So, what is my message today? It is experiencing the reality of God through the work of the Spirit. And I have just mentioned one example which is to listen and discern the will of God by experiencing the reality of the Spirit. In my case, it is listening to the witness of the Spirit in confirming the message for today. And this experience can be really exhilarating and encouraging.I realise that it is a very difficult task to talk about the work of the Spirit comprehensively a 30 minutes sermon. So, I am going to be selective and concentrate on only on part of the Spirit’s work, i.e. signs and wonders.
No one reading the four gospels will miss the supernatural events of Jesus turning water to wine, healing the sick, casting out demons, making the lame walk, opening the eyes of the blind, feeding of the hungry masses, walking on water and calming the storm, raising the dead and being himself resurrected from the grave. No one reading the book of Acts will miss the miraculous and powerful working of the Spirit both on the apostles and through them. Speaking in tongues, making the lame walk, given courage to witness, raising the dead, seeing and meeting the resurrected Lord, healing the sick, casting out demons, surviving the mobs and poisonous snake bites etc.
Does it happen today? Is it for us in the age of science, logical reasoning and special effects? We will have to delay a bit the answer to that question.
First, let us take a look at what the bible says about the matter. What is the meaning of signs and wonders? The miracles that our Lord performed signalled the arrival of the promised kingdom of God. (Luke 4:18-19) Jesus was telling the people of his time that what they were seeing was the sign that God has returned to Israel as promised through the Messiah, Jesus.
The Lord also explained that these miracles were accomplished through the Holy Spirit which again signalled that the kingdom of God has arrived. (Luke 11:20) It signalled the destruction of Satan’s power. (Luke 10:17-20)
For the apostles, signs and wonders was God’s witness to the gospel that they were preaching. (Mark 16:15-20) During times of persecution and intimidation, the miraculous works of the Spirit serves to encourage the believers to be bold in continuing their witness for the Lord. (Acts 4:29-31)
Now, back to our earlier question? What about now? There seems to be problem. We do not seem to experience such miraculous works of the Holy Spirit that we read in the gospels and Acts. There seems to be a disparity between our experiences and that of the Scriptures. How do we explain this?
How much do you know about World War 2? How much do you know about D-Day or Operation Overlord? For the sake of those who do not know, let me explain. D-Day is the biggest concentrated military operation in history to land thousands of Allied troops on the beaches of Normandy, in France, for the purpose of defeating the Nazis.
The operation began with clever misinformation and strategic deception on the exact location of the landing to prevent the Nazis from concentrating their defences.
This was followed by the night droppings of thousands of paratroopers to occupy strategic places inland to prevent the Nazis from reinforcing their troops after the operation has started.
Next, came the aerial and naval bombardments.
This was done to weaken Hitler’s Atlantic Wall, a formidable stretch of military defences of bunkers, gun posts, barriers, and mines, beginning from Norway and right down to France.
Finally, the brave marines stormed the shore in hails of machine guns fire and exploding mines.
When the beachheads were secured with the blood and lives of these brave soldiers, an entire harbour was floated across the English Channel to Normandy, allowing reinforcements to arrive and sustain the campaign.
Although, Hitler and the Nazis did not surrender on that day, D-Day signified the beginning of the end of Nazi power and World War 2.
Many gruelling battles still have to be fought and gruesome defeats to be swallowed, and with much lesser support compared to D-Day. But, the victory was achieved on D-Day.
We can make an analogy between D-Day and the miraculous signs during Jesus’ time. The enormous frequency of signs and wonders signalling the arrival of God’s kingdom is equivalent to the droppings of paratroopers, massive aerial and naval bombardments, and the landings of the marines. It signals the beginning of God’s operation to defeat Satan.
It signals the beginning of God’s operation to defeat Satan. And the victory is achieved the moment the spiritual beachhead is taken through the life and blood of Jesus Christ. Victory is achieved. Subsequently, the engineering marvel of a floating harbour is like the giving of the Holy Spirit, the perfect Reinforcement to stir us forward and enable us to continue the war until the spiritual Hitler is totally defeated.
Subsequently, the engineering marvel of a floating harbour is like the giving of the Holy Spirit, the perfect Reinforcement to stir us forward and enable us to continue the war until the spiritual Hitler is totally defeated.
