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He Must Become Greater

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A message for your young adult children, and any other young adults listening

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Everyone wants to change the world these days.

Mow the World Story: Years ago a young adult came with a big dream. He wanted to start an international . . . mowing ministry. He wanted to build a network of people with mowers to connect widows with weeds. :-)
I listened then said, “Great! I have a name and address of a widow with weeds and you can get started with one yard.”
He paused, looked at me and said, “No, I want this to be really big.”
I said, “Good, why don’t you start with one yard.”
He shook his head at me, and he walked away sad. I just didn’t get it.
Story follow: Jesus said the mustard seed is the smallest seed yet it produces the largest garden plant.
Is there a better way to change the world than an app and bloated dreams?

Bible story: two young adults who changed the world

John and Joshua were cousins who grew up in Galilee, North of Jerusalem. John a preacher’s son. Joshua a builder’s son. As boys, teens both studied the story of Israel. Young adults now they knew they were a big part of completing Israel’s story.
John 1:19–42 TNIV
Now this was John’s testimony when the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He did not fail to confess, but confessed freely, “I am not the Messiah.” They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’ ” Now the Pharisees who had been sent questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. He is the one who comes after me, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.” This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” Then John gave this testimony: “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on him. And I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.” The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are you staying?” “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, “We have found the Messiah” (that is, the Christ). And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas” (which, when translated, is Peter).
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What was going on here? People thought John was Elijah raised from the dead? The Messiah? Prophet?
What was going on here? People thought John was Elijah raised from the dead? The Messiah? Prophet?
What was going on here? People thought John was Elijah raised from the dead? The Messiah? Prophet?
What was going on here? People thought John was Elijah raised from the dead? The Messiah? Prophet?
This was more than mistaken identity--in fact they were on to something. Even Jesus compared John to Elijah.
Matthew 11:7–14 TNIV
As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: “ ‘I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.’ Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come.
Here Jesus quotes and calls John “the Elijah to come” yet John the Baptist denies he’s Elijah and instead takes up the mantle of the Isaiah prophet’s words and says he is one thing in this story of Israel: “A voice crying out in the wilderness -- make straight paths for the Lord.”
Jesus quotes and calls John “the Elijah to come” yet John the Baptist denies he’s Elijah and instead takes up the mantle of the Isaiah prophet’s words and says he is one thing in this story of Israel: “A voice crying out in the wilderness -- make straight paths for the Lord.”
John and his cousin Joshua -- Jesus -- didn’t always agree on everything. In fact later in the story John still didn’t fully understand who Jesus was and asked if they should expect another.
Matthew 11:5 TNIV
The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.
Jesus’s reply unites with the Isaiah vision: go tell John . . .
I wonder if John and Joshua competed as cousins. My cousins and brothers always competed in games of conquest, still do to some extent.
Matthew 11:5 TNIV
The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.
wonder if John and Joshua competed as cousins. My cousins and brothers always competed in games of conquest, still do to some extent.
Let’s hear John starting from . John knew his role was one thing. What?
John knew his role was one thing. What?
Listen to what John says about Jesus in .
John 3:22–36 TNIV
After this, Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized. Now John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was plenty of water, and people were coming and being baptized. (This was before John was put in prison.) An argument developed between some of John’s disciples and a certain Jew over the matter of ceremonial washing. They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, that man who was with you on the other side of the Jordan—the one you testified about—look, he is baptizing, and everyone is going to him.” To this John replied, “A person can receive only what is given from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. He must become greater; I must become less.” The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is from the earth belongs to the earth, and speaks as one from the earth. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, but no one accepts his testimony. The person who has accepted it has certified that God is truthful. For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit. The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them.
John 3:
[Read ]
Doesn’t sound like competition to me. John uses a phrase in v. 29-30 . . . “this is my joy,” an emphatic expression of joy.
He told the curious Jewish teachers that he was not the Messiah, not Elijah, not a prophet, but he had only one job: bearing witness to his erstwhile cousin he was coming to learn is the Messiah, the one to finish Israel’s long story.
And he used a phrase that upends the way of the world, the kingdom of this world that says “I must become greater, others must become less . . .”
It was John’s joy to say of his cousin,
“He must become greater. I must become less.”

