Whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do (John 14:12).
NOTE: I want to thank Dr. Ryan Denison for writing the Daily Article last week while my wife and I took our annual Christmas trip together. I found Ryan’s insights to be both informative and inspirational and am honored to share this ministry with him.
Last Friday, a federal appeals court handed down a significant victory for religious freedom. In Sisters of Mercy v. Becerra, a coalition of Catholic hospitals and other institutions successfully challenged the Biden Administration’s attempt to invoke the Affordable Care Act by requiring doctors and hospitals to perform gender-reassignment procedures even when doing so would violate the doctor’s conscience and could harm the patient.
The story raises frightening questions: Will religious doctors face similar pressure to perform abortions in the future? What about euthanasia or eugenic genetic modifications?
If you’re like me, you’re growing weary of “culture war” issues. It is discouraging that our government would attempt such coercion as we saw in the Sisters of Mercy case and frustrating that Christians must continue defending our First Amendment religious freedoms on behalf of all Americans. If you’re not an attorney like the experts at Becket who won the Sisters of Mercy case, you may wonder what difference you can make in a secularized culture like ours.
The answer is more encouraging and transformative than you may know.
Mother gives birth and wins the lottery on the same day
Brenda Gomez Hernandez, a twenty-eight-year-old housekeeper in North Carolina, recently had a day she’ll never forget: she delivered a baby girl on November 9, then learned later the same day that she had won $100,000 in the lottery.
The miracle of Christmas was far less auspicious at the time but far more valuable for all of humanity. Henri Nouwen observed:
“It is hard to believe that God would reveal his divine presence to us in the self-emptying, humble way of the man from Nazareth. So much in me seeks influence, power, success, and popularity. But the way of Jesus is the way of hiddenness, powerlessness, and littleness. It does not seem a very appealing way. Yet when I enter into true, deep communion with Jesus, I will find that it is this small way that leads to real peace and joy.”
But Jesus’ “peace and joy” come at a cost.
Billy Graham observed, “Many people are willing to have Jesus as a part of their lives—as long as it doesn’t cost them anything. They may even profess faith in Jesus and join a church. But Jesus to them is almost like an insurance policy—something they obtain and then forget about until they die. But Jesus calls us to follow him every day.”
Then he asked, “What keeps you from being his disciple?”
Three wrong reasons to follow Jesus
I can think of three answers to his question.
I am tempted every day to make Jesus a means to my end instead of making my life a means to his end. Even now, I am tempted to ask his Spirit to help me write this article so well that you will be impressed with my words. I was tempted as I preached God’s word yesterday to seek his anointing so those who heard me would be impressed with my performance.
I am also tempted to follow Jesus so I can feel superior to those who do not. When I refuse the sins others are committing, even though they are likely not committing my sins, I can illogically feel myself to be a better person than they are.
And I am tempted to focus so fully on the work of God in the world that I neglect the work of God in me. C. S. Lewis warned in The Great Divorce: “There have been some who were so occupied in spreading Christianity that they never gave a thought to Christ.” I understand how that can happen.
What are your answers to Dr. Graham’s question?
Jesus in two billion bodies
Here’s the good news: when we follow Jesus without conditions, choosing to crucify ourselves in his cause (Galatians 2:20) and sacrifice our lives in his service (Romans 12:1), he transforms us into his character (Romans 8:29) and then uses us to lead those we influence into his transforming love (Acts 1:8).
Jesus in one body changed the world. Imagine what he could do in two billion bodies today.
You and I are literally the “body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27). Because his Spirit lives in us (1 Corinthians 3:16), we are his hands and feet, his presence in the world. When we use our spiritual gifts to fulfill our personal calling, we continue his earthly ministry in ways that can change our culture by advancing God’s kingdom in our world.
Our Savior promised that it would be so: “Whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do” (John 14:12a). In fact, because we are so many and he was a single individual, he continued, “greater works than these will he do” (v. 12b).
Words on the pulpit of our hearts
Let’s choose to be disciples of Jesus without conditions or limitations. Whatever he asks, whatever it takes, whatever the cost. And let’s pray all through our day for God’s Spirit to manifest Jesus through us to those we meet.
My pastor had inscribed on his pulpit the request of the Greeks who said to Philip, “Sir, we would see Jesus” (John 12:21 KJV). I had the same words inscribed on the pulpit of every church I pastored.
Would you write them on the pulpit of your heart today?