Are the Gifts of the Spirit for Today?
By nature, I am both a worrier and a fixer. This means I concern myself with matters that seem to need some attention by someone. On the meddling, I say I have a helps ministry. So, that excuses my meddling because I justify it by my good intentions of trying to be helpful, whether my help is wanted or not.
Presently, I worry about the spread of Islam, and wonder what I can do to help stem the problem. I am a strong believer in total surrender to our Lord, and total submission to His will, as one best understands that imperative. So, it interests me that Islam means surrender, and a Muslim is one who has surrendered.
Very little study is required to recognize that what the Muslim means by surrender is much different than what I mean by surrender. So, I reasoned, since the Muslim mind-set is on surrender (albeit surrender to Islam and not to God), It might be an easy task to teach them surrender to our personal God.
Happily, I discovered a ministry to Muslims headed by a former Muslim now converted to Christ. I ordered some of his books and sent a message asking for an interview. The books arrived and I read that this man was conducting miracle meetings in the Palestinian section of Israel.
Soon, he responded to my request and called me by telephone. He opened with, "What is on your heart, brother?"
I told him my observations and he answered, with a tone of irritation, "You don't understand. A Muslim is more religious than most Christians. They pray at least five times a day, and in public. They fast regularly. They fear Allah. They won't listen to you or your ideas. The only thing that gets their attention are the miraculous works of God."
"You are having miracles in your meetings?"
"Of course. My meetings are in Israel and we have up to 25,000 Muslims attend. When they witness the blind seeing, the lame walking, and the sick healed, they know Jesus is alive, and turn their faces to Christ. That happens in all our meetings."
I thanked the brother for the information. He offered to mail some material to me, and ended the conversation. He really didn't need any of my suggestions. He and the Lord were doing just fine without my help.
This episode surprised me, but it shouldn't have. I have seen many healings, had a few, and ministered some. I have been healed though prayer, have seen legs and feet grow, kidney stones healed, hemorrhoids vanish, and crippled backs healed - to name a few.
In addition, we support a missionary to Vietnam who ministers to the underground church there. He has a miracle ministry in which almost every New Testament miracle, except raising of the dead, has occurred. This missionary gets very excited when the Spirit comes into his meetings, and he often starts shouting and dancing with joy.
On one occasion, he was dancing through the congregation and saw an old woman sitting on the floor. He reached down, grabbed her hand, and pulled her up to dance also. She joined him. The congregation went into a frenzy. Our missionary wondered if he had done something wrong, something unacceptable to the Vietnam culture. "No," said the interpreter. "The woman had been totally crippled and couldn't walk before you touched her." (See Acts 3:1-10, especially verse 7, when Peter did this for a lame man at the gate Beautiful.)
Reports of miracle ministries are coming in from all over the world. Watching closely, one might observe that we are seeing an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, with accompanying miracles, in a scope that has never happened before.
In traditional Roman Catholic South America, the Pentecostal faith has grown so rapidly it is becoming the dominant denomination. The charismatic experience is not limited to the Assemblies of God, but extends into mainline churches. There, the Methodist Church is charismatic, as it is in South Africa.
In China, the indigenous underground church is growing rapidly. Kim-Kwong Chan, a roving reporter for the magazine "Church History," reported there are three reasons for Christianity's acceptance there.
First, he said, there is an ideological vacuum in China. Next, Christianity provides an intimate social experience - love, caring, concern, and fellowship. Third, "there are the miracles. When I travel to the interior of China, the Christian communities all claim they've seen and experienced miracles."
He gave several illustrations, including an eighty year old woman who suddenly began a preaching ministry. Villagers who came to her for prayer were instantly healed. They abandoned their idols and became believers. One Communist official who was harassing Christians, found himself speechless because his tongue stuck out and was not retractable. After he repented and became a Christian, his tongue returned to normal.
The largest church in the world is in South Korea. It is Pentecostal and began through miracles occurring in the life and ministry of its founder, David Yonggi Cho. In India, a revival under David Bernal is attracting the largest gatherings in that country's history because of the miracles happening.
In Canada, an unexpected outpouring of the spirit at the Toronto Airport Church has attracted thousands from all over the world. Ministers of every denomination have attended and found that the gifts are transferable. On return to their home churches, in their home countries, they are blessed when the signs and wonders follow.
