“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.” John 14:12
Lord, You mean to say that if I or anyone believes in You, a sign that they are a true believer is that they will do what You do and that they or I will do even greater, more spectacular works or things than You? Really? I mean, that’s what You seem to say when I just read this. That’s what You would seem to say in my ears if I were standing there with the disciples hearing You say these words. But, maybe I’m more like the disciples than I know. Because yesterday as I read this, I was focussing on the works. But today, that word “greater” stood out. And I wondered what You meant by greater and not just works. And then You took me searching in verses I hadn’t thought to search in. And there were a lot of times You shared truth with the disciples and Your word says they didn’t get it at that time. And now I wonder if I have gotten it before, because maybe Your point is deeper than superficial.
Now, I do want to understand what You mean by works. Ergon is the Greek word for works. It’s where our English word “ergonomics-the study of work effeiciency” comes from. Now, is Your plan about the works, the things we do, or is it about something deeper. What is at the heart of sharing Your Gospel? Is it preaching, handing out tracts, conducting outreach, paying it forward? Is that the heart of being a believer? Is it about communicating Your message? Or is it about something deeper? Does communication and outreach bring transformation to our lives? Or does it go deeper than words in our life?
So to understand works, I want to hop to some other verses to see what they really look like. Acts 26:20 states that to come to a knowledge of You, Jesus, and be Yours, we should “repent and turn to God, performing deeds [works] in keeping with [our] repentance.” Here’s that ergon root again. To get there, first I have to “notice afterward, to change [my] feelings, purpose, or opinion.” My mind must come to agreement with You, Lord. But it doesn’t stop at that mental assent or change. If we go back to the Hebrew “shuv” which represents that concept, we find that you can’t turn or repent unless it’s accompanied by the behavior that matches. So, works have something to do with the change in my behavior after I turn to You.
But this “works” or “performing deeds” isn’t just the work or deeds we do. It’s basically everything that we do with our being. It’s every one of my efforts, no matter what they are. It’s all my purposes, no matter what they are. It’s every one of my actions and it doesn’t matter whether they are my religious or my “secular” actions. It’s everything that comes out of me. And it’s all based on the thinking that went into me that changed, transformed, not only my thinking to Yours, but transformed what comes out of me and why.
If my trust in You is true, if my repentance is genuine, then my following actions will demonstrate that truth. Everything changes. Has everything changed in me? Has there been a point in my life where this drastic change has occurred? Skip Moen stated, “No man is rescued who continues to side with the enemy. A servant of the Lord is a traitor to the world. Where there is no change in behavior, there is no reconciliation with the King.”
And of course we are all familiar with Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Well, sure, I’m a benevolent person. But what if this is more than that? What if it goes back to the “loving kindness” of God. Do I really show that? I mean, what is the “loving kindness” of God that is expressed by the Hebrew word “hesed”? Imagine that it is expressed in the subtitute for the Temple sacrifice. It is expressed in everything that God has ever done for us and toward us even before He created us or ever made a promise to us. It’s in His commitment to us even before we committed to Him. It’s every way that You, Lord, act and feel toward us, toward me. And unless this same “loving kindness” is the “work” flowing from me, I can’t bring You glory.
Part of the way that You, Jesus, expressed that “loving kindness” to us was by Your obedience to the Father. “Not my will, but Yours be done.” You obeyed even unto the cross. So, maybe I need to remember that obedience lies at the heart of worship. Surrender and obedience lie at the heart of Your work and mine. But is that my work? Or does my work flow out of that surrender and obedience? Is work what I do? “Obedience is better than sacrifice.” I need to keep that in mind.
And then You tell us to “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12) What does that really mean? How do I work out my own salvation? Maybe it doesn’t start with me at all. Maybe it all starts with seeing You for who You are. You have always been working. You have always been working for Your glory and my benefit. You are involved every milisecond in the history of our world, in drawing people to You, in directing us, in judgment, and one day, in our restoration. Lord, You Yourself said, “My Father is always working, and I too must work.” (John 5:17) So, what work could I do? My work is the expression of Your activity in me. What I do, what my job is, what my hobby is, what my ministry is, is not the determinant. Is my activity in whatever I am doing first and foremost flowing in Your service and flowing with You? My faith, what I believe in You, is expressed by who I am and what flows out. Jesus in means Jesus flowing out. Me in means me flowing out. Faith and works are one, not two entities. My “work” is the “harmony of partnered effort, service and worship” (Skip Moen) in You. It is therefore joy, and not toil.
It’s serious business. “Your work is God’s calling to you to demonstrate His sovereignty in your life, His character in your actions, His holiness in your choices.” (Skip Moen) So let the transformation of Christ in me, show.
But how can I ever do a work that is worthy of being called good. I mean, only God is good. This is the answer, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6) God defines goodness by Himself. Therefore, any “good work” is solely the handiwork of God, of You, and not of me. Any good work I do must fill others with awe at You or it is not of You. My work is not good unless You bring it out in me and unless it “expresses the awe and reverence due” to You alone.
Well, there was a look at the works, but I need to bring in one more verse. “And He said to them, ‘How is it that you sought me? Didn’t you now that I must be about my Father’s business?'” (Luke 2:49) Here You are, Jesus, summing up for all of us what it means to be about the Father’s work. And this is using different Greek words and frankly, it’s really about the Father’s working and how we get to that point in our lives. The Greek word here isn’t even work. And some translations say in my Father’s house. But the Greek really just says basically, “in my Father.” And I think that’s the heart of the issue. Jesus, You were in Your Father. He was everything. His will meant everything. And You allowed His will and power to work through You. You were One. You are One. You will always be One. And this is Your desire for me, for us. Am I one with the Father and with You? Am I in You and You in me? Because the ways or “works” of the Father can’t flow through me unless I am in Him and He in me. This is the only way that I become the expression of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is where my essence must flow from. This is where the “work” comes from and flows out in it’s many demonstrations through my life to me and to others. This is how I live and breath and walk in the “works” of the Father.
So this is the work that must flow through me. But how could I ever do “greater things” than You? I wonder if I have to understand that in terms with Matthew 18:4 where You said, “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”? This is that word that popped out today, that Greek “meizon” or “greater.” So how can I do greater things or how can I be the greatest in the kingdom? What?
What if the child is greater because of how the child is perceived by the one over him? Does the child strive to take over or does he follow trustingly? Does he accept his place under authority? Does he go where he’s told and do what he’s told to do? Does he follow the guidance of the adults over him? Does it matter to him if he’s the most important? At least these are the adult expectations on the child. Aren’t they like God’s expectations on us? So am I willing to not worry about my importance but to just be willing to do what I am asked without regard to status? Am I willing to yield to Your leading?
So what are the greater things? It’s not that I will do more or bigger things than You, Lord. It’s that You will be made great in me. When I am less, You stand out most. When there is none of me and all of You, then what flows out of me will be greatest. So it’s not really about me at all. It’s all about You shining forth in and from me. The great things are all the God things that ought to flow from me as I am surrendered in and to You.
Lord, I want Your ways to flow from me more than anything. I want Your words to flow from me. I want Your actions to flow from me. I want to become less so that You can become more. I want to love my position in the background so that You can be in the forefront. I want to do what You do because You flow from me. I need You desperately because I can’t do a thing worth doing without You and unless You do it in me. So, thank You, for this glorious and merciful “work” that You have begun in me and that You will continue to do until the day when You have completed Your working in me on that day when You bring me to be with You.