Wednesday, March 1, 2017

THE RESPONSIBILITY OF GRACE

For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles—if indeed you have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God given to me for you, how that by revelation he made known to me the mystery . . . (Ephesians 3:1-3).

Paul saw himself as a responsible steward of the grace of God that had been poured into his life. He never divorced grace from responsibility as is being done in so many circles today.
There was no question in Paul’s mind that it was the grace of God that apprehended him that day on the Damascus Road. This angry religious zealot, bent on destroying those early followers of Jesus, was arrested in love, transformed into a committed follower of Christ and called to be the Apostle to the Gentiles.
With that work of grace, however, came an incredible sense of responsibility that Paul carried for the rest of his life. This is clearly expressed in his letter to the Ephesians where he speaks of this responsibility and links it with God’s marvelous work of grace in his life.
He expresses this responsibility in Ephesians 3:2 by using a Greek word that has been translated “dispensation” in the NKJV and “administration” in the NIV. The Greek word is oikonomia and it referred to the management or administration of a household. It was used in regards to a steward or manager who was responsible for looking after someone else’s property.
By using oikonomia, Paul obviously sees himself as a steward of the grace that has been given to him. He literally says, The stewardship (oikonomia) of the grace of God that was given to me for you (Ephesians 3:2). Notice that this grace was given to Paul for him to convey to others, and this is where the responsible stewardship comes in to play. Paul then delineates the nature of this stewardship in his use of the word “mystery.”
The word “mystery,” from the Greek word musterion, was not a riddle or puzzle to be solved. It was, instead, something that had been hidden but was now being brought out into the open. For Paul, this “mystery” now being revealed was that, through the Gospel, Gentiles are fellow heirs with the Jews, of the same body and sharers in God’s promises (Ephesians 3:6).
Paul sees this “mystery” as something that has been entrusted to him by God. He sees himself as a steward of this “mystery,” responsible before God to make it known to the Gentile world. In Ephesians chapter 3, he consistently links the grace of God in his life with his sense of responsibility to steward that work of grace.
In verse 7, for example, he says, I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of his power. Paul’s ministry, that took him through imprisonments, beatings, shipwreck and all sorts of trials, was a result of his sense of responsibility to steward the gift that had been given him by God’s grace, and take the Gospel to the Gentile world.
In verse 8 he says, To me, who am less the least of all saints, was this grace given that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. Notice that God’s grace was given to lead Paul into a life of righteous action—that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. Paul saw himself as a steward, responsible to manage that which God had graciously entrusted to him.
What about you? Are you a good steward of God’s grace in your life? Maybe he has blessed you with certain gifts, talents or abilities? Maybe, like Paul, he has called you to a particular ministry? Maybe he has blessed you with financial wealth?
Whatever grace has been poured into our lives, we are responsible for that which He has entrusted to us. And one day we will all give an account for our stewardship. As Paul said in II Corinthians 5:10,
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done whether good or bad.

This article was derived from a course Dr. Eddie Hyatt is teaching on Paul's Letter to the Ephesians. You can join this teaching, live and online, each Tuesday evening by going to his website, www.eddiehyatt.com, and clicking on the "Live Streaming" button.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

