WOW Statements of Jesus
You Can Do Greater Works
November 9, 2008
Have we domesticated Jesus? Have we tamed Jesus? Have we created an image of Him and placed Him in a proper position in our lives? What would happen if we were to allow the Lion of Judah to roam around in our lives, our hearts, and our minds in order to destroy the lies that we’ve been holding on to, that keep us captive? In this series, WOW Statements of Jesus, Ben Young will challenge you to invite the real, radical Jesus of the Gospels, the Jesus who is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, to roam around inside your life. All of the statements: the gut-wrenching, mind-expanding, and life-affirming statements of Jesus are about one thing…the Kingdom of God, a radical lifestyle of grace and truth that God through Christ calls us to.
Your life may be an absolute mess right now or it may be going great…either way you can be confident that if God started a work in you, He is going to complete that work inside of you. Join Ben Young as he explores the first WOW statement of Jesus, “You Can Do Greater Works.” God has greater things in store for you, for your life.
When I was a little kid, my mom used to read to me and my brother. One of our favorite books was called Barney Beagle. I think there was a sequel out called Barney Beagle Plays Baseball. So my brother, Ed and I begged our parents to get us a dog—“Can you get us a dog? Can you get us a beagle?” So they got us a beagle, and we named it Ralph. I’m teasing! We named it Barney. He was a great dog, but he didn’t last very long. I think he had an encounter with a car. Dogs chase cars sometimes. They have this thing with hubcaps! So, we got Barney Beagle II, who was the quintessential pet we had growing up. We had other pets—German Shepherds, Samoyeds, and a Pekingese. One time my brother found a snake when my dad was out of town preaching somewhere, and he hid it. Anyway, that’s a whole other story! But we had all kinds of animals growing up. Barney the Beagle was really not your typical beagle. Beagles are supposed to be kind of sleek and smooth; this dog was fat and round! He was supposed to be a hunting dog, but he just sat around and slept all the time. He was a beautiful dog with kind of a light brown head and a white stripe, along with a black back and three white spots, and a white tummy. Mostly the dog just laid around all the time. But I loved, loved Barney the beagle.
A lot of folks have pets. If you have a pet at home, raise your hand. Sir, what kind of pet do you have? A Boston Terrier! All right! How old is he or she? Three years? What do you have? A mutt! I like that. What kind of mutt? Do you have any idea what the mix may be? A terrier! Okay! Anyone else have a pet? You have a bearded dragon? Haven’t heard of that one! One more! Any ladies here? Right there on the front row! A black lab! We have a yellow lab right now at our house, and also a Rhodesian Ridge Back without a ridge!
All these animals have one thing in common. They are not wild; but rather they are domesticated animals. The word domestication means home. It means they are trained to be in the house. Our dogs and cats know where to sleep, walk, poop, and not poop. That’s what it means to be domesticated. They have their place, and they can operate inside of our homes and apartments.
It’s interesting when you look at the kind of animals we try to domesticate over the years. Some animals simply can’t be domesticated. I’ve been a Christian for a long time now, and one of the things I’ve observed in the last 20 years is that we’ve tried to domesticate Jesus.
I would say this has happened within the church, no matter which church you come from, whether it’s Baptist, Catholic, or Pentecostal, and I would say it’s true for people outside of the church who are looking in. Have you noticed that? We’ve domesticated Jesus! In other words, we’ve taken the Jesus from the Gospels, and we’ve kind of tamed Him. We have created such an image of Him and placed Him in a proper place in our lives. Jesus knows where to stay! He’s got His place in our lives from 11:11 to 12:15 on Sundays, and then we have the rest of our lives during the week. This is domesticated Jesus. When we need Jesus, we take Him out for a walk, or we cuddle up next to Him; but He basically is not going to interfere with our lives, or our relationships, or our jobs or money. This is domesticated Jesus. Domesticated Jesus is never going to convict you or me. Domesticated Jesus is never going to call you out. He’s never going to challenge you to take our spiritual walk to a whole other level. He’s not going to do that, because domesticated Jesus is there for you, and He wants you to be happy and have happy feelings all the time.
