Sunday Morning | October 8, 2023 | John C. Majors | Louisville, KY
What did Jesus mean when he spoke about his disciples, about us, doing greater works than he did? Pastor John tells us four ways we see greater works as followers of Christ.
At Valley View Church we are currently studying through the entire gospel of John, verse by verse. You can join us on Sunday mornings at 11 AM for worship. We are located at 8911 3rd Street Road, Louisville KY 40272.
Well, good morning Valley View. It's great to be with you. Don't pay any attention to the man walking back and forth across the stage. You can ignore him. He's working on something We're going to show you later. And he really doesn't like attention drawn to himself. So too late. But listen, it's great to be with you today. We're working through the book of John . We’re continuing... We're in John chapter 14. And as I prepared this message, I thought back to when I first started in full time ministry. So my wife and I both were serving college students at U of L. And our goal there was to try to evangelize the campus, try to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the campus. But before we started in full time work, we had both done that volunteer and in college, the first step was to raise all the funds to cover the cost of us doing that. So, you know, yes, please come be a part of our mission and find all the money to do that as well. It was just interesting. Maybe how do you say it when someone tries the recruitment strategy, it's not necessarily the one you think that would work, but Campus Crusade for Christ, who we serve with, became the largest mission organization in the world. So the first step was, though, to go around, meet with people and share with them. Here's what we will be doing. Here's what we have feel God has called us to do in ministry. Will you partner with us? And so I would call people and say, Hey, can you be available to me? I'd like to share with you how God is stirring. In fact, I, if we meet, I will ask you about partnering with us financially. I wanted to be very clear about that on the front end. I don't want there to be any confusion. I will ask for money. And people said, yes, we'd love to meet. It was so encouraging. In fact, there's I could look around the room and see faces of those I'd met with to share this vision, to see what God would do, to see how you might be a part of that. But what was crazy about this for me was on-- probably every single time I've called someone, I've told them about serving in ministry. Will you meet? Yes, They've already said, yes, I'm coming to the house. They know I'm coming and I've come to the door and I go to knock on the door-- the door I know they're waiting for me to come. They want to talk. Every single time, right before I go to knock, there was this overwhelming fear and dread and just this inner sense of turn around and run. Even though this is the very thing I feel like God has called us to do. It's what I've been working toward. I know the people inside actually want to talk about this. There's still this moment of God use me, but God not right now. Let me run away from this moment. Isn't that interesting? I'm sure we could go around the room and you could share experiences like that. God, use me, do something great in my life. Do something through me. But wait. Not right now. It's kind of scary. In fact, maybe there are disappointments in my life, as Andrew mentioned. Maybe there are fears. Maybe it's the fear of what that might mean. A sacrifice I might have to make. Maybe that I'm not quite ready to take that step of faith. We want to see him work, and yet sometimes we want to run from that as well. Today's passage is going to talk about that. How do we move from running from him wanting to work and wanting him to work? How do we move towards this place of seeing him work, trusting him to work, depending on him to work through us, around us? We're going to look at that in today's passage. In fact, we're going to be in John chapter 14. And if you have a church Bible, one of those I mentioned earlier that's going to be on page 847 that passage is on the screen and I'm going to read through all these verses to start. We'll just get a survey of the whole thing. Kind of need to get the big picture before we dive into the particulars. We're going to look at John 14, 12 through 21, and I'll say on the front end as I go through this passage, as we teach through it, I'm going to highlight four ways we can see God work to see Him do greater works. We're going to talk about that phrase in particular. I'm going to point out four ways along the way as we go through this passage. But first, let's just read the passage. John, Chapter 14, verse 12. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do and greater works than these will he do because I am going to the father. 