THROW OUT THE WITCHES' BREW

It is being reported that witches and warlocks are coming out in force and seeking to mix a magical brew that will do damage to Donald Trump and his supporters. Many Christians seem frantic and even frightened at this report. I want to suggest, however, that the only brew they can mix is one of fear and every Christian should throw it out as useless and worthless.
This fact was made real to me many years ago when a well-known witch attended services in the church Sue and I were planting in eastern Canada. Several people came to me very concerned about the presence of this witch. They wondered if she was trying to work some spell or magical charm on our fledgling congregation.
God Teaches Me Not to Fear Witches
Out of concern, several of us met together to pray about the situation. While praying, I saw a vision of a room filled with smoke (representing witchcraft) and then a wind (representing the Spirit of God) that came along and blew the smoke away. The smoke had no substance or strength with which to resist the wind, and it was suddenly gone.
At the very same time another person saw a similar vision and then a powerful, prophetic word came forth that gave me a new perspective on the devil. God said, My power is so far surpassing any power possessed by the devil, he is not worthy of the attention you are giving him.
It was obvious that the Holy Spirit was not happy with the attention we were giving to this witch. Around this same time, I came across a book by Judson Cornwall, a well-known leader in the Charismatic Renewal, that confirmed our experience.
Cornwall told how as the pastor of a certain congregation, he would begin each service by taking authority over the devil, binding all the demons, silencing them, and telling them they had no place in that meeting. He religiously repeated this routine at the beginning of each meeting.
One morning, during his quiet time with God, he heard the Holy Spirit say, “Demons are coming from all over this region to be in your services.” He was shocked and asked, “Why Lord?” The Holy Spirit replied, “Because you give them recognition.” Needless to say, he stopped giving such recognition to the enemy.
His experience, of course, confirmed what I had heard from the Holy Spirit--that the devil is not worthy of the attention we were giving him. Demons love attention and you will probably not find a greater concentration of demons than at a spiritual warfare conference where they are the center of attention.
Such preoccupation with the devil denies the reality of the overwhelming victory wrought by Christ, which He expressed when he came out of the tomb and declared, All authority is given to me in heaven and in earth. As a student in Bible school, I heard a guest teacher quote this verse and then ask, “If Jesus has all authority, how much does that leave the devil?” I never forgot that question.

Satan is No Match to the Power in You

The overwhelming victory of Christ over Satan is delineated by Paul in Ephesians 1:15-23. He speaks of Christ being raised from the dead by the mighty power of God and then being seated at His right hand in the heavenly places.
The “right hand” in Scripture is symbolic of authority and power. Psalm 98:1, for example, says of God, His right hand and His holy arm have gotten Him the victory. When Paul says that Jesus is now seated at the right hand of God, he is saying that Jesus is seated at the pinnacle of the universe, in the place of ultimate authority and power.
This place where Christ is seated is far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come (Eph. 1:21). It doesn’t matter what kind of principality or power it may be—even Satan himself--the place where Christ is seated is far above them all.
And here is what is incredible! Paul says that the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him in that place of ultimate authority--far above any power possessed by the devil--is now at work in you and me. No wonder Satan trembles at the child of God who knows his/her position and authority in Christ.

Satan’s Only Power Resides in His Ability to Deceive.

Stripped of all authority, Satan can only wield influence in the earth through lies and deceptions. That is why Rev. 12:9 refers to him as that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world. Jesus said of him, When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it (John 8:44).
This is why Jesus said in John. 8:32, And you shall know the truth, and the truth will make you free. The truth of God dispels the lies of Satan even as light dispels darkness. When the lie is gone, Satan has no ground or place to operate. Nothing, therefore, can take the place of God’s word in the church and in our personal lives.