Here’s what is strange: You can’t really domesticate Jesus. You really can’t! No matter how hard we try, no matter how many obedience schools we send Him to, no matter how many times we stare at that picture of Jesus… Do you remember the picture of Jesus you saw growing up if you went to Sunday School? He looked like some white guy who had been in a tanning bed. His profile was that of a depressed, long-haired, tan, domesticated, but sad man. We’ve got to get rid of that image of Jesus! We’ve got to get to know the real Jesus, because you can’t domesticate Jesus. Let me tell you why. There’s a verse that kind of helps us out here today, and it is found in
Revelation was written by John. He died probably around 91 A.D., but he lived longer than any of the other disciples of Jesus. John wrote the Gospel of John, and in it, he said, “Jesus is the light of the world.” He said, “Jesus is full of grace and truth.” He said, “I got so close to Jesus that I could put my head on His chest.” In I John 1, he wrote, “This is love; not that we love God, but that God loved us and sent Jesus as atoning sacrifice for us.” So he is known as the Apostle of Love. He also wrote the Book of the Revelation, this wild, fantastic apocalyptic piece of literature, and here’s what he says about Jesus, and this is why you can’t domesticate Him.
Revelation 5:51—“Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep; see, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.’” Jesus is known as The Lion of Judah. There are other metaphors to describe Jesus in the Bible. He is known as The Alpha and the Omega, The Bright Morning Star, and The Lamb. Right here we see that Jesus Christ is also called The Lion of the Tribe of Judah.
When I was a little kid, my brother and I found a dog once that didn’t have a tag. He was a stray mutt. We invited him home and said, “Oh mom, please let us keep him!” Our mom said, “Well, okay.” We called him Tramp. We domesticated him, taught him where to sleep, how to eat, where to poop and all that stuff. But what if I lived in a different country, and I saw this nice, golden cat without a tag, and I got my brother and said, “Hey—let’s invite this golden cat home with us.” We would say, “Hey mom—we found this nice lion cub! What do you think?” Mom’s going to say, “Son, you are crazy! You can’t domesticate a lion!”
There is something that draws us to lions. Most of us have never seen a lion in person except at a zoo, or on The Discovery Channel. But there is something that draws us to a lion; the golden mane and fur makes it look so cuddly, doesn’t it? Big old 600 pound lion! You want to go hug the lion, but you know better! Why? Because a lion also has these ferocious fangs and claws, and we’ve seen a lion just rip a zebra to shreds and carry it off through the wild and deserts. We’re scared of lions because they are the king of the jungle. Jesus is the Lamb; but John also says that Jesus is also a lion, and you cannot domesticate a lion. You can’t do it!
Here is what I want to happen as we start this new series called The WOW Statements of Jesus, or The Radical Statements of Jesus. Here is what I want to happen. Work with me a little bit!
Back in the 80’s, there was this new wave group that came out of Atlanta called The B-52’s. Raise your hand if you remember The B-52’s! Don’t act all religious! Yeah, ya’ll do! You probably danced to them, okay? They had a lot of popular songs. I think the first one was Rock Lobster. But another one that I like is a song called Roam. Do you remember that song, Roam? “Roam if you want to; roam around the world!” That’s what I want to happen in the next several weeks. You say, “What are you talking about?” What I want us to do is invite Jesus, the real Jesus, the radical Jesus, the Jesus who is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah; I want us to invite the Lion to roam around inside of our lives as we look at His radical sayings. I want the prayer for us here this morning to be, “God, I give You the freedom to roam where You want in my life!” I guarantee you one thing, if I could go to Africa and bring back a big old 500 pound lion and turn him loose in your house or apartment; things would be different! There would be some changes! How much more if we give God through Jesus Christ the freedom to roam around in our lives, not only in the foyer and outside; but to roam around in the den of our lives; to roam around in the bedroom, and the secret places, and the attic, and the basement, and the closet that we don’t tell anybody about. What will happen if we allow the Lion to roam around in our minds and to destroy the lies that we’ve been holding on to, that keep us captive?
Why don’t we let the Lion roam around in our life and just roar His courage and boldness into our lives, that we would step out and do things, and try things that we never dreamed possible before. So that’s one of my prayers as we begin this new series on the WOW Statements of Jesus, that we would let The Lion of the Tribe of Judah roam around in our lives, and watch what happens!
Jesus said a lot of things that are just shocking. He did! Jesus said so many things that are just unbelievable. So when we listen to the Lion roar over the next several weeks in this series; you’ll see that it’s going to fall into three categories. One is what I call the mind expanding category. In other words, some of the sayings of Jesus will blow your mind! It’s going to expand your concept of reality and what’s possible in your life. It’s like that video we saw earlier where the people are asked if they can do greater works than Jesus. They were trying to wrap their mind around that concept, and I’m right there with them!
