Worshipping Miracles or the God of Miracles?
FOREWORD BY CHRISTOPHER JOHNSON
There is a growing alarm among many, including my own heart, concerning the over-emphasis in these days on the place of the miraculous, and signs and wonders in the Church. As God is increasing the displays of His own power in the earth in these latter days, directly preceding the Coming of the Lord Jesus, it is important that we hold these manifestations of His Spirit in proper perspective. Jesus Christ Himself is “the Word of Life” (1John 1:1), “the Power of God and the Wisdom of God” (1Cor. 1:24), and “the Gospel of His Death, Burial and Resurrection” is also “the power of God” to save and transform humanity (1Cor. 15:3-4; Romans 1:16). In fact, Paul is very clear in stating, “There is only Christ, and He is Everything” (Col. 3:11—Jerusalem Bible).
The above-stated concern arises out of the jealousy to see nothing and no one, no matter how “spiritual” it/he may appear to be, to ever be allowed to eclipse the Glorious Person of Jesus Christ Himself. He has been given “Preeminence in all things” (Col. 1:18) by the Father Himself, in being the Head of His Body/Church/Bride, the Firstborn Son in the Household of God the Father, and in being both the Foundation and Cornerstone of the House/Temple/Dwelling Place of God the Spirit. He alone is worthy and deserving of our unswerving devotion, because He is the Father’s own “Everything,” and because He is “the Son of His love” (Col. 1:13—Amp.). Anything that obscures Him or eclipses Him from our view, or captures the devotion of our hearts, needs to be addressed and corrected, even as Paul himself discusses in 2Corinthians 11:1-15.
The current issue is not as to whether God Himself is behind the genuine manifestations of His power in our day. That which is genuine is by nature also “true, authentic and real.” The issue is with the hearts of true believers running after “miracles, signs and wonders,” and those who perform them, and getting distracted so that “your minds should be led astray (corrupted by seduction) away from your single-hearted devotion and pure sincerity toward Christ.” Anything that encroaches on our devotion to Him should be viewed as “the deceptive, seducing, trickery and craftiness of the serpent” (2Cor. 11:2-3). If he is allowed to go undetected in his subtle seductions, even in “spiritual things,” then he will eventually take full advantage of every glance and gaze taken off of the beauty of Jesus Himself, and he will corrupt our hearts.
In the N.T., while it is clear that the supernatural realm of all of the spiritual gifts was both normal and anticipated among the churches whenever they gathered together (1Cor. 12-14; 1Peter 4:10-11), it is also clear that miracles, signs and wonders, had a very special place among the world of unbelievers when the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the remission of sins was being preached. These (miracles and gifts) served at times as a means to the end of preaching and proclaiming Christ, and at other times they served as confirmation to the Message, Who was Christ Himself. Hebrews 2:3-4 states, “How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard (the Twelve), God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.” These manifestations of the Spirit of God became a tool of evangelism among the lost, even as they are today. The miracles, signs, wonders, and gifts were not ends in themselves. They were tools in the hands of God and His servants to preach Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world. And the rejoicing in heaven itself and among the saints was not in the miracles that were performed, but in the eternal salvation of souls through the Blood of the Lamb.
Furthermore, when the churches were gathered together as local expressions of the Body of Christ, we are instructed, “to earnestly desire the greater gifts,” and “to pursue love, but earnestly desire spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy” (1Cor. 12:31; 14:1). Of all the “spiritual gifts” to be desired, prophecy ranks the highest! Not miracles, not the gift of faith, not the gifts of healings, but the gift of prophecy is the gift to be most earnestly desired. And why is that? It is simply this: “Because you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted” (14:31). And because, “if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God certainly is in your midst” (14:24-25). And because, “one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation” (14:3).
When He Who is the Word of Life speaks words of Life to His people through human vessels of clay, is that not a wonder and a sign and a miracle? It is all meant to produce the worship of God and the Lamb. It is not meant to enamor us of men. It is all for His great Glory, which He will share with no flesh.
It is with great joy and full agreement then that I commend the following word from Jeremiah Johnson to the Body of our Lord.
FEBRUARY 11, 2013
(Author of The Reflection of God and Jesus: The Fullness of Ministry)
WORSHIPPING MIRACLES OR THE GOD OF MIRACLES?
I remember as a young boy witnessing my very first miracle. We were praying for physical healing at a church service for several people that had pain in their shoulders, necks, and backs. At a certain point during prayer, two of them began to describe a sensation of “fire” in the areas that were in pain. Within seconds, the pain was completely gone. I could hardly believe it.
Years later there came a day when I found myself ministering in the jungles of Belize at 19 years old. I had gone with a Baptist group and preached a sermon out of Acts 2 on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. By the end of the service, a majority of the people present were slain in the Spirit, and I never touched a single person. The Baptist group that I went with was visibly distraught and followed me around most of the night, carefully observing me to make sure I wasn’t pushing anyone down as I prayed for the many different people. I watched as sick bodies were healed, and many powerful prophetic testimonies came forth that night.
