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.


Monday, December 19, 2016

COMPELLING HISTORICAL EVIDENCE FOR THE VIRGIN BIRTH OF JESUS CHRIST

Believing in Jesus Christ and His miraculous birth does not require the so-called “blind leap of faith.” In fact, there is as much evidence for the virgin birth of Christ as any event of ancient history. Here are 5 compelling reasons for believing the Gospel story, that Jesus Christ was supernaturally born of a virgin.
1. Documented by a physician and world-class historian
2. Modern archaeology affirms it
3. An agnostic professor of mythology is convinced
4. Old Testament prophets predicted it centuries in advance
5. The earliest Christians believed it universally
1. Documented by a physician & world-class historian
At the beginning of his Gospel, Luke indicates that he has made a thorough investigation of the things about which he is writing, which included his utilization of eyewitness accounts. He 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.
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.
The well-known Greek scholar, Kenneth S. Wuest, noted Luke's attention to detail and in his book, Word Studies in the Greek New Testament, he said, "If Mary was still alive, he, a doctor of medicine, investigated the story of the virgin birth by hearing it from Mary's own lips."
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.
Sir William Ramsay, who spent years in Asia Minor following and examining Luke's account of Paul's travels, wrote in The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, "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."
We have every reason to assume that Luke's carefulness to get his facts right extended to his account of the birth of Christ. Luke, in fact, 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.
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 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 was a student of the skeptical, German higher criticism of the 19th 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 digs 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.
Over the next 20 years, he published other volumes showing how he discovered Luke to be accurate in the tiniest details of his account. The evidence was so overwhelming that many atheists gave up their atheism and embraced Christianity.
At one time, it was thought that Luke had completely missed the boat 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, archaeological discoveries proved the critics to be wrong. In the case of Quirinius, it was found that he had actually served two separate terms as governor, the first beginning around 7 B.C., which fits perfectly with the time of Christ's birth. 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.
Archaeology has, indeed, affirmed the Biblical record, including Luke's account of the birth of Christ. As William F. Albright, the renowned archaeologist and late professor of Semitic languages at John Hopkins University, 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 atheism, 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 20th 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 beloved 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 by "The Apostle's Creed," an early confession of faith that dates from the second century and was used throughout the 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 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.
Note the words of the 18th 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!
Conclusion
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 in The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict 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. Believing in Christ does not require a so-called "blind leap of faith." 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 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.

Dr. Eddie L. Hyatt is an author, historian, and Biblical scholar with a vision for Spiritual awakening in America and throughout the earth. His books are available from Amazon and you can read about his vision for America at www.eddiehyatt.com.


Thursday, December 8, 2016

WHY THE PILGRIMS REFUSED TO CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS AND WHAT WE CAN LEARN FROM THEIR EXAMPLE

