A Miracle Message for the Masses?

From Marlene:

I am struggling with a church I love to go to. The sermons seem fine, but the Instagram postings are a different story… they would often talk like “God has a miracle waiting for you today, so you believe it” and stuff. When I asked about it, they said that Jesus spoke differently to the crowds than to His disciples, and He gave the crowds the milk whereas His disciples got the meat. Where would we draw the line? To me it doesn’t sound right to catch people that way… maybe David could elaborate on that?

  • I’m glad that the sermons are fine at your church!
  • You’re right to be wary of this approach.
  • We believe God works miracles! Yet, we can’t “promise” miracles at any specific time and place.
  • It’s dangerous to win people with the spectacular, with miracles and such.
  • I think your pastor and your church has good motives -to win people to Jesus.
  • Yet, our call isn’t to “win converts” but to “make disciples”!
  • What you win them with is what you win them to – you’ll have to keep the miracles coming, or you’ll have a lot of disillusioned people.
  • Jesus did NOT have a different message for the crowds than He had for the disciples. Both were radically called to follow Him.

Luke 14:25-27

Now great multitudes went with Him. And He turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

So, we’re not anti-miracle – we are pro-miracle!

We believe that over time, followers of Jesus will see Him do amazing, miraculous things.

But we can’t promise specific miracles or specific timing for miracles.

We must tell the truth about what it means to follow Jesus – making disciples, not just converts.

Is the Earth 6000 years old? Will the Millennial reign be the 7000th year?

Do you think that the earth is 6000 years old? When Jesus comes back and reigns for 1000 years, do you think that will be the “Sabbath” or the 7000th year?

There is no way for us to know the age of the Earth with precision, biblically speaking. Interestingly, scientists feel like they have an exact answer to that question; they’ll say something like it was 14.354 billion years ago, but among scientists there is no universal agreement upon this. Their general consensus is that the earth is millions, if not billions, of years old. They feel they can have precision about this great period of the past, but the Bible just doesn’t tell us.

There are people such as the famous Archbishop James Ussher who, by referring to the genealogies of the Old Testament and the book of Genesis, calculated that the Earth was in present day reckoning somewhere around 6000 years old. But I don’t think that we can regard Ussher’s chronology as being exhaustive or absolutely correct.

Generally, I am part of the group that would say that I believe in a relatively young earth. I don’t exactly know what “relatively young” means. But I believe that it’s not unreasonable and certainly within God’s capability to create an earth with age built into it. I could give you several examples.

We know that there were trees in the garden of Eden. Now, please don’t cut down the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil; God said, “Don’t eat the fruit of it,” but I’m sure we weren’t supposed to cut it down either. But if you were to cut down a tree in the garden of Eden, would it have rings in the middle? Well, I think it would.

When Adam was created, he had markers of age. Adam was not created as a fertilized egg, who grew from there. Presumably, he was created as a fully grown man, maybe 25 or 30 or 35 years old, whatever it would be.

So, if God created the trees of the garden of Eden with age built into them, and He created the human beings who populated the Garden of Eden with age built into them, then I don’t see any absolute reason why God could not do the same for the Earth itself. I know that answer may offend some people, but I don’t see the great offense in it. I would simply say that we have a relatively young Earth. I wouldn’t say 6000 years; I would just say relatively young.

Because of that, I don’t put a lot of stock in the idea that each millennium of human history is represented by 1000 years, that we’ve had 6000 years of human history, and that now we’re about to embark on the 7000th year, which will be the start of the 1000-year reign of Christ, or the Millennium. I don’t really put much stock in that idea. I wouldn’t throw it out or say it’s impossible, but I don’t put a lot of stock in the concept.

Why will animal sacrifices be resumed during the Millennium?

First, I recommend that you read through my commentary on the final portion of the book of Ezekiel, from chapters 40-48: https://enduringword.com/bible-commentary/ezekiel-40/

I give a much more exhaustive answer in my commentary, but I’ll give you a summary here. Animal sacrifices are resumed, but not for the atonement of sin. That would be wrong. You might even say that would be blasphemous. I know blasphemous is a strong term, but to do animal sacrifices for the atonement of sin, after the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, is to in some way either deny or at the very least lessen the greatness of the work of Jesus.

