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Jesus Wants You to Know That Powerful is Normal

John 14:7–14 (NASB95) — 7 “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you 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 so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who 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 initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. 11 “Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. 12 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father. 13 “Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.

 

I am a proud graduate of the University of Memphis. I began attending shortly after its name was changed from Memphis State University. Founded in 1912, the university was first called West Tennessee Normal School. A Normal School is a Teacher’s college. These schools trained future teachers according to specific norms and standards.

We understand norms and standards. No one would use a doctor who didn’t attend and graduate from medical school. Many professions require certification and testing to work in that field. These expectations ought to lead us, as believers, to ask a few questions.

What is standard for our relationship with Christ? What is normal Christianity?

As He spoke to His disciples on the night of His arrest, Jesus described Christianity as knowing God (John 14:7). He told His disciples that “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also.” Prompted by this statement, Philip asked Jesus to reveal the Father. In response, Jesus described His unity with the Father. Jesus, God the Son, didn’t do works according to His own initiative. Rather, the Father, who abided in Him, did the works.

Jesus continued in 14:12, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.” How could that be possible? Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, and calmed the storm. He spoke with a supernatural authority. What did He mean?

Jesus spoke about a post-Pentecost world. He was telling the disciples, and all believers, that their Christian lives should be powerful. For example, the largest number of Christians the Bible mentions before Pentecost is just over 500 (1 Corinthians 15:6). Yet, in Acts 2:41, Luke tells us that three thousand people responded in faith to a single sermon. By Acts 4:4, the number of Christian men increased to about five thousand. Greater works indeed.

Are you living with power? Do you experience the greater works? Most of us would say no. While we love Jesus, we rarely see genuinely powerful experiences such as Pentecost. Why is that? The answer is simple—we are not living according to God’s will.

Jesus explained the origin of power in the Christian life. He said in John 14:13-14, “Whatever you ask in my name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in My name, I will do it.” Praying in Jesus’ name provides spiritual power. His name represents His character, His nature, and His will. In 1 John 5:13-15, John put it this way, “13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him.”

If we aren’t living according to Jesus’ will, then we won’t experience God’s power. Power, which should be our norm or standard, will be absent from our lives. This absence requires us to repent of those sins that sap the supernatural power we should experience.

If your prayer life is dry, then it might be that you are living outside of God’s will. If you’ve failed to see non-Christians become Christians, perhaps personal rebellion has impacted your witness. We desire to see prayers answered and people saved. If we aren’t seeing those things, then we need to look at ourselves.

Since God doesn’t change, then we should be experiencing His power like Jesus’ early followers. We may not see thousands come to Christ in a single sermon, but we ought to see God working. If He isn’t, then it’s on us, not God. Our lack of submission to God’s will has short-circuited our spiritual power.

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Jesus Wants You to Know That Heaven is Waiting

John 13:31–14:6 (NASB95) — 31 Therefore when he had gone out, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified, and God is glorified in Him; 32 if God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and will glorify Him immediately. 33 “Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ 34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” 36 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered, “Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you will follow later.” 37 Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You.” 38 Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, a rooster will not crow until you deny Me three times. 1 “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. 2 “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. 4 “And you know the way where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.

Christians love to sing, talk, and think about Heaven. During my first pastorate, we would occasionally have a favorite hymn service. We were a small congregation, so members would call out what hymn they wanted to sing. Most of those songs were about Heaven. We find comfort in eternity, but we must wait for it. How do we wait for Heaven? What do we do while we wait? How do we prepare?

After Judas left the Last Supper, Jesus began an important conversation with the remaining eleven disciples. These men would change the world within the next sixty years, but in that moment they needed to hear from their Lord to prepare for the future.

The moment for His glorification had arrived. After three years of ministry, the time for His death, burial, and resurrection had come. Within hours, He would suffer and three days later be raised.

Jesus told His disciples they would look for, but not find Him. He was going to a place they couldn’t. These words confused the eleven, but before they could ask His meaning, Jesus gave a new command. The disciples were to love one another as Jesus loved them.

This command may sound strange to us. After all, doesn’t the Old Testament also speak about loving others? Why would Jesus say this command was new? The key phrase is “even as I have loved you (v. 34).” Jesus told His men that they were to love one another sacrificially. Within hours, Jesus would lay down His life for the world. He challenged the disciples to love one another this completely.

God still commands us to love one another with a Christ-like love. This love sacrifices self for the sake of others, specifically other believers. While we are certainly called to love the world, Jesus gave this command to a Christian group. Fortunately, when we love one another sacrificially, the world notices. Jesus said in verse 35, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

The disciples didn’t understand Jesus. They focused on His departure. Peter and Thomas asked about Jesus’ destination. Peter wanted to go. Thomas wanted to know the way.