The Gospel

He must become greater. I must become less. In these two sentences is a summary of the gospel lived out in John’s life.
When I was a young adult, I heard these words of John for the first time, and they have become a life mantra, challenge, struggle, joy . . .
Let these words sink into your soul, spoken by John about Jesus, these two cousins and young adults, just like you who wanted to change the world.
In these two sentences . . . the secret of world changing.
“He must become greater. I must become less.”
What does it mean to take the next step and live a life where “He must become greater. I must become less.”
What does it look like? It looks like a man named Julio Diaz.
Story of Julio Diaz
Young adult and social worker Julio Diaz stepped off the subway to a nearly empty platform in NYC one night.
As the train left, a boy about 12 was standing near Diaz. They were the only two on the dark platform now. The boy pulled a knife and threatened Diaz and demanded his money.
Diaz slowly reached for his wallet, gave it to the boy, and the boy fled. Before he got out of earshot, Diaz yelled, “Hey, you forgot something!”
Diaz shed his coat and handed toward the boy. The boy, a distance away, turned and looked puzzled, then started to walk back.
“Here, take my coat.”
“You’re crazy man.”
“Well, you just risked your life and your freedom for a few bucks in my wallet . . . so you must really need the money. I mean, all I really wanted to do tonight was go for dinner. If you want to join me, you are more than welcome.”
The boy hesitated then agreed and they walked to a local diner.
Soon the waitress came by and asked Diaz if he’d have the usual. They chatted a few minutes before putting in the order. The manager came by to talk, then the dishwasher.
Watching all this, the boy asked, “Hey dude, do you own this place or something?”
[Take one step to either side as dialogue switches]
“No, why?”
“Because you know everybody.”
“I eat here a lot.”
“But you’re even nice to the dishwasher.”
“Well, haven’t you been taught to be nice to everybody?”
“Yeah, but I’ve never seen anyone really act that way.”
The social worker in Diaz kicked in and he saw an opening. He asked the boy, “What do you really want in life?”
The boy looked at the table and had no answer.
The food came and they talked more, and when the bill came Diaz said, “Look, I guess you’re going to have to pay for dinner since you have my wallet. I can’t pay for it. But if you give my wallet back, I’ll gladly treat you.”
The boy handed over the wallet. Diaz paid the bill, and then he pulled out a twenty dollar bill, placed it on the table and pushed it over to the boy. “I know you can use this. But I want to ask you for something in return: your knife.”
The boy took the twenty and handed over his knife.
Story Follow: I don’t know Diaz’s beliefs, but I can see the fruit of his life, and that’s all we can really ever see in someone else. He knew the mantra.
He must become greater. I must become less.
Giving to others must become greater.
My money must become less.
My time for others must become greater.
Me time must become less.
Life of God must become greater.
My life must become less.
What would it be like to live this mantra of John the Baptist? Everyone wants to change the world these days, but John’s words bear witness to the upside down kingdom of God.