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. If you love me, you will keep my commandments and I will ask the father and he will give you another helper to be with you forever. Even the spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. I'll not leave you as orphans. I'll come to you yet a little while and the world will see me no more. But you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day., you will know that I am in my father, and you in me and I in you. Whoever has my commandments and keeps them. He it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my father. And I will love him. And I will manifest or reveal or show myself to him. So, John Chapter 14. There's a lot here to unpack. We're going to see four ways that we can be a part of seeing God work, seeing Him do greater things. And that's the first phrase we need to understand to get our minds around, to understand what that means. Look back at verse 12, the very first, very first verse of our passage today. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do and greater works than these he will do. So first thing we have to do, if we are asking God, yes, we want to be a part of seeing you do greater works, seeing you do great things, seeing you work in amazing ways. What does that mean? What was he talking about when he said greater works right here? The first thing just studying the immediate context is to look back one verse, because we're breaking up the whole book of John into small chunks, but especially this long discourse or lecture by Jesus. It's called The Farewell or the Upper Room Discourse that goes across Chapter 13, 14, 15, 16, 17. We're breaking it up over weeks and maybe months, probably. But this would have been in a few minutes. He would have said all this. I don't know if you just sit down and read through it out loud. 15, 20 minutes. And so all these thoughts are very closely connected. We can't forget that there's a close connection to what we said last week with what we looked at last week. And in verse 11, he said, Believe me that I am in the father, the father is in me. And if you don't believe that, not that else believe on account of the works themselves. So maybe you don't fully believe in me, but think back to what I've done. Jesus says, Think back to the miracles I performed. Think back to those works. And maybe that'll point you to just a glimpse of who I am. So when he says you're going to do greater works than those, what does he mean? Does greater mean? Because greater can mean a lot of different things. Does it mean bigger? Larger? I think of a magician. In fact, I met a lady this week. She said she and her husband have a kind of traveling couple's magic routine. And she said, You know what? We've also met David Copperfield. And, you know, for those younger in the audience may not know that name, he was real big in the eighties and nineties. He would do these big, big illusions on TV, on live TV. In fact, probably the first one that really put him on the map was he made a Learjet disappear right there on live TV. How do you top that? What he did next Does anybody remember what did he make disappear after that? Statue of Liberty right there on live TV. Don't worry. It's still there. It's back. I don't know where he put it, but it's okay. You can still go to New York and see it. Okay. Is that what he's talking about? My last trip was great. Let's go. Even bigger. Well, when we look at the disciples, we don't see them topping Jesus’s miracles. We see him doing a lot of the same miracles. But, you know, Jesus walked on water. We don't see them flying through the air. Jesus calmed the storm. We don't see them creating tornadoes or hurricanes. There's not greater works in that regard. So if it's not bigger, maybe it's more, greater in amount. Okay, Maybe he did a few miracles. Maybe they do just unending amounts of miracles. But again, when you read through all the New Testament, yeah, the disciples and his apostles and followers, they do miracles. But it's not the bulk of their ministry. It's definitely part of it. But it's not like they just turn into a miracle performing ministry. And so if it's not greater in scale and if it's not greater in amount, what is it then? I heard one commentator say it this way. In fact, you can throw that quote up on the screen,“Not greater in scale, not greater in amount, but greater in kind.” This is important to remember because the miracles weren't miracles just for miracles sake. It's not like David Copperfield and his tricks. The enjoyment was in the illusion in and of itself. The works point to something else. In fact, the first thing we're going to see in terms of the ways that we partake in his greater works is right here in verse 12. Look again at verse 12. Truly, I say to you, Whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do and greater works than these he will do. The first step in being a part of his greater works is to believe. Belief. Now, this refers to our own belief, but the greater work in and of itself is also the belief of others. And we know that because the context here speaks to belief. Remember last week we just got three questions from the disciples we had Peter in verse 36, we had Philip in verse eight, we had Thomas in verse five, and they were asking Jesus, we've seen all the miracles. You're talking crazy. We don't know exactly what you mean. Tell us, where are you going? How do we follow you? How do we see the father? How can we believe what you're saying? Help us to believe. I believe. Help my unbelief. This is the very thing they're asking for. And the greater work at the end of the day is belief. That's the first step in being a part of seeing him do greater works is to believe, to trust, to lean on him, to depend on him. The second one comes in the next