Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. Miracles, they seem to be everywhere, and almost everybody wants one, whose heart isn't moved by seeing someone in a wheelchair desperate to walk again. But think, could these so-called miracles really be a form of demonic deception?
Stay with us. From the Moody Church in Chicago, this is Running to Win with Dr. Erwin Lutzer, whose clear teaching helps us make it across the finish line. Pastor Lutzer, are there some genuine miracles mixed in with all the deception out there?
Dave, you've asked me a very excellent and pointed question. And I'm tempted to say yes, but I also need to add that the early church saw many miracles. After the early church moved off the scene and you have the development of church history, there have been very few miracles throughout the history of the church. But of course, today we're living in an age when there are many false miracles, and sometimes we might not be able to tell the difference, but usually time will tell. If I had more time on this program speaking to you directly, I could even tell stories about indeed miracles that were really done under demonic power.
But for now, I want you to listen to this program, and when we return, I'm going to have some very important information for you as to how you can help us get the gospel of Jesus Christ around the world. I don't think I have to tell you that our culture is awash with miracles. Millions of people are trying to plug into the metaphysical world to try to find a miracle that is just right for them. I spent some time in the library looking at various books, all kinds of books on miracles and records of miracles. A television program has been dedicated to miracles, miracle stories, one after another.
Here's what I came across. One day a phantom dog appears out of nowhere to guide a family away from danger. A silent hitchhiker leads a doctor to a school bus crash. A guardian angel gets a sick child to the hospital, and the list goes on and on. I also checked out a book from the library entitled A Course in Miracles by Helen Schuschman. Now she wrote this book under the inspiration of some spirit, some revelation that came to her, and she took down the revelation almost as by dictation. If I may quote her words directly, there was a rapid inner dictation, she said.
That's known as automatic writing. It is always found in the occult. People are studying this book and they're experiencing their own miracles.
I cannot even tell you about what I've read about what this book has done. People are finding jobs, unexpectedly money is coming their way. Healings are taking place.
Miracles certainly take place everywhere. Well I'm going to begin with a word of caution taken from the words of Jesus. If you have read her Bibles, turn to Matthew chapter 7, Matthew chapter 7 verse 21 and 22. Now this happens to be a series of messages on the topic of discernment. We've spoken about doctrinal discernment, discerning false prophets. Today it's discernment regarding miracles. Matthew chapter 7 verse 21, not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles. And I will tell them plainly, I never knew you away from me, you evil doers. Wow.
Three quick observations. A miracle is not necessarily done by God just because it's done by miracle workers who call Christ Lord. Certainly if there's wrong doctrine as we shall see, then the miracle has to be discounted. But even with right doctrine, people who say, Lord, Lord, they're evil doers.
The miracle is not necessarily from God just because it helps people. In thy name we cast out demons. In thy name we did many wonderful works that benefited people.
I never knew you depart from me, evil doers. Third observation is that just because the miracle worker fully expects to be in heaven does not mean that he is from God. You can imagine the shock on his face as the door to heaven closes and he says, Lord, look at what we did in your name. Lord, look at what we did in your name and he will say you are an evil doer to part from me. Jesus warned in the 24th chapter of Matthew, he said that at the end time miracles are going to be done and he says these miracles are going to be done so well. He says great signs and great wonders that will deceive if possible even the elect. Maybe they can't ultimately deceive the elect at the final day, but I do believe there are many elect today that are being deceived. Don't you understand the great need for discernment in this area where you have miracles all over the place?
Before I get into the principles that I'm going to share with you, may I say that in the history of the Christian church, the miracles that Jesus did when he was here on earth have never, ever, ever, ever been done so far as we know. There's no record of them. No record of anyone taking five loaves and two fish and feeding 5,000 people. No record of someone walking on the water. No record of the dead actually being raised. Every instance where we've had people say, yes, the dead have been raised, you investigated and you know that it really does, it's like sand through your fingers.
