How can we do greater works than Christ? Part 2

“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.” John 14:12

Last time we learned we can do greater works than Christ when we grow closer to His Person (John 14:7-11). The second way to do greater works than Christ is to GRASP HIS PROMISE (John 14:12). Jesus said to His eleven believing disciples, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me…” (John 14:12a). Christ is saying, “Anyone who believes in Me will do what I have been doing.” Jesus had been revealing His Father through His words and works. Now He said something that went back to His exhortation in verse 1. If they would have faith in Jesus, the disciples would become instruments through which the Father would reveal Himself through them just as the Father had done through Jesus.

“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.” (John 14:12b). Christ promises that if they would have faith in Him, they would do “greater works than” He had done on earth. Does that mean they would feed fifty thousand people instead of five thousand people with five small loaves of bread and two sardine-sized fish? No. Does it mean the disciples would calm an entire ocean instead of a lake? No. Does it mean they would resurrect a man who has been dead forty days instead of Lazarus who had been dead four days? No.

Christ is saying the disciples would do “greater works” in EXTENT than Jesus did on earth, not “greater works” in QUALITY. Jesus only lived in Palestine, but the apostles would travel throughout the known world. The reason His disciples would do greater works than He had done is because He would “go to the Father.” Later Jesus would explain that when He went to the Father, He would send the Holy Spirit to assist them in the ministry (cf. John 14:16-17; 15:26-27; 16:7-11).

What Jesus means here can be seen in the book of Acts. The miracles of the apostles were no greater in quality than Jesus’ miracles. In fact, none of the apostles changed water into wine, created food (loaves and fish), calmed the sea, withered a fig tree with their spoken word, walked through a door, nor walked on water (Peter only walked on water when Jesus was present and with His help).

However, like Jesus, the apostles did do miracles of healing (Acts 3:11; 5:16; 6:8; 8:7; 9:40-41; 15:12; 19:12; 28:8-9) including the raising of the dead (Acts 9:34-36; 20:9-12). All together the apostles raised two people from the dead (Acts 9:34-36; 20:9-12), but Jesus raised four people including Himself (Matthew 9:23-26, 35-43; Luke 7:11-16; John 11:20) not to mention the many people who were resurrected during His death and resurrection (Matthew 27:52-53). When you compare the number of accounts which record the healing miracles of Jesus and the apostles, for instance, in Matthew alone – there are twenty references to Jesus healing people but in Acts there are only eight references to the apostles healing people.

The apostles did no more healing miracles (including raising the dead) or casting out demons than Jesus did. In fact, it could be argued that they did less. Miracles are important, but the apostles did even greater works than these by preaching the gospel to thousands of people. On the day of Pentecost, Peter preached a sermon and three thousand people were converted (Acts 2:41). Some Bible students argue that there were more converts after Peter’s first sermon than are recorded during Jesus’ entire earthly ministry. The apostles shared the gospel well beyond Palestine and in this sense, they did greater works than Jesus.

The chorus of the hymn, “It took a Miracle,” goes:

“It took a miracle to put the stars in place;

It took a miracle to hang the worlds in space;

But when He saved my soul, cleansed and made me whole;

It took a miracle of love and grace.”

The greatest miracle of all is the conversion of a sinner by God’s amazing grace.

As followers of Jesus, we can do “greater works” in extent than Jesus did when He was on earth in the sense that He never physically lived in your town or community. He never walked bodily down the streets of New York City or Manila in the Philippines. He did not visit Rome, Italy or Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Nor did Jesus work with the people whom you work with nor live next to your neighbors.

You can tell religious people like Nicodemus that they must be born again (John 3). You can tell people here with no hope like the Samaritan woman at the well, that there is hope in the Savior of the world (John 4). You may not be a Billy Graham or a Mannie Pacquiao, but the fact that you are physically present here and can personally minister to these individuals means you have a ministry beyond those gifted men. You have a unique opportunity to share Christ in the area where you live like never before! Christ only lived in Palestine, He did not live in the Philippines or in the United States.

