29th October 2023

Discerning Miraculous Signs

Passage: Exodus 7, Deuteronomy 13, Matthew 7:21-23, 24:24, Galatians 1:6-9, Revelation 16:13-14
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Automatically Generated Transcript

One of the privileges I feel I have being in our church is going along to the different home groups and many a time there's been something that was being studied in the home group that gave me a clue to what would make a good message. And so we have home groups on Tuesday, there's three on Tuesday and we have one on Wednesday and one on Friday. And on Wednesday they've been going through the book of Daniel and as was earlier said that's been a very interesting time. Not many churches take up the challenge for their people. People learn from the book of Daniel because it's so complicated and it's not always clear how to interpret the things that are said. But the fellow, they had someone come on into the night via way of a DVD who was speaking about various things that are recorded of the end times. And he had something to say, he said not just because there are signs should you necessarily believe they're from God. And he had a list of Bible verses which were actually telling of how some signs are not from God. And I thought gee that's something that we all should learn more about. And so that's where I've gotten this idea of a message tonight and we'll start a very obvious place in the book of Exodus. And the Exodus, the word Exodus means the leaving. The leaving of the people. The going out. It means the delivery really. It's about the delivery. And so here we have the record in Exodus. I think it's chapter 7. Is that right? Yeah. Yeah, there we go. So, and the Lord said to Moses, see I've made you like God to Pharaoh. Meaning Moses was going to represent God to Pharaoh. And your brother Aaron shall be your prophet. He'll speak. He'll speak on your behalf and on my behalf. You shall speak all that I command you and your brother Aaron shall tell Pharaoh to let the people of Israel go out of his land. But I will harden Pharaoh's heart and though I multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt, Pharaoh will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and bring my hosts, my people of the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt. By great acts of judgement. And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord when I stretch out my hand against Egypt and bring out the people of Israel from among them. Now the narrative continues. Moses and Aaron did so. They did just as the Lord commanded them. Now Moses was 80 years old and Aaron was 83. Aaron was the older brother. And when they spoke to Pharaoh. Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron. When? Pharaoh says to you, prove yourself by working a miracle. Then you shall say to Aaron, take your staff and cast it down before Pharaoh that it may become a serpent. So Moses and Aaron went into Pharaoh and did just as the Lord commanded. And Aaron cast down his staff before Pharaoh and his servants and it became a snake serpent. And 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. When there are snakes. Still Pharaoh's heart was hardened and he would not listen to them as the Lord had said. Now we won't read more from Exodus 7 and Exodus 8. But it continues through the various miracles that God did to shake up. The Egyptians and eventually lead to the final time of the passing over of God. Over the area and all those homes where the blood of the little lamb was not put on the doorposts. The oldest son died. And these were things that caused Pharaoh to eventually and his people to have to let the Israelites go. But the interesting thing is on the way through. Not every time. But we discover that the people who were in the court of the Egyptians. Because they had. Well they were magicians. And when you say magicians sometimes it's like a lot of you know sneaky appearances that are worked in. But also in the olden days there were existing times when those secret arts being talked about produced legitimate real miracles. Signs. And so the lesson we immediately learn is that the devil is in the business. Of copying the signs that God can do. Now this has a big impact on understanding about things. When it comes to Christianity you'll be aware that there are some churches which are always seeking to have miracles happen. And there are other churches whose basic idea is they believe in the miracles in the Bible but they don't believe miracles are for today. And you get quite a spectrum of different approaches to the idea of miracles. And especially. Those miracles are taken as signs from God. How do we understand this? And my message tonight is to make clear from the scriptures. Not to go to either of the extremes. Of that issue. Because those extremes that once they see a something spectacular then they believe it's from God. That's the more charismatic end of the spectrum. And there are other people. Who so believe that God doesn't deal in those things these days. That they will disbelieve any sign that comes along. In your personal life of walking with the Lord. Is there going to be a time when you need him to do something? Supernatural. Is God in the business of healing legitimate healing? Or not. Now we have the. Word of God. That does two things. One is that it gives the example the book of Acts has got much listings. Of the times when God has done miraculous things. Particularly through the apostles I might say. And so you can't outlaw. Because you believe the Bible. That you can't have miracles because the book you say you believe has got miracles in it. And we in our interpretation have to work out what that means for us. The second or the opposite thing is you shouldn't just accept that because there's a miracle it necessarily is God doing it. Because of the capacity of the spiritual world to produce things when I used to live amongst the Aborigines out at Tijara. When I say amongst the Aborigines they were the major peoples in the town. I was a teacher living in the education department little place. And there came some spirit men coming along. And these are aboriginal people who have touch with supernatural things. And their method of so