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9/24/2014

THE MESSAGE THAT COULD SAVE AMERICA

“The Declaration of Independence of 1776 was a direct result of the preaching of the evangelists of the Great Awakening,” was the determination of the late Harvard professor, Perry Miller. But what was it about the preaching of Jonathan Edwards, Gilbert Tennant, George Whitefield and others that would lead this Harvard professor, a recognized expert in Puritanism and early American history, to make such a statement?
In considering this question over a number of years, it has become obvious that it was not the act or style of preaching, for there were very diverse styles; from Jonathan Edwards, who wrote out his sermons and read them in a monotone voice without movements or gestures, to George Whitefield who preached extemporaneously with much fire and movement.
Has Style Preempted Substance in Modern Preaching?
This also led me to question whether, in our day, style has not taken precedence over substance in our preaching; and if technique has not preempted content? I recall inviting a young preacher to speak in a meeting I was conducting. At one point in his message, he became very flamboyant; standing on a chair, waving his arms and shouting. I thought to myself, “He has run out of anything to say and is trying compensate for it.”
Sure enough, later that evening in the hotel, this person said to me, “There was a point in my message tonight where my mind seemed to go blank.” I asked, “Was that when you climbed up on the chair?” With a note of surprise in his voice he asked, “How did you know?” It reminded me of the preacher who was preparing his 3 point sermon, and realized that Point 3 needed to be buttressed. In the margin next to that point he wrote, “Weak point; pound pulpit.”
The Message Matters
In researching and considering this, it has become clear that it was the message itself that Edwards, Whitefield and others preached that brought the results. We should not be surprised for this is what Paul tells us in I Cor. 1:18; that it is not the mere act of preaching that produces fruit for the kingdom of God, but the message that is preached. Style may stir the emotions, but it can never change the heart. In fact, Paul says that if we go too far in trying to make the message cool, hip, and acceptable to contemporary culture, we run the risk of preaching a Gospel that is emptied of its power.
The Great Awakening, of course, had its problems and excesses as does any revival, and as does any Christian movement. Nonetheless, my research leads me to say that the results of the Great Awakening should be credited to the message that was preached, backed by much prayer, and to messengers who lived like they believed what they preached.
Below, I have delineated 7 emphases that made up the message they preached. This message transformed colonial America and, according to Perry Miller, led to the Declaration of Independence of 1776. Perhaps there are lessons we can learn from their example as we pray for another Great Awakening in our land.
Their Message
1) God is a great, majestic and holy Being who created all things and to whom all creatures owe their love, honor, and respect.
2) Adam and Eve, our first parents, rebelled against their Creator and went their own way, dragging their posterity down with them into the abyss of sin and judgment, into what, in historical theology, is known as “the fall.”
3) The human race in its current state is a rebellious and fallen race. All people stand guilty and condemned before an infinitely just and holy God.
4) God in His sovereign mercy and grace now offers full pardon and forgiveness of sins to all who will put their faith in Jesus Christ the Savior whom God, in His sovereign grace, sent to die on the cross for our sins and to rise again for our salvation.
5) Get rid of faulty foundations. They emphasized that many professing Christians had built their faith on faulty foundations, such as church membership, good deeds, family pedigree, social status, and cultural refinement. They emphasized that these old foundations must be overturned and faith in Jesus Christ alone must be laid as the only foundation for righteousness and acceptance with God.
6) There must be a new birth. They emphasized that when one truly believes in Christ there is a work of regeneration by the Holy Spirit that occurs in the heart—a new birth—from which springs new desires and aspirations that are godly, producing a whole new tenor of life. They believed that one would be forever changed by this new birth, and the changed behavior they called the fruit of righteousness and faith.
7) They emphasized the eternal bliss in heaven for all who truly trust in Christ and the eternal suffering and damnation of all those who refuse God’s gracious gift of salvation in Christ.
America’s First National Event
The Great Awakening had a pervasive impact throughout colonial America. Entire cities were transformed. In his Autobiography, Benjamin Franklin describes the wonderful change that came over his hometown of Philadelphia, saying, “From being thoughtless and indifferent about religion, it seemed as if all the world was growing religious so that one could not walk through the town in an evening without hearing psalms sung in different families of every street” (Hyatt, America’s Revival Heritage, 53).
It was the first time the colonists of different ethnicities, denominations and languages had participated together in a single event. Franklin said of Whitefield’s outdoor meetings, “The multitudes of all sects and denominations that attended his sermons were enormous.” Denominational and ethnic walls came down and for the first time they saw themselves as a single people with one Divine destiny—one nation under God, as Whitefield prayed.
The preaching of the evangelists of the Great Awakening tended to democratize Colonial society by putting everyone on the same level—guilty sinners before God—with only one remedy for all—unfeigned faith in Jesus Christ. We can see the fruit of this in the American Constitution where in Section 9 the Founders forbade the American government from granting honorific titles of nobility to anyone and forbade anyone holding a government office from accepting a title or office from a foreign king or state without the consent of Congress. There was to be no aristocracy in the new nation.
Conclusion
America is probably facing its greatest crisis since the Civil War. It is a crisis on multiple levels—moral, spiritual, political and social. While many Christians hold out hope for a political solution, the First Great Awakening would inform us that only a new commitment to preach Biblical truth in love and in the power of the Holy Spirit will bring the change that America must see in the days ahead.

