GREATER WORKS THAN JESUS?

Jesus heals the lame man at the pool.

John 14:12  Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.

Did Jesus know how these words would cause controversy among His sheep? As the universe’s eternal Creator, He had to.

Many will disagree with my opinion on this passage so I’ll get the outrage out of the way first, so I can tell you how I came to my conclusion; Jesus didn’t mean to say that individual believer’s miraculous works would in any way exceed His, after all, He is the ultimate source of power in the universe, so all of His followers’ works are done in His power. To say we can do greater miraculous works than He did is like saying the high tension wires leading away from a power plant have more power than the plant itself.

So, if He didn’t mean it that way, what did He mean?

Jesus is Father God’s divine Son who, as I’ve already said, created all things, both observable and invisible. For Him to restore limbs to the lame, sight to the blind and life to those who have died is no great feat. He possesses power for that and infinitely more. But when His followers perform the works that He took in His stride, such works are relatively far greater for us than they were for Him. Jesus knew who He was, so His faith required no leap at all. We, on the other hand, identify with Jesus only by faith, and not by sight.

I hope that explanation meets with your approval, even though God’s word doesn’t spell it out. Of course, I could be all wet, and Jesus meant exactly what our English translations say. Whether or not you accept my thoughts on the matter, you must believe in Jesus and accept His gospel if you hope to receive His eternal life.

Sweet and Bitter

da Vinci’s concept of Jesus’ agony.

Matthew’s gospel, chapter twenty-seven, reports Jesus’ torment and torture at the Roman soldiers’ hands. The executioners gave their prisoners wine before nailing them to the cross beam and hoisting them into the vertical position, but in Jesus’ case they mixed gall with the wine to make it intolerably bitter. Why did they take that extra step to make him even more miserable?

Every aspect of Jesus’ torture and death has symbolic implications, and sweet wine mixed with gall is not an exception. While the wine’s alcohol might have offered some small relief from crucifixion’s agony, Jesus’ tormentors wanted to show Him no compassion at all, so they made the wine impossible to drink. I think Jesus wouldn’t have drunk the wine even without the gall, as he wanted to fully experience the pain and humiliation of crucifixion and the sin it represented. Also, taking even that small amount of bitter gall into his mouth symbolized His tasting sin’s bitterness.

That thought brings me to another application of sweetness versus bitterness: harmony versus discord. We find those qualities in every area of life, from music to culinary arts. Everyone prefers harmonious to discordant sounds, architectural lines, artistic works, flavors and human relationships, to name just a few categories we encounter daily. After all, every relationship will involve some combination of those two qualities. God created Man to relate to Him harmoniously, but to make it a voluntary relationship gave His creation one simple choice: obey or disobey.

Well, we know how that worked out. Eve, and then Adam, chose to disobey God, ultimately sending Him to suffer and die to end sin’s dominion over us, and then to be resurrected from the grave, giving His eternal life to everyone who accepts that sacrifice for themselves. The world’s stereotype of God as the scowling, bearded old Judge peaking over a cloud’s edge to catch us doing something wrong couldn’t be further from the truth. The Bible is full of accounts of God’s patience with His people Israel, all leading up to His ultimate redemptive act.

God created nothing but harmony. We introduced discord into the world, and God longs to restore that harmonious relationship with each and every human being.

UNASHAMED BECAUSE OF MERCY

Big Daddy Weave produced a song called Overwhelmed that included the lyrics, “And God, I run into Your arms, unashamed because of mercy …” I am eternally thankful for that saving mercy, but I can’t honestly say I’m unashamed; forgiven, but not unashamed. That begs the question of why I am ashamed, and for what.

Answering the “for what” part of that question would involve a lifetime of soul-searching and confession, but telling you why is relatively easy. I am ashamed because I’m not convinced that my life faithfully represents my Savior’s love and holiness.

Oh yes, by the world’s standard I’m suitably religious and moral. Most, in fact, consider me a nice guy, but in my quest to be Christ to my world I am an utter failure.

Does God judge me for my humanness? He already did, and that judgment fell on His Son, my Messiah Jesus Christ. (Romans 8)

AM I A GRASSHOPPER?

