Not Every Miracle is Holy

Not Every Miracle is Holy

So Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh summoned the wise men and the sorcerers, and they, the magicians of Egypt, also did the same by their secret arts. For each man cast down his staff, and they became serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs. Still Pharaoh’s heart was hardened, and he would not listen to them, as the Lord had said. Exodus 7:11-13

If you were a kid growing up in the early 2000’s, you probably saw this scene play out in the movie The Prince of Egypt. There is a song in the movie called “Playing With the Big Boys” where the magicians and sorcerers of Egypt go head to head with Aaron and Moses. In reality, it was a match up between the Egyptian gods and Yahweh, the God of Israel—unholy vs. holy.

Aaron’s staff turning into a serpent was nothing special to these magicians. They were able to do the same thing by appealing to their occult practices. Recently, I have heard similar testimonies from my Thai Christian friends. One friend said that he knew someone who had severely broken his arm in an accident. Instead of going to the hospital, this man visited the local witch doctor. According to my friend’s testimony, the man’s arm was at least visibly, if not completely, healed.

As we read through the 10 plagues in Exodus, we see that the magicians were able to duplicate several miracles that Aaron and Moses did. They were able to turn water into blood and bring frogs up onto the land. However, once the third plague (gnats) came, the magicians were no longer able to recreate the miracles. In Exodus 8:19, they tell Pharaoh that “this is the finger of God.” The magicians realized that they were outmatched. But, they should have realized it when their serpents were swallowed up before.

Satan has some power and lots of tricks. He is able to do some miraculous things, but he never does them with good or holy intentions. So, why does he do them exactly? Because this is what people want to see (Matthew 16:1). They want the miracles without Jesus. They want healing without having to call Jesus, “Lord Luke 17:12-18).” They want power to carry out their own sinful will and desires (Acts 8:18-19); whereas, the Holy Spirit gives us power to do the will of God. Satan will try do whatever he can to deceive people all the way to their destruction. And the miraculous things the devil is doing in the world shouldn’t be thought of as counterfeits. They are so real and believable that even the elect will be led astray by them, according to Jesus (Matthew 24:24).

As pastor David Guzik has said: “Miracles can prove that something is supernatural, but they cannot prove that something is true.” The only thing we can trust is the goodness and truthfulness of God’s Word. Everything he does is holy and righteous (Psalm 145:17). Trust Him in everything. Seek His face more than His hand. Test every miracle against the Word of God because even our senses are affected by our fallen nature. Today as you reflect on the wonder-working power of our holy God, remember the words of the psalmist, Asaph:

I will remember the deeds of the LORD;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples.
You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah

Psalm 77:11-15

What Do Christians Look Like?

What Do Christians Look Like?

When I was in high school, my church’s youth group would go to a conference called Winter Xtreme in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Perhaps some of you have heard of it. It is a jam-packed weekend of Christians bands and speakers. I remember regularly hearing Casting Crowns and NewSong perform at these events, much to the delight of everyone in attendance. These guys are considered CCM royalty at this point. But, one year a much different band took the stage by the name of Flyleaf. They sounded and looked nothing like Casting Crowns or NewSong. Instead, they looked like this:

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Their music was loud and aggressive. All of the band members were wearing black clothes and eyeliner. The guitarist and bass player were spinning around on stage while playing. And the lead singer, Lacey Sturm, was screaming some of the lyrics at times. It was such a shock to the youth groups in attendance that some people started to boo, while others packed up their things and left. My youth leaders decided to let each of us decide whether or not we wanted to stay. I decided to stay because, well, I liked their sound. And as a drummer myself, I wanted to watch their drummer because he was playing with such speed and velocity.

By the time Flyleaf was on their second or third song, almost half of the audience was gone. It is such a shame because during their set, Lacey Sturm, gave one of the clearest explanations of the Gospel I have ever heard. She also shared her testimony about how close she was to committing suicide before she heard the Gospel herself. That night, I remember many students going forward to receive Christ for the first time. I know that the Lord used her story to reach young people battling the same issues.

