Signs and Wonders
By David A. DePra
This is a transcription of the audio message given by David A DePra by the same tital found here: 686-mp3
We are going to be looking at John 2, and the title of this message will be, “Signs and Wonders.” I am going to talk about the place that signs and wonders are to have today in our churches, and for us individually. Jesus had a lot to say about this and we are going to get into some of that here.
The Sign of His Resurrection
In John, chapter 2, last week, we read there the account of Jesus entering into the temple, turning over the tables, and driving out the moneychangers and merchants. It must have been quite a sight. Well, in John 2, beginning in verse 18, we read that the Jews, in response to Jesus doing this, said to Him, “What sign do you show us, seeing that you do these things?” In essence they were saying, “Jesus, who do you think you are? If God is with you, then prove it. Give us a sign -- a sign from heaven -- a sign from God that will prove to us that you not only have the authority to do this, but that you are who you claim to be.” We read elsewhere in the epistles where Paul says, “The Jews demand a sign…” -- and that is ever so true, as it is expressed here.
Now Jesus, in verse 19, answered them saying, “Here is THE SIGN I am going to give: Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.” Then the Jews said, “Forty and six years was this temple in the building, and you are going to raise it up in three days?” Then in verse 21 -- because this is John writing in retrospect years later, he is able to write, “But Jesus spoke of the temple of His body. When, therefore he was risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.”
I am going to stop right there.
So in response to the Pharisee’s demand for a sign or a wonder, Jesus said, “Here is THE SIGN I am going to give to you: My resurrection from the dead.” Of course, He clothed that in parabolic language when he said, “Destroy ‘this temple’ and in three days I will raise it up.” But He was essentially saying, “THE SIGN I have for you is My resurrection.”
Now, if you know your Bible, you will recognize that this Truth is something that Jesus said on other occasions to them. I want to turn to one of those places, found in Matthew 12 -- and it is there that we are going to be able to get into the meat of what I want to talk about today in regard to signs and wonders. In Matthew 12:38, it says:
Then certain of the Scribes and the Pharisees answered saying, “Master, we would see a sign from you”
Matthew 12:39 records the response of Jesus:
But Jesus answered and said unto them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign. There shall no sign be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”
So, here you have it again -- here in Matthew 12, Jesus is essentially repeating what He said in John 2. They are asking Him for a sign to prove to them His authority and identity. He is saying that there would be NO sign given to them, save ONE: His resurrection.
Now, there are numerous interesting things about these accounts -- having to do with signs and wonders. Some of them are more significant than others.
One interesting thing is that the Pharisees would come to Jesus -- to begin with -- and ask Him for a sign. I think this is interesting because if they were hanging around Jesus at all -- and we certainly see that they were – they were following Him around trying to find fault -- they would have seen one sign after another. Wouldn’t they? He healed hundreds of people; He raised the dead right in front of them -- certainly that was the case with Lazarus. And Jesus was also God incarnate. There was His witness of a sinless man. Yet, none of this budged them one bit because of the hardness of their hearts.
The disciples had also been witnesses to all of these signs and wonders because they were with him night and day for three and one half years. They saw all of this. They had the witness of the sinless God-man, and they heard all of His teaching -- as well as seeing Him raise all of those people from the dead -- what were there? Four people He raised from the dead? Not to mention all of those miracles of healing, calming the storm on the sea of Galilee, the bread and the fishes -- on two different occasions -- and on I could go. So, they had all of these signs as well -- and yet they had trouble believing. Their hearts were not hard as were those of the Pharisees and scribes, but nevertheless, when it was all said and done, at the end of the ministry of Jesus, when the crisis came, they all forsook Him and fled. In fact, even after Jesus appeared to them AFTER He had risen from the dead, they still did not get it. They still thought He was going to be a physical, material Messiah -- setting up a kingdom in Jerusalem. Of course they did. Read Acts 1.
If we gather all of this up, we can use it to form some foundational principles having to do with signs and wonders. First of all, can we see that signs and wonders, in and of themselves, can do nothing to change a person’s heart? In fact, I would even put it this way: A sign or a wonder, in the final analysis, cannot somehow cause faith to come to be in you and me. No. And we have example after example to prove that. I’ve just mentioned a few: The scribes and the Pharisee; the disciples themselves. And how about the case of Israel being brought out of Egypt; brought through the wilderness -- and still not entering into the Promised Land by faith? They had to go back into the wilderness for 40 years because they did not believe. Then, after those 40 years when they came back, there was some faith -- there but it was not because of signs and wonders. It was because God had brought them to the end of themselves, and they knew that they needed to believe and trust Him.
