Monday, May 13, 2013

Miraculously Blinded Church


Many state emphatically or imply succinctly that a church is dead if God fails to manifest Himself through ‘signs and wonders.’ Further variations to this statement are: “God is not present in a church where there aren’t any ‘signs and wonders,’” “the Spirit’s anointing is missing in this church,” or even “signs and wonders are needed in this church.” Such bewildering utterances! These statements do not implicate God for failing to manifest, but they placate God and implicate man. They accuse the faith and/or holiness of man and his church and deem him/her spiritually inadequate. Are these statements competent, and do they possess comprehensive biblical wisdom? Is God present in a church devoid of signs and wonders? Is the church where God manifests in ‘signs and wonders’ superior to the church devoid of such manifestations?   

Here is a quick understanding of ‘signs and wonders.’ Mark 16: 17-18 states, “And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well. (NIV)  “Sign” indicates God’s activity and power in reference to miracles. “Wonder” is an event that astonishes people. “Miracles” are a display of great divine power. ‘Signs and wonders’ is often used interchangeably with ‘miracles.’1

It’s a fact that miracles have their place etched in the local church. But what’s puzzling is when Christians claim that miracles are the only evidence for God’s presence in the local church. Some accentuate a church or a person with the gift of miraculous powers as superior or holier. Such a claim stem from the speaker’s arrogance and it further depicts his exceedingly constricted biblical knowledge! (Let’s not even consider those who glorify the agents of signs and wonders more than the source HIMSELF!)
        
    Please observe the table below which features the spiritual gifts:
SPIRITUAL GIFTS
ROMANS 12: 6-8
1 CORINTHIANS 12: 7-11, 28-30
(SPECIAL ABILITIES)
EPHESIANS 4: 11
1 PETER 4: 11
Prophecy
Wisdom
Apostles
Speaking
Service
Knowledge
Prophets
Service
Teaching
Faith
Evangelists
BASIC FUNCTIONS PERFORMED IN THE LOCAL CHURCH
Encouragement
Healing
Pastors
Giving
Miraculous Powers
Teachers
Leadership
Prophecy
OFFICES OF THE CHURCH OR PERSONS WHO ARE GOD’S GIFT TO THE LOCAL CHURCH.
Acts of Mercy
Discernment (distinguishing of spirits)
BASIC FUNCTIONS PERFORMED IN THE LOCAL CHURCH
Tongues (various kinds of)
Interpretation of tongues
1 CORINTHIANS 12: 28-30
Apostles
Prophets
Teachers
Workers of Miracles
Gifts of healing
Helping others
Administration
Tongues (various kinds of)

            Spiritual gifts are gracious gifts of God for the unity of church, equipping the saints for works of God’s service thus leading to the growth of the church. Miracles are not the only, but one among the many gifts God has given HIS people (1 Corinthians 12: 14-21). All gifts are not equally conspicuous; but equally important (1 Corinthians 12: 22-26). The Holy Spirit distributes these gifts to those HE wills (1 Corinthians 12: 11).

Miracles should build up the church, not destroy her. If a member has a gift of miracles, he should be encouraged by the church to use this gift. But if the church has no member with the gift of miracles, then the church will surely have other spiritual gifts (Romans 12: 6a).

 ‘Love,’ the supreme ethic, is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, which is available to everyone in the church. The church should use this ‘gift’ in abundance. 1 Corinthians 13 is termed as the chapter of love. But Paul’s emphasis on love is in the context of spiritual gifts. Paul compels the church to be united amidst the existence of varied spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:12 – 13:13). Love, as the greatest gifts, should be used to accommodate and encourage the diverse spiritual gifts. But when statements of arrogance are uttered, Christ is dethroned and Satan is exalted in the church of Jesus Christ!

While answering a question pertaining to miracles at Georgia Tech University, Dr. Ravi Zacharias said, “we live dangerously when we think we can only depend on HIS activity because of the miraculous that is invading our lives and I think one of the things church does unwisely is always banking on another miracle, that is a kind of an insatiable desire. The miracle of a life transformed is a miracle that takes place everyday somewhere in this world. That is the greatest miracle of all, then there is the miracle of conquering over the suffering and the great miracle where people can live in trust knowing God even though the temporary circumstance do not seem to have HIS presence that manifests, but they conquer that. I think there are marvelous stories if you read what happened in Romania and in China…” (emphasis mine). He also recollected the miracle in Russia where the nation is being spiritually transformed.

Ravi’s thrust is vivid and profound. We unashamedly desire the so-called eminent miracles of healing and exorcism, but shamefully ignore the supreme miracles of life born-again, life well lived by conquering suffering, and life lived victoriously amidst the temporary silence of God (cf. Hebrews 11: 1). This is a sad reality in the church of Jesus Christ.

Miracles serve at least three purposes: to glorify God (to credit the miracles to God and not man - a mere channel), to establish the supernatural basis of revelation, and to meet the human needs as a measure of compassion for the needy and hurting people who approach God.2 Fracturing the church is not among the purposes of miracles.

The wind blows where it pleases. God cannot be boxed on account of miracles. Leaders of churches should stop playing spiritual games with people by using God or HIS people as their pawns.

The Bible mandates us to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). This is a matter of HIM possessing more of our lives. We should desire to give the Spirit a complete control of our lives. Since this is an ongoing process, our lives will manifest whatever gift God sovereignly endows us with. It’s also abundantly clear that no one gift is for all Christians, nor is any gift more significant than others.3

Is God present in a church devoid of miracles or signs and wonders? The answer is YES, for God has bestowed the church with other spiritual gifts. Is the church where God manifests through ‘signs and wonders’ superior to the one without them? The answer is NO, for all gifts are equally significant.

I have scratched the surface here, and volumes have been written elsewhere. Please enlighten me if you disagree. Amen.

