“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 (ESV)
I don’t know about you, but I have always found John 14:12 to be very intimidating. I mean, really? Greater works than Jesus? For me, the idea the idea that I might be held accountable to accomplish greater works than Jesus was so unattainable, so far-fetched, that I allowed myself to become discouraged into complacency before I began the work. Jesus was Immanuel, God with us. He was both fully human and fully divine. He raised the dead, and opened the eyes and ears of the deaf and blind. Jesus boldly addressed the religious leaders of the day in regards to their sin, and suffered the penultimate death of suffering and humiliation so that one day I might be with Him for eternity.
Jesus taught that the works that He did testified regarding who He was and by whom He had been sent. Like Christ, our works should identify to whom we belong. If we say we are Christians than we should be able to be identified by our lives and our choices. Yet, sadly, there will be some who have been in church their whole lives, believing they are working for the kingdom, only to find that they never really knew the king.
To many of us, accomplishing greater works than Christ seems doubtful and unlikely. Even now, I continue to struggle with the concept. Like Paul, I acknowledge:
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:15-16, ESV)
Still after all these years I wrestle with this question: why would God use someone as stubborn, strong-willed, temperamental, and unpredictable as me?
I have often noted a special feeling of kinship when reading the accounts of the apostle Paul. My heart secretly gripped in fear every time I read the Lord’s words to Ananias after Paul’s conversion: “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name” (Acts 9:15b-16).
There have been many times that I experienced an ominous feeling of foreboding while reading this scripture. Perhaps it was because I knew that, like Paul, I had every right to suffer. I was completely undeserving of His grace, and I owed God nothing less than my life for the pit of hell He had rescued me from. I could empathize with Paul, whom having believed he both knew and served God, awoke one day to find that he had never really known God at all. Paul recognized that it was only because of God’s great mercy and grace that he would have the opportunity to serve Him, and he willingly gave his life to Him in exchange.
Like Paul, my life before Christ had been steeped in denial regarding my knowledge of, and relationship with, God. In addition, my acts of rebellion destroyed lives, and separated families, as well. I could relate to the unbelief shared by many in the early church after Paul’s conversion, as there were many that did not believe that change was possible for me. But, Paul found something in Christ that was worth giving up the rest of his life for.
He found grace.
When we as Christians stop and really meditate on the unearned favor of God, and all that we have received and will receive, through no labor of our own, it should compel us toward love for God. True love is loyal and unconditional. Our love for God should be identified by a devotion so strong, and so fiercely loyal, that it births within us a determination to be imitators of Christ on earth. The grace of God, although priceless beyond compare, gives us everything, but has already been paid for.
When we really begin to understand the magnificent and massive debt that has been fully paid, we find that we are left standing with open arms, and eyes wide, desperately longing to repay a Savior Whom we could never repay.
This is the effect of recognizing the power, price and gift of grace.
With love, loyalty, and desperation comingled we begin to seek Him with our whole hearts. And as we seek Him, we long to be with Him and be like Him. And as we move toward Him, endeavoring to walk in self-control and holiness, we also endeavor to walk in love. These works of love are carried out through demonstrations toward others.
Our works therefore, are not offered as payment for the grace, but we are compelled to works because we understand, accept and are thankful for grace. We can not stand idly by when we see suffering, because we are becoming like Christ. His Spirit within us urges us to meet the needs of the weak, and our appreciation of His grace and His love grows within us a desire to be obedient. Further, as we have the mind of Christ, and we long to bring God glory, we understand that we bring glory to our Father when walk and work like Christ. We also understand that we are not of the world, and with our hearts set on eternity we remember that when we work for heavenly purposes we store up for ourselves a heavenly reward. The reward is not heaven, for our works could never gain us entrance into heaven, but by faith, we understand that those who enter into heaven will receive their rewards in this life and in the life to come.