Then Simon himself also believed; and when he was baptized he continued with Philip, and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done. (Acts 8:13)
It is not readily apparent to everyone just how much western materialism has influenced the faith of the west. By “materialism” I am not referring to the pervasive problem of greed for material things, which has cheapened Christmas to a holiday lauding consumerism. I’m referring to philosophical materialism which states that the only reality is what one can find in the material universe. Materialism is the philosophical foundation for atheism, which denies all supernatural events and transcendent reality.
In short, materialism says there is no God, no heaven, no spirit, and no afterlife. The material universe is all there is. We are the stuff of the stars, as Carl Sagan tried to express it, poetically framing the nihilism which denies any hope of life after the grave.
In the Western Church, we have not agreed with Sagan or other materialists, but we have capitulated to a lesser degree. In many churches, the idea of the miraculous still occurring is denied and sometimes even mocked. God has gone into retirement and simply doesn’t do that anymore. He gave us the Word and He’ll come back and fetch us home one day. That should be enough, or so say those for whom the end of the book of Acts was the closing of shop for the day of miracles.
There does seem to be a fatal flaw with this brand of theology, however. God does not seem to subscribe to it, neither scripturally nor in our modern world. Far from the days of miracles being over, we are seeing miracles in unprecedented numbers in our world today. First of all, Jesus clearly told us that the works He did, His disciples would do also, even saying that “greater works” would be done by His followers (see John 14:12). Of course, if Jesus did the miracles He did by virtue of His divinity, as many wrongly suppose, we could never reproduce them, since we are not divine. Yet in his epistle to the Philippians, Paul tells us that Christ “made himself of no reputation,” a relatively poor translation attempting to convey the idea that He “emptied Himself of His divine privileges” to identify with us. Thus, while retaining His divine nature and essence, He humbled Himself to become a man like us that He might be our sin bearer on the cross (see Philippians 2:7 in NASB, ESV, or other more literal translations). Thus, He did the miracles He did as a man anointed by the Holy Spirit, as the scriptures attest numerous times (Matthew 12:28, Luke 4:18, Acts 10:38). This same Holy Spirit empowers the Church to do the works of Jesus all over the world, demonstrating the reality of a living Savior (Acts 1:4-8).
Today in Iran, the fastest growing underground church movement has no buildings, no 501(c)3 corporations, and no hierarchy. Led predominantly by women, they boldly spread the gospel, seeing the miraculous, and living in the reality of the book of Acts. In Iran, there are no “make believers” with polite theologies that keep God tame. The reality of persecution has purged the tree of all such useless and powerless faith. What is left is a real, vital faith that is taking a nation by storm. And yet, this is only the tip of the iceberg. All over the global south, the Church is exploding, even outpacing the natural birthrate. The miraculous is common in such places. Where real New Testament Christianity is believed, real New Testament miracles still occur. It seems that God’s retirement party will have to be postponed!
As some of you know, we conduct a monthly Skype Crusade in an undisclosed Muslim nation. This month’s crusade was notable for its similarity to a story from the book of Acts. In Chapter 8, we are introduced to the evangelistic ministry of Philip, originally one of the seven deacons appointed by the apostles to oversee the distribution of resources to the neglected Grecian widows in the church at Jerusalem. After Stephen’s martyrdom, Philip was among those scattered due to an outbreak of persecution. In Samaria, Philip sees great success as God confirms his preaching of Christ with signs and wonders. Simon, a local sorcerer, who had for a long time had the people of the area under his thumb due to his sorceries, became a believer and even a disciple of Philip.
In our most recent Skype Crusade, we had eighty-eight people come to Christ and sixty-two reported healings. One healing had a similar effect on some of the locals in this village as Philip’s miracles did on Simon. In this village, black magic is heavily practiced, and several practitioners came to the Lord as a result of the meeting. However, in addition to these, there were also three men present who were teachers of black magic. One of the common healings reported in our Skype crusades are tumors disappearing. One girl had such a tumor on her arm, and during the meeting these three men witnessed her healing. As a result of this miracle, they came to the Lord, and we rejoice for their salvation!
Last month, we also had many come to the Lord and many healed. Again, a tumor played a vital role in supplying a witness for Christ. A man who was in attendance in the meeting had a tumor in his stomach. When we prayed for healing at the end of the meeting, he received a touch from God. When he returned to the doctor to have surgery to remove the tumor, they asked him how he felt. He told them he felt well and had no pain. Their subsequent tests proved what you have likely already guessed — the tumor was gone! As a result, this man and other members of his family came to the Lord.
God is still in the miracle-working business, and He is no respecter of persons. He will respond to you as you reach out to Him in faith. Jesus is alive and every miracle performed in His name is one more evidence of a living faith and a triumphant Savior!!