“Monday, the 25th day, we went on shore, some to fell timber, some to saw, some to split, some to carry, so no man rested all that day. But towards night we came on board again. That night we had a sore storm of wind and rain.”
The above is from the journal of one of the Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower who recorded their activities for December 25, 1620, their first Christmas in America. There is no mention of Christmas because the Pilgrims, you see, did not celebrate Christmas. They considered it a pagan holiday instituted by the Roman Catholic Church and carried on by the Church of England from which they had separated.
Conviction Matters
I do not agree with the Pilgrims rejection of Christmas, but I do respect and admire their conviction. You and I would not be enjoying the blessings of freedom and prosperity we have known if it had not been for people like them—people of conviction—who were willing to suffer loss rather than compromise their convictions.
They were willing to be ostracized, harassed and imprisoned in England because of their conviction that Jesus (not the king or the pope) is the Head of the Church and that the Bible (not church tradition) is our primary guide.
These convictions eventually led them to leave home, family and friends and begin a new life in a New World. They were people of conviction and we have been incredibly blessed because of their faith and because they were true to their convictions.
I admire the Pilgrims, not because I agree with them on every point, but because they were people of faith, principle, and conviction. The early American historian, Dr. Samuel Morrison said, “They were equal to any standard of excellence known to history. Their range was narrow, but in it they were supreme.”
The Need for Conviction in the Church Today
It has been said that, “Those who do not stand for something, will fall for anything.” In other words, unless, like the Pilgrims, we have a core set of convictions for which we are willing to die, we are susceptible to being led astray by whatever is popular and convenient at a given time.
This is happening today in regards to issues concerning marriage, life, and even the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. I recently heard a well-known evangelical pastor asked by Oprah Winfrey if Jesus is the only way to God. I was shocked when, instead of giving a clear and direct answer, he danced in circles as though not to offend this entertainment icon who has made known her belief that there are many ways to God.
People of Conviction Shape History
We may not agree with Pilgrims stance on Christmas, but we can certainly follow their example of remaining true to one’s convictions even when it is not the most popular thing to do. By remaining true to their convictions, they played a major role in giving birth to the United States of America.
Speaking of the fruit that came from the Pilgrims and their commitment to follow their convictions, the historian, Benjamin Hart, says,
What Abraham Lincoln described as government “of the people, by the people and for the people,” was inherited from a tradition beginning with the Congregationalist Protestant settlement in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in the 1620s (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 38).
By the way, the Pilgrims did not have the rich Christmas hymnody that is at our disposal today. They lived before “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” “Joy to the World,” “Noel,” and so many others.
As I recently listened to one of these carols that celebrates the coming of Christ, I thought how the Pilgrims probably would have celebrated Christmas if they had known such Christ-honoring Christmas hymns. After all, they had left everything because of their conviction that God had come to save this world in the person of Jesus Christ.
Christmas is a Great Opportunity to Share Our Conviction
If we are convinced that Jesus Christ is the only, unique Son of God who has provided salvation for all people, then we should take advantage of this Christmas holiday to make Him known throughout the land.
It doesn’t really matter that December 25 is not the actual day of Christ’s birth. It doesn’t really matter that Constantine “Christianized” a pagan holiday, just like it does not really matter that the former owner of my Gibson guitar may have used it to play ungodly music in ungodly places.
We as Christians should seize the moment and confront the world with the true meaning of Christmas--that God came to this world in the person of Jesus Christ and confronted this world with His love and a call to repentance.
Paul expressed this to the intellectual elite of Athens when he recounted to them their various misconceptions of God and then declared;
Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead (Acts 17:30-31).
So, this Christmas let’s forget about political correctness. Let’s forget about Holiday Trees and Happy Holiday greetings. Let’s be people of conviction and let the world know the true meaning of Christmas.

Dr. Eddie L. Hyatt is an author, historian, and Biblical scholar. His latest book, Pilgrims and Patriots, documents the unique Christian origins of the United States of America and is available from Amazon and from his website at www.eddiehyatt.com