Only the Truth of God’s Word Will Set the Captives Free

Paul obviously understood this when he went to Ephesus around a.d. 54. This is indicated by the fact that he did not get preoccupied with protesting and fighting the idolatry and magical practices that permeated the city. He certainly had opportunity for not only was Ephesus the center for worship of the goddess, Artemis, it was also a famous center of the occult and magical practices.
Magicians swarmed her streets and marketed their spells, charms, amulets, rules for dream interpretation and books of divination. The proliferation of magical incantations and formulas in Ephesus were collected into a book known as the “Ephesian letters” and spread throughout the Greco-Roman world. Albert Barnes, in his Notes on Acts 19:19, says,
The Ephesian letters, by which incantations and charms were supposed to be produced, were much celebrated. They seem to have consisted of certain combinations of letters or words, which, by being pronounced with certain intonations of voice, were believed to be effectual in expelling diseases, or evil spirits; or which, by being written on parchment and worn, were supposed to operate as amulets, or charms, to guard from evil spirits or from danger.
Interestingly, there is no indication that Paul got “bogged down” in any of the popular “spiritual warfare” methods that are so popular today in charismatic circles. He showed no fear whatsoever. In fact, the clear implication of Acts 19:35 is that Paul never preached a sermon against the goddess during his time in Ephesus.
Why? He was too busy preaching the truth of Jesus and what He had done. He knew that only the truth of God’s word would dispel the lies by which the people of Ephesus were held captive. His approach was so successful that people began to publicly burn their books of magic. So many turned to Christ that it eventually affected the economy of the city. Acts 19:20 says, So the word of the Lord grew mightily and prevailed.
T.L. Osborn Refuses to Give Recognition to the Devil
Before he passed away, I heard the elder statesman of miracle evangelism, Dr. T. L. Osborn, tell about preaching in an outdoor crusade in Africa. Many thousands were in attendance including hundreds of witch doctors who had come there with their fetishes to work their magic against the foreign preacher.
Before going on the platform, the African pastors wanted to lay hands on him and pray for his protection from the devil. T. L. refused their prayer. He said, “I would not insult my Lord in that way.” T. L. focused his attention on preaching the Good News of Jesus that day and thousands came to Christ and many were miraculously set free from all kinds of illnesses and bondages. The witch doctors went away helpless and some Christian pastors realized that they did not have to be preoccupied with the devil.

Practical Suggestions for Throwing Out the Witch’s Brew

·                         Keep Jesus at the center.
He alone is worthy of our undivided attention. Worship Him. Honor Him. Satan will not hang around a person or congregation where Jesus is being continually exalted.
·                         Know your authority in Christ.
James 4:7 says, Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. The Greek word translated “flee” in this passage means to “run in terror.” It has the connotation of someone being so frightened that their hair is standing on end. That is Satan’s response to the believer who knows his/her authority in Christ.
·                         Know the Power of God’s Word.
 When Jesus was confronted by Satan during the wilderness temptation, He answered each temptation with, It is written, followed by an appropriate Scripture. He overcame Satan with the same weapon that is available to each of us—the Word of God.
Conclusion
The witches' brew is one of fear, but you don’t have to drink it. Throw it out! Declare the authority of Christ and His supremacy over all. Declare Christ’s authority and protection over the very persons and things the witches want to damage and destroy.
The most learned witch is no match to the smallest babe in Christ who knows his/her authority as a child of Almighty God. Throw out the witches' brew!

Dr. Eddie L. Hyatt is an author, Bible teacher and revivalist whose books are available from Amazon and his website at www.eddiehyatt.com, where you can also read about his vision for America and the world.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

AFTER 500 YEARS, WILL CATHOLICS EMBRACE MARTIN LUTHER AND THE REFORMATION?

October 31, 2017 will mark the 500-year anniversary of Martin Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the Wittenberg church door and igniting the Protestant Reformation. Already, celebrations are underway to commemorate this momentous, world-changing event and this is presenting both a challenge and an opportunity for Pope Francis and the Catholic Church.
On the one hand, it is an opportunity for Catholics to demonstrate Christian charity and unity by honoring Luther and participating in these events. On the other hand, it is a challenge because the Catholic Church officially rejects Luther and labels him a heretic.
In nailing his 95 Theses to the church door, Luther, a Catholic priest and University professor, was challenging his church’s practice of selling indulgences. These indulgences offered forgiveness of sins and freedom from purgatory, all for a price.
From there, Luther went on to challenge papal authority and the sacramental system of the Catholic Church. Ordered to appear before a tribunal of cardinals, bishops and the Roman Emperor, Luther was ordered to recant his teachings or suffer excommunication, which could also mean death.
Luther told this court, meeting in the city of Worms and known as the Diet of Worms, that he was willing to recant but only if convinced by reason and the Scriptures that he was in error. The Roman hierarchy, however, was not in the habit of “reasoning” with those who challenged their authority, and they demanded that Luther admit his error there on the spot.
In his famous reply, which struck a blow for individual freedom and religious liberty, Luther said,
"I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves. I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis. My conscience is captive to the Word of God; thus I cannot and will not recant anything, because acting against one's conscience is neither safe nor sound. Here I stand! God help me! Amen!"
Luther was excommunicated and had to live as a fugitive in hiding for a time. But out of his bold stand for the Gospel, there emerged the Lutheran Church and then other churches and movements emerged as the Reformation grew and expanded.

