Contending for Signs and Wonders:
The prophet Haggai said, “The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former.” (Haggai 2:9). However, this last days’ church is not yet greater in power and glory than the church was in the Book of Acts. We need to contend for signs and wonders to be restored to the church today.
What did the prophet Haggai mean when he said that the glory of the latter temple would be greater than the former? He was not only referring to the physical building of the temple – he was also talking about the people of God, the church. What was the former church like in the Book of Acts? We know that the disciples of Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, and cast out devils. The disciple Peter was so full of the power and the presence of God that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, so that his shadow passing by might fall on some of them – and they were healed (Acts 5:15). The Apostle Paul was so full of God’s power and glory that God worked unusual miracles by his hands. Pieces of cloth were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them (Acts 19:11-12). This was a glorious and powerful church – it was amazing! Yet, if you look at the church today, we don’t even have that much power and glory, let alone something greater. The prophet Haggai, speaking under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, said that the latter days church would be more glorious and more powerful than the church was in Acts. That means the best is yet to come!
For too long, man-made tradition has taught us the church is going to get weaker and weaker, and it is going to decrease in its influence. We’ve been told that we’re going to be a church barely struggling to survive, crying out, “Oh please rapture us Jesus. We can’t handle the pressure because we’re so weak and pathetic!” But this is not the vision that Jesus has for His church. His desire for the church is that we would increase, grow, expand and have greater influence and see greater transformations take place through our lives. Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” (Matthew 13:31-32). The church is not yet all that Jesus has destined us to be. Therefore, we cannot be content with where we’re at.
When God Came Down:
“Oh, that You would rend the heavens! That You would come down! That the mountains might shake at Your presence– When You did awesome things for which we did not look, You came down, The mountains shook at Your presence.” (Isaiah 64:1,3).
I don’t just want to play church! I’ve experienced seasons in the church where God’s Holy Spirit was poured out. I’ve already shared a little bit about when I was a youth pastor and how we experienced a season of revival where God moved powerfully in our worship services. Our youth group, about a hundred students in grades 7-12, would come together for mid-week church services and passionately pour out their hearts to the Lord in worship.
During this season, we started sending teams of students from our youth group out into the local malls to pray for sick people, and sick people would get healed. They would tell people about Jesus, and people would get saved. They would wait on the Lord for prophetic words, dreams and visions, and then go and minister from the realms of revelation. It was amazing! God has so much more for us to experience in the church today. I’ve tasted it, I’ve seen it, and I’m not content with where we’re at, because I know the Lord has so much more for us. We need to do our part and get ready. Part of that preparation is taking a long hard look at the early church in Acts, and doing what they did to get what they had. Let’s go back to the beginning of Acts and see what the early church did to get the power and glory of God that they had.
“The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God. And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now… But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me inJerusalem, and in all Judea andSamaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:1-5,8).
“All that Jesus began to do and teach.” Notice the specific order and priority that Luke gives to these two ministries of Jesus – first doing, and then teaching. For too long the modern church has emphasized teaching, and the doing part of the ministry has been neglected. The Apostle Paul wrote, “And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power… The kingdom of God is not in word but in power.” (1 Corinthians 2:4; 4:20).
What sort of things did Jesus do? He healed the sick, raised the dead, cast out devils, and radically changed people’s lives. Then He told His disciples to go and do the same stuff. We need to see more doing of the stuff in the Kingdom.
John Wimber was a man of God who served as the senior pastor of theAnaheimVineyardChurchinCalifornia, and led the Association of Vineyard Churches. He also served on the faculty at Fuller Theological Seminary where he taught a famous course on signs, wonders, and church growth.
John Wimber will be remembered for many things, one of which was his unrelenting commitment to “doing the stuff,” as he often put it. As John told the story, he and Carol visited a church early in his spiritual journey, immediately after he had spent considerable time reading the gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus. Following the service, John approached the pastor and asked him:
“So, when do we do the stuff?”
“The ‘stuff’,” said the pastor. “What’s the ‘stuff’?”
“You know,” John replied, “the stuff in the Bible, like healing the sick and casting out demons. The stuff!”
“Oh,” replied the pastor. “We don’t do the stuff. We believe they did it back in biblical days, but we don’t do it today.”[i]
John Wimber went off and started a movement of churches that said, “We want to do the stuff. We want to see the reality of the power of God changing people’s lives today.” As a pastor, I want to see the church doing the stuff that Jesus said we could do.