Friday, December 2, 2016

A POWERFUL LESSON ABOUT LIFE FROM MY BROTHER'S DEATH

On Wednesday of this past week, I preached the funeral service for my older brother, Royce “Pete” Hyatt, the last surviving member of my family. Pete was not just a brother, he was also the very best of friends and a faithful supporter of our ministry. He was a rock of strength to his family and all who knew him. He will be sorely missed.
Pete, who was seven years older than me, faced death the way he faced life—with faith and courage. Three weeks before his death, he asked that we stop praying for healing, stating that he wanted to go home. 
He made his funeral easy for us in that he planned the entire service and insisted that it be a celebration of his home going that would bring glory and honor to God. I believe his wishes were fulfilled.
There were tears but even more laughter and shouts of praise during the service. There were several songs and Pete even arranged to sing at his own funeral via a CD. At his request, I was the last of four ministers who spoke.
The service lasted for more than 90 minutes. Afterwards, an elderly woman said to me, “That is the only funeral I have ever attended that I enjoyed.”
As a young man, Pete served in the United States Marine Corps and his coffin was draped with an American flag. There was a military honor guard at his graveside featuring the haunting sound of “Taps’ being blown on the bugle, the official folding of the flag, with it being presented to his widow, Betty.
A Deep Faith with a Touch of Humor
In life, Pete exhibited a blend of a deep faith, strength, and a unique “Pete Hyatt” sense of humor. These characteristics were obvious right to the very end.
For example, shortly before his death, several came during the day and visited with him at his bedside. Others called and he talked with them and encouraged them in their faith. By the end of the day, he was quite weary.
As night was falling the phone rang again and as Betty reached for the phone, Pete said, “Tell them that Elvis has left the building.”
Pete was a giver and he often mixed his giving with his humor. For example, he was a mechanic and taught auto mechanics for twenty-two years at the high school in Honey Grove, Texas.
During those years, I would take our car to him when it needed repairs. Even though he already supported our ministry with a monthly financial gift, he would always finish the job by handing me money and with a smile and twinkle in his eye, say, “This is for you letting me work on your car.”
A Powerful Lesson About Death & Life
In my message, I quoted the words of Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over till it’s over.” From there, I emphasized that for the Christian, death is not final. It’s not over! In fact, this is a new beginning for Pete Hyatt.
At the end of my message, I opened it up for comments from any of the several hundred people who packed the Gospel Lighthouse in Powderly, TX. Several stood and spoke of how Pete had impacted their lives. His son, Jim, expressed the feelings of many when, through tears, he said it had been hard to imagine life without his Dad.
Interestingly, I had grappled with the same feelings while making the two-hour drive for the funeral service. I had inwardly struggled when I thought of going to his home and he would no longer be there.
I had just had a very painful tooth extracted and this added to the struggle that left me feeling physically and emotionally drained. But God broke through.
I lifted my heart to the Lord and said, “Lord, I need you to fill me with Your Holy Spirit. I need your strength.” Immediately, I heard these words,
"Think on the living, not the dead. Don’t mourn for Pete. He has finished his race and he is OK. Think on the ones that remain and are still running their race. Think on how you can help and encourage them."
I knew it was the Holy Spirit, and immediately the weakness and struggle dissipated.
Run to Win
Yes, Pete has finished his race. He ran well. You and I are all still running. I, therefore, want to leave you with I Corinthians 9:24 from the New Living Translation. It reads, Don’t you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!
Let’s run to win!

Eddie Hyatt is the founder of "The Revive America Project" and the author of several books including his latest entitled Pilgrims and Patriots with the subtitle, The Radical Christian Roots of American Democracy and Freedom. Check out his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.