Less than six months ago, I visited Redding, CA. I attended Bethel church for the second time, where Bill Johnson and Kris Vallotton have revolutionized church culture with worship and demonstrations of power through signs, wonders, and miracles. As I sat in the sanctuary of Bethel church, the Holy Spirit kindly whispered to me, “What are you doing here?” I replied softly, “I am here to learn and receive.” The words that came back caught me off-guard. “ I love your heart son, but I want you to know that everything that they have here, I have already put inside of you. You are seeking an external reality, and I am going to show you the internal reality that lives within you.”
I sat stunned for several minutes, and I wasn’t exactly sure how to respond. I didn’t believe that God was upset with me, but I began to sense that I was not at Bethel church to merely be an observer. By this point I had regained focus and become more aware of my current surroundings, when I looked directly to my left to notice a man and woman that were married. I immediately introduced myself and prophesied to them. I told the woman why she was there, and described to the woman her physical injury, which had brought her there that morning. I commanded the pain to go, and watched as it left instantly. I prophesied over her husband about his call to ministry and his deep feelings of insecurity, but how the Father was clothing him with heavenly identity. He wept as the Holy Spirit ministered healing to his heart.
Within time, the ushers at Bethel church were asking me to leave the room. They gently explained that I must have a badge in order to lay hands on people in their healing room.
I walked out into their café and was told I could pray for anyone that I wanted to out there. My eyes focused on a woman with crutches wearing a boot on her foot. She was visibly in pain. I quickly made a move toward her and was accompanied by my brother, wife, and a friend.
We asked her about her injury, showing that we cared and were concerned. Then came the leap of faith. We told her that we were going to pray and ask God to heal her. Kneeling down in prayer, we commanded the pain to leave her body. She smiled as she began to experience a “warm sensation” all throughout her foot. The next thing we did was “the unthinkable.” We asked her to take off her boot and attempt to walk without her crutches. I will never forget the look on her face as she stared at her husband in disbelief saying, “You know my husband had to beg me to come here today, and I told him that people that prayed for me had better not ask that I take off my boot.
I wasn’t taking no for an answer. I asked her again, “Can you take off your boot and see if the pain has left? I would like to see you walk.” She took off her boot, set down her crutches, and began to limp. She said that the pain had slightly decreased. We decided to pray again. We commanded the pain to leave, and she started to walk once again. We prayed for her a total of 5 times. With every time she would limp and the pain would become increasingly less and less. Eventually it was completely gone, and she began to cry and laugh with joy. She explained the details of her injury with us and also told us the diagnosis that the medical doctor had given her. This woman was scheduled for major surgery and had had one of the worst breaks physically possible in your foot.
A cameraman that worked for Bethel church heard of this miracle and proceeded to invite us and this woman upstairs to a room, where he filmed and recorded her testimony. It was incredible. This was on a Saturday that she experienced this miracle, and she was scheduled for an X-ray by her doctor on Tuesday. I asked her to email me the results when they came in.
Much to her doctor’s amazement, the broken bone in her foot had miraculously grown back together. There was no logical explanation. There was simply a testimony about Jesus healing a woman’s foot. And this woman, much to her husband’s pleadings, had had no previous intentions of going to Bethel church, much less taking off her boot, and making it to the prayer room. But there she found herself, experiencing God’s healing power in a café, through a random guy from Florida who had been asked by God only fifteen minutes earlier, “What are you doing here?”
I share these testimonies to establish the truth that I believe in miracles. I have both witnessed them and been used to release them in the United States and across the world. I even pastor a church in Lakeland, FL where the supernatural has become a lifestyle. By the grace of God, we have created a culture where miracles, signs, and wonders are anticipated and expected. They’re not just some “out of the ordinary occurrence” that leaves everyone in shock for weeks. We celebrate what God has done and look in expectation for more testimonies of his mercy and love week after week.
Throughout these years of walking in the miraculous and now being used to help people walk in it for themselves, my heart has continued to be burdened by what I am going to call a “generation that seeks to exalt miracles over the God of miracles.”
I’ve become troubled as I recollect multiple interactions from my travels in the earth, by those that are hungry and desperate for miracles. In their desperation, it seems that the demonstrating power has become more emphasized and preached than the God of power. We tend to want to seek experiences and encounters more than we want to understand the person of Jesus Christ. In essence, we have become “thing” or “manifestation” centered and not Jesus Christ centered.
I want to be clear. I am not attempting to divorce miracles from the gospel. Miracles are very much a part of the kingdom of God. For me, it’s a question of ranking. There is absolutely no doubt that signs and wonders can be used to lead people into relationship with Jesus Christ. In fact, in the book of Acts alone, miracles were used seventeen times to bring salvation. The clearest examples are in Acts 9:34-35 and 9:40,42. Peter heals Aeneas, and Luke says, “And all the residents of Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord.” Peter raises Tabitha from the dead, and Luke says, “It became known to all Joppa, and many believed in the Lord.”