couple of verses Look at verse 12 and 13 or 13 and 14, 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. That's a difficult verse to encounter. Again, we have to ask, What does it mean? What does he mean by ask in my name? Because it can mean that can mean a lot of different things. In fact, I'm sure you've heard there's some churches that would say this means that whatever you pray, you pray it, you believe it. Add on the end of it in the name of Jesus, and he has to do it. He is honor bound to do it because he said, I will do it. Is that what that means? I think part of us intuitively knows that's not what that means. I mean, Jesus didn't somehow trick himself into doing whatever you ask. Oops. I didn't realize what I was doing when I said that. No, he's got something else in mind. In fact. So here's what I did, and I encourage you to do this. Any time you want to know what something in the Bible means, look up every place else it exists. And so I looked up every use of that phrase in my name. I looked at the Greek construction, looked up every place-- 27 times It shows up in the New Testament. About half of those are in the book of John, the book we're in. That's the first place to start. If you want to know what something means and you're in a particular book, look at how else it's used in that book first, then look out beyond that. So I looked up all those. I also looked up all the prayers of Paul. There's about 40, depending on how you slice them and see, Did Paul use that phrase? Did he tack on at the end of all his prayers in the name of Jesus, Amen, to see that it happened? Interesting thing is, he didn't he doesn't once do that. Now, he... he uses the name of Jesus in his prayers. He invokes the name of Jesus in his prayers. He's he prays to Jesus because the name of Jesus has power. We sang that in our last song, There is Power in the Name of Jesus, but he also knew it's not some formulaic thing where you just tack it on to whatever, and he has to do it. As I looked at all the uses of the phrase in the name of Jesus, here's four observations I just want to quickly give you in terms of what does it mean? And these are on the screen. Number one, Jesus is deeply concerned about bringing glory to the Father in all prayer, in everything he does. In fact, most of the times that he says to pray in my name, the father shows up in those verses in John, almost all of them, 75% of them. He's also referring to the father. Great example of that we just read. Looking back at verse 13, whatever you ask in my name this I will do so that, in order that, for the purpose of the father being glorified. He is deeply concerned that whatever he does and as a result, whatever we do, that behind it is bringing glory to the Father, not just as our famous Kevin Hamm would say, Gimme, gimme, my name is Jimmy. That sounds like something he would say doesn’t it? Whether he did or not, sure does. It's not that. God, how can you be honored in what I pray? How can you be glorified in what I pray? So that's the first one. The second here. I've already made mention of the context of here is the prayer of belief all around this. Help me to believe Jesus starts in verse 12. Believe, believe in me. And as we pray, we are asking for him to stir up belief in ourselves and in others That’s the context of this whole praying in his name. We're praying for belief primarily above all else. Number three, it's really interesting that they are not yet-- If you look here, he says to them later-- they are not yet praying in his name. It's really interesting. Look at chapter 16. Just flip over one page, verse 24. Until now, you have asked nothing in my name. So whatever they've been asking up to this point, it's not been in his name. You know, most of the time we see them asking Jesus some-- There are some good spiritual questions, but there's also, hey, will you make us the two most important people in your kingdom in the future? Can I be on your right and you be-- and the other on your left? And most of the time they're arguing about who's the greatest here among the disciples. But no, you haven't really understood yet what it means to pray in my name. It's not just gimme, gimme. But then number four, That'll help us understand what it means to say pray in Jesus name. Number four is we've got to understand the importance of a name in that culture. A name wasn't just a label that someone handed down to you. A name referred to your character, your reputation, your standing in the community.Proverbs 22:
1, What's greater than Riches? A good name is to be sought after far more than that good reputation, a good standing, a person who is known as a person who depends on Christ. So what does all that mean? How do we stack all that up to understand? What does it mean to pray in the name of Jesus? There's a quote by Wayne Grudem that I found real helpful. I'm going to toss it upon the screen here:
