We want to consider a little more about how Jesus Christ is our example in living a holy life, so that, as a Christian, your life need not be defeated by sin anymore.
Jesus made two amazing statements to His disciples on the night He was crucified. He meant what He said. If we take seriously what He said, even if we cannot understand what He said, we will seek to understand. Because there must be a depth of meaning to it and something very important. It is in John 14:12. He started, ‘‘He who believe in Me’’. Now that applies to every believer. He did not specifically point out to His apostles and say, ‘‘I give this power to you.’’ No, it is to “He who believes in Me.” Who does that apply to? Well, if you are one of those who believe in Him, it applies to you.
And what did He say, ‘‘He who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also.’’ In other words, Jesus is saying to you (give careful attention to this) that you can do the works that Jesus did. Is it true or not? Well, either Jesus was telling the truth or He was telling a lie. I believe He is telling the truth. He has never told a lie. He is not teasing us either. He really means that the works that He did we can do also. Further He said, ‘‘Greater works than these shall such a person do because I go to the Father.’’ What does this mean?
What were the works that Jesus did? We immediately think of His raising the dead, feeding the 5000, walking on the water, etc. Well, those were certainly some of the works, but He did a lot of other works too. Like putting His arms around a leper, comforting people who were insane, forgiving a woman caught in adultery, and forgiving those who called Him Beelzebub, the prince of devils. Those don’t look so spectacular, but those are also the works that He did.
So what did He mean by the works that He did? Can we use one phrase to sum up all the works that He did? Yes we can. And that is He obeyed the will of His Father; He did the will of His Father. Those are the works that He did. If His Father wanted Him to walk on the water, He walked on the water. If His Father wanted Him to put His arm around a leper, He did that. If His Father wanted Him to forgive a woman caught in adultery, He did that. If His Father wanted Him to wash the disciple’s feet, He did that. His works were works of obedience to the Father. Not just miracle works.
So, when He said that we can do the same works, what He meant was, we can also obey whatever the Father’s will for us is. Now, if it is not the Father’s will for you to raise the dead, you can’t raise the dead. That is all. Man has gone to the moon. But when Jesus was on the earth, He didn’t go to the moon because it was not the Father’s will for Him to go to the moon. He didn’t even go to Rome, leave alone the moon. So, we find that it is not a question of accomplishment. If it is the Father’s will for you to feed 5000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fishes, you can do it. The point is what is the Father’s will? Whatever was the Father’s will for Jesus, He did it. For example, for 30 years, He never fed the 5000, or walked on the water, or raised any dead person, or even healed a sick person, because it was not the Father’s will. But He still did His Father’s will during those 30 years.
In a nutshell, we could say that the works that Jesus did were works of obedience to His Heavenly Father’s will. When He says, “The works that I do you can do also,” what it means is everything (note carefully), every single thing that is in God’s will for your life can be done; definitely. How did Jesus do all that? He did it through the power of the Holy Spirit. When the disciples were filled with the Holy Spirit, on the day of Pentecost, as we read in Acts 2, they received power to do what? They received the power to do the same works of obedience that Jesus did. That is to do the will of the Father. If the Father wanted them to heal the sick, they could do it; to raise the dead, they could do it. When the Holy Spirit came and filled them, they received power to do the works that Jesus did.
What does it mean when it says in John 14:12 that greater works than these they shall do? That is referring to leading other people into this life. Note what He said: because “I go to the Father.” What would happen when Jesus went to the Father? He would send the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit would now be able to come and dwell in people’s hearts, after the day of the Pentecost and, that would enable people to come into this life.
Let me give you an example. After three and a half years of preaching to the disciples, Jesus could not make even two of them one. He prayed in John 17 that they may be one as the Father and Son are one. But they were not one. They were all aiming for the highest seat. They were all wondering who was the greatest. Well, if 12 people are thinking who was the greatest, all 12 of them, they are certainly not one; they are divided. But today we find that we are able to preach in such a way that people are becoming one. Even if two people become one today, it is a greater work than Jesus did in His entire lifetime. But it is not because we are greater than Jesus; far from it.