Next Steps

Next Steps
Decide who must become greater and who must become less.
When my wife was pregnant I gained some sympathy weight. I had it mixed up who must become greater, so I started the “She must become greater (with child), I must become less” diet.
Seriously, since I was a young adult, these words of John the Baptist became a mantra for my life.
I was with missionary men, a retreat in a jungle in Kenya. We were singing a song written by Kelly Carpenter in 1994, “Draw me close.” The lines caught me, “You are my desire. No one else will do . . . I lay it all down again, to hear you say that I’m your friend . . . You’re all I want. You’re all I’ve ever needed. You’re all I want. Help me know you are near.”
I was with missionary men, a retreat in a jungle in Kenya. We were singing a song written by Kelly Carpenter in 1994, “Draw me close.” The lines caught me, “You are my desire. No one else will do . . . I lay it all down again, to hear you say that I’m your friend . . . You’re all I want. You’re all I’ve ever needed. You’re all I want. Help me know you are near.”
For the first time I could remember I got honest with God. You’re not all I desire, but how do I make this a reality in my life? How can I desire you more than everyone and everything else in my life?
For the first time I could remember I got honest with God. You’re not all I desire, but how do I make this a reality in my life. How can I desire you more than everyone and everything else in my life. The reply was, “Follow me. Keep taking steps toward me.”
Changing the world starts with a single step
When people think of you, who is bigger?
When people think of you, who’s bigger? Know Arthur Conan Doyle? No? How about Sherlock Holmes? Doyle created a more memorable character than himself. John did the same with Jesus.
The answer is to take a single step daily into life for God.
Do you know what Arthur Conan Doyle wrote? Most of you don’t. But who knows who Sherlock Holmes is? Doyle is the author and he created a character bigger than himself as an author.
John’s life made a big deal of Jesus. “He must become greater. I must become less.” When people think of you, who’s bigger?
Change the world one step at a time
Remember the guy who wanted to mow the world?
So when people think of you, who is bigger? You or Jesus? For John, who was bigger? John or Joshua? He intentionally said, “I am not the Messiah, not a prophet but I have one job: bear witness to the Christ.”
When people think of you, who’s bigger?
Pray
I want you to see a different young adult who just keeps taking steps.
Prayer of St. Patrick strongly ties to the mantra of John the Baptist.
Here’s a way to change get straight who’s bigger. The Prayer of St. Patrick strongly ties to the mantra of John the Baptist.
I told you about Jesus and John . . . now I want to tell you about a father and son who wanted to change the world, and they are doing that by wanting to do somethin
Christ be with me, Christ within me Christ behind me, Christ before me Christ beside me, Christ to win me. Christ to comfort me and restore me Christ beneath me, Christ above me Christ in quiet, Christ in danger Christ in hearts of all that love me Christ in the mouth of friend and stranger Christ in the mouth of all who speak of me He must become greater. I must become less.
Remember the global mowing guy? I like Jeff Sutton’s approach better: I want to go to Honduras, I want to earn support, got lawns? He’s mowed a bunch of lawns already, may have mowed yours! He must become greater. I must become less.
Do something bigger than yourself
Jill and I were missionaries seven years in Jinja, Uganda. One of our team mottos was, “Do something bigger than yourself.”
Jill and I were missionaries seven years in Jinja, Uganda. One of our team mottos was, “Do something bigger than yourself.”
If enough people take single steps, then another, we can change the world. I put together two videos 24 years apart to show you what happens generationally when someone sets out to change the world. Jill’s and my Jinja mission teammate Brent Abney idealistic but step by step, preparation, joining others . . .
This is a restatement of the gospel and response. So is this a gospel restatement and response: because of the gospel, what is your next step?
I put together two videos 24 years apart to show you what happens generationally when someone sets out to change the world.
Because of Jesus, the bigness of God’s love in Christ, because of the gospel, what will you do in order to live into God’s greater purpose? God is sovereign, we’re aware of our nothingness, Christ is above all, and it becomes our joy to say, “He must become greater. I must become less.” The Journey has one drum: because of the gospel, what is your next step?
So is this: The Journey has one drum: because of the gospel, what is your next step?
The Journey only has one drum and we will keep beating it till Jesus comes: because of Jesus, what is your next step. Write your next step in the bulletin in the box provided, follow through.
Because of Jesus, the bigness of God’s love in Christ, because of the gospel, what will you do in order to live into God’s greater purpose? God is sovereign, we’re aware of our nothingness, Christ is above all, and it becomes our joy to say, “He must become greater. I must become less.”
The Journey has one drum: because of the gospel, what is your next step?
[cue “Abney—I want to change the world” video]
[After video] YAs, go change the world!
Our church’s vision is to see 100 full time missionaries go church planting, Bible translation, development, relief in next five years. Young Adults, we love you here but we also know you have big dreams and want to change the world, and we want to prepare, support, send, and care for you as you do.

Shepherd prayer

The Journey has one drum: because of the gospel, what is your next step?
Because of Jesus, the bigness of God’s love in Christ, because of the gospel, what will you do in order to live into God’s greater purpose? God is sovereign, we’re aware of our nothingness, Christ is above all, and it becomes our joy to say, “He must become greater. I must become less.”
Because of Jesus, the bigness of God’s love in Christ, because of the gospel, what will you do in order to live into God’s greater purpose? God is sovereign, we’re aware of our nothingness, Christ is above all, and it becomes our joy to say, “He must become greater. I must become less.”
Come greet the shepherds, tell them about a next step the Spirit is leading you to, pray with them . . . maybe your next step is to pray again, read the Bible, join a study, serve, go to Night Light, get baptized, learn about missions, go on a trip, take that next step toward Jesus being greater, and yourself less. In that step is a step into the huge gospel story of Jesus, and he’ll show you next steps.
Write your next step in the bulletin in the box provided, follow through.
Our shepherds are here for you to greet, express a next step such as simply praying, expressing your desire for Jesus to become greater in your life, career, family, pray over an illness, repent of making yourself greater and Him less, be baptized, or just come and greet your Shepherds, pray for them!
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