Since time immemorial, man has always been fascinated with signs and wonders. Those who are able to perform miracles are often put on a pedestal. For example, Simon the sorcerer was hero-worshipped for his magical feats. They thought that it must be God who endowed him with a special power (Acts 8: 9-11).
It is no different today; people are still easily captivated by signs and wonders. Unaware that there are counterfeits in the spiritual realm, some believers pursue supernatural experiences. After all, they want to feel good—and discover what it is like to be zapped by power.
Ecstatic joy, drunkenness, gold dust, feathers, glory cloud and fire tunnels. Many believers are going gaga over these wonderful experiences without fully understanding its source.
Are miracles an invariable sign of spirituality? Is the ability to perform miracles a definite sign of God’s favour?
Evil spirits can produce miraculous feats and lead many astray. The false prophet, an accomplice of the antichrist, can work great miracles, even causing fire to come down from heaven. Thus, people are deceived, thinking that that his power comes from God (Revelation 13: 11-14).
Satan knows that people, including believers, are often mesmerised by miracles. That is why he works miracles in order to convince them to worship him.
Christ cautions that, during these end times, false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead many astray, even the elect (Matthew 24:24).
Jesus condemns those who seek signs and wonders: “A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah” (Matthew 16:4).
When questioned by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God was coming, Jesus answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:20-21). The kingdom of God is within believers. It is a spiritual reality within the hearts of men who are subject to His will.
What did Jesus tell Thomas, the doubting disciple, who required physical signs to prove the former’s resurrection? Jesus told him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
So let us strive to be numbered among those “who have not seen and yet have believed” for Jesus counts us more blessed than those who believe on account of signs or physical evidence (John 20:29).
But some will retort that the kingdom of God does not consist in words but in power (1 Corinthians 4: 20): What is the point of having correct theology without miraculous power?
Let’s be clear in our mind what constitutes divine supernatural power. Does it merely mean the ability to bring about signs and wonders?
No. The power of God is seen in justification and regeneration—when God reconciles a sinner to Himself, and gives him the power to overcome sin.
The greatest “miracle” is the new birth—when people are translated from the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of light (John 3: 5-8, 1 Peter 2:9). All men are sinners by birth. But, by faith in the sacrificial death of Christ at the cross, a person becomes a child of God. As he renews his mind with the Word, submits to God and allows the Holy Spirit to convict him of sin, he is being progressively changed into His likeness (Romans 12:1-2, 2 Corinthians 3:18). This is a life-long process termed sanctification.
The power of God also enables a believer to live again even after death (immortality). Jesus’ promise to every believer is that whoever believes in Him, though he die, yet shall he live. (John 11:25). That is why Paul longed to know God and the power of His resurrection (Philippians 3:10), which he certainly did as he managed to keep the faith till the end (2 Timothy 4: 7-8).
Notwithstanding, some believers have been endowed with the ability to perform signs and wonders (Mark 16:17-18, John 14:12). But we must not be fixated on this notion of divine supernatural power alone.
Those with the gifts of healing or working of miracles (1 Corinthians 12: 9-10) should be grateful towards God. They must not become swollen-headed. Though endowed with awe-inspiring gifts, they must not get carried away by pride. It is the Spirit who apportions these gifts, as He wills, not our own ability (1 Corinthians 12:11). Furthermore, they must not think they are superior to others with less spectacular gifts (1 Corinthians 12:21-22).
The ability to perform signs and wonders pales in comparison with the believer’s ultimate reward—eternal life. There is nothing to shout about if we can perform great miracles but miss out on heaven.
Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.
Today, some believers want to get anointed by leaders in order to jumpstart their “spiritual careers”. They want to be “activated” fast; they want to witness the birth of a ministry they can call their own. Maybe, secretly in their hearts, they hanker after a title, like apostle or prophet, which they can affix to their names to draw greater respect from others. So they go for “anointing” by leaders as a ‘fast track’ way to ministry success.
