“Working The Works Of God” (John 9 sermon)

You can definitely tell that it’s fall now — not only from the temperatures, but also from all the leaves that are falling. I spend a good deal of time Thursday afternoon gathering and burning over 11 wheelbarrows packed with leaves from our yard. And now today you can’t even tell that I did it!

I was telling Keith & Amanda & Jane about doing the leaves the other day and Keith & Amanda were telling me that when Keith gets out with his big “backpack leaf blower,” that Zeb also goes out with a little battery operated blower and “helps” dad with the leaves. That’s a sweet picture isn’t it? The son, helping in his father’s work.

Well as the children of God, it is one of our great privileges — and a calling for each of us — to help our Heavenly Father with His work here on earth too. In John 9 here Jesus said: “WE must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day.” When Jesus said “WE” there, that meant that His followers are also to be involved in His Father’s work, just like He Himself was. Let’s look together at this passage and see some things that help us as we “work the works of God”, our Heavenly Father:
I. SEEING THE NEED FOR THE WORKS OF GOD

John 9 begins: “As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth.”
“And His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?’” “Jesus answered, ‘It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents, but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.’”

This is a very interesting scene; and we learn a lot from it. Last week we talked about being “on the road” with Jesus and learning from Him. The disciples are still “on the road” with Jesus here, and learning things from Him, and we do too.

It is especially interesting to see the contrast between how the disciples saw this man, and how Jesus did. Verse 1 says they passed by this man who had been blind from birth, and :2 says when the disciples saw the man, they asked Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Now this was a speculative theological question. It dealt with a false theological assumption that a lot of people still fall prey to today; that all suffering and illness are the direct result of someone’s sin. Jesus put an END to that speculation here, saying that it was NEITHER this man’s sin, nor his parents that caused his blindness. Every suffering that someone has was not necessarily caused by their sin. So we need to STOP thinking that!

But what is even more convicting is how Jesus treated this man, contrasted to how His disciples did. They saw him as a “curiosity;” as an object of theological speculation: “What caused this condition?” Jesus, on the other hand, saw him as a person who had a need; who needed “the works of God” in his life, and for whom He would personally care.

This ought to challenge us. As you pass by people every week, what do YOU see?
— an object of theological speculation? (“why are they like that? What did they do? Is it their upbringing? Or their own personal choice? Are they chosen of God?” Do we just speculate all kinds of things about them?)
— or do we consider meeting them as an opportunity to display the works of God, and CARE for them in some way?

Think about your own attitude:
As you pass by people in your neighborhood, what do you see?
As you glance at people in your office, who do you see in them?
As you walk past people in the hallways at your school, what do you see?
When you drive down Conley Road to and from this church, what do you see?
Jesus wants us to see people, the way He did. He wants us to see people who need Him. People who may only see Him through the works that WE do towards them, one at a time, just like this man in John 9.

SEE: this is where many of us “drop the ball.” We think things like: “Yeah, we need to reach more people around the church.” And I agree we need to reach more people around the church, in Morganton, all around us, amen? But how are we going to do that? Part of our problem is, we think: “What church program can we come up with to reach these people?” When the answer isn’t a church program. It’s for you and me, personally, like Jesus did here, to notice an individual who needs the works of God in their life.

Before Don Sunshine left, he gave me a book to read, “Evangelism: How The Whole Church Speaks of Jesus” which is the best book on evangelism I have ever read. In it, the author shares an example of a church meeting he was addressing about evangelism. And he said one woman in the congregation raised her hand and said, “I’ve noticed that there are a lot of Asians that are moving into our community. What is the church going to do to reach them?”
The author basically said, you’ve got to realize that “the church” is YOU! Don’t think of “the church” as the pastor and the staff and the deacons and all the “other” people. The church is YOU. The church is people like you. So as you see these people that God is bringing across your path — and obviously He has shown them to you — YOU think about what YOU can do to reach them, one at a time. Begin by praying for them. Then YOU build a relationship with one of them. Invite them to your house. Give them a Bible. Have tea with them, and study the Bible with them, one on one. Spend time with them. Meet needs you see they have in their life. Then invite them to church. (If you are doing all these things for them, they will most likely come.) And when they do come, they will hear the gospel, because everything we do in church is built around the gospel.
But the point is, it’s not “what’s the pastor going to do” or “what are the deacons going to do” or “what is the church going to do?” (which often secretly means “everybody but ME!”) but the answer is YOU SEEING PEOPLE AS YOU PASS BY and “working the works of God” towards them, one-on-one, just like Jesus did here.

