Every parent has seen this with his 1-year-old child. You are sitting at the kitchen table with your son in your lap and you see something in the backyard, like a squirrel. And you point out the window and say, “Look at the squirrel!” Your son looks at your hand. “No, buddy, look outside,” you say. “See the squirrel?” He looks at your face, and then your hand, which is still pointing. It takes a while to get the child to understand that your hand is not what you want him to see. Or remember when your child first learned to wave goodbye? How did she do it? With her fingers curling back towards herself, because that’s what she’d seen when you waved goodbye to her. A child has a hard time making the transfer from the sign to the referent. The sad thing is, some children never learn it. They end up as adults who continue to be fascinated by the “sign,” disinterested in the significance to which it points. What would you think of a person who sees the “Rest Area” sign beside the exit ramp and pulls off and parks under the sign? The sign is pointing to the reality. But instead of a nice warm building with bathrooms and vending machines, they’re parked under a blue sign on the side of the road while everybody else rushes past them, waving (backwards?)
There’s a great example in Acts 8, where we meet Simon the Sorcerer. He was famous in Samaria, almost worshiped as a god because of his ability to use the supernatural power of the demonic world. Then the real power came to town, as Philip entered preaching the truth about Jesus and performing signs and wonders with the power of God. Simon was amazed, not at Jesus or the power of God. He was mesmerized by the signs and just wanted to be able to do what Philip was doing. You find as you read his story that Simon, just like everyone reading this column today, had faith. Just in the wrong thing. Everybody has faith in something. Or in someone. But the old saying is just as true today as ever: Faith is only as valid as the object in which it is placed. Simon’s faith was in the supernatural. Signs. Wonders. Philip is pointing to Jesus, but all Simon can see is the hand. “I want hands that can do that,” Simon says.
Signs and wonders are simply hands, pointing to Jesus. They are signs, not to be exalted or to even fixate on like a child. They are the means to an end, but they are not the end. What are some signs we can hold up that point people to Jesus? How about music? That’s a sign, isn’t it? When Jesse and I went to hear Phil Keaggy in concert at The Cove a few weeks ago, we saw 90 minutes of signs and wonders performed. Every song he sang, every word Phil spoke pointed us to Jesus and His grace. You like to act? It can be a sign that points to Jesus. You like to do liturgical dance? Preach? Write? Cook? Play a sport? They are all signs that can point to Jesus. John Piper wrote, “Whether we preach or sing or act or write or heal, we are utterly and desperately dependent on the work of the Holy Spirit to straighten crooked hearts and cause people to look away from us to Jesus who alone can save.”
Don’t park your life under a sign.
J. Mark Fox is the author of “A Faithful Man” and the pastor of Antioch Community Church on Power Line Road in Elon. You can Tweet him @jmarkfox and can find all of Mark’s books on Amazon or other online sellers. Email Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org