To come In the name of someone means that another person has authorized us to come on his authority, not on our own. But when I pray to the father in the name of Jesus, I'm a coming on Jesus's authority and hopefully representing him well, not myself but him. Second part of this quote It also means praying in a way that is consistent with his character. And I thought about this and I was reminded of when I-- we served with Campus Crusade for Christ here in Louisville on U of L's campus, spreading the gospel there. That led to us transitioning to marriage and family ministry. And so it took us to Little Rock, Arkansas, and I served there with the president over that organization of Family Life, Dennis Rainey. Started out as his personal ministry assistant, which meant just a lot of grunt work. Really. John, run and do this. John, talk to this person. John, get this done. John... And it was really interesting. I learned very quickly that when I came to people and asked them for something, I was asking on his behalf, not mine. And they knew that by the way, they knew when I came, when they saw me, that it was really Dennis coming to ask for this. And I had to be very careful and very wise to represent him well, because how I asked, they would take that as coming from him, not just for me. So if I was rude, they would see him as being rude. I needed to be kind. I needed to ask with wisdom. I needed to ask in a way that honored him and his wishes that sometimes going back to him, I'm not sure this is exactly what you want after talking to him. Can we work on this? It meant being mindful that I wasn't representing myself. I wasn't just asking for me. And what I get out of it ultimately was to honor him. Practically speaking, I think a verse that often comes to mind, one that has summed up so much of truly beginning to understand what it means to follow Christis Psalm 37:
4,“Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” It's not let me go to Jesus and ask whatever I can get out of Him. The first step is to delight yourself in the Lord, to delight in Him, to follow Him, to get to know him to the fullest. And as you get to know him and understand what it means to have true joy in him, he changes your desires to the point to where when you begin to pray to him, it's the very thing he would have prayed for you. He changes your desires over the course. And it doesn't mean that I just pray whatever I want. But it means that my prayers changed to the very thing that he wants. Delight yourself in him. So that's part of what it means to pray in his name. And that's what he is saying. Pray in his name. Pray according to his will, pray for his will to be done. Pray in a way that honors him in the pursuit of seeing him do greater things. So that's number two. Number three, when we look at the passage, is in the next couple of verses, we're going to look at verse 15 here, and here's how I'll say it. Love to keep his commands to love. Number three, love to keep his commands to love. In fact, what I want to do is show you something. We're going to try something a little different today. This is the passage that you're looking at in one big chunk, verses 15 through 21. I want to mark up a couple of things in real time here for you to see, because there's an interesting connection, a bookend on this passage that shows us how we can love. All right. First thing to note here, look at verse 15. He says, He gives us a command. If you love me, you will keep my commandments. If you love me, you will keep my commandments. All right. So the first thing to just highlight here is that there's a connection between love and commands. We know that you've experienced that in relationships. There's a connection between love and commands,--making sure that showed up on screen. It's a new thing for us to try here. For me, at least.-- And part of what this means also is that love comes first. If you love me, the overflow of that is to keep my commands, is to do the things that please me. It's not the other way around. We don't. We don't get it backwards. We don't start by let me do enough stuff that I hope pleases God and eventually that'll outweigh the bad. And maybe he'll love me as well. And I'll prove to him how much I love him, and then he'll accept me. No, no, no. It starts with love. It's out of the overflow of love. Then I'll follow him and seek to honor him and seek to do the things that please him. This is true in other relationships as well. When a couple comes to me and says, Hey, we're, we're thinking of getting married and we want to talk to you about that, I'm going to ask him pretty early on, Tell me why. Why are you getting married? Why this person? Why now? What I don't want to hear when I ask that is, well, let me tell you, she's got a great job and I really need help with rent. Or, I don't want to hear, you know, my car is not working and he's a great mechanic. Now, those things may be true. That may be part of the deal, but it better start with love. It better begin there. And when we see what Jesus is saying here, if you love me, you will keep my commandments. The commandments come from the overflow of the joy of the relationship. It's not the other way around. But what is interesting and I'll tell you what is often maddening about Scripture is the way that this passage is bookended. So look at the last verse. Verse 15 If you love me, you will keep my commandments. Verse 21, it's the same verse, but flip it around, whoever has my commandments and keeps them. He it is who loves me. All right. So check this out. We have these bookended verses verse 15, verse 21. They are both talking about love. They're both talking about commands. And by the way, I forgot to mention, I said wherever he is talking all throughout in John in my name, we also see the father showing up all over the place. The father, the father, the father. Jesus can't stop talking about the father, but he's bookending this section. If you love me, you will keep my commandments. However, whoever has my commandments and keeps them, here it is who loves me. And we know that's not contradicting the first verse. We know that because of all the rest of Scripture, Ephesians2:
