A Church on a Mission: Signs and Wonders

by | Nov 27, 2022 | Podcast, Sermons

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Preacher: Pastor Jim McCaslin

Scripture: Acts 5:12-16

The signs and wonders performed by the Apostles and the miracles done by the disciples of Jesus down to this day are all intended to point to Jesus, his saving grace, and the power of the Holy Spirit who is God’s empowering presence with us.


Come Holy Spirit fill the hearts of your faithful disciples and Kindle in us the fire of Your Love renew us with your spirit God’s empowering presence within us so that lost souls may come into your kingdom in Jesus name amen amen please be seated

well I am Jim McCaslin and it is great to see the nine o’clock crowd and the 11 o’clockers and our guests all gathered together this morning here at 10 o’clock and as David said this is one of those Sundays when we have a trifecta to celebrate first we have just had this year’s Thanksgiving weekend I pray that it was one of rejoicing for you with family and friends if on the other hand it was a difficult one for you I pray that you were able to rely on our god of Grace and all comfort to sustain you secondly today is the first Sunday in Advent and again in this season we await the coming of our Lord Jesus with great joy marked by our Advent blue as we are assured every Sunday when we celebrate Holy Communion Christ will come again and thirdly today we continue our journey through the book of Acts as we focus on the church on Mission our church on mission for Jesus Christ well today as you can see it’s my turn to preach and the text is acts 5 verses 12 to 16. I’ve known that it would be my privilege to preach on this lesson for quite a while now in fact it was back on August the 30th that I received an email from Pastor David assigning me this passage so I’ve had some three months to ponder and prey on it as you can see it’s a short Passage and the words that j p off the page from it are signs and wonders now the phrase signs and wonders is first found in Exodus chapter 7 verse 3. where the Lord says to Moses but I will harden Pharaoh’s heart and I will multiply my signs and wonders in the land of Egypt so signs and wonders is a phrase that indicates the mighty works of God on behalf of his people we recall of course the great miracle of the Old Testament in Exodus 14 when God parted the Waters of the Red Sea so that Moses and the Israelites could cross safely as they were fleeing Pharaoh’s Army from captivity in Egypt on that day Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians so the people feared the Lord and they believed in the Lord and his servant Moses just so in the book of Acts we see the people fearing the Lord because of his signs and wonders and believing in the Lord and his servants the apostles Holy scripture is full of Miracles and healings all done to attract people to God’s Saving Grace and power through the work of the Holy Spirit the book of Acts is also known as the acts of the of the Apostles and then formally even as the acts of the Holy Spirit scripture teaches us that we all receive the Holy Spirit at baptism when we come to believe in Jesus and trust him as our Lord and savior we’re called to be filled with this Holy Spirit for he is God’s agent here on Earth and as you’ll recall Jesus said it would be better for his disciples for him to ascend back into heaven after his resurrection so that he could send the Holy Spirit to all believers and live in each one of us to be our power for living the Christian Life as some of you know in the past I’ve LED workshops on the Holy Spirit and the various gifts of the Spirit that God distributes to every Christian as he sees fit it has therefore been fascinating and instructive to hear pastors David and Chuck preach on the spirit’s work thus far through the book of Acts I’ve done a good bit of research and preparing for today one work that I’ve looked at closely is titled signs and wonders healings Miracles and unusual events by the Reverend Dr Norman Geisler a conservative Evangelical Theologian and author I want to be clear that I do not agree with Dr Geisler on several points but his work does raise several questions regarding the work of the spirit in today’s world in the preface to his work he notes that there are two extremes regarding the subject of Miracles today on the one hand there are those who deny Miracles altogether on the other hand some consider almost any unusual event to be a miracle