When Peter claimed to want to go with Jesus, he said he would lay down his life for the Lord. Jesus informed Peter of his impending failure. Peter would not obey the new command. Instead, He would deny Jesus three times.

Jesus didn’t let those weighty words remain in the air for long. He immediately began to speak about the comfort of His destination. John 14:1-3 has encouraged many grieving families, but in context these words were given to distraught disciples. Eventually, the disciples would go where Jesus was going, but He had to go first to prepare.

Thomas asked one of the most important questions in the Bible. He wanted to know about the place Jesus was preparing. In response, Jesus pronounced His uniqueness: He is the way, the truth, and the life. He is the only way to Heaven. The truth about Christ is the only saving truth. Only the eternal can live in Heaven. Salvation through Christ exclusively grants eternality.

Christians typically use John 14:1-6 for comfort during loss. However, when seen in the larger context of John 13:31-14:6, the main idea is love. Of course, Heaven encourages Christians. Yet, while we wait to see Jesus face to face, He has commanded us to love one another sacrificially.

Jesus Wants You To Know That Evil Destroys

John 13:18–30 (NASB95) — 18 “I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘HE WHO EATS MY BREAD HAS LIFTED UP HIS HEEL AGAINST ME.’ 19 “From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He. 20 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.” 21 When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.” 22 The disciples began looking at one another, at a loss to know of which one He was speaking. 23 There was reclining on Jesus’ bosom one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. 24 So Simon Peter gestured to him, and said to him, “Tell us who it is of whom He is speaking.” 25 He, leaning back thus on Jesus’ bosom, said to Him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus then answered, “That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him.” So when He had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 After the morsel, Satan then entered into him. Therefore Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” 28 Now no one of those reclining at the table knew for what purpose He had said this to him. 29 For some were supposing, because Judas had the money box, that Jesus was saying to him, “Buy the things we have need of for the feast”; or else, that he should give something to the poor. 30 So after receiving the morsel he went out immediately; and it was night.

 

Tragic characters dominate literature and popular culture. From Hamlet to Anakin Skywalker to Gollum, we understand that not all famous stories end well. The Bible contains several tragic figures. Lot, Moses, Samson, and Gideon stumbled. Sadly, one person stands out—Judas Iscariot.

We don’t know much about Judas. The Bible doesn’t tell us about his call to follow Jesus. There are different opinions about his name’s meaning. We first learn about him in Matthew 10:4. Whatever his background and calling, Scripture consistently mentions Judas’ betrayal of Christ.

Judas was present for the entirety of Jesus’ ministry. In Acts 1:21-22, Peter gives the requirements for Judas’ replacement. The new apostle had to be someone who “accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us—beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us.” Judas saw Jesus’ miracles, heard his sermons, and lived daily with the Savior. He saw Lazarus raised. He heard the Sermon on the Mount. He experienced the calming of the storm. Yet, he betrayed Christ. A tragic tale indeed.

After Jesus washed His disciples’ feet, He explained that they should also serve one another humbly. Immediately after that explanation, Jesus pointed out that one of them would betray Him. Peter, ever the alpha male, motioned to John to ask Jesus the betrayer’s identity. Jesus identified Judas with a piece of food. Tragically, Satan then entered Judas. Jesus told him to follow through with his plan. Judas left, with the others not knowing why.

Matthew’s Gospel tells us that Judas felt remorse after betraying Jesus. In his guilt, he hanged himself. According to Acts 1:18-19, his body decayed, fell from the rope, and burst open. In a culture emphasizing proper burial, Judas’ body was desecrated.

We can take three lessons from Judas’ sad life.

First, we must not continually rebel against God’s Word. Judas spent over three years with Jesus. Jesus is the Word of God and His words are the Words of God. Judas heard these words every day. He heard the sermons and the parables. He heard the authority in Jesus’ voice when casting out demons or calming the storm. He was there when Jesus instructed the disciples not to take their money bags when preaching to the nation of Israel. Yet, Judas betrayed Jesus.

Second, we must stop any secret sin. John 12:6 tells us that Judas stole from the money box during Jesus’ ministry. The disciples only discovered this after his betrayal. On the outside, everything appeared normal. Yet, his secret actions telegraphed his later behavior.

Third, we must not pretend to be something we are not. The other disciples did not suspect Judas at all. He acted just as they did. Nothing appeared to be wrong. To play at being a follower of Christ is to defy the very God we claim to follow.

Judas chose to betray Christ. After years of being daily by the Lord’s side, his choices made him a tool of Satan. What a tragedy.