8-9, it's not by works that you are saved. It's by grace through faith, not a result of what you've done so that no one will boast. It's what he's done. And what this second part of this verse on commands and love is just pointing to the reality that when we follow him, the overflow of love is our actions. And our actions often reveal what it is going on in our heart. Your actions will often reveal what you love, what you follow, what you believe. We say we believe some things and we act differently, our actions will often reveal. And so the balance here is love me, keep my commandments and love my commandments and keep keeping my commandments and keep loving to keep them. There's an interplay. In fact, the main point of all this, what this all is driving at is obedience and love. They are intrinsically connected. We can't separate those from one another. Sometimes we want to do that. And if I’ve got to follow his commands, that's legalism, right? You're just trying to say, do this, do that. You turn it all into actions. That's one extreme we run to. The other is, well, love it's just, it's just a feeling. Love is love. You can't really define it. Just love, be loving. It doesn't really matter what you do. Just love. But no, no, no. Jesus won't let that false dichotomy stand. No, love and actions are intimately, intrinsically, inherently connected, deeply. You can't have one without the other. So that's number three. Love. Love his commands. Keep loving his commands and love to keep them. But now number four, because that's not easy to do, by the way, is it loving, following? There are times where that's a challenge. How do we do that? What's the source of our ability to do that? Look back at this passage. I'm going to mark one more thing and show you that in between these bookends of love right in the middle, which is our source, our ability, our power to love. Look at verse 16. I will ask the father and he will give you another helper-- Circle that word helper-- to be with you forever, even the spirit of truth. Sandwiched in the middle of the commands to love is the power to love. It's the Holy Spirit, the helper. In fact, it's interesting that he that word there is helper because that word can be translated a variety of ways and really this sets up our fourth point that four ways to see him do greater works. All of this is driving at how do we see him do greater works? The Holy Spirit, number four, is the one who gives us that power to love and obey. That's who we lean on. It's not just let me try harder. Let me see if I can follow these commands better. Now, let me just depend on the Holy Spirit more and more, and Him working through me will give me that ability. But it's interesting that that word in this verse, verse 16, is translated helper. Let me give you another Bible study tip. This is something that I love to do. So I preach from the ESV. That's... I use it for a variety of reasons. I've talked about that at length on some Wednesday night services. Doesn't mean it's my favorite translation, doesn't even mean it's the best. I think what the best approach is to Bible study is to read across a variety of translations because there's no perfect translation. You've got to go back to the original languages if you want perfection. And even then, how do we move it over to our language? That's the challenge. One of the ways you see when there is a word that is particularly hard to bring over into English, you'll see this if you compare translations because you'll see them each translator use a different word because they're all struggling with How do we convey this in the English? I'll just give you example that word helper here in this verse. Put up just a fewcommon translations:
ESV- He will give you another helper.But look at the NIV:
He will give you another counselor.Look at the NRSV:
He will give you another advocate.KJV:
he will give you another comforter.The Message:
He’ll provide you another friend. And, you know, in this each of those took that word and said, How do we convey this? Not sure. Let's try this word. Right next to it all of them say give you another. There's no question. The Message gets a little loose, provide you another at least with those two words. There's no question about those. Everyone conveys it the same. How do we wrestle with these? How do we get this idea over into English? Is he our helper? That's helpful at one level, but also it conveys, well, maybe the Holy Spirit's you can keep that up for a second. It's subordinate. Maybe he's not the same as Jesus. No, they are the same. Bring that image back up, if you will. Is he our counselor? That's a powerful word, but that can be confusing. Is he our marriage counselor or camp counselor? What do I mean by counselor? That has, arrange a meeting? Is he our advocate? Well, yes, definitely. But also that has a kind of a legal sense. Maybe makes it too formal at