Other things that Jesus said are going to be gut wrenching. Some Sunday mornings, you’re going to come in here, and it’s going to be SHAPOOM! The Lion is going to convict you, and He’s going to cut you! Here’s the deal: Sometimes when you’re convicted, it’s painful, isn’t it? Jesus and God may wound or cut us, but He does that in order to heal.
We have some doctors and surgeons here this morning. How many people that they have seen would be absolutely dead had these doctors not had the courage, and the patients not had the courage to allow that doctor to cut open their flesh in order to get inside and heal them?
So I’m not going to sugar-coat any of these sayings of Jesus. They’re going to cut you and me, and we’re going to get a claw here and there; but He does that, not to wound us, but to heal us. Some of these sayings are going to be gut-wrenching and convicting.
The third category is that some of these statements are going to be life-affirming. I like that! Jesus said, “I came that you might have life and have it more abundantly.” He’s not talking about bios. That’s the prefix for “life” in the Greek. He’s talking about zoe; God’s very kind of life. Many of His statements are going to be promises that we need to hold on to that will breathe life into us. Not typical life, but God’s kind of life. Those are the three categories that these sayings will fall into.
We have to be careful in looking at this series that we don’t see these statements of Jesus as separate entities. In other words, Jesus says if someone slaps you on one cheek; turn the other to him also. Jesus said you should love your neighbor as yourself, and love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! Rejoice! Have a nice day!
Jesus says if we don’t forgive other people, then He will not forgive us. So as we look at all these statements Jesus made, some just really hit us hard! It’s easy to look at them sort of like little fortune cookies.
My daughters are on the front row. When we go to eat Chinese food, they love the fortune cookies. I don’t want you to look at these sayings as separate entities, because all the statements we’re going to look at, all the WOW statements: the life affirming, gut wrenching, mind-expanding statements are about one thing. It’s this over-arching purpose that God wants to do in your life and my life individually and collectively as a community. It’s all about one thing. Jesus was concerned about one thing primarily when He was on earth, and that was about the three letters: the K.O.G.! The Kingdom of God! Even a big old lineman from Nebraska knows that prayer, right? “Our Father who art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy Name. Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven…” So when Jesus came, He was about bringing God’s rule and reign to earth. He wanted to bring the peace, the forgiveness, the love. Everything in Heaven, He was bringing that down to earth. He was living it out and was teaching these radical, social ethics that would be the social ethics of the Kingdom.
So as we look at these statements, don’t look at them as little separate sayings. “What’s the sound of one hand clapping?” No, no, no! It’s all about the Kingdom plan. It’s all about advancing the K.O.G. So as we get these words inside of us and allow the Lion to roam where He wants to in our lives; we’re going to begin to live out the K.O.G. in our lives, in our high schools, in the market place downtown, in our homes and relationships, and we’re going to watch and see what the Lion does as we let Him loose in our lives.
I can’t wait! There’s a part of me that is like, “Yeah, let’s go do it!” There is another part of me that’s like, “Whoa! It’s a Lion! I don’t know if I want to change quite yet…” But I know that God’s change is always good.
The first WOW statement I want to look at briefly today kind of reminds me of what was going on here. How many of you are familiar with the book The Last Lecture? Are you familiar with that book? Dr. Randy Pausch wrote the book. He was a professor in the Northeast who was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, he has since passed away. But he wrote this book and was on Oprah. He toured all around the United States, and it was basically his last lecture. It was the words of wisdom he wanted to leave to people before he died. Now I don’t agree with everything Randy said or did, but I think it’s a good concept, and I respect his boldness for doing what he did.
Jesus is having a last lecture talk right here in John chapter 14. He is talking primarily in this passage as we know to Peter, Philipp and Thomas. He has already said some WOW statements to them. “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen God.” Jesus has said to them, “I’m the only way to God.” Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by Me. I am the path, I am the road.” Okay…Now He’s going to say something even wilder. Look at John 14:12. He says, “I tell you the truth: Anyone who has faith in Me will do what I’ve been doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father.” Maybe your translation says, “Greater works you will do.”
