MIRACLES HAPPEN by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson
Introduction: People use the word miracle all the time. If their ball team stinks, they say – “We need a miracle!” If they’re caught in a traffic jam, they say they need a miracle to get out. Companies use the word “miracle” to market their products – miracle whip, miracle gro, and miracle weight loss pill. By the way, I’ve heard that the only thing you lose with the last one is money out of your pocket! As a pastor I’ve even heard couples say, “It’ll take a miracle for our marriage to work.” The point is that people use the word “miracle” a lot but they seem to believe less and less in them. Today’s message is titled “Miracles Happen.” It is the first in our series on miracles and here’s the gist: “If you can believe in God, you can believe in miracles.” The real question is not “Do you believe that miracles happen?” but “What kind of God do you believe in?”
Luke 7 20 When the men had come to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, saying, ‘Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?’ ” 21 And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions, and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight. 22 Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them.
Question: Do you believe that miracles happen? People doubted Jesus, even John the Baptist. I believe that some of the biggest agnostics and unbelievers are not out there but in here. Tough times of life and unanswered prayers have made some of us “believing skeptics.” Do you truly believe in miracles? Are you saved? The greatest miracle is a changed life.
Background: When I was in college, my philosophy professor wrote three words on the board on the first day of class – “Ideas have consequences.” It comes from the title of a 1948 book by an American intellectual Richard Weaver. I understood what he meant but I didn’t grasp the seriousness of those words until later. Ideas do have consequences. They do shape how people think, feel, believe, and behave. This is especially true when it comes to young people. They are easily influenced by ideas. In my 18 years as pastor, many parents and grandparents have shared with me with great sadness how they raised their children and grandchildren in church but when they left home and came under the influence of some college professor or some show or some friend that they stopped believing in God, the Bible, and miracles. They often add – “But we raised them in church! They know better!” I want to tell them – “It’s wonderful that you raised them in church but that’s not enough. You failed to teach them how to face ideas.” Don’t misunderstand what I mean by “ideas.” By “ideas,” I’m not referring to “Oh, I’ve got an idea.” By “ideas,” I’m referring to formulated thoughts and opinions over different matters like life, creation, morality, and values. What happened to them is that they went away from the shelter of their home and church and got bombarded by ideas that were contrary to the Word of God. In the absence of clear and coherent answers from the Bible, they gave into skepticism and unbelief. The problem is not with the kids or the school. The problem is with us and our failure to teach our kids how to handle ideas.
This is why in the couple of the opening messages in this series on the miracles of Jesus, I want to answer the question – “Do miracles happen?” and “Why do some people don’t believe in miracles?” These are not typical messages but they are ones we desperately need to hear.
Throughout the history of the world there have been people who have opposed anything miraculous. We don’t have the time to go through all of them. I just want to focus on there major ones from three different angles:
- Philosophy – Scottish skeptic, philosopher, and historian David Hume: He came out of the Enlightenment movement that began modern thought in the 17th and 18th centuries. He pushed reason to the limits just to prove that reason has limits. He made argument upon argument just to prove that arguments don’t prove anything. Among many other things that he wrote against God and Christianity, he was also skeptical about miracles. His argument was as follows:
- Miracle goes against the laws of natures.
- Laws of nature have been established by experiences that do not change.
- A wise person bases his/her belief on evidence.
- Therefore, miracles don’t happen.
For e.g. Jesus walking on water violates the law of nature. Experience has proven time and time again that you cannot walk on water. If you are wise, you will base your belief on evidence. Therefore, miracles don’t happen.
- Theology – German New Testament Scholar and Theologian Rudolf Bultmann: His father was a Lutheran pastor and his grandfather was a missionary. He was influenced by the existentialist philosophy of Martin Heidegger. Under this view, he considered the virgin birth, the deity of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the future resurrection to come, the blood atonement for our sins, eternal life, and the rest as misleading. He called them mythological ideas that need to be reinterpreted. So began his program of demythologizing the New Testament. He was also influenced by another scholar by the name of Johannes Weiss who belonged to the history of religion school. Under his influence he looked at non-Christian and rabbinic stories as sources of the miracles. He used what is known as form criticism to get to the source behind the stories in the NT.
For e.g. The miracle at Cana where Jesus turned water into wine is no miracle according to Bultmann. It was adapted from the Dionysian cult of the time and was used by the church to prove that Jesus is the great Revealer.
- Science – No one person comes to mind but if I had to pick one, it would be Theoretical Physicist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics Steven Weinberg: Listen to what he had to say in his 1999 talk at the Conference on Cosmic Design of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.:
“It used to be obvious that the world was designed by some sort of intelligence. What else could account for fire and rain and lightning and earthquakes? Above all, the wonderful abilities of living things seemed to point to a creator who had a special interest in life. Today we understand most of these things in terms of physical forces acting under impersonal laws. We don’t yet know the most fundamental laws, and we can’t work out all the consequences of the laws we do know. The human mind remains extraordinarily difficult to understand, but so is the weather. We can’t predict whether it will rain one month from today, but we do know the rules that govern the rain, even though we can’t always calculate their consequences. I see nothing about the human mind any more than about the weather that stands out as beyond the hope of understanding as a consequence of impersonal laws acting over billions of years. There do not seem to be any exceptions to this natural order, any miracles. I have the impression that these days most theologians are embarrassed by talk of miracles…The evidence for all these miracles seems to me to be considerably weaker than the evidence for cold fusion, and I don’t believe in cold fusion. Above all, today we understand that even human beings are the result of natural selection acting over millions of years of breeding and eating.”
For e.g. The man being healed of dumbness was based on the power of suggestion and maybe some form of ancient medicine but nothing miraculous.
How do we answer such attacks from Philosophy, Theology, and Science? If you came face to face with Hume, Bultmann, or Weinberg, what would you say to them? Let me give you the basic principles behind this series:
- God exists.
- There is only one God.
- God created the world and continues to rule over it.
- Since this is God’s world, the natural law is his law and he can do miracles if he chooses.
- God does miracles when he wants to further his purposes.
- Jesus, the Son of God did miracles and they are truthfully recorded in the gospels
- God may do miracles in response to the prayers of people.
- We are called to believe in miracles but trust in Jesus.
Invitation: Have you ever trusted in Jesus as your Savior? That’s the greatest and most important miracle you need in your life.