After all, it was not some newfangled revelation that was preached by Edwards, Whitefield and others. It was an old message made alive through prayer and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. It was the same message preached by those first apostles and followers of Jesus, and found in our New Testament. It saved our country before, and it can do it again.


Dr. Eddie Hyatt is an author, Bible teacher and ordained minister with a passion to see another Great Awakening for America and the world. This article was derived from his book, America's Revival Heritage, available from Amazon and his website at http://www.eddiehyatt.com/bookstore.html.



9/15/2014

WHY IT'S TIME TO PURGE THE MESSAGE

By now you have probably heard about the firestorm of controversy Victoria Osteen ignited by her statement that our obedience and worship are not really for God, but for ourselves. I am not a fan of the Osteens and I have not watched their telecast in years; but I believe they are good, decent people who want to reach as many people as possible with the Good News of Jesus.
But this is precisely where we have to be cautious; for in trying to make the Gospel palatable and likeable to contemporary culture, we run the risk of preaching a Gospel that is void of power. Paul emphasizes this in I Corinthians 1:17 where he says that Christ did not send him to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with words of human wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power (NIV).
Paul seems to be saying that if we over-do it in trying to make the Gospel more snappy, hip, cool, and attractive to contemporary culture, we run the risk of preaching a gospel that has been emptied of its power. Could this be happening in American Christianity?
Purge the Message
Some years ago Sue (my wife) and I attended an intensive, week-long doctoral seminar on World Missions which was part of our doctoral work in the School of Divinity at Regent University. About forty pastors and Christian leaders attended this intense week-long, eight-hour per day seminar.
All week we discussed and heard lectures on “how-to” methods for bringing closure to the Great Commission. We heard lectures on the importance of “contextualizing” the Gospel, i.e., putting it in the context of a particular culture to make it more palatable and acceptable. We heard about, and discussed, various strategies and methodologies for funding missions and how to motivate others to be involved.
On Thursday at about 4 p.m., someone suggested that we pray. Sue put her head on the table at which we were sitting, feeling relieved that she could close her eyes and rest and no one would know the difference. God, however, had other plans. The Spirit of God hit her like a bolt of lightning and she began to weep and intercede in the Spirit.
It was an intense moment and out of that time of prayer, God spoke a clear message that has become a guiding principle for our lives and ministry. He said;
There is enough money and resources available to carry the Gospel Message to the whole world; and all week you have been preoccupied with strategies and methodologies for taking My Message to the world. However, I am concerned about the Message you are taking. I want to purge the Message.
God got our attention that day and made us realize that our focus had been misdirected. While we were preoccupied with strategies and methodologies for success in carrying the Message, God was concerned about the Message itself.
Paul Knew the Power of a Purged Message
Paul would probably not “make it” as a preacher in our celebrity-driven, North American Christian culture, where the packaging of the message seems to have precedence over the message itself. One ancient writer described Paul as an unattractive wiry little man, bow-legged, with a long hooked nose and bushy eyebrows that grew together across his forehead. By Paul’s own admission he was a poor speaker and in I Corinthians 4:11 he described himself as being, poorly clothed, beaten and homeless. Paul, however, had an edge because he knew he had a Message that was infused with Divine power.
Paul highlights the power of the Message by contrasting it with the weakness and frailty of the messenger, i.e., himself. For example, in I Corinthians 1:3, he reminds the Corinthians how when he first came to them, I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. The Greek word for “weakness” is astheneia and means to be frail, powerless and without strength. The word “fear” is a translation of the Greek word phobo from which we get “phobia” and means to be afraid, fearful, and struck with terror. The phrase “much trembling” is from the Greek word tromo from which we get “trauma” and means to shake and tremble with fear.
In other words, when Paul arrived in Corinth, he did not come across as a cool, hip, and with-it individual. He certainly did not fit the modern (distorted) concept of a great apostle or man of God about to take a city for God. He did not attract people to himself by his charming, charismatic personality. Neither did he wow them with great oratorical sermons. He sounds, by his own description, like an emotional basket case wracked with weakness, fear, and trauma.
The one thing Paul had going for him when he arrived in the immoral, idolatrous city of Corinth was that he knew he had a clear distinct Message from heaven. And he was determined to stay on message, for he reminded the Corinthians that when he arrived in that weakened state, he had determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
What was the result? He tells us himself that there was a mighty demonstration of God’s power in Corinth and a flourishing (if somewhat rowdy) church emerged in that city that prompted at least two letters from Paul and some scholars think as many as four.
Conclusion
The temptation is to modify and shape the message to fit the sensibilities and tastes of contemporary culture. This is a temptation we must avoid. If we have yielded to this temptation, we must allow the Lord to purge the message we are proclaiming. In Christianity, the Message is of paramount importance.
Jesus did not leave His followers with a method, a strategy or an organizational model to follow. He left them with a Message and promised the empowering of the Holy Spirit as they took His message to the world. Early Christianity conquered the ancient world, not with political or military might, but with a Message. In all our planning and strategizing to reach this generation with the Gospel, it is of utmost importance that we make sure that it is His Message that we are presenting.
I pray that every preacher, teacher, writer and blogger in America will bring the message they proclaim before God and allow Him to do any necessary purging. This is of utmost importance for the power to change lives is in the Message itself as Paul said in Roman 1:16, For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes. Proclaiming a purged message is, I believe, a key for seeing another great Spiritual awakening in America.


Dr. Eddie L. Hyatt is an author, historian and Bible teacher. This article is derived in part from his latest book, PURSING POWER: How the Quest for Apostolic Authority & Control Has Divided and Damaged the Church, available from Amazon and his website at http://www.eddiehyatt.com/bookstore.html.

9/04/2014

MR. PRESIDENT, STOP THE SLAUGHTER

An Open Letter to President Barack Obama
Deliver those who are drawn toward death, and hold back those stumbling to the slaughter. If you say, “Surely we did not know this,” does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds? (Proverbs 24:11-12).
Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in the power of your hand to do so (Proverbs 3:27).

Dear Mr. President,
Your tepid response to the genocidal slaughter of Christians in Iraq and Syria is frightening. Your hesitancy and tentativeness in formulating a clear strategy to end this butchery of innocent people is alarming. Mr. President, with all due respect for you and the office you occupy, you have a moral responsibility before God to stop the slaughter of innocent men, women and children by the ISIS fanatics in the Middle East.

