The Goodness of God’s People (5)
“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” John 14.12-14
How can these things be?
An old George Gershwin lyric entitled, “Not for Me” sings wistfully of the love that can pass a person by: “They’re writing songs of love, but not for me…” Songs of love abound. People are falling in love all around. But though the singer reads about love, hears others singing of it, and sees it in others, it isn’t part of his experience.
Sadly, I think this same attitude guides the hermeneutic many Christians bring to the reading and study of Scripture. Consider just a few of the many incredible statements God makes in His Word: “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know” (Jer. 33.3). “…by [Jesus] have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature…” (2 Pet. 1.4). “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us…” (Eph. 3.20). “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil. 4.13).
And this: “…he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.”
Great and mighty things? Exceedingly great and precious promises? Partake of the divine nature? Exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think? All things? Greater works than the works Jesus did?
So where is that happening? In your life? Your church? Among the Christians in your community?
Evidently, multitudes of Christians are reading their Bibles, coming across promises and declarations like this every day, and are concluding, “It’s not for me.” We see the incredible promises of God that attach to life in His Kingdom, yet we fail to lay hold on them, because, like Nicodemus, we just cannot see how these things can be (Jn. 3.9). No wonder the Church is failing in her appointed calling as light of the world, salt of the earth, and leaven of righteousness for all nations.
You all together
Jesus could not say it any more plainly. The works that He did – good works of righteousness, astonishing works heralding the presence of the Kingdom, works of healing and restoration and new life – He has chosen us to do as well, attaching to them the promise that our works will be even greater than His!
Greater, first of all, because we have more time in which to do them. Jesus had three years on earth to do those works which brought mercy, grace, truth, reconciliation, healing, and renewal to the world. For most of us, our experience as Christians extends well beyond three years.
And greater as well, because Jesus had all believers in mind when He made this incredible promise. This is clear by the second person plural verbs that follow the promise of verse 12 in verses 13 and 14. Combine all the good works that God’s people can do, harmonizing their gifts, filling all their opportunities, spreading out in communities all over the world and throughout all of history, and we can see that Jesus was thinking in terms of God’s promise to Abraham that in Him, the people of God would bring God’s blessings to the whole world.
It’s not likely we will do the same works Jesus did, such as His miracles. But we can do the same kind of works – works that declare to the world a new reality has broken into history, a new power for good is at work among us, and a new order of righteousness peace, joy, and self-denying love is spreading out right before their eyes.
But do we live each day with such an expectation? Do we work hard to grow in the Lord, so that He might work His good and righteous works through us every day? Do we plan for such “greater works than these”? Do we step out in faith and make the most of every opportunity for doing good?
What an incredible witness it would be to the resurrection of Jesus and the reality of His Kingdom, if God’s people, upon reading of promises like this, would stop saying to themselves, “It’s not for me,” and would say instead, “Here am I, Lord; send me!”
There is one important condition, however. Jesus says we must look to Him in prayer. We must seek the strength for doing good only He can provide. We must go to do good as His representatives, to exalt and honor His Name and to glorify His Father and ours. And we must ask for the ability to do His good works in anything and everything we do.
Imagine a world where the people of God stopped seeing the precious and very great promises of Jesus as not within their reach, but instead, as our daily work orders and every next step for seeking the Kingdom and righteousness of God. All those multitudes doing all those “greater than these” good works – every day, in every situation, at every opportunity – would surely get the attention of this sad and melancholic world, so that many people might begin to think of God no longer in terms of “not for me,” but of “Sir, we would see Jesus!”
1. Why are Christians so reluctant to lay hold on the precious and very great promises of God, to take up “greater works than these”?
2. Jesus spoke to His disciples in plural terms – you all. Should churches in a community think of themselves as part of one another? Explain. Would it make a difference if churches could unite in good works for their community?
3. Do you sense any of that “not for me” mindset in your reading and study of Scripture? How can prayer help you to overcome or avoid this?
Next steps – Transformation: What can you do to be less “not for me” and more “Here am I” in your reading of Scripture? Share your thoughts with a Christian friend.
T. M. Moore
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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.