Last week, we were reminded that God is always pursuing us and were challenged to consider what it is that we pursue each day. Although there are times when it may not feel like it, the truth is that God is never far from us. As we pursue Him, as we seek Him, we will find Him.
8 Come near to God and he will come near to you.
When Paul was reaching out to the lost in Athens, he described it this way:
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
God is not far from us if only we choose to seek Him. God’s desire is not to be far from us, but to live life together with us just as it was in the beginning. God walking together and working together with Adam and Eve in the cool of the garden.
Often, we don’t really understand what it means to seek God. We think we’re seeking God, but in reality, we are just seeking the benefits of God. The two look much the same in daily disciplines, but the two are as different as night is from day.
Especially when we have nowhere else to turn and are desperate for a miracle, we seek after the benefits of God. However, seeking God is different from seeking after some provision of His.
Most of us have people in our lives that only reach out to us when they need something. They know our benefits, perhaps some skill that we have, or that we manage our money well and might have some to spare. However, they don’t really know us. They don’t desire to build a relationship with us and to get to know us, they just know that we offer some benefit and that they can use it when they are in a bind.
If we took time to honestly analyze our relationship with God, we may look a bit like that kind of a friend.
Yes, God wants to be a help in our time of need. He wants to be our savior and healer and deliverer and to do all that He has promised to do for us. However, His desire is that we seek not only the benefits of God, but to have a genuine relationship with Him.
When we seek God, we will find Him. Today, we’re considering what our re:Sponse is.
God appointed to place us in this time of history within the boundaries of this land so that we would seek Him and reach out for Him and to find Him. How will we respond to Him, though?
Jesus once healed ten men who had leprosy (Luke 17:11-19). However, only one came back to Jesus and to thank Him and to give praise to God. All ten cried out to Jesus for healing. Jesus healed all ten. Only one returned and laid down his life in response.
Crowds of thousands would come to receive from Jesus and to hear His teaching. However, only a few laid down their lives to follow Him. Only a few really took the time to build a relationship with Jesus and got to know Him.
Revival is awesome! When true, genuine revival breaks out as the Spirit of God moves, it is amazing! Just like when the church first began on the day of Pentecost, people are getting saved, filled with the Spirit, healed, delivered, sent out to the missions field, gifted, and so much more!
Crowds come for the benefits of God, but why does God choose to move in such ways? Is it just to attract large groups of people? Are miracles just signs that make you wonder? What is the purpose of signs, wonders, and miracles?
Let’s take a look at what Jesus had to say as revival was breaking out. He was bringing revival to the Jews, the people of God! It was such a huge task that He didn’t just do it Himself, but chose to equip and empower teams to do the work of ministry.
1 Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.
2 These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; 3 Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; 4 Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.
Here, He sent out the twelve, in another account, He sent out seventy-two in pairs. Now, He sends empower and equips us all to go out and to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, to freely give away all that we have freely received from Him! As the twelve went out, Jesus continued on the path that the Father had for Him as well.
Jesus and John the Baptist
1 After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee.
2 When John, who was in prison, heard about the deeds of the Messiah, he sent his disciples 3 to ask him, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”
4 Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: 5 The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 6 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”
7 As John’s disciples were leaving, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 8 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear fine clothes are in kings’ palaces. 9 Then what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10 This is the one about whom it is written:
“‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.’
11 Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John. 14 And if you are willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who was to come. 15 Whoever has ears, let them hear.
Before the crowds were gathering to receive the ministry that Jesus was providing, they were going out into the wilderness to be water baptized by John, the cousin of Jesus. Before John the Baptist, God sent many prophets to speak the word of God and to teach people the ways of God and to lead people to God. However, people wanted to go their own way.
They wanted the blessing and provision of God, but didn’t want Him to tell them how to live their lives. Now here they are face-to-face with God and they respond to Him just as many within the generations before them responded to the prophets. Jesus pondered this and asked:
16 “To what can I compare this generation? They are like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling out to others:
17 “‘We played the pipe for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not mourn.’
How often do we do things for God with the motive of receiving something from God? How often do we do things to get the attention of God or to invoke His generosity to receive something from Him? Jesus compared it essentially to those who play music on the street corner wanting to get noticed or to receive some money.
God’s desire is that we help and serve people just because we genuinely care about them and love them and want to make their lives better in some way and not for what we can get in return. It’s less about what we do and more about why we are doing it. It’s OK if people misinterpret or misunderstand you for doing it, too. As long as you know that your heart motives are pure and that you are doing what God has called you to do. Jesus said:
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.”
Woe on Unrepentant Towns
20 Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”
As Jesus went town to town, crowds of people came and received ministry from Him. Every sickness and every disease was healed. Every demon-possessed person was set free. Thousands and thousands came out to hear Jesus’ preaching. To the church today, we would call it tremendously successful ministry.
Jesus, however, denounced it. Why?
His purpose and intent behind His miracles was to turn hearts back to the Heavenly Father. His ministry wasn’t to have sick people healed, but to have hell-bound people redirected Heaven-bound. It was to seek and save the lost. It was for life transformation to take place – true and proper repentance.
It was to bring people into an encounter with the Kingdom of God so that their hunger and thirst would be for more of it and less for the things of this world. It was to set our hearts back on eternity and away from the temporal.
Revival is awesome! However, if people have their bodies healed only to walk away like 9/10s of the leppers, their healing was in vain and their end remains the same. If they are given spot-on accurate words of knowledge and amazing prophetic words and are slain in the Spirit for hours and leave that meeting and continue living their life their own way, their end remains the same.
Real, genuine life transformation; a life surrendered to Jesus is what signs, wonders, and miracles are all about. Miracles and wonders are signs to point us to Jesus. If they don’t lead us to salvation, they are done in vain. They are done to lead us to freedom and to a truly abundant life!
Jesus ends His lament with this beckoning:
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
When revival comes, may we always remain centered on the only miracle that truly matters in this lifetime, no matter what other wonderful thing that no eye has seen nor ear has heard before that God might do; the saving of a lost soul!
All that truly matters is that people yoke themselves to Jesus in a life-long commitment. Otherwise, the signs, wonders, and miracles are all done in vain and their eternal destination remains unchanged.