doing is to point the bone. At someone they disagree with. They pointed the bone to some people in Tijara who died. There was a young girl. She might have been 15. They pointed the bone to I don't know why she got picked on. And she fell into a coma. And was taken away to hospital eventually taken down to Brisbane. Because none of the hospitals could wake her up. The aboriginal people came to me. And I was about to take a trip down to Brisbane which when they heard they said will you visit her for us. So I came down to Brisbane and here in one of the hospitals. I went to see the girl. Now. I wasn't all clued up in this whole topic. I have to admit that I didn't know what I was going to do when I got there. But I had people tell me of a fellow who a Christian worker, a man who worked amongst aborigines too. I think he was a fellow with I believed him anyway that he wasn't a crank or anybody who was a wild charismatic that you know I just believed everything. And he came with me and we stood around her bed in the hospital. I think it was the Royal Hospital. And we prayed in the name of Jesus. And we pled with heaven for the power of the blood of Christ. And she was not only woken up from the coma but back with the people within three days. God did it. Now that did something to me because it showed me because I guess I was a sceptical person that believed mostly that. Because the claims to miracles weren't true. I didn't know some were because I myself have been healed and I can't deny what has happened. But it did show me that God is in the business still of doing miracles. But we have to know whether the miracle is coming from God. And sometimes that boils down to whether or not the expectation that we have that he will do miracles. That's in line with how the scriptures present such opportunities. Now that was in Exodus and you'll find if you follow it through the next chapter there's more of those signs that are not from God. Which is what we notice the scripture giving us the picture of. Now we'll go to a few other verses. Why don't we go to Deuteronomy chapter 13. Now these are Old Testament of course. And so we're dealing with the old covenant days. We're dealing with Israel. And it is one of the features of Israel that God sometimes stepped in on their behalf with miraculous things. You only have to read about the crossing of the Red Sea. There's a number of places that you surely would know about with God stepping in for Israel. Right now we have a time going on in the Middle East where there's a war going on. And one of the difficulties in trying to understand what's presently happening in Israel and with the Palestinian people being held up for ransom sort of by the Hamas or whatever they're called who are using the Palestinians as a bit of a reason why Israel can't strike back. But Israel is striking back. And now the politicians all argue even in the United Nations. There's different voices talking as to whether Israel was right. We're doing what they're doing when they're going into the West Bank. And there are a lot of Palestinian people who are just normal people but getting killed. And even though I disagree with our Prime Minister who sort of took a spot where both sides were wrong though he's been trying to stand up for Israel. But in the United Nations he didn't. Speak up about the fact that the enemy of Israel, the ones who started this, that should figure in the discussion somewhere. They began the violence. But what we do see of Israel, I have to confess, I don't know how to be cheering for them. Because some of what they're doing is almost as bloodthirsty as what the others did. Now I know the motivation is that they can't put up with having this opportunity. They can't put up with the opposition to their people so close at hand that they do the raids they've done and murder people as they did. They've got to do something. But on the other hand they don't look terribly much like the people of God that I take them from the Scriptures to be. And it does need us to think carefully so we can have a right interpretation. Here's my guess at that. You think up what you think yourself. Pray about it. But I think the reason why we see what we see and have those feelings that I know I have of Israel trying to wipe out the evil ones that are doing all this, but they're doing it at the cost of Palestinians being killed in great numbers. Palestinians are not the ones who are doing it, but they're the ones whose style of people are, have got those who are extremists who are. But what is helpful for me is to realise that the Jewish nation and the people of the Jews are not yet who they're going to be. They are mostly people who are not even God-believers at all. There are the Orthodox Jews who certainly are and who try to keep the old law of Moses as best they can. And there are those who would be people of faith. And there are Christians who are there as well. They may be Jewish Christians or they may be people who are there in order to win the Jews. And I have friends who I study with in Dallas who are Italians. And they're there in the university work to witness to the Jews and seek to bring them to Christ. And part of the rationale why they are so there is because they read the scriptures and believe the parts that talk about there being a future for Israel in terms of coming to Christ. And there will be a time, the book of Romans gives the hint about it, that if God broke off the Jewish people from his tree of his activities and put in the Gentiles, that he can do the reverse. There can be a time for the end of the Gentile leadership in the church and God could let them not stick in things to use the analogy of the branch in the tree. And God can plant back in the Jewish people. And there's other passages which give the implication that those people who call themselves Jews and who are not Christians, maybe not even religious, but God can make them stand up and live again as converted people. And the reason why they are not living quite like I would like them to be so I could cheer on their side totally is because that hasn't happened yet. The fact that God seems to be sticking up for Israel and when you look back in their history, the Six Day War, it was a