Part 66 – John 15:16
‘in my name’
One of the most puzzling things Jesus said is ‘whatever you ask the Father will give you’. John records this here and Matthew says much the same in his 7: 7. It sounds like a very good idea. The trouble is that we all know it doesn’t always, or even usually, work! There are lots of things I would love to have but I know full well that asking the Lord for them is going to achieve nothing except frustration. But this is the word of the Lord – how can this be.
If you have your Bible open as you hear or read this (as you should have!) you will realise that I have cheated by leaving out of what Jesus said the three word phrase which heads this section: ‘in my name’.
But before we try to work out the implications of having that phrase in the full statement of 15: 16 let’s think negatively for a moment about some of the ways people try to dodge around the clear implications of the discrepancy between what Jesus said and what our practical experience is.
Probably one of the most common is the thought – ‘I don’t have enough faith’. Oh, really. Since when has our faith been measured to see what we deserve? To think that way would be a backwards step to a faith of works. If our faith was measured like that how many of us would ever have received the greatest gift of all which is our salvation, the Holy Spirit, and a place amongst those who have set out to follow Jesus? None of us.
Then there are those people who happily call white black and black white. They are quite capable of closing their eyes to what has actually happened and announcing that what they want has happened leaving everybody else scratching their heads and puzzled by their naivety.
All sorts of half true phrases are used to cover the situation: the Lord has his own timing – which is different from ours; the answer is wait (implying that if we have to wait long enough we shall have forgotten what we asked for anyway); we get answers to all our prayers but they may not be the answers we wanted. Or we can slide over these verses as if they were not there since we cannot make direct honest sense of them (even some of the best commentators can do that sometimes); and so on.
Enough of the negatives – what can we say positively about these statements? The phrase ‘in the name’ is all important. In the culture of those days one’s name was not just a label by which people identified you (this is probably still true in some of the cultures from which you, my hearers and readers, come.) That is the way it was then. That meant therefore that to say something in the name of Jesus meant that the identification of the speaker with Jesus was so tight, so close, that he was speaking as Jesus would have spoken in the same situation. Since Father God would have reacted directly and positively to the requests of Jesus so he would to the one making the sort of request Jesus is talking about.
He was, of course, speaking in the first place to his immediate apostolic disciples so what he was saying was not as way out as it appears to be when we take it as speaking directly to us. Paul said we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2: 16). And he did that when he was writing to the church in Corinth, which was not exactly the best, spiritually speaking. Few of us, if any, would boldly say that and we probably should never say that or think it about ourselves. To do so is to step out from the humility that we should show. In Philippians 2: 3 we are told “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.”
We see a tricky balance is required in our thinking and our actions. On the one hand we are to relish the power and authority of our God and Lord and expect him to help and favour us in all things. On the other hand we read in Galatians 6: 3 – 5, 7b – 15: “If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves. Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”
May the good Lord give us all wisdom in our thoughts and actions so that they are well pleasing to him all the time.
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