Sunday, December 23, 2018
Genesis 3:15 reads, I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He will bruise your head, and you will bruise His heel.
These words were spoken by God to the serpent after the fall of our first parents. The "seed of the woman" in this passage is an allusion to a future descendant of Eve who will defeat the serpent and reverse the curse brought on by his deception.
The Bible normally speaks of the seed of men, as in the seed of Abraham or the seed of David. In this case, however, it is the "seed of the woman" that will defeat the serpent.
This is a prophecy that clearly anticipates the future virgin birth of Christ—a birth in which the seed of a man is not involved. The great Methodist theologian, Adam Clarke, wrote, "The seed of the woman is to come by the woman, and her alone without the concurrence of man."
According to this prophecy, the "seed of the woman" will receive a temporary wound from Satan—"you will bruise His heel"—but the "seed of woman" shall inflict on Satan a final and mortal wound—"He will bruise your head."
This Messianic promise has been fulfilled through the virgin birth of Jesus Christ and through His death and resurrection. God's plan succeeded! The seed of woman has crushed the serpent's head. Satan is defeated! Hallelujah!
Thursday, December 13, 2018
Is the Modern Charismatic Church Willing to Learn this Lesson?
Love and power, like oil and water, do not mix. The well-known sociologist, Willard Waller, discovered that there seems to be an inverse relationship between love and power. He noted that in interpersonal relationships as love increases, power decreases; and as power decreases, love increases.
Waller coined the term “principle of least interest” to describe the phenomenon, revealed by his studies, that power lies in the hands of the person who cares the least about the relationship.
For example, a couple whose marriage is disintegrating goes for counseling. The couselor can immediately tell which one loves the least. It is the one sitting in the power seat and making demands. The one who truly loves has let go of power and is willing to make any sacrifice to save the marriage.
Love and power, it seems, cannot coexist, at least in this world.
God Set Aside His Power
That is why when the time came for God to demonstrate His love for humanity, He set aside His power. Paul speaks of this in Philippians 2:7 where he describes how Christ emptied Himself of the power He had known with the Father and became as a powerless slave. He wrote,
Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges. He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being (NLT).
This is why the Messiah, who had come to reveal God's love, was born in a stable and His first bed was a feeding trough for animals. This would explain why the Christ was born, not into a wealthy aristocratic family, but into a poor family who offered up two doves and a pigeon in the temple, an alternative offering allowed by Scripture for families who could not afford a lamb (Leviticus 12:8; Luke 2:22-24).
This would explain why He grew up in in Nazareth, an insignificant and despised village, well away from the power centers of Jerusalem and Rome. It also explains why He showed no interest in Herod’s throne, Pilate’s authority, or the High Priestly position. He had come to demonstrate God’s love, and He could not show love while at the same time seeking power.
It comes then as no surprise that Jesus directed his disciples away from visions of “power” to thoughts of “service. When, for example, James and John requested the two "power" seats in His kingdom, Jesus rebuked them for their preoccupation with power. Power coerces and controls s outward behavior. Love woos and influences and changes hearts.
But make no mistake, this is not a namby-pamby kind of love. It is not for the weak and selfish. This love requires great strength and resilience. This is love that desires the best for the other person and is willing to sacrifice its own self-interests to see it happen. The ultimate example of this love, known in the Greek New Testament as agape, is found in Jesus Christ.
Love is More Effective Than Power
A father became distressed over the rebellion of his young son whom he had disciplined again and again. One day as he was about to apply another punishment, he was overcome with grief for his son and suddenly fell at the boy’s feet weeping profusely. The son was stunned and stood speechless, but from that moment was changed.
In the Old Testament God demonstrated His power. He thundered from Sinai, parted seas, destroyed armies, and even stopped the sun and moon in their paths. His people, however, continued to be a rebellious people for they had not yet seen His love.
This is what Christmas and the cross are all about. It is about God setting aside His power and showing humanity the depth of His love. Jesus called on His disciples to walk in this same agape love. In John 13:34-35, Jesus said,
A new commandment I give to you; that you love (agape) one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love one for another.
Constantine or Christ
For the first 200 years of its existence, the church demonstrated the love of Christ and had great success spreading its influence throughout the earth. The church conquered the mighty Roman Empire without raising an army or lifting a sword.