miraculous thing when all these other nations came in on them and yet they routed the lot and they won that law so magnificently. It wasn't back then that they were necessarily all right and all the Lord's total in his hands. But it's because there are prophecies in the Old Testament of their future and when God gives his word he doesn't go back on it. His prophecies, the Bible says, are yea and amen. They'll all come true. And he still looks after Israel even though they may not be being as they ought to be and most of them are not Christians. But that's the Chesed covenant keeping loyalty of God to keep his promises. And those same promises talk about there being a future for those people. And that's a fantastic thing. So we've been looking there at the Old Testament and the Jewish people and I've given you a bit of an interpretation about things today and how to understand that I'm not expecting them and their retaliation against whom else and they're doing all the right things. But he's still going to be with them because that's his promise. Now let's go to the New Testament. We'll go to Matthew in chapter 7. Now the thing that we're doing here is looking at signs not done by God. And in Matthew 7 we're just looking for examples to let us know what is possible and what not. Matthew 7, 21-23 Not everybody who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven. For the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven, they get in the door. On that day, that's the day of judgement, many will say to me, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and cast out demons in your name and do many mighty works in your name? That will happen because the name of Jesus does bring about miraculous things. And there are people who have sought to believe in the name of Jesus and have had ministries, some of whom turn out they don't seem to live like proper Christians. You don't know what to think. There are people who think they're Christians but they're not. But it doesn't mean that God's promises don't come true for them too. Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name? And even if you went along to a church and they had some prophecy and it miraculously comes true, don't immediately leave here and go there. Because, just because God honoured something and did a miracle in his mercy doesn't necessarily mean he was behind it. He must have been permissively behind it, but these people will say on that day we cast out demons in your name and do many mighty works in your name. Then will I declare to them, Jesus speaking, I'll declare to them, I never knew you. Depart from me, you workers of lawlessness. He's caught them out on the judgement day that they thought they were people on his side. But they were mistaken that he was not on their side. They had never come to know him. And one of the important elements of evangelicalism, the word evangel is just the Greek writing style for gospel. The evangel is the gospel and evangelicalism is that style of Christianity that puts belief in the gospel right at the centre. You can always tell the difference between an evangelical and a fundamentalist by the fact that the fundamentalists are usually known for what they're against. And the evangelicals are known for being for the gospel. And it's often a bit of a test to see about any group you look at as to not what they're going to be against. They might be against things people should be against, but what counts is who they're for. And sometimes you have a bit of a choice when you get a new job and you go somewhere as to how you'll introduce yourself, how you'll get to be seen. And if the first things they hear from you, I know this because I was like this once, were negatives, and they first, the group you went to as a new job, they heard what you were against. I remember the first time I went for a new job and they got annoyed at me for things I was against. One man never spoke to me, except for the fact he always was going to the gambling on the horses. And the only thing he said to me was along the lines, I can't remember his exact words now, he says, you think you're so holy, or something to that effect. He never said another word. I had to work with a man. He would never talk to me. But it's because I came in the door telling the things that I was against. What I should have learned to do, and I learned out of the experience, is to become known for Jesus and him, because Jesus is wonderful and Jesus is beautiful and Jesus is sweet. Yes, you can bring in the things that are wrong that might need to be spoken of, but don't do it in the first breath. Learn to be known for what you're for, or more particularly, better said, is who you're with Jesus. And when they go off on tangents and sometimes they swear, you don't pick them up by telling them off for the swearing, you just let them notice that you don't. And after a while, it's funny how non-Christian people are, because sometimes when they swear they apologise. And yet, you know, I learned never to pick on their faults, and yet they come and say sorry, because they, who told them that I didn't like swearing? But you just emphasise the positives. If they ask you a question, you can answer it properly, but known for who you're for, and notice I said who, not just what. I never knew you. Depart from me, you workers of lawlessness. So it's clear from Jesus and how he spoke, that we should be known for our love of him and our connection to him and knowing him, which is what it is to be an evangelical. Now, let's go to Matthew 24, 24. Now this is in the Little Apocalypse. The Little Apocalypse was the name of a document that the liberal scholars proposed existed and that Matthew, Mark and Luke will copy a little bit, which is why there are similarities. When they all have this bit about the second coming. But as a part of what Jesus answered in the top of the Man of Olives when asked by his disciples about when the things were going to happen, he says for false Christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect. And particularly in the end times, because that Matthew 24 passage along with other spots in Luke and also in Mark are talking about right at the end. And they're talking about the fact that