Many Christians recognize that we are living in the last days and that God is at work to make His love known to the ends of the earth. Man must hear the Good News before he can decide if he will accept God’s gift of eternal life or continue to live under Satan’s rule.
Many today sincerely want to serve God in that task, but there are three primary ways we can go about it. Paul identifies them in our text: Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified - -.
God’s way is very different from man’s way, as He says in Isaiah 55:8-11. And Paul reiterates that in I Cor. 1:20-21. Isn’t God sort of “in your face?” And so is Jesus! In Mt. 7:13-27 He includes some very scary words in speaking of the narrow gate and false prophets, and concludes with the story of the houses built on the sand and on the rock. Yes, there is rock and there is sand. There’s a fork in the road. There are choices to be made. The right fork is Jesus our rock of salvation, “Christ crucified.” The one that is left is the sand of man’s passion for signs and/or wisdom.
If we “preach Christ crucified” we will humbly seek to know Him; to serve Him as Master; and to thus be filled with His presence which flows through us to those around us. (see Rivers of Living Water) And we’ll call others to the same!
That’s not a “quick and easy” process and sometimes it’s downright unpleasant. It involves repentance; offering our bodies as a living sacrifice; transformation by the renewing of our mind (Rom. 12:1-2); and becoming disciples of Jesus by denying our self interests and taking up our cross daily to follow Him (Mark 8:34-38). This path welcomes signs and wonders but its passionate pursuit; its greatest joy; and its mark of success are to know Christ and to make Him known to others.
Signs and Wisdom
There is however, the other branch on the fork in the road where some promote signs and wonders and others seek “wisdom.” We’re seeing those two mixed today in circles that emphasize prophesy, new revelation, healing, being “slain in the spirit,” trembling, people making animal sounds and other supernatural expressions. They seek “the prophetic anointing” or other outpouring of God’s power, assuming that the Acts 2:1-4 sort of spectacular event is normative for today. It is not.
These folks are captivated by the spectacular, and they flock to “revivals.” The authentic, soul-wrenching revival which is confirmed in one’s family life, finances, attitudes and relationships is of less concern to them. Such deviant theology today often comes through those who promote Dominion Theology, Kingdom Now, Latter Rain, Word of Faith, Restorationism, heavenly visions, dream interpretations and similar emphases. An Assemblies of God response can be read here.
There’s a lot of high-flying, false teaching today that does not represent the wisdom of God as Paul speaks of it in I Cor. 1 thru 3. Preachers want to be seen as wise and powerful. Consider I Cor. 4:10. Don’t follow those who draw attention to their miracles and to their having raised people from the dead as proof of how spiritual they are! It’s not all of God.
The spiritual gifts of I Cor. 12:4-11 are tools to equip us for the work of Matt. 28:18-20, Luke 24:45-49 (did you catch that “go and tell but wait in the city until”?) and Acts 1:8. Unless the evangelistic mandate is the most compelling drive in us, we will either deny the gifts or use them in the man-exalting and selfish way that we see around us today.
Will we preach Christ – or miracles? Judge everything they say by Paul’s standard, “I preach Christ and Him crucified,” and by whether they invite you to follow Jesus in His life of humility, sacrifice and servitude. How many popular signs and wonders and “kingdom now” preachers will call hearers to relinquish all of their rights and offer themselves as a slave to Jesus? “Slave” is the accurate translation of the word that is usually translated “servant” in the Bible.
And there is so much honoring of the stuff of the world in a way that flagrantly violates the “strangers and pilgrims” attitude of I Peter (read the whole book); the words of our Lord in Matt. 6:19-34; and of John in I John 2:15-17. Spirituality is often measured more by earthly treasure, than heavenly.
God cares about even the little everyday things of our life and He often fulfills our request for help to find something that we lost; to heal us; or to provide money for this or that. But we must be humble in our requests and know that what we want is not always what we need.
The core issue is whether we preach Christ and Him crucified – or pursue the seemingly more spectacular spiritual manifestations of our day. Is power sought through an external “coming upon” or by surrendering to Christ and being filled with His presence?
Satan also has miracle working power. He can have false “prophets” say things that are true. (True, but not actually life-giving.) Consider II Cor. 11:13-15. In fact he can duplicate anything except the salvation and new life that Jesus offers. In Matt. 7:24-25 Jesus said; For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25See, I have told you ahead of time. Do we “hear” that and do we take Him seriously?
Any power that does not flow from the ruling presence of Jesus in the life of a born again, surrendered and Spirit-filled Christian is satanic. Many are being deceived. After having appeared so spiritual here, they will be shocked by the words of Jesus, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers.” The choice is ours; the days are short; the time is now.
Jan. 19, 2011