The Power of Prayer:
The first thing the new church did was pray. “These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication,with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” (Acts 1:14). Do you know why they saw so many miracles, signs and wonders in the church? They prayed. Do you know why we don’t see more miracles in the church today? We don’t pray. We don’t pray enough. Why don’t we pray more than we do? We don’t really believe that prayer changes things. If we really believed that God’s Word was true and that God answers prayer, we would pray more. Jesus said, “Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.” (Mark 11:24). If we really believed those words of Jesus, we would pray a whole lot more.
Here’s a news flash for you: God answers prayer. The early church prayed continually in Acts. After Jesus was raised from the dead, He appeared to His disciples for forty days, teaching them about theKingdomofGod. As He prepared to ascend to Heaven, Jesus told His disciples to go to Jerusalem, “to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” (Acts 1:4-5). Jesus said, “Before you go do the stuff, get the power of the Holy Spirit.” The church went to the Upper Room to pray. They didn’t pray for one day, or two days, or three days, or even a whole week. Many people would have probably given up by then. But the believers prayed for ten days, waiting for the promised Holy Spirit. They waited… until suddenly, God came down. The fire fell, and the disciples were forever changed and transformed.
The Old Testament says: “A fire shall always be burning on the altar; it shall never go out.” (Leviticus 6:13). There is an important spiritual principle for us to learn from this Scripture. It is true there was a natural, physical side to it: that the Lord was telling the people in the nation ofIsrael that He wanted an actual fire to be continually burning on the altar in the temple. But many of the Old Testament Scriptures have spiritual implications for us in the church today. God wants us to ensure that the fire of the Holy Spirit is continually burning on the altar of our hearts. When the fire is burning brightly, we are passionate about the things of theKingdom ofGod. Then we will go out and do the things the Lord has called us to do. Too many Christians have allowed that fire to die out.
What do we do if our flames die out? Where do we go to get more fire?Proverbs 26:20says, “Where there is no fuel, the fire goes out.” We need fuel to stoke the fire of the Holy Spirit in our lives, like spending time with Jesus in prayer and abiding in His Word. That might not seem like an amazing or astounding revelation, but it is when we leave those foundational disciplines of prayer and Bible reading that our fire starts to diminish. We need to return to doing first things first, to see the fire blaze again in our lives. Look at what happened on the Day of Pentecost when the church was gathered together, seeking the Lord in prayer:
“When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4).
When the church prayed, the fire of God fell in that place, the wind of the Spirit started to blow, and they were all filled with the Spirit’s power. Fire in the Bible is a symbol for the presence of God. What was significant of the tongues of fire hovering over their heads? God had come down.
Seek the Lord:
When we go to church on Sunday mornings, we need to determine that we are going to seek the living God. We need to have a desire to encounter God. That’s when things will start to change, and we will see a restoration of signs and wonders.
God showed up in a powerful way to ignite the church in Acts because they were seeking Him. It was a fulfillment of Malachi 3:1b: “And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts.” When will the Lord come down? When we seek Him. God comes to those who are hungry and desperate for more of His presence. God promised: “For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, And My blessing on your offspring.” (Isaiah 44:3). It’s time for us to get hungry and desperate for more of God in our lives. Let our cry become, “Lord, I’m not content with where things are at. I want more!”
What happened after the Holy Spirit fell on the church on the Day of Pentecost? “And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together… Then they were all amazed and marveled.” (Acts 2:6-7). The Pentecostal experience wasn’t confined to the four walls of the church – it affected and impacted the community where they lived. The disciples went out into the streets, and the Apostle Peter preached a message from Joel chapter two: “But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your young men shall see visions, your old men shall dream dreams.” (Acts 2:16-17).
Peter declared that God wants to raise up the last days prophetic generation Joel prophesied about. The Lord also said that in these last days, “I will show wonders in heaven above and signs in the earth beneath.” (Acts 2:19). God’s desire is that His church be full of many signs and wonders. When the church becomes more powerful and glorious, “it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (verse 21). The ultimate goal is not just to have a church with many signs and wonders. The fruit of a supernatural church is the salvation of souls. “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.” (verse 41). That’s a glorious and powerful church! We need to contend for signs and wonders to be restored to the church today.
If you want to have the power of God in your life, then the Holy Spirit has to come upon you. It’s not good enough for the Holy Spirit to be on your church, or your pastor. God wants you to get ignited, and have great adventures in theKingdom ofGod.
God’s plan is to create a force that will take the planet by storm with the Spirit’s fire. It’s time to get ignited with the power of the Holy Spirit. We need more fire in the church. But we need to get the fire before we can give the fire to others. We can’t give something we don’t have. Jesus said, “Freely you’ve received, now freely give.” (Matthew 10:8b).
In the next chapter, we will look at how we can receive the fullness of the Spirit in our lives.
Pastor Chris Jordan