There's no hard evidence. The apostles did many miracles, but after the time of the miracles, the miracles kind of died away. Now, they did come again in Rome when Christianity captured the Roman Empire.
Rome was a polytheistic society, a very spiritually minded society just like ours and Rome was awash with miracles and Christians fit into that and I'm sorry to say they believe many superstitions. There were miracles that were done in the name of pagan gods and these same miracles were attributed to the name of Jesus. Why so many miracles on the pages of the New Testament?
Well, they were given to authenticate the witness and the claims of Jesus to show that his words and his works matched. He was the bread of life. If he was the bread of life physically and could feed 5,000 with a small boy's lunch, he was also the bread of life that could feed our souls.
That was the emphasis. That's why John calls them signs. And the apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 12 that the signs of an apostle, he says, were done by me. Apostles also had the ability to do signs, not all the signs that Jesus did, but they did many miracles. And in Hebrews chapter 2, we find the very same thing that the miracles authenticated the witness of Christ. The author says that the message was confirmed by those of us who heard them speak by signs and by wonders. All that is not to say that God doesn't do miracles today. It is to say that we should be very skeptical and we should not expect the same kinds of things that happened in the New Testament era. All that by way of introduction and what I'd like to share with you are five principles that I hope will help us in discerning this whole business of miracles. Now I have to say that this is a topical message. It is not based on one passage of scripture. It's based on a number. And sometimes I will simply quote a verse. Oftentimes they'll give you the reference. In a few instances, I will actually read it because as I was going through this message this past week, it dawned on me that every one of these principles could very easily be a separate message.
So I'm only giving you the outline. Are you ready for the journey? Everybody with me as we begin? Praise God. Praise God.
I'll go with you. You folks in the balcony, you're ready too because we're going to do some studying here and some thinking together. Number one, the power of Christianity is not seen in physical miracles. That's not its ultimate power, but rather in the good news of the gospel.
That's the power of Christianity. There are people who say, well you know we need signs and wonders. We need revelations. We need angels. We need visions. We need special incredible miracles and then the world will believe.
But do you know something? That signs and wonders are not unique to Christianity. Listen to what a missionary said by the name of Alan Cole and he was speaking of the signs and wonders movement.
He says, none of these signs are new to me. Healings, visions, tongues, exorcisms, but the trouble is that I have seen every one of them in non-Christian religions and outwardly there was no difference in the signs except that one was done in the name of Jesus and the other was not. Of course if the person was also responding to the gospel there was real and lasting change of life. That's why I can't get excited about healings in themselves and why I can reverently understand how Jesus used them sparingly and retreated when the crowds became too great. I went to the library as I mentioned to you and I checked out some books on miracles, discovered something very interesting. There are books on Hindu miracles. There are books on Buddhist miracles. If you've ever read the Christian Science Centennial you'll notice that there are all kinds of articles about miraculous healings, detailed articles which supposedly are verified by physicians. And yet when you begin to look more closely and see the theology that is used here it is much more akin to what a friend of mine calls the hyper spirituality of pop culture. I've read all kinds of things about what some of these healers say about how when you pray your hands change color and how there are those who say that they can smell God.
All kinds of foolishness that is really part of popular culture. All of that now comes under the banner of Christianity. Again it's not to say that God doesn't do miracles. It's to say that what passes for miracles often times is really not a miracle based on God's word at all.
It's something else. In a previous message I told you but it fits here again that the reformers when they uncover the gospel official Christendom said we have the truth because you don't have the miracles. We do. We have statues that weep.
We have relics that multiply themselves. We have we have all of these stories of miracles. We have the truth and the reformers said no the gospel itself is the power of God onto salvation to those who believe. And in first Corinthians which is really the passage I wanted to give you here. First Corinthians 1 22 and 24.
