You will do greater works than Jesus.

street preacher

Sometimes Jesus said things that just rock my world.  If we are honest with ourselves, we probably tend to live with a semi-comfortable understanding of His teaching, going about our day-to-day and turning to Him when we feel as though we need Him – occasionally feeling challenged by those more dynamic or radical statements.  We justify ourselves – Jesus didn’t really mean that we are supposed to love our enemies, make disciples of all nations, and hate our mothers/fathers for His sake, right?  We can be functional pacifists and turn the other cheek and talk about our faith when someone else brings up the topic.  Surely that’s good enough.

But then Jesus makes crazy statements that throw us for a loop when we read them.  Like this:

“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.  Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.  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.  Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”

– John 14.10-14

Everyone who believes in Jesus will do the same works as Jesus
and greater works as well.  

Wait, what?!  This is not written only about the apostles.  This is not written in the abstract.  This is not written about just those super-Christians who become pastors, missionaries and the extra-spiritual.  Jesus says everyone who believes in Him will do greater works than Him.

What, however, are those works about which Jesus is speaking?  Up until this point in the book of John Jesus has turned water into wine, healed a man who has been lame for thirty-eight years, walked on water, given sight to a man who was born blind, and even raised Lazarus after being dead for four days – just to name a few.  Is Jesus saying that everyone who believes in Him will do these kinds of miracles?  Because if so, probably none of us believes in Him.  I’ve never raised a dead man or walked on water.

It is extremely important to remember that Scripture will never contradict Scripture.  Jesus will never contradict Himself, God, or other Biblical writers.  And we see very clearly in the book of 1 Corinthians that not everyone will be given the gift of healing and miracles:

And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues.  All are not apostles, are they?  All are not prophets, are they?  All are not teachers, are they?  All are not workers of miracles, are they?  All do not have gifts of healings, do they?  All do not speak with tongues, do they?  All do not interpret, do they?

– 1 Cor 12.28-30

So not everyone will be an apostle, not everyone will be a teacher, not everyone will preform miracles and not everyone will have the gift of healing, let alone helps or administration!  Jesus perfectly and fully did all of those things.  What, then, are the works about which Jesus is speaking?

The verses leading up to this unfathomable statement help give us a little clarity.  Jesus claims that the words He speaks and the things He does are actually the Father working in and through Him – and they are all done/said to the end that people would believe.  “Otherwise believe because of the works themselves” (John 10.11).  The works are those things that are leading people to faith in Jesus – giving them grounds on which to believe in Him.

So if we cannot define the works of Jesus – the type of which we will do “greater” – we know at least it is those things that lead people to faith in Jesus.  How, then, can the words we say and the things we do be greater in leading people to faith in Jesus than what He Himself said and did?  We get a clue in the second half of the sentence:

“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.”

Jesus was the transition point of history.  From the fall of mankind with Adam and Eve in the Garden, humanity was enslaved in sin and looking forward to a savior who would free humanity from sin, break the curse and crush the serpent’s head (Gen 3.15).  The entire Old Testament and Old Covenant between God and Israel was built upon a sacrifice system that looked forward to one final and perfect sacrifice:  Jesus Christ Himself.

Jesus’ ministry was extremely unique, thus, because He was the embodiment of that transition and was teaching truth that would applied in the New Covenant, the new era and the new relationship of God to His people but yet He was still living under the Law.  It was His death and resurrection that caused the transition from one to the other.  This is why Jesus said that everyone who believes in Him will do greater works because He is going to the Father.  Once Jesus’ work was completed on the Earth, the Father sent the Holy Spirit to empower every single believer to do the work of the ministry based on the new hope that we have of purification from sins.  Up until this point, people were awaiting the purification from their sins, but with His return to the Father we can now be pardoned while still in our flesh.  We are not yet perfect, and we are continually confessing our sins and repenting, but we have been justified and can therefore enter into God’s presence personally.

