Five leaders from the congregation I pastor gathered at my dining room table last night for a couple of hours, talking about doing ministry. I love seeing God’s people engaged with God’s work! Our desire is to provide a place that encourages spiritual growth, that helps people find whole lives in Christ, and that changes eternal destinies. That’s some heavy lifting, isn’t it? Even the most carefully crafted worship service, the best sermon, or programs created around meeting human need will not really change people from sinners to saints. That is a miracle only possible when the Spirit of the Lord is at work in us and through us. There is a constant danger of replacing the work of the Spirit with human effort, of substituting ‘sin management’ techniques for new birth and transformation. A skilled leader with access to resources can teach people ways to be better persons, to live in ways that create better outcomes in life; but only God, the Spirit, can make people dead in sin come alive to God!
How easily I write those words but believe me when I say that doing spiritual work is no easy task. The promise of being empowered does not mean that we will not face opposition, wrestle with temptation, or find ourselves in battle with world systems, with our own sinful nature, or even the prince of darkness and his demons. Paradoxically, when a person or a church body gets serious about making a measurable difference in the world by the power of the Spirit they paint a target on themselves for attack! If we are content to drift along without disturbing the status quo, if we are willing to compromise with our culture and/or with our own sins, we drift into irrelevance and the spiritual realm largely leaves us alone. But, when we get serious about loving, about doing the work of the Kingdom, about seeing people find Christ and His life – all Hell breaks loose, literally!
I find these words of Jesus full of promise and quite challenging, too. He was at the Passover table with the men in whom He had invested the work of taking His message to the world. He knew that He faced the cross, a struggle with Satan, and the weight of the sins of humanity in the coming hours. And, in the hand-off, He told those men this: “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.” (John 14:11-19, NIV)
You will do ‘even greater things,’ He said, ‘because you will ask in my Name and you will have the Counselor (the Holy Spirit).’ What? I have yet to see anyone walk on water, feed 5,000 with a single lunch. I have read of people restored from death by prayer, but I have not witnessed that with my own eyes. So, is this evidence of a faulty faith or should we read that passage with a wider lens of application? While I do not deny the miraculous, I think that focusing on that will distract us from the true ‘greater work’ to which we are called.
Consider this. Our commission from Christ is to ‘go into all the world and preach the Gospel, making disciples.’ Jesus touched a region that was no more than 50 miles in circumference. In His earthly ministry, He likely addressed perhaps 50,000 thousand people, at most. That does not diminish what He did, but through Christians, including you and me; people empowered by His Spirit, the world has been changed! Where the Gospel is preached entire nations are changed. Where the Church goes to do the work of feeding the hungry, taking the side of the oppressed, bearing witness to the Truth, and proclaiming the “Kingdom come” with the Spirit’s authority – evil is thrown back! Is that not ‘greater things?’
Is it not an amazing miracle to see a person ignorant of the love of God, destined to an eternity apart from His love and light, born again, becoming an eternal creature, a child of the Heavenly Father? Is it not a thing of wonder to see a person learn to love deeply, freed from the grip of habits that enslave, becoming a holy vessel of the Spirit?
Ah, Christian, my heart’s desire is that we will rediscover our high calling, becoming desperate for His Presence that makes us people of influence. I will hold onto His promise, challenged to expect greater things. How about you?
Here is a word from the Word. Meditate on the promise and invite the Spirit to move anew – in you and in the Church. “Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:6-8, NKJV)
Lord I come, I confess,
Bowing here I find my rest,
And without You I fall apart,
You’re the one that guides my heart.
Lord I need You, oh, I need You;
Ev’ry hour I need You!
My one defense, my righteousness;
Oh God, how I need You.
Where sin runs deep Your grace is more,
Where grace is found is where You are,
And where You are, Lord, I am free!
Holiness is Christ in me.
So teach my song to rise to You
When temptation comes my way.
And when I cannot stand I’ll fall on You,
Jesus, You’re my hope and stay.
Christy Nockels | Daniel Carson | Jesse Reeves | Kristian Stanfill | Matt Maher
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