All through history God has posted signs of His presence and rightful claim to the Earth. Some have observed the signs and found direction. Others have a fascination with signs viewing them as the destination rather than tools of direction. What are we to make of signs and wonders?
John Piper offers a perspective on this.
Seeking signs from God is "wicked and adulterous" when the demand for more and more evidence comes from a resistant heart and simply covers up an unwillingness to believe. If we are carrying on a love affair with the world, and our husband, Jesus, after a long separation, comes to us and says, "I love you and I want you back," one of the best ways to protect our adulterous relationship with the world is to say, "You're not really my husband; you don't really love me. Prove it. Give me some sign." If that's the way we demand a sign, then we are a wicked and adulterous generation.[ii]
The apostle Paul found that human nature is fascinated with signs and wonders. He met many people who were seekers, but many missed the point.
If you do not see the fatal flaw of humanity’s sinfulness, the message of Christ crucified will not be a satisfactory answer. Jesus giving his life, as a ransom for your sin does not make sense if you do not believe that you were kidnapped.
Jesus opens up a whole new understanding of God that most of the Jews tripped over. To believe Jesus would be to admit they had it wrong on so many fronts.
If you are looking for an answer that makes you feel smarter, Jesus does not provide it. The whole idea of salvation is foolish to people who think they are smarter than the duped masses. Pride gets in the way of a good rescue.
Paul recognizes that signs from God happen along the road. The signs point to and follow the good news of Jesus Christ. Signs point us to Jesus and signs follow those who believe. Please remember that the central message is Jesus, not the work he does.
In some cases, sign seeking is a diversion from the power of Christ crucified.[iii]
John Piper explains it this way:
Signs and wonders are not the saving word of grace; they are God's secondary testimony to the word of his grace. Signs and wonders do not save. They are not the power of God unto salvation. They do not transform the heart–any more than music or art or drama, which accompany the gospel. Signs and wonders can be imitated by Satan (2 Thessalonians 2:9; Matthew 24:24), but the gospel is utterly contrary to his nature. What changes the heart and saves the soul is the self-authenticating glory of Christ seen in the message of the gospel (2 Corinthians 3:18-4:6).
But even if signs and wonders can't save the soul, they can, if God pleases, shatter the shell of disinterest; they can shatter the shell of cynicism; they can shatter the shell of false religion. Like every other good witness to the word of grace, they can help the fallen heart to fix its gaze on the gospel where the soul-saving, self-authenticating glory of the Lord shines. Therefore the early church longed for God to stretch forth his hand to heal, and that signs and wonders be done in the name of Jesus.[iv]
Just as there is a wicked generation who demand a sign, there can be a righteous generation who follow Jesus. Signs and wonders do not lead this generation; Jesus leads them. But signs and wonders follow those who believe. Can you look back and see the signs God used to lead you to him?
[i] Matthew 12:39