Because that is how people are won, isn’t it? One on one. We don’t win thousands of people at a time. It has to be one on one. Jesus won ONE person here. He “worked the works of God” towards him.
And that’s what we have to do too.
— if we are going to impact Conley Road, it is going to happen as people like YOU “work the works of God’ towards the people you know on Conley Road, one person at a time.
— we can’t reach our whole school in one fell swoop. If your school is going to be impacted for Jesus, it is going to happen as students like YOU reach ONE person in that hallway or classroom that God brings across your path.
— The same thing’s true for your job, and your neighborhood. God just wants you to see ONE person that, that He brings to you to minister to.
— That’s how people will be saved at the Christmas program. We aren’t going to have 5000 people just miraculously show up and get saved. You know how people get saved at those things? ONE person like you, knows ONE person who needs the Lord, and you give them an invitation and a ticket, and invite them to come. And they hear, and God touches them. That “one-on-one” is better than all the posters and commercials and public relations we can do. Just one person, “working the works of God” towards one other person.

That’s how people are saved. People aren’t won to the Lord by big church programs. They are won as people like you and me, follow in the steps of Jesus, and “see a man blind from birth,” or an orphan child, or a person struggling with their marriage, or somebody afraid of death — and that ONE person reaches out to that ONE. It starts when, like Jesus, you & I see the individual’s need for the works of God.
II. DOING THE WORKS OF GOD

After Jesus saw the need for the works of God in this blind man’s life, He then DID something about it: He actually brought God’s work into this man’s life. Verse 6 says He spat on the ground and made clay, put it on his eyes, and sent him to the pool of Siloam to wash, and :7 says “he came back seeing.” And then later Jesus met the man and let him know that He was the Messiah, so that he could commit his life to Him, and be saved.

Again, Jesus didn’t just see this man merely as an object of “theological speculation.” He saw him as somebody who needed God’s work in his life, and then He DID that work. He saw Himself as the One God had placed there to DO something about the needs He saw that this man had.

And there were two aspects to God’s work in this man’s life:
— first, there was the “felt need” of his blindness. If you’d asked the man what his greatest problem was, he would have said it was that he couldn’t see. That was his “felt need.”
— But then there was the “spiritual need” of his sin, and his need to know Jesus as his Savior and have his sins forgiven. This was actually his greatest need. So what if he received his sight for a few years and then died and spent eternity in hell because he’d never been forgiven? Sight was not this man’s greatest need; salvation was.

But Jesus actually met both of this man’s needs here as He “worked the works of God.”
— :6-7 says He healed the man of his blindness
— and in :37 when He saw the man again, He asked him, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” And the man said, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” And Jesus said, “You have both seen Him, and He is the One who is talking with you.” And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshipped Him. (:38)

So Jesus saw this man, met his immediate need, and then as a result, met the ultimate need he had to know Him as his Lord & Savior.

That is a pretty good model of what WE should do for people too. To “work the works of God,” we should notice the needs of people around us, meet those needs, and then use that as an opportunity to point them to Jesus as their Savior.

BOTH of these aspects are important:
— A person’s eternal salvation is the most important need they have — but they may not listen to that if they are suffering from some need and you don’t care or help them.
— But on the other hand, if all you do is meet some physical need in their life but don’t share Jesus, you’ve missed the most important thing.

In John 6:29 Jesus said, “This is the work of God, that you BELIEVE in Him whom He has sent.” THE single most important thing you can do in “working the works of God” is to point people to Jesus as their Lord & Savior. If you are not pointing people to salvation in Jesus, you are omitting by FAR the most important work of God there is. You’re “putting a band-aid” on a person who’s about to go into eternity lost! If you do not share the gospel, you are not really “working the works of God,” no matter how many people you heal, or how much food you give out. But we should always balance that, knowing that the caring deeds that we do, go a long way in pointing people to Christ, even more than our words alone. We need to both meet people’s needs, and point them to Jesus.

And we have SO many opportunities to “work the works of God” in both word and deed:

— Our Sunday School is our basic organization that is set up to “reach and teach and care” for people; getting involved in Sunday School is one of the best ways to be involved in “working the works of God.”

— We have a great opportunity to “work the works of God” with our Burke United Christian Ministries, to minister to homeless and needy individuals and families in our community, with food and clothing and sometimes financial assistance. Our youth go and serve in the soup kitchen Sunday mornings on a regular rotation. We have several members who work there regularly. My wife Cheryl volunteers there each Thursday afternoon, and she just loves it. But she’s also had a couple of opportunities while there to share spiritually with some people. See, when you put yourself in position to minister to physical needs, God will give you opportunities to share about the spiritual need in Christ. And David Burleson tells us there were several people saved at BUCM last year. There are a lot of ways to be involved there: we take up food each month (you can bring it to the box by Keith’s office); we have the blue clothes bin out front you can bring clothes to; we are going to have an opportunity soon for you to sign up to volunteer (or see David or Diane Bradshaw today); one of the best things you can do is to put yourself in a position like serving the BUCM to meet people’s physical needs, and then watch for opportunities to share Christ, and meet spiritual needs as well.

