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I was once confronted by a wise and spiritual man about some of the consequences of my actions. Specifically he was confronting me about the dangers of a false humility. You see, I had spent a great deal of time building up another gifted minister and this wise man confronted me about my motives. He wanted to know if I was actually “preferring my brother” over myself, or was I just doing it to draw more attention to myself! Ouch!

But this was an extremely helpful (though uncomfortable) confrontation. What were my motives? I had to come to the conclusion that I was simply not insightful enough to know my own motives honestly. When I confessed this to this precious friend, he smiled and said “Very good!” You see, while the motives did need to be examined, the greater need was an honest confession of my own helplessness to examine my own heart without delusion. And that is one of the most powerful lessons in today’s Gospel Lesson!

Look at John 3:22-33:

At that time, Jesus and his disciples went into the land of Judea; there He remained with them and baptized. John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and people came and were baptized. For John had not yet been put in prison.

Now a discussion arose between John’s disciples and a Jew over purifying. And they came to John, and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you bore witness, here he is, baptizing, and all are going to him.” John answered, “No one can receive anything except what is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before Him. He who has the bride is the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice; therefore this joy of mine is now full. He must increase, but I must decrease.

“He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth belongs to the earth, and of the earth he speaks; He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what He has seen and heard, yet no one receives His testimony; he who receives His testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true.”

Everyone of John’s disciples saw the results of John baptising Jesus in the Jordan. The crowds were now beginning to follow Jesus instead of John. In fact, some of John’s own disciples started follow the Lord as well. This was a concern for them, and even a concern of other religious leaders as well, specifically about “purification.”

Isn’t that interesting? It was a theological discussion about the true nature of being purified that prompted this revelation of John’s godly character and his insistence that his ministry had done it’s job!

Notice, the conversation moves from the theological to the painfully practical. Now everyone is following the One you bore witness to at the Jordan. And John reveals the rightness of his heart and the power of this revelation. He reinforces the clarity he has always declared about his work. I’m not the One. I came to lead others to the One. This basic revelation sets John free to be at peace with the changes of the moment. But that’s true for us as well. When we realize our purpose, our calling, we are at peace when that purpose is fulfilled. It’s why we constantly pray for a “Christian end” to our lives, so that peace is there instead of regret and remorse!

Next John makes it clear that the people were meant to go to Christ. And that’s so very important for us too. In all our work, our labors, our actions, when they lead others to deeper faith, we are doing our lives right. It’s when we are desperate to keep the light on us that we lose our purpose!

Finally, John makes it clear that everyone who has this kind of clarity of purpose and focus can never lose the one, bedrock revelation that keeps all of life in perspective: God is true!

Today, while our modern society seems to value self-promotion highly, and motivational tricks and focus seem to suggest that making sure you “image” is burnished and marketed, it’s the wise person who releases all of this to the focus on Christ and not on himself that sets that man free to truly shine, to be Orthodox on Purpose.

P.S. Don’t miss Sunday’s first Faith Encouraged LIVE program for 2016. We’re going to be talking about a normal Orthodox understanding of Evangelism. Why is this so controversial? Why does it create such discussion and worry? Let’s talk Sunday at 8 PM Eastern on

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  • Kat Brigid
    Posted January 8, 2016 at 8:34 am

    Thank you! I was so relieved to read that I am not the only one who, when questioning my own motives, comes up with…”I have no idea!” or that they are so mixed it’s hard to tell which is the strongest…. I get that conclusion more than I would like… so thank you!

    • Post Author
      Fr. Barnabas Powell
      Posted January 8, 2016 at 8:48 am

      Yes, Kat, I’m in the same boat. That’s why I so value my relationship with my spiritual father. My confessor and I had lunch yesterday and I just wanted to pour my heart out to him so he could give me his insight into my ideas, motives, and intentions.

      The wisdom of the Timeless Faith to encourage this kind of friendship, accountability, and confession is absolutely vital for spiritual maturity.

      • Lea Povozhaev
        Posted January 8, 2016 at 12:07 pm

        And I pray our merciful Lord and Savior Jesus Christ reveals Himself to more of our families. It is a heavy Cross to love those who seem unwilling to observe.
        The sunrise this morning was pink against a cold sky. I felt His mercy. My life prayed… Gid help us decrease within Your saving light and fill this world!

  • Jenny Paloumpjs
    Posted January 9, 2016 at 9:06 am

    John’s words in John 3:30 “He must increase, but I must decrease.” has lately revolved in my mind. Your message today breaks it down more clearly and helps me to understand what great strength John had as he knew his purpose was coming to a close. I need to question my own motives for some of the things I do. I have been drawn to go to confession with my spiritual Father now and not wait for Great Lent as usual. This need for confession goes along with much of what I have read lately about John the Baptist. Thank you for breaking down St. John The Baptist walk and purpose so that we can align it with our walk with Christ.

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