The power that comes with the presidency is not about privilege; it is about responsibility. God places kings, prime ministers and presidents in positions of power to resist the evil in this world and rescue those who are abused and victimized by evil. God will hold you accountable for how you use the power with which you were entrusted by the American people. 

Romans 13:1-5 makes it clear that God expects government officials to use the power at their disposal to instill fear and terror in those who are evil. Verse 4 goes so far as to call the one in your position, An avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Mr. President you have a moral obligation from God to use the power at your disposal to stop the ISIS evil—to put an end to their genocidal crucifixions and beheadings of innocent men, women and children.

I have no question that a strategic operation to rescue the poor people who are being slaughtered by ISIS would have the approval of heaven and the majority of the American people. I and millions of others would pray for the quick success of such an operation, which would not only rescue thousands from the current genocide, but would stop ISIS from carrying out plans to attack the American homeland.

I realize that Washington D.C runs on sleazy politics on both sides of the political aisle, but this cannot be a decision based on political calculations. Politics must be set aside. This is a decision that must be made based on a moral imperative to rescue those being led away for slaughter. It is a decision that must be made with more concern for what God thinks than what politicians, lobbyists and the media think. I pray you have the courage to make such a decision.

Mr. President, there comes a time in everyone's life when they must choose between what is right, and what is comfortable and politically convenient. That time has come to Washington D.C. I pray that you and your colleagues, both Democrat and Republican, will have the moral courage to stand for truth, choose what is right, and use the power at your disposal to stop the genocidal rape and slaughter of innocent people.

My prayers are with you as you make this decision.

Sincerely,


Eddie L. Hyatt



Dr. Eddie L. Hyatt is an author, historian, and Bible teacher. He is the author of several books on Spiritual Awakening including AMERICA'S REVIVAL HERITAGE: How Christian Reformation & Spiritual Awakening Led to the Formation of the United States of America, available from Amazon and hiswebsite at http://www.eddiehyatt.com/bookstore.html.

9/02/2014

5 WARNING SIGNS THAT PROPHETIC MINISTRY HAS GONE AWRY

Solemn Lessons from a 16th Century 
Revival-Prophetic Movement that Lost its Way

This article was derived from 2000 Years of Charismatic Christianity by Eddie L. Hyatt and published by Charisma House

I received an email earlier today from a Christian leader in another country expressing concern about the over-emphasis on personal prophecy for direction in life. It motivated me to pull out an article I had written about 12-14 years ago on the topic and send to this person. But as I read over the article again, I was impressed at how vital it is for today, and I decided to do an edit, adding "Biblical Insights" to the historical section. I pray this new edition will be a wake-up call to this generation and remind us of the Biblical admonition to test the spirits whether they be of God for many false prophets have gone out into the world (I John 4:1).

Prophetic ministry has great potential for blessing and building up the people of God. But when abused and misused, it has the same potential to trouble and destroy. In order to derive the greatest benefit from prophetic ministry, we need both the guidelines of Scripture and the lessons from history to point the way.


