES BEST WITHOUT THIS PRINCIPLE….NOT EVEN GOD. LEADERS WHO FELL THIS DOES NOT APPLY TO THEM ARE FOLLOWING SATAN’S APPROACH! The opposite of this principle is the “I will ascend to the most High.”
  6. This submission best occurs when we make internal choices about our weaknesses and the strengths of those around us to better position ourselves to receive advice and correction.
  7. When we are sober about our abilities, we will submit one to another but also engage in helping others find the benefit of submission. When we realize God has given all some we also realize we have truth that others need to submit to. This creates a challenge and only prayer and fasting and patience can help us do this correctly. Mutual submission is a social process and due process and protocols can help this happen in a group. Roberts Rules of Order and having multiple witnesses is a good start to making this a shared reality. Yes, your partner or friend needs to submit to you also. If they don’t they will be robbed of their growth. You can help people learn to submit even as you help yourself. You do that by asking questions, raising concerns and providing evidence where their point may be faulty.
  8. In addition to choosing submission, there are circumstances where we be “forced” to submit: the authority of the state, the loss of a job and the rude challenge of a new job, having to learn a whole new language or culture. It can come on us by loss of skills, loss of physical or mental capacity, Illness or death. There is nothing like death to make that ultimate decision for us to decrease!! Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4 maps out what happens when we don’t submit voluntarily and what God can do to humble us so that we can get back on the right track of mutual submission.
  9. Loss of authority and decreasing are not the same. John and Jesus both showed that as they decreased their authority went up—especially over our hearts. We can trust “submitters” and follow them more loyally because they respond to God’s submission process.
  10. Loss of ambition and decreasing are not necessarily the same. For the joy and ambition of Jesus, he pressed on to decrease—and bore the shame of the cross.

God, help me be part of the mutual submission process.

Prayer: Lord, If I am not submitting well, help me to learn how and seek it as a blessing to my soul. Help me to both listen and speak more courageously as a way to help others in submission. Lord if you have to do a King Nebuchadnezzar “will” surgery on me, you have my permission. If I am not helping by my actions to submit and others to submit also, give me some creative solutions.

Thy Will Be Done!!

 

 

 

 

 

John the Baptist was a powerhouse of a figure. He had a miraculous call to prepare the way of the Lord. And he did that mission well. Then the Lord came. His job was done. It was time to wind down “John Baptist Ministries.”

“I must decrease, but He must increase.”

Fading glory is harder to stomach than never having glory in the first place. Fading attention is harder to endure when you have had lots of attention. What makes it hard, is not mainly the erosion of status, as moving into less lime light can be enjoyable. What makes it hard is the distorting feeling of a lost mission or lost identity.

John was a great preacher. John was a great teacher. John was a great prophet.

After his announcement that Jesus must increase, John faded, not only by choice, but also by circumstances. He preached less and less. His disciples were encouraged to follow the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. Finally, he was imprisoned.

These changes challenged his identity. His rural and wilderness identity challenged by the walls of his cell. His constant interaction with people, teaching and helping them, now silenced by solitary confinement.

But he still had the ability to speak truth, and he did, but then his head came off. No more speaking.

“I have decreased.”

So what are we to make of this phrase.

I have heard John’s phrase applied by many a humble leader transitioning out of a pastoring, teaching, administrative position. I think that is a good use of this phrase. There are times that transition of fading will be chosen, at other times it will be forced on the person by a group or social action, and still other times by illness or death. Each of these sources of fading require a person to adapt psychologically or socially to shifts of meaning.

I am concerned this phrase might at other times be misunderstood and misapplied.

In this post I explore 10 aspects of this phrase that might be helpful in experiencing this phenomena and helping others experience this useful social process:

