Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by
miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves
Acts 2:22 (KJV)
Jesus, like any minister of the Gospel, had His critics. The
Pharisees dogged his footsteps, always hanging around the outskirts of the crowd making
nasty little comments, and occasionally even offering an open challenge to His authority.
This sort of criticism had the desired effect on those who were hanging in the balance,
wondering what to make of this man from Galilee. Look at this typical exchange...
Therefore there was a division again among the Jews because
of these sayings. And many of them said, "He has a demon and is mad. Why do you
listen to Him?" Others said, "These are not the words of one who has a demon.
Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?"
The sincere seeker has always had difficulty in discerning
which teachers and prophets are of God and which are not, even when the minister in
question was Jesus Himself. If
His credibility could be so easily challenged, how
much more a controversial preacher today?
But our Lord had an edge that many modern pastors and
evangelists dont have: He did miracles. His ministry took the discussion beyond the
realm of hair-splitting theological questions and personality conflicts. He did
supernatural works that the opposition could not match. They could offer all the
personal opinions they could muster about His style or the orthodoxy of His teachings, but
they could not open the eyes of the blind. They could accuse Him of casting out demons by
the power of Beelzebub, but He had merely to reply, "By whom do your sons cast them
out?" They didnt cast out demons at all, they couldnt heal an ordinary
headache, they had no power whatsoever to back up their continual assertions against Him.
Ive had ample time to think about this sort of debate
since the Holy Spirit was poured out remarkably in our congregation in December of 1993.
It was exciting, and a little strange to us... folks fell down and seemed glued to the
floor, laughing all night, showing every symptom of drunkenness. Others manifested
demons and were delivered after a brief time of authoritative prayer. Id heard of
these manifestations in the early Pentecostal Movement and other revivals of days gone by,
and wed cast out devils and seen people "slain in the Spirit" before, but
not on this scale. I had to do some serious reassessment of my old assumptions about how
God does and doesnt move.
There were three possible sources of the phenomena we were
(and still are) seeing: (1) It could be the flesh, mere emotionalism and
fanaticism... I had to reject that explanation because wed never been able to muster
up anything like this in the past. (2) It might be the devil, a counterfeit work...
No, the fruit was too good: too many changed lives, too many people being set free, too
much joy and victory, too much glory being given to the Lordthe devil wouldnt
do that. The elimination of the first two established the validity of the third
possibilityif the flesh couldnt do it and the devil
wouldnt do it, then (3) it must be a move of
Lets Look at the Bible...
Biblical characters considered miracles to be the
affirmation of Gods blessing on a man and his ministry. Look at our text
again. Peter referred to "Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among
you by miracles and wonders and signs..." When the apostles wanted to point out
the validity of Jesus and His claims they simply pointed to the miracles. They considered
supernatural works the "approval of God."
Jesus Himself sent out his apostles into the world with
"And these signs will follow those who believe: In My
name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up
serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay
hands on the sick, and they will recover,"
These were their credentials; if anyone had a mind to
question the message they brought, they could look at the attesting signs, the miracles
that only the hand of God could perform. If God were not with them they could not do the
supernatural works. If someones heart was so hardened that even the signs failed to
convince him (e.g. the Pharisees)... well, they had been fairly warned; God had done His
best to establish the validity of the messengers, to show His own approval of them and
Moses was sent out with a veritable "bag of tricks"
to back up his claims to having seen God. He could turn his rod into a snake, transform
his hand to become leprous and then restore it to normal again, and turn the water of the
Nile into blood. Gods reasoning behind this? "That they may believe that the
Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has
appeared to you." (Exod 4:5).
God gives miracle-working ability in order to verify the
identity of His servants. If a man heals the sick and casts out demons in the name of
Jesus, thats Gods way of saying, "This guy is of me, this is My servant,
listen to himand dont mess with him or youre messing with Me."
Its not the only way you can tell if a man is of God or notmany godly
men do no miracles. But if a man preaches the Gospel of Jesus and does miracles, then you
can consider it a sign from God. God approves of him and his ministry. It
doesnt mean that everything he does is perfect and infalliblebut it does mean
that God is overlooking the imperfections and blessing Him anyway.
What about the "lying wonders" of the devil?
Very simple. The antichrist (who is the subject of that reference from 2 Thess 2:9)
does not do his works in the name of Jesus. Shamans and other occult magicians do not
pretend to be Christians either, and are not to be compared to a minister of the Gospel
faithfully proclaiming the good news of His Master. Perhaps some Christians are just a
little too eager to find fault with anyone who does anything supernatural. Others
may even profess to believe in the gifts of the Spirit, but as soon as they see anything
that goes beyond an occasional utterance in tongues they start looking for something to
find fault with, something to discredit the man doing the works. That's a tell-tale
sign of a deep-seated unbeliefthe mentality that says, "that sort of thing did
indeed happen in Bible days, but it couldnt really be happening over at the church
Even those who do believe and are in the midst of the move of
God, may find themselves, as I did, constantly reassessing the whole experience, just to
make sure its legitimate. It usually turns out to be a waste of time, and an offense
to the Holy Spirit... "Why are you so unbelieving?" He says, "why
cant you just relax and let Me bless you?" Too many questions, too much
constant evaluation and assessment of His work with the fine-toothed combs of our
criticism may just grieve His presence clean away! Its a risk I no longer want to
I dont think the saints of biblical times were plagued
by these worries. Picture Elijah at the brook, being fed by ravens... "I dont
know about this," he thinks to himself. "Theres no biblical precedent for
birds feeding a prophet... and the raven is an unclean bird, too... I wonder where they
got this food, anyway... if it were doves, maybe..." He didnt torture himself
like that; he just ate the food and rejoiced in the Lords provision. (see 1 Kings
We must quit looking Gods gift horses in the mouth. He
is trying to bless us and we keep pulling away. If we do go along with Him, its
oftentimes with our feet dragging the entire way. Some of us need some serious attitude
adjustments. You may be a real stickler for the truth, a shrewd individual who loves to
judge "those that say they are apostles and are not," but you should learn to
quit judging those who are what they say! God will not hold you guiltless, even if you
fancy yourself to be doing your best to take a real stand for purity and truth, and the
integrity of the Word. The Lord sees clearly: He knows a critical spirit when He sees one,
and He doesnt want to see one in His church.
