Going Deeper into Loving Others
Share: Becoming Less to Become More
Whew! We’re wrapping up our six week study of Share. We’re glad you’re here and we hope you’ve gone a little deeper in your faith to find Him changing your ways to be more like His.
Gather together your Bible, journal, pen, a friend or two and we’ll begin.
Father, how great You are to share Your Son and Spirit with us. Open our hearts to share our lives with You. May we find ourselves becoming less to become more like You.
Read Reflection Scripture:
He must increase, but I must decrease.
John 3:30 ESV
What insights did you gain from the Reflection Scripture and Reflection Thoughts which helped you process Share as a way of Becoming Less to Become More when it comes to loving others?
When we commune with others, we share our lives with them. When we commune with Christ, we share in His death and resurrection, His grace and power. Jesus broke His body and poured out His blood, becoming less so we might become more: redeemed and holy.
What areas in your life do you feel must be broken in order to share?
My upside-down pride of not seeing what I have as enough and my feelings of being insufficient when He calls me to share have required breaking.
In the process, an arrogance revealed itself. Every time I doubt what I have is enough for what He’s asked, I’m basically saying He doesn’t really know what He’s doing: Doesn’t He know it’s not enough?
Pride and arrogance have been barriers to the trust needed to share as He calls me to. These are two things in me which have had to break so I can share more freely.
Fear is something I have battled my entire life. Little by little God continues to heal and deliver me from the torment of fear. I can speak in front of a group, drive over ramps without crying, and introduce myself to others with much less anxiety. But there are still times when fear consumes me, sends me into panic mode and leaves me short of breath. That’s why I cannot believe the desire God has placed in my heart.
For the past few months I have been talking to a dear friend about getting a beehive. Do I think it would be cool to harvest honey? Yes! Am I scared to death of what thousands of bees might do to me? Absolutely! Each time I make an excuse and try to get out of this new project, another door opens up.
Fear keeps me from sharing, binds me up in unhealthy introverted ways. I can honestly say I have no idea how I will respond when near an entire hive of bees. What I do know is in some weird way it is another breaking of fear.
Other translations of our Reflection Scripture:
He must become greater; I must become less.
John 3:30 NIV
He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.
John 3:30 NLT
What do these different translations reveal?
In His increase, we must begin to see Him as greater than ourselves. Greater in power, authority, ability, knowledge and understanding. He just is greater. The New Living Translation shows this as a process. We are called to let Him become a greater and greater part of our lives as we become less and less.
Stacy and Carol say:
In preparation for our leading, we often pray: Lord, don’t let us get in the way.
Becoming less to become more is at the heart of our prayer. We desire Him to be heard, not us. We want His influence and insight to be what comes through the teaching, and not any of our own.
Looking at the original language for “increase” in the Reflection Scripture, we see:
auxano – 1 to cause to grow, augment. 2 to increase, become greater. 3 to grow, increase. 3A of plants. 3B of infants. 3C of a multitude of people. 3D of inward Christian growth.
– Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon
In our walk with God, His influence must increase for us to grow spiritually as Believers. The Bible describes our spiritual journey as plants (wheat and trees) and we are born again as spiritual babies (John 3:3) who begin with the need for milk and grow to eat solid food (Hebrews 5:12-14). His increase is necessary for our growth. He must also increase in us as individuals, if we are to increase in number as His people. A corporate increase of Jesus is required for growth of His church.
Read John 3:22-36
Here we have our Reflection Scripture in context. What are the circumstances which caused John the Baptizer to say: He must increase, but I must decrease?
John’s disciples were concerned about all the people going to Jesus to be baptized instead of to John. They saw their mentor’s influence decreasing.
How did John respond?
John knew His role was to prepare the way for Jesus, like a best man for the groom. He reminded his disciples he had done his part in identifying Jesus, now Jesus must increase, and he must decrease.
In the verses after the Reflection Scripture, what is revealed about Jesus?
Jesus came from above and is therefore greater than all others. Those on earth can only talk of things from an earthly perspective, but Jesus, He has witnessed the doings of God in heaven. He has come to reveal greater things.
The Greek translated as “from above” means: from above, from a higher place, of things which come from heaven or God; from the first, from the beginning, from the very first; anew, over, again (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon).
Not only is Jesus a witness of what goes on in heaven in the spiritual reality, He was present from the beginning. He is the Word of creation (John 1:1-3). He walked with Adam and Eve in Eden, now He came back to walk the earth again, beginning the process of making all things new.
He must increase for the world to be restored.
