Signs of True Faith
Sabbath Day Sermon, Saturday 22 July 2000
Over the weeks we have been looking at the qualities of being a Christian and I think most of us here today are now agreed that most signs can be duplicated by Satan and his angels. For it is written: "The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders" (2 Thess.2:9, NIV). We have agreed that the following signs can not be dupilicated by Satan though he does his best to do so: "...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law" (Gal.5:23, NIV).
The Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) is a free gift from God to those who will trust their whole souls to Yah'shua (Jesus) without any pre-conditions. This giftedness leads to joyful obedience to His commandments, which we are told by the apostle John is a sign of true love: "By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments; and His comandments are not grievous [burdensome]" (1 Jn.5:2-3, NIV). And so therefore, if we are looking for evidence that we have been truly born of God and are leading lives of faith and obedience, we can look through Paul's checklist of qualities of a Christian disciple and see if our lives match up or not. Beware of those who tell you that you must belong to a particular church, display supernatural miracles such as raising the dead, healing the sick, or speaking in strange languages or babblings as evidence of being saved, for quite apart from the fact that Satan can duplicate almost all of these, these are gifts which are signs of God's presence in His Family, or Church, and do not pertain to every believer. It is this that I wish to briefly touch upon today.
To test the fruits of the Ruach haQodesh (Holy Spirit) requires time, and we should therefore be prepared to use time before committing ourselves to a particular body of believers, remembering that there are not only lukewarm, semi-believers but counterfeit ones also. For instance, how can I know if someone is faithful until I have allowed some time to ellapse? This is why the wise person before getting married should spent alot of time getting to know the qualities of a person before making a life-long or eternal committment. People are good at putting on an act especially if they're after something. They will invest alot of time and energy in the pretense.
Many years ago I had my own business in Oxford but needed, as I supposed then, a business partner. One appeared in my life and wished to join forces with me. But I was suspicious of his motives and kept on delaying any formal agreement because I first wanted to be satisfied that he was genuine and not out to exploit me. So even though he pressed me hard I held out against him. He was charming, friendly, and obviously had a wide circle of friends whom he claimed would be a great asset to my business. As the months went by I discovered a hidden side to the man. He was a charlatan - a con man, who had no intention of doing any work for the business but rather intended to milk it for all it was worth. He never paid his bills, left his accommodation without paying his rent and was, in short, a thief. By using time to get to know him and by checking up on his background I spared myself alot of heartache and possibly alot of money too.
But I was not always so careful. On another occasion I lent a friend a large sum of money to help his failing business. He used church membership as the emotional lever and even offered me some free services in his business. But it soon became apparaent that he had no intention of ever repaying me. I wouldn't have minded if he had been honest and said: "Chris, I'm so sorry. There's no way I can repay you this big debt. But I am willing to pay you a small regular monthly sum to pay off what I can." No, instead he made promises of paying it back "later" when his business was in better shape. In the end he went bankrupt and got another job. But he never repaid me, or even offered to pay a small sum to show that he was honourable. (See Mt.18:23-35; Rom.13:8).
We can, perhaps, afford to make mistakes in such cases as lending money, even if it causes alot of temporary problems, but there are some things we dare not take any risks in. For instance, you should never get a babysitter for your child whom you do not absolutely know and trust. The numerous cases of indecent sexual assault, murder and kidnapping of small children by babysitters ought to be warning enough. We should not, for the same reasons, rush into a marriage relationship, but test carefully, keeping celibate until we are 100% sure that the man or woman we are interested in is the right one. And finally, we should not just leap into any church fellowship but test its teachings and practices against the Scriptures.
So if we are to discover whether a business partner, potential marriage companion, or one claiming to be a Christian is the "real thing" we will need to carefully test them, making sure we don't throw away money, chastity or salvation in the process. The risks we take are bankruptcy (a nightmare if you have a family to feed), having a boyfriend or girlfriend walk out on you once you have surrendered your body to them (leading to a sense of being cheated and of feeling used and dirty which may remain with you all your life and ruin your chances for a deep and happy relationship with the man or woman you are supposed to marry), or joining a cult or believing in a man-made philosophy which will teach you lies and so rob you of the most important thing of all: eternal life. So my message, underlined ahundred times is: Be careful. Do what Paul said: "Test everything. Hold on to the good. Avoid every kind of evil" (I Thess.5:21-22, NIV). And if you are going to test anything, then you need an absolute standard of truth, not the ever changing moral values of society. If you are wise, you will spend a good part of your life on God's Word, the Bible, checking and double-checking.
So here, once again, is the checklist of signs of a true believer. You may find some of these qualities in unbelievers but I guarantee you will not find them all: "...the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law" (Gal.5:23, NIV). It is well worth spending some time thinking about each of these and letting the Bible tell you what each is. A good place to start is Yahweh's Ten Commandments and Yah'shua's (Jesus') Sermon on the Mount. And a good place to actually experience these is to be be around true believers who have these qualities. That means, of course, being an active member of a Bible-believing and Bible-implementing fellowship or Church where these signs are in strong evidence.
