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7/25/2015

NO AMBIGUITY WITH JESUS: HE MADE HIMSELF CLEAR ABOUT MARRIAGE

Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech; 
and not as Moses who put a veil over his face (II Corinthians 3:12-13; KJV).

Some evangelical leaders are refusing to take a clear stand on same-sex marriage, choosing instead to use ambiguous language when asked about the issue. Expressions such as "we are having a conversation" or "we are on a journey" cloud the issue, and if there is not clarity in the pulpit there will be confusion in the pews. 

With truth being challenged on every front, this is no time for ambiguity. The stakes are too high. Jesus said that it is the truth that makes us free (John 8:31-32). This is the time for the church to seize the moment and clearly speak the truth in love. 

Since these leaders confess Jesus as Lord, I choose to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that their hesitancy is because either (1) they are not sure what Jesus taught about marriage, or (2) they think Jesus Himself was unclear on the subject. 

The only other alternative would be that they are capitulating to a popular, cultural trend rather than taking up their cross and going against the grain of fallen culture as they follow the Lord. In such a case, Jesus would not be Lord. They would be like the religious people of Jesus’ day who believed in Him but would not confess him for fear of public opinion. John said, For they loved the praise of men, more than the praise of God (John 12:43).
Choosing to assume that it is the former—that they are not sure what Jesus would say or do—I will here seek to give clear evidence of where Jesus stood on marriage. I believe, in fact, that Jesus made Himself so clear on the topic that there is no excuse for us being ambiguous on such an important issue.
Jesus Points to God’s Original Plan for Marriage
Jesus did not directly address homosexuality because it was not an issue in first century Jewish culture. Nonetheless, He made His proactive view of marriage as being between one man and one woman so clear that there can be no question where He stands on this contemporary issue.
Jesus’ view of marriage was expressed one day when the Pharisees asked him a question about marriage and divorce (Matthew 19:3-12). They wanted to know if it was OK for a man to divorce his wife for trivial reasons as taught by some Jewish rabbis based on a very loose interpretation of Deuteronomy 24:1. 
Jesus responded to their question by pointing them to how it was in the beginning. In other words, he pointed them to the creation account of Genesis 1-2 as the place to find God’s original plan for marriage. In this original Divine blueprint of marriage, there is no indication of divorce. Instead, there is one man and one woman in a committed, life-long, relationship.
The Pharisees then challenged Jesus by quoting Deuteronomy 24:1 (which allowed men to divorce their wives) and asked why God had commanded them to divorce their wives.
Jesus responded by saying that Moses had permitted them to divorce their wives because of the hardness of their hearts. He then said, But from the beginning it was not so, showing that even though God made an allowance because of human sinfulness, divorce was not part of the original Genesis model or blueprint for marriage (Matthew 19:8).
According to Jesus, this Genesis account of the creation of the man and woman is to be the ongoing model for marriage since it reflects God’s original intent and plan. It is God’s original blueprint for marriage.
The Genesis Model
In the Genesis account of creation, to which Jesus pointed his audience, God creates a man and a woman and brings them together in a committed, mutual partnership. They are blessed by the Creator and told to bear children and fill the earth. Both are given the same blessing, authority, and mandate as is indicated by the use of the plural pronoun “them” throughout the creation account (Gen. 1:26-31).
The man is created first and then the Creator takes a “side” from the man and fashions it into a woman. The Hebrew word translated “rib” in the KJV literally means “side.” He then brings the two together and when the man sees the woman he is very impressed and breaks forth into what Hebrew scholars say is song or poetic verse.
This is now bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called woman
For she was taken out of man
The Genesis writer then sums up the creation narrative in Genesis 2:24 with the words later quoted by Jesus, Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
Distortions & Allowances Because of Sin
