Getting Off the Fence

Jeff Spiritual Growth, theology

Have you ever straddled a fence for so long that you get splinters in your backside? I’m speaking figuratively of course, because I grew up in the suburbs and we don’t sit on fences in the suburbs.  My question really is directed to our tendency to avoid commitment in areas where we are unsure of the outcome of that potential commitment.  It happens in relationships all the time.  It happens in decisions about education, finance and where to live.  We are emotionally addicted to guarantees and the number of people who are risk-takers in your life today is far fewer than it might have been twenty-five years ago.  I once had a particular Kingdom-splinter bothering me for a very long time, but I got off that particular fence several years ago. I am now inviting others to do the same. I am talking about the fence of whether or not we should expect God to regularly work in miraculous and supernatural ways.

“And He said to me, “Son of man, can these bones live?” And I answered, “O Lord God, you know.” – Ezekiel 37:3

Ezekiel had a ministry that I wouldn’t envy.  I will not go into details but brother Zeke was called by God to do some weird stuff during his life.  Most would kick him out of their local churches today, and you would never read his blog.  If you want, you can easily read his prophecy in your Old Testament over the course of a week, and I recommend that you do so if you are not familiar with his story.  Ezekiel chapter 37 is a high point in his life as it records a supernatural vision of God fashioning a living army out of the long deceased inhabitants of a desert gravesite.  Not too long ago I preached on this very passage, and this past week a tiny snippet of the text lodged itself in my mind.  Notice that God pins Ezekiel down with a very specific question in verse three above.  He asks the grizzled prophet if he believed that God could/would raise to life the dead, dry bones scattered in front of him.  Check out my helpful hair-splitting below as I tie this in with today’s topic of getting off the fence and choosing a side.

God did not ask: “Generally speaking, Ezekiel, do you believe that I can bring dead bones to life?”

God asked Ezekiel: “Do you believe I can make THESE bones live?”

Because of the way that God posed the question, Ezekiel would not be able to hide in the shadows of theory. God backed Ezekiel into a corner from which the prophet could not escape.

I do not personally know any Christian who would deny that God has the power and authority to do anything He desires, whenever He desire to whomever He desires.  That’s one of the perks of being the Supreme Sovereign – you don’t have to ask anyone’s permission about anything.  Yes, most of us would easily say Amen! to the concept of God being able to work the miraculous.  We would say that God can make dead bones come alive if He wants. Yet, what would we say if we were standing in Ezekiel’s sandals and God asked us, “Hey you, will I make these dry, brittle bones alive right here and right now in front of your very eyes?”

So, congratulations! You are now perched upon the fence because the real crux of the issue is whether or not we believe God DOES/WILL work the miraculous, not merely whether or not God CAN.

This is not a simple issue for many of us to wrestle with.

It is easy and safe to politely affirm the possibility of God working the supernatural into our lives.  Yet we all must land on one side of that fence or the other when the issue becomes more specific.  Will God perform the miraculous and work the supernatural?  Does He do so today?  Should we expect it?  Should we seek it?  Are we to pursue that type of activity from Him? What if we believe and it doesn’t happen – then what?  These specific issues have hounded me since the day I walked into the front doors of the Baptist church where I served as pastor for so many years.  Let’s address the elephant in the room: Baptists aren’t exactly known for their passionate pursuit of God’s inexplicable wonders.  Baptists are rightfully well known for many other worthy Kingdom ventures…but trafficking in the supernatural does not make the top 50 on that list.  Unfortunately this issue has become more of a denominational question rather than a biblical one.  Many people who casually answer YES to the issue of present day potential for miracles might not be able to substantiate their position scripturally.  The same is true for many who have been taught that the days of the supernatural has passed. We all have embraced conclusions on the issue of the miraculous being active in our present day, but what we don’t necessarily know is why or how we reached those conclusions.  Most of us have left the issue unexamined and continue to believe whatever we were taught by others in the past.  This, to me, is very sad. What about you – have you ever searched this out personally and scripturally? My opinion is that it is enough of an issue that some of us need to call a meeting and offer up the answer to the question, “What does the Bible actually say about all of this?”  Because of a legitimate concern about some of the nonsense and offense that has occurred in certain arenas of Christendom, many are highly skeptical of what is attributed to the supernatural, spiritual or miraculous working of God in our present generation.  I think honest skepticism is beneficial at times.  When skepticism turns to unthinking obstinacy, however, we have a problem.  We are never to judge a set of beliefs by how they are abused. I believe that God is raising up some present day believers who will exemplify the heart of God when He once invited a hard-hearted people with, “Come, let us reason together…”, and, if we will enter into discussion, much light can be shed on this divisive topic.

Ezekiel was cornered in his faith by a God who was pressing Him to address his own beliefs.  God was not asking the prophet for a general affirmation of His potential power.  He was querying Ezekiel about here and now – actual power, not theoretical power. I am blessed by Ezekiel’s reply because he admitted his discomfort when he humbly said, “God, you know that answer.”  Implied in his words was the admission of his own uncertainty about what God would do in the present situaiton.  If you ask me, great strides could be made in this area of whether or not God still works the miraculous and whether or not He offers His people the supernatural today if those who are convinced that the answer is ‘No’ could simply rise to the level of responding with “You, God, know, but, honestly I’m not so sure.”  Ultimately, the Scripture has to anchor our beliefs in this area as it must in all other areas pertaining to our faith.  I’ve been plumbing through these issues for nearly two decades and, with Holy Spirit’s guidance, I plan to press in to the heart of the Father on these issues with a fuller intentionality in 2019.  Before you panic and feel concern that I plan to go on a signs-and-wonders-chasing expedition, please know that my core beliefs in this area have not changed for over a decade. I’ve not partaken of any Kool-Aid.  I’m not entering into a faddish phase of theology.  Trends deceive us, friends.  However, let us remember that traditions can enslave us, keeping us distanced from the fuller expressions of the Kingdom of God.  Trends deceive, traditions enslave, while only God’s truth transforms us.  I see the supernatural activity of God all throughout Scripture. I have personally experienced the supernatural activity of God in my own heart, mind and body. On top of that, I have witnessed these same types of activities in many others. I hope that some will benefit from what I have learned along the way, and that God’s great name will be magnified among us no matter where we land off the fence.

If you want to personally grow in wisdom and experience in the arena of God’s supernatural presence and power, consider becoming a part of what the leaders of New Bridge Church have chosen to do on Sunday nights in 2019. We will be setting aside our normal approach to our 5 PM services for the entire year of 2019. These services will become times when we carve out space and opportunity to encounter the presence of God. We are a Word-centered local assembly, and it is our conviction that Scripture reveals that God will dwell in a unique way with those who position themselves in humble expectation of His presence and power.

So, what will those services look like on Sunday evenings at New Bridge?

We do not know yet. That is the point. We want God to define and initiate what He desires each time we meet. Come and find out with us and, perhaps, He will nudge all of us off the fence.