I am a prince, a son of the King! I have the Spirit of the eternal God living in me! His Word tells me that I can do all things through Him who strengthens me!

Why, then, do I quake with fear in the face of bitter (even not so bitter) opposition? My fear tells me that I might get it wrong, that my mind will go blank, that they might not like me, that I am not able to go up against them for they are too strong for me, that they are all giants, that they are the Nephilim, and I become like a grasshopper in my own sight, and also in theirs.

Surely those are good reasons for avoiding confrontation with those of the world—or at least good excuses.

If we go to God’s Word, to Numbers 13:25-14:35, we see God’s answer to such excuses. Only after Moses’ entreaty did God grant life to His people Israel, along with forty years of wandering in the wilderness.

If you feel like you’re wandering in the spiritual wilderness, maybe you see yourself  as a grasshopper, compared to those of the world system. Pray that God will transform you into a Caleb, who sees only the prize and the promise. Then repent of your fearfulness. God will bless your desire to please Him.

THE HABIT OF ME

“Thou art the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7)

Philippians 2:1-5 ESV
(1) So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,
(2) complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
(3) Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
(4) Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
(5) Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,

Meet one of the many Bible passages that cause me to be very conscious of the three fingers pointing back at myself (as opposed to one at someone else—the thumb doesn’t count). My first impulse upon reading this was to mentally accuse my grandkids of doing everything from selfish ambition or conceit, of being self-centered and divisive. Yet, when my first reaction to a Bible passage is to point the bony, judgmental finger at others, I am the greater offender.

Father, when my first thought is to apply correction to others, rather than to myself, please forgive me. I know better. Thank You for forgiveness through Jesus’ blood, for it’s in His name I pray.

HOW COULD GOD DO THIS TO ME?

Have you ever heard yourself asking that question when something goes totally wrong in your life? It is a question born of desperation, a response to the need for someone to blame. Obviously, you’re innocent of any wrongdoing that would warrant such punishment. Right? So God is wrong and you are as pure as the driven snow. If you’re a Christian you’ve heard a gospel presentation or two. Among the Roman Road pamphlet’s Bible passages are Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” and Romans 3:10-11 “as it is written, ‘There is none righteous, not even one11 There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God.'” For Christians, of course, all that is old hat; you may have heard it a thousand times in Sunday school. But another passage—not in Romans—brings the idea home to us: 1 John 1:8-10 “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” Apostle John directed that assault toward first century believers. You know, the ones who suffered persecution for their faith. If they were sinners, what does that make you? And if you’re angry with God for your troubles, that means you are judging Him for His unrighteous judgment. That, my friend, is blasphemy, pure and simple. God doesn’t need defending, but one Bible passage lays out an apt comparison between God and us: Isaiah 55:8-9 8 “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts. Oh, yeah. There’s also Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Care to rethink your question?

Uncle Jack on Life’s Troubles

Uncle Jack’s brother was worse than an alcoholic; he was an incorrigible, disorderly drunk. On the occasion of his commitment to a nursing home for detox, he proved so difficult that the nuns insisted that he be transferred to a “hospital,” but really it was an asylum, and the matter weighed heavily on him.

In a letter to his friend Arthur Greeves, dated July 2, 1949, Lewis wrote about vicarious suffering:

Don’t imagine I doubt for a moment that what God sends us must be sent in love and will all be for the best if we have grace to use it so. My mind doesn’t waver on this point; my feelings sometimes do. That’s why it does me good to hear what I believe repeated in your voice—it being the rule of the universe that others can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves and one can paddle every canoe except one’s own. That is why Christ’s suffering for us is not a mere theological dodge but the supreme case of the law that governs the whole world; and when they mocked him by saying, ‘He saved others, himself he cannot save,’ [Matthew 27:42; Mark 15:31]] they were really uttering, little as they knew it, the ultimate law of the spiritual world.

From The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume II

In Lewis’ typical, economical style, he captured the foundational truth of God’s good news to humanity. His loving nature caused Him to do for us what we could never do for ourselves: take our death penalty for sin upon Himself, in the person of His only Son after His own kind, our Lord Jesus Christ. All who accept that substitutionary death for themselves will feel eternally grateful—literally.