times. But yeah, he definitely goes to bat for us. Is he our comforter? Well, yeah, but also, sometimes that might seem kind of weak. Just like some old man patting you on the shoulder at a funeral. Or maybe it conveys, like a blanket, a comforter in that sense. So that didn't you know, originally it meant with strength. And if someone truly comforts you, they do give you strength. They help you get through a hard time. And then a friend. Is he a friend? For sure. But is he only that familiar? No. Part of the challenge with this is that word only shows up in John just five times. Also First John. But when it refers to Jesus, when it refers to the Holy Spirit only shows up five times and it's used in a variety of ways. And when a word is used in a variety of ways, it's trying to convey a lot of ideas. And so quickly look at all the different ways it's used in John. Throw that up on the screen as well. First, we've seen in our passage today, he's a helper who communicates truth and indwells. But in verse 26, he's a teacher. In chapter 15, he testifies, the Holy Spirit testifies. In chapter eight he convicts. In chapter 13 he’s a guide. The Holy Spirit works in our lives in a variety of ways. And if you've walked as a believer for any amount of time, you've experienced this. You've seen him move in your life, You've seen him teach you, you've seen him help you. You've seen him point to Jesus. You've seen him convict you of sin, whether you wanted him to or not. And you've seen him as a guide who points you to Christ, who takes you along the way, who walks with you, even through the horrendous decisions and mistakes you make, Even the times when we step away from him, he still comes back and guides. All of this is pointing us to a place of seeing him do greater works. That's what everyone here wants. That's why you're here today, even though maybe part of you goes maybe, but not yet, but maybe please, but I'm not quite ready. But this is what we want. We want to see him do greater works. That's what we're here for. You know, I mentioned in this week's newsletter, if you get the mid-week update, it's all there that we have the chili cook off coming up next Sunday, right after the service, it's going to be a great time together. And just one of the encouragements I put in there was invite someone. Just invite someone. That's going to be low pressure. That's going to be a great time for someone to just make some connections. They'll come and see that we're regular people. We're not weird. Well, maybe some of us. I won't say names, but at least we're friendly, ha, I saw someone raise their hand in the back. Okay, we are owning it. Maybe we are weird, but we try to be friendly. It's. We're not going to freak you out. And you can come to know real life by learning about Christ here. You never know how just a simple invitation will work in someone's life. I sent that out and a guy responded to me, and I'm going to read to you what he wrote. He said, John ... this was Mark Singleton. Some of you may know Mark John, I really found your letter encouraging. Thanks so much. Let me tell you about my own experience with inviting the church. When I was 11 years old, Gail Albro invited me to church. Some of you know Gail. She lives across the street from Mark- Mark's family still lives in the same house, lives over real close to us. When I was 11 years old, Gail Albro invited me to church. I began going, gave my life to Christ, and was baptized. She invited my brother. He starts going. A couple of years later, my parents began going. Today, I am a full time missionary in West Louisville, sharing Jesus because a lady across the street invited me to Valley View 28 years ago. You look across the street and you see that snot nose, 11 year old boy, but you don't see the guy giving up so much to serve in a really difficult area. And by the way, our church, when you give to church, when you give to missions, we're a part of that work. We give to that work he's doing. What a beautiful picture of a guy who didn't even know what future God had for him. And through one simple invitation, God changed his life, changed his brother's life, changed his parents life, and is changing who knows how many people's lives in the west end of Louisville? So my encouragement would be to you, whether it's the chili cook off or not, I don't know. But we need to be thinking and praying. God, what is it you're doing? How can we be a part of what you're doing? Open doors for us to see you do greater works. That's the phrase I'm going to be praying all week long, greater works. We want to see greater works than we've ever seen before from you. And he can do it in our lives. God, we love you. We do want to see you do great works, greater works than we've experienced. We believe in you. But help our unbelief or to help our beliefs to grow or help us to take steps of faith. And when we're ready to knock on that door and we want to run in fear, help us to speak truth to ourselves. You are true. You have. You are the spirit of truth in our lives. We want to see You do greater works here. We want this year to be about watching you move, to reach our community, to stretch out your hands all across the hurting lives. The people we know, family, friends, neighbors. Would you move? Would you move and use us. We love you, Jesus. Amen.