I had the distinct privilege and responsibility to open up the Word of God for Eastside Presbyterian Church in Greenville, South Carolina on Sunday, August 5, 2018. If you would like to read my exposition of John 14:7-14, “Abiding and Working,” please read on. . . .
“Abiding and Working”
By Dr. Bob Stouffer, Elder
Eastside Presybterian Church
Greenville, South Carolina
Sunday, August 5, 2018
7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.[a] From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
8 Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 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’? 10 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. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.
12 “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. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me[b] anything in my name, I will do it.
a John 14:7 Or If you know me, you will know my Father also, or If you have known me, you will know my Father also
b John 14:14 Some manuscripts omit me
I hold in my hand one of my most treasured possessions. This 27-year-old handwritten note from my daughter Molly means the world to me.
In 1991, Cheryl, Molly, and I had returned to Iowa City from San Diego after the Holiday Bowl football game. The better bowls (like Clemson always plays in) were in full gear, so, on that Saturday, I was ready to watch the best of college football.
But Molly wanted to watch her cartoons. We were at a loggerhead. Would the 32-year-old Dad or 5-year-old daughter carry the day?
I am ashamed to tell you I selfishly told Molly that I would be watching football. After all, how could “Rugrats” compare to a great football game?! I’d like to blame my poor attitude on the fact that I was not yet a follower of Jesus Christ, but I have to take full responsibility for simply being a selfish lout.
Molly was incensed, as you can imagine. She stomped from the TV room to her bedroom and slammed the door in one of her rare fits of anger. I completely forgot about her, as I was immersed in my football. She was inside her room for what was probably 30 minutes, composing this note.
Upon completion of her communication, she thrust her bedroom door back open, stomped to the couch where I was reclining, threw the note on the floor by me, stomped back to her room, and once again slammed the door.
But I did not want to even acknowledge her note, and I kept right on watching the bowl game.
Cheryl had been running errands. She walked in the front door. She saw this piece of paper on the floor. She picked it up, read the note, and started laughing almost uncontrollably.
“What?! What does it say?!” I asked defensively.
She handed me the note from our precocious 5-year-old.
The note read, “To Dad, I can’t believe I still love you. Molly.”
That signature story humbles me today.
What had I taught my daughter on that day? I was self-absorbed. I wanted what I wanted when I wanted it.
Was that the Christ-centered modeling she needed? Of course not!
Should a parent want his child to be like him? Yes!
In that moment, would I have wanted Molly to be like me? No!
I have been an educator for 39 years. Jesus once said, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.” (Luke 6:40, English Standard Version)
Molly needed me to be a more mature Dad at that point in 1991. “A child is not above her father, but everyone when she is fully trained will be like her father.”
Today’s passage gives us the ultimate example of a child being like the Father.
Let me pray for illumination of this text today.
Father God, I pray for your enlightenment today. Your words, not my words. Your greatest example – Jesus – not my example. Holy Spirit, guide us in truth and transformation of our character today. Amen.
John 14:7-14 —
I could go in a number of different directions with this passage.
- We could consider the topic of respect for parental authority, or
- An analysis of faith and works, or
- Prayer and asking in Jesus’ name.
But I want to camp on two ideas today.
Number 1: The abundant Christian life overflows from a great relationship with God, and
Number 2: From this great relationship, you will perform great works of service to God’s honor and glory.
Think of your best friendship.
For those of you who are married, I hope that friendship is with your spouse.
Why is this friendship great?
Great relationships are a result of time being spent with each other.
You are intentional about making time for the other.
You give firstfruits of your energy and attention.
You listen. You value the other person more than yourself.
The other person knows she or he is loved unconditionally.
We understand these truths when it comes to people, but we struggle when we think of our relationship with God. We don’t spend enough time with Him. We lack intentionality with Him. We talk at Him more than we listen to Him. We give leftover time, not firstfruits.
Who best exemplifies THE greatest relationship? God, of course! Always!
Jesus said to His disciples,
7 “If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”
The Bible uses 22 meanings for “know” in the New Testament. The Greek root for “know” in this entire passage means, “Choice of good will — to approve of, to love, to care for.” (Zodhiates, p. 323)
The naysayers did not know Jesus. The naysayers did not show good will, approve of, love, nor care for Jesus! Because they did not know Him, they also did not know Father God. Jesus told them that He would reveal Himself to them, and, by so doing, he would be revealing the very identity of the Father!
“Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.”
Philip believed he could “know” the Father if Jesus would show them the Father.
Philip wanted a physical manifestation of the Father. Ironically, that physical manifestation was standing right in front of him!
Jesus responded to Philip:
“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’? 10 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 [by] the Father. . . .”
