by Tom Wacaster
If the Sermon on the Mount were all that Matthew recorded, that small piece of inspiration would declare the very majesty of the One Who spoke those words. The very first words we encounter as we enter the eighth chapter of Matthew capture our attention: “And when he was come down from the mountain” (8:1). Strictly speaking those half dozen English words describe His descent from an earthly mountain to the plains below. But suppose Jesus had stayed in the mountain? What if He had built some monastery and lived out His life in isolation? Had He done so, the miracles in this chapter, yea the whole of Matthew, would never have been recorded, and the teachings and instructions delivered on the mount would have been nothing more than the wisdom of just another Rabbi speaking to His band of devoted zealots who, at the end of their lifelong journey, would have summed up the experience in the words of the two men traveling to Emmaus: “But we hoped that it was he who should redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). Thank God that Jesus did come down from that mountain! Consider the following.
He Came Down From The Mountain Of Happiness To Bear Our Sorrows
Each of the three miracles of healing in this portion of our study is vitally connected with that beautiful chapter of the Suffering Servant in Isiah 53. Matthew told us these things were done “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying: Himself took our infirmities, and bare our diseases” (8:17). The Old Testament passage is Isaiah 53:4-6: “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; ye we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” “Griefs” and “sorrows” – pay attention to those two words, keeping in mind the context of Isaiah’s prophecy. The sorrow to which Isaiah refers was deeper and more profound than the emotional ache in the hearts of men. The Suffering Servant did not come to open grief counseling center. He did not suffer simply to wipe the tears of those whose lives had been disrupted by physical disease and multiple maladies. Our Lord was fully aware that back of all the disease is the problem of sin. The true sorrow of the world can be traced to sin, whether a person’s own individual sin or the sin of humanity. Sin was introduced into the world by Adam (Rom. 5:12-21), and it spread into every corner of this globe and every generation by the power of each individual’s choice. Jesus’ power to heal the leper by the touch of His hand, or to heal the centurion from a distance by His spoken word, finds its basis in His overall mission to “seek and to save that which is lost” (Luke 19:10). Was this not the point in the case of the man sick of the palsy where Jesus asked His critics: “Which is easier, to say, Thy sins are forgiven thee; or to say, Arise and walk?” (Luke 5:23). When it is said that Jesus bore “our griefs, and carried our sorrows” (Isa. 53:4) it is heaven’s way of telling us of the great mission of our King to address the root cause of those sorrows. He did this by being “wounded for our transgressions” and “bruised for our iniquities” (Isa. 53:5). Can you imagine a king who would be willing to pay the penalty for the crimes of the citizens of his kingdom? Pick your dictator or despot, and the story is the same. It is most often the case that the innocent suffer for the crimes of the king, but our King came down from the mount of happiness to bear our sorrows.
He Came Down From The Mountain Of Honor To Become A Servant
Prior to His descent to this world of woe, our Lord enjoyed honor and majesty alongside the Father. He basked in heavenly sunshine, and was worshiped by the angels (Heb. 1:6). He enjoyed the “power, and riches, and wisdom, and might, and honor, and glory, and blessing” (Rev. 5:12) deserving of the Godhead. Existing in the “form of God,” He “counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Phil. 2:6). Words cannot be found that can adequately describe the majesty of our Lord prior to that moment when He took upon Himself “the form of a servant, [and] being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:7-8). His descent from that ‘heavenly mountain’ was for no other purpose than to be a Servant of God and humanity, and to give His life a ransom for all. He washed the feet of the disciples thereby teaching them the importance of being a servant (John 13:1-15). He was obedient to the Father in every respect, remaining faithful even unto death.
In the thirty-three years that our Lord sojourned upon this earth, He never once demonstrated a single shred of selfish desire; never seeking to “be served” but seeking rather “to serve.” He never had to turn His back on material things because He never sought them in the first place. On one occasion his disciples encouraged Him to eat, but He said unto them, “I have meat to eat that ye know not. My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to accomplish his work” (John 4:32-34), and warned all of us, “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rush doth consume, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth consume, and where thieves do not break through and steal” (Matt. 6:19-20). He not only preached that message, but lived that message to its fullest extent. Our Lord never owned any property, never built a house, never lay by in store, never had a passbook savings account, never organized a “garage sell,” and never placed an ounce of importance on what one might possess in this life. When His life was finished and His course completed, the only thing He could call His own was stripped from His sinless body and gambled away at the foot of the cross by the Roman soldiers while their Master and Creator hung on the cross close by. Having no place to lay His head (Luke 9:58), He found His rest in the homes of those who were gracious enough to provide His daily sustenance, and grant Him a place of repose when the day was done. All this, because He was willing to come down from the mountain of honor to become a Servant!