Christ in Us
So signs and wonders cannot change anyone. What can change people? The only thing that can change people is exactly the sign Jesus promised He would give: Death and resurrection in Christ. This is what changes us. This is a fact spoken not only in the Old Testament in type and shadow -- not only spoken of here in the Gospels as THE SIGN -- but later in the Epistles it is stated outright that THE SIGN -- really the evidence of Christianity itself; of Christ Himself today -- is RESURRECTION. It is new life.
Now, in making a statement like that, I certainly want to prove it. I want to turn to 1 John 5. This is not a passage that I have heard preached about very often -- and I don’t know why that is. To me, it is one of the most important passages in the Bible. It not only ties into this subject which we are talking about, signs and wonders and evidences of God, but it actually tells us what is THE EVIDENCE that you are a Christian.
I think people want proof and evidence that God is here; evidence that God is with them. This is why people seek after signs and wonders -- because they don’t believe God. They want Him to keep proving that He is faithful.
Such unbelief is why Jesus said that even an evil and adulterous generation seeks after signs. When it is all said and done, if you continue to seek after signs and wonders, you are spiritually adulterous. You do not want to seek God for Himself. You want to seek God for what He can give to you. As I noted, He has to keep proving to you that He is faithful to you.
Well, I John 5 is going to talk about THE evidence of God -- but not about signs and wonders as evidence. In fact, it is going to define for us what the evidence of God IS for you and me. Now, as I read this passage, 1 John 5:9-11, we are going to encounter in the King James three different words: Witness, testimony and record. In the New Testament Greek, these three are all the same word – they all mean, “evidence.” So, as I read this passage, I am going to use the word, “evidence,” for each of these words, because it is the Greek meaning.
In verse 9 it says:
If we receive the evidence of men, the evidence of God is greater. For this is the evidence of God, which is testified of His Son, he that believes on the Son has the evidence in himself.
What we are being told here is going to be affirmed in the next couple of verses: That the evidence of God is IN you and me -- and is a Person, Jesus Christ. “Christ in you, the hope of glory” -- His presence in you; His life in you; His resurrection life in you, and the fact that you have been raised in Him – Christ in you IS the evidence of God.
It says -- and I will re-read the first part of 1 John 5:10:
He that believes on the Son of God has the evidence in himself. He that believes not God has made Him a liar because he does not believe the evidence that God gave regarding His Son.
In verse 11, we find an affirmation:
And this is the evidence that God has given to us, eternal life and this life is in His Son.
And so these verses agree 100% with what Jesus Christ said would be the evidence; would be the sign or wonder that He would give. A sign or a wonder is supposedly evidence that God is there. Jesus said, “You want a sign? I am not going to give you the signs that you think you need. But I am going to give you ONE sign and ONE evidence -- and that sign is My resurrection from the dead. For those who believe, you will have this very evidence -- this very resurrection -- IN YOU.”
So, in other words, Jesus is saying, “Do you want proof that I am with you? Don’t look for it ‘out here.’ The proof that I am with you is that I will be IN YOU. “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col. 1:27) This is THE EVIDENCE.
Jesus is saying to us, “You will be united with Me in My death – but if you take your place in My death you will likewise be planted into Me in My resurrection -- and thus be raised in Me unto newness of life.”
The One True Evidence
This is THE evidence -- and if you think about this -- it is really the only evidence that could possibly be the ONE evidence or sign. Everything else would either be outward -- which cannot change us, and could be disputed or challenged -- or it would be historical, which could likewise be challenged or dismissed.
There was no one at the garden tomb when Jesus walked out. Everyone who saw Him raised from the dead saw Him later -- including Mary who saw Him in the garden there by the tomb. She wasn’t there when the rock was rolled away, and she didn’t see Him walk out. She saw Him after that happened.
But I would submit that if there had been a camera crew there who took video footage – or if there had been a thousand witnesses on that very day at moment when He walked out of that tomb -- and if this was presented as evidence today, people would say it was fake, a forgery, mass hallucination, or some sort of conspiracy. Indeed, many say these exact things anyways to dismiss the event of His resurrection and the recorded testimony of those who saw the Risen Christ. Even the Pharisees themselves dismissed the resurrection of Jesus Christ, saying that the disciples stole the body of their dead Messiah -- and thus dismissed the disciples claims that Jesus had risen from the dead. The Pharisees would not believe even though they had personally seen Jesus crucified, and seen that His tomb was empty.