I do not believe that the animal sacrifices in the book of Ezekiel and Revelation have to do with atonement; that was once for all provided by the work of Jesus at the cross. However, we need to understand that atonement for sin was not the only purpose or reason for animal sacrifice. Animal sacrifices could be offered as an expression of total dedication unto the Lord. Animal sacrifices could be offered as fellowship offerings with God. Animal sacrifices could be offered in fulfillment of a vow. Animal sacrifices could be offered to praise God and give Him honor.

So, I would have to say that it is resumed in light of these other aspects of sacrifice, and not to atone for sin. But let me bring up one other matter regarding this. I think it’s also very important to point out that, although this work is finished, there is also a commemorative aspect to these sacrifices. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a place like Colonial Williamsburg, where people dress up in historical costumes and reenact things from hundreds of years ago, to give people in the present day a sense of what it was like in the past.

I believe there’s a bit of a sense of historical reenactment in the renewed sacrifices, to show the people who populate the earth during the Millennium what it was like to serve God and to honor God in previous generations and previous millennia.

During worship, are emotional responses like dancing a work of the Holy Spirit?

If some get happy during the praise and worship service, and people start to dance or run around the building, we call it shouting. Is this the work of the Holy Spirit? Or is this just their emotions?

There’s a principle that we gather from the New Testament: “The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets” (1 Corinthians 14:32). This is one of several places in the Scriptures which teach us the principle that God does not overwhelm a person or control their physical actions by the filling of the Holy Spirit. The spirit of the prophets is subject to the prophets.

In other words, being indwelt by the Holy Spirit is not like demonic possession. One potential evidence of demonic possession is uncontrollable action with the body. This is not what the Holy Spirit does. I believe it’s possible for the Holy Spirit to genuinely move upon people, and their reaction to that moving of the Holy Spirit might be peculiar. For example, a person may be under intense conviction of sin by the Holy Spirit, and they start trembling or shaking, maybe even violently. Friends, it’s not the Holy Spirit that’s making them shake; what they’re probably doing is resisting the work of the Holy Spirit. There’s something physiologically happening inside of them because they areresisting the work of the Holy Spirit.

For that reason, I don’t think the Holy Spirit makes someone run around the room or makes someone dance. Now, a person could be so filled with joy that they want to dance, but they want to do it, and they’re in control. They can stop dancing or running around the room if they want. The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.

Within the Christian world, there is a whole spectrum of what connects with or resonates with people in worship. Some people are content with a reverent heart directed towards God in silence, or maybe with a little bit of ceremony, a little bit of incense, a little bit of liturgy, and that’s fine. But there are other people who are much more energetic in their expression of worship, and that is more meaningful to them. I don’t think you can say that the Holy Spirit has caused or forced either of these types to respond this way. It has more to do with the personality and the response of that individual person.

Finally, it’s up to the individual to be sensitive to their surroundings. If I am in a worship service, and half the room starts dancing, it’s not going to be a distraction if I start dancing. Well, let me take that back. It would be a distraction if I started dancing because I’m a terrible dancer and everybody would notice; but in general, it wouldn’t be a distraction if one more person started dancing within the room.

Now, if you have a room where no one is dancing, and one person goes up to the front and starts dancing, they are immediately going to draw the attention of everybody in the room upon them. That is not right. Often, it’s selfish; I won’t say always, but often. It’s like they’re saying, “Hey everybody, look at me. Look at what I can do. Stop thinking about the Lord as you sing the song, and start thinking about me, the dancing guy or the dancing queen in the front row.”

We shouldn’t have this desire to draw the congregation’s attention to ourselves in worship. The attention should be on the Lord. The things which draw attention and the things which don’t are very much connected to context. As I said, if half the room is already dancing, it’s not going to matter if one more does. But if nobody in the room is doing it, then it’s going to draw attention to oneself. That kind of thing doesn’t have a heart to edify or to honor the entire body of Christ present at a congregational meeting.

No, I don’t think that these physical manifestations are directly the work of the Spirit. I think it’s a human reaction to what the Holy Spirit is doing, chosen in some way or another by the person. It’s really a matter of context to determine whether these things are good or should be allowed. We especially need to take care when it would be done in a context that would draw attention to ourselves.

