Thank You, Father, for sending Your Holy Spirit to be with me always and to live WITHIN me. Lord, please make me a willing vessel to be used for Your purpose Your praise and in glorifying Your Holy name, through your Son, Jesus Christ I pray, AMEN.
It is significant to note that, though Jesus never taught his disciples how to preach, he did teach them how to pray. Much of his teaching on prayer is found in this rich and fragrant passage, which is called The Upper Room Discourse, found in John, Chapters 13 through 17. It is a passage that is filled with astonishing concepts. I know of no more challenging part of the Word of God than this. It is a vast area of mystery and beauty and glory. I never read it without feeling tremendously humbled in the experience of it. Perhaps in this place, more fully than anywhere else, our Lord unfolds to us the unique secret of Christianity, that aspect of life that has been called "the exchanged life."
This is the secret of a Christian: He is not living his own life, he is living another's life. Or, more accurately, another is living his life in him. Until you have grasped that as the mystery and key of Christian living you have not graduated from the kindergarten level of the Christian life.
It is time now in our study of prayer to relate the subject to the total spectrum of Christian living. There is no passage that does it more effectively than the passage before us.
In Verses 12 through 17, three revelations are given of the life of Jesus Christ at work within us: In Verse 12 we learn that the character of a Christian's work is "borrowed activity"; in Verses 13-14 we shall find that the basis of a Christian's prayer is "borrowed authority"; and in Verses 15-17 it is revealed that the secret of a Christian's living is "borrowed deity."
This is the actuality of an exchanged life. That is our program for this study, So let us take it in detail. In Verse 12, the character of a Christian's work is borrowed activity: Jesus says,
"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I go to the Father." (John 14:12 RSV)
Each of these divisions in this passage consists of a staggering promise of tremendous possibility, and linked with it is a statement of a limiting or qualifying condition. Frequently as we read these great passages of the Scripture, we are either so dazzled by the promise that we fail to heed the condition, or we are so frightened by the condition that we pay little heed to the promise. But it is necessary that we take very seriously both aspects of what our Lord has said. Perhaps our greatest problem is to be so awe stricken by these promises that we fail to heed the condition. There is a little sign, seen occasionally in offices, which says:
When all else fails, follow directions.
Sometimes when we try to lay hold of a promise of God, and it seemingly does not work, the reason is we have never followed directions. Thus, a conditioning statement is always the road to fulfillment.
Now, in Verse 12, the promise is tremendously plain. Jesus said "He who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do." That frightens and staggers us. It is theoretically acceptable, but it is practically unbelievable. We refuse to accept it at face value. We wonder if there is not a catch somewhere.
There must be, we say, for is Jesus really saying that Christians living today, in this 20th century, do not only the works which he did but greater works than these? Is that what he is saying? The promise is so staggering that we attempt immediately to soften it. We say to ourselves, "Can this be true of me? After all, I am not Jesus Christ, and, therefore, I cannot be expected to do what he did." But how do you square an excuse like that with a verse like this? For in it Jesus plainly says, "He who believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do."
Here is where we need to listen very carefully to exactly what it is he is saying. For Jesus is not saying here that a sincere, dedicated Christian of 1964 will actually be able, in his sincerity and his dedicated religious effort, to do what Jesus did in the 1st century, let alone do greater works than he did. In other words, he is not contrasting our labors now with his labors then. He is not saying that dedicated Christian men and women are really going to transcend what he accomplished as the Son of God Incarnate among men. What he is saying is, as the Risen Christ, he will do through us greater works than he did as the Incarnate Christ living among men. Do you see the difference?
Notice what he links with this: "because I go to the Father." What does he mean? Why, it was his going to the Father that released the full potential of the Godhead for human lives and affairs. While he was here on earth the fullness of God was available to man only in one human body, the body of Jesus. By the strength and indwelling life of the Father he did all the works that we marvel at as we read the story of his life. But what he is saying now is, that as the Risen Christ, ascended to the throne or the Father, he himself will do through us, in terms of our personalities, and by the activity of our lives, greater works today than he did in the days of his flesh. That is what he is saying.
It is rather startling to realize that the work of the Incarnate Christ, that is, Jesus Christ of Nazareth working and walking among men, was, at its end, apparently a total and complete failure. We marvel as we read the story or the beginning of his ministry. Those miracles he did, astonishing things, raising men from the dead, healing the sick, opening the eyes or the blind, delivering men, women and little children from the oppression or demons, touching with his hand the withered arm of a man and immediately it springs into full growth and life again. We read the tremendous words that came from his lips,The Sermon on the Mount, the parables beside the seashore, these mysterious, marvelous, compelling things that he said. And we do not wonder at the crowds that followed him, hounding him, following him even into retreat, insisting upon his ministry, so that the news spread like wildfire throughout the land of Israel that here was a prophet risen in Israel again. Men left their work and their cities and their ordinary activities of life and went out to hear what he had to say, following him hours upon end.
That was the beginning. But when you come to the end, where are the crowds? Long before, they had already begun to diminish. "Many went back and walked no more with him" John 6:66 KJV), the writers of the gospel tell us. Already many of the searching things that he had been saying had separated the weak from the strong, and many had gone back and refused to follow with him anymore. By the last week the actual number of disciples had been reduced to a comparative handful. And even these, in the hour of his capture and appearance before Pilate, forsook him and fled. In the time of his need they left him. There was only a tiny band of one man and three or four women that gathered around the foot of the cross. That was all the Incarnate Christ had to show for the marvelous ministry in the power of the Spirit which he had manifested among men. A total failure! That is the value of the works that he did.
Now do you see what he means when he says "greater works than these will you do, because I go to the Father?" His ministry among men, as a man, was a failure. It did not remain; it had no enduring effects. Those who came, attracted by the things they saw, faded back into the shadows when persecution began to grow. No one stayed with him. But there is a very significant promise uttered in the midst of this Upper Room Discourse that he addresses to these disciples. In John 15:16 he says to them,
"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should remain." John 15:16)
Your fruit should remain. What you do in the power of the Spirit will not fade away. Those that you win to Christ, those that are brought by the ministry that you will be ministering will abide, and this cause will nourish in the earth and spread unto the uttermost parts till every nation shall hear the word, and out of every tribe and nation of earth shall come, at last, fruit that shall remain. This is what he means, "Greater work than these shall you do, because I go to the Father." It is his work in us.
"In you" means that you are under the control of the Holy Spirit, and yielding obedience to his totalitarian sovereignty. It means the total collapse of all your rebellion against him. "Oh," you say, "I'm not in rebellion against the Spirit of God. Why, I'm a Christian. I don't rebel against him." Let me ask you: "What kind of life are you living? Is it God-centered, or is it self-centered? Is it to please yourself that your activities are done and your desires aimed?" Then you are in rebellion against the Spirit of God, and to have him dwelling in you means the total collapse of all that revolt until you are saying, "Lord Jesus, whatever you say, your word is my command. I am ready to obey." It is not our relationship with Jesus Christ which counts before the world, it is our resemblance to him.
*** If you like us to pray to help your journey in any way, please reach us at via comments below or email us - GOD BLESS YOU.
Author:Ray C. Stedman. Series:Jesus Teaches on Date: April 19, 1964