However, from the D-Day of Jesus’ time to the final judgement of Satan in the future, there are still many battles and unfortunate defeats to taste by believers. And unlike the time of Jesus and the apostles where signs and wonders were frequent to establish the ‘spiritual beachhead’ for building the church, we are now in a period where we have to endure tough battles without the heavy artillery of signs and wonders. This is due to the difference in the timeline of God’s plan. When Jesus was with the disciples, they did not need to fast, but when the Lord was no longer with them, they have to fast. (Matthew 9:15) The same principle applies to signs and wonders.
In addition, the current culture of self-centeredness, biases of scientific reasoning and revived spiritualism serves to enthrone man in the place of God, making faith towards him ever more difficult. (Mark 6:5-6) Am I saying that there are no more signs and wonders? No, I am not, just that the frequency has been reduced due to these reasons, i.e. God’s timeline and the unbelief of man.
God will indeed perform his signs and wonders to establish his rule, to destroy the works of the evil one, and to confirm the witnessing of his faithful so that others too may believe and be saved. I could recount numerous miracles in my life. The way I got my name was from hearing God directly telling me this exact phrase, “Today your name shall be called Israel.” There was a time when I had no money to return home. I had 20 cents left. I was about to call home from two public phones. I was about to use the one on the right when I felt impressed by the Spirit to use the one on the left. I did and the phone did not work! Now, I had no money left. I asked God why. Then, I down the phone. Guess what, coins rolled out from the exchange the slot! I had enough money to go home. When, I was in varsity, while I was with a pastor in the canteen, the Spirit suddenly came upon me and I told him that it will rain in 20 minutes. He was shocked. It was broad daylight! But, on my way back to my hostel, in the distance, I heard the faint sound of a thunder. It was the sign that I needed. And at exactly prophesied earlier, it rained cats and dogs. The result was that I became bold enough even to tell my Muslim friends about it. There were and still are many more incidents of such workings of the Holy Spirit. Meeting Austin’s brother and giving him a warning about his church, speaking and praying for Uncle Yong last week and this message all came about from the leading of the Spirit. Having the Scriptures flooding my mind while witnessing, sharing or teaching others is a gift from the Spirit that is very real. This kind of fellowship of the Spirit is indeed very real. But, we must never generalize specific work of the Spirit as a rule that all believers must live on. Signs and wonders are not to be used like Scriptures to give us doctrines to live by.
However, the purpose of the Holy Spirit is not about signs and wonders, nor spiritual gifts. The Spirit did not come to give us spiritual gifts so that we can become spiritual superstars and achieving supernatural success in the world. He did not come to allow us to make spiritual claims of health and wealth as and when we demand it. In fact, the Lord has warned of such things in Matthew 7:21-23.
The main work of the Spirit is to glorify and remind us of Jesus and his words, and to teach us that we may obey him and remain in him, knowing God and be known by him. (John 14:26; John 16:12-14) The Spirit will also convict people of their sins because of their unbelief, to tell the world that Jesus and his followers are right while the people and the ruler of this world are wrong and that they will be judged. The Spirit is the guarantor of our salvation and adoption. (Ephesians 1:13-14; 2 Corinthians 1:22)
How then are we to respond to signs and wonders? Firstly, acknowledge that our God is constantly involved in our lives by the presence of the Spirit and that signs and wonders are to be expected according to the reasons stated earlier although the frequency is lower compared to Jesus and the apostles’ time. Secondly, we need to seek God to graciously grant us the fellowship of the Spirit that we may know Jesus and God. This fellowship could be in the form of the Spirit’s leading through a still small voice to a miraculous sign involving great faith and resulting in salvation for those around us. Always remember that the greatest is love and we abide in his love by obeying his commandments which is the main reason for the giving of the Spirit. Do not boast in the number of signs and wonders performed, but in the fact that we know God and our names are written in the book of Life. Amen.
Knowing God By The Spirit
Knowing God by the Spirit<br />Signs and wonders<br />
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to a proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.” (Lk. 4:18-19)<br />
But if it is by f the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.(Lk. 11:20)<br />The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18 And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”.(Lk. 10:17-20)<br />
And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:29-31)<br />
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.(Jn. 14:26)<br /> In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is h the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, l to the praise of his glory. (Eph. 1:13-14)<br />
In Practice<br />Acknowledge God’s reality and expect signs and wonders<br />Seek God to grant the fellowship of the Spirit in order to know Jesus<br />The greatest is to abide in his love by obeying his commandments<br />Do not boast in signs and wonders, rather be grateful that we are children of God<br />
And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness, while you stretch out your hand to heal, and signs and wonders are performed through the name of your holy servant Jesus.” And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:29-31)<br />Prayer<br />