Friday, October 7, 2016

DAY OF ATONEMENT, REVIVAL & HYPER-GRACE

Many today are talking about revival and another Great Awakening in the land. Such an Awakening, however, is being hindered, I believe, by a misunderstanding and misapplication of Jesus Christ’s atoning death. Since this Tuesday-Wednesday is the Jewish “Day of Atonement,” I have decided to take it as an opportunity to share my thoughts on how a fresh look at the Atonement can lead to Spiritual awakening.
Understanding the Atonement
October 11-12 is Yom Kippur, or “Day of Atonement,” the most holy day of the year on the Jewish calendar. Yom means “day” and Kippur is probably derived from the Hebrew kofer, meaning “ransom.” It falls on two of our calendar days because the Jewish day begins and ends at sunset.
It was on this Day of Atonement that the Old Testament high priest went into the holy of holies, and with animal sacrifices, made sacrificial atonement for the sins of the people of Israel (Leviticus 16). Interestingly, there was to be absolutely no work on this Day. This Day was God’s idea and God’s work, with the high priest being the one carrying out the proceedings.
The Old Testament Day of Atonement was a type and foreshadowing of the atoning death of Jesus Christ, not just for Israel, but for the world. Jesus Himself said in Mark 10:45 that He had come to give His life a ransom for many. Paul speaks of the death of Christ as a sacrifice, even referring to Him as our Passover lamb. (I Corinthians 5:7).
Chapters 9 and 10 of Hebrews likens the death of the Christ to the Day of Atonement. The writer pictures Jesus as both high priest and sacrifice. Contrasting the power of Christ's offering with the temple offerings that had to be offered year after year, the writer says, For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified (Hebrews 10:14).
As both fully God and fully human, Christ’s death was vicarious and efficacious for the whole world, making it possible for mankind to be reconciled to God. Just like on Israel’s Day of Atonement, God did not ask or require our help in Christ’s atoning work. We have nothing to add. We can only come to Him and in faith and receive the benefits of the work He has already done.
A Serious Misunderstanding of the Atonement
One serious misunderstanding of the Atonement is the idea that its benefits are automatically applied regardless of attitude or behavior. This idea seems to run parallel with the popular teaching that since Christ has paid for my sins, I do not have to confess sins I commit or be watchful concerning sin.
This way of thinking downplays the need for repentance and has been labeled by opponents as “hyper-grace,” but is actually based on a misunderstanding of the nature of the Atonement.
The reasoning goes something like this. Jesus paid the penalty for all sins that have ever been, or ever will be, committed. Therefore, any sins I have committed in the past, or am committing now, or will commit in the future, have already been paid for, and borne away, by Christ. I, therefore, do not have to confess sin or be concerned with sin. There is no longer a sin problem for me or for the human race.
The Benefits of the Atonement Must Be Appropriated
For many, this theory has an attractive ring to it, but it is at odds with so many passages of Scripture. For example, Simon the Sorcerer, who had been baptized in the great Samaritan revival led by Philip, offered Peter and John money in return for the authority to lay hands on people to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Peter’s answer to him was very telling.
Peter said to Simon, Your money perish with you because you thought the gift of God could be purchased with money (Acts 8:20). Peter went on to say, Repent therefore of this your wickedness, and pray God if perhaps the thought of your heart may be forgiven you. (Acts 8:22).
Simon’s request had revealed the awful condition of his heart. Peter said that Simon, even though he had been baptized, was in a state of perishing and he called on Simon to repent of his wickedness and ask God for forgiveness.
Peter obviously did not see the benefits of the atonement being automatically applied in Simon’s case. He did not take Simon’s sin lightly. There was a need for repentance and contrition of heart on Simon’s part if he was going to experience the blessings and benefits of Christ’s atoning death.
Yes, the forgiveness and blessings of Christ’s atoning death are available to all, but must be appropriated by repentance and faith. This is why Paul, when speaking to the Ephesian elders, reminded them how he had testified to both Jews and Greeks, Repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.
This is why Paul expressed concern to the Corinthians about un-repented sin in their midst and said he feared that when he would come to them,
My God will humble me among you, and I shall mourn for many who have sinned before and have not repented of the uncleanness, fornication, and lewdness which they have practiced (I Corinthians 12:21).
No, the atoning merits of Christ’s death are not automatically applied across-the-board. The New Testament is filled with passages about the importance of repentance and faith in appropriating the forgiveness and blessings provided through Christ’s atoning death. This understanding is vital for another Great Awakening in our land.
The Nature of Christ’s Atoning Death
We must realize that the atonement of Jesus Christ was not a commercial transaction in which He paid the aggregate penalty for every single sin that ever was, or ever will be, committed. If this were the case, there would be no mercy or forgiveness on God’s part. God would be like an ice cold businessman who demands exact payment for every debt and obligation.
If such were the case, the sinner would be in the position of being able to demand his/her salvation from God since the precise debt for any sins they have committed, or ever will commit, has been paid. Salvation would not be a gift from God but something He owes and must give to every person regardless of their attitude, because the precise debt has been paid.
Instead, however, God is presented in Scripture as a merciful and caring being, willing to forgive those who come to Him in reverence and faith. The word “forgive” means “to remit” or “to cancel” or “to write off.” Because of what Christ has done, God is willing to “remit” or “write off” our sins when we put our faith in Jesus Christ and His atoning work through the cross.
We, therefore, should not think of the Atonement in terms of a quantitative payment for every individual sin. We should, instead, think of the Atonement in terms of “quality.” It was the quality of the sacrifice--Jesus Christ being God incarnate--that made His sacrifice acceptable in the sight of God and the basis for God to offer amnesty and pardon to a race of rebels, if they will only come to Him in repentance and faith.
The death of Christ on the cross was a public demonstration of God’s love for humanity and a public showing of His willingness to grant forgiveness and new life to those who will come to Him in repentance and faith. It also, however, showed the terribleness of sin and provided satisfaction for the just nature of a holy God who cannot wink at sin.
Let’s Take a Lesson from History
On the Old Testament Day of Atonement, the people were instructed to “afflict their souls.” In other words, they were to examine themselves and repent of wrong and sinful attitudes and behavior. But is such an approach appropriate for a New Testament believer?
In I Corinthians 11:27-32 Paul cautions the Corinthian believers about taking communion in an "unworthy manner," that is, with unconfessed sin in their lives. Communion is a celebration of Christ's atoning death and sin is not to be treated in a light, trivial manner by those who participate. Paul then instructed, Let a man [person] examine himself and so let him eat . . .. In verse 31 he says, But if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged, but when we are judged we are chastened by the Lord that we may not be condemned with the world

