As our church works our way through the gospel of John, I have been discovering the richness of these classic passages on prayer. One thing is clear so far: too many people use the “ask anything” passages out of context. Too many Christians– even those in solid, gospel-centered circles– are left discouraged because of a misunderstanding of Jesus’ call to “ask for anything in my name and you will have it.” Here are some things I have discovered so far:
- John 14.12- Jesus says his followers will do “greater” works because he is “going to the Father.” That has to mean the good works we do have “greater” effectiveness because him “going to the Father” means the gospel is fulfilled.
- John 14.13- “Whatever you ask in my name this I will do” flows right after this, so the natural meaning is when we see opportunities for those “greater works,” we will pray and ask Jesus for it! And it ends up being Jesus doing the work, not us! But the reason he would ever do it is “that the Father may be glorified in the Son.” The reason there would ever be an answered prayer is that the Father is glorified in Jesus.
- John 14.14- “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” is basically v13 restated. The key seems to be asking for things “in Jesus’ name.” But that is not something that we can will to happen. From v12 and 13 something is truly in Jesus’ name if God Himself determines to give it greater effectiveness and determines to bring Himself glory through it.
I think the prayer passages in chapter 15 shed even more light on the subject, but one thing that comforts me in that is that I do not have to think that the “in Jesus’ name” is all on my shoulders. “In Jesus’ name” seems to be all on Jesus’ shoulders; we just simply keep asking and stop thinking that an unanswered prayer was a contradiction to this passage. More to come…
I think these technological advances to connect and communicate are gifts from God’s gracious hand. But, I am pleading with all of my brothers and sisters in Christ– all those who have repented and trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation, and claim Jesus as Lord, King, and Savior– please do not use Facebook, blogs, tweets, emails, or anything else like that to confront sin. Do not do it! Ever!
I am not talking about using public arenas to confront public sins. Famous preachers who preach error must be confronted in public. That needs to be done carefully, but I am talking about arguing with people through blog comments or facebook comments, or even confronting a person’s sin over email. If you feel any negative emotion whatsoever when you are about to write, STOP! Do not do it. Ever. Please. For your obedience to Scriptural mandates and patterns to confronting sin, and for the sake of the Kingdom and the glory of God’s name, if you are angry with another human being, stop yourself in your tracks. Think about the reason you are angry, and if you are right to be angry. If you feel someone has sinned, love them! Then meet them face to face if at all possible. If you must, a phone call is probably better than nothing. But if you cannot meet face to face or over the phone, pray for them and leave it at that. Pray for them anyway. Pray! But do not use a computer or a cellphone text to do anything that you know, deep down in your heart, that you should do in person. Please.
These brothers had similar thoughts.
If this upsets you, I am willing to talk.
So many things surprise me about people’s reactions to people’s reactions:
- I did not know that many people follow the blogs, tweets and writings of both John Piper and Rob Bell.
- Unintentional hypocrisy is rampant: many accuse John Piper and Justin Taylor and Josh Harris and others with slandering Rob Bell…and so they slander them.
- Unintentional hypocrisy #2: “You can’t say Bell is a heretic because the book has not come out yet“…”Bell is not a heretic!”
- Many Christians believe Gandhi is in heaven because of his life of good works.
One problem is that heaven and hell are thought of more as places people go, rather than extensions of God’s character and will (John 5.29). They are both expressions of God bringing glory to himself by being holy– in the cross, the sins of believers are dealt with, so there is no more wrath (Rom 3.25); in hell, sin is dealt with, so there is only wrath (Rev 20.15). In both heaven and hell, sin is dealt with, God reveals His holiness. God’s love for Himself comes out so clearly in both places; amazingly, those found in Christ get to experience that love for all eternity(Eph 2.7). In the end, God wins.