I can’t help but wonder about all of the people who left before she shared her story. How many leaders and parents took their students out because they passed a quick judgment on Flyleaf’s looks and music? I have been to many Christian concerts over the years, but I honestly don’t remember hearing a lead singer stop the show in order to share the Gospel. You see, there is a danger in looking at someone and saying, “There is no way they are Christians, just look at them!” What does a Christian look like, anyway?

If a suit and tie made people Christians, I’d buy them for everyone I could. If eating Chick-fil-a could save you, I’d buy as many chicken sandwiches as I could afford. If people could become born again simply by using essential oils, I’d give them out to every person I could come in contact with. But these things aren’t what makes you a Christian.

Sure, you will see many genuine Christians wearing suits, eating Chick-fil-a, and using essential oils, but these reveal nothing about their standing with God. It doesn’t matter what we look like on the outside. What matters is what has taken place within the depths of our souls. Please listen to me—you can look Christian and still end up in hell. You can wear all the Christian t-shirts, own an ESV Study Bible, listen to TobyMac, teach a Sunday School class, even preach behind a pulpit and still not know the One, True, Living God.  

Have you repented of your sins and trusted in Jesus as your personal Savior? Have you been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb? 

God is calling people from every tribe, nation, tongue…and walk of life. Just because someone doesn’t look like you doesn’t mean that they don’t know Jesus. Rejoice in how diversely beautiful the body of Christ is already and will be once the Great Commission is fulfilled. Thank God that Christians can look like you, like Casting Crowns, like Flyleaf, like anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord. Maybe Lacey Sturm didn’t look like someone I’d see at my church, but on that night, she looked like Jesus.

Who's the Next False Teacher?

Who’s the Next False Teacher?

I have this tendency to get carried away about things. Whenever I hear a new song I like, I tend to obsess over it. I will listen to it over and over to the point where I start to annoy myself. Whenever I sample a new food that I like, I go back to it again and again until I am physically sick of it. But, it’s true of my spiritual life, as well. In my efforts to discern  truth from lies, I will spend hours researching about certain doctrines/topics in order to come to a “proper conclusion” about them. This may seem like a good thing at face value, but there exists a danger. The problem isn’t really the research; it is the obsession. If you swim out too far from shore there is always the danger of getting carried away.

Today much of our discernment takes place online. We look to Google, Facebook pages, and YouTube channels to find out who’s the latest false teacher. I am not saying that these things are bad. In fact, they have helped me a lot, especially while I was maturing in my walk with the Lord in college. However, we need to be careful that we don’t call people false teachers who really aren’t, as well as, listen to people who are false teachers just because some other person says that they are okay. I think many of us have this tendency to think we know God’s Word well enough to not be deceived. Yet, by thinking this way we have already been deceived by our own pride.

Yesterday, my wife gave me a profound analogy about staying grounded in the truth of God’s Word. She described the essential truths of our faith as a long hall. There are doors along this hall that open up into many rooms. These rooms represent the nonessential doctrines we hold. Anyone can explore those rooms to learn and discern, but be careful. You never know who you might meet while you are in there. 2 Peter 2:1 says this:

False prophets were among God’s people in the past, as false teachers will be among you. They will secretly bring in their own destructive teachings. They will deny the Lord, who has bought them, and they will bring themselves swift destruction.

In other words, if we aren’t careful in our research about these false teachers, we may end up believing in what they preach. You ask, “how could that happen?” It can happen because these false teachers are among us. They look like regular people. They are in some of our congregations. They are at some of the conferences our youth groups go to. They are singing on some of the albums we really like (this is hard one for me to deal with). Have we ever stopped to consider how these people arrived at such destructive doctrines? Is it possible they got carried away themselves? If it can happen to them, what makes you think it can’t happen to you?

The enemy knows he won’t lead us astray with obvious heresy. To point back to the analogy, the devil doesn’t meet us in the hall. Instead, he tickles our ears while we are exploring the rooms. If he can get to you while you are in there, he just might be able to get you to turn around and leave the hall of orthodoxy altogether. You may have entered in order to become a more mature follower of Jesus, but now you have emerged as the one thing you were trying to avoid—the next false teacher.

Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” Come to your senses and stop sinning; for some people are ignorant about God. I say this to your shame. 1 Corinthians 15:33