many modern Charismatic churches long to see miracles occur on a scale described in the Book of Acts. I have been in places
where people seriously ill would go up front to be prayed for by ministers eager to pray for them. All around me I would hear intercessors pleading earnestly with the Lord to do some wonderful work of healing
for His honor and glory. Whenever people left the service unhealed I would be
left with this thought: Why don't perfect miracles of healing occur each and every time the saints petition the Lord for them? Wouldn't it be in God's best interest if getting the sick healed weren't such a long,
drawn-out struggle? Any lost people in the vicinity who heard about paralytics
or blind people instantly receiving their healing would surely rush to the altar to surrender to such a mighty, powerful Jesus!
isn't necessarily the case, though. You
only have to read the gospels to find out that Jesus still suffered plenty of opposition and contended with a lot of unbelief,
even though He succeeded in healing lots of sick folks. Jesus even raised people from the dead. Many believed on Him because
He raised up Lazarus (John 12:9-11). But this only further inflamed the hatred
of His religious enemies, who wanted to kill both Lazarus (the proof of the pudding) and Jesus. The scribes and Pharisees
and corrupt priests of the nation wanted to be the final authority in matters of faith.
They would continually set traps for Jesus to get Him to say something so they could twist His words. Religious law
interpreters of His day took away the key of knowledge and hindered others from entering into life (Luke 11:52). At the time of Jesus' first coming, God could not yet usher in the Messianic Age of Israel and bring full
deliverance to Israel as a nation. Jesus wept because
His nation would be swayed to reject their own King, Who would have sheltered them from dangerous days ahead (Luke 19:41-44).
The opposition of Jesus’ foes even extended to denying evidence of His resurrection so people would not believe in Him. The corrupt religious leaders paid bribe money to
soldiers to claim that Jesus’ body had really been stolen by his disciples (Matt.28:11-15). Those greedy blind
leaders of the blind had too much power and prestige to lose by letting their people know the real truth.
God's revelation in Christ was warred against and rejected at that time in history, only believing individuals, not the entire
nation of Israel, would find salvation
in the immediate future. The literal earthly messianic kingdom promised to the Jews through the prophets would have to wait.
The Gentiles would first be given their chance to receive Jesus as Savior. Not many years after Christ’s crucifixion,
the Roman general Titus and his legions destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple in 70 A.D. Had the Jewish nation not been deceived by lies, they might have received
their King during Christ’s earthly ministry and been protected from that awful destruction. No wonder Jesus wept over
Jerusalem. If He were physically present in the earth today,
wouldn’t He also weep over all the corruption and deception going on in the institutional church? Suppressing God's truth doesn’t bring a blessing. It
always brings bad consequences and great loss.
asked the Lord about a certain church which had a great beginning but no longer exists. Why, I wondered, didn't everyone see
more signs and wonders during the lifetime of that particular church? I was given
three principal reasons:
LACK OF LOVE Surprising, because this particular church felt like being in a family.
The sisters would hug the sisters and the brothers would hug the brothers. People
would invite each other over to visit in their homes and get to know one another well.
There were lots of smiles and sweet greetings. It sure did beat the stiff formality of other churches. So long as the church was small and people were generally of the same opinion in most matters, there was
the real test of love comes when love is confronted by difference of opinion. A missionary family was sent out from this church to a Caribbean Island with the assurance their needs
would be faithfully met. The missionary met another minister who held some views different from the pastor's. The pastor ordered the missionary to sever all ties with this man's ministry, but he could not do it on
principle, because the missionary felt that he had been led by the Lord to this other person for fellowship. Abruptly and without warning, the family was cut off from further fellowship and relationship with the
the church grew, divisions crept up between the leadership and the other saints. The
people were told to do things which worked a hardship on their family lives, such as join in a 24-hour prayer chain. Only problem was, the church was far too small to support that project adequately. In a church which taught and sang about liberty in the Spirit, little legalisms crept
up, such as being forbidden to watch TV, no wearing of jewelry, etc.
poorer Christians (many were jobless at the time and struggling) were warned about financial responsibility and "not mooching
off the saints". One couple walked out in protest. People's giving began to be
recorded, though all offerings were taken "anonymously" in a box in back of the church.
One brother hired a crew of painters from the church and defrauded them on their wages.
Instead of acknowledging the rift in the congregation and the need for repentance, the problem was quietly hushed up.