The challenge for Pope Francis and the Catholic Church this year is how far will they go in embracing Luther? After all, Luther is still a heretic and Protestant churches are not true churches according to official Catholic doctrine.
Pope Francis has thus far been positive in statements he has made about Luther and these celebrations. However, if Francis is truly serious about Christian unity, here are three steps he could take that would clearly demonstrate that his commitment to Christian unity is more than mere words.
1)    Issue an official statement encouraging Catholics around the world to participate in these celebrations with their Protestant brothers and sisters.
2)       Remove Luther’s excommunication and ban as a heretic.
3)     Recognize Lutheran and Protestant churches as true churches rather than mere “Christian communities,” and Protestant believers as full and complete Christians rather than “separated brethren.”
Although there have been Catholic/Protestant dialogues involving theologians that have resulted in agreements on issues such as justification by faith, official Catholic policy since Vatican II has not changed. Luther is a heretic and Protestant churches are not true churches.
This 500-year anniversary of the Reformation is a great opportunity that most likely will never exist again. I pray that Pope Francis and the Catholic Church will seize the opportunity and show that they are truly serious about Christian unity.
Dr. Eddie Hyatt is an author, historian and Biblical scholar. His books on church history, church order and Spiritual awakening are available from Amazon and his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

THE MODERN TRASHING OF GEORGE WASHINGTON'S VISION FOR AMERICA


In a meeting with Delaware Indian chiefs in 1779, George Washington commended them for their request that their youth be trained in American schools. He assured the chiefs that America would look upon them “as their own children” and then said,
"You do well to wish to learn our arts and our ways of life and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. Congress will do everything they can to assist you in this wise intention."
Compare Washington’s attitude with government policy today that forbids those working to resettle refugees in this country from talking about their faith or mentioning the name of Jesus. This multicultural, politically correct government policy has rejected Washington’s vision for America and denies people the hope and happiness of a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
The Original American Vision
Indeed, the original American vision was for a land of individual liberty and a place from which the Gospel would be spread to the ends of the earth. America’s Founders were not shy in expressing this vision for they believed, that in this world, real freedom could only be realized in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
This link between freedom and the Gospel was expressed by America’s second president, John Adams, just two weeks before the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. In a letter to his cousin, Zabdiel, a minister of the Gospel, he wrote, “Statesmen, my dear sir, may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion [Christianity] and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles, upon which Freedom can securely stand (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 174).
Adams was not expressing anything new or novel for the idea of freedom rooted in the Gospel of Christ was a common American belief brought here by the very first European immigrants to this land. Consider the following quotes.
“From these very shores the Gospel shall go forth, not only to this New World, but to all the world.”
Rev. Robert Hunt, April 29, 1607, as he and the Jamestown settlers, who had just landed at Cape Henry, gathered in prayer around a large oak cross they had brought from England.
“Having undertaken for the glory of God and the advancement of the Christian faith . . . a voyage to plant the first colony in northern Virginia.”
From the Mayflower Compact, the governing document of the Pilgrims who formulated it upon their arrival in the New World in November of 1620.
“Whereas we all came into these parts of America with one and the same end and aim, namely to advance the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ and enjoy the Liberties of the Gospel in purity and peace.”
Opening statement of the Articles of Confederation for ‘The United Colonies of New England,” dated May 29, 1643. This confederation of New England towns and colonies was formed for mutual security and to arbitrate land disputes among the growing population.
“Might it not greatly facilitate the introduction of pure religion among the heathen, if we could, by such a colony, show them a better sample of Christians than they commonly see.”
Benjamin Franklin in a 1756 letter to George Whitefield, the most famous preacher of the Great Awakening, in which Franklin proposed that they partner together in founding a Christian colony on the Ohio frontier.
