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Getting People to Listen

The Affirming Power of Miracles

Other than the final week of his ministry in which he atoned for sin on the cross, what did Jesus' ministry really consist of? It consisted of teaching and affirming his authority to teach. He preached and he did miracles. The miracles were meant to affirm his message.

"The miracles I do in my Father's name speak for me." (John 10:25)

"Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father." (John 10:37,38)

Now some people ask, "How can I know God has spoken?" 
Just read His word and I'm not jokin. 
Raising the dead and healing the blind. 
Oh, there's lots of proofs, you'll find. 
In the presence of thousands, both friend and foe. 
Things not done in secret, don't you know. 
For when God speaks His word, He understands 
We need proof it's His and not man's. 

But if we are to follow Jesus, must we do miracles as well? Indeed the apostles did miracles. But then again, they were the authors of the New Testament and logically would need their words affirmed. But now the Bible is complete. Even those today who claim to prophetically speak "God's words" apart from the Bible do not dare to add such words to the pages of the Bible. The Bible alone and the Christ of the bible is God's Word. Everything else is opinion. However, this concept is not widely accepted especially in Charismatic circles and today even among many evangelicals who casually use the phrase "word of God" (like "God spoke to me" or "I have a word from God" or "The pastor will now give us a word from God") and refer to something other than the Bible. If they are going to add on to the Bible, then let them prove that they are prophets of new revelation by doing miracles. This is what the Bible demands.

The Word itself is complete. Though there are many applications to be worked out under the direction of the Holy Spirit. But if we have no miracles to do, then how can we afffirm the Word. The Word itself solves this problem. For the Bible contains not only the teachings of Christ and the propositions he made of himself, but also an historic record of some of his miracles. When we preach the Word, we should include these miracles. Indeed Paul affirms that whenever he preached Christ, he would included miracles, such as his resurrection from the dead being the ultimate example and affirmation of his messsage.

When we propose to people that they put faith in Christ, it should not imply a blind faith. For Jesus himself did not ask this, but rather proved himself through miracles. Christianity is different than Islam and the philosophies of the East, many of which have some main teacher or writings, but they have no miracles to affirm the authors. The historic fact of Jesus' miracles are an essential part of the message. You cannot separate the historic Jesus from his miracles without destroying his whole message. You cannot simply interpret the miracles allegorically removing them from their historic context without devaluing their purpose.

Thus we preach not ourselves, nor our own opinions, but the Word of God and the Biblical historic Christ. But why would people listen to us? Wasn't Jesus' purpose in doing miracles also to draw crowds to himself so they would hear? Wasn't it to win a hearing as well as affirm the message? Indeed! But realize also both from his teachings and his ministry, that miracles themselves do not create salvific faith. This was Jesus' point in speaking of Lazarus and the Rich Man. "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead." (Luke 16:31) as well as his experience with the feeding of the 5000 in John 6.

The Promise of Rewards

Because of the sinful nature, people are not naturally attracted to God. Thus God draws men to himself and he does so in a number of ways. Miracles attracted people to hear. Promises of eternal life and rewards for following Christ also attracted people. Such rewards were not promised out of a sense of obligation, as if payment for services rendered, but out of God's graciousness. And though it is written that "it is not honorable to seek one's own honor" (Prov 25:27), Jesus nonetheless motivated people to seek honor from God. People should follow Christ because it is the right thing to do and not for selfish ends, but nonetheless being motivated out of the sense "that he rewards those who earnestly seek him" is a characteristic of Biblical Faith. (Heb 11:6) Thus, because of man's imperfection and innate sinfulness, God uses man's own imperfect motivations to draw them to himself.

He also uses the Holy Spirit "who will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment:" (John 16:8) As the cloud and pillar of fire guide Israel through the desert to the promise land, so the Holy Spirit comes along side the unredeemed to lead them to faith in Christ.

All Things to All Men

But what can we as ambassadors for Christ do to lead others to him besides preaching. There are those in modern evangelicalism that abandon preaching altogether and opt for "lifestyle evangelism" or as I call it "Friendship with the world evangelism". But saving faith does not come from making friendships just as it doesn't come from seeing miracles, rather "faith comes from hearing the message". (Rom 10:17) But how can we get people to listen carefully? How can we communicate in way that they will listen?

Paul recognized this problem and tried to solve it as he saw Jesus also doing, by identifying with the people and conforming to their mode of communication. "Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some."1Cor 9:19-22

This may involve making compromises in "gray areas", just so long as it doesn't violate one's conscience. For example, Paul strongly opposed the necessity of Gentiles to get circumcised. But he himself circumcised Timothy who was half Greek in order to not unncessarily offend the Jews. He spoke against obligation to the Law of Moses, but he himself as a Christian partook of a number of its rituals. Similarly he identified with the Gentiles in their various callings whether slave or free. In his speech in Acts 17 to the Greek philosophers in Athens, he conformed the gospel to their manner of thinking without compromising the truth and managed to converted a member of the Areopagus and a number of others.

Are you perhaps a little too "religious" for people to identify with you? Jesus and Paul didn't carry around the trappings of religion. They dressed in an ordinary manner and worked at ordinary jobs. They identified with the comman people, living among them. Though speaking with authority, they presented themselves as servants. When you preach the gospel you may feel that you deserve a reward, for you are offering the person eternal life. But from the listener's perspective, you are actually taking something away from him. You are taking away his time. Thus we need not only preach, but somehow pay people to listen. Such payment may come in the form of various services according to the person's need. Having done so, the person now may feel obligated to listen as a form of repayment. Else we can put the message into a form which is easier to listen to. Jesus, for example, entertained by telling stories. Music is another way. So when you consider following Jesus into ministry remember that you must communicate the message and you must win a hearing.

Verses quoted from the NIV version

The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources
Aug 02,2020