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Signs & Wonders
God's Commendation

by Kim Harrington

 

      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 also know...

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?"

John 10:19-21

     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 don’t 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 didn’t cast out demons at all, they couldn’t heal an ordinary headache, they had no power whatsoever to back up their continual assertions against Him.

     I’ve 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. I’d heard of these manifestations in the early Pentecostal Movement and other revivals of days gone by, and we’d 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 doesn’t 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 we’d 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 Lord—the devil wouldn’t do that. The elimination of the first two established the validity of the third possibility—if the flesh couldn’t do it and the devil wouldn’t do it, then  (3) it must be a move of God!

 

Let’s Look at the Bible...

     Biblical characters considered miracles to be the affirmation of God’s 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 "signs following"...

     "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,"

Mark 16:17-18

     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 someone’s 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 their ministry.

     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. God’s 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, that’s God’s way of saying, "This guy is of me, this is My servant, listen to him—and don’t mess with him or you’re messing with Me."  It’s not the only way you can tell if a man is of God or not—many 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 doesn’t mean that everything he does is perfect and infallible—but it does mean that God is overlooking the imperfections and blessing Him anyway.

 

What About Counterfeits?

     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 unbelief—the mentality that says, "that sort of thing did indeed happen in Bible days, but it couldn’t really be happening over at the church across town!"

     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 it’s 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 can’t 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! It’s a risk I no longer want to take.

     I don’t think the saints of biblical times were plagued by these worries. Picture Elijah at the brook, being fed by ravens... "I don’t know about this," he thinks to himself. "There’s 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 didn’t torture himself like that; he just ate the food and rejoiced in the Lord’s provision. (see 1 Kings 17:1-7)

     We must quit looking God’s gift horses in the mouth. He is trying to bless us and we keep pulling away.  If we do go along with Him, it’s 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 doesn’t want to see one in His church.

 

But What About Flakes?

     Someone may say, "Well, I’d like to be a part of a real move of God, but what turns me off is all these flaky prophecies that you’re 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 you’re choosing to see the bad side instead of the good side, you’re 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 don’t want these things to reflect on your own personal credibility. They’re 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. Don’t let it throw you off. Your church, even if it’s a mainline historical denomination, has also had its share of weirdoes, especially in the early days when it was spiritually alive and flourishing.

     You’ll want to be careful about bringing personalities into the picture, too.  One old preacher said, "If they start picking on your personality it’s because they can’t find anything else to pick on—they can’t get any real goods on you."  You won’t often find serious doctrinal problems or unrepentant sin in the lives of God’s miracle workers. These issues—which are the only valid scriptural basis for fault finding—almost 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 can’t judge a person because his personality offends you—especially if he’s doing signs and wonders.

     There have been certain preachers that I didn’t immediately take to. Some prominent healing evangelists have seemed a little affected to me—phony, not the kind of person I feel comfortable with right away—but it doesn't seem to bother God. He’s blessed their ministries with undeniable documented healings and miracles that cannot be dismissed. Maybe God doesn’t particularly like my personality—or yours—either. I don’t imagine He’s too impressed with too many human personalities, but He knows our hearts, and if they’re right and we’re busy about His business, He’ll 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. I’ve learned that God blesses some things that I don’t 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 criterion—the 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 God’s 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 they’ve confused and infected with their Absalom spirit. Basically, they’re 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 God’s servants. Christ will recompense them for the destruction they wrought in His body—and with the same standard of judgment they themselves used.

     Brethren, if the Lord is causing a certain man’s 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, you’d be wise to refrain from criticizing. You’d be wiser still to get in on it. Revival fires may only burn once or twice in your lifetime, and you don’t want to be a critic, or even a bystander—you 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 prophet’s reward (the gifts of his ministry) by blessing the prophet.

     The outpouring we’re seeing today in our land—and the world—may 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.

Mark 16:20

All Scripture quotations are from the New King James version, unless otherwise noted

Copyright 1998 Kim Harrington, Masterbuilder Ministries

 

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