The following information is drawn from a document written around 1560 by Obe Philips, a leader in the sixteenth century Anabaptist movement that sought the restoration of New Testament Christianity. Philips was commissioned as an “apostle” in this movement and he commissioned others to this “office.” The document, entitled “Confessions,” describes events in Europe in the 1530s. From this document I have delineated 5 warning signs from their experience that can help us avoid the tragic mistakes that produced such great suffering and distress for them.
Warning Sign #1
When prophecy is used to enhance
the status of a movement and its leaders
1517-1537 was a very exciting time for many Christians in Europe. A great spiritual reformation was under way and many believed that God was restoring the church to its original purity and power. Many believed that out of this restoration would come a great revival and harvest that would usher in the coming of the Lord and the end of the age.
In the midst of this end-time, revival atmosphere, individuals began to arise proclaiming themselves to be special end-time apostles and prophets endowed by God with miraculous power to usher in His kingdom upon the earth.
One of the most prominent of these “apostles” was Melchoir Hoffman, a powerful preacher and teacher who gained a large following. His status was further enhanced when a prophetess saw in a vision a large white swan, larger and more beautiful than all the others, swimming in a beautiful river. She claimed it was revealed to her that the swan was Hoffman and that he represented the fulfillment of God’s promise in Mal. 4:5 to send Elijah before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
Biblical Insight: Beware of anyone who uses prophecy to promote themselves, their ministry or their teaching. The Holy Spirit has come lift up Jesus and draw all humanity unto Him. We must remember the words given to John by the creature at his side in Revelation 19:10. Overwhelmed at the sight of a vast heavenly host worshipping and praising God, John fell at the feet of his heavenly escort to worship him, who immediately stopped him and said, See that you do not do that. Worship God! For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus. And in John 16:13 Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit would come, He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is mine and declare it to you. Beware of anyone who uses prophecy to promote themselves, their ministry or their teaching. The Holy Spirit has come lift up Jesus and draw all humanity unto Him.