But when one thing increases, another must generally decrease.
The word translated from the Greek as “decrease” means: to make less or inferior: in dignity; to decrease in authority or popularity (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon).
According to the original language, in what ways must we decrease for Christ to increase?
Decreasing in dignity requires being humbled. We must see how truly inferior and flawed we are to make room for Jesus in our lives. We must give up the authority we believe we have to make daily decisions and give it to Him. We make Him Lord, and in the process become a servant who submits and obeys.
When we commune with Jesus, He brings us into His Father’s throne room where the light of truth shines brightly on who we are. It’s humbling to be laid bare before God, yet it is the way up.
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
James 4:10 ESV
In what ways did Jesus decrease when He took on flesh?
By coming in the flesh, He decreased in power, glory, knowledge, strength… He emptied Himself. He laid down His divinity and found Himself arrested by His church, unjustly convicted by His country, then abused, flogged, and executed.
Jesus is king, and yet he is a poor carpenter’s son; he is God, and yet he has emptied himself of everything; he has power over all, and yet he is killed by mere men.
– Kyle Strobel, Metamorpha
In His decrease, Jesus made the way for us to return to the Father, to re-establish communion. There is greatness in becoming less to become more.
Prayer of Praise:
Did praising God as Infinite help you comprehend becoming less to become more? How?
Understanding the infinite nature of God, praising Him for this reality, opens our hearts to the possibility of being so much more than we could ever become on our own. We trade our finite mortal flesh for eternal life in Christ Jesus.
In the Word:
Read Judges 7:1-8
How many men did Gideon start with in his army?
Thirty-two thousand men made up the army of the Israelites. (Twenty-two thousand were allowed to return to their homes because they were afraid. Ten thousand remained.)
How many did God allow Gideon to take into battle? Why?
God used an army of only three-hundred men to defeat the Midianites, because otherwise, the Israelites might have taken credit for the win. With such a large army there would have been a temptation to steal God’s glory.
God’s work and power become more evident with fewer resources.
Where else in Scripture has God revealed Himself as more through less?
- The feeding of the more than 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fish (Matthew 14:13-21).
- During a drought, God sent the prophet Elijah to live with a widow and her son who only had enough flour and oil for one more meal. The three survived the three-year drought on what she had (1Kings 17:8-16; James 5:17-18).
- A deeply indebted widow was about to lose her two sons into slavery to repay the debt she owed. She went to the prophet Elisha for help. All she had was one jar of oil. He instructed her to collect as many empty vessels as she could from her neighbors, go into her house, and begin filling jars. The oil ran out when the last jar was filled. Elisha instructed her to sell the oil, pay her debt, and live on the rest. One jar of oil was more than enough in the hands of God. (2Kings 4:1-7)
Having very little opens us up to seeking God, especially when it seems we don’t have anything to lose. But what about when we have an abundance of something we rely on?
Do you have a resource in such great quantity it obscures your vision of God? What is it? What does it represent?
I’ve had to lay down so much on my journey with God.
I’ve had to depend less on myself and less on my husband.
I’ve had to let go of my understanding.
I’ve had to lay down pride and my common sense.
But the more I let go, the more I decrease in the view of self, the fewer decisions I make myself, the less I rely on my own understanding, the more peace, joy, and freedom I experience.
I don’t know how all this works – I just know it does.
I’m an oldest child, dive in and fix it kind of girl. If I don’t have the skills or knowledge well then, I can get it. Because there is an expert or a book somewhere to help. Follow their plan or idea and problem solved.
Though I still have the urge, I’ve learned to lay down my abundant self-reliance. I’ve learned to allow difficulties and problems to have their way in me and others by relying on God. The more I do, the more I trust His will and timing in all things.
What emotions stir when you imagine God asking you to become far less to see more of Him? How do you imagine responding?
When we believe, trust in, rely on God, we are filled with His Spirit and He begins to turn our lives upside-down from the way we thought things were.
Sharing life with the Spirit of the Triune God requires laying down our own understanding, reason, and desires, so we can come to know Him and the reality of His Kingdom.
Sometimes, it requires God becoming less evident in our lives for us to see who we truly are and what we really believe. We must be willing to lay down our agendas and expectations and surrender to His. Kyle Strobel calls this “deconstruction” – which is the process of becoming less to become more.
God’s molding will often feel more negative, like deconstruction, but if we take Jesus at his word, he is using all things as ways to liberate us from our present struggles and bring us into the reality of his love.
