♣ Signs, Wonders and Blindness
“But there was a man named Simon, who had previously practiced magic in the city and amazed the people of Samaria, saying that he himself was somebody great. They all paid attention to him, from the least to the greatest, saying, ‘This man is the power of God that is called Great.’ And they paid attention to him because for a long time he had amazed them with his magic. But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Even Simon himself believed, and after being baptized he continued with Philip. And seeing signs and great miracles performed, he was amazed. Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent to them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit, for he had not yet fallen on any of them, but they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” – Acts 8:9-23.
SIMON THE SORCERER believed also after having witnessed the miracles performed by Phillip. He lusted for the same power, power for notability, yet remained unconverted.
Do we not find this today – people raving over miracles and flocking to meetings where people are healed, but there is no interest in the exposition of God’s Word; they haven’t got time for that, “It’s religion they say, we don’t want sermons, we want Jesus.” I seriously wonder what kind of ‘Jesus’ they are looking for. Either we take all of Him or nothing of Him. Preaching and hearing the Word is to be central in the Church. Of course, God does work miraculously today, but it is incredibly disturbing when people are more fascinated with Jesus because of the miracles rather being taken up with Him. “My goal is God Himself – not joy nor peace, nor even blessing, but Himself, my God” ought to be the true motive.
God is moving today through many parts of the world. There is a great awakening taking place in Latin America. Many are thirsty for the Word of God; many are turning from Roman Catholicism to the One true God and countless people are turning from charismatic heresy to sound reformed doctrine. There are other ‘revivals’ currently taking place, one in particular in my homeland Wales UK, but after having acquiring certain information through various blogs, testimonials and interviews of what is transpiring, there are a number of scenarios that are of great concern, particularly where people have ‘committed’ their lives to Jesus, not knowing really Who He is, but nevertheless felt compelled to ‘surrender’ to Him. Repentance is not emphasised and therefore is left wide-open to serious misunderstanding. A Biblical comprehension of repentance ought to bring one to conviction of sin, hence the reason as to why we need a Saviour – “The Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.” It isn’t about being saved from our heartaches and broken dreams per se (which is sadly the emphasis in mainstream modern evangelicalism), but rather the Biblical fact we have lived a life in rebellion to God; we were saved from our enmity towards God. Repentance is not remorse for ‘messing up’ one’s life; it is brokenness over the reality of living in defiance towards God. Seldom do we hear that today; it’s too offensive and is deemed as a ‘deterrent’ from people attending church.
The reason why many churches are empty today is not because of the pure unadulterated gospel being preached, but rather because it is not being proclaimed and even if in some circles it is being declared, it is seldom done in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Today, there is hardly the desire to hear the Word of God expounded, which was one of the hallmarks of the early church – they continued in the Word as is the case with every genuine revival; the Word of God was preached, Christ was proclaimed, as Paul said – “I proclaim to you the unknown God, Whom you ignorantly worship” (Acts 17:23); “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ” (Colossians 1:28). It is ridiculous that souls hastily raise their hands or feel the urge to rush to the front, before the ‘altar’ in order to give their lives to Jesus without knowing why they are doing it. It is sheer ignorance and the leaders are much to blame for it. We have a serious famine of the Word of God in our generation. Ego is being built up while souls lack spiritual nutrition. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction and for training in righteousness…” (2 Timothy 3:16).
People, like Simon, lust for power and prestige in the church today, but there’s no power without purity, no life without death and no spiritual progress until we naturally digress. The men that God used were crucified unto the world and the world unto them.
Reading some of the blogs (not referring to Word Press) by those describing their personal encounter at the recent Cwmbran outpouring in Wales UK, at first sounds really appealing and would, to many, strike a note in the heart, but when you read some of the articles, either written by themselves or reposted from other bloggers, one is shocked to find such topics as ‘Praying in Churches, Mosques, Gurudwaras, Temples and Synagogues’ that embraces a multi-faith god and that such a deity answers the prayers of everyone. Or: “Oh Jesus, you are sublime, and you are wise, and you are brilliant, and it makes total sense to follow your teachings whether you are God, or not. But, oh, how delighted I am that you are indeed my Lord, and my God!” ‘If Christianity were an Untrue Myth: Would “a Christian Life” still be beautiful?’ There are very strong insinuations throughout the blog that the teachings of Jesus are worth following just for themselves; that it’s a better way of living than just being consumed by bitterness and the desire for revenge. In essence, both blogs carry a heavy note of new-age philosophy, notorious for extracting a little here and there from all religions and embracing them without discrimination: Universal Life Church
Surely where the Spirit of God moves, there inevitably comes discernment that exposes error or any other spirit that is in essence opposed to Christ. How quickly many forget – or even fail to realise – that Satan often transforms himself into an angel of light.