Jesus was surprised that Philip has been engaged in ministry with Him for 3 years, and he still did not know Jesus intimately enough. But Jesus used this as a teachable moment. Jesus offered a rhetorical question: “Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the father is in me?”
On earth, Jesus was IN THE FATHER and the Father was IN HIM.
What’s that all about?
Think ahead about what Jesus would say in John 15:5:
“I am the vine; you [disciples] are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
John the Apostle also used the word, abiding, repeatedly in his first epistle.
Abiding. Abiding is one of my favorite words, a word seldom used outside of the Christian vernacular.
“Abiding” communicates a super strong connection between two entities.
In John 15, Jesus talked about all of us as His branches tapping fully into Him, the vine. We abide in Him, and we bear much spiritual fruit. Apart from Jesus, we can do NOTHING. That’s definitive.
Of course, Jesus is THE example, as always. He abided in his relationship with His Father, and He bore MUCH fruit.
The Son intentionally got alone with and abided in the Father — often early in the morning.
Whoever had seen Him had seen the Father!
He was IN THE FATHER, and the Father was IN HIM.
Jesus spoke not of His own authority. He spoke from the authority of His Father. He spoke out of the abiding relationship He actively sought with the Father.
Jesus understood that His most important relationship was with the Father.
We, too, must understand that our most important relationship is with God.
Jesus abided in the Father.
We must abide in Christ. Abiding is the foundation upon which every other aspect of the Christian life finds abundance.
The “1st 15″ devotional captures this effective truth for us: Until we gain an understanding of the immense value and availability of encountering God, we will never consistently spend time alone with God — not just asking Him for things, but, according to Mother Teresa, “putting ourselves in His hands at His disposition, and listening to his voice.” (emphasis added) Then, we can enjoy a great relationship with Him and an abundant Christian life.
We were made for relationship with our heavenly Father! Jeremiah the Prophet captured this great truth, recorded in Chapter 24, verse 7: “I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.”
We are children of a loving God, a God who is desperately jealous for the entirety of our hearts! God longs for our lives on earth to IMPACT ETERNITY!
God loves unconditionally. The Father sent His Son to die for us! We must die to self to love God and others unconditionally. Only in dying to self will He mold our will to His will, matching his perfect plan for us. Only then can we love others unconditionally.
So Point #1 again: “The abundant Christian life overflows from a great relationship with God.
Such brings me to my second point today:
From this great relationship, we will perform great works of service to God’s honor and glory.
I am a big Experiencing God guy. Some of you have probably completed this lengthy Bible study by Henry Blackaby and Claude King. I HIGHLY recommend the study to you, if you have a desire to experience dramatic spiritual growth.
The first two points of Experiencing God mirror my two points today.
Abide in Christ. As we are abiding, we should look to see where God is working, and join Him in the work. GOD’S work! Not OUR work! GOD’S work!
During His earthly ministry,
- Jesus thought exactly as the Father thought.
- Jesus spoke exactly as the Father would have spoke.
- Jesus worked exactly as the Father would have worked.
Jesus was so in tune with the Father – and He was so focused on serving others – He perfectly completed all of the work assignments given to Him by His Father.
Here, in John 14:12, Jesus promises we will perform greater works than He performed.
Greater works than His?!
I have always had a difficult time wrapping my mind around John 14:12. But I must believe Jesus will make a way for all of us to obey His command:
He said, in verse 12, “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. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.
How will we do greater works than He?
- By approaching Him with humility and brokenness.
- By believing in Him.
- By believing in His power.
- By asking in His name.
- By being perfectly in the will of God.
- By praying, as Jesus prayed, “Not MY will, but the Father’s will be done.”
I must delight myself in the Lord, so He will give me the desires of my heart. When the desires of my heart are in perfect sync with the desires of God’s heart, He will give me what I want, BECAUSE. . .IT’S. . .WHAT. . .HE. . .WANTS!
Our problem is that we view God as a cosmic vending machine, asking in our name, given our desires – which often has absolutely nothing to do with God’s desires.
Jesus said, “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. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.”
We all know works which can only be credited to God.
- Healing the sick
- Giving sight to the blind
- Restoring sound to the deaf
- Raising the dead
Doing greater works than Jesus does not necessarily mean we will perform greater miracles.
Based on my study, I believe doing greater works means we can, as the body of Christ, contribute to even greater expansion of God’s Kingdom
We know we can be agents of God’s great work.
Again, the “1st 15″ devotional fleshes out this truth: “The poor, orphaned, widowed, and lost don’t just need a word from God. They need us to act on our beliefs and to love and to serve selflessly with the help of the Holy Spirit. . .If we are to receive all that God has for us, if we are to walk in the abundant life God intends” — if we are to do greater works than Jesus — “we must resolve to be doers of the Word.” The power of God’s love comes through ACTION!
