RENEWAL JOURNAL 5:
SIGNS AND WONDERS
Renewal Blessings, Reflections from Australia
Comment on books by John White, John Wimber, Charles Kraft, and on a World Vision Video/DVD
CONFIRMING THE WORD WITH SIGNS FOLLOWING (MARK 16:20)
Signs and wonders are controversial. They were in Scripture. They are still.
The early church prayed earnestly for signs and wonders (Acts 4:29-31). It was extremely controversial. But the kingdom of God came in power and the church grew rapidly with thousands added to the faith, amid persecution. That now happens for millions of Christians today.
Some people argue that signs and wonders ceased with the passing of the apostles. However, Scripture and church history indicate the opposite (John 14:12; Matthew 28:20). The kingdom of God is not a matter of words but of power – the power of God. Signs of the kingdom and wonders declaring the reign of God break in upon us still.
We see this most powerfully in Jesus’ life and ministry. He proclaimed and demonstrated the rule of God in everything – in people’s lives, over demonic powers, in creation and history. It was true in the early church. It continues to be true.
The cross is the power of God for salvation to all who believe. We can have a diminished view of the cross of Christ and the incredible salvation wrought by Jesus on the cross. It involves far more than providing a personal entry to heaven for individual believers. Our concern with personal salvation can obscure for us the immense power and glory of God revealed in Jesus’ total and awesome victory on the cross. In Jesus’ death and resurrection the power of evil was defeated forever. The Lord reigns. All the powers are subject to Jesus Christ the Lord (Colossians 1:20; Philippians 2:11).
Signs of God’s kingly rule testify to Jesus’ triumph. God reigns. We don’t initiate signs and wonders. We can’t. But we can obey God. We can repent (especially of our unbelief) and believe. We can do what Jesus commanded all his followers to do in his name and authority. Then, as in the early church, the gospel is proclaimed with signs following.
We live in a time in history when millions of Christians are learning that again, especially as the Spirit of God renews life and faith in us. We have not always believed or obeyed God’s word to us. We can rationalise our sin of unbelief and disobedience, calling it theological wisdom. Yet, Jesus, who alone is the truth, confronts and unnerves us with his awesome claims and authority. Those who found Jesus in Gethsemane fall backwards at his word. Soldiers at his resurrection shake in fear and collapse as dead. Saul is blinded by the glory of the Lord and falls to the ground overwhelmed. John falls at the feet of his Lord as though dead (Revelation 1:17).
No church tradition nor theological position can fully express the awesome reign of God. We still see and know only partially (1 Corinthians 13:12). For example, the Lord has one church – his. We often see the church mainly in cultural, doctrinal and denominational terms. These fall far short of the glory of God revealed in his people, the church. So we all need to walk humbly with our God as we proclaim God’s reign and live in his kingdom.
Jesus’ life demonstrated the reign of God fully. In our lives we merely glimpse it. However, as we allow the Spirit of God who anointed Jesus to also anoint us, we continue to glimpse even more of the signs and wonders of God’s presence and power among us.
This issue of the Renewal Journal examines some recent blessings which been very controversial. Part of our difficulty is that God works in fallible people through fallible people – including you and me. Often our behaviour involves very human reactions to signs of God’s reign and wonders of his power breaking in upon us. Furthermore, our words and actions are affected by many influences – God’s Spirit and other spirits, our personalities, our culture, our relationships. Normal expressions of joy and worship in Latin America may be regarded as wildly excessive in northern Europe. Our explanations are inadequate and incomplete. Who can express the inexpressible? God’s thoughts and ways are far beyond ours (Isaiah 55:8).
Reactions to God’s action are mixed. God moved powerfully in the Azusa Street Apostolic Faith Mission in 1906. That was controversial. Loud noise, tongues, fainting, and falling on the floor were common. Yet amid the varied reactions, it ignited pentecostal fire around the world. Gamaliel suggests we leave the jury out for a while on such matters lest we fight against God (Acts 5:39).
Often visitations of God’s Spirit stir up varied reactions. Then, later we learn to incorporate these new developments effectively and powerfully in our work and witness. Remember the youthful zeal of the Jesus People, the rediscovery of spiritual gifts, the fresh insights of inner healing, the new awareness of deliverance, the leaps of faith to release millions of dollars and thousands of people for mission in the power of the Spirit?
Fortunately we have Scripture as our guide – not just our interpretations of Scripture. Our interpretations often include unbiblical rationalising which may deny the powerful presence of God’s Spirit among us. Many of the articles in this issue of the Journal examine our reaction to God’s action.
Brian Hathaway emphasises the importance of words, signs and deeds in proclaming and demonstrating the gosel. Derek Prince reflects on the overwhelming impact of God’s Spirit. John Wimber gives guidelines for coping with various phenomena. People involved in recent events in England and Australia offer their perspective. Jerry Steingard presents observations from Scripture, church history and current ministries. Bart Doornweerd tells how he learned to proclaim God’s word with signs following. Stephen Bryar addresses charismatic issues in his tradition.
May we repent of our unbelief, believe and proclaim God’s word in the power of the Spirit with signs following, and see the kingdom of God break in upon us more fully. May God grant an impact of his Spirit with thousands converted, filled with the Spirit, and living for the glory of God as Jesus our Lord is honoured and glorified among us all.
© Renewal Journal #5: Signs and Wonders, 1995, 2nd edition 2011
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