References:

1 Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p356.   
2  Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, p434.
3 Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, p896-97.

9 comments:

Sam Carr said...

I think a lot of people would heartily agree with you Raja! You can carry this even further; it is not only in church buildings that we should look to the Lord's presence. He is always present with us, saving us, and leading us. There is a tendency to also judge externally from the lives people lead and things that happen to them - if someone loses a job, gets sick, or whatever, then "God is not present in that person's life" and they need to repent etc. So, it is not only the presence of miracles (which life is full of if we have eyes to see) but a judgement of individuals and the presence or absence of 'blessings' like wealth, honor, fame...

Sarah Bhuyan said...


Thank you Raj for the balanced exposition of biblical truths.
I wonder and am puzzled as to how people go on a tangent on these miracles. It does happen at times in a visible specatacular manner. But demanding that it has to happen always is not biblical.

In John's gospel, miracles are described as ' signs'. I read an interesting piece. Imagine this : If Raj is coming to Sarah's home, you will see a 'sign board saying way to sarah's home.' But once you are in my home, if you keep thinking about that sign board,and start re-visit the sign board, there is something wrong. You came to meet Sarah not to see the sign board. In Ravi's words, 'if you depend only on HIS activity' we make a huge mistake. We forget the SOURCE.
Why do people depend on these sign boards and make the SOURCE lesser ? Another thing from Ravi , " insatiabale desire to have another miracles". The meaning of 'lust' is the desire to have something immediately.

After doing all those miracles, Jesus looked at Jerusalem and other areas and lamented that they have not accepted him. Even in OT, miracles did not create a long standing memory or impact in the minds of people.

I always anticipate great things from God,. I have learned that an absence of a visible miracle is also a great thing
because that is the way God planned it.

Feeding in to peoples ears what they like to hear is the strategy of the day.

Sarah


Benjamin Durairaj said...

I completely agree with you....i still remember during my initial days when i became a born again christian i used to ask these same questions. A few years back i was having a conversation about this with my mum and after she explained it i realized how wrong i was to thing the way i did. Sometimes we often neglect God's blessing that is right in front of us and go in search of something that is not meant for us. Church must not be judged by man but buy God alone. But certain elements in the church forces us to judge the church :(

Raj Richard said...

@ Sam Carr: You are right, Anna. I am also sure lots of people would like I am heretic or to the effect. But I am here to state what I understand from the Bible, period. Oh, the church building, has some fantastic learnings for me. I will deal that later in another forum. I agree with all that you have said.

@ Sarah: People long for sensationalism, Sarah. Miracles offers that to those longing hearts. All I wonder is why those hearts are not sensationalized by God's presence!! Thank you for your valuable thoughts, Sarah :)

@ Benji: We live in a evil world, Benji :) But we will live by HIS grace and power. Take care and thanks for sharing your experience and thoughts. Much valid. :)

Amanda Bailey said...

What do we call a miracle or wonder. Everyday in the Antartica penguins perform the most amazing feats to continue their species; a baby is born; a young child asks God to heal her friend at school; someone, after months of cancer treatment is declared cancer free; are these not miracles and wonders. God is everywhere; God is huge; we cannot limit Him to anything or in any way. How dare we say we know when God is present and when He is not. We don't choose, He does!

Robby said...

Well said Raj, I've been through struggles on this issue. There is a tendency to associate the power and presence of the God to the 'spectacular' external events while a lot of things pertaining to the internal gets ignored. The Church most often becomes a book judged by the cover sadly. Bless you Raj!! Keep going! Love reading your blog!!

Raj Richard said...

You are so right, Amanda. So right!

I agree with you, Robby. Judged by the cover it is! Thank you for your generous comments.

God bless U both.

Jeffrey JD said...

Pastor, thanks a lot for this insight, I personally beleive that alot of us Christian need to actually understand that GOD doesn't work as per our denominations or as to what Church we belong.
Infact, with things like these we are becoming stumbling blocks for non beleivers to become Christians.
The LORD in HIS time & as per HIS will does miracle, which men cannot fathom.

A month back my wife was coughing severly and vomiting out blood, when we did some test, the docs confirmed it was TB, but deep down in my heart I did not believ & also opposed the doc.
Being a Christian doc, she said don't waste time but startoff with TB medications, my wife also started to accept the docs advice. The doc insited that only medicines can help her and there is no chance of cure for TB.
I fumed at the doc saying that Our GOD is a GOD of miracles and even if he didn't do anything still I wouldn't accept your report
Last week after a series of blood test & CT scans, visited yet another Christian doc who is a specialist in these cases. He went through all the reports from the begining and said that the earlier reports hinted on TB but the recent reports there is no traces of any. He then insisted for all the procedures to be redone from the begining & confirmed that this is a work of GOD ALMIGHTY.

My wife is still in a state of confusion as to how I didn't beleive in the report?

I just read her the verse, My thoughts are not your thoughts, My thoughts are higher than yours

Even if GOD had not changed the report I still beleive that HE is alive and HE has a purpose in all situations.

As JESUS said, GOD does not live in building made of men but in our hearts. This is what we need to beleive and keep our hearts clean

The rest GOD will do in HIS time

GOD bless, thanks a lot for giving me this opportunity for sharing

Raj Richard said...

I agree with you, Jeffrey. Miracles do happen in our lives, and we cannot rule it out totally. I praise God for your wife's recovery. Yesterday, I experienced a miracle in my life too. But I cant say that I am so precious in God's sight because of the miracles that hap'nd. All I can say that I am unworthy and God is gracious.

Very true, God's thoughts are not our thoughts. HE cannot be boxed. Miracles happen. May God give us the heart to be humble amidst HIS miraculous presence.

God bless you, brother :)Thanks so much for your testimony.