there will be signs and wonders performed. And so a lot of people will be deceived by that. So don't jump in quickly just because someone does a sign. Now, equally don't have the opposite reaction because it's in the supernatural that you don't believe it because it's supernatural because the Bible has the story of lots of signs done by the Apostle Paul and as he went evangelising. My dad and the thesis that he did on the Holy Spirit and the development of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit across all the years of history, Christian history, one of the things he discovered for himself from his own research was that whenever in history, the church got back to the gospel truths, miracles happened. And when you read in Mark's gospel at the end about how you'll know the real Christians, excuse me, it says these signs will follow those who believe. And notice how it's worded. We don't go out and have an effort to do signs and that people shows that we got the Lord with us. We go out and proclaim the gospel and it's God's business whether he has signs that follow. The great commission is to go into all the gospel and preach, go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. That's what Mark has just said. Then he says these signs will follow those who believe and you'll leave it to God. And it's true. Where there have been times in church history where the churches in a different area has gotten back to preaching the gospel, miracles do turn up. And it's very interesting that if you find about even amongst today in Christian circles where occasionally you'll hear of God stepping in for reasons he alone knows and healing where he didn't have to. But I'll tell you something you do notice. It usually happens where there are people who are getting about the business of preaching the gospel. Because the signs still even today follow the ones who believe and who get out there with the message. Not necessarily you can't twist God's arm or demand when it says they follow it's that God decides whether he'll do one or not. It's a very big topic about miracles and I wish we in the church had more sense to teach more on that. And then there'd be less people getting confused by the whole issue. Well, just going further, I'll just choose a few spots here and there. Go to Galatians 1, 6-9. Galatians 1, 6-9. I think that was one of the verses that Gavin read to us earlier. And I hope this is the right spot. I am astonished that you're so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel. So be aware that that's what the devil's aim is. If he can't stop the Christians gospelizing, what he can do is deflect them to get a little bit, an edge taken off the gospel and its accuracy being proclaimed. There is another one. There's no other gospel other than the real one. But there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. And so it is, if you want to measure a church, discover what is its gospel. Mostly in our lives, we do as good an approximation of getting the gospel right as we can. But the truth is, many of us have got a tradition of the gospel that we grew up in and have never really taken the trouble to study it to know they've got it really good and right. We had at our home a phone call from... I only have a trouble remembering when I'm talking. What's her name? Who has gone to Canberra to help me out? Yeah, Brittany. She was just full of enthusiasm and wanted someone to tell things. And it's interesting that the training that she's been getting is so that she could know more accurately what is the gospel. And it's been a wonderful training. She was talking so enthusiastically that we should get a lot of other people to go to there too, to do what she did. But it is something I can't help but notice in going around. I noticed that in the college, do you know that we had people come to the Baptist Theological Training Centre to become pastors? And in the olden days, they used to have a committee that you fronted up to and they quizzed you, they interrogated you, they tested you out. And you'd have several of these visits along the way in your training. And some of the people in the committee once came and told me that, that they'd had candidates come and one of the questions they'd learned to ask is, tell us how you understand, what do you know is the gospel? And to their surprise, the candidate who wanted to go into the ministry and become a pastor in one of our churches couldn't tell them what the gospel was. Or sometimes they have a funny idea of the gospel. It's not what the Bible teaches. That's one of the saddest things to hear. The people with real desire to live for the Lord, but you give them an opportunity to say what is the gospel and then you know that they don't know it. Now, I've had students in my class disappear from the class because I made a part of the theology courses. You had to know what was the gospel. A student disappeared down the library really upset. And when I went to find out why, he knew he didn't know the Lord. And you could be someone who believes that you're for the ministry and you haven't got the gospel straight. I'm astonished that you are so quickly discerning Him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel. And the truth is that you can't take it because a church shows itself as being a Christian church that they necessarily have got a good grip of the gospel. There's an awful lot of them who've got a little bit of a grip of the gospel, but it's very basic. And what they give you to do to succeed as a church is all the social stuffs. The reason why we in our church do not have a lot of things a lot of the other denominations have. Some of them, you know, faith programs rely upon dancers. I'm not saying there's anything necessarily wrong with dancers. There are in some of them, but not... I'm not saying that, but I'm saying that the business we do is not the providing of entertainment so people will have a nice time and then join the fellowship. We're not against them having a nice time. We're just saying that the way that you win people to belong to Christ is you preach them the gospel. And various places that you'll go, say you get a job and you have to go out of the country, your first task is to visit