Constantine, however, thought He knew better than Christ and He began merging the church with power. The church began using the power of the state to advance its cause, and love took its flight. Terrible atrocities were committed in the name of Christ as the medieval “church” gained power but lost influence.
The Reformation was a move away from “power” and back to the Gospel of Christ. Nonetheless, many in the church today are still seeking “power.” Many today are closer to Constantine than to Christ in this regard.
At Christmas, we celebrate God setting aside His power and coming to earth and demonstrating His love for humanity. This love would reach its apex at the cross for nothing epitomized weakness like a crucified individual hanging on a Roman cross.
This is the challenge that Christmas brings to the church. Are we following the example of Christ in letting go of power? Are we walking in pure love? Or, are we, like Constantine, seeking to merge power with love?
In the passage mentioned above, Philippians 2:6-8, Paul clearly states what our attitude and approach should be. He wrote,
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges. He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
The Justice and Power of Christ Will be on
Full Display When He Comes Again
Full Display When He Comes Again
Love makes us vulnerable and we are sometimes tempted to not walk in love because people will take advantage of us. We must remember at such times that justice is an essential component of love. God is a God of justice and no one is going to get away with anything.
When, therefore, He comes again, His power will be on full display. This time He comes, not as a baby in a manger, but as the mighty Sovereign Lord of the universe. For those who have rejected His love, it will not be nice. John saw that day with people crying out to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb (Revelation 6:16).
Paul wrote to the believers in Thessalonica who were going through terrible persecutions and exhorted them to See that no one renders evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good (I Thessalonians 5:15). However, he wrote to those same Thessalonian believers,
And to you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power (II Thessalonians 1:7-9).
Receive His love today and avoid the wrath that is coming.
Dr. Eddie Hyatt is an author, historian and ordained minister who has written extensivlely on spiritual renewal and other issues related to the Christian faith. His books are available from Amazon and his website at www.eddiehyatt.com. To read more on the issue of power and love in the church, check out his book, Purusing Power: How the Historic Quest for Apostolic Authority and Control Has Divided and Damaged the Church.
Tuesday, December 11, 2018
If you had been walking along the road leading into the city of Lystra on a particular day in a.d. 48 you would have noticed a pitiful sight; a man lying by the roadside bleeding and battered, having just been stoned by an angry mob. You may also have noticed a group of people standing quietly around him, and if you had asked, “Who in the world is that,” they may well have answered, “That is God’s apostle to this city.”
Indeed, this was Paul the apostle lying by the roadside, having just been stoned after preaching the gospel in this city (Acts 14:19-20). This incident was, no doubt, in Paul’s mind when he later wrote a description of the lot of those earliest apostles, saying, To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless (I Corinthians 4:11).
Apostles Experience Unique Suffering
An apostolic calling does not exempt one from suffering and persecution. True apostles, in fact, encounter unique suffering because they often are sent to “plow new ground,” i.e., to minister in places and in ways that provoke opposition.
God is a kind and loving heavenly father, but He is not a doting, overly-protective parent that shields His children from every difficulty. Those He prepares, He sends into the enemy’s territory to declare the Good News and to establish His reign.
This often provokes violent reaction and opposition. This was so with Paul who encountered great suffering while carrying out his apostolic calling. In 1 Corinthians 4:9-13 Paul enumerates some of the challenges of being an apostle.
For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men. We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! To this present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless, And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now.
The pagan Greeks and Romans resented Paul’s preaching of an exclusive Savior. The Jews hated him for preaching that God “in Christ” had given Gentiles an equal standing with themselves. He was beaten, stoned, maligned and imprisoned while carrying out the apostolic commission he had received from the Lord.
An Apostle May Not be the Celebrity-Type
If alive today, the apostle Paul would probably be ostracized by much of the modern Ameican church. He would not be a popular speaker at conferences and seminars, nor would he be a frequent guest on Christian TV. He most likely would not be invited to sit on any of the numerous apostolic councils that are emerging. He just would not fit the criteria of what the modern charismatic church demands of its apostles.
A 2nd century writer described Paul as being small in stature, bald, with a “hooked” nose, somewhat bow-legged and eyebrows that met together. To make matters worse, his manner of dress was less than desirable. In the above passage, he describes himself as being poorly dressed, beaten and homeless.