My issue is rooted in the desire to seek after and demonstrate miracles for the sake of performing and demonstrating miracles. When miracles become preeminent over the person of Jesus Christ, we have an issue of ranking on our hands. I have observed so many young people performing miracles, without ever preaching repentance or even mentioning the name of Jesus to people in a way that invites them into personal relationship. They pray for hurt body parts and witness healing, but merely respond with, “Jesus is healing you, that’s really cool,” while moving on. This is not a biblical mindset when it comes to understanding the power of God or the God of power.
When we fail to see miracles, signs, and wonders, as invitations into relationship with Jesus, they become no more than trophies for Christians to brag about. Can Jesus introduce Himself to people through miracles, signs, and wonders? Absolutely. Can miracles, signs, and wonders be elevated to a place of overemphasis and an act of idolatry? Absolutely!
It’s interesting to study Matthew 12:38-42, when the Pharisees and religious leaders asked Jesus for a sign. “Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” He answered, “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and now something greater than Jonah is here. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here.”
How are we to grapple with this text? We live in a generation seeking to demonstrate signs, wonders, and miracles, yet Jesus is declaring that a wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign.
This is where I believe it’s all about context. In this passage of scripture, Jesus is saying that sign-seeking is “wicked and adulterous,” when the demand for more and more evidence comes from a resistant heart and simply covers an unwillingness to believe.
This text begs the question to be asked: Are signs, wonders, and miracles really what the world needs? On one hand we have the spirit filled church zealous to perform signs, wonders, and miracles, and on the other hand we have what Jesus would call a wicked and adulterous generation asking for a sign without any desire to believe.
One of the most disturbing dreams I have ever had came at a time when I was studying Matthew 7:22-24. Jesus said, “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name did we not cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will say to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.”
In this dream I saw all these people in hell who had performed miracles, cast out demons, and prophesied. What I was shown next, I will never forget. The Holy Spirit showed me long lines behind all of them. These were the people that had received the miracles, prophesies, and had been delivered. As I gazed at the people in these lines He said to me, “ Did they not RECEIVE miracles, prophecy, and deliverance, yet I never knew them?”
I woke up alarmed and startled. There are not only people that will perform signs, wonders, and miracles that will be sent to hell, but also people who receive these things that will be in hell. Why? Because those that worked miracles, prophesied, and cast out demons never preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is the message of repentance. They never knew Him experientially. Whether one performs miracles or receives miracles, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is required to eternally dwell in heaven after death.
It is interesting to note that history has revealed false prophets and false demonstrations of power. Jesus warned the disciples in Matthew 7:15-16 and said, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.” I had a dream several months ago while studying this passage of scripture. I found myself in a crowd of people watching different men and women on a stage performing great signs and wonders. After each one of them performed a miracle, Matthew 7:15-16 would flash on a screen next to the stage and the crowd would cheer. Each time the crowd cheered, my heart and spirit would go into turmoil. Suddenly, Jesus Christ stepped on the stage. The crowd became very fearful. In this dream, I was the only one that stood up straight and smiled at Jesus. He began to shout to the crowd and said, “You fools, the fruit that I spoke of in scripture is not miracles, it is my nature and character. Real and genuine fruit is birthed from Christ-likeness. Many will be swept away in the last days, for they chase after miracles and do not have an eye for the truth of who I am. Beware.”
When we overlook the message being preached and simply demand miracles, we put ourselves in a position to be blinded to the truth. What we need in this current generation is character that will match anointing. We need men and women that have the nature and character of Jesus Christ dwelling within them. Too many believers want the power of God to demonstrate His miracles without hungering for the dealings of God that will produce His character.
In a generation that is so deeply crying out for power and demonstrations, may we in the body of Christ who have been placed in positions of influence continue to direct these zealous ones to Jesus Christ. He is the author of salvation and the worker of miracles. Miracles themselves cannot save anyone. Only Jesus Christ himself can!
As a leader in the body of Christ who is Holy Spirit filled and not only has witnessed miracles, signs, and wonders, but also walked in them for many years, I cannot keep silent any longer. There is an unhealthy view of the supernatural that is being communicated to the Pentecostal/Charismatic world, and it needs to be addressed. When relationship with Jesus Christ is replaced with manifestations, a train wreck is inevitable. We must be a people that worships the God of miracles, not the miracles of God. Some might call it semantics. For me, the issue continues to be one of ranking. Can miracles, signs, and wonders be used to lead people into relationship with Jesus Christ? Absolutely. I believe wholeheartedly that we are to pursue a supernatural lifestyle. My concern and encouragement is that we must be on guard against worshipping miracles and seeking to demonstrate miracles for miracle’s sake. May we fix our eyes on Jesus, and may He be our all in all! Let us look for opportunities to demonstrate the kingdom, but never fail to preach the God of the Kingdom.