— I found out this week that this is Orphan Sunday in churches all across the nation. James 1 says “This is pure and undefiled religion: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep ones self unstained by the world.” Both of these two ministries are examples of helping the helpless, who can do nothing for us in return, which is such a great picture to the world of the gospel. We were helpless in our sin, but God “adopted” us (Romans 8 says) into His family through Jesus Christ. And we didn’t do anything to earn it or deserve that. It is all of His grace. And adoption pictures that. We have several folks in our church who have pictured the gospel through adoption: Chris & Gina Bailey, and Meghan and Troy Welty, and others. I can’t think of a better “living picture” of the gospel than adopting a child. It just shows the world a living picture of the grace that God has shown us in Christ. It is one of the best ways to “work the works of God” and dramatically impact a life — both now and for eternity!

We can “work the works of God” in all kinds of ways: through mission points, and adoption, and any number of various ways. But we also need to be open, just like Jesus was here, to the “unscheduled” ministry moments that God gives us with people. Jesus’ encounter with this blind man wasn’t an “organized” ministry; it was just a person that His Father brought across His path. And God will bring people across YOUR path in the same way. So be praying, and watching for those opportunities to DO the works of God with the people He bring your way, this week.
III. SEIZING THE MOMENT FOR THE WORKS OF GOD

:4 “We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no man can work.”

In other words, we’ve got to be about the most important things while we have time. “Night” is coming, when we won’t be able to work any more.

This really hits home after we had the time change like we just had, doesn’t it? It gets dark so quickly now. By the time you get home from work, you might have 30 or 40 minutes to get some of your leaves up out of the yard, or whatever you need to do. You just don’t have much time; soon it’s going to be dark, and you can’t see to do anything. If you’re going to get something done outside during the winter, you’ve got to do it quickly. “Night is coming,” when you can’t work any more.

Well it’s that way with our work for the Lord, too. Jesus says, “We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day. Night is coming, when no one can work.”
— “night is coming” means this present age is coming to a close. This world may very well end soon. Jesus is going to return. Whatever you hope to accomplish for God in this earth, you had better DO quickly. “Night is coming, when no man can work.”
— But listen: even if Jesus doesn’t return soon (and we don’t know for sure when He will return; perhaps it will be another thousand years!), but there is still a sense in which “night is coming”: the “night” of YOUR LIFE is coming. However much longer this world will last, YOU won’t last forever. YOUR LIFE is very limited. You need to realize that, and live like it. Psalm 90 says “teach us to number our days, that we may present to You a heart of wisdom.” We need to be wise with our time, and realize we don’t have “all the time in the world.” We are here for a very limited time, and we need to make sure we don’t waste it.

Have you ever seen somebody just going around spending money like it was growing on trees? They were just buying stuff left and right, and you just shake your head at them. Most of us have probably seen someone like that, and thought about how foolish they were, spending like they had all the money in the world, when they didn’t.

But here’s the thing: MANY OF US WHO WOULD NEVER DO THAT WITH OUR MONEY, ARE DOING THAT VERY SAME THING WITH OUR TIME! We are just throwing around our time, left and right, wasting it extravagantly, (on television shows, and video games, and foolish, worthless things) as if we had all the time in the world, and we DON’T!
Every single thing we choose to do, keeps from doing a thousand other things instead:
— When you spend an hour watching television, that is an hour you did NOT spend reading something edifying
— When you spend an hour wasting time, that’s an hour you couldn’t spend, ministering to someone.
See, we do not have an endless supply of time. Like Psalm 90 says, we need to “number our days,” and carefully choose what we do with our time. “Night is coming, when no man can work.”

Think about it: what is it that you hope to do for the Lord “some day”?
— Is there some ministry you want to be a part of?
— Is there some person you want to lead to the Lord?
— Is there some mission you want to go on?
— Maybe you’d say, “I hope to work somewhere like BUCM one day;” or “I’d like to adopt a child one day;” or “I’d like to go on a mission trip one day”, or lead someone to the Lord “one day.”
WHEN do you think that is going to happen? If it ever happens, it is going to happen on some day that you call “today”!
What is it you hope to do? You need to hear these words of Jesus, and “seize the day.” You need to make it TODAY! Jesus said, “We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming, when no one can work.” Realize that your days are short, and the time is NOW to “work the works of God.”
Let’s bow our heads together, and ask Him to help us do that …

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, provides brief devotions from own personal daily Bible reading, as well as some of my sermons, book reviews, and family life experiences.
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