Sadly, they have not laid enough emphasis on personal intimacy with God and waiting upon Him—to reveal to them the specific calling and gifting that God has prepared for them (Jeremiah 1:5, Romans 11:29, 1 Corinthians 12:11).
Finally, let’s return to the original questions above: “Are miracles a sign of spirituality? Is the ability to perform miracles a definite sign of God’s favour?”
The answer: ‘Yes’ and ‘No’.
Yes, it is true that God may have anointed certain believers with the power gifts to perform signs and wonders. On the other hand, unclean spirits may be operative in performing miracles. Furthermore, the believers at Corinth were carnal and factious—Paul chided and rebuked them—yet they flourished in the area of spiritual gifts. Thus, the ability to perform miracles is not necessarily a sign of God’s favour.
The practice of sensational spiritual gifts—with attendant signs and wonders—is like the icing on a cake. While it empowers believers to serve, there are pitfalls to be avoided and abuses that need to be checked. Discernment is needed so that believers do not mistake the counterfeit works of darkness from the work of the Holy Spirit.
More importantly, believers need to focus on the fruit of the Holy Spirit—especially love—obedience and intimacy with God, all of which can be seen as the cake itself.
Let us delve into these three areas in turn:
LOVE: After a long discourse on spiritual gifts, Paul ends by saying, “But earnestly desire the higher gifts. And I will show you a still more excellent way” (1 Corinthians 12:31). The more excellent way is the way of love, which Paul outlines in the whole of the following chapter.
OBEDIENCE: Jesus warns that those who perform mighty signs and wonders but do not do His will find to their utter dismay on judgment day that they are shut out from heaven (Matthew 7:21-23). Have you ever wondered why this warning is specifically directed at those who move in signs and wonders—not those who are less sensational and dramatic, like teachers?
I think the answer is simple. Those who operate in signs and wonders may presume that God is always on their side since they can do supernatural feats. Imagine the praise and adulation they get for their awe-inspiring acts, which may lead to pride. Deception by evil spirits may also contribute to their downfall—because evil spirits can produce counterfeit signs, which they and the crowd seek after.
INTIMACY: Jesus warns that if we do not abide in Him, we will be cast off and be burnt like discarded branches. We can only bear good fruit if we abide in Christ (John 15:5-6).
The purpose of this post is to establish four important truths:
- Signs and wonders have a rightful place in the life of believers. However, having our names written in the book of life is much more important.
- When we place holiness (correct living) and doctrine (correct beliefs) foremost in our life (1 Timothy 4:16), it does not necessarily mean we have to close our mind to the miraculous works of the Holy Spirit (John 14:12).
- The danger, however, arises when we exalt supernatural signs and wonders above holiness (correct living) and doctrine (correct beliefs).
- Being open to the working of miracles is different from pursuing supernaturalphenomena. We should seek God, not run after miraculous signs or insist that God reveals Himself to us in signs and wonders. If God is gracious enough to grant us such signs, then it would be an added bonus.
Are the supernatural manifestations in church today invariably of divine origin?
Excessive preoccupation with signs and wonders has its dangers. When teachers like Bill Johnson exalt signs and wonders to the extent that doctrine, scholarship and the use of one’s sound mind are all downplayed and even the deity of Christ is denied, red flags go up.
Here are some searching questions for fans of Bill Johnson and Bethel church
Should believers be willing to “go off the map”—go beyond what is found in the Word—in order to embrace the realm of the miraculous?
What do you think is the true measure of a believer? Does it rest solely on how much anointing or power he or she has? Or how many spectacular feats he or she can perform?
Is there a rationale for pursuing signs and wonders?
Note: Dr Lim Poh Ann is a medical practitioner. He was the former editor of Asian Beacon magazine (Dec 2008 – Oct 2011). He can be reached at his Facebook page, www.facebook.com/AskDrLi
SOURCE OF ARTICLE: http://limpohann.blogspot.my/2016/01/mesmerised-by-miraculous-power.html
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Dr Lim Poh Ann