Has David Guzik visited Israel? Which structure from Bible times stands out the most to you?

Have you ever visited Israel or Jerusalem? If so, what’s one of the structures that stands out to you today from the time of Jesus?

Yes, I have been to Israel and to Jerusalem several times. It’s been a great pleasure to go to Israel. Right now, I’m in the Middle East, but not in Israel. I won’t be visiting Israel on this trip. While I have been to Israel many times and I love to visit Israel, it’s also good to get out and see what God is doing in the broader region of the Middle East. I do believe God loves Israel and has a wonderful plan for them. Meanwhile, God is working in other nations in other places around the Middle East, and in this Gulf region where I’m at. It’s good for me to see that and to be reminded of that.

Now, what are the structures that stand out to me today from the time of Jesus? I’ll just give you one example. It is the area that is normally called the Southern Steps. This is the area right outside the southern wall of the Temple Mount. What makes this area so special is that they have uncovered some of the original marble steps that led up to the Temple Mount. It was the entrance for the common people to reach the Temple Mount. It would have been the way that Jesus and His disciples, along with innumerable other people, would have gone up to the Temple.

To look at those steps, to see the setting and arrangement, and to realize that my Savior, Jesus Christ, walked upon these very steps, is staggering to think about. In many places, it is the original stone from the time of Jesus, and Jesus walked on these original steps. There are many memorable places in Israel. I look forward to visiting Israel again later this year.

How can we encourage the Body of Christ to be less individualistic?

Greetings from Nairobi City, Kenya. I just discovered your ministry a few days ago. I’m a pastor here in Kenya. I see a lot of ministries going towards getting the individual believer to discover and pursue their personal purposes and destinies. It doesn’t seem to matter to many that the Christian life is to be lived in the experience of the Body of Christ corporate, with each serving others and being served by others. How can we adjust from being seekers of our personal blessedness, to be willing to participate in the blessedness of the Body of Christ? Your thoughts?

Thank you for such a wonderful question. I think it’s a very perceptive and helpful question for the present day. I can’t say this for sure, but I wonder whether this focus on the individual being blessed has been exported from American Christianity, and received or imported into the African Christianity where you are ministering in Kenya?

I think it’s sort of a hallmark of Western Christianity, especially in America, that we are very focused on the individual. Now, there are good parts to the individual emphasis of American Christianity, and I could talk about the good parts of it. But there are also inherent dangers and weaknesses. The idea that the whole purpose of Christianity is to bless me, to make me happy, or for me to discover my purpose is misguided. Furthermore, it does not lead to true happiness and fulfillment.

Jesus created us to be fundamentally servants to one another. We find our greatest fulfillment in life when we esteem others greater than ourselves, as Paul said in Philippians. Many people are chronically frustrated because they can’t seem to find the focus or purpose or destiny for their life. But the best thing they could do is to forget about trying to find it. Why don’t you just go out and be a blessing to some other people? Look for other people to bless, to prefer others greater than yourself, as Paul writes again in Philippians. It’s this attitude of laying down one’s life, of serving others, of having that real Jesus style and nature, which is really the path to great fulfillment. Friends, the happiest people you’ll ever meet in your life, are going to be the people who understand these servant principles in the life in ministry of Jesus.

I think we can be people who constantly exhort other people on these lines. We can demonstrate the right way to live this out through our own lives. We’d be lying if we said that this mentality of individualism that’s abroad in our culture doesn’t infect us. We want to be those who put others first. Or what’s the order that some people talk about? God first, others second, and myself third, and maybe that’s a pretty distant third.

I know that goes against the spirit of our age. In America and the Western world, the spirit of the age says, “You’d better look out for yourself first, and take care of yourself first. Don’t let anybody get one over on you, and don’t let anybody see your weakness. Get whatever you can from them.” There needs to be a place where we say, “No, I’m going to follow the purpose and the plan of Jesus.” Let me tell you, true joy of life is found in that.

I hope that God gives you continued grace and wisdom to be able to really present the servant nature and the servant style of Jesus. I would recommend to you some resources by a man named Gayle Erwin, especially his book, “The Jesus Style.” You can find these resources for free online in text and audio books at servant.org. Gayle is a remarkable man with a very generous heart to make his resources available broadly and often at no cost.