If all that Christ came to do was to set an example and leave us a code to live by, then Christianity is the greatest fraud ever and we are still hopelessly lost. Christ came to create within us a new heart; through Christ, God the Father has written His law on our innermost being that empowers us to walk in His ways. God has to change the mainspring of our heart because we have no innate intention to seek or follow after God. It’s humanly impossible for we are, by sinful nature (every one of us – Romans 3: 10-19, 23), opposed to God and haters of Him.
If Jesus Christ is not God, then we are still in our sins because none other than God in the flesh could perfectly fulfil the law in order to justify us; there is no propitiation for our sin unless Christ, the perfect One, stood in our stead – the Lamb without blemish Who takes away the sin of the world. No man, no prophet – no matter how ‘perfectly’ moral they would have been – could ever atone for humanity’s sin. There is no Christianity without Christ the Son of God. If our righteousness does not surpass that of the Pharisees (who were very moral people in eyes of others), we are still in darkness and remain outside the kingdom of God. If Christ is not God, then we are not robed in His righteousness – a righteousness that grants us access to the Holy of holies. God is not the epitome of holiness; He infinitely transcends it; He is holiness and outside of Him no degree of perfection exists. We have no hope of being holy as He is unless Christ’s righteousness is imputed (credited) to us. “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6) and “…there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). To ‘live’ the Christian life without Christ is as futile and ludicrous as man’s attempt to create Him.
As referred to earlier, many are bored with sound expository preaching – the ones that exceed twenty minutes – mainly because the preacher is not filled with the Holy Spirit; they don’t preach with unction and authority; there is no power in the delivery; they are not saturated with God’s presence. Secondly, many cannot tolerate sound doctrine but prefer teaching that appeals to their carnality.
Spirit-led and controlled revivals are not when miracles become the keynote; they are secondary, a byproduct. The insignia of the Holy Spirit moving is where Christ becomes the focus; His death for our sin, a marvelling of being reconciled to God purely by His grace – ‘Here is love’ was the ‘love song’ of the 1904 Welsh revival.
Even Christ rebuked His disciples for their misdirected excitement over the fact that the demons obeyed them (Luke 10) and therefore brought back their attention to the imperatives: “don’t let this phenomenon be your focus, but rather let the reality of your relationship with Me take priority (that you know Me and you are known and owned by Me for eternity); from there let everything else fall secondary.”
There is extremely little – even nothing – of God in much of what goes on today in mainstream ‘Christianity’. God is sovereign and He can touch people anywhere. God has been known to move in people’s lives in meetings that were run not according to the Spirit but by the flesh; in the midst of such chaos there have been those who were truly seeking and thirsting for God and their need was powerfully met, but that is the exception, not the rule of thumb which many have made it today. God have mercy for the excitement over supernatural wonders when folk walk out of meetings without a thirst for Christ, an intense and growing desire to know Him better.
Some readers may find this critical and harsh, but this ought to grieve us where God is misrepresented and where the gospel of Jesus Christ is perverted. I have known men who have encountered authentic revivals where God had made His presence undeniably known in great measure. They spoke so differently, with awe and reverence; there was a Royal insignia as they relayed the realities of God coming ever so near – nothing like how so many glibly and casually talk of revival these days which sounds as common as ordering a Big Mac and fries. You sensed God on these men, even years after an out pouring of God’s Spirit; they continued walking in the Spirit of revival. It is startling to realise as A.W. Tozer believed that revival is New Testament Christianity; it is normal Christianity and yet, it is saddening to the core how so many can say that God really showed up in meetings when actually He was a million miles away.
I recall attending one particular church a few years back, where physical healing was so overly emphasised, as if the whole purpose of the church was for everyone to be physically whole. I said to the pastor at a men’s meeting, “The greatest miracle we can ever witness is not to behold someone being healed from some disability or disease, but to see a hardened sinner, opposed to the Gospel, regenerated and changed by the power of God.” This church had no taste whatsoever for sound expository preaching; they had no interest for systemised Bible studies that truly brings glory to God and humbles us to the dust — so I volunteered! Many members attended the weekly Monday night Bible studies for a while, but I believe that was partly due to my British accent; it was a novelty to them. It wasn’t long before only a few (those with spiritual hunger) faithfully attended and desired to really study God’s Word. Had I preached signs, wonders and miracles, those Bible studies would have been highly and constantly attended.
