What do people say about you, and do you care? Should you care?
In my morning devotional, yesterday I read through John 5:31-47 and something very interesting stood out to me.
“If I were to testify on my own behalf, my testimony would not be valid. But someone else is also testifying about me, and I can assure you that everything he says about me is true. In fact, you sent messengers to listen to John the Baptist, and he preached the truth. But the best testimony about me is not from a man, though I have reminded you about John’s testimony so you might be saved. John shone brightly for a while, and you benefited and rejoiced. But I have a greater witness than John—my teachings and my miracles. They have been assigned to me by the father and they testify that the Father has sent me.”
I love the NLT translation here (specifically the 1996 version), it cut right through the religious notions of this passage that I have held and spoke to me (sometimes it’s good to read another version to get a new perspective!)
Check out the last part of verse 32:
But someone else is also testifying about me, and I assure you that everything he says about me is true.
The question that came into my mind was “Is this what I believe about what God says about me?” then I had to go a bit further and ask, “What does God say about me?”
The significance of this might be lost on my readers, but not on me, so let me give you a little background.
I have been a disciple for over 17 years. To some, this is nothing…I have met disciples going on 25, 30, even over 40 years before, so I’m just a teenager in comparison, however for me…it’s a little under half my life! I turned 21 in the Kingdom, dated, married, and started a family in the Kingdom, started my career in the Kingdom, you get the picture. Most of the formidable years of my life have been in the context of the Kingdom!
Now, this is a good thing to be sure, but as the years have gone by, I have come to some major conclusions about God and his Kingdom that sometimes don’t jive with the Scriptures and therefore this portion of Jesus’ words stood out to me yesterday.
You see, I have some keen convictions about salvation, God’s sovereignty, and his will to save this world in a generation, but I do not have as firm convictions about how much he loves me, cares for me, and wants to do great things in my life. I find myself doubting that he wants to do something great in this 38-year-old, balding, and out of shape man…at least when I look around and see some of the younger men in the church.
So, the scripture above got me thinking the questions I posted earlier; “What does God say about me?”, but that wasn’t all that God was trying to show me. Before we move on from there, let me ask you; What does God say about you? Do you believe it? If everything that God says about Jesus is true, then as his son or daughter, it must be true of you also…right?
Sometimes I find myself thinking about what other men have said about me. Said about my ambitions and my goals, my dreams, and my desires. Many men, under the guise of “love” say awful things to others because they themselves are intimidated by other men’s dreams, and want to put them down. Sometimes, even though they are spoken with bad motives, they have a grain of truth to them and so they have an easier way worming their way into our vulnerable hearts. We as men want validation! We scream for it and yearn for it. And it’s a right longing, but with a wrong call.
We do need validation, but we need validation from God! Check out Jesus’ words a little further down in verse 34:
“But the best testimony about me is not from man…”
As men, we do have a duty and responsibility to pass down manhood from older to younger men. This has been the way of men for generations and only in our modern age has it been lost (something that I’ll get into at another time). But, we were not meant to get our identity from men. Men speak through God into our lives and it is a good testimony. When other men share about me, when they lift me up and encourage me (and I humbly accept it as a gift from God and not my own doing!!!) it is powerful; however, the BEST testimony, as Jesus says, is not from men. It is from God himself!
Jesus had a firm conviction about who he was, so much so that he didn’t need a man to validate him in ways that were not theirs to validate. In Luke 3:21-22 we read of Jesus being baptized and the Father speaking his blessing and validation onto his son’s life and ministry. A fathers’ words to a son about his identity are powerful and as the sons of God, we must go to him to get our validation and identity. His testimony about who we are is the best!
But it doesn’t stop there, just as we continue to read in Luke after Jesus was baptized, he went on to do wonders and miraculous signs, teaching, preaching, healing and training men and women who would be his followers; his disciples. Here we find another thing that validates us; that shows what God thinks of us, and it is here that we go a little sideways. Let’s read the scripture (John 5:36) then we can dive into looking at it right.
