April 12, 2015
*Intro* – The first time I was ever in Boston I quickly found a great difference between there and where I lived in SoCal.
In SoCal, if you want to go to Disneyland or Sea World, you don’t need GPS.
Signs from LA to San Diego point you exactly where you need to go.
The closer you get, the closer and bigger the signs.
We’d just tell out-of-town friends, “Follow the signs.”
Believe me, it’s not like that in Boston.
I wanted to find the historical places -- Boston Tea Party – Old North Church.
Drove for hours, finally had to ask! Eventually found one tiny sign that announced that the Boston Tea Party happened here in Dec 16, 1773.
Finally found a sign for the Old North Church one block away.
No wonder you couldn’t find it.
If you hung a lantern today, the only people who would see it are the people in the high rise across the street.
Years later I was looking for Winter Street.
I found Summer Street on the Boston Common so I parked knowing Winter had to be close by, but after 2 hrs searching, finally had to ask.
I was told, “Just go down Summer for 2 blocks; it turns into Winter!
Summer turns into Winter!
I learned signs are not always dependable.
And what is true physically is true spiritually as well.
Signs are not dependable.
Yet, thousands of people today worship at the cult of the spectacular.
Looking for signs – signs to show God is real; to produce a tingly feeling; to meet my personal selfish desires.
Signs have become 21st century idols.
Faith depends on God producing on demand some flashy, awe-inspiring miracle, and without signs people get insecure, frustrated and helpless.
Samuel Goldwyn once expressed his philosophy of film-making, “I want a film that begins with an earthquake and works up to a climax.”
That’s how some people look at XN faith.
We’ve made idols of miracles and are operating outside of God’s purpose for our time and place.
Does that mean God never does miracles?
Not at all.
He makes new creations of repentant, broken people every day.
There is no greater miracle than that.
Furthermore, He acts providentially, within the laws of nature, every day, fulfilling His promise that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
We can never limit God.
But miracles which set aside nature’s laws are not a major part of His plan for here and now for reasons we will see.
In all of history, there have only been 3 times when nature-bending miracles were a major factor in God’s plan.
The first was when the Israelites were released from Egypt.
In that spectacular preview of redemption, God revealed His power in mighty ways over a short period of time to effect the release of His people.
But remember, for the next several hundred years, God referred Israel back to those signs.
He did not make a bunch of new ones!The second great period of such miracles was during the time of Elijah and Elisha as God unleashed His power to encourage His people from idolatry.
The third period of miracles was in Christ’s time and the early days of the apostolic era.
The power of God was seen then as never before or since.
But other than those periods, miracles have been seldom and random – not the norm.
Why? First, God prizes faith over certainty.
In fact, He demands it.
Miracles on demand fly in the face of that principle.
Second, the cure for unbelief is not signs; it is the Word.
That’s how He wants to capture our hearts.
It is the Word that is “living and active sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb 4:12).
Paul says in Rom 10:17, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ”, not the miracles of Christ.
Those will be plentiful in our future.
Yes, they will.
But it is to His Word that God points us for now.
He desires those who love and trust Him for Himself, not for His blessings.
There are no shortcuts to spiritual maturity.
Faith grows proportionately to our time spent with Him in His Word and in prayer.
Signs are not dependable as foundations of faith; the Word is.
That is the message of our text.
The background goes all the way back to Luke 11:14, “Now he was casting out a demon that was mute.
When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled.”
Jesus has performed a marvelous miracle, healing a mute (and Mt 12:22 tells us, blind) man who was demonized.
But not all.
His increasing opposition accused Him of operating by Satan’s power (15) – a charge Jesus answers in vv.
16) were still on the fence.
So they, “to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven.”
He deals with that demand beginning in v. 29.
Four very helpful principles about signs come from His answer.
One Sign is Never Enough*
Faith that results from signs always needs another sign.
That’s because such faith is focused on the sign, not on the reality.
It’s like someone following the signs down the freeway to Disneyland.
They can become so focused on the signs that they miss the mighty Matterhorn outside the right side of the car.
That’s the problem with signs.
Faith is placed in signs, not the Savior!
We see this in v. 16.
Jesus has just restored the blind, mute man to perfect health and “the people marveled” (v.
Yet v. 16 tells us, “while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven.”
Despite the marvel they’d just seen; despite miracles all over Galilee, including raising dead people, these demand more.
Faith based on signs always needs just one more!
It worships the miracle rather than the miracle-giver.
Jesus had an opinion about sign-seekers in v. 29: “When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation.
It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.”
Here’s some of the most morally upright people of their time, but Jesus calls them evil.
It’s the same word He uses to speak of Satan as the “evil” one.
They’ve accused Him of being in league with Satan; now he turns the tables suggesting it is they who are evil as Satan.
He sees the heart of unbelief at the root of the request.
He knows faith built on signs isn’t faith at all.
He’s seen it all before.
After Israel was freed from bondage in Egypt, Moses sent spies to look things over in Canaan.
Two of them, (Caleb and Joshua) return saying, “Wow!
God is good.
This land flows with abundance.
Yes, there are some powerful tribes there, but God has removed their protection.
Let’s go take it.”
But the other 10 thought otherwise: “Hey, there are some tall dudes over there – fearsome!
It seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.