As New Covenant believers with the indwelling Holy Spirit, we judge ourselves by opening our hearts to the Lord and inviting Him to show us anything in our lives that is displeasing to Him. As He brings attitudes and behavior to our attention, we then acknowledge, or confess, our sins before the Lord as we are instructed to do in I John 1:9, a passage and letter written to believers. The results of such repentance and confession can be astounding.

This was the experience of a church, described by Charles Finney, that led to great revival. Through the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, the leaders of this church came to realize that in seeking numbers and recognition from the culture and community leaders, they had compromised their commitment to Christ. They, therefore, formulated a public statement concerning their “backsliding and want of a Christian spirit” (Hyatt, Pilgrims and Patriots, 177).
It was submitted to the congregation for their approval and then read before the congregation. As the confession was being read publicly, the entire congregation stood to its feet with many of its members weeping. Finney said that, from that moment on, the revival went forward in great power, and the opposition, which had been bitter, was silenced.
A Lesson from the Prodigal Son
Jesus told the parable of the Prodigal Son to reveal the merciful, forgiving heart of God. However, the parable also reveals the attitude of heart in which the wayward son or daughter must return to the Father.
After coming to the end of himself in the pigpen, the prodigal departed for home with a different attitude. He determined that on arriving home, he would say to the Father, Father I have sinned against heaven and in Your sight and I am no longer worthy to called your son. Make me as one of your hired servants (Luke 15:18-19).
The prodigal was not perfect. He probably smelled like a pigpen. He probably had pig manure on his shoes and straw in his hair. But he had left the pig pen with a changed attitude and was headed in the right direction, back to the Father’s house. That is a picture of true repentance.
When the Father saw him afar off He ran and fell on his neck weeping. He then brought him into the house, completely restored him to his place in the family, and initiated a time of rejoicing for his safe return.
Appropriate the Atonement Blessings Today
God rejoices today when erring sinners return to Him in faith and sincerity of heart. If you have never appropriated the wonderful forgiveness and blessings of Christ’s Atonement, I urge you to do so today. Come to Him now in faith and sincerity of heart. He will receive you with open arms.
If you are a believer, I urge you to invite the Holy Spirit to search your heart for any attitudes, or any compromise with the world, that are displeasing to Him. As He brings these sins and weights to our minds and we confess them before Him with contrition of heart, I am convinced that we will see a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon our lives, our churches, our nation, and the world.

Dr. Eddie L. Hyatt is an author, Bible teacher, and ordained minister with a vision for another Great Spiritual Awakening in America and around the world. His latest book, Pilgrims and Patriots, documents how America was birthed out of prayer and the First Great Awakening. To schedule him to speak at your church, conference, or college, send an email to dreddiehyatt@gmail.com, and visit his website at www.eddiehyatt.com.