By Joseph Ametepe
"As for me, I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, and I am not fit to remove His sandals; He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire" (Matthew 3:11).
This passage of scripture is rich with spiritual lessons for believers in Jesus Christ. It is my desire to shed light on one of the spiritual lessons that is often overlooked in this precious passage. The lesson is this: "God's servant must set his heart on promoting Jesus Christ." I know the baptism of the Holy Spirit is an important teaching of the Bible. It has also been a divisive issue in the Church. God willing, we can talk about that later. But the lesson of promoting Jesus Christ is equally important as well. This is what I would like to focus on today. I like John the Baptist. Why? It's because he was a steadfast, simple, and sincere servant of God. He was a selfless man of God in his generation. He was willing to live a life of sacrifice without a complaining spirit. Moreover, John was secure in who God called him to be. Furthermore, he was very humble. As as result, he set his heart on magnifying Jesus Christ from start to finish.
If there was anyone in the Scriptures who could make much of himself, it was John the Baptist. In fact, he was the only prophet whose calling and ministry were predicted ahead of time in the Bible. Humanly speaking, John the Baptist would be the envy of Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel who were great prophets of God. Nearly seven hundred years before John's birth, Isaiah the prophet, prophesied of his ministry saying: "The voice of one crying in the wilderness, 'Make ready the way of the LORD, make His paths straight" (Matthew 3:3; cf. Mark 1:3). This is actually a quotation from Isaiah 40:3. Also, nearly four hundred years before John was born, the prophet Malachi prophesied about his ministry saying: "Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me" (Malachi 3:1). The Lord Jesus Himself applied this verse to John the Baptist in Matthew 11:10 and Luke 7:27, as the did Mark in Mark 1:2. Also, a second prophecy regarding the life and ministry of John the Baptist was spoken by Malachi: "Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the LORD. And he will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to the fathers, lest I come and smite the land with a curse" (Malachi 4:5-6). Again, the Lord Jesus Himself confirmed that this prophecy found its fulfillment in John the Baptist. After our Lord's transfiguration during which Moses and Elijah appeared to Him and Peter, James and John, the three disciples asked the Lord about why the scribes say that Elijah must come first. Christ's response and careful explanation led the disciples to an unmistakable understanding that Jesus was telling them about John the Baptist (see Matthew 17:1-13; cf. Mark 9:2-13). Furthermore, John the Baptist's birth was announced to Zacharias, his father, by an angelic messenger. He spoke of how John would be great in the sight of the Lord and be filled with the Holy Spirit while in his mother's womb and turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God (see Luke 1:15-16). The angel also spoke of John being the forerunner before Christ. "It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (Luke 1:17). Earlier, the angel of the Lord also specifically designated the name he was to be called (see Luke 1:5-13). In fact, only a few times in the Bible did angels announce the birth of a person and designated a name for the person. This was the case for our Lord Jesus Himself (Matthew 1:21), and Ishmael (Genesis 16:11). Moreover, later, the Lord Jesus would Himself publicly testify of John the Baptist as "one who is more than a prophet" (Matthew 11:9).
What's the point of all these? It's simply to show that if John had wanted to promote himself, he had a lot of credible and convincing reasons to do so. He could point to his many "credentials" presented in the Scripture as the basis of doing so. Yet, John did not set his heart on promoting himself. He was not full of himself. He did not focus on himself. All throughout his life, he made it his passion to magnify Christ. He promoted Jesus. He exalted Christ. He elevated the Son of God. He honored the Messiah. He pointed people to Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). He was not consumed with self. And when he spoke of himself, he spoke of himself as not being fit to remove the sandals of Christ. The Greek word translated "fit" is 'hikanos." It is from the verb "hikano" meaning to reach, attained the desired end.Hikanos means sufficient, worthy, adequate, enough. John is saying he is not worthy to even do the most menial task for Christ. What spirit of honest humility! Later, as John was finishing his course, he once again, magnified Christ with the words which have become my life-verse: "He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 3:30). So from start to finish of John's life and ministry, his heart was set on promoting Christ, not himself.
What about you? Is John's life a worthy example for you to follow? Is your heart attitude in life: "Christ must increase, but I must decrease?" By the Spirit of God living in you, make it your priority to promote Christ in your life and ministry. Let your purpose in life be "more of Christ, less of me." May Christ be your preeminent passion today and always!