Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else’to the nearby villages’so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.
As it was with Jesus, so it is ever becoming with his followers. How can I say this? I want us to remember an earth-shattering statement Jesus made to his disciples about the Holy Spirit in John’s gospel, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).
There are many places on planet Earth today where this word from Jesus is being fulfilled. Unfortunately, there are many more places where it is not being fulfilled. I suspect if you are reading the Daily Text, you find yourself in one of those places where this is not happening so much.
“Because I am going to the Father” is a direct reference to the Holy Spirit, who was sent by the Father and the Son ten days after Jesus’ ascent into heaven (see Acts 1–2).
The first question we must ask ourselves is: Do I want to be in one of those places on planet Earth where John 14:12 is being fulfilled? If the answer is no, pray in earnest one of our favorite Daily Text prayers: “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
If the answer is yes, we have two basic choices. Choice #1: We can relocate ourselves to one of those places in the world where John 14:12 is happening. Choice #2: We can make some game-changing, life-altering adjustments that hold the potential for the fulfillment of John 14:12 right where we live.
I’m proceeding under the assumption that you, like me, have probably chosen Choice #2. If so, we need to deal with one of the major pitfalls of this choice.
We must move from a faith built on functionalism to a faith founded in fellowship. In John 14:12, the Greek word for “believe” is
πιστεύω (transliterated as pisteuó and phonetically pronounced as “pist-yoo-o”). It is arguably one of the most significant words in the New Testament, and one of the most misunderstood.
There are two primary ways we misunderstand this concept. First, we tend to think the word “believe” means an intellectual assent to the truth of something. For instance, many people claim to believe what the Bible says, yet they have no idea what it says. They assent to its truth. This is not what the New Testament means when it speaks of believing in something. To believe is not the same thing as having beliefs.
Second, we think of belief as a kind of lever that we pull in order to make something else happen. Faith is treated as a functional reality. If I do this, then God will do that. For instance, people often treat prayer this way—it’s a means to an end. If we pray, then God will act. This is the essence of the prosperity gospel, which is just another form of idolatry. If we can get enough faith or enough people praying or giving or whatever else we get cajoled to do in the name of Jesus, then God will do what God does. It’s the essence of deal-making. There is a lot of Scripture that gets deployed to prove this approach, but it’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the way God works.
Today’s text shows us a picture of pisteuó (belief or faith) in action. Jesus’ practice of waking early and going to a solitary place to pray shows us faith founded in fellowship. This is not his secret to getting things done later in the day. This is his life. Jesus is meeting with his Father in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, and though it changes format depending on the situation at hand, he does it all day long. Jesus gives us a lesson on this in John 15. The word “abide” is shorthand for “fellowship with the Holy Spirit.”
Fellowship with the Holy Spirit is what gets Jesus up in the morning. It’s what moves him through his days. It is from this fellowship that lepers are cleansed. It’s what gives him sleep at night. It is into this fellowship that he invites us to join. And, remember, as it was with Jesus, so it is becoming with us. Right?
I’ll give Paul the last word today with this blessing, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:14).
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
What is your experience of the fellowship of the Holy Spirit?
Do you struggle with flatness of faith?
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