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10/30/2014

NO TIME FOR SILENCE CONCERNING MARRIAGE & SEXUALITY

All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent - Thomas Jefferson
God’s original plan for marriage was one man and one woman together in a life-long committed relationship; with the two becoming one (Genesis 1-2). This model was instituted by God Himself at the time of creation. The account of this creation of the man and woman concludes with the statement, For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and the two shall become one.
Jesus affirmed this original model of marriage saying that it had been so ordained from the beginning; and He warned that what God had established or joined together must not be abrogated or put asunder by any human court or authority (Matthew 19:4-5). The well-known Greek scholar, Marvin A Vincent, confirms this by pointing out that the perfect tense of the verb used in this passage indicates that “the original ordinance has never been abrogated or superseded but continues in force.”
We Must Define the Issue
That being the case, why is it that so many evangelical Christian leaders are so reticent to make a clear, proactive statement about marriage? The most recent example is Bryan Houston who gave a very ambiguous response when asked by a New York Times reporter his position on same-sex marriage. His answer, in fact, was so vague that some thought he was affirming same-sex marriage. He later clarified that he does hold to a Biblical view of marriage but explained that he does not want to alienate particular groups, such as the GLBT, by making public statements of condemnation.
I understand that concern, but making a clear statement of God’s plan for marriage and sexuality is not condemning anyone. I understand the need to avoid being reactionary and condemnatory towards any social group, but when publicly asked to give our take on a moral issue that is confronting people every day, we have a responsibility to give a clear, proactive statement of Biblical truth. If we are silent or ambiguous then we leave it to other voices to define the issue for our culture. What a terrible dereliction of our duty!
Silence Opens the Door to Tyranny
All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent,” declared Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence and our third president. What Jefferson warned about is beginning to be played out in America today. A prime example is the recent unprecedented demand of the lesbian mayor of Houston for certain Houston pastors to turn over their sermons if they contained references to homosexuality and gender identification, all part of a lawsuit concerning gender neutral bathroom legislation passed by the city council.
Her bullying, however, created such an outcry of protest from across the nation that she has decided to withdraw the subpoenas. The lawyer for the pastors said, “They were only intended to intimidate and bully the pastors into silence.”
The question we should ask is, “What created an atmosphere in which this activist mayor would think she could get away with such an act that is in direct violation of the Constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion and freedom of speech?” I would suggest that the silence of so many Christian leaders on the issue has left a moral void that led this mayor to believe she could get away with such an act of tyranny. This is no time for silence!
Speak the Truth in Love
“Yes, we must show compassion but we must also speak the truth. Purporting to show love without speaking truth is mere sugar-coated niceness and will not bring healing and wholeness in a fallen world that is filled with lives that are broken by sin. If a surgeon withdraws the scalpel and leaves the cancer because the patient flinched and cried out in pain, he has not acted in love. In a similar way, if we draw back from speaking the truth to those whose lives are being destroyed by sin, we are not walking in love. You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free, Jesus said in John 8:32.
Declare the Whole Counsel of God
Paul revealed his sense of responsibility before God to speak the whole truth to his generation. This came forth in his visit with the elders of the church of Ephesus where he reminded these former pagans how, I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house. Because he had been forthcoming and not held back, Paul could then say, Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. (Acts 20:26-27; NIVUK).
In declaring himself innocent of the blood of any of you, Paul is alluding to the Old Testament account of God speaking to Ezekiel about his responsibility as a watchman for the house Israel. In Ezekiel 33:1-11, God reminded Ezekiel that a watchman is positioned on a city wall to watch for approaching danger and to then warn the inhabitants of that danger. God said that if the watchman sees danger approaching and blows the trumpet and warns the people, then regardless of what happens to the people and the city, the watchman is guiltless because he fulfilled his responsibility.
On the other hand, if the watchman sees danger approaching and does not blow the trumpet and warn the people and they are destroyed, the watchman is culpable for their deaths because he was silent and did not warn the people of the approaching danger. In a similar way, God told Ezekiel that if you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood (Ezekiel 33:8).
Paul, the preacher of grace, knew his responsibility to not be silent or compromising in the handling of God’s word. That is why he could say that he had declared the whole counsel of God, not just the fun and happy part. Paul, in fact, reminded them how, For three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears (Acts 20:31). In the Day of Judgment no one in Ephesus would be able to point at Paul and say, “He didn’t tell me.” It was because he had not been silent that Paul could say, I am free of the blood of any of you (Acts 20:26).
Final Thought
This is no time for silence, uncertainty and ambiguity in the Church. In I Corinthians 4:8, Paul said, For if the trumpet makes an uncertain sound, who will prepare for battle. It is time for Christians, and especially Christian leaders, to make a clear and certain Gospel sound. As Jefferson said, “All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” This is no time for silence!

Dr. Eddie L. Hyatt is an author, historian, revivalist and Bible teacher. He believes America's only hope is a moral and Spiritual awakening. He has, therefore, begun presenting "Revive America" events in churches and auditoriums across the nation, by which he demonstrates America's radical Christian origins and inspires people pray and believe God for another Great Awakening in the land. 

10/12/2014

DO THE CRUSADES MEAN THAT CHRISTIANITY IS NO DIFFERENT THAN ISLAM?

