6. And these signs shall follow those that believe... (Mark 16:17)
This post follows on from my post yesterday, which addressed what seemed to be a lack of faith among the Jesus Christians. I don't think it applies to them only. I see this same unbelief in the general body of Believers, whatever their denomination.
People don't believe in an all powerful God anymore, who still works signs and wonders among His children. Those who exercise such faith, and carry out miraculous healings are more often doubted than believed. However, no matter the multitude of counterfeits, we cannot deny the existence of the genuine, and must strive always to be among those who are genuine, and who show forth the power of God.
The Jesus Christians claimed to believe Jesus' teaching here, but they didn't depend on His supernatural empowerment. A few of them studied medicine, so they could literally heal the sick, which they did in India and other places they lived in. What they did was commendable, but again, one could tell that they didn't truly believe that if they simply laid hands on the sick (as it is recorded that Jesus, Peter and Paul did) or prayed in faith, or spoke the words, that they could actually perform God's wonders - without medicine. I don't know of any instance when they raised someone from the dead or were successful in casting out demons...
Another sign that Jesus mentioned was the gift of tongues. So they learnt new languages and spoke in foreign tongues, not by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, however. Quite a number of those, who were bilingual, actually just spoke in their mother tongue, when others were praying or 'speaking in tongues', as they believed it was as good as, or even better. But even though I believe that the gift of tongues is not an obscure language that no one can understand (since the Bible talked about foreigners hearing their own languages being spoken - Acts 2:6), I do believe it is FOREIGN to the speaker, and given by the Holy Spirit, who also gives the interpretation to them or to someone else.
Even though they didn't out rightly say they did not believe in miracles (many people were free to believe according to their level of faith, like I did), their teaching on these things were quite practical, and undermined the pure exercise of faith or dependency on God. Even when they spoke about the gift of tongues, they thought it was an ability that they could teach others.
I remember being told that all I have to do is move my tongue and start saying "blah, blah, blah", like a baby, and then I'll pick it up. I tried that, but I soon stopped, because I believed in the power of God, and I knew that that wasn't what the disciples did when they received the empowerment. They didn't speak of their own power, but as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance (Acts 2:4). I know also that not all have this gift (1 Cor 12:30), and that there are other gifts to be desired (v31), so I hold the gift in honour enough not to fake the ability.
This attitude of playing down God's supernatural power was well entrenched in their beliefs and lifestyle, and it was something, thankfully, I never accepted. I always had it at the back of my mind that the God I believed in was ABLE, and bigger than they made Him out to be. For instance, Jesus' miracles in feeding the four thousand and the five thousand (Matt 13:14-21, Matt 15:29-29). I truly believe that it was a supernatural miracle, however, they thought that it was actually a practical 'miracle' of sharing.
Basically, I was told that Jesus didn't truly multiply the fish and the bread by breaking them, and sharing them to the multitude. What would have happened was that when the boy presented his basket, some other people with food decided to bring their baskets, and voila, there was enough food for everyone, such that they could collect SEVEN and TWELVE baskets of leftovers, respectively! It makes you think, doesn't it?
As plausable as that may be, I won't deny that Jesus very well could have multiplied the fish and bread, just as He turned the water to wine, at the wedding (John 2:1-10)! And I truly believe that was what He did. If they had to get or make baskets to gather up the leftovers, then that is still another miracle... But I believe in a miracle working God!
The height of these practical approaches to the spiritual, was probably how they 'lived by faith' on God's provision. They actually lived by human intelligence and cunning! They rode on public transport for free, particularly in London, where they knew all the ways to get across the tubes and trains without paying, by using certain stations (yes, I did it too!).
They also depended a great deal on raiding bins to survive, and they scouted these bins, and knew which supermarkets were more likely to have good provisions in their bins. Bin raiding worked well in the UK, compared to other locations. In places where scavenging off the bins was hard, they spent money, but were thrifty as always. The money they had, was from asking for donations for the books and tracts they printed cheaply in India. They gave them out as their mode of preaching the gospel.
It was quite an intelligent operation, not anything like what Jesus taught His disciples, when He sent them out:
"Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way. And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house. And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again. And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire. Go not from house to house. And into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you" (Luke 10:4-8).
They didn't depend on the generosity of those they ministered to. Yes, some were generous, and they always accepted whatever aid was offered. However, they mostly ran a system that meant they didn't actually have to live by faith... Sometimes, I wondered if they didn't already have such a structure in place, if I would have had the 'faith' to follow them... As it was, it was a lifestyle choice, and they had chosen to drop out of the world's systems, living on the fringes of society, and judging everyone else - whose lifestyle choices they depended on for their sustenance!
They were actually great deceivers... But I think the people they deceived most were themselves. We thought we were obeying Jesus' teaching not to labour for the food that perishes (John 6:27), by not holding regular jobs. Yet, we did a lot of work for food, in scouting, scavenging, cleaning, storing, preserving and cooking the food we got from supermarket bins, while trying not to get caught!!! How did I live this way, for three and a half years, and never realise that it was contrary to holiness, contrary to Scripture? For Paul said to the Believers:
"And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing" (1 Thes 4:11-12).
Thank You, Lord, for the grace to see and confess my error. Please purify my faith!
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