It is not possible to provide outward proof about Christianity to anybody about anything – because if they want to -- in the hardness of their heart -- they will dismiss it. My goodness, we can’t even figure out the Kennedy assassination. People still think it was a conspiracy, or one of many other theories. Really, if something happened yesterday, it would be the same. Therefore, the only true evidence there could be is an INWARD realization and experiencing of Jesus Christ. “Christ in us,” is THE evidence that is real.
If you read what the Bible says about this, you will see that Jesus was talking about this very same Truth of, “Christ in us,” in Acts 2, when He said, “You shall be my witnesses.” He wasn’t saying that you and I would merely go out and witness. No. He was saying, “I am going to dwell IN YOU. You will lose YOUR life so that you can come to manifest ME. And as you do, you are going to be living evidence that I am risen from the dead.” Paul, in another place, called Christians, “Living epistles, written by the Spirit of God.”
But today Christianity is incredibly watered down -- it is almost treated like a religion -- and is to many Christians just as Judaism was to the Jews -- in the sense that a lot of it is ritual, and contains a great deal of earthly, natural stuff. People keep laws and jump through religious hoops -- because they believe that they are supposed to do this. But this is not what Christianity ever was in the Bible. Christianity is CHRIST IN YOU, the hope of glory. The Christian life is an ongoing discovery and experience OF the Christ Who dwells in us -- such that we can come to manifest Him.
One way to describe Christianity and the Christian life is Galatians 2:20:
I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless I live. Yet not I, but Christ lives in me. And the life that I now live, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Paul is not talking about a religion. He is talking about life eternal in Christ. He is talking about the new birth of a new creation. This is THE evidence, and this is THE sign -- THE wonder that Jesus Christ promised He would give.
An Inward Realization
Now, certainly after Jesus died and was raised and appeared to His disciples, they had evidence. The Bible states this in Romans 1:4 -- it says that, “Jesus was declared the Son of God by His resurrection from the dead.” They were witnesses to that, both literally and physically in every way. But later, after He was raised and had ascended -- and after the Spirit of God was given -- and Christ came to dwell in them -- then the REAL evidence of God for them was the indwelling of Christ -- as it is for us today. We are not eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Christ bodily, but we are witnesses to His resurrection -- because we have been raised IN HIM.
It is the inward evidence of Jesus Christ that God is after in His people. We can believe the historical event of the death and resurrection of Christ -- and there ARE historical evidences of that. We can believe the word of the disciples who saw Him. But in the end, the only way it is going to make any difference to us, or change us, is by our being risen IN Christ with an INWARD REVELATION of Him.
If you read what happened to the disciples after Jesus was raised from the dead, you will note that Jesus taught them out of the Old Testament about Himself for forty days. I would imagine that He went through all of those scriptures and prophecies in the Old Testament. It also records that He continued to work some miracles – although at this time it was ONLY for the disciples. You do not have any record of Jesus appearing to the masses or to the scribes and Pharisees after the resurrection. But I say all of this to point out the fact that despite His bodily appearances to the disciples after His resurrection when he taught them personally, when it came time for Him to ascend into heaven, He told them to go to Jerusalem and tarry and wait. Really, he was saying to them to go to Jerusalem and do nothing. Now why did He give them those instructions? Because until they had an inward revelation of Christ, until He was living in them via the Spirit of God, He did not want them going out and preaching or doing anything in His name.
Now, they did have the opportunity to do some things in His name during His ministry. They were sent out two by two and they did do things in His name. But after His ascension – but before Acts 2 -- it was now a different situation because He was no longer physically with them. He said, ‘I do not want you going around and doing anything until I am IN YOU via the Spirit.’ Can we see how important this is just from those instructions alone, let alone a hundred other scriptures?
We MUST have a revelation INWARDLY of Jesus Christ. In fact, I want to turn to Matthew, chapter 16. Hold your finger there in Matthew, chapter 12. In chapter 16, it records the occasion when Jesus came to His disciples and asked them, “Who do men say that I am?” They gave a few answers, which, of course, were incorrect…John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah or one of the prophets. But in chapter 16:15, He said to them, “But who do YOU say that I am?”
Now, there is so much in here and I don’t want to get sidetracked. But how many see that right there Jesus is making it perfectly clear that for you and me in our relationship with Him that it doesn’t matter what other people say? It doesn’t matter what other people believe -- as right as it might be. What matters is what WE believe, and what WE have seen. What matters is that WE have had a revelation of the Christ.
“Who do you say that I am,” Jesus asked. Simon Peter, and he was speaking for all of them, answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” In response to that absolute Truth that Peter spoke, Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you Simon Bar Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this unto you, but My Father which is in heaven.” So, in other words, “This did not come from an earthy source, Peter, it came from My Father to you.” Or to put it another way, “This revelation of Jesus as the Christ came from the outside of you to begin with -- and then INTO you from the outside via a revelation from the Father.”
