After this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside, and he spent some time there with them and baptized. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim because water was abundant there; and people kept coming and were being baptized —John, of course, had not yet been thrown into prison.
Now a discussion about purification arose between John’s disciples and a Jew. They came to John and said to him, “Rabbi, the one who was with you across the Jordan, to whom you testified, here he is baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.’ He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.”
Jesus said the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy, but he has come that we might have life and life in abundance (see John 10:10). And the secret to living this abundant life is contained in these words that John the Baptist says here: He must increase, but I must decrease.
I know that very often we come across people who seem to be so full of themselves, but in truth, we are ALL full our ourselves. We have an inflated sense of ego, and whatever we do is to pander to the needs of the flesh. We demand gratification, usually instant, be it to the mind, heart, or body. Consequently, we will always choose the path of least discomfort, and that is invariably sinful.
This is what led Jesus to say: “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). Why is the road that leads to life hard? Because it involves sacrifice, even pain.
Consider something like sexual morality. In today’s world, sexual permissiveness is the rule, rather than the exception, and many people are openly promiscuous. They would not think twice about having a one night stand. This is not something that God endorses, so to follow what he commands is to make a deliberate sacrifice of what is a pleasurable act, to the painful act of remaining celibate.
So, how does this work? It is by making conscious, deliberate choices to do what is right and not do what is wrong. The right and wrong is, of course, decided by God. The world has reversed that completely, which is why it is in the mess that it is in today. Now to do what is right involves a daily dying to oneself, but in the dying to oneself, Jesus starts to come alive within us. And that leads to a fullness of life.
But don’t take my word for it; try it and see.