Warning Sign #2When prophecy becomes the primary
means for determining the will of God
Another individual prophesied that Hoffman would be imprisoned for six months in the city of Strasbourg and, after that, his ministry would spread over the whole world. Based on the prophecy, Hoffman moved to Strasbourg where he began to preach and teach throughout that city.
The first part of the prophecy was fulfilled when the Strasbourg authorities arrested Hoffman and had him imprisoned. Philips says that he entered the prison “willingly, cheerfully, and well comforted,” convinced that the latter part of the prophecy would now soon come to pass.
While in prison, Hoffman wrote many letters which Philips says came every day describing “how his actions, his visions and revelations affected him.” One individual prophesied that at the end of his six month imprisonment, Hoffman would depart Strasbourg with 144,000 true apostles endowed with such miraculous power that no one would be able to resist them. Elated with such prophetic predictions, Hoffman vowed that he would take no food other than bread and water until the time of his deliverance.
Six months passed, however, and he was not released. More time elapsed and he found it necessary to break his fast. Hoffman eventually died in prison, a very disillusioned man. Philips says;
Everything that he so boldly professed from the prophets and prophetesses, he, in the end, found it all falsehood and deception, in fact and in truth; and he was so deceived with all their visions, prophecies, commission, dreams, and Elijah role that my heart today feels pity for his on account of this distress of his soul.
Biblical Insight: It is clear from Scripture that personal prophecy is not for giving direction in life. There is not a single example of such in the New Testament. The only example of a personal prophecy giving direction is in Acts 21:4 where certain disciples, by the Spirit, told Paul, who was on his way to Jerusalem, not to go up to Jerusalem. What did Paul do? He ignored what they said and continued on to Jerusalem. Prophecy must confirm what we already know in our heart and Paul had already purposed in the Spirit to go to Jerusalem (Acts 19:21).
Warning Sign #3
When prophecy is preoccupied
with images, numbers, and symbols
Prophetic dreams and visions flourished in this movement. These dreams and visions predicted many remarkable things related to the establishing of God’s kingdom and the destruction of the wicked. Much of this information was given in symbolic form which had to be interpreted by those who were “spiritual.” Philips says,
One came dragging a wagon without wheels, another wagon had three wheels, one wagon had no shaft, some no horses, some no recognizable driver, some had but one leg, some were lepers and beggars, some wore a tunic or a cloak with a lappet of fur. All this they could interpret for the brethren in a spiritual sense
These prophecies, dreams and visions predicted remarkable successes for the people of God, including a super-empowerment of the Spirit by which they would be enabled to overcome the wicked and establish the kingdom of God in the earth. In his very moving account of these matters, Philips says,
Now when these teachings and consolation with all the fantasies, dreams, revelations and visions daily occurred among the brethren, there was no little joy and expectation among us, hoping all would be true and fulfilled, for we were all unsuspecting, innocent, simple, without guile or cunning, and were not aware of any false visions, prophets, and revelations.
Biblical Insight: In the New Testament God communicates very clearly and precisely to His people. When He spoke to Ananias in a vision about going and praying for Paul, God gave him precise instructions (Acts 9:10-12). He told Ananias the name of the man he was to pray for, the name of the man in whose house Paul was staying and the precise street address. When God does speak in a symbol or image, it is for the purpose of communicating a more clear and vivid message. It is never done as a riddle that must be searched out and solved. God wants to communicate clearly with His children.