In addition, Paul himself admits that he is not an impressive preacher or public speaker (2 Cor. 11:6). He obviously lacked the qualities and characteristics that would be necessary to “make it” as a leader in an Americanized, celebrity-driven Christianity.
To make matters worse, his resume would surely raise some eyebrows. He has been incarcerated on numerous occasions and is vehemently accused of being anti-Semitic (even though he himself is Jewish). More than once he has been arrested and accused of causing civil unrest and instigating riots. He is just not the kind of person with whom the image-conscious churches and ministries of America would want to be associated.
The Secret of His Success
Nonetheless, Paul was the vessel God chose to take the gospel to the Gentile world and to shake an empire for God. According to I Corinthians 1:27, God purposely chooses that which is most “unlikely” according to the standards of this present world. If, therefore, the Church is functioning in the values of the present world rather than the values of the kingdom of God, then she will misjudge, marginalize and reject those whom God calls and sends.
True apostles have been dealt with by God and have experienced a breaking of pride, egoism and self-centered confidence. When Paul, for example, described his personal state upon arrival in the pagan city of Corinth, he did not offer a glowing resume that delineated his strengths and successes. Instead, he described his ministry in terms of his frail, human weakness and his radical dependence on God. He wrote,
And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
Paul’s self-portrait is certainly not the description we would expect of an apostle that is about to shake a city for God. Nonetheless, God’s power worked mightily through Paul and a gifted, powerful and somewhat rowdy church was established in that pagan city.
They key was that Paul did not wallow in his human shortcomings but turned his eyes to the One who was the source of his strength, wisdom and power. In his human weakness, he was made strong by the power of God (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). When he finished, people did not say, “Isn’t Paul a wonderful preacher and great man of God.” Instead, they exclaimed, “Isn’t this God that Paul preaches wonderful, powerful and gracious.
That your faith should not be in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God (1 Cor. 2:5). Self-made apostles cause people to praise them, while God-called apostles cause people to praise the One who sent them.
True Apostles Are Not Preoccupied with Themselves
An elder shared with me how the young pastor of their church informed the board of elders that he wanted to begin using “Apostle” as a title in front of his name, even though there is no Biblical precedent for such. The elders all expressed their opinion that it was not a good idea.
The elder said the young man was so hurt and frustrated by their rebuff that he began to cry. He obviously was not ready for the kind of apostolic ministry Paul described. If he could not handle being rebuffed about wearing a title, how would he ever handle the suffering and rejection that goes with a true apostolic calling?
True apostles are not preoccupied with titles, status, rank, significance and honor. They are consumed with the commission they have received from the Lord and are willing to go anywhere, face any difficulty and suffer any loss in order to fulfill that commission. Ths is what Paul expressed to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:22-24,
And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.
This article is derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt's the book PURSUING POWER: How the Historic Quest for Apostolic Authority and Control Had Divided and Damaged the Church, available from Amazon and his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.
Friday, December 7, 2018
Believing in Jesus Christ and His miraculous birth does not require the so-called “blind leap of faith,” for there is as much evidence for the virgin birth of Christ as any event of ancient history. It is not lack of evidence that keeps people from believing in the virgin birth, but a predisposed bias against the possibility of miracles.
Here are six compelling reasons for believing that Jesus Christ was supernaturally born of a virgin.
1. Documented by a Physician & World-Class Historian
2. Confirmed by Modern Archaeology
3. Confirmed by an Agnostic Professor
4. Predicted by Old Testament Prophets
5. Believed Universally by the Earliest Christians
6. Confirmed by His Amazing World-Impact
1. Documented by a Physician & World-Class Historian.
At the beginning of his gospel, Luke, whom Paul calls “the beloved physician” in Colossians 4:14, indicates that he has made a thorough investigation of the things about which he is writing, including the virgin birth.
This investigation included his utilization of eyewitness accounts of the events described. Luke spent extended periods of time with Paul in Jerusalem and Judea and would have had the opportunity to interview those who were closest to the event, including Mary herself.
Of all the gospels, Luke gives the most detailed account of the Nativity and mentions Mary 12 times, more than any other biblical writer. In addition to the birth of Christ, he also gives special, detailed attention to the birth of John the Baptist and many see his gynecological interests to be a result of his training as a physician.