Why Understanding the Reformation is a Vital Key for Answering this Challenge 

I listened to a panel discussion on radical Islam involving two Muslims and three non-Muslims, two of whom were obviously Christian and one perhaps a secularist. The one I would consider a secularist, perhaps in deference to the Muslims on the panel, began talking about the crusades by which he sought to imply that Christianity is no different than Islam when it comes to the violent use of coercion and force.
What he failed to mention was that Christianity had a Reformation, which is why there are no beheadings and suicide bombings today by those who call themselves Christian. The 16th century Reformation represented a return of the church to its founder, Jesus Christ, and its founding document, the New Testament. As a result, the use of force and violence was dropped for such cannot be supported by Jesus who was very radical in his teachings on nonviolence.
Jesus was a man of peace who taught love for God and one's neighbor. He was no passive pacifist, but taught a bold and aggressive approach to peace and nonviolence. It was Jesus who told His followers;
But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, give him your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two (Matthew 5:39-41).
Unlike many Muslims who dance around statements in the Koran seeking to put a positive interpretation on overt statements about killing and subjugating infidels, Christians have had the opposite challenge with the sayings of Jesus. Christians have grappled with interpreting Jesus in a way that allows them to defend themselves and that does not require them to become doormats for evil. Nonetheless, the rare, brave souls in history, such as Mahatma Ghandi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who have dared to put into practice Jesus’ peaceful but confrontational approach to evil, have seen amazing results. The bottom line is that there is nothing in Jesus and the New Testament that even hints at the use of force and violence.
Yes, there were crusades in the Middle Ages with violence toward Muslims and even other Christians. However, this use of force in Christianity was not part of its origins. It began in the 4th century when Constantine, in direct violation of the teachings of Jesus, merged Christianity with the Empire and put the strong arm of the state behind Christianity to advance its causes. The Scriptures were neglected and the Synod of Toulouse in 1229 actually forbade laymen the use of vernacular translations of the Bible. The masses were thus left in darkness concerning Jesus and His teachings.
Beginning in 1517 Christian reformers, such as Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli, began directing the church’s attention back to Jesus and the New Testament. Although it resulted in a rift in Christianity and the formation of many new Protestant churches, it had the positive effect of slowly pulling all of Christendom out of the Middle Ages and away from the use of force, simply because such cannot be justified by Jesus and the New Testament.
Some have suggested that Islam needs a reformation. That is true but from whence will it come? The reformation of Christianity came when there was a return to its founder, Jesus, and its founding document, the New Testament. The problem Islam faces is that when there is a return to its founder, Mohammed, and its founding document, the Koran, that is when people seem to become radicalized.
Some Muslim reformers, like Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, seek to address this problem by advocating a separation of mosque and state, i.e., separating Islam as a religion from any association with politics and power. This happened in the Christian Reformation because, in its origins, Christianity was disassociated from any political state, with no worldly ambition other than to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ to all the world. This was made obvious when Jesus stood before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, and was asked if He was the King of the Jews, He replied, My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight . . . but now My kingdom is not from here.
Islam, on the other hand, has always merged its religion with politics, war and worldly conquest. This is the challenge that Dr. Jasser and other Muslim reformers face; the fact that Islam from the beginning has always had a goal of political and military dominance in this world. 
Political dominance seems to be the goal of even "moderate" Muslims. I will never forget many years ago, before 911, going to a Kinkos in Tulsa, OK to do some self-serve photocopying. I noticed that the person who had used the copy machine before me had left behind a stack of papers he/she had copied. As I looked at the top sheet, I saw that it was a communication from the local Muslim community. But what really caught my eye was the bold statement that their goal was to make Tulsa a Muslim city and America a Muslim nation.
Yes, Christianity and Islam have two radically different beginnings with radically different goals. Jesus was a man of peace who taught love of God and one's neighbor, and was willing to sacrifice His own life to reconcile sinful humanity back to God. Mohammed, on the other hand, was a man of war who spread his teachings and influence with violence and the sword with the goal of subjugating the world to Allah through holy war, or Jihad. A reformation based on a return to origins will thus have very different outcomes in Christianity and Islam. 

This does not mean that all Christians today are peaceful or that all Muslims are violent. Not at all! Christianity is made up of imperfect individuals and many who are disobedient to the call of Christ. But here is the big difference: Christians are continually confronted with Jesus and His amazing example of sacrificial love, and His teachings on brotherly love and peace. Even though we may fall short of the standard, we are continually being pulled towards it by Jesus Himself and by our own commitment to follow Him in real discipleship. Islam has no such example to follow!
Yes, Christianity veered for a time from the peaceful teaching of its founder and resorted to violence and force to advance its cause. However, Christianity experienced a Reformation when it returned to Jesus and the New Testament. Instead of relying on coercion and force to advance its cause, it returned to relying on the power of the message itself, the message of God's grace and love revealed in Jesus Christ. As Paul said in Romans 1:16, For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes . . . (Romans 1:16).
As a Christian I wish and pray the best for every Muslim in the world, even the ones that are part of ISIS. In saying this I know that the best thing that can happen to them is that they come to know the love of God in Jesus Christ, who is God Incarnate and the Savior of the world.

Dr. Eddie L. Hyatt is an author, historian and biblical scholar.  This article is derived in part from his latest book, PURSUING 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.