Today I was given the opportunity to fill-in and be the guest speaker at a wonderful congregation. It was a remarkable time that I won’t soon forget. Here are my notes:
John 14:8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10“Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. 11“Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. 12“Truly, truly, 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 the Father.
Listen to that! Jesus made it pretty clear that when we believe in Him, we would do the works that He did. Let that sink in for a moment. Okay. Now, on top of that, we would do even greater works than He did. Oh my! This passage was truly meant to be a great source of hope and boundless encouragement. Wouldn’t it be enormously inspiring to know that we are quite capable of doing greater works than even Christ Himself? That statement should raise our faith exponentially and cause us to spring into action to the extent that we would be willing to charge Hell with a water pistol! Bazinga!
But do you ever stop and wonder, what works is He talking about?… Well anyway, let’s not just stop with that passage. There’s more! Let’s take a look at a passage that explicitly states some things that Jesus said we should expect to see happen after He leaves.
We have this passage from Mark 16:17 which begins, “And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues (did Jesus do that? It says, “They will”.); they will pick up snakes with their hands (we don’t have a record of Jesus doing that, but they will); and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all (Interesting, there is no scripture of this happening with either Jesus or the Apostles/Early Church. Do you think some miracles happened AFTER the Apostles died? If you think miracles stopped with the Apostles, then you should read the story of Polycarp who was a leader after the Apostle John passed away); they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
Look! Did you notice that both of these passages have the same qualifier or condition? John states: he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also… Mark states: these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will… Could there be a connection between the works that we will do and the signs that we will do as a result of believing in His name?
Again, we should be greatly encouraged by these passages. Instead, we are often discouraged because we think we don’t see this happening in abundance. We are given the choices that 1) miracles died out with the Apostles 2) We simply don’t have enough faith, we’re not pure enough, etc. 3) In the context of the John passage, “works” and “words” are interchangeable causing “greater works” to mean that the message of the gospel would be spread to a greater extent beyond where Jesus preached. (This is true, but is that all?). 4) Jesus was a deranged narcissist who drove crowds away when he actually told them to eat his flesh and drink his blood.
So, are we limited to these options? Or is there something else to consider that many of us have never seen before in Scripture???
Let’s begin to defrost the window. In our world we are programmed to think in individual terms. It’s “every man for himself”. Me, myself, and I. Rugged individualism. As a result we read the Bible with the mindset of “I want God to address ME”. The difficulty with that is God is more often addressing a body of people rather than individual persons. God is often addressing the body, the Church; and we are thinking “me” or individual members. The result? We miss the message. A perfect example is the Lord’s Prayer. If you’ve been reading this blog, you already know that the pattern of the Lord’s Prayer was not primarily meant to be prayed individually. The Lord’s Prayer was a call for US to pray TOGETHER! The only way you can pray in genuine plural terms saying, “OUR father, give US, lead US” is to either be in a one accord group, or end up speaking like Gollum in “Lord of the Rings” (We wants it! We needs it! Must have the precious! They stole it from us. Sneaky little hobbitses.)
Because we read the Lord’s Prayer and think “me” instead of “us”, we end up praying alone instead of being powerful like the Upper Room. When we do gather to pray, we still have an individual mindset thinking of our needs, our schedule, and looking at our watches rather than blending into a one-accord organism. I wonder, will we have prayer meetings that are selfless and focused strictly on His requests? (Seek ye first the Kingdom of God…) Could we ever have a “Seek the Kingdom” prayer meeting? I wonder, can we ever break free?
Now, let’s take this awareness of how God is speaking plurally and see if Mark 16 looks any different. “And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” Plural, plural, plural. This is not an individual reference. Yet, many will read “they” and will still personalize it and treat it as if it said “each and every one”. It doesn’t say “each and every one”. Are you with me? This is important to know and understand. It doesn’t say “all” either! Over and over, It says “they”.
Let me give you an example of what I believe we are seeing here: Who killed Osama Bin Laden? Navy Seal Team 6. Did the entire team put a bullet in him? Did each and every one of them personally kill him? No. But “they” killed Bin Laden. The team killed him. The entire team gets the credit. “They” killed Bin Laden. Is this making sense? Now, who are those who believe? It’s a body of believers. But wait a minute! Let’s define this further. The words are not just “they”. Notice that He distinctly starts by saying, “In my name they”. “My” is the only individual reference in this passage. Therefore this is the only individual who will stand out. So, who are the “In my name they”. They are called “His Church”. You can substitute “His Church” or “My Church” for the subject “they” in the passage.
So how does His team operate? Do we all do the same things? Paul explains it well in 1 Cor 12:7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8 To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge, by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith, by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines. 12 The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. If that wasn’t enough, Paul reiterates the whole concept again in verses 28-30 saying, “28 And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues ? Do all interpret? The implied answer to each of these questions is “no”.
The picture is getting clearer. The mentality is “All for one, and one for all”.
Now you may be saying, “But Brother Dan, John chapter 10 isn’t plural, it’s singular. It says, “Truly, truly, 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 am going to the Father..” You are right, it is singular, very singular. Yes, YOU are able to greater works than Christ. (BUT, be mindful that this was spoken before the Cross i.e. death, burial, resurrection which was the greatest work ever).
