Most companies have benefits for employees: things like overtime pay, health insurance, and sick pay. In 2 Corinthians 6:1, Paul calls us "workers together with Him" (NLT renders it "God's partners"). We have been called to a high and lofty task—to be His representatives here on earth. You might say we're part of the "family business." So what has God called us to do? And how has He provided for us in terms of resources? In short, what are the benefits of being God's employees?
"But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" John 20:31.
Believe:879 is an epic journey through the book of John led by Pastor Skip Heitzig of Calvary of Albuquerque. As we explore each of the 879 verses of this gospel, we'll grow in grace and in our knowledge of Jesus Christ. From His pre-incarnate existence, to His public ministry, through His death and His resurrection we'll traverse familiar territory and embark on new adventures of faith.
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Pondering the Principles:
Greek Terms: amēn: truly; erga: energy
Figures Referenced: Henry David Thoreau; Irenaeus; Tertullian; Justin Martyr; Ignatius; Linda Claire;
Cross References: John 13:36-38; John 14:4-6; John 14:8-11; John 14:16; John 16:6-7; John 21:25; Acts 5:14-16; 2 Corinthians 6:1; Ephesians 2:10; James 1:22; 1 John 5:14-15
Topic: Upper Room Discourse
Keywords: prayer, in Jesus' name, in Jesus name, works, greater works, purpose, meaning of life
John Chapter 14, let's have a word of prayer. Lord we do this weekend pray especially for those families who are lending their loved ones overseas on the field in a military station. This weekend, we commemorate those who have fallen. We honor their memory. We're thankful for the freedoms we possess because of their sacrifice, the ultimate sacrifice of their life. But we also remember those who are overseas now, who are in the military now. And especially for their families who are eagerly waiting for their loved ones to come home and we do pray they would return safely.
We look forward to the day when men will beat their swords into plough-shears, and their spears into pruning hooks. When nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn to make war anymore. Until that time Lord, we're most thankful for Jesus who fought the ultimate battle, giving his life for the salvation of millions. We are recipients of that great mercy and grace. And to that end, we thank you and we pray you'd open our eyes to behold wondrous things from your word, in Jesus name. Amen.
I want to begin this morning by reading to you part of an actual job application form. This is an application by a 17-year-old boy who is applying for a job at McDonald's in Florida. It seems that that McDonald's decided to hire this 17-year-old boy shearly on the basis of the honesty and humor in the application. Name, Greg Bulmash(ph), Desired Position; Company President or Vice President. But seriously, whatever is available.
If I was in a position to be picky, I wouldn't be applying here in the first place. Desired salary, $185,000.00 a year plus stock options and a Michael Ovitz style severance package, if that's not possible, make an offer and we can haggle. Education; Yes, Last Position Held; target for middle management hostility, Salary; less than I'm worth, Hours Available To Work; any, Preferred Hours; 1:30-3:30 PM, Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. May we contact your current employer; he writes, "Oh come on. If I had one would I be here?"
So, they decided to take him on, hire him, and work at McDonald's. I had a position like that once. It wasn't in McDonald's. I worked at a turkey farm. My job, no benefits, no retirement package, no severance, my job was to take dead turkeys and put them on meat hooks all day long. I lasted one day, and I quit. I couldn't handle it.
We work for God. We are God's employees, or to put it in the language of Paul in II Corinthians 6, "We are fellow workers together with him." If you think about it, we work for the best company in the world. Our product works universally. No matter where you are, the gospel works everywhere.
We have offices worldwide, go anywhere in the world and you will find at least a few believers who represent our company. Number three, we have a benefits package that's outstanding. Forgiveness for the past, meaning for the present, peace of mind, and we have a retirement package that's out of this world, literally. Those are the benefits.
There are also shear privileges for working for God and it's because of those benefits and those privileges that God has managed to create such a brand loyalty in his followers.