If you claim Christianity as your religion, yet your life fails to reflect that all-consuming gratitude, you need to carefully examine your profession of faith. Apostle James wrote:

Jas 2:14-26
(14) What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?
(15) If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food,
(16) and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?
(17) So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
(18) But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
(19) You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!
(20) Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?
(21) Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar?
(22) You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works;
(23) and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.
(24) You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.
(25) And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way?
(26) For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

Just as with ingratitude, gratitude will be known.

Tale of the Dual-Port Pump

Late one evening a hospital patient happened by his neighbor’s room and made a mental note of the I.V. pump in use there. When at last he returned to his own room he carefully inspected the pump he had been assigned and became indignant, and righteously so.

The Hospital hall-wanderer nearly tripped on his bedside tray getting to his nurse-call button. The interminable delay of two minutes passed, and when the nurse approached his room he fell into a minor rage, “How can you people ignore the needs of your patients so blatantly?”

Stricken, the professional R.N. queried, “Mister Hall, how have we failed you?”

Blustering now, trying in vain to control his justified outrage, he blurted, “My neighbor has a dual-port I.V. pump while I’m stuck with this old single-port junk.”

“But Mister Hall, you only need one port to feed your I.V. I’m sure that if —”

“That’s not the point!” he spat. “If I ever needed both ports I’d be SOL! You know how long you people take to respond to patients’ needs.”

“But Mister Hall, you’re scheduled for discharge in the morning. In fact, I have orders to remove your I.V. during tonight’s rounds.”

“Again, not the point, Florence!”

Hall’s sarcastic reference to Florence Nightingale hurt the caring nurse to the core, but unflapped, she decided to let the storm blow over.

“Ah, I see I got your attention, nurse.” His demeanor was becoming ever more menacing. “So listen to this! Yours will be the first name on the law suit I will file tomorrow, I’m an attorney, you know!” Hall’s face was by then a couple of shades of crimson. “And I … I shall personally see … that …” Hall began clutching his chest. “That you shall … shall … loose … your …”

With that, Mister Hall fell into an inert pile on the floor of room 357.”

The nurse stared at the corpse with concern for a few moments, reached over to the intercom and said, “Housekeeping, toxic cleanup in room 357, stat.”

Uncle Jack! Really?

There are three things that spread the Christ life to us: baptism, belief, and that mysterious action which different Christians call by different names—Holy Communion, the Mass, the Lord’s Supper.

If you have once accepted Christianity, then some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day. That is why daily prayers and religious reading and churchgoing are necessary parts of the Christian life. We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Here is one area where I depart from Lewis’ beliefs; religious practice is an outgrowth of walking in Christ’s way, not the means. In Lewis’ day, the two may have seemed one and the same, but they are not. The only thing that truly spreads Christ’s life to us is faith, producing in our lives the fruit of His Spirit. To pursue the religious practices he listed as a primary goal is simply to hang religious window dressing on a carnal life. Really, Uncle Jack. I thought you knew better.

A Christmas Gift of Love

MTJames:

This is a wonderful, “Rest of the Story,” story. If you’ve never heard it, and your last name isn’t Scrooge, you’ll love it.

Originally posted on Morning Story and Dilbert:

Morning Story and Dilbert Vintage Dilbert
December 17, 2007

Depressed and brokenhearted, a man named Bob May stared out of his drafty apartment window in to the chilling December night. His four year-old daughter, Barbara, sat on his lap quietly sobbing.

Bob’s wife, Evelyn, was dying of cancer. Little Barbara could not understand why her mother could never come home. Barbara looked up into her dad’s eyes and asked, “Why isn’t mummy just like everybody else’s mummy?”

Bob’s jaw tightened and his eyes welled with tears. Her question brought waves not only of grief, but also of anger.

It had been the story of Bob’s life, which always had to be different for him.

As a child, Bob was often bullied by other boys. He was too little at the time to compete in sports. He was frequently called names he would rather not remember.

From childhood, Bob was different and never seemed to…

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