But I have a greater witness than John—my teachings and my miracles. The Father gave me these works to accomplish, and they prove that he sent me.
Jesus did have the testimony of a man, John the Baptist, yet as we have already seen, that wasn’t as powerful as the testimony from God! From his Father! But even greater than Johns’ testimony of Jesus, even greater than a man’s validation of who we are and what we do is the miracles in our lives and the lives of others and our teachings.
Let’s begin with teachings being a greater witness. We’ve all heard the phrase that “actions speak louder than words,” and I personally believe it to be true. Even the Apostle Paul (at least in my interpretation of the passage) believes it in 1 Corinthians 4:20; “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” We are all familiar with the passage in 1 Timothy 4:16: “Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.” Our teachings and our lives must match, they must be the same. We just can’t preach and teach then do whatever we want to do and think that we are going to have a positive, Godly impact in the lives of others, not to mention our own lives. There is something that erodes our personal integrity when we do not “practice what we preach.”
On the other hand, what we do, our actions (our power as Paul calls it), must have an effect. As with Jesus, so is it with us. God has given us “these works to accomplish” (Ephesians 2:10; Philippians 2:13). We must be about doing, not just talking and the effects of these doings are miracles. If someone’s life changes, if someone builds a conviction about purity, if your dad starts to say “I love you too.” after 4 years of saying “I love you Dad” after a phone conversation (personal experience to name only one miracle!). Then these are evidence or “proof” that the Father has sent you! They are a validation of your life lived for Jesus and His kingdom!
I wrote in the margin of my Bible next to the passage above: “Miracles validate ministry.” Now, I’m sure I’ve heard that before in some way, shape or form. My friends, Tim Kernan and Jason Dimitry speak on this topic a lot in our church staff and leader’s meetings, and frankly, as a man who likes to talk (it’s my profession as a corporate trainer!), it’s hard to swallow. But I know deep down it is true, and now that I have read it in Jesus’ own words, I must build the conviction that it is true!
Now, here is where things can get a little messed up for us, especially as men of action. We pray; we preach; we disciple; we study the Bible with other men, we share our faith, we do all the right things, even have the right heart about it. Our teaching and our actions align with integrity and we have seasons where we see no miracles in our lives, where there is no visible fruit. This way of thinking that miracles validate ministry can get us down and off the path if we are not careful.
Check out this passage that a friend shared with me the other day; Habakkuk 3:17-19.
“Even though the fig trees have no blossoms,
and there are no grapes on the vines;
even though the olive crop fails,
and the fields lie empty and barren;
even though the flocks die in the fields,
and the cattle barns are empty,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord!
I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!”
Even during a drought, when there is no fruit, we need to trust that God is still doing miracles, he is still at work! This is when our validation from the Father is most important to lean on. We can get a lot of validation from men’s praise when we are baptizing, and bring a lot of people to church! Even the disciples fell into this in when they came back from a very fruitful time and were rejoicing at what the Spirit had done through them! Jesus answer was very specific in Luke 10:20 “…do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
It is important to have and see miracles in our lives and in the lives of others but the greatest miracle and motivation for what we do is that we are saved and going to be with our true Father someday soon! When our identity is steeped, and seated in this truth, then there is no amount of drought that will keep us off our game.
As I sit here writing these words a yearning wells up in my heart to feel this more deeply. To know and rest in the assurance of my salvation as I walk humbly with God and follow his son with all integrity. To get my validation and my identity from my true Father and not from the world or the things that I do or do not do in the name of the Kingdom.
My prayer for us is that God would validate our ministry through teachings and miracles, and that we would find a deeper validation from the Father who is the one who appointed, caused and made those miracles happen so that we can fall more in love with him and have a deeper and more fulfilling relationship with Him as we follow His son; and someday soon, rejoice in the arms of our Father in our true home…heaven.