There is no reliable information on how long Mary lived, but some traditions say she lived as much as 24 years or longer after the resurrection. The detail Luke presents does indicate that he has derived his information from a primary source, either Mary herself or someone to whom Mary had relayed the intimate details of the event.
At one time, it was thought that Luke was mistaken concerning the events he portrayed surrounding the birth of Christ (Luke 2:1-5). Critics argued that there was no census and that everyone did not have to return to their ancestral home. They also pointed out that Josephus had dated the governorship of Quirinius of Syria, whom Luke mentions, as beginning in A.D. 6, too late for the birth of Christ.
In every case, however, modern archaeological discoveries have proved the critics to be wrong. In the case of Quirinius, it was found that he actually served two separate terms as governor, the first beginning around 7 B.C., which fits perfectly with the time of Christ's birth. The late F. F. Bruce, one of the most respected of New Testament scholars, noted that where Luke has been suspected of inaccuracy by modern critics, archaeology has again and again proved Luke to be right and the critics wrong.
The accuracy of Luke as a historian was confirmed by the famous historian, A.N. Sherwin-White, who carefully examined his references in Luke/Acts to 32 countries, 54 cities, and nine islands, finding not a single mistake.
Challenging the claims of critics that the story of the virgin birth was based on a hoax, the noted Greek scholar, Professor John A. Scott, reminded the naysayers of Luke's training as a physician and his reputation as a historian. Pointing to his attention to detail and accurate reporting, Scott declared, "You could not fool Doctor Luke."
2. Affirmed by Modern Archaeology.
Luke's status as a world-class historian, accurate in even the smallest details, has been brought to light by modern archaeology. For example, Sir William Ramsay, considered one of the greatest archaeologists of all time, originally thought he would scientifically discredit Luke's accounts by visiting and examining the places mentioned in his Gospel and Acts.
Ramsay, an Oxford professor, was a product of the skeptical, German higher criticism of the nineteenth century and he taught that the New Testament is an unreliable religious treatise written in the mid-second century by individuals far removed from the events described. But after years of retracing Luke's account of Paul's travels and doing archaeological excavations along the way, Ramsay completely reversed his view of the Bible and first-century history.
Ramsay became convinced that Acts was written in the first century by the traditional author, and he acquired a very high regard for Luke as a historian. He wrote,
Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy, he is possessed of the true historic sense; in short, this author should be placed along with the greatest of historians.
In 1896, Ramsay began publishing his discoveries in a book entitled St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen. The book caused a furor of dismay among the skeptics of the world, for its affirmation of the biblical record was totally unexpected. The evidence was, in fact, so overwhelming that many atheists gave up their atheism and embraced Christianity.
Over the next 20 years, Ramsay published other volumes showing how he discovered Luke to be accurate in the tiniest details of his account. In his book, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, he wrote, "You may press the words of Luke in a degree beyond any other historian's and they stand the keenest scrutiny and the hardest treatment."
Archaeology has, indeed, affirmed, not only Luke, but the entire Biblical account. William F. Albright, the renowned archaeologist and late professor of Semitic languages at John Hopkins University spent many years leading archaeological excavations in the land of the Bible. He wrote, "Discovery after discovery has established the accuracy of innumerable details, and brought increased recognition to the Bible as a source of history."
The evidence begs the question that if Luke was this careful to get his facts right about names, places, events and dates, can we not be confident that he was just as careful to get his facts right concerning the more important things about which he reported, such as the virgin birth of Jesus Christ?
3. An Agnostic Professor of Mythology is Convinced.
C. S. Lewis was the agnostic professor of Renaissance literature at Oxford University, a prolific author and a recognized expert of mythological texts. He too had bought into the idea that the Bible was not a book of reliable history and that the New Testament was filled with all sorts of mythical stories, created by individuals far removed from the events described.
But through the influence of his childhood, and friends who challenged his agnosticism, Lewis began to read the Bible. He was astounded at what he encountered in the gospels, for it was obviously a different genre from the ancient mythologies with which he was so familiar. His surprised response was, "This is not myth!" Lewis went on to become a dedicated follower of Christ and perhaps the most significant Christian apologist of the twentieth century.
At the time, higher criticism was being popularized in German seminaries. Certain theologians, such as Rudolph Bultmann, were claiming that the New Testament accounts of the virgin birth of Jesus, His miracles and His resurrection were myths created by His followers.