  1. Ultimately this phrase is about God. This is what the Godhead has done from ages past. They do it naturally. They did it for each other and then they did in for humans. Jesus—forever a man, fully man—descended ALL the way down. He emptied and decreased himself to increase humanity. In one sense Jesus will always be descending—His humanness is with Him, His deep service to humanity. In another sense, God lifted Jesus up, forever to be exalted, because of this decreasing. First and foremost, this phrase is about God’s mindset even or especially when He leads from His throne. He is not thinking about His glory but our well-being. When John the Baptist doubted Jesus’ identity, wondering whether His work as the baptizer had got off course (doubt is always one of those psychological journey’s in fading) Jesus gave the best evidence. Jesus threw himself into a day of laboring for humans. I believe John understood the evidence. God was here to fix human problems (heal the sick, preach good news, etc.). In essence, Jesus was not only doing more than John was able to do (yes, more miracles, more often and more effectively), but John understood and believed he was seeing the Son of God in action. Jesus’ blood was the only blood that could cleanse the world. God was greater because He had, from eternity, positioned Himself as servant of ALL. “He that is greatest among you must be slave of all.” God had descended to be with humans in human form and dying on the cross to save humans and restore them to their highest dignity (Philippians 2). That is why this phrase is foremost a divine self-statement, a point of existence, sovereignty, glory, and strategy.
  2. Secondarily, because we are made in God’s image, this phrase is for humans. We do well to think this phrase in our relationship with God. We are a vapor that is here today and gone tomorrow. He is eternal. We are finite in our thinking and HE LITERALLY KNOWS ALL. We are so fragile. Our minds so easily distorted. We are most sober when we say, “he must increase, I must decrease” because it is factual. We will fade. Ecclesiastics reminds us of that. This is the attitudinal stance we should have toward God.
  3. This phrase has constant sociological application to our varied social experiences. In different situations and different projects we will need to resort to this prhase. It starts in the home: with husband and wife, then with children to parents and then between siblings. While God gave it visibility in the way they related to each other and their creation, and while John the Baptist gave it meaning in human response to the divine, this phrase has most practical usefulness as we use it liberally with others. When someone backs away from their agenda and tries to help someone accomplish theirs, when someone sacrifices to help someone else take a vacation or buy a new computer, and when we let someone else lead us, we decrease so another can increase. Social groups who do this well will thrive like God does.
  4. Mutual submission is probably the best way to talk about this principle as a social currency that even those who are not Christians can engage in this discussion and benefit from the valuable power of this principal. Groups that start to believe and practice this view may not even know God but experience the dynamite power of change it can bring. It is not wise to resist this universal social process. The Trinity never did. Families that do pay a terrible price of chaotic consequences. Those who resist and give up on God are given over to strong delusions and spiral downward. Families, groups, and teams quickly become dysfunctional when this principle is absent.
  5. NO ONE PERSON EVER OPERATES BEST WITHOUT THIS PRINCIPLE….NOT EVEN GOD. LEADERS WHO FELL THIS DOES NOT APPLY TO THEM ARE FOLLOWING SATAN’S APPROACH! The opposite of this principle is the “I will ascend to the most High.”
  6. This submission best occurs when we make internal choices about our weaknesses and the strengths of those around us to better position ourselves to receive advice and correction.
  7. When we are sober about our abilities, we will submit one to another but also engage in helping others find the benefit of submission. When we realize God has given all some we also realize we have truth that others need to submit to. This creates a challenge and only prayer and fasting and patience can help us do this correctly. Mutual submission is a social process and due process and protocols can help this happen in a group. Roberts Rules of Order and having multiple witnesses is a good start to making this a shared reality. Yes, your partner or friend needs to submit to you also. If they don’t they will be robbed of their growth. You can help people learn to submit even as you help yourself. You do that by asking questions, raising concerns and providing evidence where their point may be faulty.
  8. In addition to choosing submission, there are circumstances where we be “forced” to submit: the authority of the state, the loss of a job and the rude challenge of a new job, having to learn a whole new language or culture. It can come on us by loss of skills, loss of physical or mental capacity, Illness or death. There is nothing like death to make that ultimate decision for us to decrease!! Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel 4 maps out what happens when we don’t submit voluntarily and what God can do to humble us so that we can get back on the right track of mutual submission.
  9. Loss of authority and decreasing are not the same. John and Jesus both showed that as they decreased their authority went up—especially over our hearts. We can trust “submitters” and follow them more loyally because they respond to God’s submission process.
  10. Loss of ambition and decreasing are not necessarily the same. For the joy and ambition of Jesus, he pressed on to decrease—and bore the shame of the cross.

God, help me be part of the mutual submission process.

Prayer: Lord, If I am not submitting well, help me to learn how and seek it as a blessing to my soul. Help me to both listen and speak more courageously as a way to help others in submission. Lord if you have to do a King Nebuchadnezzar “will” surgery on me, you have my permission. If I am not helping by my actions to submit and others to submit also, give me some creative solutions.

Thy Will Be Done!!



About the Author

Duane Covrig
I teach leadership and ethics at Andrews University. I am a Seventh-day Adventist eager for the Second Coming of Christ and positive about His judgment hour work (Rev 14:6-12). I use that reality to understand morality and ethics.




One Comment


  1. Beautiful article!



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