Note that Jesus said, “Flesh and blood did not reveal this to you.” What would flesh and blood be? It would be, for example, what other men say about Jesus Christ -- which even if it is true, cannot of itself bring inward revelation. No. For that would be other people merely telling you who Jesus is. How many understand that there are a lot of professing Christians in the church today whose faith is based on what other people believe? Their faith is in the faith of others. And you see this on a wide scale today in so many different areas. Millions are following a pied piper, their favorite TV evangelist, or whatever, because they can’t imagine that so many people, or that a minister with a TV show, could possibly be wrong. Joel Osteen has a church attendance of 10,000 people every weekend. How can that many people be wrong? Well, they ARE -- all of them are wrong -- if they are in that church. Why would that be a surprise? The world is deceived without Jesus Christ. The Bible says so.
No. People are not to believe, even the truth, simply because someone else believes it. Jesus said, “Flesh and blood cannot reveal this to you.” With those words, He also meant something else. He meant that YOUR flesh and blood – yes, Peter’s flesh and blood, but He would also be talking to us – flesh and blood could not produce such a revelation. In other words, you did not come to see who Jesus Christ is by mustering it up out of YOURSELF. It is not something from out of your imagination; it is not out of your theological understanding. No, your own flesh has not revealed this to you. There is nothing in the flesh of light or truth – nothing to muster up. The only way that you and I, no matter what our background is -- whether it be a Christian home where we have been brought up, or even if we have been in church or Sunday school our entire lives and have heard the Gospel – it doesn’t matter as it pertains to an inward revelation of Jesus Christ. All of these things, alone, cannot produce a revelation of Jesus Christ. The only way that you and I can come to see Jesus is that if God, by His Spirit, brings us to the place where we can see. In that case, it will be real.
He also says, “Flesh and blood has not revealed this unto you but it has been revealed to you by My Father which is in heaven. And I say unto you, that you are Peter -- and upon this rock I will build My church.” Notice what he is saying here. He is saying that, “Upon this ROCK” -- upon this inward revelation that My Father gives I will build -- not buildings -- but I will build My people who comprise the church.
So, in this one passage, to summarize, Jesus is saying that this revelation of the Father is an individual, personal, one on one revelation from the Father to an individual as to who Jesus Christ is -- and really a revelation of the Person of Christ within. God has to do this and nothing else can. And until He does it, we cannot do a whole lot more than practice religion in the name of Jesus Christ.
As I have said a thousand times in so many different messages, Christianity is, “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Without that we have nothing. But once Christ is in us, then God can take us through a life long journey of discovering Jesus; of unfolding Jesus; of bringing this revelation and building on it. He can bring us into an inward realization of Christ, so that -- going back to our other passage from 1 John 5 – Christ in us will be the evidence.
This is a work of God – but He does not force it upon people. Judas had this revelation from God, according to these same scriptures, but he turned away from it.
Therefore, this is the absolute essential: An inward revelation of Jesus Christ —because according to Jesus, this is THE ROCK. Indeed, Christ Himself is the Rock upon which all that God will do from that point forward is built. This is the rock upon which He will build His church -- meaning the individuals who will comprise His Body. God cannot build you much unless you know Jesus -- unless you see Him.
The Gates of Hell
In conjunction with this, Jesus also said that the gates of hell shall not prevail against this inward revelation of the Christ.
So, if Christ is being revealed in you, you can expect two things to be happening in you -- side by side. On the one hand, all of the gates of darkness, the gates of death, shall be progressively brought to the ground. But this phrase, the ‘gates of hell’ is misunderstood. It is not hell, as in, “hell fire.” That is not the Greek word. It is the “gates of Hades,” -- which is the unseen power of death. This unseen power of death, which is resident in the old man in Adam, and is in each one of us, cannot stand or prevail against the ongoing revelation of Christ in us -- and the invasion of the life of Jesus in the believer.
If you look at verse 18 here in Matthew 16, and read that phrase -- “…and the gates of hell shall not prevail,” against this revelation of Christ -- what you see in picture form are walled cities, strongholds, high towers -- which are all things that would, as Paul says in Corinthians -- exalt themselves against the true knowledge of God. These are figuratively in the old man in Adam. There is the power of death resident in the old man in Adam. These gates of hell are there. And so it is the invasion of the revelation of Jesus Christ which comes in and topples those strongholds IN US.