How can I do greater works than Christ? First, we must define “works”. Ergon (“work”) is a deed (action) that carries out (completes) an inner desire (intention, purpose). In other words, it is not merely just a work, a miracle, or a deed; it must be tied to a purpose. Without this very important core purpose, it is just another empty work. Have you ever wondered about the passage that says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Do you think that they are standing there lying? The name of Jesus is powerful even when people have wrong motives (Phil. 1:15). I believe that they did these works, but they were empty works of ravenous wolves who lacked the core purpose that is required to do an ergon work. What purpose? Hang in here with me…
An ergon work can be miraculous, but not always. What are the works (ergon) of Christ? Matthew 11 says, 2 Now when John had heard in the prison the works (ergon) of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, 3 And said unto him, Art thou he that should come , or do we look for another? 4 Jesus answered and said unto them, Go and shew John AGAIN (Repeat my ergon works) those things which ye do hear and see : 5 The blind receive their sight , and the lame walk , the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.” These are the works of Christ, they are in line with His calling. He’s the Son of God. Yet, we can see that not all of Christ’s “ergon” works fit into what most would call the miraculous category.
Let’s now take a peek to see what Jesus considered to be a beautiful, fantastic work (ergon) that is worthy of being remembered for all time! Here it is: Matthew 26:6 While Jesus was in Bethany in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came to him with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, which she poured on his head as he was reclining at the table. When the disciples saw this, they were indignant. “Why this waste?” they asked. “This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” Aware of this, Jesus said to them, “Why are you bothering this woman? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. I tell you the truth, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her. She didn’t just do an “ergon” work, she did a kalos ergon! Kalos in the Greek Lexicon means “surpassing, eminent, precious, honorable, noble, and beautiful”. Her calling probably didn’t involve doing miracles. Yet miracles have been done through her story. She is part of the “they”. The world and even some in the church may look at your calling, your work, your ergon, and call it a waste, but God calls it kalos! It’s a greater work.
1. Find your calling and its attached ergons. Ergons can be works of miracles, works of teaching, works of help, works of preaching, works of giving, whatever your calling is. But if your work is separated from it’s purpose, it will be an empty work. Again, I find it interesting that there will be those who do miracles but will not be welcomed, while there are others who visited prison that will be greeted with open arms.
2.What is the purpose? “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is the key purpose, and prayer is the engine. If you focus on love, I think you will find your ergon. Some of us are doing empty ergon, because we are filled with pride. the Good news is that God can change each of us if we will ask. The mountain of pride can be cast into the sea.
3. How can any of us do greater works than Jesus? By dying to our self ways. We love to quote Phil. 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” How come we don’t always see that Scripture working in our lives? Let’s look at the parts of that verse. The problem in that passage isn’t the “all things” that we are dealing with. The problem isn’t with Christ. The problem isn’t a lack of strength being available. The problem is with the kind of “I” that we are bringing into the equation of that promise. The kind of “I” that Paul was bringing into that promise was an “I” who was submitted in love with a body of believers. This was an “I” who had no confidence in his flesh and consider his gains to be dung. This was an “I” who had learned to be content whether he was at the bottom or the top. How was all of this possible? Because this was an “I” that was surrendered and dead. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. Therefore, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. The “I” that can do all things through Christ, and do greater works, is an “I” that died.
In closing, let’s ponder some things…
Jesus probably never gave a $1000 towards prison ministry; in fact, I don’t know if Jesus ever visited the town prison. He didn’t even visit his cousin John when he was in prison. But some of you will give with a broken and a contrite heart and you will make a visit. Jesus might say, “I never had that kind of money, and I never visited the local prison, but you did a greater work than me in that particular area of ministry.” Remember…“I was in prison and you visited me.”
As far as we know, Jesus never took anyone into his home. Why? Because He traveled and really didn’t have one. He said, “Foxes have holes, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head”. But some of you will take people into your home, you’ll adopt a kid, you’ll build a home for someone, you’ll run an orphanage, you’ll run a mission or support one. And Jesus may say, “Wow, I never did any of that! You have far outdone me in that area of ministry that you did on my behalf. Thanks for letting me work through you. It’s been a joy to experience life with you”. Remember, “I was a stranger, and you took me in.”
I never read where Jesus gave out clothes to anyone ever. I doubt that he had a lot to give. But some of you will be filled with compassion and you will clothe children, the homeless, and give shoes to kids in India. Jesus may say, “You are awesome! I only had the clothes on my back and the soldiers parted my garments. But you have been so loving and clothed so many. You turned down a six-figure job to manage some Salvation Army Stores. What a great work you have done for me.” Remember, “I was naked and you clothed me.”
Jesus never dug wells for the thirsty. But some of you could become geologists and you will locate underground water tables in impoverished lands.
Jesus never ran a Microsoft program, PACs, or DICOM. He never networked computers. But you networked hospitals, nursing homes, charities, ministries, grocery stores, etc. which helped others to take better care of the sick, feed the hungry, etc.
You were meant to do greater works. I hope that you are encouraged to KNOW it, SEE it, and DO it. Let’s pray…
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