It is after the fall in Genesis 3, and the entry of sin into the world, that marriage distortions begin to appear. Whereas in the original model before the fall there is a beautiful picture of mutual partnership, God announces in Genesis 3:16 that now the man will “rule” over the woman. This is a description of what will now occur because of sin, not a prescription of what ought to happen.
Also, in the Old Testament, we see polygamy tolerated, even among the patriarchs. This, however, is merely the Biblical writer describing things as they are in a fallen and distorted world. It is a clear departure from how it was in the beginning before sin entered into the world.
We do not find polygamy among the Jews in the New Testament because over centuries of practice they discovered that it did not work well and the practice, though not forbidden, gradually died out. It was not part of God’s original blueprint for marriage.
It is interesting to note that although certain allowances and tolerances were made in the Old Testament for divorce and even polygamy, there was no allowance made for homosexuality. Homosexuality is such a fundamental departure from the sexuality created by God that it was never allowed. Such a fundamental distortion of the original blueprint for marriage and sexuality would be too harmful for both the individuals involved and for society.
No Human Court Has the Authority to
Set Aside What God Has Established
Jesus summed up His discussion on marriage by quoting Genesis 2:24, which is the crowning statement of the Genesis account of the first marriage. It reads, Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Jesus then 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, points out that the perfect tense of the verb in this passage indicates that “the original ordinance has never been abrogated or superseded but continues in force.” In other words, God’s original blueprint for marriage is still in force and is the standard toward which we must strive.
Natural Marriage is the Building Block of a Stable Society
The word “joined” in Genesis 2:24 is translated from a Hebrew word that means to be “bonded” or “glued” together, showing that God’s original intent was a life-long, committed relationship between one man and one woman. It is within this context that sex finds its greatest fulfillment and it is where children find the safest and most conducive environment for development and growth.
This is confirmed by the fact that when God sent His Son into the world, He did not place him in a monastery to be looked after by monks or nuns. Nor did He place Him in a castle to be guarded by soldiers and politicians. Instead, He placed Him in a home with a loving mother and father, the safest and most nurturing environment on earth for a child.
Marriage between a man and a woman was instituted by God at the time of the creation as the fundamental building block of society. We only hurt ourselves and others when we ignore or cast aside God’s original blueprint for marriage.
Why We Must Follow the Creator’s Plan
Jesus made it clear that if we want God’s highest and best for our marriages, we must return to the original blueprint–to how it was in the beginning.
Most manufacturers provide instructions with their product so that the purchaser can maintain the item and get the best use from it. An expensive garment may say on the label, “Wash by hand in cold water.” If the purchaser of that garment ignores the instructions and throws the garment into a washer and washes it in hot water, he should not be surprised if the garment is ruined.
In the same way, we should not be surprised to see lives ruined and society negatively affected when we ignore the clear instructions of the Creator concerning how our lives and marriages should work. God gave instructions and principles, not to “rain on our parade” and make us miserable, but so that we could derive the maximum joy and fulfillment from the life he has given us.
Concluding Thought
If we would derive the maximum joy and benefit from marriage and sex, we must embrace God’s original blueprint as laid out in the Genesis creation account and affirmed by Jesus. It doesn’t mean there will not be struggles and failures, but it does mean that we must embrace the ideal—the blueprint—and make it the goal toward which we continually strive.
Since Jesus is Lord, we can end the conversation concerning same-sex marriage and begin helping those who are struggling with their sexuality to find help and deliverance in Christ.  It is time to submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in the institution of marriage!


