Is God Speaking or Giving "Signs" in the Here and Now?
PART 3 of the series on The Supernatural in the Church
by Terry L. Craig
copyright © 2008 & 2012
A spiritual “manifestation,” be it prophecy or a spiritual gift or or the account of of an angelic visit can cause division, anger, grief, fear, or even confusion. Should these negative reactions be considered proof that the manifestation isn't from the Lord?
Before you answer, be reminded of the upheaval that the appearance of Jesus Christ caused (and is still causing!) on this planet. Remember that many of the established religious teachers and authority figures felt so threatened by Jesus that they would do anything to keep their followers away from Him. They didn't see the things Jesus did as Scriptural! Be reminded that the final provocation for these leaders happened when Jesus called Lazarus, a man who'd been dead for four days, out of the grave. They didn't say, "OH look at that!!! Jesus raised someone from the dead! WOW! He MUST be the Messiah!" No. They said, "If He keeps doing things like this, we'll lose our congregations! We must kill Him!" Talk about division, anger, and fear. But the fact that people were angry and afraid didn't alter the reality that God came to them, called to them, and did many mighty works.
Even after Jesus' resurrection, an eye witness account of this could lead to the death of the one who gave it. Today, in a "free" country like America, saying you've accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior can cause those around you to be angry, grieved, and confused. In many other countries it can still earn you a prison sentence, the loss of all you own, the disgust of your family, torture, and maybe death. Following Jesus can bring division and strife -- even in your own household. So things like division, confusion, anger . . . cannot be how we determine what is of the Lord and what is not.
WEIGHING THE MESSENGER, THE MESSAGE, AND THE SOURCE
One means people use to discern if the Lord is at work is to look at the messenger. It is wise to know those who labor among us, to know those we call to minister with us and to look at their fruit, but in our mobile, mega-church, YouTube, internet society how often is this really possible? How often can we honestly say we know another person? How many Christian leaders have shocked us when their secret behaviors are finally exposed? There will be more on the topic of messengers in the next article. For now, suffice to say it has become extremely difficult to truly KNOW those who claim to preach and teach in the name of the Lord.
Yet God's word says that even when we think we can trust the messenger, or even when someone works signs and wonders among us, we are still called to test the message—because in doing so, we get our biggest clues as to its source and this should be of utmost interest to us.
Always try to keep in mind that manifestations of power aren't given for our amusement, astonishment, or to merely assist us in some material way. Their purpose is to get us to accept a message and to trust the source of it. If the message doesn't point you to Jesus, if it speaks of a different gospel -- then all the signs and words are worthless.
A pickpocket will try to occupy your eyes and your thoughts with a distraction so you don't see what he is really doing. A con man will disarm your discernment so he can get what he wants from you -- often with your assistance! So it is with some of those who claim to work supernatural wonders.
The following is a quote from Paul's letter to the church at Galatia where some were being conned by men who claimed angelic visitations. Once the claim of angelic visitations got the attention of people in the church, these men started preaching a different Gospel (message) which would take people away from the simple grace offered by Jesus Christ and have them performing works in order to be holy and in right standing with God. Paul had some strong words about this. The following quote is from The Amplified Version of the Bible. (In this translation, key words and phrases are further clarified in brackets or defined in parentheses in order to clarify meaning.)
"I am surprised and astonished that you are so quickly turning renegade and deserting Him Who invited and called you by the grace (unmerited favor) of Christ (the Messiah) [and that you are transferring your allegiance] to a different [even an opposition] gospel. Not that there is [or could be] any other [genuine Gospel], but there are [obviously] some who are troubling and disturbing and bewildering you with a different kind of teaching which they offer as a gospel] and want to pervert and distort the Gospel of Christ (the Messiah) [into something which it absolutely is not]. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to and different from that which we preached to you, let him be accursed (anathema, devoted to destruction, doomed to eternal punishment)!" [Galatians 1:6-9 TAB]
Paul told them that the problem (and the revealing factor in their case) was the message. The claim of angelic visitation was to get the people to accept a false message. Paul said that to accept the false message was to desert God and the gospel!
Even though we are called to test the message, many Christians are so distracted by the messenger or his signs they don't accurately weigh what they are hearing. Some race to embrace spiritual "fads" that eventually turn out to be false. When the trail dead ends, those who took it look foolish. Others will avoid fads but not because of discernment. They stay back because they fear looking foolish. To them I would say being a captive of fear is no better than being fooled by a fad.
Each of us must decide if we believe that Almighty God is capable of speaking to us and displaying His power in the here and now. If so, we must then decide if we want a life open to what He wants or a life controlled by human desires and fears (including those of leaders). The choices we make will influence our lives, the lives of our families, our fellowships, and even the world around us. We will each be called to give an account for those choices when we stand before the Lord. (As in the parable of the talents given in Matthew 25:14-30).
The essence of Christianity is that the believer has become the temple of the living God -- "Christ in you." If Christians think they can only be guided by some external moral compass, then they have failed to fully recognize Who purchased them, Who set them free, and Who now dwells in them.
We aren't called to live in fear of spiritual manifestations. Neither are we called to live in search of spiritual manifestations. When they come, we are to test the message that inevitably comes with them.
1 Thessalonians 5:19-22
"Do not put out the Spirit's fire;
do not treat prophecies with contempt.
Hold on to the good.
Avoid every kind of evil." [NIV]
But before we address what constitutes testing, there is a need to discuss a problem so many people have in deciding WHOM the Lord can use to manifest His power.
copyright © 2008 & 2012 Terry L. Craig
This has been Part 3 of the series Prophecies, Dreams, Visions, and Angels?
Previous parts of the series:
Other articles that you might find of interest are:
Other articles that you might find of interest are:
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copyright ©2008 & 2012 Terry L. Craig
Scriptures marked NIV are taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION® (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Scriptures marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission." (www.Lockman.org)
Terry L. Craig is a follower of Christ, a Bible nerd, and a comparative thinker who likes to engage people and get them thinking about why they believe what they believe. She's an author, an indie publisher, and occasional speaker.
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