Now, let's remember where we are in the gospel of John. We've been in it for some time. But we are dealing with the upper room this course right now. Chapters 13, 14, 15 and 16 all happen in one setting, one scene and that is the last final meal, pass over meal Jesus shares with his men, his followers, his disciples. We call them the "Apostles".
There's just a few hours left before Jesus will go to the cross, what is Jesus doing in the last few hours before he goes to the cross? He's teaching. He's teaching his men. He's not entertaining them. He's not really counseling them. He's not telling them to invest in the money market. He's teaching them to invest their lives in God's global plan that includes them.
Now, let me remind you, in the course of this last meeting, this upper room, this course, as Jesus starts talking, he is interrupted or at least fire back upon by three of the apostles. The first was Peter. Peter said, "Lord, where are you going and why can't I follow you now?" And Jesus said, "Well Peter, you can't follow me right now, but you will afterwards, later on."
The second was Thomas when Jesus said, "Well, you know where I'm going and you know the way." And Thomas said, "We have no clue where you're going, so how can we know the way?" And Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." The third was by the apostle named Philip. And Philip, tired of the ambiguity and wanting something concrete just said, "Lord, show us the Father and we'll be happy." And in effect Jesus said, "You're looking at him. Have I been with you so long, you don't know who I am? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. And if you don't believe that I am in such intimate concert with my heavenly Father, at least believe on the basis of the works that you've seen me do."
Now, at this point, beginning in Verse 12 of Chapter 14, the focus of our Lord is upon the future plan of God that includes them. This morning, we want to look at just three verses, beginning at Verse 12. 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.
These are fabulous promises, but they're misunderstood promises. And here's what's great about having this written down, when it's written down like this, we can pause and focus just on a little section like we're going to do. It's almost better than actually being there. Now, I know everybody says, "Boy I'd love to have been in that upper room and heard Jesus and seen him." I understand that, but what I think is better is it is.
We have the opportunity to take what is written, divorced from the emotion of the moment. The disciples in that upper room, their emotions were surging. They were dealing with doubts and questions and fears. And so, a lot of what they heard was lost at that moment. We get the opportunity to take a few verses and unpack them, and go deep, and answer the questions. That's what we want to do in these three verses.
So, I want to talk to you about three privileges of working for God, of being a part of his plan, of being God's employees. Number one, privilege number one is the privilege of purpose, Verse 12. Most assuredly, or verily, verily, if you had the Old King Jimmy version, in Greek, Amen, Amen, it's put putting the emphatic.
In other words, what I'm about to say, listen up. 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. You'll notice that Jesus speaks of doing works. The Greek word is "ergan" or "erga". We get the word energy form it. It means "Activities" or "Energy Expended".
In other words, there is some divine activity that God wants you and I to spend our energy on, some purpose. I've discovered that this is one of the greatest issues people wrestle with in life. What is the purpose of my life? Why am I here? What's the plan and the purpose of my life upon the earth?
You see, without knowing that, life can be very disorienting. Let me tell you what it's like. Imagine if you were to take an Amazonian tribesman and place him in New York City without any briefing, without any prep. You just stick in the middle of Time Square and say fend for yourself. He doesn't understand English. He doesn't understand traffic laws. He's never seen cars. He doesn't understand that in this culture, you buy your food, you don't kill it, hunt for it. He doesn't know how he fits in.
It would be cruel to do that. So too is it to live in God's universe without understanding God's plan and God's purpose and how we fit in. Henry David Thoreau once said, "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation." You know why? They don't know what their purpose is. In Christ, we have purpose. In Christ, we understand that God is working out his plan in the present world and we're a part of it.
Listen to what Paul writes in Ephesians 2:10, "We are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do." That's what Jesus is telling these disciples. There are works that I want you to do. I prepared you to do them and prepared them for you. Roll up your sleeves boys. You have the privilege of knowing the purpose for your existence.