Lewis challenged these theologians, saying, "I would like to know how many myths these people have read!" He went on to explain that he had been a long-time professor and critic of mythological literature and knew how a myth sounded and felt. "And the gospel story," he said, "Is not myth!"
4. Predicted Centuries in Advance by OT Prophets.
Genesis 3:15 reads, I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel.
These words were spoken by God to the serpent after the fall of our first parents. The "seed of the woman" in this passage is an allusion to a future descendant of Eve who will defeat the serpent and reverse the curse brought on by his deception.
The Bible normally speaks of the seed of men, but in this case, it is the "seed of the woman." This is a prophecy that clearly anticipates the future virgin birth of Christ—a birth in which the seed of a man is not involved. The Methodist theologian, Adam Clarke, wrote in The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments with a Commentary and Critical Notes, "The seed of the woman is to come by the woman, and her alone without the concurrence of man."
According to this prophecy, the "seed of the woman" will receive a temporary wound from Satan—"you will bruise His heel"—but the "seed of woman" shall inflict on Satan a final and mortal wound—"He will bruise your head." This Messianic promise was fulfilled through the virgin birth of Jesus and through His death and resurrection.
Isaiah 7:14 says, Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign: The virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. The Hebrew word translated "virgin" in this passage is almah and refers to a young woman of marriageable age, but would normally include the idea of virginity, since that was expected of a young Jewish woman being married for the first time.
That "virgin" is an accurate English translation is confirmed by the Septuagint, which uses the Greek word parthinos to translate almah. Parthinos specifically means a young woman who has never had sex with a man. Parthinos is the word used by both Matthew and Luke in their description of Mary, affirming that she was a young woman who had never had sex with a man when Jesus was born.
Further evidence that Isaiah 7:14 is a Messianic prophecy referring to Jesus Christ is indicated by Isaiah's statement that he shall be called Immanuel, which means "God with us." This is a clear statement concerning the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ and reminds us of the words of Gabriel to Mary that the Son she will bear, will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest (Luke 1:32).
5. Believed Universally by the Earliest Christians.
That the virgin birth was universally believed by the earliest Christians is verified, not only by the gospel record, but also by The Apostle's Creed. The Apostle’s Creed is an early confession of faith that dates from the second century and was used throughout the universal church. By including the virgin birth in their creedal statement, these early believers made clear that they considered it an essential doctrine of The Faith. The Creed reads in part:
I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord: Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary (emphasis added).
This earliest belief in the virgin birth was confirmed by the Nicene Creed of A.D. 325 and has continued to be the belief of Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Protestant Christians everywhere.
Note the words of the eighteenth century hymn, "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," written by Charles Wesley, an Oxford graduate and Anglican minister, and with his brother, John, the leader of the great Methodist revival. Because of the references to the virgin birth, this hymn became a popular carol sung at Christmas:
Christ by highest heav'n adored, Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come, offspring of a Virgin's womb!
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail the incarnate Deity!
Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus our Emanuel!
Hark the herald angels sing, glory to the newborn King!
6. His Amazing World-Impact
There is no question that Jesus Christ is the most influential person to ever occupy this planet. His influence touches all races, classes and tongues from Jerusalem to Timbuktu, from Nairobi to Brasilia and from London to Beijing.
This influence was immediate, with his first followers willing and anxious to give their lives to spread the Good News of His miraculous birth, life, death and resurrection. That same life and death commitment has continued with His followers through the centuries. Napoleon Bonaparte said of Jesus Christ,
I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creation of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.
The noted historian, Philip Schaff captured this influence well in the following statement.
Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander the Great, Caesar, Mohammed, and Napoleon; without science and learning, he shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of school, he spoke such words of life as were never spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orator or poet; without writing a single line, he set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art, and songs of praise than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times.
How are we to explain the influence of this one individual born in a stable in a small insignificant town in the Middle East? There is only one explanation and the writer of the following Christmas hymn has captured it well.
O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie.
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep, the silent stars go by.
Yet in thy dark streets shineth, the everlasting Light.