But sin doesn't vanish just because it's swept under a rug. Repentance is called
for. These days it's the victims who are urged to repent for getting upset at
the offender. Those who are sinned against are told to "just let it go". But
does that make for true reconciliation with born-again believers who ought to know better and still refuse to repent? Compassion
is called for, but those who defraud their brothers and sisters are warned by the Word of God (I Thes.4:6).
is a key component in seeing healings or other miracles happen in your church. But faith works by love (Gal.5:6). Love is
defined by how it behaves, not by how it smiles. When you're a young believer, you can easily think that just because the
atmosphere in church is friendly and relaxed there must be love. But love does
no ill to its neighbor (Rom.13:10).
LOOKING UNTO MEN RATHER THAN GOD Everybody loved the pastor and sought his approval. His happy, down-to-earth personality was a real asset to him. Whenever any of the young believers had a question about the Word of God or any issue of daily life, he
could be depended on for a sensible answer. It was almost like having Jesus Himself
there, we felt. At that point in time we would have felt cast adrift if we didn't
have him there to depend on. You can reach the point where you wonder where you'll get the word of the Lord from if a highly
esteemed spiritual leader were to vanish from your life!
is a fine line between properly esteeming your leadership and beginning to lean on them too much. The problem got even messier when "Brother Bill", the elder, came along (the same one who was later sent
off as a missionary). He had a more relaxed approach to life than the pastor.
He was as humble as a little child. He wasn't into a lot of legalism. We even spotted a Christmas tree in his home, which
was frowned on by the pastor, who didn't believe in Christmas. Many of the young
people liked to talk with Brother Bill between services. After a while, some
people detected a spirit of jealousy in the air.
easy to think that miracles MUST happen because your leader is so wonderful a person, so devout and prayerful, that God just
has to relent and do some major-league miracles in your midst. We young people
went out street preaching with the pastor one day. He preached his heart out
and we sang faith choruses. We prayed for a crippled-up man but nothing happened. I felt so let down afterwards, but knew it wasn't due to any lack of zeal on the pastor's
line between Jesus and the minister in the pulpit can easily blur if you're not careful.
It's so much easier to put your faith and trust in that which can be seen, but God is a jealous God and will not tolerate
any rivals (Exodus 34:14).
BURYING THE TRUTH ABOUT THE TITHE I realize this is a very touchy topic within
the church, and at first glance it seems like the Tithe would have little to do with God's willingness to work miracles in
the congregation. But perhaps "bondage" is the key link between the two concepts.
Healing brings freedom (Luke 13:12). When you enforce any type of sacrifice upon the congregation as a binding duty, New Creatures set free by Christ are brought back under servitude. This can lead to
falling from grace (Gal.5:4). That means you look unto your own works to maintain
a right relationship with God rather than the finished work of Christ on the Cross.
church leaders force their flock to tithe on money, they bind their finances to an ongoing debt, even though Scripture commands
Christians to "owe no man anything but to love on another"(Rom.13:8). Some might think it does no harm to reimpose just one
tiny little law, and you can still be free of all the other Mosaic ordianances if you like.
But the Law is a package deal, and you can't just pick and choose the ones you like and reject the rest as being made
obsolete by the New Covenant. The tithe was for Israel only and given by
Moses from Mount Sinai (Leviticus 27:30-34). The final verse of Leviticus states that these
laws were given specifically for the Children of Israel. It takes only a tiny chain bind your liberty. Though the tithe be
just one element of hundreds which constitute the Law of Moses, the tithe is
a slender iron chain which binds the believer to the rest of the big iron mass of the Law behind him, so that he is no longer
truly free. Being under the Law brings a curse, not deliverance and healing (Gal.3:10-13).
it's only ten per cent!" some will object. Why make such a big fuss about it
anyway? Well, part of the issue has to do with what people do with what they
know. God can have compassion on the ignorant, but those who KNOW that they are
in error and do it anyway are in hot water with God! It's one thing to teach
a dodgy doctrine because you genuinely believe it to be true, it's another thing to possess knowledge that it's not true.