We are not preforming greater works than Jesus because of any merit of our own.  We are not preforming greater works than Jesus because His works were lacking.  In fact, most of the works and deeds He preformed far outweigh any that we will preform in magnitude, in the miraculous or in dependence on God, but they will be greater by nature of having the transformative power of the Holy Spirit in them to bring about new birth and eternal life.  Jesus was not giving people new birth because He had not yet died to pay the punishment for their sins, and thus people were not yet offered eternal life through confession and repentance.  They were still exemplifying faith by looking forward to salvation.

None of us is greater than Jesus.  In fact, it is by His power alone that we can do these works of which He spoke.  But we have been given the unique gift of proclaiming the Gospel – of preaching the forgiveness of sins by the work of Jesus – which brings about new life through faith.  Any work preformed and any word proclaimed that leads to faith and new life is the greatest work possible, and distinct from even the ministry that Jesus had.

Let us not take for granted this blessing and honor.  Let us get busy about living lives that proclaim the Gospel and lead people to faith in Jesus.  That is the reason He has left us here on the Earth, and that is all that will matter in eternity.

Not Everyone Will Have a Chance.

There is a false teaching prevalent throughout our churches today, and it goes something like this:

God will not let anyone die without hearing about Jesus.
Everyone will have a chance.

I remembering being told that as a child.  I grew up in a Church that was extremely focused on missions and taking the Gospel to the world.  It was a big church, supporting hundreds of missionaries around the world, and because of this conviction they only paid two staff.  70% of the budget went to world missions.  The church was elder and lay run, so that we could funnel our resources into taking Jesus to the world.  And as a child, who thought missionaries were super heroes, who loved the annual missions conference where kids got to interact with all of the missionaries, where people would come from literally around the world to participate, I asked this simple question of fairness – even in this church – and was told this lie.

Why?  Why do we tell ourselves that?  Because we are narcissistic and value fairness.  We teach our children to share, we buy equal amounts of gifts for every child, we lash out if we feel we have been jipped; we want life to be fair.  We all know that life is not fair, but we want it to be, and since we desire it in our own hearts, we think that we can define fairness and that we can impose our definitions on God.

Don’t believe me?  Try to find the verse that says “everyone who is born will hear the Gospel”.  And when you cannot find it, consider the lack of logic in the sentence.  On the day that Jesus rose from the dead, on the very first Easter Sunday, do you think that there were people in China who were dying?  When the eleven disciples hung out in Jerusalem after Pentecost and were preaching and thousands of people in Jerusalem were being saved, and when Paul took off on the first missionary journeys around the Mediterranean, do you think that there were people in North Africa who were dying?  There were people in North Africa, the book of Acts talks about the Ethiopian eunuch.  Ethiopia was a country in Jesus’ day!  Egypt was around thousands of years before Jesus even came to the Earth, we know from history and from the story of the Israelites being held in slavery for hundreds of years before God used Moses to lead them to freedom.  So, would you argue that the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection traveled to the entire world immediately, even though there were only a few hundred known disciples at the time of His death?  Immediately?

Of course not.

But in our humanity, we think that we are all essentially good at the core and that we all deserve to have the opportunity to come to salvation.  God’s offer of salvation is not a privilege, it is our right.  And God is not fair if not everyone has a chance to be saved.

When we come to grips with the reality that Scripture does not teach that everyone will hear the Gospel, we then try to change the Scripture.  We argue for God’s goodness to say that He would not condemn someone to Hell if he did not have the opportunity to believe.  There is a special grace or special allowance for “the man on the Island”.  This is still rooted in our belief that God owes us the chance of salvation.

But if this is true, then the Great Commission is null and void.  If all babies that die go to Heaven, then abortion is not a bad thing.  This cartoon perfectly explains why:

then why did you tell me

If we believe that people who have never heard the Gospel, have never heard about Jesus will be saved because of their ignorance, then it is better to leave them in their ignorance than to share with them the Gospel!  Why risk the potential rejection, and thus condemn them to Hell?