Geisler opens chapter one by quoting from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland a work I’ve long treasured and just reread recently and as you’ll recall I’m sure Alice was sitting on the bank by her sister when suddenly a white rabbit ran by she doesn’t think much of it until the rabbit took out a watch out of his West Coast pocket and hurried along muttering that it was going to be late this of course made Alice curious and she ran after it just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit hole and then another moment she found herself t bling down after it never once considering how in the world she was going to get out of what seemed to be a very deep well soon she found a very small cake on a table with the words eat me on it and she ate a little wondering if it would make her grow larger or smaller and was quite surprised that she remained the same size well that’s generally what happens when you eat cake

but Alice had got so much into the way of expecting nothing but out of the way things to happen that it seemed quite dull and stupid for life to go on in the common way so amazed was Alice with her Adventures in Wonderland that she said nothing sitting down with her head and her hands wondering if anything would ever happen in a natural way again well today’s Christians are a bit like Alice and what Geisler calls modern signs and wonders land as he writes these days many wonderful things healings and even raisings from the dead are being ascribed to the miraculous workings of God around the world but are they real are they hallucinations or outright fakes well today I’d like to invite you to go down a spiritual Rabbit Hole or on a rabbit trail with me to look further at modern miracles but first let’s look at today’s text from Acts 5. as we’ve already heard acts 5 begins with ananias and Sapphira who sold some property kept some of the proceeds for themselves and lied to Peter about it Peter said Satan had filled their hearts and led them to sin by lying to the Holy Spirit whereupon they fell down dead they just fell down dead amazing apparently miraculous deaths our passage today today picks up in verse 12. where we read that many signs and wonders were done by the apostles the phrase side signs and wonders is often found in scripture to describe goddess God’s Mighty acts on behalf of his people it is used seven times by Luke to convey the same notion linking it with Jesus and the apostles and such healings revealed their Heavenly nature and origin and Jesus as Jesus said the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand right here on the Earth the accomplished the apostles accomplished every kind of healing with these Miracles validating their message and after the deaths of ananias and Sapphira the apostles continued to perform Miracles as the people gathered around them in Solomon’s Portico which is simply a porch or a covered walkway now verse 13 shows us that the sense of God’s presence and power was so vivid that men were reluctant to associate with them or say that they believed the deaths of ananias and Sapphira seemed to have scared off all but the totally committed in the presence of the Living God whether manifest through preaching are witnessing or Miracles is alarming to some and appealing to others in verse 14. we see that despite the understandable fear of such power being displayed new Believers came into the kingdom of God now more than ever the signs and wonders did lead many of the common people to be in awe of the Apostles and become Believers in the Lord Jesus signs and wonders clearly contributed to the Evangelistic mission of the church the healings continued in verse 15 as the people carry their sick out into the streets on beds and mattresses so that Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as they pass by it’s interesting to note that the Greek for fall on are overshadowed is the same verb found in Luke 1 and 35 where the angel Gabriel says to Mary the holy spirit will come upon you and the power of the most high will overshadow you therefore the child to be born would be called holy Son of God the Holy Spirit God’s empowering presence as Theologian Gordon fee calls him moves in great power and it was clear for all to see here that there was real power in the lives of the Apostles and that they were channels through whom God was blessing others Professor fee wrote in his book God’s empowering presence that the Living God is a god of power and by the spirit the power of the Living God is present with us and for us fee continues the direct connection between God’s presence and his spirit is articulated especially in the psalter in his penitential prayer in Psalm 51 King David asked do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me the psalmist also asked where can I go from your spirit where can I flee from your presence and as we pray every Sunday in our colic for Purity our God is the one from whom no secrets are HID we cannot Escape God’s knowledge of our hearts or Better or For Worse these new converts expected continuing healings from the apostles Peter’s Shadow was as efficacious as a medi of healing power as The Fringe of his master’s cloak had been in Mark 5 and verse 56 where Jesus came into Villages cities or countrysides and the people laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even The Fringe of His Garment and as many touched it were made well the Holy Spirit was so powerfully manifest in and around Peter that he that even those who only came near him experienced the healing of the Holy Spirit the same was true when Jesus’s healing power flowed from His Garment at the touch of a woman who had been subject to bleeding as recorded in Mark 5 27 28 here God allows the shadow of Peter to affect a cure in a similar way has happened with the Apostle Paul later in Acts 19 11 and 12 where we read and God was doing extraordinary Miracles by the hand of Paul so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried to the sick and their diseases left them and evil spirits came out of them our passage concludes with verse 16. even from outlying towns and Villages of Judea people streamed into the capitol with their sick folk in Hope of profiting from the apostles Healing Ministry not only did they bring the sick they also brought those Afflicted with unclean spirits that is with demons no wonder that the common peoples sounded the apostles praises and the n ber of Believers increased the Apostle signs and wonders Ministry brought both increased attention to the work of the Apostles and Great Expectations on behalf of the people for more healings and yes more miracles Miracles like these were God’s method of bearing witness to the ministry of the Apostles as multitudes of both men and women were being added to the n ber of believers as we will continue our journey through the book of Acts we see clearly the the apostles continue to perform such miracles