This is how it works: The first stage of your Christianity is salvation. You get safe. You start growing. You come to church. You get fed. You get more fed. You get maybe a little bit spiritually fat even. And after a while, that's not enough. After a while, you don't want to just keep receiving. You come to a point where you want to start giving. You want to start engaging in the plan. You want to be a part of it. It's more blessed to give than receive.
So you enter into phase two, from salvation to service. In this phase, you're interested in your purpose, the plan of your life. What are my spiritual gifts? What is my calling from God? How can I be equipped to be a part of the global plan of God? Like James said, "Be doers of the word, not just hearers only."
One author explains, "It's like a son who's being brought into the family business. Instead of racing fast cars and running around with the girls he finally buckles down and says, 'Dad, I want to be a part of it. It's my business too and I'm going to work hard and undertake the burden of this work." That, says this author, is real maturity.
So, our Lord is growing up, maturing these disciples by showing them the first privilege of working for God and that is knowing the purpose of your life, engaging in the works. Here's the second privilege if that isn't good enough; proportion, the privilege of proportion.
Now watch this and I wonder if it's going to blow you away like it blew me away. Most assuredly, I say to you, he believes in me. The works that I do, he will do also. Here it is, "And greater works than these he will do because I go to my Father." Now what could Jesus possibly mean by that? Greater works than Jesus did?
I did a little snooping around in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and I discovered that there are 40 miracles recorded that Jesus did, and I mean real miracles; raising the dead, walking on water, not walking near water, not swimming under the water, walking on top of walker. While doing that, calming a sea, the wind and the seas obeyed him, turning water into wine, feeding thousands of people with a few loaves of bread and fish.
And here Jesus says, "And greater works than these shall he do." And by the way, those are just the recorded works. Did you know that John, the author of this gospel, at the end of his book says, "Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples which are not recorded in this book." I've never raised the dead, have you? I've never walked on water, have you? I've prayed for people, sometimes they've gotten better, sometimes they've died.
So, what could Jesus possibly mean in telling his disciples the works that I've done you're going to do and greater works than these you will do? Let me give you three possibilities. Since we're only taking three verses this morning, I can go a little bit deeper. Let me give you three possible interpretations.
Number one, maybe Jesus means miraculous, physical works that the apostles will do. It's confined to just those apostles in that room. They're going to do the same kind of miracles that Jesus performed. That's interpretation number one. And of course, they did.
You turn to the Book of Acts. In fact, do you mind turning to Acts Chapter 5? It's just one block over to the right. Acts Chapter 5, let's just scoop up a couple of verses. Acts Chapter 5:12, "And through the hands of the apostles, many signs and wonders were done among the people." Verse 15, "So that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them." That's power
Verse 16, "And also a multitude gathered from the surrounding cities to Jerusalem bringing sick people and those who were tormented by unclean spirits." Now watch this, "And they were all healed." That's a lot of power, physical miraculous power.
So we have the disciples basically replicating the miraculous signs and wonders that Jesus did in his own ministry. But, if we say that when Jesus made the promise in John 14 that you're going to do the works and greater works, we have a problem. If we say that it just means miraculous works are just for the apostles, we have a problem.
We have a problem, first of all, because Jesus didn't seem to limit it to the apostles. Notice what he said, "Most assuredly I say to you, he who believes in me." He seems to include anybody, right? Not just apostles, anybody who believes in him.
Number two, when we turn to the Book of Acts, yes, the apostles did miracles. But did you know that people other than the apostles did miracles? Two deacons come to mind, Steven was one of them. Philip, not the apostle, Philip the Deacon also did signs and wonders.
Number three, they did signs and wonders, the apostles, but can we say that what they did was greater than the signs and wonders that Jesus performed? I don't think so.
And number four, if it only means miraculous physical signs and wonders to the apostles, what about all of the reports we have in subsequent church history? From men like Irenaeus, Tertullian, Justin Martyr, Ignatius, in the first, second, third, fourth centuries of all of the miracles that were done at their hands.
So that's interpretation number one, physical signs and wonders done by the apostles. Okay now, that thought for a moment. Just put it on hold. Move it to the side.
