The picture of this billboard was supposedly taken in Florida after Hurricane Charlie in 2004. Imagine driving down the highway AFTER the hurricane… seeing the previous sign ripped back… to reveal “We need to talk. God.” would that get your attention as a “Sign from God?” For this study please read John 2:18-3:2.
There’s something in us that wants incontrovertible evidence that God is speaking to us. Thomas demanded a sign or he wouldn’t believe Jesus was alive. But random things can become what WE want to see & things WE believe are signs. Do you see a potential problem? The subjective nature of discerning what is a sign in dangerous!
Aside: I don’t stake my faith on signs… I don’t look for or require them. But does God give them to encourage us? A few years back I was struggling with a family situation. As I crossed the bridge into Florence from Muscle Shoals… a car passed me with a tag that read… “KPPRAYN.” (Get it?) Keep Praying! Coincidence? No… I think it was one of those little tokens God gives us ever so often to affirm His presence in our lives. I’ve even had one dream… just one… in my short 50 years of life that actually came true several months after I prayed it. Coincidence? I don’t think so… it is just one of those rare tokens God sometimes gives us for affirmation. However… I do NOT and WILL NOT structure my life or decisions I make around my dreams. You’ll understand why as you read below.
Does God give signs to show His will for our life? Is it wise to ask God for a sign to affirm what we are to do, or not do? What should we think about a person who is able to perform a miraculous sign beyond our ability to understand or comprehend? How do we deal with the dreams we have especially given that so many had significant dreams in the Old Testament (For a partial answer see Hebrews 1:1-2).
The word “sign” appears in John 2:18, 23, & 3:2. The 1st is a question. The 2nd shows their effect. And the 3rd is an affirmation. Since the matter of signs is so prominent is this passage, we would be wise to consider them for a few moments.
In Scripture many times signs confirm that God was acting, directing, & leading. One of the first signs in Scripture was the rainbow (Genesis 9:13-17). A sign God won’t destroy the earth by water again. In Exodus 4:1-7 Moses is told that signs would confirm he was called by God. They would also be used to show Pharaoh & Egypt that Jehovah alone was God. Gideon sought affirmation of God’s presence before he went into battle (Judges 6:36-40). He asked God to make fleece wet but the ground dry… then the ground wet but the fleece dry. God did both on successive nights thus affirming to Gideon that God was with him. Then Hezekiah wanted to know he would be healed. He asked for the shadow of the sun to retreat 10 steps… for the earth to reverse it’s axis spin… & God did it. This is found in 2 Kings 20:8-11.
Christians read things like this & we’re tempted to do the same thing. We want to know for certain about this or that situation. What to do or not do… so we come up with outlandish tests for God to show us His will. “God, if you want ‘X,’ have cousin Bill call me between 3-4 PM next Tuesday…” In my estimation doing things like that are unwise.
99.99% of the time when we ask for a sign we’re trying to get God to jump through hoops… do satisfy our desires for knowledge rather than walking by faith. Some even say to God… “I’m going to open the Bible at random & whatever I read I’m going to take as a sign from God.” This is not wise. Asking for a sign signals a lack of faith. Never in the New Testament do believers ask God for a sign! Signs are only requested by unbelievers (As with the Pharisees)!
Aside: In making decisions, here is what I suggest 1) Gather all the available information, 2) Talk to Christians more mature & wise than yourself, 3) Ask God for direction thru prayer, 4) Make a decision, 5) Leave the outcome in God’s hands. THEN, consider 2 Corinthians 5:7, “We walk by faith, not by sight…” God won’t EVER lead you to do anything contrary to His nature or that contradicts His Word!
Putting God to the test by asking for a sign is wrong. In Matthew 4:5-7 Satan wanted Jesus to prove he was God’s Son by a sign (Turning stones into bread). Jesus responded by saying, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (Deut 6:16). Another affirmation toward this end is found in Mark 8:11-12…
The Pharisees came & began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven to test him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit & said, Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation.
Jesus refused to perform a sign on cue because HE was the sign! He knew the danger of people trusting in the sign rather than in Him. And that is why we find what is written in John 2:18-19. And thus what is recorded next in John 2:23-25 (“Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.”). Jesus was saying in Mark 8:11-12 HE was the sign to trust and believe in!
Still it remains that there are many good, decent, Christian people who live their life based on signs. They ask God for them… see signs all around them… & tell others God speaks thru signs. So what is a good, sound, Biblical understanding of signs for us today? Let me give you a few things to consider on this topic for your edification…
Signs can be counterfeited. The magicians copied Moses’ signs (Exodus 7:10-11). Satan can appear as an angel of light (2 Cor 11:13-14). Therefore, since we are subjective people who are easily fooled by the Adversary, I don’t think it wise to trust, look for, or require signs as part of our faith.
Satan uses signs to deceive. 2 Thessalonians 2:9-10… “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power & false signs & wonders, 10 & with all wicked deception for those who are perishing…” (See also Revelation 13). Signs can lead people away from God.
Signs don’t prove or disprove a person is from God. The greatest man who ever lived (According to Jesus)… John The Baptist… never performed a sign of any kind (John 10:41). And as we’ve just seen, signs will be performed by the Anti-Christ. Signs… or lack thereof… don’t prove or disprove a person is from God!
Signs don’t insure belief. Abraham told the Rich Man in hell that even if someone came back from the dead as a sign they would not believe. He told them to believe because of God’s Word (Luke 16:27-31). This is from John 11:53 & 12:10 when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. Because of the sign, the Pharisees decided to kill both Jesus AND Lazarus. The sign didn’t bring them to faith in Christ…
In our passage for today (3:1-2), the Pharisees KNEW (!) Jesus was from God because of the signs he did… yet the greatest majority of them did not believe! Signs don’t insure belief. There is one sign that has been given that is indisputable & is rejected by many… the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
God has given us His Spirit to guide us. Not only that, He is in complete control of our lives so we can trust Him to take care of us as we make decisions. God over-rules our mistakes when we make wrong decisions! Signs are not needed to know God’s will!
Consider 1 Corinthians 1:20-25 as a “go to text” regarding signs & our faith…
Where is the one who is wise…? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God thru wisdom, it pleased God thru the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs & Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews & folly to Gentiles, 24 but to those who are called, both Jews & Greeks, Christ the power of God & the wisdom of God. 25 For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, & the weakness of God is stronger than men.
Also consider another “go to text” regarding what we see… hear… and observe. This passage is 1 John 4:1…
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Just because a person purports to be from God and uses the Bible along with Christian sounding terms does not mean they are necessarily from God even though signs may accompany their presentations! See the point above that signs can be counterfeited and Satan uses signs to deceive. Thus Christians are called to be discerning which is done through knowledge of Scripture and prayer.
There is one thing that Christians are to rest their faith on… the resurrected Christ! Signs won’t give people a stronger faith. There is one thing that grows, matures, & strengthens our faith… & that is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ alone. We stake our life, & eternity, on the message of the Cross alone! That’s why in John 2… with people talking about signs… Jesus points to His resurrection. That’s why in John 3 when Nicodemus brings up signs, Jesus says clearly… “You must be born again.”
Faith cannot, & must not, be rooted in any sign other than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. To ask for or look for anything else is to open ourselves up to being deceived AND could draw us away from the one important element of our faith… Jesus’ death, burial, & resurrection!
What is the basis of YOUR faith? There is one sign God has given to all men… the resurrection of Jesus. That is to be the basis for all you do… Jesus’ resurrection from the dead!