Because He went to the Father, He sent the Holy Spirit. When Jesus was on the earth, the Holy Spirit could not come into the hearts of those disciples. If He had come into the hearts of those disciples, they would have become one. But after the day of Pentecost, since the Holy Spirit has come, there is the opportunity to accomplish more because the Holy Spirit, who now comes in to dwells in people’s heart is greater. What do we see as the purpose of God filling us with the Spirit – So that we can do the works that Jesus did, or in other words, the will of God. This is the life that God offers through the power of the Holy Spirit, in this new agreement (New Covenant) that God has made with man.
Turn with me to Romans 8:3-4 where we have these wonderful words which tells us what God can do for us. Now this is intensely practical. I believe the whole Bible has been given to us for practical Christian living. It is not meant for theological study primarily. What we read in Romans 8:3-4 is, ‘‘What the law could not do because of the weakness of the flesh, God did’’. What was it the law could not do? The law could not make me pure inside; the law could not make me overcome sin in my heart. It could only help me overcome sin on the outside. How did then God do this?
‘‘He sent His own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh.’’ That means like us, but without sin. He came only in the likeness, not in our sinful flesh, but in the likeness of sinful flesh. He gave His body on Calvary as an offering for sin, and there God judged our sin in the flesh of Jesus. We read in Romans 8:3 as to why God did that? So that ‘‘The righteous requirement of the law can now be fulfilled inside of us’’ – the law which said, ‘You shall not covet’ can now be fulfilled. The opposite of you shall not covet is you shall love. The opposite of you shall not lust is you shall love. That righteous requirement of the law can now be fulfilled inside us. The requirement of the law of purity, of holiness, can now be fulfilled inside us, when we walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. This is what Jesus has come to do for us. This is the significance of Jesus coming to earth and dying, and giving us the Holy Spirit.
Now God has not promised to make us sinlessly perfect on this earth. There is nobody on earth who has walked in sinless perfection other than Jesus Christ; not Paul, nobody. But the Bible says we are to press on to perfection. Jesus came without sin and, therefore, He lived a sinlessly perfect life. But in us, there is so much of unconscious sin; corruption in our flesh. That is because we have lived in sin so much. Throughout our lifetime on earth we will never be sinlessly perfect.
In fact, John says, ‘‘If anyone says he has no sin in him, he is deceiving himself, he’s telling a lie.’’ But we can press on to perfection, like it says in Hebrews 6:1, and become more and more perfect in holiness. For example, take our speech. Jesus’ speech was perfectly pure. No filthy word ever escaped His lips; no idle word; no untruthful word. He always spoke the truth. There was no deceit in His mouth. You could not engage Jesus in useless conversations. You could not engage Jesus in discussions about evil concerning other people. No, His mind was pure.
He used material things but He didn’t love them. His holiness was inward. It was not an outward holiness manifested in food and of special type of dress or in associating with holy people. Neither was His holiness that of being a hermit or sanyasi, living out in the desert of the wilderness. No, He lived in the midst of other people, working like other people, wearing the same type of dress that other people wore and eating and drinking just like others; enjoying the good things that God has given man to enjoy, and yet in purity. He was not self-indulgent in the matter of food. He was not fashionable in the way He wore clothes. He did not associate only with religious people; He associated with sinners.
This is Jesus’ Holiness. It was a life of purity. Not just in avoiding sin, but also avoiding anything that was unnecessary and wasteful. And there He has given us an example of what true holiness is. I believe if we look at Jesus’ life more and more, we will be transformed from one degree of glory to another in His likeness by the holy Spirit as per the wonderful promise in 2 Corinthians 3:18. Take this promise to heart and say, ‘Lord transform me to the likeness of Christ, fill me with the Holy Spirit.’
This is part of the Basic Christian Teachings Series, a set of 72 short messages presented by Zac Poonen. You can download the audio mp3 files or listen to Basic Christian Teachings by clicking here.