For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8b)
I remember the evening well. My ministry partner and I were in a large church, ready to take the pulpit as the worship portion of the service began to wind down. In those days, we ministered extemporaneously, following the leading of the Lord for each service. As a usual thing, one of us would always be ready to go, the Lord having quickened something to either my partner’s heart or mine. As I turned to Rick, giving him the “go ahead” signal, he returned my look with a blank stare. It had never really happened before, but neither of us felt the prompting to go.
If you are not familiar with this type of Spirit-inspired ministry, it would take too long to explain how this simply never happened. One of us would always feel quickened in spirit to go. Some leading thought or scripture was always there, burning a hole in our heart like a fire inside. When that anointing came on me, I would feel like a racehorse, pawing at the ground and restless until it was time to preach. When, on this occasion, neither of us seemed to have that unction, I got in an attitude of prayer in a hurry! We had just been in three nights of meetings at this church with an internationally known minister who had graciously opened the pulpit to us the night before, and we were expecting to close the meeting out on a high note on the last night. We had been in this church before and expectation was high, and yet neither of us had a thing.
As the last songs played and I waited quietly in my heart, a verse came up… “to undo the heavy burdens and let the oppressed go free.” It was like a whisper in my heart. The passage came back again, “to undo the heavy burdens and let the oppressed go free.” I knew the passage was in Isaiah, but I couldn’t remember the exact verse at the moment (I’ll never forget it again in this lifetime!). I finally found Isaiah 58:6 where the verse was located. Lastly, as God’s direction for the night crystalized in my heart, I just heard the words again and again in my spirit, “to undo…to undo.” That night I got up and shared with the people, “We are always praising God for what He does, and rightly so! But tonight, we’re going to praise God for what He undoes!” Then I paraphrased the verse at the top of this article, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might undo the works of the devil.”
We didn’t have a lot of preaching that night. Instead, the miracle-working power of God moved to touch, heal, and deliver the people in that meeting in a tremendous way. I have seen this repeated more times than I can count. I recently had the privilege of preaching a crusade in Pakistan via Skype. I had never done anything like that, and I was concerned for the logistical and technical aspects of the event. What I wasn’t worried about was whether or not God would set the people free. The gospel, as the apostle Paul tells us, “is the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16). A day or two after the meeting, the testimonies came in. Out of what was a relatively small crown for an overseas crusade, 237 people came to faith, including nine who had been practitioners of black magic – one of them for 39 years. Two people with eye problems were healed and able to see well, and one man with a back problem since birth was also healed. Before he had been unable to even sit without difficulty. A man with a tumor in his chest was also healed.
Over the years we have heard and seen so much of the power of God working to set captives free. We are often asked why we see miracles happen so readily in foreign lands while we don’t see as much of this happen in our own nation. It has nothing to do with God’s ability or willingness, we may be sure. The difference is in the faith and disposition of the people in these more desperate places of the world. When there is no insurance or medical or governmental infrastructure for the people to rely upon, their faith can only be placed in God who responds to their faith in tremendous ways. Secondly, in many of these nations, the materialistic worldview has not taken root as it has in the secular West. As one English Pastor born in Kenya said, “In the West, the devil wears a suit; in Kenya, he runs around naked.” What he was alluding to is the fact that in more primitive parts of the world where the supernatural is still firmly believed, it is much more common to see outward demonic manifestations, whereas in the West the devil works in more subtle ways to reaffirm that skeptical, materialistic mindset. The same is true when it comes to seeing God’s power at work. We’ve simply deemed ourselves too educated and sophisticated for God, and as a consequence, we don’t see His power displayed to the same degree. However, wherever people will believe God with the same primitive simplicity we see evidenced in the book of Acts, the same miracles will be in demonstration.
Another reason we don’t see miracles in the same fashion is that their primary purpose is to serve as signs to confirm the gospel to the unbeliever (see Mark 16:15-20). Miracles are not given to “spice up” our services but to powerfully demonstrate the resurrection of Jesus to an unbelieving world. In the miracles we witnessed in the recent meeting in Pakistan and others I have conducted in India, the gospel was seen again and again to be “the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16). This Greek word translated “salvation” includes the ideas of deliverance, healing, and soundness, as well as spiritual salvation. In fact, the Greek word, sozo, often translated as “saved,” is repeatedly used for incidents of healing in the New Testament. As with the case in Pakistan, I have seen the gospel’s power heal and deliver people, even when they were watching prerecorded messages we sent on discs to be played much later on the local Christian television channel.
Our nation needs a move of God. For this to happen, we must get back to the same apostolic simplicity we see witnessed in the book of Acts. God’s not old or on disability! His power is ever-ready to respond to believing prayer wherever and whenever it is offered. There are countless numbers in bondage to the idols of addiction and vice who desperately need an empowered, uncompromising Church who will call down a holy fire from heaven that will purify the sinner’s heart and consume the cords that bind them…to “undo the heavy burdens and let the oppressed go free.”
May the Lord give us boldness in the midst of this crooked and perverse generation to preach and pray as the early church did. They paid a heavy price to stand for Christ, but within three centuries the humble teacher from Galilee had conquered the empire. He can and will do the same again if we will shake ourselves from slumber and spiritual lethargy and dare to believe. He assured us that “the gates of hell shall not prevail” against His Church. Our job is to simply act like the Church He has called us to be. Best of all, we have His assurance that He will be with us always, “even to the end of the age!”
Dr. Randy Bunch is the pastor of Connecting Point Church, located at 101 Adkisson Way in Taft, California, as well as a graduate advisor and adjunct professor at Summit Bible College in Bakersfield, California. He is the author of several books, including his new devotional, Immutable: Changeless Truth for a Changing World. For more information, or to purchase your copy, go to randylanebunch.org. For more information on the ministries of CPC, you can go the ministry’s website at connectingpc.org.