Interpretation number two, Jesus is referring to physical signs and wonders done by everyone who has enough faith to believe. And those who hold this view emphasize the word "Believe", except they would say, "Believe".
And this group espouses the idea that the reason we don't see miraculous signs and wonders is that there's not enough people with enough faith to get it done, that we need to speak in faith and speak positive confessions and never speak negative confessions. You should never say, "I'm sick." You should never say, "I might lose my job" because then you will. You'll speak into existence. You have to speak by faith.
One of my favorite stories is about three guys. They were driving in a car. Two were in the front seat, one was in the backseat and the guy in the backseat believed this stuff, the faith movement stuff. And he said to the driver, "Hey, how's your uncle doing? I sure love him. It's been a long time since I've seen him." And the driver said, "Oh, my uncle's really sick." The guy in the backseat said, "Don't say he is sick. That's a negative confession. You can say, 'He thinks he's sick." He says, "Okay, whatever. He thinks he's sick." "Okay. That's better."
A little while later, the guy in the backseat said to the passenger, "Hey how's your uncle? I sure love him as well. And I miss him." And he says, "Oh, he thinks he is dead."
Now, here's the reason I don't think it refers to those who have enough faith for the miracle because Jesus says, "He who believes in me," not believes that the miracle will be done, not believes with the sufficient intensity or degree of faith, simply, "He who believes in me," and Jesus makes a declaration, not an offer. "Whoever believes in me will do," not might do, not should do if they have enough faith, will do these great works.
So, now that thought and move that to the side. I think there's a third way to look at it. I think it means something totally different. Let me ask you a question, what could be greater than physical works? Spiritual works, the key to understanding the statement is the phrase, the last phrase where Jesus says, "Because I go to my father." Notice this, "And greater works than these, he will do because I go to my Father." Why is that important? Because when Jesus would go to the Father, he would send the Holy Spirit.
In fact he said, "I can't send the Holy Spirit until I go to the Father. But when I go to the Father, I will send the Holy Spirit." Now watch, follow. Follow the context, go down a few verses. Go down to Verse 16. "And I will pray to Father and He will give you another helper that He may abide with you forever." Jesus explains that's the Holy Spirit.
Turn the page to the right to Chapter 16. Some of you might have to turn two pages. John 16:6, "But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away for if I do not go away, the helper will not come to you, but if I depart, I will send Him to you."
Now, can you see how these would be a comfort to these apostles? You've got to understand at this point they're thinking, "Man, Jesus is leaving us. There goes the power. This whole thing is over. We're downhill from here." Jesus turns it completely around and promises them, basically, "It's not over. It's just beginning. I'm going to go to the Father and send the Holy Spirit and He's going to be living in you and all the works that I have done is going to be replicated in a whole different manner, in a whole different fashion."
Now when Jesus says, "Greater Works", He doesn't mean greater in power, greater in magnitude, greater in intensity. That never happened. It means, listen carefully, greater in extent. Now think for a moment of what Jesus actually had done while He was on the earth. And compare that say to Peter on the day of Pentecost, after Jesus had died, resurrected and ascended. There's Peter preaching on the day of Pentecost 3,000 people in a single day came to faith in Christ. Did that ever happened during Jesus' ministry? Never, did Jesus ever take the Gospel to Asia Minor or to Europe or to Rome?
Never, but did you know that within 30 years, those men in this upper room in Jerusalem, these apostles within 30 years are going to take the Gospel and see results in Judea, Samaria, Syria, Asia Minor, Ethiopia, India, Macedonia, Greece and Rome. More people were saved in the first few months after Jesus ascended into heaven than His entire lifetime upon the earth. And within 300 years of church history, millions came to faith in Christ in the Roman Empire.
So the works were quantitatively, not qualitatively, quantitatively greater because Jesus ascended to His Father, dispatched the Holy Spirit who would live inside of all of us, and wherever we go, we would carry that message and people would come to faith in Christ.