The Bible teaches us that Creation in and of itself as well as our conscience bear witness about our sin and wickedness.

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.

 – Rom 1.18-20

God has placed within humanity a conscience that bears witness against our sinfulness.  If there was no written law, we would still know that murder, lying, stealing and cheating were wicked.  If you had sex outside of marriage, you felt guilty about it, at least the first time – until you seared your conscience.  If you cheated on a test, you knew in your heart that it was wrong – even if you ultimately only feared being caught.  God has also revealed wickedness in creation and nature.  We can see evil and wickedness in mosquitos, in snakes and in natural disasters.  Various cultures have developed stories to explain natural disasters – the gods are angry at this or that or the volcano erupted because so-and-so did such-and-such.  We understand cause and effect, consequences, and guilt.

No one is without excuse. Everyone knows that he has made some mistake and sinned in his life.  Everyone.  And everyone will understand [some day] that those mistakes and sins are against the creator who defined right and wrong, as soon as they realize that there is a creator who defined right and wrong.  There is a sovereign.  There is a judge.

Conscience and creation, while they reveal our guilt, do not reveal the way to salvation, however.

For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.

 – Rom 2.12-13

Everyone who sins will perish.  If you have heard the Gospel or not, if you do not believe in Jesus and obey Him, you will perish.  Jesus does teach us that there is a greater punishment eternally for those who have heard the Gospel and rejected it, but all who do not know Jesus will perish, eternally, in Hell.  But anyone who calls on Jesus for salvation will be saved!

“Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.  How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?  How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring news of good things!”

 – Rom 10.13-15

The feet of the evangelists are beautiful because they bring the offer of salvation.  It is by hearing alone that one can be saved.  That is why the eskimo must hear; the priest in the example was wrong.

But how is that fair?  It’s not fair.  But the fairness is not lost on those who have never heard, the fairness is lost on us who are saved.  We all deserve Hell.  Everyone.  We have all sinned, and we have broken the law of the creator and judge.  He is righteous and holy to send us all to Hell, it is not our right to be offered salvation.  But He has chosen to not be fair and to offer to take our place in condemnation so that we can be saved.  Are you desiring salvation today?  Praise God for His unmerited grace in your life that is drawing you!  Are you desiring salvation for your friends and family?  Praise God for the compassion that He has placed in your life, and get out there and share with them the hope that you have!  Because God is righteous to judge them.  But He has commanded us to be the mouthpiece to share with them, so that they might believe.  They cannot believe unless they have heard.  So get out there and tell them!

There is a song popular in Christian circles these days that has this chorus:

If not us, then who
If not me and you
Right now, it’s time for us to do something
If not now, then when
Will we see an end
To all this pain
It’s not enough to do nothing
It’s time for us to do something

God is sovereign over creation.  He is sovereign over salvation.  No one comes to the Father unless the Spirit draws him.  But God has chosen to use us as part of that plan, and the way He uses us is to stir in us a desire to see the lost saved and to lead us to preach the Gospel.  We are the mouthpiece.  Yes, there are situations like Cornelius where God reveals his wickedness to a man, and the man cries out to Heaven asking to know the way to be saved, and then God purposefully brings Peter to preach the Gospel to Him.  People are convicted by their consciences and nature, but they must hear the Gospel in order to be saved.  And if we do not go and tell them, no one will.  So let’s get busy, there are 6,821 people groups (clusters of people that are unique in language and culture), who are less than 2% Christian.

I heard statistics recently that in the United States, 52% of all people in the country have claimed to have read their Bibles in the last week.  78% of people in the United States would claim Christianity as their religion.  There are 6,821 nations in the world that only one or less people out of one hundred would claim to be a Christian.  Yes, there are lost people in America.  But the odds are “ever in our favor”.  They are not in much of the world.  It’s time for us to do something.

You may be the only Jesus they meet.

jesus

Have you ever heard the admonition, “Watch how you act, you may be the only Jesus he meets”?