There is something drastically wrong with the health of a church when believers show more enthusiasm over the phenomena of physical healing over and above the expounding of God’s Word, where Christ is central and the glory of God is powerfully made known. It is sickening to come across a prevalent mentality by those who advocate healings and other miracles, especially when they state indirectly that a loved one would know healing from cancer if only they had faith. Well, in that case, there is not much hope for great preachers who ‘lacked’ faith and died from cancer. In fact, everyone for that matter lacks faith for we will all one day meet death. We may as well absurdly conclude that Joni Erikson Tada (and others like her), in her paralysed condition, had better repent for her lack of faith as to the reason for why she has not been healed. On the contrary, it takes great God-pleasing faith to remain in her wheel chair and minister to thousands around the world through the service God has put her in, than to dance around being made fully whole; it takes more faith to trust in God when circumstances look pear-shaped and when everything is not going our way.
There have been countless of unbelievers who have been healed, but they haven’t got saving faith. The demons believe that Jesus is the Son of God. They even fell down before Him (Mark 5:6-7), but they are bound for hell; there are many people who have been healed, but they are still on their way to hell; they are still in a state of condemnation for having not believed (unto salvation) in Christ after witnessing great power. So no, it’s not miracles that prove to be the power of God unto salvation; it is God Himself; it is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the power of God that grips people’s hearts and opens them to where, instead of hating Him, they now love Him. It is a heart of flesh replacing a heart of stone that angels glare at with wonder and amazement; it is a glorious mystery to the angelic realm – and yet, our generation gets more excited over seeing limbs grow and diseases go! Why do so few rejoice with the angels in heaven, not over healings, signs and wonders, but over a sinner turning to God, where genuine conversion takes place? Why is it that most believers would overfill the churches to witness miracles rather than witness souls coming into the kingdom of God and seeing the transformation in their lives by His power?? Why is it?! I ask it again – WHY? How we answer that reveals how we view the Kingdom of God and there is only one way of seeing and that’s if God has revealed it to us; not flesh and blood, but by the Holy Spirit. Paul’s brilliance didn’t catch the attention of Lydia; God opened her heart to pay attention and understand the mysteries of the kingdom.
Signs and wonders followed the apostles, they never followed after them. They preached Christ. Today, many preach healing; it’s what they use to attract the crowds in the church. I’m not opposed to healing; God does heal today. I know people who have been healed, but I find something very freakish when healing and miracles are made the main diet of the church; it is a serious imbalance.
My Father, who passed away with cancer some years ago, once said, “If Jesus took away all the miracles, signs and wonders [of the health, wealth and prosperity gospel], would we still want Him and follow Him?” If our honest answer to that is no, then we are still blind, still in sin’s bondage and under condemnation. God has already displayed the greatest miracle of humanity by coming amongst us in the flesh so that we may be fashioned anew in the image of His Son. The greatest wonder of all is that Christ removed our guilt and condemnation by expiating the wrath of God we so deserve. Christ suffered that cup and now the cup that has been given into our hands is the cup of reconciliation with God – to know Him, walk with Him, enjoy Him, to be called His very own and made heirs of Him and taste His goodness throughout eternity. That alone should fill our hearts and to want for nothing more; that alone should make us say with Isaac Watts, “Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life my all.”
Posted on August 28, 2013, in ♣ Devotional and tagged 1904 Welsh revival, 2 Timothy 3:16, A.W. Tozer, Acts 17:23, Acts 4:12, Acts 8:9-23, angelic realm, angels, Biblical comprehension, carnality, charismatic heresy, Colossians 1:28, conversion, Cwmbran outpouring in Wales UK, devotional, discernment, discrimination, enmity towards God, expiating the wrath of God, exposition of God's Word, expository preaching, famine of God's Word, God-pleasing faith, greatest miracle of humanity, healing, health wealth and prosperity gospel, heart of flesh, heart of stone, hell, Isaac Watts, John 14:6, Joni Erikson Tada, Luke 10, Mark 5:6-7, Mark Anthony Williams, miracles, modern evangelicalism, New Testament Christianity, new-age philosophy, physical healing, power for notability, recent awakening in Latin America, reconciliation with God, remorse, repentance, revival, Roman Catholicism, signs and wonders, Signs Wonders and Blindness, Simon the sorcerer, Son of God, sound doctrine, sound reformed doctrine, Spirit-led, spiritual hunger, Spiritual progress, systemised Bible studies, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, unction, universal life church, Wales UK, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.