The hopes and fears of all the years, are met in thee tonight
With such overwhelming evidence for the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, it raises the question as to why there remains so much skepticism about this event and other miracles recorded in the New Testament. This question was answered by Yale archaeologist and professor, Millard Burrows, who said, "The excessive skepticism of many liberal theologians stems not from a careful evaluation of the available data, but from an enormous predisposition against the supernatural."
In other words, the barrier to faith is not an intellectual one, but a heart that is committed to unbelief. Any honest seeker who will lay aside their biased presuppositions and consider the historical evidence will also experience the affirming witness of the Holy Spirit in their heart and will know that Jesus Christ was truly born of a virgin. And if that part of the story is true, then we can have confidence that the rest of the story is true as well.
This article is derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt's latest book, Christmas is for Real, with the subtitle, Historical Evidence for the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ, available from Amazon and his website at www.eddiehhyatt.com.
Thursday, November 8, 2018
A “prophet” gave me a prophetic word concerning my “little brother” about whom, he said, I had been very concerned. He assured me there was no need for my concern. God, he said, had revealed to him that my little brother would be saved.
Now, there was only one problem with this prophecy; I do not have a little brother! When I shared this fact with this individual he seemed to be embarrassed and replied, “I will have to be more careful.”
Sadly, the very next day I heard him giving detailed personal prophecies to people, even about God sending them to specific nations. I shook my head in disbelief, and for the sake of the people, thought to myself, “I hope you test what you are hearing.”
He was not a false prophet, but simply a zealous individual who had never learned to distinguish between his soul and spirit. The prophecy he gave me was neither from God or the devil, but had been formulated in his own soul, i.e., his mind and emotions. It was the product of an over-active imagination, perhaps motivated by a desire for importance.
He was not a false prophet, but simply a zealous individual who had never learned to distinguish between his soul and spirit. The prophecy was neither from God or the devil, but had been formulated in his own soul, i.e., his mind and emotions. It was the product of an over-active imagination, perhaps motivated by a desire for importance.
This is why we must learn to distinguish between soul and spirit. Discerning between soul and spirit is the key for understanding the source of most spiritual manifestations in the church today.
Discerning Between Soul and Spirit
There are three possible sources for a prophecy or spiritual manifestation: (1) From the Holy Spirit who dwells in the reborn spirit of the believer; (2) from a demonic spirit; (3) from the human soul, i.e., the mind, will and emotions. I am convinced that many prophecies we are hearing from Christians today are from the human soul.
It is, therefore, of utmost importance that we learn to distinguish between soul and spirit. The spirit is the innermost part of our being and is that part that is regenerated when we are born again. It is through our human spirit that we have an awareness of God and the spirit realm. In born-again believers, the spirit is the place where the Holy Spirit dwells and, therefore, the place from which gifts of the Holy Spirit originate and flow.
The soul, on the other hand, consists of our mind, will, and emotions. It is the seat of the personality—the ego—and is that part of our being that gives us self-awareness. The soul, i.e., mind, will, and emotions, can be moved by a variety of outward stimuli.
Good music, for example, has the power to stir positive emotions of love, nostalgia, and compassion apart from the Holy Spirit. Likewise, a gifted orator can stir emotions and move people to behave in ways they otherwise would not. These, however, are mere feelings of the soul and have nothing to do with the Holy Spirit.
Although some think of the soul and spirit as being the same, the New Testament makes a clear distinction between the two. In I Thessalonians 5:23, for example, Paul says, May your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hebrews 4:12 clearly says that the soul and spirit are two distinct entities and that only the Word of God can divide the two. Making a distinction between soul and spirit can be very helpful in discerning the source of a prophecy or spiritual manifestation.
Our spirit is sometimes referred to in Scripture as “the heart.” For example, Jesus was speaking of the human spirit when He said, He who believes on Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water (John 7:38). Jesus was speaking of the Holy Spirit who would dwell in those who believe in Him and from whom would flow gifts of the Holy Spirit.
How We Mistake Soul for Spirit
Those who are zealous to be used of God and see His power, will often mistake the stirring of their emotions for the Holy Spirit. This is what John Wesley was referring to, when on October 29, 1762, he cautioned a colleague who was mistaking his own thoughts and imaginations for the Holy Spirit. Wesley said;
I dislike something that has the appearance of enthusiasm, overvaluing feelings and inward impressions; mistaking the mere work of imagination for the voice of the Spirit, and undervaluing reason, knowledge, and wisdom in general (Hyatt, Angels of Light, 49).