“Pray that the peaceful and glorious reign of our Divine Redeemer may be known throughout the whole family of mankind.”
Samuel Adams, Founding Father and Governor of Massachusetts. This call to prayer was part of a proclamation for a Day of Prayer that he issued as Governor of MA in 1795.
“Pray that all nations may bow to the scepter of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and that the whole earth may be filled with his glory.”
John Hancock, Founding Father, President of the Continental Congress and Governor of Massachusetts. This statement was part of a call for prayer he issued while Governor.
“The policy of the bill is adverse to the diffusion of the light of Christianity. The first wish of those who enjoy this precious gift ought to be that it may be imparted to the whole race of mankind.”
James Madison, chief architect of the Constitution and America’s fourth president, voicing his opposition in 1785 to a bill that he perceived would have the unintended consequence of hindering the spread of the Gospel.
“The philosophy of Jesus is the most sublime and benevolent code of morals ever offered man. A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen.”.
Thomas Jefferson, Author of the Declaration of Independence and America’s third president, who took money from the federal treasury to send missionaries to an American Indian tribe and to build them a chapel in which to worship.
 “Bless, O Lord, the whole race of mankind, and let the world be filled with the knowledge of Thee and Thy Son, Jesus Christ.”
From a public prayer prayed by George Washington, America first president.
No Real Liberty Without the Gospel
It is obvious from the above quotes that America’s Founders believed freedom and Christianity to be inextricably linked. They believed so strongly in the Gospel as the basis of human freedom that they unashamedly prayed and publicly expressed their desire to see it spread throughout the earth.
Recent presidents have sought to export American style democracy to other nations apart from the Gospel of Christ. Indeed, the entire Western world is seeking to secularize liberty and remove it from any association with faith.
The Founders would say that such efforts are futile since true liberty cannot be had apart from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Washington made this plain in his Farewell Address where he warned the fledgling nation that two things—Christianity and morality--must be guarded if they were to be a happy people. These, he said, are “indispensable supports” for political prosperity (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 169).
The linking of liberty with the Gospel of Christ in America was obvious to the young French sociologist, Alexis de Tocqueville, who came to America in 1831 to study her institutions. Arriving on the heels of the Second Great Awakening, he exclaimed, "The religious atmosphere of the country was the first thing that struck me on arrival in the United States" (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 168).
He also observed that the means of improving the government were the same means employed in conversion and the advancement of the Christian faith. He concluded that, in America, “From the beginning, politics and religion [Christianity] contracted an alliance which has never been dissolved” (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 168).
Reject the Lie, Recover the Vision
The day after approving the First Amendment, which states that “Congress shall make no law concerning the establishment of religion or hindering the free exercise thereof,” the Founders issued a proclamation for a national Day of Prayer. They could do this because the First Amendment was merely their way of saying that America would never have an official, national church like the nations of Europe at the time. Nothing more!
Modern secularists have been very successful in turning the First Amendment on its head and convincing much of America that it bans expressions of faith from the public square. More than any other tool, this Lie has been used to trash George Washington's vision for America. 
It is time for this generation to rise up, reject the Lie and recover the vision of Washington and America’s Founders. It is time to realize, with the Founders, that true freedom and happiness can only be found in Jesus Christ and to purposely withhold the Good News from anyone is cruel and inhumane.
Finally, America’s Founders, to one degree or another, were all impacted by the Great Awakening (1726-1770). A nation birthed in Spiritual awakening can only survive by being blessed with such periodic awakenings, and these have been a part of America's history. Our land is ripe for another such awakening and it will come as God’s people earnestly pray and boldly proclaim the truth that is in Jesus. 

George Washington, I am sure, would approve this message.