So in the first century, people took the message by foot, by horseback, by boat, later on by shortwave radio, later on by real radio, by television, now by the internet, MP3s. We are seeing greater things today than Jesus ever saw in His lifetime. That's by His design. He saw them in His mind, in His heart, He predicted it, but he never saw it.
It's amazing. I was walking through Jerusalem a couple of weeks ago, and the two ladies from Hong Kong walked up to me and recognized me, internet and said, "We download your messages on the internet and we listen to them." I went, "Really?" Later on, same day, I'm walking up from the Temple Mount area up into the upper part of Jewish quarter of Jerusalem and this guy stopped me and said, "Is your name Skip?" I said, "Yes." He goes, "I'm from Australia. I listen to you on the internet and I downloaded the DVD 'Learning from the Land', and I decided I wanted to come and see the land."
Now, if you really want to see the greater works thing in a real magnanimous way, get involved to missions. Get outside of our little American bubble and go see what's happening, for instance, in Africa. It's estimated in Africa 20,000 conversions to Christ happened every single day. In Latin America, the conversion rate is 10,000 per day. Well that's greater works. That's greater works.
Listen, the greatest work is not the physical healing of a body. The greatest possible work is to get a sinner from earth to heaven and we're part of that enterprise, the greater works that Jesus spoke about.
So two privileges: Privilege of purpose, privilege of proportion. The third privilege is the privilege of prayer. So what Jesus does in Verse 13 and 14 is help the disciples understand how the job is going to get done. You can imagine what it would be like to hear this promise. You're sitting in that upper room and Jesus said, "Greater works." And you're thinking, "Really?" And where are we going to get the resources for this? Verse 13, "Whatever you ask in my name that I will do that the Father maybe glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in my name, I will do it."
Now you can imagine the panic that's running through the minds of the apostles. Jesus is going away, "Where are we going to get the resources, the power?" I mean, Jesus fed them. Jesus had helped them get their fish. Jesus even provided tax money on one occasion. Remember he said, "Go open the fish." The first fish you get from the lake today open it up and you'll find enough up money to pay your taxes. Wouldn't that be cool?
Right around the April you get a package of fish in the mail. You got enough money in there to pay your taxes. And now Jesus is leaving, but what He's basically saying is, "I maybe going away, but whatever you need, just ask and I'll ship it to you right away. I'll give you the resources you need."
This is momentous to me. I sat stunned as I realized the meaning of this. The gap between where Jesus is ascended to God, the gap between where Jesus is and where you are is closed the moment you pray. There's no gap. When you pray, it closes the gap and it dispenses the resource. That's the promise.
Now, I think it's fair to say that these verses have been grossly misunderstood. I mean look what it says, "Whatever you ask in my name, that I will do." Verse 14, "If you ask anything in my name, I will do it," that's a huge promise and I've had people say, "Well, I prayed and He never answered." Well, "No" is an answer. Well, what does Jesus mean then?
Well listen, they're reading something into this package that was never intended to be there. Do you think for a moment that this is some blank of promise that whatever whim comes into your mind, whatever request you have, as long as you say, "In Jesus', name abracadabra, over and out," it's going to happen? Absolutely not, there's a qualifying phrase that helps you understand what Jesus is saying. And it's the phrase "In my name."
I want you to notice it's mentioned twice, one in each verse, "Whatever you ask in my name that I will do," Verse 14, "If you ask anything in my name I will do it."
Now in ancient times, a person's name was the person's character and reputation and it embodied all that that person was, it was more than a tag. If a friend said to you, "Hey, go to this new restaurant. I know the owner. Mention my name and he will give you the best table in the house."
Now, you are using that person's name, character, reputation to make an approach and a request. To pray in the name of Jesus means that you are praying for something making a request for that which is consistent to His character. To pray in His name is to pray according to what you know he wants for His sake.