these miracles did at least three things for the early church they attracted believers they confirmed the truth of the Apostles teaching and they demonstrated that the power of the crucified and risen Messiah had been bestowed upon his followers

I said earlier that I would like you to venture down a rabbit hole with me this morning

pregnant pause

normally I do not like rabbit holes in sermons I’ve known a few preachers whose entire sermon seemed like a rabbit hole wandering all over the map disjointed hard to follow and with little hope of sorting out the key points so I’m hesitant to go down rabbit trails and yet like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland I tend to agree with Reverend Geisler that when it comes to the Holy Spirit Christianity Today is a bit like Alice in modern signs and wonders land my rabbit hole is complicated and controversial with many questions left unanswered some of these things involve issues that are non-essential to the heart of the faith others are important enough that they have resulted in divisions in the body of Christ a sad situation for God’s one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church

let me start that’s saying that back in 1992 I was much taken by a book called New Millenni new church by Richard Q an Episcopal Bishop Roderick White remember that 1992 was much before we had the new Anglican Church in North America and many of us older folks were still episcopalians I believe that the book was ahead of its times and accurately identifying Trends already at play for reshaping the next generation of the church in these pages I first encountered what is now called the three streams of the church frame one is the anglo-catholic or high Church stream that appreciates the University universality of the church and insists that it’s that it treasure the Richer Riches of our sacramental life the deep roots of our spirituality and the benefits of the historic ordering of laity Bishops creeks and deacons the second stream is evangelical which urges the church and individual Believers to put every aspect of their lives under the authority of Holy Scripture dream three is the charismatic stream which puts greater emphasis on exercising a variety of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in your pews you’ll find our new red covered 2019 Anglican book of common prayer from which we draw the worship Services we use every Sunday and on other occasions the guiding force behind the creation of this book was our founding Archbishop Robert Duncan he chaired the liturgical task force which labored countless hours to prepare our new BCP at our College of Bishops agreed that we needed a BCP to unite the church’s three different streams this was a particular vision of the Reverend Dr J.I packer the highly esteemed Theologian emeritus of the acna an event Evangel Evangelical Pastor he wanted an authentic way to pray and worship that could be embraced by all anglicans whether they were Evangelical charismatic or anglo-catholic all three streams are indeed represented in our prayer book and I mentioned these because I want to point out the inherent dangers that arise when a parish over emphasizes one stream at the expense of the others for examples the anglo-catholic stream can put such a stress on a formal performance of the sacraments that true worship of the Living God can seem almost dead many parishes of the old Episcopal church had succ bed to such formalism that its members have been referred to as the Frozen chosen

when the passing of the peace was reintroduced into the Liturgy with a 1979 prayer book many Old-Timers found it hard to greet their neighbors with a handshake let alone a hug

with regard to the Evangelical stream I venture to say that it is the primary but certainly not the only stream here at our savior Evangelical is rooted in the Greek for good news which emphasizes the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ the love and grace of God as salvation by belief in the in His holy name the authority of Holy Scripture and in Sharing God God’s good news with a lost and hurting world one danger of an over emphasis on Evangel evangelicalism is a bible-th ping holier than thou attitude towards others with a minimal appreciation of the sacraments or any expression of charismatic gifts when I was still in the Army I was part of a weekly lunchtime Bible study and one of our members was a dear Baptist friend who said that his church knew a lot about God and Jesus but nothing about the Holy Spirit