This article was derived from Dr. Eddie Hyatt's book, Pilgrims and Patriots, available from Amazon and his website @ www.eddiehyatt.com.





                                                                                                           





Saturday, December 31, 2016

LEARNING TO "THINK CRITICALLY" WITHOUT QUENCHING THE SPIRIT

The pastor invited me to preach on a Sunday morning and then alerted me that gold dust had been miraculously appearing in their services. My response was open but cautious. Open because I value manifestations of the Holy Spirit, but cautious because there is no example of such a manifestation in Scripture, and Scripture is our primary guide for testing the spirits and judging manifestations.
I preached that Sunday morning and as I was finishing my message I noted that the children began coming from children’s church into the auditorium to be with their parents. Almost immediately there was a commotion toward the back of the auditorium. I paused and someone announced, “The gold dust has appeared.”
I politely acknowledged their excitement and concluded my message.
Later, I was standing by my book table in the foyer of the church when I noticed the children’s pastor coming toward me covered in gold dust. I asked, “What is that all over you?” She replied, “O we were playing with the glittery stuff in children’s church today.”
I immediately recalled that it was when the children came into the auditorium that the excitement erupted about the miraculous appearance of gold dust. I smiled and thought to myself, “I have discovered the source of their gold dust.”
Now, that was a harmless situation. However, if we are careless about “thinking critically” in the small things of life we will be careless in the larger things that could cost us our life.
This is what happened in 1978 when over 900 people, many of whom who had been members of evangelical and charismatic churches, followed a charismatic preacher—Jim Jones—to South America and committed mass suicide with him. There were many indicators that things were not right but they were unwilling to “think critically” about the man and his actions.
To “think critically” is not about being negative or judgmental. “Criticism,” in the academic sense, is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “exercising or involving careful judgment or judicious evaluation.” Therefore, to “think critically” is to question, consider and evaluate a situation or manifestation.
Being Open Without Being Naive
Let me be clear in saying that I value Spiritual gifts. I was catapulted into ministry 45 years ago when Aquilla Nash gave a powerful prophecy to a shy young man who could not speak in public but was carrying an intense call of God in his heart. That young man was me and that prophecy confirmed all that was in my heart and gave me the confidence I needed to step out in obedience to God’s call.
About one year after this experience of being “launched,” I was preaching an extended revival meeting in a church in Oklahoma. One night a visiting preacher called me aside and spoke a word of prophecy over me. Although I don’t remember what he said, I do remember the conversation with the pastor and his mother after the service as I rode with them to their home where I was staying.
They asked about the prophecy and what I thought about it. They then expressed their firm belief that God does not speak through personal prophecy. As we talked, the pastor, Jess, who was single and in his fifties, shared about a devastating experience he had with personal prophecy as a young man in his twenties.
He told about having a close friendship with a young woman who attended the same church as he and his family. Although they were not formally engaged, he loved her and thought she was probably the one he would someday marry.
She went away to spend the summer with relatives in another state. Towards the end of summer a person at church asked, “Did you hear about Lois?” Jess replied, “No, I haven’t heard from her.” The person replied, “She got married.”
Jess was shocked and devastated. How could this be! He learned later that in the church she attended with her relatives, a person prophesied to her that God had brought her there to marry a young man in the congregation. Wanting to obey God and not having been taught to question spiritual things, she and the young man married.
The marriage was an abject failure. Jess said that several years later they divorced and she returned to Oklahoma with three small children, very disillusioned with life and questioning aspects of her faith in God. Jess never married and passed away in his seventies.
Things could have been very different if they had understood the need to "think critically." Instead, Lois acted naively and accepted the prophecy without questioning it. Jess then reacted in the opposite direction and rejected all prophecy as a viable means of God speaking.
The Biblical Admonition to “Think Critically”
Yes, in these days when spirituality and the supernatural are being emphasized, it is crucial that we also emphasize the importance of learning to “think critically.” In fact, Scripture commands us to “think critically.”
