The issue of signs and wonders in the Church is like Goldilocks looking for porridge in the Three Bears cottage: it’s hard to find something that is neither too hot nor too cold. The body of Christ seems to gather at the extremes of denial and indifference or obsession and mania on this subject. Neither accurately represents Jesus’ kingdom.
It’s very easy to hype up a crowd, especially young people, on the topic of signs and wonders. Often nested within the hype, is a sort of spiritually adolescent pride (spoken or unspoken). Young believers are often misled and taught by older generation leaders (sometimes looking for and needing sycophant followers) into thinking themselves to be a “new breed,” “the destiny generation,” “the Joshua generation,” “the recovery generation,” “the world changing generation” and other such categories. These labels are as fertile soil for mind-numbing elitism as a petri dish and agar plate are for bacterial growth. It’s always easy to rally a crowd to a cause (signs, wonders, revival, prayer, unity, holiness, etc., . . . any cause). There’s no crowd at the Cross. It’s not such a popular place. There’s lots of room. World changing destiny is bound up in an army of living sacrifices who occasionally perform wonders, not an army of wonder workers who occasionally behave like Jesus.
If the world is going to see the incarnational reality of the life of Jesus on the earth, it will take more than a generation of “new breed” leaders and believers (who will inevitably have the same strengths and weaknesses as 2,000 years of “old breed” leaders and believers!) It took three generations of “believers” together to bring an incarnational change into the earth originally. It will take three generations in loving participation and union one with another to bring the same sort of cosmic shift into the earth today.
Generation 1: Elizabeth and Zachariah
Generation 2: Mary and Joseph
Generation 3: John and Jesus in the womb.
These three generations had to bring their respective impossibilities together to bring forth a new order in the earth.
We inherit together, or not at all. Alone, a “new breed” generation that is fixated on producing signs and wonders will not accomplish God’s purposes in the earth. The kingdom increases by death and resurrection, not by signs and wonders (John 12:22-24). Signs and wonders accompany the manifestation of the kingdom, but they are not the impelling life of the the ever increasing kingdom.
The Book of Acts covers approximately 30 years. It is like a high-light reel. Acts refers to many signs and miracles being done, but not all are recorded. Of those recorded there are approximately 15 supernatural events (tongues, spirit baptism, etc.) within those 30 years. That’s only one manifestation every two years on average! There are approximately six miracles of healings/resurrection recorded. That’s one every five years on average! A value system that puts pressure on people to pump out miracles 3 services a week misrepresents the Scripture, Jesus’ heart, plans, and purposes.
George Santayana said that those who do not study history are doomed to repeat it. There is nothing new under the sun. Those who think they are somehow unique for coming into an understanding and experience of some element of truth, that apparently 2,000 years of believers who preceded them were too stupid or not spiritual enough to discover, must be very, very careful in their expression and administration of the truth they think they have discovered or “restored.” The likelihood is, they are just late to the party. To those who believe the emphasis of signs and wonders is appropriate or a recovery of “lost” truth, I offer here some wisdom from the 17th century:
I cannot pretend to form any opinion as to your sincerity or to judge of the things you profess to experience. Generally speaking, I should fear that reading about extraordinary spiritual matters tends to affect weak imaginations to excess. Moreover, self-love easily flatters itself that it has attained the altitudes which it has admired in books. It seems to me that the only course in such a case is to take no notice of such things. I advise you never to dwell voluntarily on such extraordinary experiences. This is the real way of discovering how much self-conceit has to do with these supposed gifts. Nothing tends so much to pique self-conceit and bring illusions to light, as a simple direction to set aside the marvelous, and to require a person who aspires to the marvelous to act as though nothing of the sort existed. Without such a test, I do not think a person can be proved thoroughly, and without it I do not think due caution has been taken against illusion.
The blessed John of the Cross advises souls to look beyond such light, and to abide in the twilight of simple faith. If the gifts be real, such detachment will not hinder them from leaving their marks upon the soul, if not, such uncompromising faith will be a sure guarantee against illusion. Moreover, such a line will not keep a soul back from God’s true leadings, for there is no opposition. It can only vex self-conceit, which finds a hidden complacency in such unusual gifts; and that self-conceit is the very thing which needs pruning. Or even if such gifts are unquestionably real and good, it is most important to learn detachment from them, and to live in simple faith. However excellent the gifts may be, detachment from them is better still. “And yet I show you a more excellent way . . .” the way of faith and love; not clinging either to sight, feeling, or taste, only to obedience to the Beloved One. Such a way is simple, real, straightforward, free from the snares of pride.
Archbishop Francois Fenelon, 1651-1715.
Copyright 2011 Dr. Stephen R. Crosby www.drstevecrosby.wordpress.com. Permission to copy, forward, or distribute this article is granted as long as this copyright byline is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.