In America, a new revival with signs and miracles has broken out at the Brownsville Assembly of God Church in Pensacola, Florida. People stand in line for hours to get into the services. Again, the ministers who have gone there find that the anointment and gifts follow them home into their local congregations.
Historians tell us this outpouring of the Spirit, with gifts, signs, and wonders has happened in the past, but not on the international scale seen today.
The American revivals under Jonathan Edwards and Charles Finney are well documented. Many miracles, including a raising of a dead man, are recorded in John Wesley's Journal, his detailed account of the eighteenth century English revival.
Doctor Kurt Koch, a respected German Evangelical and prolific writer, chronicled the Indonesian Revival of the late nineteen sixties and early seventies. He told of many events that were so unusual that even strong believers shook their heads in wonder. Koch personally saw water turned into wine, and dead restored to life.
Now, unbelievers who doubt these events always ask, "Where is the fruit?" The answer is written even in secular history's judgment. Finney's revivals changed the course of American history. Wesley's revival changed the course of English history and saved it from a bloody revolution. Thousands were converted to a vibrant faith.
Observers say that those attracted to modern revivals by signs and wonders soon see the reality of the risen Jesus and the power of New Testament Christianity. Their new commitment to Christ is real and firm. Over 30,000 have come to Christ in the Pensacola Revival. Numbers for the Toronto Revival, that has continued for over two years, are believed to be even greater.
Who then are the critics and what are the objections? The critics are both believers and unbelievers. Many Christians have firm opinions that miracles ceased after the last Apostle - John - died. Blocked off by their doctrine, they will not attend any church function where miracles happen. Non-believers seldom hear of these events and rarely witness any work of God. Neither do they value any reports of events defying their foundational beliefs.
One seminary professor who asserts the gifts (charismata) have ceased, warns these events may be coming from a spiritual realm that is not of God. He wrote in a book review, "Since believers are warned to avoid contact with the intermediate spiritual world, and since they should do only what they are confident God approves, no one should experiment in the realm of charismatic phenomena."
If such advice is applicable, no one would have followed Jesus or the Apostles who were "religious freaks" in their day. Jesus was accused of working miracles by the power of Satan, (Matthew 12:22-32). That Bible passage tells how Jesus was accused of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul. He reminded his critics that Satan does not do good works. Much spiritual phenomena occurred in later and well recorded revivals. The Wesley brothers wrote about many unusual and often inexplicable spiritual manifestations that occurred in their meetings. Certainly all of us would have enjoyed attending one of the Wesley meetings. Surely the good fruit of their ministries are an accepted matter of history. Unusual events, similar to those in the Wesley Revival are repeated today in Toronto, Pensacola, Ho Chi Mihn City, and many other places. Personally, I don't want to miss out on anything God is doing. I will go anywhere I believe God is working in a magnified way.
As an amateur historian, I have read much Christian history, written by our most respected historians. My opinion is that the scope and magnificence of the present outpouring of God's gifts and power has not been seen since the days immediately following Pentecost. I believe we are seeing unique history unfolding before our own eyes. In future years the events of our days will be studied with awe.
In Jesus' day, the religious teachers and church leaders could not recognize who he was and the significance of what he was doing. There seems to be a repetition of that attitude in our time.
The Bible is a history book of human encounters with God. These encounters with God continue in the lives of those who believe God is neither dead nor asleep. When we remember that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever," (Hebrews 13:8), we remain open to seeing and experiencing all of his mighty works.
I believe the gifts of the Spirit are for today because I have seen and experienced those gifts. I have seen the good fruit that comes from his miraculous works in our time. I feel I am personally blessed because I have been allowed to witness the power and presence of our almighty God.
C. G. Weakley, Jr. Is a Dallas, Texas, businessman who is also an ordained minister of The Christian Community Church. He has both a BBA and M.Th. degree from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. He has published five books of John Wesley's Journal and Sermons. He calls himself a chaplain-at-large. He is listed in three Marquis WHO'S WHO directories, including WHO'S WHO IN THE WORLD. He has taught business and Christian ethics as a visiting professor at the Leningrad (now St. Petersberg) International Management Institute in Russia.
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