Warning Sign #4
When those prophesying are not
open to testing and/or correction
During this time, two new apostles arrived in Philips’ home town of Leeuwarden. They declared that they had been commissioned to the apostolic office with such signs, miracles and workings of the Spirit that words failed them to describe it. They also declared that, “In a short time God would rid the earth of all shedders of blood and all tyrants and the godless” (Philips, 216).
Philips says that they frightened the people so that no one dared speak against them for fear they would be speaking against the commission and ordination of God. “For we were all guileless children and had no idea that our own brethren would betray us.”
Biblical Insight: False prophets are unteachable and unwilling for their prophecies to be evaluated and tested, as Scripture commands. Virtually every time New Testament Scriptures speak of prophecy, they also speak of evaluating and testing the prophecy, which is the responsibility of every believer. I Thessalonians 5:19-21, for example, says, Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is God. I Corinthians 14:29 says, Let two or three prophets speak and let the others judge. And in this same vein of thought, I John 4:1 says, Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Sign #5
When prophecy becomes a replacement
for the Scriptures and common sense
The tragic end of this prophetic movement came when, based on dreams, visions, prophecies, and supposed angelic visitations, a number of these visionaries claimed that God had designated the city of Munster as the New Jerusalem and from there the kingdom of God would spread through all the earth. Philips says, “Some had spoken with God, others with angels—until they got a new trek under way to Munster.” Based on the prophecies and supposed visions, they went to Munster and took the city by force from the Catholics who controlled it and renamed it New Jerusalem.
The Catholics, however, quickly regrouped and regained control of the city. They wasted no time in inflicting a terrible slaughter on those apostles, prophets and their followers who believed they were setting up the kingdom of God on the earth.
This whole fiasco resulted in widespread persecution of all Anabaptists who were hunted down, imprisoned, hanged, burned, and drowned. Philips later lamented his role in the extremes of this movement. He wrote,
It is this which is utter grief to my heart and which I will lament before my God as long as I live, before all my companions, as often as I think of them. At the time that I took leave of those brethren, I had warned Menno and Dietrich and declared my [apostolic] commission unlawful and that I was therein deceived. I thank the gracious and merciful God who opened my eyes, humbled my soul, transformed my heart, captured my spirit, and who gave me to know my sins. And when I still think of the resigned suffering which occurred among the brethren, my soul is troubled and terrified before it.
Biblical Insight: In Psalm 119:105 David said, Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. When Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness to doubt His identity, He responded to each temptation with, It is written, and then quoted the appropriate passage of Scripture. John Wesley, who saw many unusual spiritual manifestations as the leader of the 18th century Methodist revival, said, “Try all things by the written word, and let all bow down before it.”
Conclusion
This 16th century prophetic movement highlights the need to “test the spirits” and to “judge” prophetic utterances according to the Scriptures. For the most part, these were sincere, seeking people who suffered much pain, grief and even death because they neglected this Biblical admonition. May we learn from their example and not repeat their mistakes.


Dr. Eddie L. Hyatt is an author, historian and Bible teacher. His current mission is “Revive America,” a project committed to laying the Biblical and historical foundation for another Great Awakening in America. His website is http://www.eddiehyatt.com.