He Came Down From The Mountain of Heaven To Be Our Savior
Prior to His incarnation, Jesus shared in the glories of heaven with the Father. He basked in the glory and essence of deity (2 Cor. 8:9). In the beginning He filled the universe with the stars and planets (John 1:1-3) with the simple sound of His voice. He sustained (and still sustains) all things by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3). Yet He was willing to give all that up so that He could set before mankind the feast of abundant life. The New Testament rings with the message of salvation: “Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15a). “And she shall bring forth a son; and thou shalt call his name Jesus; for it is he that shall shave his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). W.N. Clarke wrote almost a century ago, “The glory of Christianity is salvation.” The great challenge to the church in this century is getting men to realize their need for a Savior. Too many have lost the awareness of this need; too few are inclined to perceive of Him as Savior. One reason for this is the diminished concept of sin in the modern world. Jack Cottrell wrote, “Of course he recognizes that the world is filled with evils, failures, social ills, and conflicts of all kinds; but he just does not want to think of them as sin. This is because sin connotes a wrongdoing for which one is responsible before God, and modern man does not want to see himself in this light. He will take his evil and his failures to sociologists and psychologists, but not to God.”
When our “problems” are discussed in social circles they may be described as “disgraceful,” “corrupt,” “prejudicial,” “harmful,” or even “evil,” but never “sinful.” It is obvious that without a sense of sin there can be no real sense of God as our Savior. May God give all of us a deeper appreciation for Jesus as Savior.
Yes, Jesus came down from the mountain of happiness to bear our sorrows. He came down from the mountain of honor to be a Servant. He came down from the mountain of heaven to be our Savior. When the mob cried for the blood of Jesus, they were granted their wicked desires. And while Jesus hung on the cross they taunted the Son of God and challenged Him to “come down from the cross” (Matt. 27:40). He could have; but He refused to do so. Thank God that while Jesus was willing to come down from the mountain, He refused to come down from the cross.
By Tom Wacaster
There is no doubt that our battle is a spiritual battle: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh (for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds), casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ; and being in readiness to avenge all disobedience, when your obedience shall be made full” (2 Cor. 10:3-6). It seems, however, that we cannot divorce our spiritual battle from the arena in which God has called us to war the good warfare of faith. That battlefield is the world. “Our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). The front line of battle is Main St. USA, as well as every hamlet and village in the remote parts of this world. But the front line is also the citadels where the philosophies of the “old man, Adam” are ingrained in the minds of impressionable youth. From Washington, to every country road in America, the battle is waged between God’s people and the agents of Satan every single day. Keep in mind that when the devil could not defeat God in those spiritual realms, “the great dragon was cast down, the old serpent, he that is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world; he was cast down to the earth, and his angels were cast down with him” (Rev. 12:9). When a preacher (or anyone for that matter) addresses social and moral issues of his day it does not mean that he has stepped out of the area wherein we have been called to engage the spiritual battle. When the terrorists attacked our country in 2001 it was the intention of our governmental authorities to take the battle to the stronghold of the enemy rather than wait for the enemy to come to us. We do the same when we address the inconsistencies of all who would oppose the principles of truth that God would have all men to know and apply to their lives. While our battle might occasionally cross paths with the philosophical and moral inequities of the world in which we live, we dare not forget that we are citizens of a greater kingdom than that which any mortal man, or group of men, might be able to design and establish. This includes the United States of America. The one thing that makes the United States so unique in all the annals of history is found in the desire of our founding fathers to be guided by the realization that God had blessed their endeavor and to do all within their power to assure the citizens of this great nation that every man, woman, and child would be free to seek God and to worship Him accordingly. This demands freedom from tyranny, and the absence of the intrusion of government into the lives of the citizens. In short, they knew that it is the people who should rule over the government, and not the other way around. It is sad that the direction of this country is on a course away from God, rather than seeking to be guided by His divine laws. Meanwhile, every child of God should keep in mind that his or her loyalty is NOT to a physical kingdom, but to the kingdom of our Lord Who is King of kings, and Lord of lords (1 Tim. 6:15).