where you might go to church and take a measure as to whether you hear the gospel. That'll tell you whether you should stay there. Whether you join in your forces. Whether you'll give your money into that club. Because just because people have a social thing that's nice doesn't make it what it's... make it Christianity. But, verse 8, even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a contrary gospel to the one that we preach to you, let him be accursed. Let him be accursed. One of the worst sins you can do as a Christian is to turn your church away from the gospel. As we said before, so now we say again, if anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you receive, let him be accursed. Now this is talking about the central idea of the gospel. It's not talking about someone getting it all correct in every detail. I bet if you got some of the cassettes or... they're not cassettes anymore. If you got onto the... where our record of sermons is and you went back far enough, I'm sure you'd find me making a mistake along the way. But it's talking about, what is the actual gospel? Where is it centred on? Or has it been turned somewhere away from the truth of the scriptures? And God has given us a pretty hefty volume full of examples in the New Testament. And we can see what is the gospel and stick to it. Well, to finish up, we'll go to a couple of places and we were looking, I think, where were we then? Galatians. Let's go to the Book of Revelation and chapter 16, verses 13 to 14. Now the Book of Revelation talks a little bit about the churches that was found when John wrote from the Isle of Patmos. And so you have the first three chapters written to things that were at that time. But then it goes to things that were to come thereafter. And eventually you'll get the talk of things about the Antichrist. And there is mention about the Antichrist earlier, but I won't go through all the verses. But one of the things about the Antichrist is he's always trying to copy God. And as I said before, the very word Antichrist can be spelt, the English spelling, this is in two ways. One has an I, Antichrist, and it means, I hope I'm getting this the right way around, the instead of Christ. So before Jesus comes again for the second advent, the devil's going to have a go at putting up someone, pretending to be him. So he's coming in early to come in instead of the real Christ. And the other one's anti, that means against, it might be the other way around, I'm not sure about the I and the E, but the other one has A-N-T-E, Christ, in English. And this is talking about someone who is, no, I think it is the I that means you're against, and the E is someone comes impersonating the Christ. And they're the two things that the devil will do, one that he'll be against the Lord and all that he teaches, and the other is they're going to try and get you to believe that he's the Christ. And here's one of the things that the devil, is that he's going to have two mates. There's going to be him, there's going to be, and it makes three of them, and so it's a copy of the Trinity. I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon, the dragon is the devil himself, the book of Revelation tells us that. And out of the mouth of the beast, the beast is some creature that he has. It might turn out to be a computer, who knows? Don't go quoting me, I'm just saying, what is the beast we don't know. It's not the devil himself, but it's one of the three. And out of the mouth of the false prophet, that sounds like a human, but it is a prophet for the devil. It's like a copy of the Trinity. But there came three unclean spirits like frogs. I don't know how to interpret their appearance like frogs. For they are demonic spirits performing signs who go abroad to the kings of the whole world to assemble them for battle. This is going to be the great battle of Armageddon. On the great day of God the Almighty. Now what to make of that and how does it connect together with other prophecies? There's a lot of mystery, a lot of unknown, you can speculate. We're told it, so we're meant to look into it. It's not easy. But notice there's demonic spirits performing signs. And this is something for us to be aware of the possibility of. And it's all so easy to get caught up with a cult. And when you see their enthusiasm, why do they believe it? One cult that's been happening near here have a lot of right things they say. But they also have got some things that show them to be a cult. And these demonic spirits are going to increase in the final days. And maybe, I'm only guessing, but maybe these ones go out and they're going to work on the leaders. That they'll assemble all of their troops and join in the devil who's going to come and try and ransack Israel. These are things that are serious. But it's good for us and good for me to help you to see that don't believe something just because there's a supernatural act that happens. You need to ask God to give you discerning eyes. Discerning thoughts. And spend your time in the word of God. And like the books of Daniel and the books of Revelation, they're not written for no reason. Don't put them aside and say it's too hard. There's lots of helps you can get. Visit Kurong. Sometimes the books don't definitely answer all questions. Some of them are written along the lines four views in the book of Revelation. There's one I've got. But don't look at that as all unnecessary. You don't want to get into that stuff. But let the Lord speak to you. And you can go along to the Wednesday night home group and you'll find that's the topic they've been doing. Let me have a word of prayer. Heavenly Father, we give you thanks. We thank you, Lord, for the scriptures. Thank you that there are these warnings, Lord, that you do signs, but sometimes the signs done are not done by you. And may we develop, thank you for the Holy Spirit you give, that we can have an inner resource to help us discern. May we stick closer to you so that we get more wisdom and discerning. And help us to be those, Lord, who love the gospel, and love the message, and want the people to hear that message and not all our angers. We pray this in Jesus' name. Amen.

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