Having this foundation we may then more safely move on to explore other signs of the Christian faith, which of necessity brings us into an area which Satan can, and does, duplicate, and sometimes spectacularly. However, if we are built upon the principles of Paul's checklist first we will be much safer. Without it we may find ourselves sucked up into the maze of false churches and religious groups where spectacular miracles are taking place. Today I would like to look at a couple of these, namely, physical healing and raising the dead to life.
As you read through the New Testament you are at once impressed by the shere number of miraculous signs performed bu Yah'shua (Jesus) Himself and by His disciples. The Book of Acts, for example, is jam-packed with them. Luke says: "Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles" (Ac.2:43, NIV). And we read of not only the genuine miracles but also the false ones conjured up by Satan to deflect seekers away from the truth. Sometimes people investigated the claims of Christ for the wrong reasons, like Simon (Ac.8:13), who was impressed more by wonder-working than by what really mattered, namely, salvation. But as we have learned, wonder-working does not convert people - it just makes them lust for more. Some of the most spectacular signs ever performed by Yahweh did not strengthen the faith of the people for very long - the plagues of Egypt, parting of the Red Sea, the feeding of Israel in the desert, water coming out of rocks, etc.. Miracles are chiefly for those of faith. They are rather a curse for those who are faithless who go for the miracles rather than for the miracle-maker, Yahweh. It is the same in the world of romance. Young people go for good looks, sexiness, worldly charm and the like instead of getting to the heart of a person. Their values are upside down. So, we must be very careful, and make sure our motives are pure. It is better to have no miracles and know Yah'shua (Jesus) than to have hundreds of them and miss salvation. Similarly, it is better to marry a plain looking person who is going to be true, loyal and loving than a glamorous one who will ditch you when someone handsomer or prettier than you appears on the scene. Likewise, better to have an honest, trustworthy, and reliable business partner than one who is brilliant but who will rob and cheat you.
Having said this, let us not ignore signs and wonders altogether. Mark ends his Gospel by telling us: "Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed His Word by the signs that accompanied it" (Mk.16:20, NIV). Here, then, is a signpost for us: miracles will accompany true preaching of the Word.
The other day we were blessed to have two visitors and old family friends from the Baptist Community Church in Malaysia with whom we exchanged experiences in the Lord. Brother Kington, who is training to be a Pastor, told us of his own particular house fellowhip and of a member who had a physical deformity in his back such that one leg was several centimetres longer than the other, forcing him to have a specially built-up shoe to enable him to walk in a balanced and even way. One meeting they prayed over this brother and then carried on the meeting without anybody noticing any change, including the brother with the deformity. But when he went to put on his shoes at the end of the meeting, he noticed that he was all uneven and couldn't walk properly. During or after that prayer of healing, the Lord must have straightened out his back so that he was completely normal again so that when he went to put his invalide shoes on, he discovered that he was normal! As you can imagine, there was great rejoicing in that congregation!
Most of you have heard of the numerous miracles that Brother Herman has either seen or heard of in his ministry in Oslo. In one Pentecostal Church a man with a club-foot was healed before the eyes of the entire congregation - it literally grew into a normal foot in a matter of seconds. So, yes, miracles of healing do occur, and they are occuring spectacularly where the true Word is being preached.
Mark says: "And these signs will accompany those who believe: In My (Yah'shua's/Jesus') Name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well" (Mk.16:17-18, NIV; see also Olive Branch, PWNC 990404B, Supplement I, p.15, for explanation of this passage). The Bible lists many other gifts - these are some of the more dramatic ones. Yah'shua Himself gave this commandment to His apostles: "Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons" (Mt.10:8, NIV). You will notice that Satan cannot duplicate all of these, especially those associated with demons. And whilst he cannot raise the dead, he does have a technique for making dead bodies seemingly come back to life. The pagan Tibetans are known to be able to do this, but the "dead" aren't the original occupants of the dead bodies, but demons who have temporalily taken control of them. And because these are not "their" bodies, they walk around like zombies. And they don't "live" for very long. No, raising the dead Satan cannot easily duplicate, especially if a body has virtually decomposed away.
You all know the story of Lazarus whon Yah'shua (Jesus) raised from the dead (Jn.11). This miracle was so dramatic that it was the straw that broke the camel's back for Yah'shua's (Jesus') enemies and they at once sought to kill both Him and the evidence, Lazarus. So when raising of the dead takes place, you can be absolutely sure persecution follows.