– Kyle Strobel, Metamorpha*
When we choose to become less, we take off our masks and lay down our ideals. We make room for Him to increase in our lives, then we begin to see things as they really are and not as they appear to be.
The Tomato Bowl, a local icon where Friday night football is played, was built in 1940 with resources and manpower provided by public works projects. It is currently undergoing deconstruction, being taken down to bare bones in order to build it up again.
Back view of the Tomato Bowl.
What was bad, now seems much worse. But. What will come will be far better!
I drive by this deconstruction site almost every day. And for the past several weeks as I approach it — see it standing on the hill, roofless, transparent — I’m filled with joy.
I know, it seems weird. But I believe it’s because I’ve experienced a bit of this in my own life. The deconstruction process down to the point I thought I would be unable to stand.
But I see now, the becoming less was all part of His making me more.
Filled with more of His truth, less of the world’s lies. More faith, where unbelief was previously lurking. More peace, where before anxiety and fear ruled the day. More joy, instead of anticipation of the next shoe dropping.
When I look at the Tomato Bowl in its current state of disrepair, I feel joy, because I know something better is coming…
God often uses affliction in our physical lives to open our eyes to the spiritual reality of where we are and what He wants to renew or reconstruct. But just like the Tomato Bowl, deconstruction must happen first.
Spiritual growth happens when we first learn to share our lives with the Holy Spirit, coming to know Him and allowing Him to transform us: He must increase, but we must decrease.
Read Philippians 2:5-11
Jesus emptied Himself to take the form of a servant. He put down His divinity and infinite nature to become a man – one of His own creations. He humbled Himself in obedience, to the point of death on a cross. In His becoming less, the eternal became finite and died…
What did Jesus’s Father do in response to Jesus’s great obedience of becoming less?
Lord in Greek is:
kurios – 1 he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has power of deciding; master, lord. 1A the possessor and disposer of a thing. 1A1 the owner; one who has control of the person, the master. 1A2 in the state: the sovereign, prince, chief, Roman Emperor. 1B is a title of honour expressive of respect and reverence, with which servants salute their master. 1C this title is given to: God, the Messiah.
– Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon
No one will miss or be able to deny who Jesus is at the end of The Day. His exaltation came from becoming less to become more.
Read Hebrews 5:7-10
What did Jesus learn through His suffering of becoming less?
He learned obedience.
What was the outcome of His suffering and obedience?
Jesus was perfected. Even the Son of God, God Himself, somehow became perfect… more perfect…? through His becoming less He became the source of eternal life for all who obey Him.
In light of Jesus becoming less to become more, what does it mean to take up your cross and follow Him? What stirs in your heart? What specifics come to mind?
Taking up our crosses to follow Him means being the same kind of servant He is. In Him, Believers have a type of equality with Him. We are now children of the King – divine royalty – but with the honor comes the same other-centered attitude. Just as Jesus submitted to the Father in ALL things, allowed Himself to be used in anyway the Father saw fit for His purpose, we do too. Even if it means loss. For in the loss, we gain Christ!
Read Philippians 3:8-11
What does Paul see as the greatest gain? How does he view his losses?
All his losses, whatever God called him to share, he now sees as rubbish, meaning any refuse, including animal excrement, anything worthless and detestable (Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon). None of it is anything you would want to dig back out of the trash heap. Compared to knowing Christ, all loss is worth it.
Paul views his losses as sharing in the suffering of Christ which makes it even more glorious to him.
Any perceived loss of ourselves is in reality a gain when we take up our cross and follow the way He showed us to live by dying.
Are you available to God to use you in a way of loss? suffering? if it means salvation or deliverance for another?
We become more through personal experience of Jesus, identifying with Him in His servanthood and suffering. We become more by making room for Him in our hearts.
Turn to Romans 6:3-14, our verses from Day 3.
Read Romans 6:3-4
When we were baptized into Jesus, what else of His were we baptized into? What does that mean?
When we are baptized into Christ, we are also baptized into His death. Our old self has been crucified with Jesus. This means we are no longer enslaved by sin and have the ability to walk in newness of life.
How do sin and selfishness hold us back from walking in the resurrected life now?
Sin keeps us focused on self and is the antithesis of loving God and others. Selfishness leaves us looking at our own needs first, allowing fear and judgment to dictate our sharing. Without sharing our lives with Him and others, we miss out on all He has for us now.
Read Romans 6:13-14
According to The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, “newness of life” denotes the fullness of the reality of salvation which Christ has given to Christians in comparison with the worthlessness of their former condition. It goes on to say, “The Spirit is the completely different force which determines the new life.”
