In this blog post want to address a portion of Jesus teaching that is commonly misunderstood in
our day. The passage is from John 14:12, which says, “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.” In the last 40 or so years, this passage has been largely misunderstood.
Often today we hear Christians tell us that this means Christians will do greater works—meaning
more spectacular than Jesus did (miracles and such). But, this would mean then that Christians
(whoever believes) will do more spectacular things than turning water to wine (Jn 2); giving
sight to a man born blind (Jn 9); and raising people from the dead (Jn 11). This of course seems
rather silly that one person can actually say they have done more spectacular things than this.
Many in the early church interpreted this passage as teaching of the great missionary successes
of the early church as seen in the book of Acts, which were more substantial in number than
Jesus ministry. I think this is closer to the mark, but I think there is more to it.
Here is Introduction: Mishandling Snakes and Scripture Part 1.
The pastor that got bit by the snake in the story last post lived, but the doctors said it was almost too late. He is a fourth generation snake handling pastor. His dad died four years earlier when he got bit on the hand. It only took ten minutes. You would think this would have caused him to doubt this supposed promise of God. He would either doubt God or reinterpret the text! He did neither. Now that it has happened to him, he is reportedly reevaluating his life.
Dependent Discipline…these two words often come to mind and, for me, are extra helpful to think on as we all begin to approach another school year. They remind me of Colossians 1:29 “For this I toil, struggling with all His energy that He powerfully works in me.” Within that verse hangs the balance of the Christian life…living a life of discipline while living it completely dependent on the Lord. As Paul says in Acts 17:28 “In Him we live and move and have our being” and Jesus says in John 15:5, “Apart from me you can do nothing”.
We’ve been hearing the word “narrative” come up quite a bit as of late. We hear quite frequently, “It didn’t fit the narrative,” “The media has a narrative.” It is true that narratives are a driving force in the way we see things. A narrative is simply a story by which we present information. Stories are powerful, intriguing, and often draws people’s interest. We remember stories more readily than anything else (except perhaps songs).
Adrift in the storm-tossed seas of cultural relativism and the dangerous tides of
atheistic ideologies, where should the Christian seek moral wisdom and guidance to
safe harbor? How could an ancient book provide the authoritative moral bearings
needed for our day and age? Our pluralistic society champions divergent worldviews
apart from God that steer decisions and opinions into a vortex of mayhem and
contradiction. What right would a Christian have to make audacious, moral truth claims
so binding and pervasive over all people? In the current cultural climate, God’s
helmsmen (His shepherds) must guide the ship with the rudder fixed upon the ultimate
authority of God’s written word.
What is so appealing about the Law that we naturally gravitate towards it? Even as believers, often times, we seek comfort and solace in its structure and boundaries. Instead we should find hope and peace because of the work of Christ. Know better, do better, right? If it were only that easy. No different than an unbeliever who revels in their sin and returns to it like a dog to its vomit (Proverbs 26:11), many believers fall prey to a heart that strives in itself, instead of trusting only in the work of Christ, alone, for salvation.
I recently heard about a snake handling church here in the U.S. They carry snakes while they sing and preach based on Mark 16:17-18, which reads: “And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
The Bible is a massive book and we are kidding ourselves if we say it is easy to understand. After all, there are sixty-six books, 1189 chapters, multiple languages, differing cultures, dozens of authors with diverse vocabularies, and the timespan covered is thousands of years. If this is not enough to make the Bible challenging, there are hundreds and hundreds of commands and these commands can be quite confusing given there are also extraordinary promises! How can eternal life require flawless obedience (Luke 10:25-28) and be by grace alone? If there were only a way to read, interpret, and understand the Bible in part and whole that made it more manageable and also honored its one ultimate author. This would be an amazing help! In fact there is just such an approach and we can accept it with the confidence that it is just the way God intends.
The sin of partiality was the subject of a ReNEWalcast episode, but we had some technical issues that prevented the episode from being streamed live. Not only was the 45-minute conversation not streamed, but it was not recorded, so it is like it didn't even happen! The fact is, having a conversation about partiality, or the sin of what we often refer to racism is not an easy conversation in today's climate of continuous virtue signaling and moral superiority on social media and even in the pulpit. Uneasy discussions about difficult subjects are often necessary. When we take sin seriously, we must have uncomfortable conversations. The sin of partiality is not an exception to this line of thinking.
“You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your right hand supported me, and your gentleness made me great.” Psalm 18:35
David said these words about and to the Lord, and they should be words we echo in praise, as well. By means of application, we should also pray that we are found faithful in living this out before our kids…that we might be ambassadors of this truth in their lives. After all, as parents we are called to be ambassadors of gospel living and represent a picture of Christ to our children.