Friday, January 20, 2017
The mere word gets peoples’ backs up for one view or another.
Melissa Ohden’s memoir, You Carried Me, is her story – a heart-story of discovery leading to a commitment to God and speaking boldly against abortion. You see, Melissa is a failed abortion – and this is her story of being adopted, growing up, learning the truth, and seeking out her birth families, while she began a family of her own.
If you have had an abortion, or if you’re thinking about it, if you have had a child, or a miscarriage, if you wonder about birth and whether abortion really affects anyone, this is a powerful memoir to help you think and cry, forgive and tak a stand.
This would be a wonderful resource to share with anyone, but especially for junior high and middle school kids who are just thinking about what they might pursue sexually and what they believe about what that means and their responsibility in what they pursue.
A wonderful history and resource.
[This review appears on my blog and on Amazon.com. I received this book free in exchange for an honest review.]
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
“Doing & Asking”
January 15, 2017 Second Reformed Church
We return to our look at the Gospel of John today. You may remember that Jesus has finished His public ministry at this point in the Gospel: the Eleven are with Jesus in the Upper Room, Judas has gone off to betray Jesus to the priests and Pharisees, and Jesus is engaged in a marathon teaching session with the remaining eleven apostles.
After Judas leaves, Jesus tells the Eleven that His disciples will be known for having a sacrificial love for one another. Jesus reveals that Peter will deny Him. And, Jesus explains that He is going to prepare a place in the Father’s house for all those who believe in Him savingly. Jesus tells them that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life – in fact, Jesus and the Father are the same One God – so anyone who sees Jesus, sees the Father.
Jesus continues in this morning’s text as He responses to their anxiety about His leaving them.
And we see, first, believers in Jesus will do the works that Jesus did.
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do;”
You may remember that when we see “truly, truly” or “amen, amen” this repetition is for emphasis. Jesus is telling the Eleven – and us – to pay attention – to listen up – this is important.
Whoever believes in Jesus savingly will continue to be able to do the works that Jesus did and will do them. Jesus’ physical absence will not leave them unable to do works with power.
The Eleven were afraid of what would happen once Jesus was no longer physically around. They looked at Jesus and saw Him – rightly – as the One with Power and Authority – the connection to the Father – the words of life – salvation. If Jesus was with them, they could preach the Gospel with power, but if He was gone – they worried they would not have the authority or the power to do what they had been doing in His presence: preaching the Good News, performing miracles – works of the Holy Spirit, and standing against the priests and the Pharisees who did not believe.
It’s similar to the way some of my friends are feeling – they look at the incoming Republican majority, and they fear that everything the Democratic party has achieved in the past eight years will be overturned – they will not be able to continue the good things they achieved – everything will be taken away.
Or, it is like a strong leader leading people into a battle, and when he or she is killed, there is a fear that all is lost. A vacuum is felt – the followers do not believe they can carry on without that person who was such an influential presence.
Now, of course, none of our leaders are the Incarnate God, but the Eleven were feeling a similar sense of loss and confusion about proceeding with the works of the Good News. Without Jesus as their Source of Power and Authority, how could they heal the sick and raise the dead? How could they preach the Gospel without fear before the forces of evil?
And Jesus tells them that they will be able to do all the works that Jesus did after Jesus has bodily ascended back to the Father – and they did.
And so do we and all those who believe in Jesus savingly. The one caveat is that miracles were done to prove Who Jesus is – there is no need for believers to be able to perform miracles now – though God can certainly do as He wills.
What this means for us is that each one of us is able – empowered – authorized – to proclaim the Gospel – the historical facts of Who Jesus is and what He did – to all people – even to proclaim them against the evil in the world with confidence. Lord willing, we’ll see next week that the reason we can do the works that Jesus did is due to the fact that we are indwelled by God the Holy Spirit.
In fact, we are told that we were created to do good works: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10, ESV).
You may have heard people say that if Jesus was just here – physically – or if we lived in His day – things would be better – we would be more effective in our work for the Gospel. But it’s not true. We are able – today, to do the works that Jesus did – and we are called – and it has been planned – that we will do them.
Second, believers will do greater works than Jesus.
“and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.”
Jesus tells them that the Eleven – and all who believe in Him savingly – will do greater works that He did. That means you and I will do greater works than Jesus.
Are you waiting for the lightning to hit?
Is that blasphemy?
Jesus did not say – and we should never say – that those who believe savingly in Jesus are greater than Jesus! No, He said that all those who believe savingly in Jesus will do greater works than He did.
How can that be?
What did He mean?
We have a hint as Jesus says that we who believe savingly in Him will do greater works than He did, because He is going to the Father. As I mentioned, next week, we hope to look at the Gift of the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit – when Jesus returned to the Father – everyone who believes that He is God the Son and Savior was indwelled with God the Holy Spirit – giving us the power and authority to act and speak in Jesus’ Name.
But, back to the question at hand, how is what we do greater works than Jesus?
Well, those works cannot be greater in impact on individuals – because Jesus is the One Savior Who provides the One Way of salvation to all who believe – there is no one and nothing greater.