Freedom from the law (legalism) frees us to live by grace in the Spirit.
How does being freed from the law free us to be used by Him?
The flesh continually reminds us of our past sinful desires, but in Christ we remind ourselves that’s no longer true.
The enemy continually reminds us of past sins, accuses, calls us guilty and worthless, paralyzing us with shame. This is no longer true either.
We are new creations in Christ, free from condemnation of past, present, and future sins. We are redeemed for service as holy priests to share our lives with Him without fear, guilt, shame.
The more we let go of our self, the greater our lives become in the Spirit where we truly experience fullness of life.
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loves me and gave himself for me.
Read Luke 6:32-38
How does Jesus call His followers to love? do good? lend? Why?
Jesus calls His followers to love, do good, and lend without expecting anything in return. When we put away expectations of return on our investment, we begin to act more like God, who is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.
When we decrease our expectations, we find our reward to be great!
What else must decrease in us? How do these hinder us from sharing?
The Message reads,
Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults—unless, of course, you want the same treatment. Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang. Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier.
It seems religion and law run rampant in the news today. Though we claim separation of church and state, government is involved more and more. It leaves me feeling overwhelmed at times wanting to scream truth and cry out for judgment. If I’m not careful judgment creeps in and squeezes out grace.
We are called to share truth wrapped in grace. This can only be done without an ounce of judgment. Judgment is God’s job. For every hot topic in the world we face like abortion or marriage, there is a person struggling, needing to hear the Good News of God’s love.
Judgment and condemnation. Both can inhibit our sharing with others because we judge whether they are worthy of what we have to share.
Have you experienced the kind of giving which gives back in increasing measure? If not, what do you imagine it would look like?
I have experienced this reality of giving and having it come back, when I didn’t expect any return at all.
It was very supernatural feeling. The more I gave as He called me too, the more we received. I’m not even sure where it came from. It was like a miraculous season of blessing.
I’m not sure anyone in my home recognized it but me.
The more we decrease our expectations and judgments of others when it comes to sharing our lives, our stories, our gifts, and what we have, the more we find ourselves being blessed in much the same way.
Seeking Perspective Through Examen
What was your experience in Examen this week? How did your reflection on your sharing reveal your practice of becoming less to become more through the perspective of the Father? Son? Holy Spirit?
Becoming less, decreasing of self, always takes a breaking. A breaking of the ideals we have assigned to God and our relation to Him. A breaking of tradition, of perception, of all we think and feel.
Read John 6:47-69
Jesus taught the disciples: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.” Sounds like cannibalism. This was a hard teaching. One which went against God’s strict laws regarding food. It went against everything they knew the law to be.
How did they respond?
- They grumbled at the hard teaching.
- Some turned away and refused to follow any longer.
- Others were willing to acknowledge their resistance to His teaching, but continued following.
What do we learn about sharing in Christ from this account of Jesus’s teaching? Look at it from each of God’s three perspectives.
What does the Father reveal of Himself?
The Father reveals He is willing to go to great lengths for the sake of our eternal salvation. He does not call us to do anything He has not done Himself.
What message of grace did Jesus give in the teaching?
Jesus pours out truth even when the teaching is hard. His grace opens our hearts to the reality of our own misunderstanding and shortfalls. Grace watches us struggle with hard truths until they take root and work themselves out. Grace allows us to walk away, but never leaves us alone in the struggle.
How does Holy Spirit use the hard teaching to draw us closer to God?
In hard teachings, the Spirit rebuilds our understanding about God and ourselves when we come into conflict with Truth. The truth may be extreme, like the eating of flesh and drinking of blood. Other times it may feel extreme, like letting go of a tradition we considered essential to salvation. Or when an image of God we’ve held all our lives has been undone. Deconstruction of any kind leaves us feeling lost and unsettled. The Holy Spirit guides us through the process of being undone to reveal who we are in Him and who He calls us to be.
What has had to break in you through Going Deeper into Share?
In all the sharing we’ve done over the past six weeks, much of it seems like a loss. A loss of control, a loss of time and energy, a loss of dignity. But in it all, we are promised so much more. We pray you have found the way to more by sharing your life with Him.
Our journey of Going Deeper into Loving Others began with talking about Respect and now we come to the end of Share. We’ll take a break for a few weeks but will be back to talk about going deeper into Give, June 5-July 10, 2018.
We hope to see you then.
Father, Son, Holy Spirit open our hearts to fully share them with You.
*Note: Metamorpha is a book we highly recommend. It might be a great read for you during our break between sessions of Going Deeper.