We have a member at Catch the Fire DFW who is a military veteran and has had some chronic pain and mobility issues in his back related to his service that have troubled him for decades. Last year during one of our weekend services, we took some time to pray for healing and he immediately experienced complete relief from the pain and total restoration of mobility. I was so excited to hear later that week about his experience of waking up each day with total healing. I, of course, am eager to see more of God’s miraculous power and authority expressed this way, but it is becoming more and more common. I’m very grateful. God is near and very involved with his creation day by day and it is his delight to respond to our faith with power.
Our assumptions regarding how God relates to creation have a huge impact on what we expect and believe about miracles. There are three primary ways of thinking about this and one of them is biblical. The other two, unfortunately, are pervasive.
Deism is the belief that God created the natural world to operate by natural laws independently of his presence or direct influence or intervention. This has been the primary way of thinking about this issue in the West since the Enlightenment. Within this view, if something happens it is assumed to have a natural cause. God is held at a distance, if he is believed in at all. The path from Deism to Agnosticism or even Atheism is easy to find. This view excludes any expectation for the miraculous at all. Cessationism (the belief that God used to do supernatural and miraculous things in Bible times but quit doing those kinds of things once the Bible was completed) is simply the way much of the western church capitulated to a Deistic culture. It became very un-enlightenened to believe in the supernatural, so churches relegated all that stuff to either the distant past or the distant future (after Christ’s return) removing the need to expect God’s miraculous power to be on display in the present.
Pantheism is the belief that everything is god, that there is no distinction between creator/creation. This has been a predominant view in the East for a very long time, though it’s been gaining popularity in the West in recent years. Within this view, everything is seen to be supernatural but the miraculous is still excluded, for no personal god exists who can act upon and within a creation that he himself is distinct from. This view of things is increasingly popular in the West because the humans long for meaningful and experiential spirituality and Deism doesn’t have it to offer. A church that has capitulated to Deism by embracing Cessationism offer no alternative to the spiritual hunger of the culture.
Even Christians who are not theologically Cessationists, often live as though they are. They don’t pray for the sick with expectation of results. They don’t minister deliverance from demonic spirits. They may believe that God still does today what he did in the Bible but they live their lives as if he doesn’t.
The third view, the scriptural view, is called Theism. Whereas Deism excludes miracles by holding god at a safe distance where he is uninvolved in the practical material realities of earthly existence, and Pantheism excludes miracles by eliminating god as a person who acts with authority, Theism assumes that God is the living God of the Bible, the Creator, the one who is near and involved with creation moment by moment, the personal God who acts according to his purposes and design within his creation.
If we as believers want to experience more of the miraculous, we may need to repent from these ways of thinking that are so pervasive within our culture. We must repent of Deism. We must repent of Pantheism. We must repent of the Cessationism that capitulates to Deism. We must repent, not just of our theological Cessationism, but of a way of living that reflects the residue of Cessationism through our actions.
To repent means to change the way we think. It is wrong thinking that excludes so much of God’s miraculous power in our lives, boxing us into a gospel with little power. Let’s change the way we think.