Jesus Wants You to Know that Humility is Essential

John 13:12–17 (NASB95) — 12 So when He had washed their feet, and taken His garments and reclined at the table again, He said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you? 13 “You call Me Teacher and Lord; and you are right, for so I am. 14 “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 “For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. 16 “Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. 17 “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”

Humility is rarely natural. It’s not unusual to hear a child respond to a compliment with “I know” rather than “thank you.” Hopefully, parents teach their children to accept a compliment humbly.

Like a loving parent, Jesus wanted to teach His disciples humility. He modeled it for them by washing their feet. Afterwards, He asked if they understood His actions. He explained that because He was Teacher and Lord, they were to follow His example and wash one another’s feet. As teacher, Jesus instructed by example. As Lord, He expected them to follow His pattern.

Jesus’ example and command apply to His followers today. While Scripture never places foot washing on par with the church ordinances, Jesus’ modeling of humility remains vital for our spiritual growth. Christians are to live and serve with humility. Often, God calls us to serve in situations where others aren’t willing. Only slaves and servants washed feet. Yet, Jesus willingly did so. To follow His example, we must be willing to do what others will not.

We don’t have the luxury of telling God no. No task is too menial. No calling is too insignificant. No service is too small. God calls us to obedience, and it takes humility to obey. Obedience acknowledges authority. Obeying God acknowledges His Lordship.

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, we must choose to be humble. Not tooting your own horn could mean that the horn never plays. Are you willing for God alone to see your good works? Or, do you find yourself manipulating circumstances to receive recognition?

As Jesus stooped to wash His disciple’s feet, He showed that we must all be deliberately humble. Have you made that choice?

Jesus Wants You to Know that Repentance is Essential

John 13:1–11 (NASB95) — 1 Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. 2 During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, 3 Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, 4 got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. 5 Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. 6 So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” 7 Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” 8 Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” 9 Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” 10 Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, “Not all of you are clean.”

Growing up in Memphis, my family lived in a cove. The cove had ten houses, with four families having children about the same age. In the summer time, it wasn’t unusual for all of us to play freeze tag in the middle of the cove, while our parents sat and talked in my family’s front yard.

Because it was summer time in hot and humid Memphis, none of us wore shoes. When the mosquito bites finally forced us inside, you can imagine the state of our feet. They were solid asphalt black. I had to scrub my feet with a wet washcloth before walking through our kitchen and into the den.

We can all relate to a child’s dirty feet, whether you grew up city or country. Dirt or asphalt leave their trace. You cannot mistake where you’ve been and what you’ve been doing.

Like us, the disciple’s feet needed washing. During the Passover celebration on the night He was arrested, Jesus stood up from the meal to wash His disciples’ feet. He knew that “His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father.” After three years of ministry, countless sermons, miracles, and teachable moments with the disciples, the cross had arrived. In less than twenty four hours He would be dead, having paid the penalty for the sins of the world.

Most likely, Jesus didn’t begin by washing Peter’s feet. Instead, the group seemed to have remained silent until Peter objected. In verse six he asked, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” Jesus assured Peter that it would all make sense in the future. Peter still objected. In verse eight, Jesus said, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” This warning prompted Peter to ask Jesus to wash all of him. Peter didn’t understand what Jesus was teaching. Jesus assured Peter that he and the other disciples were clean, only their feet needed to be washed.

What was Jesus teaching His followers? He was showing that even though they had been saved, or washed, sin remained. It had dirtied their spiritual feet. There was no need to be washed again. They only needed to take care of their continued sin.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, “9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.” When a person repents of their sin and places their faith in Jesus, they have been washed. However, until Christ returns a believer continues to sin.

John wrote in 1 John 1:8-10, “8 If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” A Christian’s sin impedes closeness to God. While salvation cannot be lost, intimacy with Christ can. To wash our feet is to confess sin.

Whatever sin you struggle with, if you know Jesus as Lord and Savior, God has given you the spiritual power to overcome. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” We must repent of the sin we’ve allowed into our lives. We must wash our feet.

First sermons are strange creatures.

Many of those sermons, including my own, are preached at the new preacher’s home church. That was my story in October 2002. There is nothing quite as weird as extending an invitation to people who remember you as the screaming kid in the nursery.

My pastor, John Allen, gave me the opportunity to preach on a Sunday night, shortly after I surrendered to the ministry. I preached from John 16:5-15, which if the Lord allows, I will preach this Sunday morning, almost fifteen years later.

My preaching journey, so far, has taken me from doing pulpit supply in small towns in Arkansas and Mississippi, to spending the past twelve and a half years preaching as a pastor.

I’ve learned a lot. I plan to keep learning.

I’ve learned that preaching must be the priority of my ministry. God gave us His perfect Word. He uses that Word to speak to His people and to draw the lost to Himself. Without the Bible, there is no salvation or sanctification. My calling demands that I stand in the pulpit each week, report what God said, and then apply that word to the congregation.