So Jesus wanted to convince His disciples He was not disbanding them in anticipation of His departure. Rather, He was expecting them to continue His work and do even greater things than He had done while He was away. And He is counting on you and me to do the same. Instead of being so preoccupied with the spread of Covid-19, let’s be more preoccupied with spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world!!!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, You could have entrusted Your gospel message to angels to proclaim it around the world. But instead You have entrusted every Christian with the privilege of proclaiming Your life-changing gospel message with the people in our lives. Help us to believe Your promise of doing greater works in extent than You did when You lived in Palestine. You have given us everything we need to continue Your work here on earth – Your promises, the privilege of prayer, a new nature, and the Holy Spirit to empower us. Thank You, my Lord and my God, for giving us such an incredible opportunity to represent You where we live. By Your grace, may each of us make You known to others all for Your glory. In Your mighty name I pray. Amen.

How can we overcome spiritual paralysis? Part 3

“Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk.’” John 5:8

Another way to overcome spiritual paralysis is seen in verse 8. Jesus ignored the excuse of the lame man and gave him some strong medicine. Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk.’” (John 5:8). First, He asks an impossible thing; secondly, He removes all possibility of a relapse; and thirdly, He expects continued success. All these are involved in the words: “Rise, take up your bed and walk.”

From these words, we discover the third way to overcome spiritual paralysis. RELY ON CHRIST ALONE FOR HEALING (John 5:8). Notice that the first thing Jesus says to do is what the man could not do for thirty-eight years – “Rise.” On what basis does Jesus say these words to him? It’s important to see this. Perhaps the lame man was thinking, “If this Man tells me to rise (and I cannot rise), it must mean that He intends to do something to make it possible.” Thus, his faith is transferred from his own efforts to Jesus: “He must do it. I can’t.” The man must also have reasoned somewhat along these lines, “If this Man is going to help me then I have got to decide to do what He tells me to do.”

Many people and churches miss this when they are looking for help from Christ. There is always something Jesus tells us to believe, and do. This is a word of action. Jesus does not say, “Try to build up faith in your mind. Pray for months first. Form a committee.” He tells them to do something: “Rise! Stand up!” Obviously, it was Jesus’ will that this man should do what He told him to do, and the moment the man’s will agreed with the Lord’s will, the power was there. I don’t know whether he felt anything or not. All I know is that strength came into his bones and into his muscles and he could stand. He knew he could stand, and he did.  

Jesus may ask us to do things as a Christian that we have never attempted before. It may not make sense to us. It may seem impossible to us. But instead of trying to figure everything out, we just need to do it! Over analysis leads to paralysis.

What does the Lord say next? The Lord did not merely say, “Rise,” He said, “take up your bed.” Why did He say that? I like the way G. Campbell Morgan has put it, “In order to make no provision for a relapse.  The man might have said to himself, “I’m healed, but I had better leave my bed here; I may need it tomorrow.” If he had said that he would have been back in it the next day. But he did not. Jesus said, “Take up your bed. Get rid of it; don’t leave it there. Don’t stay stuck.”

Christ is saying something very important to people and churches who need to be healed: do not make any provision to go back on what you have done. If you do go back, the consequences will be worse than the first time. That’s why Jesus says to the man – “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” (John 5:14).  This man’s paralysis was due to personal sin. This is not always the case with physical ailments, but sometimes it is. And when Jesus enables us to overcome that sin, He says not to make provision for a relapse. Many people fail right here. 

If Christ has enabled you to stop drinking, go home and pour out the alcohol! If you’re off drugs, go home and get rid of the drugs! If you have stopped looking at porn, stay offline or at the very least, get an internet filter. Burn your bridges behind you. Say “No” to the friends you used to drink with or do drugs with or had sex with. You will probably find that some of them will come with you. Burn your bridges. Cut off any possibility of going back. Let somebody know the new stand you have taken so that he or she will help hold you to it. Join an accountability group. Get involved with discipleship. Burn your bridges, is what Jesus is saying. If you have forgiven someone, don’t rehearse the hurtful things they did to you. Let go and move on – burn your bridges. If you have been paralyzed by fear, cling to the promises of God and don’t rehearse those fearful “what ifs.” This is so important. Our Lord knows what He is talking about –“take up your bed.” Remove all possibility of a relapse.

The third thing Jesus said is, “walk.” Don’t expect to be carried – walk. Many people want to be carried after they are healed. They expect everybody to gather around them and keep them going – a common area of failure. But if Jesus gives you the power to rise, Jesus is the One who can give you the power to walk every day, to keep going. That is an important thing to see – you and the Lord. Your eyes are not on your friends, your pastor or on yourself; your eyes are to be on Him now. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” (Hebrews 12:2). That is how this man kept going. It is how you as a person can keep going in your Christian life.

