A Jar of Mud
Whenever I’m at the arcade playing a fighting game (Soul Calibur or Guilty Gear, usually—don’t challenge me to Tekken, I’m awful at it) and those dreaded words—“HERE COMES A NEW CHALLENGER!”—appear, I find myself immediately wanting to win. I want to lay waste to my opponent’s digital avatar using my sheer skill and ability. Not to say that I’m any good—I often find myself being beaten. At this point, the reflex is automatic–I reach into my pocket for another token (or my arcade card) and try once more. Repeat the process of getting trashed until I run out of tokens.
It’s natural to feel insecure when we perceive competition coming along, especially when we previously perceived ourselves as “the best” in that field. As such it was only natural for John’s disciples to start becoming insecure when Jesus began baptizing as well and his following began to grow. However, John reassures his followers by quickly saying that this isn’t his show: He’s just the best man, not the bridegroom, and as such, he takes pleasure in seeing the groom arrive. His joy is made complete now that the Christ has come. Thus he utters one of his most famous lines: “He must become greater, I must become less.”
Unfortunately for us, we are often full of ourselves. As pastor Ricky explained some weeks ago, it’s natural for us to be self-seeking. However, in line with all that we’ve been learning in church, it is only right for us to decrease ourselves, even to pour ourselves out—because Jesus himself did so. (Philippians 2:5-8). As Christ emptied himself for us, becoming servant to all, so must we empty ourselves. We must decrease.
How can we even hope to accomplish this? How can we give if we are impoverished in God’s eyes? We can’t give of ourselves unless we experience God’s giving to us. We can’t bless others until we have received God’s blessing—it is His grace that allows us to surpass the nature of being insecure, of being self-seeking, of only being concerned about ourselves.
Many atheistic scientists believe that by nature, humans (and life forms, in general) are selfish–they exist entirely for their self-interest. Perhaps there is truth to this, but as Ravi Zacharias said, if this is true, then how much more urgent is the need to be born again? Indeed, we cannot truly give of ourselves until God renews our nature. He must increase in our lives.
How does this work, then? Imagine a jar full of mud. It’s probably not very nice to look at, and likely also smells a bit putrid. It’s probably not useful for much apart from making mud pies. For the jar to be useful for carrying anything wholesome, it has to be emptied out. Christ has a larger vessel of unlimited water, but if he pours that into the jar of mud, what happens to the water? It just spills out. Perhaps it might erode the mud inside a little, but the end result is just a lot of muddy water. Still not a wholesome arrangement.
For the jar to become filled with clean water, it has to be tipped over so that the mud can spill out. Then it can be filled with water, which can then be spilled out. The process can then be repeated until the jar itself is clean and the water it pours out is clean as well.
While this isn’t a perfect analogy for several theological reasons (after all, I am only speaking of earthly things), I think it shows us a rough idea of how this decrease/increase transaction works: For God to fill us, we have to make more room for Him. As we empty ourselves, He increases in our lives, and we are able to give more to others.