The verse concerning this is I Corinthians 14:29 where Paul says, Let the prophets speak and let the others judge. The “others” in this passage would be the “others” in the Christian assembly, which in Paul’s day met primarily in homes.
The word “judge” is from the Greek word diakrino and although it is variously translated as “judge,” “discern” and “weigh carefully,” the word literally means “to separate” or “to discriminate.”
In other words, we are to sit in judgment and separate truth from error. This is what it means to “think critically” and it is the responsibility of the entire body of Christ.
This then raises the question of how this is to be done? What are the criteria used to separate the true from the false?
I will here offer five criteria, or tests, for “thinking critically” about spiritual manifestations. These five tests include (1) a heart test, (2) a vision test, (3) a word test, (4) a freedom test and (5) a character test.
The Heart Test
I often receive emails from people telling about a meeting they attended, and although it was Christian, they will say, “Something just didn’t seem right.” I always tell them, “Listen to your spirit! Listen to your heart!” The Holy Spirit—the Spirit of truth--who is on the inside of you will alert when there is error and witness to truth.
John speaks of this “heart test” in I John 2:18-27. In verse 26 he makes clear that he is writing concerning those who try to deceive you. In other words, discriminating between that which is true and that which is false is the context for verse 27, where he says,
"But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you; but as the same anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you will abide in Him."
The Greek word for “anointing” in this passage is chrisma and is very similar to the Greek word for “Spiritual gift” in I Corinthians 12:4, which is charisma. Only the Greek letter alpha is missing from the word in I John 2:27.
I mention this to make the point that this “anointing” in I John 2:27 is something possessed by every true believer and is directly related to the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. In John 16:13, Jesus promised that with the coming of the Spirit of truth, He will guide you into all truth.
You have a truth detector dwelling on the inside of you. When, therefore, facing questionable spiritual activity, listen to your heart. Do you have a sense of peace inside? Or is there a troubling or upset in your spirit? This is the "heart test." Listen to your heart.
The Vision Test
This test is related to the focus, vision or goal of the person or message in question. What is their focus and passion? What is their ultimate vision or goal? Is it themselves? Is it their own ministry? Or is it Jesus Christ?
In John 16:14, Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit had come, He will glorify Me. The Holy Spirit does not come to glorify angels, preachers, churches or denominations. The Holy Spirit is here to lift up and honor Jesus Christ. Revelation 19:10 is very clear in saying, The spirit of prophesy is the testimony of Jesus.
In his introductory statement to the gifts of the Spirit in I Corinthians 12:1-3, Paul makes it clear that gifts of the Spirit, including prophecy, must occur in a context where Jesus Christ is recognized and confessed as Lord. Commenting on this passage, Dr. Gordon Fee says,
"The ultimate criterion of the Spirit’s activity is the exaltation of Jesus as Lord. Whatever takes away from that, even if they be legitimate expressions of the Spirit, begins to move away from Christ to a more pagan fascination with spiritual activity as an end in itself."
When faced with questionable words and actions, apply the “vision test.” Ask yourself about the person’s passion and vision. Do they exhibit a vision and passion to honor and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ? Or is their vision more about themselves? This is the “vision test.”
The Word Test
The “word test” asks, “Is this compatible with the overall testimony of God’s word?” God will never say something today that contradicts or is out of character with what He has said in the past through the Scriptures. To use an extreme example, God will never tell a man to divorce his wife and marry another woman, for that would contradict everything He has already said about marriage.
At the Asusa Street Revival (1906-09) where many spiritual manifestations were occurring, the leaders, including William Seymour, emphasized making the Bible the standard for judging those manifestations. In response to a question concerning whether it was necessary to study the Bible after being filled with the Holy Spirit, they answered,
"Yes, if not we become fanatical or many times will be led by deceptive spirits and begin to have revelations and dreams contrary to the Word, and begin to prophesy and think ourselves some great one, bigger than some other Christians. But by reading the Bible prayerfully, waiting before God, we become just humble little children, and we never feel that we have got more than the least of God’s children."