It is very possible that if you travel to a country with a predominant religion other than Christianity, specifically a third world country, you could be the only Christian that another person meets.  I would be willing to bet that that would not be the case here in our comfortable US of A.  But yet parents say this to their children, youth pastors say this to their students, collegiate Bible study leaders say this to their young adults and pastors say this to their congregations.  Even if it is true that you happen to be the only Christian that another person on this enormous planet meets in his lifetime, consider today what it is that you are really saying:  “You better be good enough to convince that person to come to faith.”  Or even worse, “If you screw this up, you are the reason that person will go to Hell.”

Is that really the message that you want to communicate to your children?  Or anyone?  Did you come to faith because of another person?  Or because of Jesus Christ?

“For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.”

– Rom 8.29-30

Paul teaches us that the process of salvation is God’s foreknowledge of His own, leading to God predestining them to salvation, calling them to faith, justifying (declaring the verdict: penalty paid), and ultimately saving forever.  God is the controlling force in salvation.  Faith itself is a gift from God.  We are incapable of generating it ourselves or convincing others to have it:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

– Eph 2.8-9

Scripture teaches us that there are none righteous, and not a single person who is seeking after God (Rom 3.10-12).  We are naturally His enemies, we naturally have animosity towards Him (James 4.4, Rom 8.7).  So if someone hates God, is His enemy and is not seeking after Him, do you really think that someone acting nicely, or someone obeying Scripture will be enough to change the onlooker’s mind?

The danger here is threefold.

  1.  We cannot cause another’s salvation
  2. We cannot cause another to reject God
  3. If we believe or teach that we can affect another’s salvation, we live for others and not for God.

New birth is a miraculous work of God that is not dependent on anyone but God.  Dead men do not say, “I sure wish I were alive” (Eph 1.2), and the unborn do not reach out to potential mothers and ask to be born.  God gives life.  If you believe that you are capable of convincing someone to come to faith, then you will live a life of extreme and unbiblical burden at best, and of heresy at worst.  Why?  Because you will waste all of your time examining what you do, examining the response and trying to craft the perfect presentation of the Gospel, apologetics and witness.  You will devoid yourself of faith and trust, you will carry a burden that is not yours and you will believe yourself to be in the place of God.  Worst of all, you will neglect God, you will not rely on Him to lead, to change others, and you will live a life of duty rather than thankfulness and love.

When people fall away, you will feel guilty.  When people refuse the Gospel, you will take it personally.  When people move on from your church or your Bible study you will be crushed.

This is not a warrant to act wickedly.

What shall we say then?  Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?  May it never be!  How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

– Rom 6.1-2

This is an exhortation to trust God.  God has commanded us to preach the Gospel, to be wise with every word that comes out of our mouth and to make the most of every moment.

“Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity.  Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.”

– Col 4.5-6

But we do not do this because we believe that we can save or change people.  We do it because we love God and are thankful for our salvation.  We are the mouthpiece and God is the one who gives the faith.  He has given us the honor and privilege of being a part of His great work of salvation, but that part is limited to simply being the mouthpiece.  He does the rest.

“I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.  So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.”

– 1 Cor 3.6-7

We must be obedient to share.  We must live lives of thankfulness.  We share the Gospel because we are thankful and obedient, not because we can save people.  We look at Jesus when we share the Gospel, not the hearer.  We obey the commandments because we are thankful for salvation and we love Jesus, not because we want others to see how we act and think, “wow, she is different”.

If you live for God, He will be proud to call you His own:

“But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them.”

– Heb 11.16

Think about it.  Do you want God to be ashamed of you?  Or do you want that person who may never meet another “Jesus” to to be impressed by you?

It is not about you.  Or me.  Or the only Jesus that people meet.  It is about us being faithful to be the mouthpiece so that that person might meet Jesus.  Let’s not embarrass our saviour or ourselves.  Let’s live for Him and let Him take care of the rest.  My parents used to say it best when we would leave the house, he said,

“Remember who you belong to”.

Live for God in thankfulness and obedience.  Not for anyone else.