I first tried to let that verse rattle inside of me about 20 something years ago, and it kind of blew my mind. I thought greater works? Look at the things Jesus did! He healed the sick, He raised the dead, and He cast out demons! Wow! He took a walk on the water without a bridge. I want to do this! So my buddies and I in college were jacked up! We were going to do this, and we were going to bring revival to our campus, and we were going to usher in our concept of the Kingdom of God as college students. We believed that. We prayed and wanted to see people healed, demons cast out, and people raised from the dead. I’ve told you these stories before, but you know what? It didn’t happen. As much as we prayed, as much as we fasted, as much as we stood on God’s Word, it did not happen. Therefore, something happened to me. It didn’t happen to the rest of my friends, I don’t think; but what happened to me was that I went into a tail spin of doubt, despair, and hopelessness when it came to God and believing that He is real, and believing that His Word is true.
The good news is that if you’re going through a tail spin like that today, I’m still here; I’m still breathing and still believing! God can take you through that. There’s a great verse in the Bible that says even when we’re faithless, God is faithful. That’s good, isn’t it?
What I learned about this verse as I studied it and learned more; it doesn’t mean greater works, greater miracles. It simply doesn’t mean that. History says that; experience will tell you that. You say, “Ben, you don’t believe in miracles?” Of course I do! “Do you believe people get healed today?” Of course I believe people are healed today. “Do you believe that people have demons today?” You’d better believe it! Years ago I was part of an exorcism. I believe—I’m serious; I believe in demons and demon possession. But you know what? It’s not happening as much as it did during Jesus’ time. People are not getting healed as much. They’re not—I don’t see blind people seeing and deaf people regaining their hearing, or the lame walking.
It’s not happening as much as it did when Jesus was here. So obviously, He wasn’t talking about the miracles here. What was He talking about? There are a lot of applications, and I want to talk about one of them.
One of the things that Jesus was talking about is that God has greater things in store for you. That’s good news, isn’t it? God has greater things in store for you. The word there for “work” in the Greek is the word ergon. It’s the same word that Paul uses in Philippians 1:6 where it says, “He who began a good ergon, began a good work, began a good thing in you will complete that until the day of Christ Jesus.” Isn’t that great to know? Your life may be an absolute mess right now. You may be flying blind right now and don’t know how to use the force! You’re just out there! God is with you. If God started a work in you, He is going to complete that work inside of you. So God has greater things in store for you; greater things in store for your life. You might say, “Well you don’t know what I’m going through. You don’t know the suffering I’m going through. You don’t know the circumstances I’m in.” Listen, you can’t understand everything right now. It’s impossible.
Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher said this; “Life must be lived forward, but can only be understood backward.” Life must be lived in the now. But it can only be understood many times looking backward as to what God was doing in your life. So let me tell you something. Let me give you some hope here today: God has greater things in store for you! Part of God’s greater things and greater work was the spreading of the Good News around the world. Jesus had to go to the Father this verse tells us, and when He went to the Father, He sent His Spirit to live inside of you and me. So we’re not out there just going it alone as we’re trying to follow God, allowing the Lion of the Tribe of Judah to walk around in our life. No, no, no! His Spirit lives inside of you and me to give us power, comfort, and to know that we’re not alone, to give us the strength to step out, and to stand. God’s Spirit does that!
When Jesus was on earth for 33 years, He was localized to this little speck in Israel. He’s gone global now to anyone who believes in Him, and He will send His Spirit to be with them and to comfort them. Part of the greater works is the spread of the Good News, and the fact that now God through Christ can be everywhere present in a very personal and direct way.
Let me give you a truth here. In the following weeks, we’re going to talk about some things that are going to hit hard, and as we start the New Year and look at these sayings of Jesus, it’s like wow! It’s going to come strong! I mean, it’s Kimbo Slice, its Gina Carano! You’ve got to be ready to go with this!
So before you get in the ring with Kimbo or Gina, listen: You’ve got to understand this about what God has done for you. If you don’t, you’re going to get all whacked out about God, and about the Gospel and about Christianity and think it’s a bunch of “do this, and don’t do this…” No, no, no!
When I was in college, my parents gave me a real cheesy gift. It wasn’t mesh, but it was made out of like a straw stuff; kind of a semi-painting print, and it was of a lion and had a verse on it. I didn’t really like it, but I liked the lion and the verse. This piece of art was one step above velvet Elvis and velvet Lord Supper. But it had this verse on it that I want to share with you because it’s important that we understand it—it’s so basic. Proverbs 28:1 says, “The wicked man flees, though no one pursues; but the righteous are as bold as a lion.” The wicked man flees even though no one is chasing him! But the righteous are as bold as lions! We need to be righteous. The greatest need you and I have before God is to understand that we need His perfect 100% righteousness. Paul says in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God to everyone who believes; to the Jew first, also to the Greek, for in the Gospel, a righteousness from God is revealed.”