I stand ready to give my life for the cause of my Master. If that means I must be persecuted at the hands of a tyrannical government, then so be it. I will, however, use every legitimate and Biblically authorized avenue to assure my freedom to worship God as I should, and to provide the greatest opportunities for the free run of the gospel. Since my government gives me the freedom of speech, and freedom of the press, I will do what I can to promote the gospel through that free speech, and I will also use the legal avenues available to protect this right. If this means I must openly oppose government leaders who seek to remove those rights, then I will do so; not for the sake of opposing government leaders, but for the purpose of assuring the furtherance of the Kingdom of Christ upon this earth. Should our freedoms be taken from us, I will not take up arms to oppose a change in government; such is not my battle. But while I have the legal right to oppose those who might, by their wicked and evil schemes, seek to destroy those legal rights, I will then “appeal to Caesar” for my personal protection and freedom to preach the gospel of our Lord.
It has been correctly noted that we are “in” this world, but we are not “of” this world. There is a marked distinction between the society in which we live and the kingdom wherein is our greater citizenship. But keep this in mind. In building up the Kingdom of God it becomes necessary on occasions to battle the world’s ideology for the sake of truth. Keep in mind that Paul said our warfare includes “casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God.” It seems to me that the liberal and corrupt element in our society are a part of those “high things” that have exalted themselves against the knowledge of God, and as such, we are compelled to speak out, not to promote the Constitution of the United States, but to promote the Constitution of our King and His glorious kingdom.
The battle rages, and the Captain of our army encourages us to stand in the gap, to “put on the whole armor of God...and having done all, to stand” (Eph. 6:13). A recent bulletin reported that the Episcopalian church is on the verge of allowing homosexuals into their pulpits. Another bulletin reports that the Catholic church is about to capitulate on this same moral issue. Meanwhile, toleration is in, opposition is out, and it is apparent that some of our brethren are about to succumb to the same kind of “pluralistic” thinking that is sweeping our society. “Judge not that ye be not judged” has become the battle cry for those weak of spirit. Controversy is no longer politically correct, whether it be in the political or the religious realm. I, for one, am grateful that neither Jesus, nor His apostles, ever adapted such a philosophy in order to promote and promulgate the “faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Had the restorationist pioneers held to the same attitude toward religious division and error as some of our brethren do today, they would never have gotten to first base in bringing about a restoration of the ancient order of things. J.S. Lamar wrote the following approximately 30 years after the death of Alexander Campbell. I share it with our readers for no other reason than to show that firm conviction and a stalwart stand for the truth is the only way by which the citadels of error will ever be torn down and the truth of God exalted. Here is what brother Lamar wrote: “Every party had made its own creed, and set forth its conception of Christianity in a form chosen by itself. Every builder had erected a structure in accordance with his own architectural ideas and designs; and the results were satisfactory to the builders and really, for human structures, very good. It was while resting in fancied security in these corrupted and beautiful temples, the product of their skill and the pride of their hearts, that Alexander Campbell, as with the voice of God’s thunder and the sword of God’s Spirit, broke upon them, and aroused them to a sense of their danger. Now, if instead of thus assaulting them, he had been content to accept their guage [sic], and to meet them on their own chosen ground, both the conflict and the result had been different. They were fully prepared to contest the question of comparative merit; and if the issue had been, for example, whether the English church was better or worse than the German; whether the Methodist had more or less truth than the Presbyterian; whether the creed, the doctrines, the practices, of any given sect, approximated in more respects than those of some others to the apostolic model and teaching - in such case the conflict would have been most welcome. But Mr. Campbell did not condescend to engage in any such useless strife. The peculiarities of sects and their varying degrees of excellency were treated only as side-issues and incidents, while with ponderous and pounding logic he battered upon the very basis of sectarianism - contending that, whether they had more of the truth or less, they were still wrong, fundamentally wrong, wrong in being sects, wrong in not being what Christ had founded, while yet assuming to occupy the place, to command respect, and to wield the authority of the divine institution. And now the fight was on. It was Alexander Campbell against the whole sectarian world - and all this world combining to resist him.”
Thank God for such men as Mr. Campbell, “Raccoon” John Smith, Barton W. Stone, and a host of courageous men who refused to bow to the “pluralistic” mind set that so dominates our world, yea even our own brotherhood, at this very hour. It is readily admitted that when we take a stand on the side of truth, that we will be criticized. But at least we know we stand with good company, “for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you” (Matt. 5:12b). And should it be our lot to stand alone, or at best with the minority, and should the host of the armies of darkness assail us, we can be assured that in the final analysis, when all has been said and done, and we stand before the Captain of our army, we will hear the sweet words, “Enter thou into the joys prepared for you.” It will have been a well fought battle, and the victory shall be ours to enjoy for all eternity. “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).
By Tom Wacaster
My soul waiteth in silence for God only:
From him cometh my salvation.