Dr. Eddie L. Hyatt is an author, historian and Bible teacher. His latest book, The Faith & Vision of Benjamin Franklin, shows how Franklin and all the Founders believed Christian virtue to be an absolute necessity for a stable and prosperous nation and wanted Christian morality taught in every public and private venue. The book is available from Amazon and from his ministry website at www.eddiehyatt.com/bookstore.html


7/03/2015

HOW CAN WE KNOW THAT WE ARE SAVED? MY TALK WITH TWO JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES

While in Ontario Canada, Sue and I passed two Jehovah’s Witness women standing on a busy street corner with racks of books and pamphlets they were giving to those passing by. As we passed, I felt a compassionate drawing toward them and so retraced my steps and politely opened a conversation with them.
I began by asking them how, according to their church, a person can know they are saved and will go to heaven. The one who was obviously the leader answered that we cannot know if we are saved until we die. She then quoted the words of Jesus, He who endures to the end shall be saved.
I responded with the question, “Does that mean that at the end of our life if our good works outweigh our bad works, we will be OK?” She replied, “Yes.” I then asked, “So what was the need for Jesus to come and die for our sins?” They did not have an answer.
The conversation then turned to who Jesus is when they mentioned the name “Jehovah.” I asked, “Do you believe Jesus is Jehovah?” She answered with an emphatic “No!” (Jehovah Witnesses believe Jesus is Michael the Archangel) I then asked, “Why then did Jesus receive worship from people?” I went on to say, “In the Old Testament only God is to be worshipped and it would be blasphemous for anyone, even an angel, to receive worship, but Jesus allowed people to worship Him.” I then quoted John 8:58 where Jesus identified Himself with God who spoke to Moses from the burning bush and identified Himself as I Am. I pointe d out that Jesus said to the Jews, Before Abraham was I Am, and that the Jews then attempted to stone Him for blasphemy.
At this point the leader politely brought the conversation to a close. I exhorted them to “follow Jesus” and went on my way with a sense of knowing I had obeyed the Lord and borne witness to His name.
Since then, I have thought on their human-centered concept of salvation that if our good works outweigh our bad works, we will be OK. The Bible, however, is very clear that we have already been weighed in God’s balance and found wanting. What God said to of the Babylonian King Belshazzar is true of the entire human race, You have been weighed in the balances and found wanting.
The human race in general, and every individual in particular, has been weighed in God’s balance and found wanting. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, Paul said in Romans. 3:23. All we like sheep have gone astray, the prophet Isaiah said, We have turned, every one, to his own way (Isaiah 53:6).
The whole world stands guilty before a righteous and holy God. God would have been righteous and just to have sent every one of us to hell. Not a single angel would have protested. John makes this point when he said that the one who does not believe in Christ, is condemned already because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
This sense of guilt before God is innate in human beings. This is why humans are incurably religious. Everywhere you go people are religious and are seeking to assuage that innate sense of guilt with a religion of works or by hiding within a group, like these two with whom I conversed.
God, however, does not offer “group” salvation. Every individual, whether a pope or a pauper, must deal personally with God. All are alike in His sight. He is not impressed with human pomp and circumstance. The ground is level at the cross. In II Corinthians 5:10 Paul said, For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ , that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
The good news is that we can have assurance of our salvation, not based on what we have done, but based on what He has done. We do not have to wait until the end of our life to know if we are saved. Here is how we can know.
1.     Realize that you have already been weighed in heaven’s balances and found wanting. Know that you already stand naked, guilty and condemned before a righteous and holy God.
2.       Flee to Christ. Put your faith completely in Him. Do not try to hide in a group or church. Lay hold of Christ by faith and take Him as your personal Savior and Deliverer.
3.      As you put your trust completely in Him there will come an assurance in your heart. The old time Methodists called it the “inner witness,” based on Paul’s words in Romans 8:16, The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.
4.       Walk in faith every day. Your life will not be perfect but it will be different. Keep your eyes on Jesus. Trust Him every day for His strength and power to be a living witness to others of His mercy and grace as He promised in Acts 1:8.

5.       As you walk with Him in faith each day, that inner sense of assurance will grow until you will know that you know that you are saved as much as you know your own identity. You will have no doubt that if you died today you would immediately go to be with Him.