So when Jesus Christ died on the Cross—listen to this—He didn’t die just so we could be forgiven. Forgiveness is a great thing, a wonderful thing and is one of the most marvelous, magnificent things in the world. But God did more for you than forgiveness! Please hear me! You see, God not only forgave you, but He gave you the very righteousness of Jesus Christ. So you and I made an F on our moral report card. Jesus made an A+. When we trust Jesus, He gives us A+, and we trade in our F. On the Cross, God treated Jesus as if He were you and me so He could turn around and treat us as if we were Jesus.
There was a guy years ago who was a slave trader in England. His name was John Newton. He was a wicked, evil man. When he heard the news about this righteousness from God and that he could be forgiven, he wrote a song called Amazing Grace, not Ho Hum Grace. John Newton, along with his mentoree, William “Wilbur” Wilberforce, became two of the men who led the abolishment of slavery in England. The Gospel is good news! It’s great news! It’s mind-expanding, mind-blowing news that when God looks at us, if you are in Christ; He does not see you. He does not see your sin, your shame, your guilt. He sees the very righteousness of Jesus Christ.
I don’t have time to get into this today, but this righteousness that we have is outside of us. It is external to us. It doesn’t change based upon your feelings or emotions, or things you did or didn’t do. “Oh, I didn’t do my quiet time” or “I didn’t pray today.” Or, “Oh, I said a bad word in traffic!”
Do we need to live righteous lives? You bet! That’s what this series is about. But the righteousness that we need is an alien righteousness. It’s outside of us. It’s external. We need a righteousness that allows us to be accepted, affirmed and loved regardless of our good day, bad day performances. Does that make sense? That’s great news!
When God looks at us, if we’ve trusted in Christ; when He looks for righteousness, do you know where He looks? He doesn’t look down at you. He looks right there to His right hand. He looks at Christ. You and I are 100% righteous if we know Him. When we’re righteous, guess what? We’re bold! Why? Because we know we’ve been forgiven, and we know we’ve received the very righteousness of Jesus Christ. We’re bold. We know that we’re messed up and are beggars. We know we are not Jack Taco in and of ourselves. We are nothing! Nada! But the good news is, if we know Christ and have received His grace, we have everything in Christ! We are righteous and accepted! We are beautiful. We are wanted and desired! We are the apple of God’s eye! We are forgiven and are filled with God’s Spirit. We are blessed with every spiritual blessing in Heavenly places. He has greater things in store for you! That’s a reality whether you feel like it or not; that’s God’s reality over us today. He loves us. We are accepted and can be bold as lions!
I’m a C. S. Lewis freak. I’ve read most of his stuff; but my favorite line from C. S. Lewis—my favorite passage is not from Mere Christianity; it’s not from The Great Divorce. It’s not from Paralandra. That was a tough read! It’s from one of his children’s book series, The Chronicles of Narnia. He has a character in there named Aslan. Aslan is a big lion. There is a section in the book where Mr. Beaver is talking to Lucy, and he’s talking about Aslan. Mr. Beaver says “Well, you know, Aslan is not a tame lion.” Lucy asks later on of this Aslan, this Christ figure, “Is he safe?” Mr. Beaver says, “No, Aslan is not safe. He’s not a tame lion. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
Dear Heavenly Father, help us today if there are folks here who’ve never received this gift of righteousness. It’s not something we are born into. It’s not something we can inherit from our parents because they are Christians, or because our grandmother prayed, or because we were sprinkled or dunked. God, it’s through trusting in You Lord. If there is someone here who has not trusted in You and received Your Righteousness, may they do that today!
Lord, others of us are being drawn back to you. We’re being drawn back to Aslan, the good, unsafe King! Lord, I pray for those Christians here who need to come back home to You today, and You are calling them home, saying “Come home, My son. Come home, my daughter. Come back to the place where you belong. Come back into My fold. Come back into My pride.
Lord, there are many who need to come back to You today. Thank You that You are waiting on the porch, watching for them to come down that road. Thank You that You will run to meet them.