He only is my rock and my salvation:
He is my high tower;
I shall not be greatly moved
There is something about a large rock that intrigues the mind. I’m not talking about the small rocks you might stub your toe on, or the little pebbles that might grace a gravel driveway. I am speaking of large rocks such as The Rock of Gibraltar, Mount Rushmore, El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, or Stone Mountain. It has been my privilege to visit the Grand Tetons, drive to the top of Pike’s Peak, and cross the Appalachian Mountains into Virginia. Many years ago I had the opportunity to spend a few night’s in the midst of the Rockies, and view the majestic mountains that surrounded me. To the southwest I could see Mt. Massive at 14,441 feet. Further to the south lay Mt. Elbert at 14,433 feet. Travelling west you are surrounded by the Mosquito Mountain range (with peaks rising 13,000 feet), and the Collegiate Mountain range (with Harvard, Princeton, and Penn Mountains, all over 14,000 feet). Those mountains stand as a mighty manifestation of our God's creative power. Their very presence admits to the power of the One Who made it all. Let those who deny the existence of our God, or who question the literal account of Creation as set forth in Genesis 1-3, explain to us the origin of such majestic peaks. Only the fool would deny the great and mighty power of God. I weep when I think that those in control of the institutions of higher learning and public education deny the very One Who made all this, and that the next generation may very well look at these same mountains and declare that it all happened by blind chance, giving the glory, NOT to the God of Heaven, but to the foolishness of man's anti-God philosophies. Now listen to the Psalmist. Because God is our Rock, as God’s children we are blessed with the following:
Confidence: “My soul waiteth in silence for God only: From him cometh my salvation” (verse 1). Here David expresses his absolute trust in God. He recognizes that God is the true source of deliverance and salvation. He perceives of God as his rock, salvation, and high tower, and expresses confidence that he will not be moved by the enemy. We have before us a man who had seriously contemplated his life, the condition of his soul, and, having taken stock of all of his resources, declared, “My soul waits in silence for God alone. It is from Him whence I derive my salvation.” Yes, God is our Rock; available to all, but sadly embraced by few.
Calmness: The Psalmist’s mind was at ease in knowing that all was in the hands of God. Consequently he would wait “in silence.” The idea is that the Psalmist had a sense of calmness. All was in the hands of God; Jehovah was worthy of his trust and confidence. Barnes captured the Psalmist’s sentiments: “The feeling is that which exists when we have entrusted all to God; when, having entire confidence in his power, his goodness, his wisdom, his mercy, we commit the whole case to him as if it were no longer our own” (Barnes, 167). The New Testament equivalent is found in 1 Peter 5:7: “Casting all your anxiety upon him, for he careth for you.” When once the soul realizes its complete dependence upon God for release from its troubles, the peace for which one seeks will finally be his to enjoy. “Such is the calmness - the peace - the quiet - the silence of the soul when all is left with God” (Barnes, 169). Several years ago a submarine was being tested and had to remain submerged for many hours. When it returned to the harbor, the captain was asked, "How did the terrible storm last night affect you?" The officer looked at him in surprise and exclaimed, "Storm? We didn't even know there was one!" The sub had been so far beneath the surface that it had reached the area known to sailors as "the cushion of the sea." Although the ocean may be whipped into huge waves by high winds, the waters below are never stirred. If we would find true peace we must “wait upon God” and let Him direct us by His word. In this connection Spurgeon noted, “Faith can hear the footsteps of coming salvation because she has learned to be silent” (Spurgeon, 48).
Completeness: I am using the word here to emphasize the fact that God, and God alone, is our source of strength. We find our completeness in Him. The emphasis throughout the Psalm is the complete and unique assistance that God gives to His children. The Psalmist was writing to friend and foe alike and telling them, “It is from HIM, and HIM ALONE that my salvation comes.” Our generation needs to learn this important lesson. We need to learn to listen to the voice of God as it is communicated in His holy word. Unfortunately the noise of the world often drowns out the voice of God. It is often the case that men fail to hear God’s message because they refuse to listen. Instead, they turn their ears towards every “wind of doctrine” that might blow their way (Eph. 4:14). They are enamored with the claim of modern day revelation as they seek for signs and wonders to confirm whatever ‘sophisticated silliness’ they wish to believe. The completeness we have in Christ is emphasized is such passages as 2 Timothy 3:16-17, 2 Peter 1:3, and Colossians 1:28-29. No wonder the Psalmist declared, “He only is my rock and my salvation.” Old Testament history teaches us that God will not allow us to have His counsel mixed with the counsel of false gods. It is either ALL God, and ONLY God, or it is NO God at all. David would trust in none other, nor would he seek salvation from any other source. The New Testament equivalent is found in Acts 4:12, “And in none other is there salvation: for neither is there any other name under heaven that is given among men, wherein we must be saved.”