The answer is found as we consider the extent of Jesus’ ministry. If we look to the Bible, we see that Jesus preached and taught and did other works in a small section of what we call the Middle East. But the Apostles, and the disciples, and all we who believe take the Gospel to the entire world – to all of Creation – to every people and tribe and tongue and nation.
We do greater works than Jesus did because we do the works of Jesus to the ends of the earth.
Third, Jesus will do whatever we ask in His Name.
“Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”
“In Jesus’ Name, I ask that one thousand gold bars appear on the communion table!”
“In Jesus’ Name, I ask that four hundred people come into the sanctuary to worship when I finish making this request!”
Did I do something wrong?
I remember watching the false teacher, Benny Hinn, on TV once, and a young man came up on the stage and this young man renounced his sins and asked Benny to fill him with the Holy Spirit. And Benny saw that this young man was wearing earrings. And Benny told him that until he had been delivered by the demon of men who wear earrings, the Holy Spirit would not come into him. And Benny yelled at those earrings to come out in Jesus’ Name, and the young man removed them, and Benny waved his arms and the young man fell down.
Is that what Jesus means?
No. Of course not.
Let’s think this through.
Jesus says that whatever we ask in His Name. If we are asking “in His Name,” we are asking something on His behalf, we are asking something that is within His ability to grant, we are asking something that is representative of Him – something that is according to His character – something He would want.
Think about it this way: if you spoke before Congress and said, “In the name of President Obama, I ask that rich people no longer have to pay taxes,” your response would be to say, “That is not in the name of President Obama – President Obama would never ask that rich people no longer have to pay taxes.”
If we speak in someone’s name – if we ask in someone’s name – it has to be in line with their character – with what they would want – what you would normally expect them to say if they were here in the flesh.
It also removes our merit for making the request. If the request can only be answered by Jesus according to Who Jesus is, then it is all of Jesus, and not something that we have accomplished – so asking in Jesus’ Name rightly matures us in humility.
Then Jesus says that He will do what we ask in His Name, so the Father is glorified in the Son. So, anything we ask in Jesus’ Name must also be something that glorifies the Father in the Son – whatever we ask for in Jesus’ Name – if it is to be answered – if it is to be done – it must be something that reveals Who the Father is in the Son – it cannot mislead people about Who the Father is or Who the Son is – it cannot say anything that is contrary to Who They are.
And Jesus repeats Himself: “If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.”
And we have repetition for why?
Jesus wants the Eleven – and all of us – to understand that although He is physically seated at the Right Hand of the Father in Glory – He hears ever request we make of Him – He hears every single prayer we raise to Him. He is not too busy. He does not get confused. Every single prayer we raise in the Name of Jesus is heard by Jesus. And if it is according to His Will, His Character, to the Glory of the Father in the Son – He will absolutely, positively, no doubt about it, do what we request of Him.
Do you believe Jesus?
If you do, then the question is, how do we know what is in Jesus’ Name – according to His Will – His Character, to the Glory of the Father in the Son?
Part of the answer is that we don’t always know.
For example, if someone is ill and we pray for his healing, if it is Jesus’ Will that he be healed, He will answer our prayer and do what we have asked. But if it is not His Will that he be healed, Jesus will answer our prayer by saying, “no,” and allow the man to remain ill.
The other part of the answer is that there are thousands of commands and promises in the Bible, and if we pray those, we know He will do them, because He wants us to keep the commands and He has promised to keep His promises.
Consider these words of Jesus:
“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:1-11, ESV).
There are a number of prayers that we can – and should – pray from this passage:
Lord, prune us so we will bear more fruit, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Lord, keep us clean because of the Word You have spoken, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Lord, help us to abide in You and bear much fruit, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Lord, help us to abide in You so we would pray that Your Will would be done, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Lord, help us to abide in Your love, that we would love others, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Lord, help us to keep Your commandments, so we would abide in Your love, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Lord, help us to receive Your Word – to believe and trust it – that our joy would be full, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Do you understand?
So, in this short text, we see that the eleven apostles were worried about continuing the Gospel mission in the world once Jesus had physically left – returning to the Father. But Jesus comforts them and assures them that they will continue the Gospel mission – spreading the good news of Jesus Christ.
In fact, Jesus tells them that His disciples – which includes you and me and all those who believe – will continue to do the works that Jesus did – especially preaching and teaching Who Jesus is and what He has done.
Jesus tells them that His disciples – which includes you and me and all those who believe – will do greater works that He did – in the sense that we have been commanded and given the authority to bring the Gospel to every nation and tribe and tongue and people throughout Creation.
And Jesus tells them that His disciples – which includes you and me and all those who believe – that He most assuredly will do whatever we ask of Him that is according to His Will and to the Glory of the Father.
So let us take comfort in Jesus’ words, and seek to obey Him in all that He has said.
And let us pray:
Almighty God, Your Son promised that we would be enabled as His disciples to do the works that He did – even to the ends of the earth – and we ask that we would tell others the Gospel with the power and authority of Your Son, Jesus. We ask that You would help us to pray with wisdom and trust, knowing what Jesus has said and all that You have commanded and promised. And we ask that we would know You so well that we, indeed, pray according to Jesus’ Will and to Your Glory, for it is in Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.