It is important to see God’s part and our part in the healing process. Who healed the man at the pool? Jesus. Who had to walk? The man. Who saves us from our sins? Jesus. Who must believe? We must. Who makes us more like Christ and gives us the power to live above sin? Jesus. Who must decide day by day to follow Him and do what is right? We must. Who gives us the vision for our church and the power to carry it out? Jesus. Who must decide to follow that vision and implement changes necessary to complete that vision? We must.

If we are going to overcome spiritual paralysis, we must resolve to get well, refuse to blame others, and rely on Christ alone for healing. Then and only then, will we begin to walk closely with God.

Prayer: Precious Lord Jesus, thank You for this strong dose of medicine this morning. You are asking me to do something I have never done, and that is scary. But it also comforts me to know that You would never command me to do something without giving me the power to do it. I have been clinging to secrets far too long that have kept me from walking more closely with You. As I make this decision to rise up out of the mire of my own sin and shame, help me to make no provision for going back to my old thought patterns and behaviors that I used to medicate my pain, especially when I am stressed or lonely. Thank You for providing people in my life who love me and support my commitment to walk more closely with You and experience Your deeper healing in my life. My eyes are fixed on You, Lord Jesus, to bring deeper healing in my soul and lead me to new heights of victory and faithfulness. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

How can we experience God’s life-giving Word? Part 4

“So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, ‘Your son lives.’ And he himself believed, and his whole household.’” John 4:53

The final way to experience the life-giving word of Christ is THROUGH TRUSTING IN CHRIST’S PERSON (John 4:51-54). Jesus and His disciples remained in Cana that night, but the nobleman did not. He started back to Capernaum alone that evening over the Galilean hills. After dark, he probably stopped to sleep, then arose early the next morning and started on his way. He then noticed some travelers coming his way. “And as he was now going down, his servants met him and told him, saying, ‘Your son lives!’”(John 4:51). Momentarily shaken, the nobleman realizes that these words were similar to Jesus’s words the night before.

Recovering his composure, he thought of a question. Perhaps his son’s healing was a coincidence. Perhaps when he left home his son had begun to get better by himself. If that were the case, his trip to see Jesus would have been needless. There’s one way to find out. “Then he inquired of them the hour when he got better. And they said to him, ‘Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.’” (John 4:52). The seventh hour would have been 1 p.m. when the fever left his son. Fever left him? So, it wasn’t a matter of beginning to get better, but of getting well all at once. Jesus’s words were not the start of a process of healing, but the point at which his son’s health was completely restored.

The Person who spoke these words with such a miraculous result, unhindered by the hills and valleys that separated Him from the nobleman’s sick son, was no ordinary man. After all, had it not been the word of the Creator God that caused all things to leap from nothingness into existence?! 6 By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth… 9 For He spoke, and it was done; He commanded, and it stood fast.” (Psalm 33:6, 9).

This was the Messiah-God, the Christ. The nobleman believed in Jesus at this moment for eternal life. “So the father knew that it was at the same hour in which Jesus said to him, ‘Your son lives.’ And he himself believed, and his whole household. This again is the second sign Jesus did when He had come out of Judea into Galilee.” (John 4:53-54). What did the nobleman do after he believed in Christ alone for eternal life? He “ate his food” as we learned in the last chapter – he led his whole “household” (family and servants) to believe in Christ. It probably didn’t take long for the family to be convinced of their need to believe in Christ. The power of Jesus’s Word was the same from Samaria to Galilee, from Sychar to Capernaum. The power of Jesus’s word creates life in every believing heart.

And His Word does the same thing today. Wouldn’t it be great to see people like the royal official come to Christ today? To see people in high places put their faith in Jesus for their salvation? To see our governor, state representatives and senators, mayor, and city council members all come to faith in Christ (if they have not already), and then lead their family and friends to do the same?! That’s what it is all about, isn’t it?!

This second miracle that John records pictures salvation in the following ways:

1. Like the miracle, salvation takes place at a POINT in time, and is not a PROCESS. Just as the nobleman’s son was healed at the moment Jesus spoke, so Christ gives eternal life the moment a person believes in Him for it (John 3:15-16).

2. Like the miracle, salvation is a TOTAL transformation. The healing of the nobleman’s son was complete, not partial. Likewise, when a person trusts Christ for eternal life, they undergo a complete transformation. They have passed from spiritual sickness to spiritual health, from death into life (John 5:24). They are completely forgiven, never to come under judgment again to determine their eternal destiny.