Courage: Because God was David’s “Rock,” he could courageously declare, “I shall not be greatly moved.” I don’t know who wrote the following, but it certainly captures the sentiments of a man like David who recognized God as his Rock and Tower in life:
I am part of the fellowship of the unashamed. The die has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I am a disciple of Jesus. I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still. My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I am finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tame visions, mundane talking, chincy giving, and dwarfed goals. I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotion, plaudits, or popularity. I don't have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded. My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my Guide is reliable, my mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity. I won't give up, shut up, or slow up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till I drop, preach all that I know, and work till He comes. And when He comes to get His own, He'll have no trouble recognizing me. My colors are clear! (copied into my personal notes in 2006; source not recorded).
In this life we will have tribulation. But it is the “big picture” that we must keep before us. The ultimate outcome will be victory, not defeat. We may occasionally be “moved,” but not “removed.” That victory is possible because God is our Rock!
By Tom Wacaster
David wrote, “Thy word have I laid up in my heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalms 119:11). God’s word is a powerful seed that, when laid up in the good and honest heart, will produce abundant fruit (Luke 8:5-15). How many times have you found yourself saying something to the effect, “I wish I could remember”? If we had a dollar for every time we made that statement, no doubt all of us would be rich. But true riches are not measured by dollars and cents, and if each of us would take the time and the effort to put the word of God deep into our heart we would be richer by far. I must confess that over the past couple of decades I have become somewhat lazy so far as taking the time to memorize certain precious passages from God’s word. I will also admit that I am the worse for it. Hence, the reason for my thoughts in this week’s article.
Memory is a priceless treasure given to us by God. I filed the following quote away more than three decades ago, but it is thought provoking: “Without memory the soul of man would be a poor, destitute, naked being, with an everlasting blank spread over it, except the fleeting ideas of the present moment.” How many stories have we read or heard of over the years that tell of men and women in difficult situations who relied on their memory to see them through. In the 1950’s J. Russell Morse was imprisoned by the Chinese Communists for 18 months, 15 of them in solitary confinement, for no other reason than the fact that he professed to be a Christian. He endured severe torture for his faith. He later would write that it was the promises and precepts of God’s word that helped him to endure. When the war in Vietnam came to a close, and the prisoners returned to America, we learned that many of them endured their captivity because of their memories of loved ones, and in many cases, their recall of passages in God’s word that gave them strength. The words of an unknown author come to mind, words that have been repeated through the years but that are as relevant today as when first penned:
This book contains the mind of God, the state of men, the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrine is holy, its precepts are binding, its histories are true, and its decision are immutable. Read it to be wise, believe it to be safe, and practice it to be holy. It contains light to direct you, food to support you, and comfort to cheer you. It is the traveler's map, the pilgrim's staff, the pilot's compass, the soldier's sword, and the Christian's charter. Here Paradise is restored, heaven opened, and the ways of hell disclosed. Christ is the grand object, our good its design, and the redemption of man its end. It should fill the memory, rule the heart, and guide the feet. It is a mine of wealth, a paradise of glory, a river of pleasure. It is given you life, will be opened in the judgment, and be remembered forever. It involves the highest responsibility, will reward the greatest labor, and condemn all who trifle with its sacred contents.
When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He immediately turned to the word of God to deflect the fiery darts of the evil one. The inability of men to overcome the temptations of sin is in direct proportion to their lack of knowledge of God’s word. Sin is not the consequence of weakness, up-brining, social maladjustment, parental heritage, or social pressure. It is not a disease, though it can lead to numerous diseases. Sin is not some personality quirk that is inborn or a product of some gene pool. Sin is the consequence of man’s lack of faith in God and the absence of God’s word in the heart. If all men would do as David did, and take the time to lay up God’s word in their heart, they, like David, would find that those occasions when they sin against God would be much less. The word of God is “able to build you up, and give you the inheritance among all them that are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). It is the seed by which men are born anew (James 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:23). It is the preventative for sin (Psa. 119:11), and the only means by which men can come to be saved (Rom. 1:16). The greatest difference in men is not physical size, strength, age, ancestry, possession or the circumstances that surround them. The great divide between all of humanity is the extent to which they know or do not know the words of their Creator. It is the only difference that will last through eternity and the only benchmark that will ultimately matter once this life is over. This is precisely why the apostle Paul wrote, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Col. 3:16a).