After one sermon by Peter, recorded in Acts, more people believed and started following Jesus than all who had been converted during 3 years of Jesus’ earthly ministry.
Jesus said it was to our advantage for Him to go back to heaven, so He could send the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would equip us to expand His Kingdom, doing “even greater things” than He.
The great British preacher Charles Spurgeon made a powerful observation about Jesus — a quote found in your bulletin today:
“. . .now that he has gone up on high, [the disciple of Jesus Christ] does greater wonders. . .than he himself personally did, for he said to a few poor fishermen, “Go and break up the Roman Empire,” and they did it. They preached the gospel, and the gods of the heathen that sat upon their thrones for ages were cast to the moles and the bats. And there are greater victories yet before the Church of God. You ought not to measure our passage by the past, but believe that “greater works than these shall ye do, because I go unto my Father.”
Jesus gives the power to transform lives.
Those of you who believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior of your lives – I could ask you to come forward and testify about how He has changed – and hopefully He is continuing to help you change – your lives
Jesus calls us to abide, seek, ask, find, receive, work, and glorify!
- Abide in Christ as Christ abided in the Father. Be intentional about meeting him daily, moment-by-moment.
- Seek. Come to Jesus with POSITIVE EXPECTANCY! Hunger and thirst for His righteousness! Clothe yourself every day in the knowledge of who you are in Christ!
- Ask in prayer. Ask in Jesus’ name. Pray without ceasing.
- Find. You will find Him when you seek Him.
- Receive. Receive what He has to offer! “And because you are sons [and daughters], God has sent the spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father!’ so you are no longer a slave but a son [or daughter], and. . .then an heir through God.” (Galatians 4:6-7)
- Work for Him.
- Glorify Him! In John 17:4, Jesus said to His Father, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.”
Faith in Jesus saves. It is only faith in Jesus that saves, not faith in faith, nor faith in works, nor faith in the law. We believe in, follow, and have faith in Jesus. And that faith is counted to us as righteousness.
But faith without works is dead. Works will flow out of faith and a desire — not a duty — to honor and glorify God.
In John 8, verses 50 and 54, the Apostle recorded Jesus’ words:
“. . .I do not seek my own glory; there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. . . . If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me. . . .”
Jesus’ glory is NOTHING compared to the Father’s glory?!
Jesus did not seek His own glory!
God the Father sought His own glory, and Jesus reflected that glory to Him, when completing the Father’s work.
God alone deserves all glory and honor and praise!
This is a good place for me to promote a 6-week adult Sunday school class I will be facilitating this fall. Please join us when we explore how vocational work must bring honor and glory to the Lord. The Hebrew root for WORK is the same root for the word, WORSHIP (avodah). We must work in the marketplace as an act of worship to the Lord.
Let’s close today.
For 36 years, I did not know what I did not know. I was churched, but I was not a Christian. I did not know what it meant to “follow Jesus.”
The first 12 years of our marriage were terrible, because we were unequally yoked, and I did not understand my biblical responsibilities to Cheryl. I was a bad husband. She could have divorced me.
But, then, God! God got ahold of me through my first study of His Word!
Jesus redeemed me! I became a follower of Jesus Christ!!
Jesus redeemed our marriage, and we celebrate our 36th year this coming Tuesday, August 7th!
Jesus redeemed my strained relationship with Molly when she was a 9th grader — that 5-year-old who said she could not believe she still loved me!
God kept loving me, and He brought me into His Kingdom on earth — to help increase the number of those who claim Him as Lord!
Jesus lived a sinless life. He suffered on the cross. He absorbed the wrath of God. Jesus died. But he rose again from the dead! He conquered death, so WE could conquer death!
But we must declare Him Lord and Savior of our lives to experience everlasting life.
As Mark said last week, we must know and believe He is the only way, the only truth, the only source of life everlasting.
Do you know that truth today?
Do you believe that truth today?
If you have never considered that truth — like I had never considered the truth for the first 36 years of my life — is this the day that the Holy Spirit is calling you to know and believe?!
I pray that it will be so!
That’s the Gospel!
And the Gospel changes everything!
Let’s pray. . .
Lord, most people in this room would say You are Lord and Savior of their lives.
But if there is even one man, woman, or child who will, today, newly declare Jesus as Lord of his or her life, we will rejoice!
We praise You, God, for salvation!
Help us, God, to abide in You — and to do Your work for Your honor and glory!
“1st 15″ devotional.
Spurgeon, Charles H.
Zodhiates, Spiros. The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (1993).