So, try this. At the end of every request that you make to say, "Lord, I'm asking this for the sake of Jesus Christ because I know that this will bring glory to Him and will ultimately glorify you." And that's going to weed out a lot of prayer requests, right?
All those "Give me, give me, give me" prayer requests are going to be gone pretty quick, right? I mean it's awfully hard to say, "Lord, I want a new TV and I'm saying this for Jesus' sake and because I know this is going to glorify --" which just falls flat. And what it does is it lifts prayer up to the loftiest level, the level it was meant to be to pray according to those things that are in His mind, His will that will glorify Him for His sake.
I'll give you another verse that I think helps flush this out written by the same author, this is 1 John Chapter 5. Now this is the confidence that we have in Him that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know He hears us, whatever we ask we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. In Jesus name, according to his character, reputation for His sake by His will.
So we have the privilege of purpose, the privilege of proportion and the privilege of prayer. Now let me ask you a question, when was the last time you asked God, you prayed to see greater works in your life accomplished in your life? Lord, I want to find out what you're up to and I just want to be a part of what you're up to.
Now some will say, "Well, I haven't done that because frankly, the task is so big." The people are so many, the work is too hard. Jesus said, "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel." That's just so big of a task.
Let me give you a couple of things as we close on that. Number one, you're not the manufacturer, you're just the distributor. It's not your work. You don't have to make anything up. The burden isn't on you. You don't have to say, "Okay, What do I --?" Just tell them the truth, give them the Gospel. You're not the manufacturer, He is, just be the distributor, let God use you but just dispense the truth.
Number two; it's the enormity of the work that spurs us on. Okay, it's a big task, granted, but would you have it any other way? It's called the "Great Commission" going to all the world. It's not called the "Mediocre Commission" or the "Small Commission", the "Manageable Commission". It's this enormous task that rises us up. It's sort of like the communists in the heyday of the Communist Party in Russia. They said that when they would call people to the impossible task, that's when they saw the most recruits. People want a noble task to rise up to.
And number three; great works are done by the combination of smaller parts. Great works are done by the combination of smaller parts, add your part. You can't do it all. You're not called to do it all. You're simply called to add your part to my part, to his part, to her part and all together we'll be a part of the greater work.
I love the story about Linda Clare form Eugene, Oregon. She was a childcare provider, a believer. She was struggling with this whole idea of purpose and proportion, "Is this what I'm called to do, be a babysitter? Is this all that I'm called to do? Is this the proportion? That's it? Maybe God wants something great for my life." Until one day, one of the parents, a dad, came to her and said, "You taught my daughter to pray, didn't you?" She's thinking, "Uh-oh, I'm in trouble." And this father said, "Every evening, when KC comes home, she prays before meals. And she said you taught her to do that. And you know, my wife and I were thinking, we ought to be getting back to church after hearing my daughter pray and we were wondering if you could recommend a good church for us?"
Linda Claire said that was the clarifying moment for her. That was the epiphanal moment. She discovered she is a part of God's great plan. And so, now whenever anybody asks her, "What do you do for a living?" She says, "I'm a babysitter for God, for the glory of God."
Let's pray. Father, we are fellow workers with you. That's what Paul described us as co-laborers with Christ. Discovering our purpose, our purpose is to fulfill your plan and it's huge. You promised great proportions, greater works. It can only be done by the power of your Holy Spirit operating in each one of us, all working together. But then Lord to realize that whatever distance there is between Jesus and heaven and us on earth is immediately closed when we go to prayer and the resources are sent. Whatever we need for the task to get that job done, whatever we ask in the name of Jesus, to glorify God and to do those greater works will be given. That's wonderful Lord. If any of us have felt isolated, alienated or alone, that is diminished when we hear these promises.
Lord, I pray that we would close that gap more often than we do. I pray that our dependence upon you would be greater than it has been before. And I pray that we would see the shear privilege as we add our part to see greater works done. Thank you for the privilege of being a part of it. In Jesus', name. Amen.