before I leave our Evangelical stream I must say that some of our prominent Anglican leaders such as pastors John Stott John Yates David and Chuck and our Bishops Neil abar and Alex farmer are strong evangelicals

now I come to the charismatic stream which is perhaps the Rabbit Trail where I find the most Fascination and yet the biggest dangers for confusion Division and even emotion emotional and spiritual damage for the individuals touched by it the charismatic movement tends to have an emphasis on baptism with the Holy Spirit and the use of spiritual gifts

I want to share with you briefly my experience of the charismatic movement especially with the expectation of Miracles I say briefly because this is a subject where we could invest many hours of discussion I may be opening a pair of Pandora’s Box I’m sure that Pastor David can sort it out if necessary

very nervous

I want to explore this Rabbit Trail with you because it’s been a it’s been a very personal one for me my mom was very sick with cancer in 1973. we had been an army Chapel family of what you might call nominal Christians with no knowledge of Holy Spirit miracles my dad somehow st bled onto a broadcast of the charismatic televangelist Oral Roberts out of desperation for Mom’s healing I think he started sending in donations but mom died anyway dad was depressed for a while and kept playing the chorus to the sad song Delta Dawn and did I hear you say he was a meeting you here today to take you to his mansion in the sky thinking that somehow it meant mom was in heaven this was not a good introduction for me to the charismatic world a real Downer I encountered the upside in 1986 when I went on a Curcio renewal weekend now it wasn’t labeled charismatic per se but there was a lot of prayer for healing and I experienced a new sense of joy and I felt like I had been transformed from a nominal Christian and to a revitalized Christian with one of the cursillo songs stuck in my head I have decided to follow Jesus Jenny did say that I seemed more upbeat after that weekend was this the work of the Holy Spirit I think so I went on to serve on many cursillo weekends and saw similar transformations in the lives of those who participated our former Episcopal Bishop Steve gecko so valued Curcio that he required all priests serving in his diocese to attend Curcio I entered seminary in the early 1990s with an approach avoidance attitude to the more charismatic side of the church and now prior to Seminary I had read a book called nine o’clock in the morning by an Episcopal priest named Dennis Bennett who had attended a small group where members were speaking in tongues not foreign languages but unknown prayer languages which sounded like gibberish I was so intrigued that I wrote a term paper on it in seminary and I quote on Palm Sunday April the 3rd 1960 father Bennett director of Saint Mark’s Episcopal Church in Van Nuys California put aside his prepared sermon and told his parishioners that he had been baptized in the Holy Spirit and had been speaking in tongues for some five months at the end of the second service one of his three assistants threw his vestments on the Altar and stormed out of the church and said I can no longer work with this man according to Bennett that blew the lid off one of his vestermen told him that he should resign and he did so at the third service walking away from an astonished and distressed congregation that he had served for seven years Bennett became known as the father of the charismatic renewal in the Episcopal Church a movement that spread to several other American denominations could this really be the work of the Holy Spirit as Paul wrote in Romans 8 and 26 the spirit himself interceding for us with groanings too deep for words such private prayer languages seem authentic to thousands and I suspect a few of you may have experienced this phenomena I tried it myself for a while but in truth it faded I know that the Holy Spirit surprises brings surprising tears has happened to me when I first knew in a powerful way that God would have me go to Seminary and at times when I’m preaching some Anglican churches have permitted tongues to be offered in worship services as long as an interpretation of the tongue is given as required by 1 Corinthians 14 and 27. Bennett said that he experienced two more in important things in Bible reading the word of God literally leaped out to meet me and in prayer I sensed immediately that there was a new openness between me and my Father in heaven as was the case with Dennis with Dennis Bennett those who have experienced have had such experiences are certain that they have been touched directly by God they often have a new sense of God’s love and peace a hunger to read the Bible a new sense of its applicability to their lives a call to discipleship a desire to tithe and eagerness and new energy for both inreach and Outreach work work and an overall joy of the Lord now it’s interesting to note the similarities in Bennett’s charismatic Spirit baptism experience and Evangelical conversion experiences Anglican priest and evangelist John Wesley for example referred to his heart as strangely warmed Anglican priest and evangelist George Whitfield known for his Great Awakening revivals said that he knew what it was to truly rejoice in God my savior and for some time could not avoiding singing Psalms wherever I went while such attributes have obvious positive value they often inadvertently contribute to an unintended divisiveness in their eagerness to share their Newfound Joy some charismatics tend to come on too strong and appear fanatical and indeed weird to those who have not been so touched well I’ve tried to point out some of the pros and cons of the charismatic stream one of the greatest weaknesses to of the extreme edges of the charismatic movement is its lack of sound Biblical teaching there seems to be an undue preoccupation with experience which is often placed above the word of God a tendency to exalt the blessings rather than the God who gives the blessings as a consequence the charismatic movement can be a fertile field for strange and unscriptural doctrines and practices