Can you not see, therefore, the benefit of memorizing God’s word? You can say you won’t, you can say you don’t, but don’t say you can’t. H.H. Halley, the author of the Bible Handbook was 39 years old when he began using his time on long train trips to memorize prominent verses from the Bible. In a few years he could recite more than one third of the entire Bible. Age is no barrier. I read of a man past 74 years of age who learned a large portion of the New Testament. Nor is our education level a hindrance to the memorization of God’s word. The late Jack Bryant, member of the Lord’s church in Briar, Texas, was a talented artist. He knew rather large portions of the Bible and could quote them readily. His conversation was peppered with references to the Scriptures. But Jack could not read or write. He memorized passages by listening to them on tape and committing them to memory. Here, then, are some practical suggestions to help all of us put the word of God deep in our heart and our mind.
First, you need to give it your full attention. When you set your mind to memorizing a passage, examine it carefully, get a full picture of the passage; both the thought and the wording. If you can get the thought of the passage, the words can be filled in as you work toward memorizing the passage itself.
Second, try to visualize the passage. Make it your aim to “see it” on the page. Do you ever find yourself saying, “Well, I know that a certain passage is on the left side of the page in the upper right hand corner”? You visualized the passage long before you memorized its content.
Third, when you finally get down to memorizing the passage, read it aloud. Analyze it, take it apart and break it down into certain segments and learn key words in each of the segments. You can fill in the “the’s” and the “and’s” later.
Fourth, use the passage. Use it in your conversation, in your prayers, and in your daily life. Nothing succeeds like practical application and hands-on experience.
Fifth, take the time—better yet, make the time—to memorize passages. Turn the television off, open the Bible, and focus on the passage you are trying to memorize for the day or week or month.
Finally, believe that you can memorize new passages. The old adage that you “cannot teach an old dog new tricks” is simply not true. If you convince yourself that you can’t memorize new passage it is certain you won’t.
I will close with the following quote from Alexander Campbell in The Christian System, page 244:
"I never knew but a very few families that made it their daily business to train up their children in the knowledge of the Holy Scriptures, to cause them every day to commit to memory a portion of the living oracles...and to say, that such a course, persisted in and sustained by the good example of parents, will very generally, if not universally, issue in the salvation of their children.”
by Tom Wacaster
Occasionally I stop at the local Good Will to drop something off and while there I take a few minutes to peruse the books they have on display. Most of what lines the shelves of the “book department” at Good Will is either out of date (terribly out of date), or the books don’t contain anything of interest to me. I never found a lot of sense in purchasing a manual on Microsoft Windows 94 some two decades after that operating system went by the wayside. If you still own an old Windows 94 computer and are needing some brushing up on that particular operating system, and just can’t find any help on line, you might try making a quick trip down to the local Good Will and check in their “book department.” This is not to say that my book shopping at Good Will has never been fruitful. I have, on occasion, come across some good books at the Good Will. But my experience has been that Half-Priced-Books is a better place to find good used books.
It has been at least twenty years since the following occurred, but it seems like only yesterday. On that particular occasion I had found a book that I wanted to purchase, and as I headed for the check out counter I passed several boxes filled to the brim with old 45 r.p.m. records (those are the records with the large hole in the center, usually containing one single from the artist on each side). There was a young lad about five years of age who, looking into this large box of old records, asked his mother, “Momma, what are these plastic disks with holes in them?” No answer was forthcoming. Perhaps his mother did not know; in fact I don’t think she had any idea what those little “plastic disks” were. I paused for a moment to flip through some of those old records, and as I did I wondered to myself how long it would be before those old 45’s became as extinct as the even older 78 r.p.m.’s (those were the thick records with the tiny hole in the center). If technology continues its present pace of changes and upgrades the day will come when the very mention of 45 r.p.m. ’s will conjure up memories of a bygone era, or even worse, conjure up no memories at all.
It has probably been thirty years or more since the Statler Brothers wrote and produced a song reflecting upon the “good ole’ days” of the 50’s and 60’s. It was titled, ‘Do You Remember These?’ The song contains a veritable “catalogue of nostalgia.” Harold Statler once commented with regard to that song, “We’re always collecting old films, comics, memorabilia. We’re always asking each other, ‘Do you remember this? Do you remember that?’ That’s how we came up with the song just from our everyday conversations. We could have gone on forever. As it was, we had to cut out half of it because it was too long.” For those who are at least as old as I am, see if any of these items in that song conjure up memories of the past: “Saturday morning serials, chapters one through fifteen; fly paper, penny loafers, lucky strike three; flat tops, sock hops, Studebaker, ‘Pepsi please’; cigar bands on your hand, your Daddy’s socks rolled down.” Or what about: “Aviator caps with flaps that button down; movie stars on Dixie Cup tops; nickers to your knees [that one is even before my time]; peddle pushers, and duck tail hair; Howdy Doody, and tootie-fruitie; Cracker Jack prize, fender skirts, double root-beer floats; Ah, do you remember these?”