Sometimes I think that we believe that the gates of hell, or the power of the enemy, are attacking us. That is not what is being pictured here. What is being pictured is that the revelation of Jesus to a person is the invasion against which the gates of hell cannot prevail – the gates or authority of the enemy cannot continue to stand against the revelation of Christ IN a person. It is by illuminating us to Christ, and by bringing the old man in Adam under the work of the cross, that the life of Jesus can be more greatly released in us. This is what Jesus is saying that the gates of hell cannot prevail or stand against -- He is saying that the revelation of Himself in the individual is THE ROCK against which the gates of hell cannot prevail – indeed, Jesus Christ in His people is the Rock upon which everything else that God wants to do is going to be built.
The Responsibility of the Church
This tells us why Jesus would not let the disciples go out and minister just because He Himself had ascended into heaven. No, they had to first receive something from above -- they had to be born from above by the indwelling of Jesus Christ -- through the vehicle of the Spirit of God.
But once they did receive Christ through the outpouring of the spirit, then what did Jesus tell them to go out and do? He did not tell them to go out and start a movement. He did not even tell them to go out and start a church. He didn’t say to them that they should take upon themselves the responsibility of converting others to Christ. He did not say that -- and it has never been the responsibility of the church to do any of those things. No. The responsibility of the church has been to PREACH CHRIST, and to live Christ, and to let God use it as HE pleases to convert others.
We can’t know the condition of a person’s heart. I have known people who seemed to be so far gone, you would swear up and down that they were not even close to wanting to know Jesus Christ. Yet, some of those folks have been the quickest to respond to the Truth. There have been others, whom you would swear want Jesus with all of their hearts, and they hear the gospel but reject it in favor of something else. Only God knows. Only God, according to Jesus in John 6, can draw people to Jesus Christ. This doesn’t mean that He will force them to receive Christ. “No-one can come to Me,” Jesus said, “except the Father draw them.” If the Father draws them, they will come to the place of choice -- BUT they must make that choice.
This is the responsibility of the church: To live in and out from that revelation of Jesus Christ -- Who is the Rock -- and if we do, not only will the gates of death be toppled in each of us personally, but then our influence will abound. Wherever we go, there will be an impact in this world whereby the gates of hell will be toppled, and Jesus Christ will be known. Of course, I am speaking of those whose hearts are open before the Lord and walking in fellowship with Him.
Christ in Us the Evidence of God
Now, all of this ought to thoroughly prove that what God is after is the evidence or the sign IN US personally. This is what Christianity essentially is. The evidence is CHRIST IN US. Once we recognize this, and then turn back Matthew 12:39, things begin to become more clear. Jesus says there, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but there shall be no sign given but the sign of the Prophet Jonah.” He is, of course, speaking of His resurrection – He is furthermore speaking of our being raised IN HIM; of the reality of CHRIST IN US.
So note: An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign. Why is Jesus able to make such a strong and great admonishment in regard to seeking signs and wonders? Well, simply because seeking after outward signs indicates the lack of an inward revelation of Jesus Christ. You can take this as a principle -- to the degree that we have received an inward revelation of the Christ and are walking in it, we will NOT seek after outward signs and wonders. You can also turn this principle around and say it in reverse: We will seek outward signs and wonders to the degree that we do not know Jesus Christ.
So this is a principle -- to the degree that we are seeking Jesus Christ for Himself; seeking greater revelation of Him; seeking for Him to have His way with us; we will not be seeking outward signs and wonders. Again -- in reverse: We will be seeking outward signs and wonders to the degree that we do not seek Jesus for Himself.
I certainly recognize and am aware of the fact that there are millions and millions of professing Christian people WHO DON’T EVEN KNOW TO SEEK Jesus Christ for Himself. They DO NOT EVEN KNOW that there IS such a thing. They don’t know what it is because it is never taught. The Christian Church today, generally, is not taught that Jesus Christ dwells in them -- that this is Christianity -- and that the Christian life is a matter of God revealing Christ in us -- through the ongoing process of picking up our cross and following Him. It is an unknown thing today.
Satan has succeeded in BLINDING millions of people to this Truth. So, what we do is resort to what I call, “the great default” – we resort to some substitute that is of the flesh. A part of this is to seek signs and wonders. I think a lot of people who seek after signs and wonders think that doing so IS Christianity. They think Christianity IS signs and wonders. They think that Christianity is, “to feel good,” and so on — total deception. Yet, the Truth is right here in the Bible. If people would open their hearts, they would see the Truth.