You may well think that Lararus is the only example of the dead being raised. It was certainly the most dramatic and set the dominoes falling leading to the Saviour's crucifixion. But you will also remember that Yah'shua (Jesus) raised others from the dead, including the son of the widow of Na'in (Lk.7:11-16) and the daughter of Jairus (Lk.8:49-56). But this was not a gift limited to Christ Himself, for He promised His disciples: "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father" (Jn.14:12, NIV). So we had better believe it, hadn't we? If we have true faith in Christ will, when Yahweh wills it, be performing all the miracles that Yah'shua (Jesus) did in mortality, and greater.
That does not mean that we can do whatever we want. It does not mean we can choose when, how, and on whom we wish to perform a miracle. The power is not, in any case, ours, but Yahweh's, to dispense as He wishes and always for a spiritual purpose. Healing is not just for healing's sake, but is supposed to build up the faith of true believers (not unbelievers), lead unbelievers to repentance, and to bring about forgiveness of sins. Often when Christ healed, He pronounced forgiveness of sins because the sick person was seeking for God in some way. God does not heal randomly but there is always an ulterior spiritual purpose. We must never forget that.
Most Christians don't believe that God is raising the dead today, and indeed a good many don't even believe Christ and the disciples did in the Bible, because they have lost faith. But it is happening, and has been happening ever since the Day of Pentecost. And it is going to happen again and again until Christ returns and raised everyone from the dead, though this time to immortality.
The following story of a man being raised from the dead took place two years ago. As I relate it to you I want you to be aware of why Yahweh performed this miracle. It was shared with me by Brother Kington Loo from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, a week ago.
In 1998 a Buddhist monk belonging to the majority Burmese (or Barmar) ethnic group died in Myanmar (Burma). A few days later a ceremony was held where his body was to be cremated in traditional manner. By now, his body stank and his flesh had started to decay. He was certainly dead! Hundreds of fellow monks and relatives of the deceased gathered to watch the ceremony. Right when the corpse was about to be incinerated the monk suddenly sat upright and started shouting! He shouted, "It's all a lie! It's all a lie!" to the startled onlookers. "We have been told a lie! I saw our forefathers burning and being torturned in a lake of fire. I saw Buddha there, and all the other famous Buddhist saints. They were all in the lake of fire!" he went on to urge the people, "We must listen to the Christians. The Christians are the only ones who know the Truth!" Not surprisingly, this event shook the whole area. More than 300 Buddhist monks became Christians and started taking Christian instruction. The risen man continued to exort everyone to believe in Jesus Christ [Yah'shua haMashiach] because only He is the True God. Copies of the former monk's testimony were put on cassette tape and distributed around Myanmar (formerly named Burma).
Soon, the Buddhist hierarchy and government officials were alerted and the monk was arrested. Since then he has not been heard of and it is feared he was kileld in order to silence him. It has become a serious offence to listen to the tape of the monk's testimony as the authorities seek to stamp out the sensation caused by this event. (Asian Minorities Outreach tract, Buddhist Monk Reaturns from the Dead to Proclaim the Gospel!, 16 February 2000, 09:06:41 SGT, Box 17, Chang Klan P.O., Chiang Mai, 50101, Thailand. Email: [email protected]).
Brethren and sisters, Yahweh personally raised this man from the dead to be a special witness in the same way that He intervened in the life of the Christian-hater and persecutor, Saul of Tarsus, on his way to Damascus, a zealous and blind Judean Benjaminite. Such things are happening around the world and because Satan cannot duplicate such miracles religious and government authorities do their best to suppress them because they hate the truth. As such, though, Yahweh did not raise this Buddhist monk to demonstrate that He has power over death, but to warn unbelievers that a lake of fire awaits them if they do not repent. That is why I have so often urged you not to postpone submitting your life to Christ, because tomorrow may be too late. Paul warns us all: "I tell you, now is the time of God's favour, now is the day of salvation" (2 Cor.6:2, NIV). Not tomorrow, but today. Now.
Remember, that monk had no agenda. He was a Buddhist. He saw what he saw and simply reported back. The unsaved - those who are not trusting in Christ - go to a lake of fire after death. This was not a belief he expressed after studying theology and arriving at a personal opinion, he saw it for himself. I am reminded of the disbelief that the Allies in World War II had when they were told by spies that the nazis were gassing Jews to death in their millions. Few would believe the reports. But those who escaped from the concentration camps to tell their story knew what they had seen. Something could have been done alot earlier but by the time Nazi Germany was occupied. The grizzly truth was all too obvious and millions had died. So the real question we must ask ourselves: Must we also postpone the day of our salvation and risk ending up with Buddha and the great ones of his religion? Must we wait and watch our loved ones end up in the same place without witnessing to them? Dare we take such a risk? If Yahweh raised a pagan from the dead to warn us of what is waiting for the unbeliever, dare we make light of it? It is not as though it is a new message either - it is the same message in the Bible.
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Last updated on 5 February 2001
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