“If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. “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. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:7-14 ESV)
Over the past few weeks we’ve taken a look at Jesus’ claims of exclusivity. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This isn’t a church doctrine developed by parsing Greek verbs or studying the writings of the early church fathers. This is a direct quote from Jesus, himself. There’s no getting around that fact. But, the real focus of that statement is not exclusion but inclusion. Come to Jesus and know the Father. Come and enjoy eternal fellowship in the Father’s house. That passage is NOT about leaving anyone out. It isn’t about leaving you out of relationship with God The Father, but about making sure you know the way to the Father. Jesus now begins to show us the real results of that relationship…
In the next few verses, Philip seems to suffer from amnesia or just isn’t paying attention, “Lord, just show us God the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus seems to be a little put out with Philip’s response. It is almost as if he asks, “Phillip, where have been these past three years. Haven’t you been listening? I’ve been showing you. Pay attention this time! If you’ve seen me then you’ve seen the Father.” So, the focus is on Jesus’ actions being identical to or in perfect obedience to God’s will. When you see Jesus, you see God. When you hear Jesus, you hear God. What the Father said, Jesus said. What the Father did, Jesus did. Perhaps it will help to hear it in Jesus’ own words…
“So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” (John 5:19 ESV)
So, Jesus only acts and speaks in accordance with what the Father is doing or saying. It is crucial that you get this. Jesus doesn’t just show us what God is like in a moral sense. He doesn’t just teach us about God’s character. He doesn’t just teach us accurate theological beliefs. He doesn’t just tell us how to get to God. He DOES do all of those things. But, there’s more. He IS God. That’s why He can say, “I AM THE WAY!”
If you want to walk with the invisible, transcendent, holy, righteous, perfect, powerful and glorious God of the universe then walk with me. I am your way of seeing the invisible. I am your way of knowing the unknowable, of transcending the transcendent. I am your way of being in the presence of perfect holiness, true righteousness, perfect beauty. I am your only way of living in the presence of all consuming power and might.
Ok, so we have the incredible, powerful, perfect presence of God to walk with us. Got that? We can KNOW and WALK with God on a daily basis by walking with Jesus. But, what Jesus says next is just INCREDIBLE! Catch this… “Whoever believes in me will also do the works I do.” We don’t just get to experience the power and presence of God walking alongside us, we get the power and presence of God to work in and through us!
Now, some will try and discount this promise by trying to tie it to the Apostles. But, that’s not what He said. He didn’t limit it to the Apostles. He said, “whoever believes in me” will do the works I do. Faith is a powerful force, but faith is not sufficient. I know, I just blew your mind, right? Pay attention… lots of folks have faith, but false faith. They have faith in their own ability, or knowledge, or desires, or resources. But, Jesus doesn’t say, just believe. He says, believe IN ME.
You see, Christian faith isn’t belief in ourselves or even our inner self. It isn’t faith in human ability, knowledge, resourcefulness or ingenuity. It isn’t about us, at all. Christian Faith is belief in God’s power, wisdom, purpose and love. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not suggesting you’re useless trash. But, because of sin you are broken, empty, purposeless and powerless. But, faith in Jesus destroys sin’s hold and restores, transforms and empowers us. Jesus doesn’t say, believe in yourselves and see what you can do. He says, believe me…
“Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. 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 14:11-12 ESV)
Just as Christian faith isn’t about faith in ourselves, Christian “works” are not about ourselves or our own needs or desires. When we read Jesus’ words about greater works we can begin to doubt or we can get visions of grandeur. Though opposites, both are, unfortunately, broken versions of what God intended. This doubt is not reflective of doubt in our own abilities, but of God. Jesus says, “whoever believes in me will also do the works I do.”
Our first reaction might be, “Really, does that mean I can heal people and walk on water?” Visions of grandeur. We step out of the proverbial boat in faith. Then reality sets in and we begin to sink into the waves and drown in our doubts. Failure. See, told you so. Not gonna happen. But, the truth is that we missed the most important part of this. God’s purpose and will. Let me illustrate with scripture…
“Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John… Then they (Peter and John) laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon (the sorcerer) saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” (Acts 8:14, 17-23 ESV)
Simon wanted the power of God, but only for personal gain. Peter rebukes him, “your heart is not right before God.” Faith is not just about power, but also about intent. We often want power, money, knowledge or position but only for personal benefit. How many of you have ever prayed that God would let you win the lottery? Come on, be honest. So have I. I tried to tell God that I’d give most of it away, but He truly knows my heart. It was all a lie. I know it and so do you. So, that brings me to the last part…
Jesus not only intends that we DO the same works He has been doing, but we can “ask anything, in His name” and He promises to give it to us. Oh man, have I got a list. Wait. Go back and read that story about Simon, again. Praying “in Jesus’ name” is more about intent, purpose, and character than it is about outcome. To speak in someone’s name is to imply you have authority and integrity to be faithful to their desires. You don’t truly speak on someone else’s behalf unless you are saying what they would say. So, you can’t truly pray “in Jesus’ name” unless you know what he would want or desire in that situation.
Is that why our prayers are so powerless? Are they void of power because they are void of truth. Would Jesus empower a prayer that is in direct opposition to His purpose or will? Better yet, would he turn a deaf ear to one that is in perfect agreement with His commands and will?
“You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:2-4 ESV)
So, when you pray you should pray in accordance with God’s will, purpose, character and stated desires. Then you can pray with confidence and power, in Jesus’ name. Not sure about God’s will? Start learning God’s will by learning more about God. The more you know a person, the more you know what they would do in a given situation. Then you can truly pray, in Jesus’ name.