3. Like the miracle, salvation is a total work OF GRACE. Just as the nobleman did not contribute to the healing of his son, so we cannot contribute to our own salvation. “For by grace you have been saved, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Salvation is a gift that we receive by grace through faith in Christ. We can do nothing to make ourselves deserving of heaven. Only Christ can save us. 

A few years ago, our minivan broke down 1.5 miles from my parent’s home the day before Christmas. I was helpless to move the van. Fortunately, my nephew-in-law had a flatbed tow truck. So I trusted him – a person – to take me and my van to our destination using his tow truck. God is asking us to trust a Person, His Son, Jesus Christ, to save us from our sins and take us to heaven. The moment we do, He instantly gives us the gift of eternal life and guarantees to take us to heaven in the future.

God wants us to experience His life-giving word. We can do that through the TESTIMONY of His People… TRUSTING CHRIST’S POWER… PROMISE… and His PERSON. Maybe you feel like the nobleman. You feel hopeless and afraid. The wrong things you have done have separated you from God and you have nowhere else to turn but to Jesus now. He loves you, and died in your place on a cross and rose from the dead. And He wants to give you His life-giving Word if you will trust Him to do so. Jesus said: “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:40). Only Jesus’s word can give us life that never ends and guarantee a future resurrection to all who believe in Him!

Prayer:  Only Your Word, Lord Jesus, can give me life that never ends. Your Word is not limited by distance nor the condition of its recipient. In this world filled with chaos and hatred, I pray my Lord and my God, that You will bring people in higher places (like the nobleman in this second miracle recorded in John’s gospel) to trust in You alone for everlasting life. I also pray they will share this good news of everlasting life with their family, friends, and countrymen. Please turn this world upside down with Your message of grace so that more people can experience Your life-giving Word. In Jesus’s name. Amen.

I am my Father’s treasured son

“ ‘Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For though I spoke against him, I earnestly remember him still; Therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, says the Lord.’ ” Jeremiah 31:20

When I was a young boy growing up on a dairy farm in Illinois, one of my most treasured memories was playing catch with my Dad. He nicknamed me Tiger as I learned to throw a football with a spiral and catch it with both hands. With each word of affirmation from my father, I felt seen and valued.

There are four basic needs of every human being from the womb to the tomb and they are to be seen, safe, soothed, and secure. When I played catch with my father, I felt seen. I felt treasured in his eyes. When these four needs are met, there is trust.  We feel loved and cared for. We learn to depend on God and others to meet these needs. 

But when a man does not have these four basic needs met especially from his earthly father, it leaves him with gigantic holes or wounds in his soul. And he may try to cope with these wounds by medicating them with various behaviors, emotions, and substances called addictions. Addictions are really the pursuit of intimacy. But they fail to deliver. They actually leave us more broken and wounded. But when we experience God’s love in the depths of our souls, the wounds in our souls can be healed.

With this in mind, I want to focus on a single verse in Jeremiah 31. In this chapter of Jeremiah, God is speaking to His broken people whom He was carrying from Jerusalem into captivity in Babylon because of their rebellion against the Lord. But in this chapter He affirms that He still loved His chosen people with an “everlasting love” (31:3a) and would restore them back to the Promised Land in the future (cf. 31:4-40).

What got my attention in this chapter was what God said to the Northern Kingdom of Ephraim in verse 20: “Is Ephraim My dear son? Is he a pleasant child? For though I spoke against him, I earnestly remember him still; Therefore My heart yearns for him; I will surely have mercy on him, says the Lord.” This verse speaks to those of us who long to be fathered by God. You are a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ (John 1:12), but you have been wounded and you want to know that God sees you and values you. 

When God asks, “Is Ephraim My dear son?”, the implied answer in this context is “Yes!” The word “dear” (yaqqir) means “very precious” or “treasured.” This may seem surprising to us when we realize that the tribe of Ephraim had been “chastised” by God “like an untrained bull” for their sins (31:18a). Yet they cried out to the Lord to “restore” them and acknowledged that He was their God (31:18b).

You were not a perfect child growing up. Nor was I. But your earthly father may have been absent (physically or emotionally) or abusive. And this deeply wounded your heart and soul. And you may project your feelings toward your earthly father onto your heavenly Father. But God now says to you, “You are My precious and treasured son (or daughter).” Latch on to this truth and repeat it to yourself often. Get alone with Your heavenly Father and listen to His still and gentle voice whisper this truth in your ear. You are not a mistake nor are you worthless. You are God’s precious and treasured son or daughter. The more you focus on this truth, the more your brain will develop neurological pathways containing this truth. And the less you pay attention to the lies that degrade and shame you as a person, the weaker those neurological pathways will become that contain those lies.