Being sincere in preaching error doesn't make it right, but deliberately peddling error as truth is far worse. Pity poor,
trusting Joe Blow out in the pews who doesn't suspect he's having the wool pulled
over his eyes as he gets threatened with God's judgment for non-tithing.
you knowingly bury truth which could set God's people free, you're no better than the believer who keeps his mouth shut when
he ought to be telling somebody about Jesus! The believer who keeps quiet might be scared some drunk will beat him up for
witnessing to him. But the educated preacher who deliberately hides the real
truth about the true Biblical tithe only keeps quiet because he's afraid of losing income.
it bothers a preacher's conscience less to take ten per cent from his congregation than
it would if he asked for twenty or thirty per cent. More than one type of Biblical tithe was taken in ancient Israel, but tithes were levied only on agricultural produce
(Deut.12:17; 14:22; Neh.10:37). Scholars disagree on some obscure details, but
there were actually three kinds of tithes paid by herdsmen and farmers in ancient Israel: one for the Levites, one to be consumed by the worshipper at annual festivals,
and another tithe to be consumed by poor widows and orphans. Opinions range from
between nineteen and twenty-three per cent as that part of a farmer's entire crop that was set aside as tithes. Some tithes were given to the Levites (Num.18:21). Some tithe
food was eaten by the worshippers themselves at at annual festivals in Jerusalem (Deut.14:22-27). Yet another tithe was taken every third year
to feed hungry orphans, Levites and widows (Deut.14:28-29). Why don't preachers ask for nineteen or twenty per cent instead
of just ten per cent of churchgoers' income? Because it would empty the
pews in a hurry, that's why!
taken by deceit is fraud. Theft is theft, whether it's a tiny amount or a big amount.
Like some preachers do today, Elisha's servant Gehazi could boast that he touched neither the glory nor the gold when
God did a wondrous work. But Gehazi did touch the silver! Silver is worth only a fraction of gold's value. In II Kings
Chapter 5 a certain Syrian army captain, Naaman, is afflicted with leprosy, the worst disease of that era. Only a miracle can cure Naaman of a disease which slowly destroys
the body and would turn him into a social outcast who must be driven out of society to live only among other lepers.
has in his household a little Israelite girl who had been captured from her homeland to become a personal servant for his
wife. The little girl feels pity for her master and tells her mistress about
Elisha, a great prophet in Israel, who
would be able to heal him.
of this gets back to Naaman. Naaman contacts the King of Israel, who is unable
to do anything for him. But eventually Naaman finds out about the prophet of
God who can work wonders. To make a long story short, Naaman (somewhat reluctantly)
follows some very odd instructions from Elisha and is healed of his leprosy. In
gratitude, Naaman offers Elisha a huge reward. He is prepared to pay a huge amount
of silver, six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of clothes to express his thanks to the prophet.
Elisha turns the reward down (how many preachers would do that today)? He will take
neither the glory nor the gold for the great thing God has done.
Gehazi, Elisha's cunning servant, has other plans. Surely God wouldn't mind if he took just a little…and his evil deed
could be covered up. So Gehazi runs after Naaman as he starts on his trip home. Gehazi tells him something's just come up. Two
sons of the prophets have just arrived on Elisha's doorstep and they sure could use a talent of silver and two changes of
is surprised, but feels like he's getting off easy nonetheless. Go ahead, he says, and take two talents of silver. So Gehazi had the loot delivered to a secret hideaway where Elisha wouldn't find it. And even if he did, so what? It's only a tiny fraction of
what the Syrian owned.
take a tiny fraction, even if God didn't command that it be taken. What harm
could possibly come of it? Aren't ministers of deceit still doing that today? Well, Elisha couldn't be bought. He had
principles. God told him all about it.
Not only did greedy Gehazi end up with a little of the Syrian's loot, but a lot of that same sickness he'd been delivered
joy and gratitude toward God must have been boundless, but ever after questions must have nagged at the back of his mind:
Just why had Elisha firmly refused any material reward, only to change his mind so
quickly? Had his God been unable to foresee the arrival of two needy visitors?
Had He been forced to go back on His Word and depend on Naaman’s resources to meet their needs, because He had no other
options? Were there, after all, limits on the power of the God of Israel, just like the gods of the Syrians? Or was this change
of heart really Elisha’s idea, and a mere resort to situational ethics? Did the Word of
the Almighty change like the wind? Because of greedy Gehazi, Elisha’s
testimony could have been unjustly tarnished. Worse yet, the perfection of God's
ways might have been diminished in the eyes of the heathens.
apostle Paul didn’t hide God’s truth under a bushel basket to make himself richer.
Boldly Paul says in Acts 20:27: For I have not shunned (avoided) to declare unto you ALL the counsel of God (not just
his favourite parts). I’m not saying honesty will automatically bring healing and deliverance to and through the Church,
but think about it. Would Paul’s ministry have been nearly as successful
in doing the works of his Master if he had acted contrary to his own Master and deliberately deceived babes in Christ by withholding
vital truth and selling them false doctrines?