A Serious Condition
Now let’s talk a little bit more about this statement of Jesus: “An evil and adulterous generation.” I think we are so used to some Bible words that we sometimes become numb to their impact. Notice the word that He uses here: EVIL. Can we see that if we continue to seek after God for signs, that it can become EVIL? It can come out of an evil motivation. I am not saying that everyone who does seek after signs is evil, but doing so can get to that place.
There are reasons why it is evil. First of all, and I have noted this, people who seek after outward signs are not seeking Jesus Christ for Himself. People are not losing their lives to find life in Christ -- which is equal to seeking first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. Rather, people who are constantly after God for signs and wonders usually want God to prove to them that He is really there, and that he is really faithful. But this would not be necessary if we knew Christ in an INWARD way. We would know that the very definition of Christianity is CHRIST IN US – we are one with Him. He is forever IN US. We would not need the outward proof of signs and wonders.
Isn’t this where Israel erred when God brought them out of Egypt? God worked one miracle for them after another and yet they would make statements such as, “Is the Lord really among us?” Or, “Lord, why have you brought us out into this wilderness to die? We could have died in Egypt!” He gave them sign after sign and it did nothing to change their hearts. As a result, they never grew to KNOW HIM.
Unfortunately, the Bible warns Christians against the same possible unbelief. But those warnings are always, “for somebody else,” aren’t they? I think someone ought to write a book someday, and its title should be, “Scriptures That Apply to Everybody Else But Me.” Sometimes I think this is the way we think. We read a rebuke in the Bible and think it couldn’t apply to us – but instead we focus on all the blessings we might be able to get from God -- because those “do apply,” to us!
God needs to wake us up; to open our eyes. An evil and adulterous generation seeks after signs and wonders because they have no faith and no revelation of Jesus Christ Who is in them – no inward realization of Christ, who, Himself, is the only true sign and true wonder.
God Does Speak Today
Isn’t it interesting how God works in the usual Christian life -- older people can testify to this if they have truly walked with the Lord -- that when you are first converted God may do some things to encourage you along the line of signs and wonders? He did with me -- nothing incredibly dramatic -- but there were some wonderful things that happened. Then after a while He withdraws that, doesn’t He? You are expected to walk by faith and to learn Christ -- to come into a knowledge of Him with whom you are one in spirit. If you are not knowledgeable of the fact that God often works this way, all you have to do is read the Bible.
Of course, you might wrongly think that when God begins to withdraw the working of signs and wonders, that God has withdrawn Himself. God Almighty will very often seem to be silent to you -- indifferent to you even in the midst of a great trial -- to the point where you might feel like you are going to go insane because God won’t speak. God will, as it were, seem to hide Himself from you -- at what you may call the hour of your greatest need – you may ask Him for a sign or a wonder and He won’t do it. Why does God do that? Well, it is His love. He is saying that He cannot allow us to become addicted -- which I think is a proper term -- to signs and wonders and soul power. He needs to break us of that to get us established upon the basis of faith in His Son, Jesus Christ.
I am remembering Hebrews 1:1-2, where it says that in times PAST God USED to speak to us through the prophets -- and of course we could lump into that signs and wonders. Yet it goes on to say there: “But in these last days, God is speaking to us in His Son.” “Speaking to us Son-wise,” is what it says in the Greek. In other words, the way God is speaking today -- or the, “language,” if I can use that term, in which God is speaking to us is Christ. God is speaking to us through an on-going inward revelation of His Son. How many know that if you are, “hearing,” this, then you are hearing Truth. You are hearing light -- and this will result in your being able to know God’s will, and in your being able to see and to know.
Certainly one of the ways in which people seek after signs and wonders is to constantly badger God for what we call today, “leadings of the spirit.” We want to be, “led by the spirit” -- so that we will be sure to, “do the right things, in the right way, at the right time,” – insuring that our lives will turn out right. That reasoning is the way it works out in our heads. Sure, some people do want to be led by the spirit because they want to please God. I am sure that there are some. But regardless, so many Christian people think that in order to walk with God in the spirit, Jesus has to talk to us in our head every five minutes. I’ve known people who think He does do that. They say, “The Lord told me this; the Lord told me that; the Lord led me here; I just feel in my spirit; I feel prompted to do this and that,” and on and on it goes. I am not discounting that as a possibility once in a while -- as the means by which God leads people. Of course not. God can and does do those kinds of things.
But this is NOT the primary way in which God leads us. It is not the primary way in which the Bible says Christians need to, “walk in the spirit.” No. The way we walk in the spirit is through the ongoing, inward, progressive revelation and unfolding of Jesus Christ.