But What About Flakes?
Someone may say, "Well, Id like to be a part of a
real move of God, but what turns me off is all these flaky prophecies that youre
supposed to marry so-and-so, and these dictator prophets who say their word is as
authoritative as the Bible, and those people up in Toronto barking and making animal
noises, and..." My only reply is that youre choosing to see the bad side
instead of the good side, youre choosing to look at the 5% while ignoring the 95%.
There will always be a small element in any movement that carries things too far, that
gets in the flesh, or is even seduced by evil spirits (which they already had when they
came into the revival).
Some member of your church has also backslidden and done
foolish things, some uncle or aunt of yours may have committed suicide... but you
dont want these things to reflect on your own personal credibility. Theyre irrelevant. So are the "flakes" in a revival. Wherever
humans are involved there is the possibility of human error, and it happens in any circle.
Dont let it throw you off. Your church, even if its a mainline historical
denomination, has also had its share of weirdoes, especially in the early days when it was
spiritually alive and flourishing.
Youll want to be careful about bringing personalities
into the picture, too. One old preacher said, "If they start picking on your
personality its because they cant find anything else to pick onthey
cant get any real goods on you." You wont often find serious
doctrinal problems or unrepentant sin in the lives of Gods miracle workers. These
issueswhich are the only valid scriptural basis for fault findingalmost never
come up. You will find a wide variety of personality types; some may seem too bold or too
extravagant for your tastes, others may be a little insecure and defensive because of all
the criticism they face, some may have lavish lifestyles, and some can be a little
abrasive, even in the pulpit. But these are matters of style rather than substance,
issues that have to do with personalities and preferences. The things that turn you
off may be a definite plus to another listener. You may be more laid back and
appreciate a soft-sell. Somebody else may think the soft-sell approach lacks real
conviction. You cant judge a person because his personality offends
youespecially if hes doing signs and wonders.
There have been certain preachers that I didnt
immediately take to. Some prominent healing evangelists have seemed a little affected to
mephony, not the kind of person I feel comfortable with right awaybut it
doesn't seem to bother God. Hes blessed their ministries with undeniable documented
healings and miracles that cannot be dismissed. Maybe God doesnt particularly like
my personalityor yourseither. I dont imagine Hes too impressed
with too many human personalities, but He knows our hearts, and if theyre right and
were busy about His business, Hell bless us with signs following, whether
somebody else likes us or not.
By Their Fruit...
Some years ago, I asked a fellow-preacher how he could stand
to stay in a certain ministry which many of us thought employed questionable methods. He replied, "Because of all the fruit. Ive learned that God
blesses some things that I dont personally care for."
He realized that if he
was holier than God then something was wrong. He decided to judge the ministry by
the biblical criterionthe fruit.
A most telling and significant factor in the criticism and
judgment of miracle-working servants of God is the general fruitlessness of the critics.
The present revival, for example, has the sanction and blessing of all of the
"generals" of Gods army, the battle-scarred veterans of past outpourings
who know the hand of God when they see it. They are the ones who should be getting a
"word of the Lord" about anything that may be amiss, for they are influential
enough to sound the alarm to the church at large if something really is wrong. But
the criticism, the "checks in the spirit," the "revelations" against
this move of God are all coming from nervous deacon boards, back-row doubters, and frigid
old Sunday-saints bound by religious spirits who have little to show for their own
profession of faith in Christ. They do no miracles themselves, and could not expel a demon
to save their lives. They have little fruit of any kind, unless you count all the people
theyve confused and infected with their Absalom spirit. Basically, theyre
jealous and unbelieving, and it will not go well with them at the judgment seat of Christ
unless they repent. They somehow feel justified in their own minds, but are
nevertheless challenging and hindering Gods servants. Christ will recompense them
for the destruction they wrought in His bodyand with the same standard of judgment
they themselves used.
Brethren, if the Lord is causing a certain mans ministry
to bring forth the fruit of healing, deliverance from demonic bondage, the outpouring of
the Holy Spirit with the resultant joy and supernatural manifestations, youd be
wise to refrain from criticizing. Youd be wiser still to get in on it. Revival fires
may only burn once or twice in your lifetime, and you dont want to be a critic, or
even a bystanderyou want to be part of it! Get rid of that critical spirit and
decide to be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so you can flow with the blessings
of God instead of questioning them, so you can receive a prophets reward (the gifts
of his ministry) by blessing the prophet.
The outpouring were seeing today in our landand
the worldmay very well be the final prophetic harvest before the end. You can have a
part in helping spread the Gospel to all the nations, or you can sit in your little
critics circle, spreading doubt and confusion, and insurrection against your
betters. The decision is yours. But make it quick. Jesus is coming soon.
And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working
with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs. Amen.
All Scripture quotations are from the
New King James
version, unless otherwise noted
Copyright © 1998 Kim
Harrington, Masterbuilder Ministries