I shall not read it but you do that on your own. It says the Jews they want a sign and the Greeks are seeking wisdom but he says what we do is we preach the gospel the power of God. I tell you you can perform all kinds of healings and there are going to be people who will not believe because of the healings they'll have alternate explanations. But when you have someone like a Charles Colson and you see this transformation of life the change of a Craig Klosowski sitting right over here the testimony that we heard last week who can gain say the transformation of the human heart. It is the gospel that shows the power of God most clearly.
Principle number two. Biblical miracles are presented as redemptive acts of God. Redemptive acts of God. For example it says in Psalm 135 verse 9 he sent his signs and wonders into your midst oh Egypt. He was talking about the signs and wonders during the days of Pharaoh. And in the book of Acts the signs and wonders are referred to as as God's gracious acts of intervention redemptively.
But here's where it gets tricky. Sometimes signs and wonders are not of God at all. During the time of Moses you find that Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh. I'm in the seventh chapter of Exodus and did just as the Lord commanded Aaron threw down his staff in front of Pharaoh and it became a snake. Pharaoh then summoned the wise men and the sorcerers and the Egyptian magicians and they did the same things by their secret arts. Now it does say that in this instant when the staffs were thrown down that one swallowed the other Aaron's did but but they did the same thing.
Listen to this. Moses and Aaron did just as the Lord commanded. Moses raised his staff in the presence of Pharaoh and his officials and struck the water of the Nile and all the water was changed into blood. The fish in the Nile died the river smelled so bad that the Egyptians could not drink its water. Blood was everywhere in Egypt but the Egyptian magicians did the same thing with their secret arts. Wow. Miracle for miracle. Moses does this.
They do that. You say well where are they getting their power? Well we would assume the devil but we're not specifically told. All that we know is that signs and wonders can occur also in a pagan culture. You know it's interesting that the signs and wonders in themselves were not sufficient for people to believe because the very next verse if I had read it in the passage I was reading with from Exodus said and Pharaoh hardened his heart because he was saying we can do what you can do. You look at the ministry of Jesus as his signs and wonders increased hostility toward him in the popular culture also increased. Now signs and wonders are good and they authenticate a message for those who are willing to believe but for those who are not willing to believe no sign nor wonder would ever possibly convince them. In fact Jesus ended by saying you know a wicked and adulterous generation is seeking after a sign. All that you want from me is do another miracle. Feed us once more. Show us what you can do.
Walk across the water. Jesus said I'm not going there. I'm not going there. I've given you enough reason to believe and more signs would not change your heart. So first of all we notice that the power of God is best seen in the gospel.
Signs are a redemptive act of God. Thirdly there is no promise, no promise that we can have a miracle and here I'm thinking particularly of healing. There's no promise that we can have a miracle such as healing whenever we want it if only we have the faith. Why do I feel so strongly about these matters?
It's because I've seen it throughout the years. I've had people who are very close to me buy into this view that because Jesus conquered the devil and sicknesses of the devil you have a right to be healed from whatever it is that ails you at any time in any way if only you have the faith and if you are not healed it is because you do not have the faith. In my own family, in the wider family, I've had people weep saying God has rejected me because I claim this healing and I've not received it. No, you do not have a right to claim that healing. You know it's interesting that faith healers themselves, some of them end up wearing glasses, they get arthritis and you know what happens in the end? They die. Well I thought that if Jesus Christ died that we always be healed.
Just keep getting your healing. We had some friends like that. They said we will never die because we are going to claim our healing moment by moment by moment by moment. These are friends of ours.
Well guess what? They died. They died. I see so much hurt in this area. I see faith healers blaming people. If you don't have the faith, it's your fault that you weren't healed. If you are healed, look at my gift of healing.
I've seen that so often. Now let me be very candid and here again you know this could be a whole separate message. That's why I'm a little frustrated but you're going to get the big picture and that is that of course Jesus died for his body, soul and spirit. I don't argue with those who say that there is healing in the atonement, that the redemption of the body was included in the death of Christ but my dear friend, we do not enter into all those benefits and blessings in this life. In this life, says Paul, we groan waiting for the redemption of the body. Some of you bless you.