So often we ask God to speak to us, “directions.” But God says, “I am speaking to you Christ.” We ask God to SPEAK to us His mind. The Bible says we are to HAVE His mind. How many see that there is a lot more to, “walking in the spirit,” or to, “being led by the spirit,” than just getting, “marching orders,” from God or to getting messages in our heads?
The problem with getting messages or directions from God -- if God did that on a regular basis -- is that it leads to a problem. The problem is that if we do not know Jesus Christ we would not know what God means those things. We would misinterpret them.
How many of us -- at times when God did speak to us -- made that mistake of misinterpretation? The Bible has those examples. Look at Abraham. God came down and said, ”I am going to give you a son and it will be by Sarah.” There was nothing unclear about that -- but as time passed, a total of thirteen years, and Sarah was too old to have a baby, Abraham started the wheels turning in his head. He reasoned, “Well, I believe God. He wouldn’t lie to me -- but I must have misunderstood God. He didn’t mean Sarah. He meant by extension, Sarah’s hand-maiden.” And so, Abraham said to himself, “In our society, the hand-maiden is kind of equal to the woman to whom she belongs. So if I go into Hagar and she has a baby, well, then it is sort of like Sarah having it by proxy.”
Abraham reasoned that way -- but God had not been unclear to him. He did not know God well enough at that point. Despite his faith, he made that mistake. The disciples also did that all through the ministry of Jesus. He spoke to them on one level, but they understood it on a physical level. This is a common mistake that people make. I have done that in my life, where God has spoken something to me, and I have misinterpreted it according to my own desires, according to my own wants, hopes, or dreams in life, and it ended up a disaster. You get all upset and you want to blame God. Then finally, you gather yourself and realize, “You know, God was faithful to me, but I just did not hear Him. I was taking His Word the way I wanted to.”
Everything God says, even if He does give a word, has to be understood in the light of the fact that God is today speaking to us in HIS SON. And if this is true -- and we are coming into an inward realization of Jesus Christ -- we are not going to need for God to give us, “marching orders,” like we did before. We are not going to need for God to give us signs and wonders. We will know God’s will instinctively -- because we know Jesus Christ.
Believe me, I understand the difficulties and challenges people have with these things -- and so do I. The important thing to understand, however, is that I am not talking about some kind of a complicated, “how-to.” I am not saying that God is going to reveal to you and me, a “how-to” – a formula as to how to know what is of Him versus how to know what is of yourself. No, He is not going to do that. There is no technique here; no formula; no how-to. Rather, you are going to know if you know Jesus.
All discernment is the by-product of knowing Jesus Christ -- who dwells in you. He is the Truth -- He is the Light -- isn’t He? Know Him and you will know what is OF Him and what is not. If you really do need God to speak to you, He will do that because He is your Father. But more and more, life will become a knowledge of Jesus Christ -- and less and less of dramatic words, and leadings, and signs and wonders.
Now, I am not discounting the place of signs and wonders in the Christian church. But if you read the Bible, especially as it pertains to the church in general, signs and wonders are more for unbelievers and for the very immature in Christ. In fact, in 1 Corinthians 14, where Paul talks about the gift of tongues, he says outright in that chapter that, “tongues are for unbelievers.” But prophecy -- and what is really meant by that is preaching and teaching -- is for believers. This is a good example right there. So, God may give those kinds of things to get the attention of an unbeliever -- but ultimately it is all unto the end that we all come to an inward realization and relationship with the Person, Jesus Christ -- because this is what Christianity is, and it is what God is all about.
The Possibility of Deception
Now, a couple more points before I come to the end of this message. First, I want to turn to 2 Corinthians 11, where Paul is speaking of false teachers. He is saying, in verse 13, “For these are false apostles, deceitful workers transforming themselves into apostles of Christ.” So, in other words, these are people who have not received from above any kind of calling -- but are self-appointed apostles and prophets and pastors and teachers. They have transformed THEMSELVES into these things. He goes on to say, “And no marvel, for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.”
This is a frightening statement by the apostle Paul. Think about this. An angel is a messenger -- and light is what? It is that which illuminates, and that which brings clarity. It is that which exposes – the light of God is the Truth of God that will set us free. So, an angel of light, who is really Satan -- for the purposes of deceiving people -- is going to bring that which looks like light, feels like light, acts like light, smells like light, tastes like light, has certain ramifications of light -- and the people who are under this deception will say, “I have been set free.”
Well, they haven’t been and have actually taken another step into darkness. Like I always say, people who are deceived and think that they have been set free, feel that way because they have gotten what THEY wanted. How many understand that once you get what you want, all the conflict ceases, and you will say that you have peace. But it’s the peace of the world -- and not the peace of God. Yet you will feel like you are at peace because there is no conflict anymore. You have gotten your way. You have won out. If you are looking for answers and something comes along that suits you, and seems to be the solution, you may throw up your hands and say, “Hallelujah I’m free!” But you are not. You are deceived -- and because you are deceived -- you are at one with the principle that binds you. You might even rejoice.
