God is building and establishing His Kingdom. But He’s not pressured to build His Kingdom using media hype and hocus-pocus. No, He’s doing it His way, according to His Word. He’s setting apostolic governing churches in territories to build His Church. One function of true apostles and prophets is to expose the counterfeit operations of Satan that try to slip in and subvert the credibility of the Word. If Satan can discredit the quality of a move of God by sending the false, he is able to successfully restrict and limit the effectiveness of the true move as it happens. In this season, it is vital that we build everything we do upon the foundation of the Word of God. I’m not trying to criticize any particular move of the past or present. My goal today is to equip you with knowledge and understanding to help identify a true move of God.
Imagine you are driving to your favorite vacation spot. When you get about 30 miles from your destination, you see the first road sign with the city’s name. Do you slam on your brakes, slide across the median and jump out at the sign? I would hope not! Yet, in the body of Christ, it seems we have become sign hunters. At the first sign of a “miracle” or the “supernatural,” we bring everything to a screeching halt so that we can take pictures of the sign, dance around the sign, and even build churches to the sign. How foolish we have become! The sign’s purpose is to reveal location. Spiritual signs are no different. When you see a spiritual sign, it is not advertising itself, it is merely pointing the way to where God wants you to go.
Jesus said in Matthew 12:39, “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas.” Jesus didn’t say they were “slightly in error.” He called them EVIL and ADULTEROUS! What He is saying is that if you are seeking after a sign, you are showing love for the sign rather than the one who gives the sign. You are actually cheating on the truth. You are adulterous, looking for benefits from something that you don’t have real relationship with.
How many churches and “revivals” have become so “sign” minded that they have become adulterers to the Truth?
In our media-sensitive world, we have billboards everywhere and they can distract us from our real focus. If we’re looking too intently at a billboard, we could miss a signal from another driver and cause a wreck. When the sign becomes the focus, we lose sight of the true destination.
In the Old Testament, people had to live by signs. They didn’t have a born-again spirit from God to give them direction through an inner witness (Eph. 3:16). They needed outward signs from God in order to know where to go and what to do. Moses followed a cloud of fire and Gideon set out fleeces, but Paul simply prayed in tongues and built up his inner man (1 Cor. 14:18). He then proceeded to write two thirds of the New Testament! In Proverbs, David prophetically writes that the spirit of a man is the candle of the Lord and searches all the inward parts of the belly. As New Testament Christians with the nature and Spirit of God resident in us, we don’t have to look for outward signs. We can simply know in our “knower.” We are to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7), meaning we follow the leadings and promptings of the Spirit that dwells in us.
The New Testament not only tells us which signs are from God, it even lays out which signs are used in which situations. There are signs that follow believers (Mark 16:17), there are signs to the unbeliever (1 Cor. 14:22), and there are gifts of the Spirit that are operations of the government and power of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12, and Ephesians 4).
Signs come from different sources and serve different purposes. Some are road signs that regulate driving, some are billboards that advertise, and some are identifiers that tell what and where things are located. All of these signs are legitimate, but they aren’t all from the same people. In the supernatural, there are all kinds of signs but they aren’t all from God. How do you know the difference between a legitimate sign from God and just a billboard?
One Sunday as I was preaching in my church, just as I pointed at one of the ceiling fans someone happened to turn the fan on. Now I know people who would take it as a sign that the “wind of the Spirit is moving.” No, it was just a coincidence. I call these “Santa Claus signs” because it’s like a young kid that convinces himself Santa is real because the milk and the cookies are gone the next morning when he wakes up. When you want something badly enough, circumstances can always line up to support your hopes that it is true. If you’re looking for a sign, the devil will make sure you see one. I absolutely believe in prophetic and supernatural signs, but I also know how to measure them against my born-again spirit.
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I’ve known family members and friends – good people, many of whom sincerely loved Jesus – who visited psychics. Those psychics were able to tell them why they were there, what they were looking for and what the outcome of a situation would be, and it all came true. Does that mean you should visit a psychic? By all means NO! Psychics operate with the help of demonic, familiar spirits, not the Holy Spirit. Demonic power can be real, not just a powerless imitation.
Nowhere in scripture do we find signs of jewels appearing, gold dust falling, people being led to act like animals, stigmatas (blood or oil from peoples hands like the wounds of Christ), odd “friendships” with angels, or special angels that carry special anointings. These are “billboard” signs that have been put up by other supernatural powers but don’t fit into God’s reality. The important thing to understand is that these false signs are just as real as the other signs. Have you ever followed billboard signs, looking for a certain restaurant or café, only to get there and find that the location doesn’t exist? Just because a sign is real, doesn’t mean it’s from God or that it’s pointing you to God. Many signs point you to dead ends. It’s important to remember that there is a real spiritual world out there, and God isn’t the only one putting signs up on your spiritual road.
Don’t get me wrong; I’ve seen God do some very interesting things. I’ve seen people healed, delivered, and set free. I’ve seen miracles that simply cannot be explained. However, there is one common element to everything God does… His Word. God’s response is always in line with His Word. And His Word will bring real transformation in the lives of His people.
If there’s one thing I know, it’s that people can be completely ignorant and still operate in the Spirit. I once worked for a great man of God. He loved Jesus and wanted to live right before Him. One time he was in the hospital with pneumonia and had a vision of the Lord Jesus Christ walking up a hill with His back beaten and bloody. He recounted this vision to me with such detail, recalling even the sharp contrast in the red blood against the green grass. I have no doubt that it was a true vision from God. The problem was that he was ignorant in how to interpret the vision. He thought that it meant that since Jesus was willing to suffer that much for him, then he should be willing to suffer pneumonia for Jesus. How sad! He was given a vision showing that Jesus had already carried his sickness and healed all his diseases to strengthen his faith, but because he lacked understanding, this man got it all wrong!
I’ve known other folks who genuinely loved God, but got distracted by the bright billboard strategies of Satan. These good people wanted to experience a mighty move of God so badly that they got caught up in the flakiness of whatever the current “revival” was doing. I have watched many get excited about “something new” and then disappointed (and sometimes deeply wounded) over the outcome. Unfortunately, I’ve also seen plenty of these people who became so deceived by the trickery that they completely lost touch with God’s plan for their lives. Consider William Branham, the great healing evangelist of the 1940’s. He started off pursuing God, but then started experiencing visitations from angels. He became so deceived that he started to think he was Elijah the prophet. Because of his deception, many other believers began to doubt that God really wanted them healed. Now that is exactly what the enemy intends; to discredit God’s reality, destroy ministries, and turn people away from the Faith.
Any text that we take out of context is a pretext. The same goes for any sign. Any sign taken out of the context that it was received (good or bad) is a pretext and can get us into trouble. That’s the problem with living by signs. They can be interpreted incorrectly. They can come from the wrong people. We can build a temple and worship at the sign, never making it to our God-purposed destination. We MUST learn to walk by faith after the Spirit. We must understand how to discern signs and compare them to our instruction manual. We must keep our focus on where God is taking us and not get caught up in the supernatural things around us on the way.
David Coker has a refreshing voice and the heart of spiritual father. He is a 1985 RHEMA graduate and the founding apostle of Gateway Believers Fellowship in Carnesville, Ga. He is also pioneered Breakthrough Apostolic Ministries Network (B.A.M.), A relational network of apostolic ministries. His ministry can be reached at www.gatewaybelievers.com.