7/02/2015

AMERICA'S FOUNDERS WARNED THAT THIS WOULD DESTROY THE NATION

America’s Founders were cautiously optimistic about the future of the republic they brought into existence. They knew they had created a new form of government that could impact world history, but they also knew the dangerous perils that lay ahead for the new nation.
If You are Able to Keep It
This cautious optimism was expressed by Benjamin Franklin when at the end of the Constitutional Convention some of the delegates noted that the chair in which George Washington had sat bore a painting of the sun. Franklin, the senior statesman of the Convention, commented that he was not sure if it was a setting or a rising sun. And when a woman gushingly asked Franklin what they had accomplished at the Convention, he paused, adjusted his glasses and somberly replied, “A republic madam, if you are able to keep it.”
With the decentralization of power and the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution, the Founders all knew that only a virtuous and moral people could maintain the Republic they had formed. Otherwise, liberty would be turned into licentiousness and freedom into anarchy. This is why John Adams emphatically stated, Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the governance of any other.
Adams also said, “The only foundation of a free Constitution is true virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our people, they will not obtain a lasting liberty.” Adams and all the founders agreed that if the people of the United States did not maintain virtue and morality, their liberties would be lost, replaced by some form of tyranny. They all agreed with the maxim of William Penn, the founder of Pennsylvania, that “he who will not be governed by God must be ruled by tyrants.”
No Separation of God & State
The Founders wanted a separation of church and state, not a separation of God and state. This is why their writings are filled with Biblical quotes and acts of faith such as proclamations of days of prayer and fasting. In fact, the Continental Congress, beginning in 1774, issued no less than fifteen calls for prayer, humiliation and fasting. The proclamation of 1779 urged the American people “humbly to approach the throne of Almighty God” to ask “that He would establish the independence of these United States upon the basis of religion [Christianity] and virtue.”
What the Founders did NOT want was a national, state church, which is what the First Amendment is all about. They wanted a separation of church and state, not a separation of God and state. Every one of them believed Christian morality to be absolutely necessary for the success of the nation they formed.
Washington Warned Against the Loss of Religion & Morality
George Washington made this clear in his Farewell Address by warning the young nation to not neglect “religion [Christianity] and morality,” which he called “indispensable supports” for political prosperity. Notice that for Washington religion and morality are not optional, but “indispensable.”
Washington further warned against the supposition that morality could be maintained without religion, i.e., Christianity. In other words, there was no room for secularism in Washington’s thinking. As far as he was concerned, only Christianity provided the moral fabric and strength that would sustain the nation. He felt so strongly about this that he declared, “In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars [Christianity and morality] of human happiness.”
America’s “Nonreligious” Founders Wanted Biblical Morality
Thomas Jefferson, whom many consider the nation’s most nonreligious Founder, totally agreed with Washington. In fact, he believed this so strongly that he made Washington’s Farewell Address mandatory reading for all students at the University of Virginia, which he founded. Before he died in 1826 Jefferson expressed concern at indicators he saw that the nation was moving away from its founding principles. He wrote, “Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just and that His justice cannot sleep forever.”
When Benjamin Franklin, America’s other nonreligious founder, called the Constitutional Convention to prayer in 1787, he reminded Washington and the delegates how, during the war, they had daily prayers in that room for God’s protection. He said, “Our prayers, sir, were heard and they were graciously answered.” He then alluded to the words of Jesus that a sparrow does not fall to the ground without the heavenly Father taking notice, and challenged the delegates with this question, “If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?” In other words, Franklin saw faith in God, and acknowledgement of His providential care, as absolutely necessary for the survival of the nation.
This is not to say that the Founders were perfect. They obviously had their flaws, which included allowing slavery to be a part of the new nation. Remember, however, that the Founders did not introduce slavery into America. It was a part of the life into which they were born, There was, in fact, much debate and resistance to allowing the southern states to be a part of the new union. Founders like Washington and Franklin set in motion compassionate and costly programs to free their slaves and to equip them to become self-sufficient. The Biblical and moral principles emphasized by the Founders actually became the basis for slavery eventually being obliterated.
A Critical Moment in Time
The Founders never expressed a concern about America being conquered by a foreign power. They believed that God would protect the nation as long as there was a vibrant faith and virtue among the people. Their great concern was that the nation would turn from the God of the Bible and the teachings of Jesus and sink into an abyss of spiritual indifference, unbelief and amorality. As James Madison put it, "We have staked the whole future of the American civilization, not upon the power of government, but upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves according to the Ten Commandments."
I suggest to you that America is now at a tipping point in this regard. We are now facing the very conditions the Founders feared—the national acceptance of a secular and amoral way of life from the White House on down. Virtue and morality, the very things the Founders feared losing, are gone from the national life of the nation. The next few months will determine if we continue to be a free and courageous nation or if we sink into confusion and oblivion under the weight of our own sins.
What can we do? This nation has been sustained by Spiritual awakenings throughout its history. After the Revolutionary War a generation arose that knew nothing of the Great Awakening experienced by their parents and grandparents. Lewdness, immorality and spiritual indifference gripped the land. The Presbyterian Church issued a circular pastoral letter declaring they were “filled with concern and awful dread” at conditions they beheld on every hand.
A remnant of God-fearing and concerned followers of Christ began to fast and pray for another Great Awakening. God answered their prayers and great revival began to break forth throughout the land after 1800. The well-known Methodist preacher, Peter Cartwright, described the Awakening as like a great tidal wave that gained momentum “until it seemed our entire country was coming to God.”
This Second Great Awakening saved America from the influences of Deism and the French Revolution and guaranteed its Christian character for generations to come. The great Prayer Awakening of 1857-58 preserved the nation through its most severe crisis to date, the Civil War. This nation has been saved, again and again, by God-sent Spiritual awakenings.

It is not too late for America! America can be saved! I live with the hope that God will send another Great Awakening to our land. Will you be a part of it?

Dr. Eddie L. Hyatt is an author, historian and ordained minister with a vision for Spiritual awakening. His latest book, The Faith & Vision of Benjamin Franklin, is available from Amazon and his website at www.eddiehyatt.com, where you can also read about his vision for another Great Awakening for America and the nations of the world.