There are people by the millions right now who raise their hands every week in church with tears rolling down their cheeks, singing hymns and praising God, who are absolutely deceived. They are walking in a way that is contrary to the truth. Jesus said, in Matthew 6:22, “Beware lest the light that is in you” -- and He is referring to the light that you THINK you have – “beware lest it actually be darkness.” This is deception. And so much of it today is being cemented in people though signs and wonders that are purported to be of God.
Now, Jesus, in that same Matthew 6 passage, told us what is the protection against deception; against thinking you have light but are actually in darkness. He said, “Keep your eye single to the Lord.” What does that mean? It means to tell God to do whatever it takes to get His will and glory in your life. It means that you will not settle for anything less than God’s highest for His glory -- and of course, for your benefit. Keep your eye single to the Lord -- and your whole body; your whole life -- will be filled with light. This is Truth. And it is the counter to darkness and deception. So, you want to keep out of deception? Then, unconditionally give yourself to Jesus Christ. Lose your life. Funny how much comes back to that. It’s funny how all roads lead back to that. Of course -- because all roads lead to Christ.
We need to take these warnings and these words of Jesus Christ seriously. Have we forgotten the scriptures that have told us that the time is going to come when the deception of the enemy will be so convincing that even the elect -- even those who know Christ -- if possible, could be deceived. Remember, it said, “if possible.” In reality, it isn’t possible if we stay close to Christ. But anyone can be deceived if they don’t.
Also, in the Book of Revelation, it says that there will come a day when the enemy will work through people, and fire will be called down from heaven in the sight of people. Now, you are seeing that kind of thing going on right now. It may not be literal fire coming down from heaven, but you are seeing in churches people who are claiming all kinds of miracles. Am I saying that they are all lies and all fake? I think most of them are -- but I think some of them could be real – although NOT of God. Soul power in the psychic realm is a powerful thing. It can substitute for the Spirit of God and it can make people think that God is present. It is a sign and wonder.
Can we see another reason why it is dangerous to seek after signs and wonders? It is dangerous because the enemy is able to produce works -- to prophesy signs and wonders. If you are seeking after those things and the enemy is in them, you are going to be led, through those signs and wonders, into falsehood and darkness.
Deuteronomy 13 speaks exactly to this point. Verse 1: “If there arise among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and they give you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or wonder COME TO PASS...” Now, note: This is not a situation where the sign or the wonder or the prophecy fails. No. It really does come to pass.
But read on: “The sign or the wonder that the prophet spoke comes to pass -- BUT if they say to you, ‘Let us go up to other gods which you have not known, and let us serve them,’ then you shall not hearken unto the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God proves you.” In other words, God is allowing this that we may ask Him; turn to him -- and come into a greater knowledge of Christ in rejecting it. He is proving whether you love the Lord your God with all of your heart.
Now, what we are reading here shows that it is entirely possible for a FALSE prophet to make TRUE predictions. That may seem strange. How could he be a false prophet then? Well, the earmark of a false prophet is not that his predictions never come true. No. The earmark is that they use those predictions -- true or false -- to lead people away from Jesus Christ to another Jesus. Can we see that? I could work all kinds of miracles and if Satan was behind me those miracles could be real. I could prophesy and those prophecies could come to pass. But if I am using those things to gain a following, or to steer you in a direction that is other than a relationship with Jesus Christ, then this is the reason why I am a false prophet or a false teacher.
Again, if the true evidence of God is Christ within us, then all the real signs and wonders in the outward will not mean a thing -- unless they center you in the true evidence -- which is Christ within. Many times in this day and age, they do not. People are getting more and more into the occult and into the psychic realm, thinking that it is the Holy Spirit. Yet the warnings are here, all through scripture.
I have to finish this for today, but it is sufficient to say that what God wants to do in the lives of His people -- once we are in Jesus Christ -- is to bring us into an inward realization of Christ. If He can do this, then we will be living in and out from Jesus Christ, who is the evidence of God. We will be one with, and living in and out from, the very Son of God -- Who said, “My sign will be my resurrection, physically from out of the tomb, but also my resurrection in and with my people who accept Me.”
CHRIST IN US is the sign and the evidence of God. But if we are seeking other signs, we can get into deep trouble. We dare not take these warnings of Jesus Christ lightly.
Back to the Goodnews