I'm looking at you right now. You woke up this morning and you were groaning and you were thoroughly biblical. Those groans were biblical groans. Yes, of course the day is coming when we're going to have brand new bodies, when we'll be no longer subject to illness and arthritis and car accidents and all of the other things. Of course that day is coming and that's what Jesus purchased but in this life, we shall have tribulation. In this life, we have sickness. In this life, we die.
And you know my friend, the Bible says that Jesus Christ came to destroy death but we still die. And that's why I like to emphasize that indeed, all of these blessings are in the atonement but many of them, we will experience not in this life but in the life to come. I want to thank the many of you who support the ministry of Running to Win. I'm holding in my hands a letter from someone who writes, Pastor Lutzer, you have often impacted my life immeasurably. I listen to you on Running to Win on my way to work for 30 years and I would often request CDs of the many sermons and listen to them again and again. Your teaching helped me get through a very hard time knowing that God is in charge. You, my friend, have had a part in testimonies just like this.
Running to Win is not a program that belongs to a man, to a church, to an organization. It is your ministry. Thank you so much for helping us.
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Thanks in advance for helping us. We're getting the gospel around the world. It's time again for you to ask Pastor Lutzer a question about the Bible or the Christian life. The issue of miracles has Marty concerned.
Here's his story. I was listening a week or so ago and you said you believed that the devil could do miracles. You said there are many pastors on TV that are doing miracles in the name of Jesus that could be actually doing those miracles with the devil behind them. I was wondering if you could expound on this matter and maybe give me some verses in the Bible I could use to help me understand this more fully.
Thanks so much, Marty, for connecting with us and the answer is yes. I believe that there are those who in the name of Jesus say that they are doing miracles and they are doing it in the power of Satan. A couple of comments. First of all, Matthew 24, Jesus reminded us that false Christs would come and they would deceive many. And then you have 2 Thessalonians 2 where it says that Antichrist is going to do signs and wonders and miracles.
Those three words are used for the signs and the wonders and the miracles of Jesus as Satan duplicates what Jesus was able to do, or at least he purports to be able to do everything that Jesus was able to do. But a specific answer to your question is found in 2 Corinthians 11. Paul says there that false teachers have another Jesus. They do miracles in the name of a different Jesus. So they use the name of Jesus, but it's not Jesus of Nazareth, it's Jesus the Cosmic Christ or Jesus the Santa Claus or Jesus who wants to heal everybody. Not the Jesus of the New Testament who forces us or at least who challenges us to deal with sin.
Not that Jesus, it's a different Jesus. And in the very same passage, and you can read it there for yourself, this is 2 Corinthians 11, the Apostle Paul says that these teachers, in these teachers, Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. And they come as ministers of righteousness, not unrighteousness, but righteousness. So there you have it.
Satan working through false teachers, doing all kinds of things, even miracles. We need to be wary, we need discernment, and we always need to ask, what Jesus is this evangelist proclaiming? Thank you, Marty, for your question. Thank you, Pastor Lutzer, for your perceptive answer.
If you'd like to hear your question answered, you can. Go to our website at rtwoffer.com and click on Ask Pastor Lutzer. Or call us at 1-888-218-9337.
That's 1-888-218-9337. You can write to us at Running to Win, 1635 North LaSalle Boulevard, Chicago, Illinois, 60614. Running to Win is all about helping you understand God's roadmap for your race of life. Here's a question, where is the power of God most evident, in a healed tumor or in a life changed from the inside out? Next time on Running to Win, why the power of the gospel to save people far transcends the power some claim it offers to those who seek a miracle. Thanks for listening. For Dr. Erwin Lutzer, this is Dave McAllister. Running to Win is sponsored by the Moody Church.
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