God works miracles. Why? What are they? What are they for? Can we demand or declare them? Is there any difference in how a large number of western churchgoers approach miracles versus those in Islamic nations?
The one thing I will emphatically state is that I believe in miracles. The cessationists who declare that the gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased in the past are simply wrong. If they only opened their eyes to the move of God in the 10/40 Window, they would know how far from the truth they are.
But that’s not our topic for today. What I want to briefly consider is miracles that occur among Muslims and those which are said to happen among followers of the apostles and prophets of the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), specifically the miracle of healing.
What is a miracle? Generally, it’s an act of God that breaks the laws of the natural world. God intervenes to display His hand in a situation for His own purposes.
What are those purposes? Since the Lord wants none to perish but all to have eternal life, the primary reason for His miracles is to turn people to Him for salvation. Miracles are to display God’s glory, His might, His omnipotence.
Jesus demonstrated this through His ministry. When He and the disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee and a storm arose with Him sleeping in the boat, the disciples thought all was lost. In Mark 4:39-41 we see what happened next:
And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
This miracle showed the disciples definitively that Jesus was God. Who else but Yahweh could command the chaos of the waters to be still that they would hear and obey?
Similarly, when Jesus went to the town of Nain, He exhibited a miracle that only God Himself could do as seen in Luke 7:14-17:
Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country.
The people saw that God was present in their midst, and they glorified Him.
But, of course, it was the numerous healings that Jesus did which caused such great crowds to congregate around Him. In a time of ineffective medical care, many people suffered for years with their illnesses or afflictions. The word which spread among the peoples was that this man of God confounded the laws of nature and healed even the most stubborn of maladies. That tore down religious walls in people’s minds and hearts, making them open to the truth of the Gospel that Jesus brought. In a time where the Law of Moses reigned and revealed only the sinful nature of man, the healings that Jesus did showed the grace and mercy of a loving God and a way to escape the bondage of their transgressions.
Today, we have a movement that seeks to make miracles commonplace. Adherents to the New Apostolic Reformation believe that everyone should prophesy and that all should have the gift of healing. So adamant are they in this belief that numerous prophetic schools dot the landscape here and abroad. The most well-known of these is the Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry (BSSM). There, students – who pay a substantial fee for this privilege – are taught and mentored in miracles. They learn that God wants everyone healed, and that they can command healings to occur. In these lessons they learn that angels are at their disposal to do works they dictate and that disease must leave when they so order.
They absorb and cherry-pick Scriptures such as John 14:12-14 which says:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”
Thinking that the common man can do more and greater miracles than Jesus is a problematic understanding that BSSM and other NAR schools of prophetic ministry impart, as noted in David Guzak’s Enduring Word commentary for these verses:
Greater works than these he will do: Jesus did not mean greater in the sense of more sensational, but greater in magnitude. Jesus would leave behind a victorious, working family of followers who would spread His kingdom to more people and places than Jesus ever did in His life and ministry.
. . .
iv. “What Jesus means we may see in the narratives of the Acts. There there are a few miracles of healing, but the emphasis is on the mighty works of conversion. On the day of Pentecost alone more believers were added to the little band of believers than throughout Christ’s entire earthly life. There we see a literal fulfillment of ‘greater works than these shall he do.’” (Morris)
. . .
vi. There are some who believe that Jesus meant that individual believers can and should do more spectacular works than Jesus did in the years of His earthly ministry. We earnestly await proof of those who have repeatedly done greater works than walking on water, calming storms with a word, multiplying food for thousands, raising people from the dead (more than the three recorded in Jesus’ work). Even if it were proved that one person after Jesus had done such things, it still does not explain why there are not now or have been thousands of people who have fulfilled this wrong and sometimes dangerous understanding of what Jesus meant when He said, greater works than these he will do.
So what are these NAR schools teaching?
I’ve personally seen those in action who hold to the BSSM philosophy and approach. I have no doubt as to the sincerity of these people and their love of the Lord. However, attempting the healing of others seems as though it’s for its own sake. In other words, they pray for healing, but I’m not convinced that it’s for God’s glory. More than that, their method is to try to obtain healing inch by inch. After praying for an individual, the question is asked, “How does it feel now?” Prayers continue as the intercessor tries to gain little victories of healing. With so much attention, the person receiving the prayers may indicate things are a little better. Ultimately, the healer says that the person should believe and going forward act as though the healing has already occurred. Is that person still “healed” the next day?
By what spirit are the students absorbing these lessons and thereby going out into the world?
Jesus accomplished full and complete healings. There was only one instance in which it happened incrementally, i.e. with the one blind man who saw people as trees until Jesus finished the task. But He always finished it.
If there are little incremental advances in a health situation, why should we think that the Holy Spirit only works partially? Given the philosophy behind the NAR schools, perhaps the students aren’t going out in the power of God, but under a different spirit?
I want to contrast this with healings in Islamic nations. First, let me also state that dreams and visions of God happen regularly in these countries because the demonic darkness is so great, and God has to get the attention of people. He has to show that He answers prayers and comes to people’s aid when they cry out for help. This is unlike the god of Islam they currently follow.
Because people caught in the bondage of Islam are also entrapped in a culture that identifies itself as Islamic only, and anything else is seen as an affront to Allah, the decision to follow Jesus is one that must be deeply considered. The cost is high with the probable loss of family and friends, even persecution and suffering at their hands. An impossible healing that only the God of the Bible could do is a powerful motivator to leave an impotent religion that only maintains power through intimidation and control.
God brings dramatic healings for the very specific purpose of changing hearts and minds and breaking chains that would otherwise never be severed. Miracles in these places demonstrates that the One true God is worthy of worship. Just like in the time of Jesus and the apostles, healings change the dynamics on the ground and bring people to a saving relationship with the Lord.
Can that be said of NAR and its students who practice the art of “healing”?
One other point: To be a child of God is to be blessed and to receive His favor when we walk in trust and obedience to Him. We are friends of Jesus, but that doesn’t mean our position is one of equality or superiority. It is one of supplication and petition. He is God and we are not. How then can NAR teach that its people can declare and command illness to flee?
In the magic arts of Eastern religions, New Age, and occult, the spirits allow themselves at times to be directed from the natural realm in order to reel in those who practice these things. Is God One who allows such foolishness? Does He pretend that mere humans can order Him about? That didn’t work so well with Nimrod and his crew when they built the Tower of Babel. Why should it be any different today?
If you want to gain better insights into the working of NAR, I suggest you do as we have done here. Examine how God operates in a culture that is shrouded in darkness, and one in which the church can effectively do what it pleases. I think you’ll find that NAR propagates a false understanding of God, if not even a false Gospel.
That should make you very wary.
So Gary, I have experienced this in a local body of believers and have wondered about it. Thank you for writing about this in your blog and this sounds very valid.
I have also wondered about this declare and decree thing when praying and always wonder if we are not looking for God’s will when doing so but our own? Maybe you can give some feedback…
I hope you will come to the National Day of Prayer on Thursday at noon City Hall.
Rachel, Another thing that comes from NAR and Word of Faith is that God ALWAYS wants to heal someone. Thus, if you aren’t healed, then you or those around you must not have enough faith. This is false doctrine. God doesn’t always heal because He sometimes needs to do a different work with and/or within a person that comes only through the illness. Yes, we continue to pray for healing; but more importantly is that: “Lord, You’re will be done.”
Very comprehensive. I learned much, after knowing very little. Ty.