Most of the things listed in that old Statler Brothers’ song have long since vanished. This generation knows little of those things mentioned in the song for two reasons: (1) they became outmoded and outdated; (2) the memory of those things was not passed along to the next generation. Herein lies the point we want to make. The Lord’s church is older than any of those old 45’s, or those things about which the Statler Brothers sang. Every generation has the sacred obligation of perpetuating the truths of God’s word to the next generation. That old story will never be outmoded or outdated. It may be forgotten by some, but it will always be relevant and up to date. Not everyone in our country is aware of the truths that many of us were taught when we were a child. We are increasingly confronted with questions, the answers to which we often take for granted: “Who is this ‘God’ you talk about?” “What is this book you call the Bible?” “What do you mean by ‘the undenominational nature of the church,’ or this thing you call ‘the church of Christ?” “Why don’t you use instrumental music in your worship?” The same applies to the moral standard that characterized our beloved nation only a half century ago. The younger generation has forgotten the values of our parents and grandparents for the simple reason that (1) Christianity has been criticized as being outmoded, out of date and non-relevant, and (2) some have failed to keep in memory those eternal truths passed along to them by others.
It has often been said, “Apostasy is only one generation away.” I fear that the day may come when I hear some child in a Good Will store come across a copy of the Bible and ask his mother, “Momma, what is this book?” But what I fear even more is that when that question is asked by an inquiring child, his mother will not know how to answer.
Calling Bible Things By Bible Names
by Tom Wacaster
Words serve as a vehicle of communication. Similarly, ideas have consequences and ideas are communicated in words. In view of the fact that God, by inspiration, selected the very words by which to communicate to us spiritual truths (1 Cor. 2:13, ASV), one would think men would respect the words God selected to name and designate our religious activities. Unfortunately this is not the case. Not only have men changed Biblical terminology to suit their own way of thinking, they have invented new words to convey new ideas introduced into their man-made religions. Lets take just one example. The inspired writer Luke tells us that the “disciples were called Christians first in Antioch” (Acts 11:26). We are also instructed to “glorify God in this name” (1 Pet. 4:16). When God selected the name Christian He did so to the exclusion of all other “names.” Prophetically, God said that his people would be called by a new name” (Isa 62:2). Notice the singularity of designation; it is NAME, not NAMES. We can, by divine authority, refer to ourselves as “Christians.” Beyond that, there is no authority, either by example, command or inference. But ask the average man concerning his religious affiliation and he will either hyphenate and/or eliminate the name Christian in his answer. Wherein is the authority? When asked “What church do you attend?” more often than not you will hear some reference to a word or term that is completely foreign to the New Testament. Again, wherein is the authority? In view of the fact that we are to “hold fast the form of sound words (2 Tim. 1:13), perhaps the religious leaders of this land owe us some answer for the new vocabulary they have injected into God’s divine word. For some reason I don’t think such an explanation will be forthcoming.
By Tom Wacaster
“For we have not a high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but one that hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). Three words in that verse define the humanity of Jesus that makes Him qualified to serve as our Redeemer: “Yet without sin.” Everything about Jesus’ earthly sojourn culminates in this one amazing statement. William Moorehead is credited with having made the following observation about the manhood of Jesus: “At every stage of His development, in every relation of life, in every part of His service He is absolutely perfect. To no part of His life does a mistake attach, over no part of it does a cloud rest, nowhere is there defect” (The Fundamentals, Volume 2, page 61). One reason why Jesus lived such an extraordinary life is seen His humility. Jesus came to do the Father’s will, and He never lost sight of that supreme goal. Paul tells us that He “emptied himself, taking upon himself the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:7a). The gospels paint a picture of Someone Who never drew attention to Himself, never demanded His “rights,” or desired fame or fortune. Again from the words of Moorehead:
He receives ministry from the lowly and the lofty; He is sometimes hungry, yet feeds the multitudes in desert places; He has no money, yet He never begs, and He provides the coin for tribute to the government from a fish's mouth. He may ask for a cup of water at the well, but it is that He may save a soul. He never flies from enemies; He quietly withdraws or passes by unseen. Hostility neither excites nor exasperates Him. He is always calm, serene. He seems to care little for Himself, for His own ease or comfort or safety, but everything for the honor and the glory of the Father.
The very character of Jesus declares His divinity. Even if the word of God never declared in so many words the deity of Jesus, His life would stand as a testimony to that undeniable truth. Consider the words of the Hebrews writer for a moment.
