"Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father" (John 14:12 NIV).
I know, this sounds a lot like a rah-rah religious poster you'd find in a Christian bookstore that makes you feel good, but you are not sure you really believe. But, look closely again at this promise of Jesus and notice to whom it is directed "whoever believes in me"! There's not much confusion in these words: this promise if for every believer.
So I have a question: where are these "greater things" in our day?
The question is not new to our time. In fact, it's a lot like the one Gideon had thousands of years earlier. When the angel of the Lord showed up and wanted Gideon to lead God's people to deliverance, Gideon asked, "If the Lord is with us ... where are all his wonders our ancestors told us about ...?" (Judges 6:13).
When we open up the book of Acts, the continuing story of Jesus after he has gone back to the Father (Acts 1:1), we see all sorts of "greater things" happening in the lives of ordinary, powerless, simple, and everyday people who believe in Jesus. So what's the difference between them and us? Let's be honest with ourselves:
- God didn't suddenly get less powerful.
- The promise of Jesus didn't expire.
- The Holy Spirit didn't leave the scene.
- The message of Jesus didn't lose its radical convicting edge.
So let's be courageous enough to ask ourselves, "Is the reason we are not seeing these greater things a problem with us?"
For the next several weeks, I want to invite you to journey with me through Acts chapters 3 and 4 and look at the "greater things" Jesus did through his followers and see if we can't come to expect those same things happening in us and through us. However, we need to start where those who first believed the message of Jesus began (Acts 2:41):
- Believing that Jesus is Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36).
- Turning their hearts and lives to him through baptism to be forgiven and filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).
- Because they wanted to be saved from their corrupt generation (Acts 2:40).
When this conviction touched their hearts and they responded in faith, they became part of a community of people who "devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer" (Acts 2:42).
Notice the key word: "devoted"! This word surfaces several times in the early chapters of Acts (Acts 1:14; Acts 2:42; Acts 2:46; Acts 6:4). Devotion was clearly a key part of the early church's experience of the "greater things" that Jesus promised. Unfortunately, this is a quality often lacking in those claiming to follow Jesus in our Western churches today!
So here comes the really convicting question for you and me: How frequently does devotion to these things mentioned in Acts show up in our lives?
We're not talking about adding these four areas of devotion to our already busy lifestyles. No, we're talking about these four being the ordering principles around which we arrange our lives. That's what it means to be devoted! We lean in and attach ourselves to these four commitments as the ordering priorities of our lives as followers of Jesus.
Jesus longs to do "greater things" in us. Our hearts yearn to experience God in all of his holy power in our lives. Our churches ache to be something more than a weekly show within four walls that seems absolutely disconnected from our everyday lives.
I don't know about you, but I'm ready for "greater things" and not just the old things! So if Jesus' promise to do "greater things" is for "whoever believes" in him, isn't it time we followed their example by doing what they did and devoting ourselves to what they did?
To help me in my focus on expecting "greater things" to be part of my walk with Jesus as my Lord and Christ, I'm engaging in a set of daily spiritual practices in addition to my daily Bible reading during April and May. You can download these daily practices on a one page pdf by following this link: http://hlt.me/HIK1QV