make no mistake we do believe in the Holy Spirit his gifts and his miracles our women’s Bible study deals with hearing the voice of God Anglican churches our own included host Alpha courses with an entire weekend devoted to the Holy Spirit we have prayer ministers in church some of our people have served in our local Christian healing Ministries indeed we read in James 5 verses 14 through 16. is any of you sick he should call the Elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord and the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well the Lord will raise him up if he has sinned he will be forgiven therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed some ascribe healings to good medicine and great doctors and nurses does God work through them some are believers and some aren’t the unbelieving Persian king Cyrus was used by God to issue the decree to end the Babylonian captivity of the Jews God is Sovereign and has his hand on rulers and politicians and doctors to work his miracles most of you know that my wife Jenny almost died from covid in January 2021 when she was in Baptist beaches Hospital on a ventilator for 11 days many of you prayed for her mightily and your prayers offered in faith made her well she is indeed a miracle girl

this God always Grant Earthly healings when we pray

most of you remember Joni Erickson tada the Evangelical Christian author who became a quadriplegic as a result of a swimming accident in spite of fervent prayers she Remains unhealed by all the faiths she could muster and Joni concludes God certainly can and sometimes does heal people in a miraculous way today but the Bible does not teach that he will always heal those who come to him in faith he sovereignly reserves the right to heal or not to heal as he sees fit do we believe in miracles C.S Lewis The Beloved author of The Chronicles of Narnia and lay Theologian asked if we admit God must we admit miracles indeed you have no security against it that is the bargain he said we have the miracle of the Incarnation God became flesh and dwelt among us we have the miracle of the Resurrection Jesus defeated death and the devil who controls authentic miracles God’s fingerprint is found in all his signs and wonders and miracles he has power over life over nature and over all kinds of diseases all his Works give confirmation of God’s Messengers and his saving good news and true Miracles are under God’s control done at God’s will grounded in Biblical teaching and glorify our loving creator

there is much we do not know but we know that the God who is all-knowing all-powerful and ever present we know him and we know from Isaiah 55 8-9 that God’s thoughts are not our thoughts neither are our ways his ways for as the heavens are higher than the earth so are God’s ways higher than our ways and his thoughts than our thoughts what must we do with any confusion or possible deception in our modern signs and wonders land we are told in first John 4 verse 1. beloved do not believe every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they are from God or many false prophets have gone out into the world false prophets are in the world under the influence of our sinful flesh and the devil’s Temptations and yes false prophets do arise in the church whether during Jesus ministry the ministry of the Apostles or when the church is on Mission today God’s power continues to accomplish amazing Miracles and healings as he Wills the manifestation of his holy spirit Power transforms lost souls into True Believers confirms the authority of his Messengers and the truth of his Biblical teaching and demonstrates The Sovereign power of the Risen Lord Jesus our church is on Mission and God gives us the power to be his witnesses to a lost and hurting world I close now with the Apostle Paul’s benediction from Ephesians 3 20. now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we can ask or imagine according to the power at work within us to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever

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