This servant lifestyle really is the pathway to a life of love and joy and peace. It’s exhausting to constantly “look out for number one.” It’s blessed to put God first, others second, and ourselves third.

Can animals be demon-possessed?

That is an interesting and somewhat difficult question. I have had no practical experience with an animal which I thought was demon-possessed. I can say from the Bible, that there was an occasion when Jesus cast a group of demons into a herd of pigs, so there’s at least some biblical precedent for these demonic spirits to inhabit animals. Whether that was a one-time occasion, or it’s something that can happen at other times, I don’t know. But I don’t think we need to live in fear of such things.

Whether a demonic spirit can inhabit the body of an animal in some way, it doesn’t turn away the truth that the Bible says, “Greater is He who is within you than he who is in the world.” It doesn’t matter if that demonic spirit is in the world possessing an animal of some kind or not. The Spirit of God is mightier within us, and He has more power than any demonic spirit.

Ultimately, we don’t have much biblical mention of this, but we know that it has happened on at least one occasion.

What’s the difference between fallen angels and demons?

There’s some debate on this question among Christians. I come out on the side where I believe that fallen angels and demonic spirits are the same thing. I would say that demonic spirits are fallen angels. Again, I don’t want to act like that opinion is without controversy in the Christian world. There are certainly some who would disagree and say that fallen angels and demonic spirits have different origin points and are different things altogether. To me, it makes the most sense to say that these demonic spirits are fallen angels. That is my best understanding of the Scriptures.

Can demons hear our thoughts?

The Scriptures do not specifically answer this question. My guess is that angels or demonic spirits cannot hear our thoughts or read our minds, but they are such constant and experienced observers of human nature, both generally and individually, that they can reliably guess what we think at any moment. They can’t do this perfectly, of course; only God is perfect. But I think that they are such expert observers of human nature, concerning both general human nature and specific individuals, that they can reliably guess what we are thinking.

I heard one preacher put it this way. He said, “Listen, if my wife can know what I’m thinking, then maybe the devil can as well.” I think that’s kind of a humorous way to put it. I hope that man wasn’t equating the devil with his wife. But I think you understand what I mean. My wife can’t actually enter into my mind or read my thoughts by some kind of mystical mind transfer or something like that. However, she doesn’t have to. She’s lived with me long enough. She’s seen me enough. She knows my mannerisms, my cues, my habits, and my patterns well enough to where she can reliably guess what I’m thinking. The same principle can hold true for demonic spirits as well.

What are your thoughts on inerrancy versus infallibility of Scripture?

What are your thoughts on inerrancy versus infallibility? And why does it seem that only American Christians care about inerrancy?

First, I would push back on the idea that it’s only American Christians who care about inerrancy. I’ll agree that the debate in the present day is stronger in America. But throughout history, it’s been widely believed that the Bible doesn’t have errors. That’s what we’re talking about. Inerrant means that there were no errors in the autographed original text manuscripts. The Scriptures we have today are extremely reliable copies of those autographs, though admittedly not perfect copies. That has been the widely held tradition, even if the specific word “inerrancy” wasn’t used.

The word “inerrancy” came into fashion in theological circles in the 20th century, in response to what you might call theologically liberal attacks against the integrity of the Scriptures. They said things like, “No, the Bible is wrong. Creation didn’t happen the way it said it happened. Oh, the Bible’s wrong. Noah’s Flood couldn’t have happened the way it  says it happened in the Bible. No, the Bible’s wrong. God couldn’t have asked Abraham to do this.” They carry that argument on and on, even down to the person and work of Jesus.

People say, “Well, the Bible’s wrong when it says that Jesus rose from the dead; we know people don’t do that.” They just believe that the Bible was filled with a lot of errors.

In response to that, in the 20th century, there were people who formulated the idea that the Bible is without error. Again, we go back to its autographed copies. It is without error in what it says, what it affirms, and what it teaches. When the Bible teaches history, it’s true history; when it teaches poetry, it’s true poetry; when it teaches prophecy, it’s true prophecy. And we can just rest in this.

Now, the term “inerrancy” has fallen into disfavor in some circles. It’s thought of as radical, crazy, or fundamentalist. Some circles believe they are more sophisticated than that. Look, if you don’t like the term inerrancy, maybe you would prefer to say, “I believe the Bible is infallible, without failure in any way, without error.”