Many today mistake emotional highs for the presence of God. A “revival” service could be the product of skilled musicians and a savvy preacher stirring people’s emotions. R. A. Torrey (1856-1928), a successful revivalist himself, was referring to such “soulish” revivals when he wrote,
The most fundamental trouble with most of our present-day, so called revivals is, that they are man-made and not God sent. They are worked up (I almost said faked up) by man’s cunningly devised machinery—not prayed down (Hyatt, Angels of Light, 49).
A young man shared with me about a puzzling and discouraging experience he had with prophecy. He had gone with a small group to pray for a woman who was in the last stages of terminal cancer. As they stood around the bed and prayed, he sensed what he believed was God’s presence and he prophesied to the sick woman that God had heard her prayer and was healing her.
He really felt the prophecy was from God, but just a few days later she died. He was embarrassed and confused. How could this happen? How could he have been so wrong?
I could share numerous stories like this where well-meaning people have given what they sincerely believed was a word from God, but that word turned out to be false. These are usually well-meaning people who desire to be used of God but have never learned to distinguish between their soul and their spirit.
The young man mentioned above did not distinguish between soul and spirit in the prophecy he gave. No doubt, his natural feelings and emotions were moved by seeing the woman lying in bed and dying of cancer. He believed in Divine healing and desired so much to see a miracle of healing.
These, however, were natural feelings of the soul and not from the Spirit of God. He was moved out of his own natural feelings to give the prophecy. He gave what I call a “soulish” prophecy—a prophecy borne out of one’s own feelings and emotions. He was not a false prophet, just a mistaken one.
Prophecy Must Be Initiated by the Spirit
I Corinthians 12:11 clearly states that gifts of the Spirit, including prophecy, are given, as He [the Spirit] wills. Contrary to the biblical model, however, some teach that believers can prophesy at their own volition or will. I heard one well-known “prophet” insist that, just as it took Pentecostals several decades to discover that they could speak or pray in tongues at will, many in the body of Christ are now discovering that they can prophesy at will.
Proponents of this teaching point to the fact, that in 1 Corinthians 14:15, Paul says, "I will pray with the spirit," an obvious reference to praying in tongues. They give emphasis to the "I will" in this passage and reason that if one can will to pray or speak in tongues, then one can also will to prophesy.
This is poor hermeneutics and ignores the context of Paul's discussion. When Paul says, "I will pray with the spirit," he is referring to the private, devotional tongues in which he wills, or chooses, to pray. He distinguishes between private, devotional tongues in which he prays at will and the public manifestation of tongues that requires interpretation and comes forth as the Spirit wills, a very important distinction.
The idea that one can prophesy at will has resulted in many "prophets" operating out of their soul realm (mind, will and emotions) rather than from the Spirit. This leads to failed prophecies with the prophet often seeking to justify the failure. It can be devastating for young Christians who had received the prophecy as the word of the Lord.
1. Stay humble. Recognize you are not perfect. If you miss it, be willing to admit it. Do not try to justify yourself when you are wrong.
2. Have integrity in the operation of prophecy and Spiritual gifts. I have observed individuals who had become very adept at "reading" people and then giving a word that the recipient could easily apply to his or her own situation. Avoid that temptation.
3. If you are not sure of the source of what you are sensing, just say, “I feel to share this with you.” Don’t take on the identity of a “prophet” to the point where you think you must begin each statement with a “thus saith the Lord.”
4. Don’t try to use the Holy Spirit, let the Holy Spirit use you.
5. Develop an awareness of the difference between your soul and spirit and contend for a pure prophetic flow of the Holy Spirit in your life.
This article is derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt's latest book, Angels of Light, available from his Amazon and his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.
Dr. Eddie L. Hyatt is an author, historian and Bible teacher with a vision to see America reconnect with its Christian heritage as a nation birthed in prayer and spiritual awakening. He is also a director of God's Word to Women and the Int'l Christian Women's Hall of Fame, ministries that are lifting the status of women around the world and helping them fulfill their call and purpose in life. If you would like to give a gift to help Drs. Eddie and Susan Hyatt spread the Good News around the world, click the following link. http://eddiehyatt.com/donate.html