I would contend that two of Jesus’ most poignant and powerful recorded conversations come in these consecutive chapters of John’s gospel. In John 3, Jesus explains to an inquiring Nicodemus that one must be “born again” before he can enter the kingdom of God. It’s from that conversation that we get what is arguably the most memorized verse in all of Scripture, John 3:16.
Then, in chapter 4, we read of a Samaritan woman’s encounter with Jesus. Their conversation about all things water results in Jesus revealing himself as the promised Messiah for the very first time to the unlikeliest of women.
But as great as those moments and conversations are, tucked in between them is a single, short verse that is packed with significance for the Christian life: He must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:30).
These words, originally spoken by John the Baptist, are words for us to hear afresh some 2000 years later. If our joy is to be made complete, it won’t be in simply adding a little extra Jesus to whatever we’re already doing. Yes, Jesus must increase, but we must also decrease–we must grow accustomed to taking up our cross and denying ourselves in order that we might be increasingly conformed into the image of Christ. To be filled with the presence and power of Jesus requires some emptying of ourselves.