The sixty-six books of the Bible comprise what is called “the canon.” The reason it is called “the canon” is that in ancient times a “canon” was a measuring tool, usually a reed, used like a measuring tape or a yard-stick. From earliest times, the sixty-six books of the Bible have been recognized as the canon, i.e., the rule or standard, by which every other teaching, revelation and doctrine must be measured. As Psalm 119:105 says, Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
When faced with questionable doctrines or manifestations, apply the “word test.” As it says in Isaiah 8:20, To the Law and to the testimony. If they do not speak according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them.
The Freedom Test
Galatians 5:1 says, Stand fast in the freedom, wherewith Christ hath made us free; and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Paul is not talking about freedom to be self-indulgent and to sin. Paul was warning that if a person, a church, a movement or a leader tries to put you in bondage and outwardly control your life – that’s not God! 
God has not called us to a religion, but to a relationship with Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what Jesus was talking about in Matthew 11:28 when He said to the people of Israel, Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will rest you (literal translation).
As a young Christian, I thought Jesus, in this passage, was calling to people burdened down with sin. I later learned that He was speaking to religious people who were burdened down with religious duty and obligation, which had been substituted for a living relationship with Himself.
The rabbis had identified 613 commands in the Torah; 365 prohibitions and 248 positive commands. Many Pharisees of Jesus day believed that if all Israel kept the law for one day then Messiah would come. They, therefore, called upon Jews to take upon themselves the “yoke of the law,” by committing themselves to do their level best to keep all 613 commands.
This had resulted in many in Israel being weighed down and burdened with religious duty. Jesus called them away from all this religion into a living relationship with Himself. (See Matt. 11:28-30)
Beware of those who try to control you and would place you under rules and regulations that have nothing to do with nurturing a living relationship with God through Jesus Christ. This is the "freedom test."
The Character Test
In Matthew 7:15 Jesus said, Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous [greedy] wolves. These false prophets project one thing on the outside but are something completely different on the inside. They have no integrity.
Jesus used the word “ravenous” to describe these false prophets and ravenous is an extreme form of greediness that will destroy others to get what it wants. Jesus went on to say in vs. 16, You will know them by their fruits. Note that Jesus said we would know them, not by their gifts, but by their fruit, i.e., their character.
A person once sent me an email with a prophecy someone had sent to them and asked me what I thought about it. When I saw who had given the prophecy my first thought was, “I wouldn’t trust anything this person has said or prophesied.”
This was my response because I knew enough about this person over a number of years to cause me not to trust him. This was not a matter of someone who failed and then asked for forgiveness. This was a matter of someone with a track record of not walking in truth and integrity.
Some will protest by saying, “Oh, but we shouldn’t judge anybody.” When Jesus said, Judge not lest you be judged, he was talking about having a censorious, judgmental attitude. He was not talking about exercising “critical thinking” in order to protect ourselves and our loved ones from those who would take advantage of us.
The fact that Jesus tells us in this passage to “beware” of false prophets requires that we “think critically” in order to determine that they are not legitimate. The fact that He said we would know them by their fruit requires an assessment and determination concerning their character.
It is interesting that in Paul’s list of criteria for those who will serve as overseers in the church, each requirement is related to character (I Timothy 3:1-7). No matter how well a person may preach; no matter how well they may prophesy; no matter how well they may sing, the Bible is very clear that character counts.
When in question about a situation or person, don’t be afraid to apply the “character test.” This is not a demand for perfection, but an insistence on integrity, honesty and uprightness.
Concluding Thought

When it comes to the supernatural, we should have an attitude of being open without being naïve and being critical without being judgmental. This will allow us to enjoy the fullness of God's blessings and at the same time be protected from the many deceiving spirits at work in the world today.

Dr. Eddie Hyatt is an author, historian, Bible teacher and revivalist. His books on revival in church and American history are available from Amazon and from his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.