The question is, do you believe that the Bible’s wrong about anything? If you don’t believe the Bible is wrong about anything, then I can argue you’re inerrant. You believe that the Bible is right in everything. I don’t care about the specific terms so much, but the concept behind the term is very important.

If you think that the Bible is wrong about something – wrong in its history, wrong in its laws, wrong in its prophecy, wrong in its poetry – then be honest and say it. I am hesitant with people who don’t want to use the term inerrant, and maybe they’re critical of those people who do use that term, while at the same time, they’re very coy about whether or not they think there are errors in the Bible.

Look, let’s just be clear. If you think there are errors in the Bible, then just say, “I think there are errors in the Bible. And here is what I think this is an error.” That’s ok; then we know where you stand. But there’s no reason to be coy about at all. That’s my perspective.

You are correct that the word “inerrancy” became a thing in the 20th century. Those battles have been more pronounced in America. But parts of the world are just not fighting those battles because they believe the Bible. When you find Christians in Africa who are right on, I don’t think they’re agonizing over an error; they just believe the Bible’s true. That’s what inerrancy is: it’s believing the Bible is true.

In Europe, inerrancy isn’t much of an issue, because so many churches have surrendered in that battle that it’s not an issue. I’m speaking generally. The attitude is, “Yeah, we all know the Bible is filled with errors, so why should we fight over it?” Curiously, this battle has been fought been more in North America, specifically in the United States. There have been people who promote theological liberalism and an undermining of the integrity of Scriptures, and there have been other people who say, “No, we’re not we’re not going to do that.”

You’re right that this battle has been most dramatically fought in America, and the term itself is fairly recent, but the concept goes back throughout church history.

Did creation happen in six literal 24-hour days?

I believe that the Bible is without error. The Bible is true in what it says. When the Bible teaches history, it’s true history. When it teaches poetry, it’s true poetry, and so on. Here’s the debate with Genesis 1-2. There are some people who really honor and respect the Scriptures, who argue that this section is not written historically, it’s written poetically. They would argue that it was never intended to be understood in a literal, historic sense.

There are other people who argue that the greater evidence is on the side of Genesis 1-2 being written more in a historical sense than a poetic sense. They would tend towards something like six literal 24-hour days.

If God intended to create the world in six literal 24-hour days, I don’t have the slightest doubt that He could do it. It’s not beyond the scope of God’s capability to do so. To me the issue rides on whether we regard Genesis 1-2 as a fundamentally historic narrative in its literary approach, or as a poetic narrative. Some scholars would say that, at least in some sense, it’s a combination of these genres.

I’m no expert on the nuances of Hebrew literature in the original. I lean towards regarding it as historic. I lean towards regarding Creation as happening in something like six 24-hour days.

I believe it’s important for every Christian to argue strongly that God is the Creator. We are not created by fate or chance or blind evolution. I don’t think that people who support the Old Earth or Day Age theories are correct, but I don’t think that they’re heretics. I think they’re wrong. But I reserve heresy for beliefs that will drive a person to Hell. I don’t think God is going to send anybody to hell for being mistaken about that. I don’t mean to say that I think it’s an insignificant issue. But I long for people to emphasize the idea that God is the Creator. I think that Genesis 1-2 is fundamentally a narrative with poetic elements in it, and it leans towards something like six 24-hour days.

Do we receive Jesus and the Holy Spirit by invitation or simply as a gift?

Do we invite the Holy Spirit or Jesus in, or are they given to us, and we receive them?

Here’s your answer: Yes. We do both. We invite them in, and God gives them to us. We can’t create the infilling of the Holy Spirit in ourselves. It just doesn’t work that way. This is not something that human beings can manufacture. It’s something we receive from God.

Normally, God does not bestow or pour out His Holy Spirit upon unwilling or unreceptive people. I fully allow that there are some exceptions. But in general, the way God works is to create within a person a desire and willingness, and they ask, and God bestows.

I don’t see any contradiction between our asking and receiving and God bestowing. The problem or contradiction would arise if this somehow put us in control of the giving or the reception of the Holy Spirit. No, never could we be in control. This is God’s work, but it is a work that we must receive from God.