When God asks, “Is he a pleasant child?”, again the implied answer is a resounding “Yes!” This word for “pleasant” (shaashuim) refers to being “a delight” or “an enjoyment” to God. This may seem surprising to you if you did not get your basic need to be seen met when you were growing up. You have perceived God to be distant and uncaring because your earthly father was distant and uncaring.

I want to talk for a moment about the importance of facing this wound in your life before God can heal it. I have met many Christians who have been conditioned by evangelical Christianity to deny any negative feelings towards a parent because we are supposed to honor them, right? Passive aggressiveness (ex. silent and withdrawn when angry, etc.) is often perceived by evangelicals to be more spiritual, but open and honest expressions of anger are the mark of immaturity to them. But let’s remember that God experiences and expresses anger (cf. Numbers 25:3; 2 Samuel 6:7; Psalm 2:5; 95:11; Matthew 21:12-13; 23:13-36; Mark 3:5; John 2:13-17; Romans 1:18; Revelation 16:19; 19:15), so anger in itself is not wrong. One of Jesus’ most angry expressions was toward those who mistreat children (Matthew 18:6-9). God says you are to “be angry and not sin” (Ephes. 4:26; cf. Psalm 4:4). Denying our anger or pushing our anger down inside of us is what leads to sin. Admiting our anger (or hurt) even toward an absent or abusive father (or father figure) is when we begin to take control of that anger and heal.

God’s next words in Jeremiah 31:20 say, “For though I spoke against him, I earnestly remember him still. Therefore My heart yearns for him.” Even though God spoke against Ephraim as He disciplined him, He still remembered him with great affection and grace. The word “heart” (meeh) refers to one’s internal organs. The word “yearns” (hamah) means a deep-felt compassion or sympathy. God’s heart is breaking forth with a gut-level compassion and longing for His child!

The verse concludes with God saying, “I will surely have mercy on him.” The word “mercy” (racham) means “to have love or compassion.” This word is derived from the name of the most motherly organ in the human body: the womb. This is where the strongest connection of compassion and love are bonded between the mother and the baby, respectively. God’s mercy is much like the womb – it provides safety and soothing for God’s children. Softly and tenderly, God waits for Ephraim to return so He can pour His affection and love upon Him.

Let’s personalize this verse a little more. Substitue your name in place of the name “Ephraim” (a name for God’s people which includes you) and the pronouns referring to him. “Is _____ My dear son [or daughter]? Is _____ a pleasant child? For though I spoke against _____, I earnestly remember _____ still; Therefore My heart yearns for _____; I will surely have mercy on _____.”

Imagine God’s heart bursting with longing and love for you!?! This is the message that Jesus gave when He spoke of our Father in heaven (Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 15:20). We have a Father in heaven Who treasures each of His children. He cares so deeply and passionately for you. He yearns to be your Father now if you will let Him. No matter how old we are now, our true Father in heaven wants us to experience being His treasured sons (and daughters). But this requires the opening of our hearts to the Lord. Perhaps we shut our hearts down years ago as a means of protecting ourselves from the wounds we had from our earthly father or a father figure. God graciously and tenderly waits to draw near to us if we will let Him (James 4:8a).

We might ask ourselves, “Did I have a father with whom I felt safe and seen? Did I know I was treasured as his son or daughter?” Take some time to write out your answers and then answer the question, “Why or why not?” It is important that you tell your story, at least to yourself or even to God. He is waiting and He is listening. God is willing to go to great lengths to bring us back to the longing in our hearts to be His treasured son or daughter. Let’s pray.

Prayer: Father God, I have a deep need to know that I am Your beloved and treasured son in the depths of Your heart so much so that no one else can replace me there. I long to experience Your love deep inside the wounded areas of my soul. Please raise up the lonely and ashamed boy in me that longs to be held and prized by You. Give me the eyes to see and the ears to hear how precious and special I am to You. Thank You for Your mercy which soothes me and comforts me. Pa Pa, please heal and restore my soul as Your beloved and prized son. Honestly, I am going to need a lot of grace to believe it. Thanks heavenly Pa Pa. In Jesus’ name. Amen.