I’ve learned that preaching is hard work. I study my sermon text to discover the authors’ intended meaning. Detailed study of context, words, backgrounds, structure, and other elements leads towards an understanding of authorial intent. I must spend the necessary time analyzing the text, consulting study aids, and praying to discover the paragraph’s meaning. To stand with confidence in the pulpit, I have to sit with focus in the study.

I’ve learned that there is no substitute for the systematic preaching of Bible books. By preaching through entire books, or extended sections, I ensure that I’m preaching the whole counsel of God in context. I can’t avoid difficult passages and I’m able to preach the great passages within their setting.

I’ve learned that preaching cannot be separated from pastoral ministry. I once read that if a sermon doesn’t offer application, then preaching hasn’t taken place. Sermon application must be personal to be effective. This truth means that hospital visits, phone calls, texts, home visits, and hallway conversations are invaluable. While I don’t address member’s specific needs (that would be a breach of trust), I do have a sense of what the congregation is going through. This knowledge allows me to put myself into their shoes when building the sermon.

I’ve learned that preaching is a marathon, not a sprint. One sermon rarely changes people or circumstances. Rather, the steady intake of the Word builds faith. When people tell me about how God used a sermon in their lives, it’s normally weeks or months after I’ve preached it. They’ve spent time thinking about what the Bible said and then have made a change.

I’ve learned that preaching has nothing to do with me. God keeps preachers humble in a specific way. There are times when I’ve preached and immediately have asked God’s forgiveness for my homiletical disaster. What seemed like the right way to preach a text, suddenly fell flat on delivery. Ironically, people often cite these sermons as those most used by God. I clearly have no idea what I’m doing, but I keep learning.

I can’t express how grateful I am to God for calling me to preach. He yanked me out of the corporate world and threw me into the local church.

I’ve preached in Backgate, Arkansas and a garage apartment in Marshall County, Mississippi.

I’ve preached while a lizard tried to walk down the sanctuary aisle and while kids shot up the church with paintball guns.

Twice, God allowed me to preach the funerals of first responders who gave their lives serving others.

I’ve preached countless sermons to God’s people as their pastor.

This calling to preach is serious and varied.

I pray that I never take it for granted.

I praise God for the privilege.

It’s Monday and I’m tired.

Mondays are weird days for pastors. Our energy is spent, yet we know that no matter what the week brings, next Sunday is coming. The week will be filled with phone calls, texts, visits, staff meetings, and conversations. In all of this, there’s preparing Wednesday’s devotional and Sunday’s sermons. On Monday, this all seems a bit much.

In college and seminary, I diagnosed myself with “syllabus shock.” Each semester, on the first day of class, the professor would pass out the syllabus, review it, and then my panic would set in. How could I possibly do all of this work? There’s no way I’m going to pass this class. I’ll have to quit school, get a dog and cardboard sign, and sit by I-40 for the rest of my life.

I know. It was a bit of an over-the-top reaction.

I began typing this blog on Monday afternoon. My computer says that it is 2:29 PM. Yesterday, according to a text message that I sent to Donna about supper, I walked out of the church at 7:15 PM. It was a really good Sunday. I taught my Sunday school class, preached an evangelistic morning message, spoke about the tabernacle on Sunday night, and met with the deacons after church. My Hardee’s Frisco Burger tied the day into a nice bow.

Those sermons, the Sunday school lesson, and the items I brought up in the deacons meeting took all week to put together. I delivered everything I prepared and was empty—a good empty, but empty all the same.

I sat down this morning and began working towards next Sunday. I’m continuing to preach through John 11-17. On Sunday nights, we’re moving into Numbers. Wednesday nights are in Matthew. As an introvert, study time rejuvenates me, but I still experience a bit of syllabus shock each week.

The thing that keeps me going is the clarity of my call.  I have never doubted that God called me to be a pastor. He fashioned me this way. It’s not a job. It’s who I am. This truth allows me to see those empty moments for what they are—fulfillments of my calling. This calling drives me to continue to dive into the Bible each week, so that I bring a fresh word from God.

What has God called you to do?

Are you tired?

Are you empty?

God calls us to be His children, to be spouses, to be single, to be family, to be church members, to be employees and employers, and to be missionaries to the lost. Those callings look different for each of us. They can also sap our spiritual strength.

It is okay to be tired in the Lord. Many have correctly said that while we may be tired in the work, we are never tired of the work.

Hebrews 12:1-3 says, “1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (NASB).”

Don’t lose heart. God called you.

Do you have days that empty you?

Rest in that emptiness. The only way you know that you are empty is because you were full.

God fills us by empowering us through the Holy Spirit. When we obey that filling to the point of emptiness, we give back to Him the very spiritual energy He gave to us.

Rest in a job well done.