First, “one that hath in all points been tempted like as we are.” Temptation is not sin; if it were then it could not be said that Jesus was “without sin.” The devil attacked the woman in the Garden using the “the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vainglory of life” (2 John 2:16b). “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food [“lust of the flesh], and that it was a delight to the eyes [“lust of the eyes”], and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise [“the vainglory of life”], she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat” (Gen. 3:6). I dare not minimize the sin of Adam and Eve, but it should be pointed out that the devil threw all he had at her; unfortunately she caved in, “and she gave also unto her husband with her, and he did eat” (Gen. 3:6b). All men since have been tempted in one of those three ways, and in every case the outcome was that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Fast forward some 4,000 years. The devil again uses the same avenues in an attempt of seduce Jesus to sin: “If thou art the Son of God, command that these stones become bread” (Matt. 4:3) - the “lust of the flesh.” “If thou art the Son of God, cast thyself down” (Matt. 4:6) - the “vainglory of life.” “Again, the devil taketh him unto an exceeding high mountain, and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them” (Matt. 4:8) - “lust of the eyes.” Don’t tell me that Jesus was not tempted. Don’t tell me that He did not face what we have to face in our everyday, rat-race world. Don’t tell me He never felt what we have felt when it comes to the power of temptation.
Now focus on those three words that sets Jesus apart from all men: “yet without sin.” Those words could not have been written had Jesus not demonstrated that sinless nature throughout His life. The gospels bear witness to one unique fact of Jesus’ life, and that is that He lived a sinless life. Consider the following evidence.
First, there is the testimony of His enemies. Throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry the Pharisees were watching His every move. If there were any “skeletons in the closet” they would surely have dug them up. Someone once pointed out: “There was the Pharisee mingling in every crowd, hiding behind every tree. They examined His disciples, they cross-questioned all around Him. They looked into His ministerial life, into His domestic privacy, into His hours of retirement. They came forward with the sole accusation they could muster - that He had shown disrespect to Caesar. The Roman judge who ought to know, pronounced it void.” To that list of enemies we could add Judas, who after betraying Jesus to the Jewish and Roman authorities, confessed that he had betrayed innocent blood.
Second, there is the testimony of the friends of Jesus. Do we think for a moment that had they found some flaw, some sin in the life of Jesus that they would have dedicated their life to following Him? They would have turned away in utter disgust, seeing in this person nothing more than a charlatan, fraud, and hypocrite. Even John the Baptist, perhaps one of the purest of men, realized that when compared to Jesus, he paled in comparison.
Third, there is the very life of Jesus, recorded in the Gospels, and, like an open book, ready for examination. Jesus never prayed for forgiveness. In fact He never asks His disciples to pray for Him in any fashion whatsoever. Once more from the pen of Moorehead:
There is about Him an air of superior holiness, of aloofness from the world and its ways, a separation from evil in every form and of every grade, such as no other that has ever lived has displayed. Although descended from an impure ancestry, He brought no taint of sin into the world with Him; and though He mingled with sinful men and was assailed by fierce temptations, He contracted no guilt, he was touched by no stain. He was not merely undefiled, but He was undefilable. He was like a ray of light which parting from the fountain of light can pass through the foulest medium and still be unstained and untouched. He came down into all the circumstances of actual humanity in its sin and misery, and yet He kept the infinite purity of heaven with Him. In the annals of our race there is none next to or like Him.
I once observed that when God created this universe He created it perfect. Even after the fall of man, and the universal flood, the beauties of creation astound the imagination. One example will suffice here. Have you ever seen any of the colors of a mountain side, or a setting sun clash? The colors of the rainbow blend in exquisite beauty. Now apply that same principle to the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. In every way, and in every situation, our Lord lived a balanced life. Moorhead picked up on this wonderful aspect of our Lord: “In Jesus there is the most perfect balance, the most amazing equipoise of every faculty and grace and duty and power. In His whole life one day's walk never contradicts another, one hour's service never clashes with another. While He shows he is master of nature's tremendous forces, and the Lord of the unseen world, He turns aside and lays His glory by to take little children in His arms and to bless them. While He must walk amid the snares His foes have privily spread for His feet, He is equal to every occasion, is in harmony with the requirements of every moment. He never speaks where it would be better to keep silence, He never keeps silence where it would be better to speak; and He always leaves the arena of controversy a victor. His unaffected majesty, so wonderfully depicted in the Gospels, runs through His whole life, and is as manifest in the midst of poverty and scorn, at Gethsemane and Calvary, as on the Mount Of Transfiguration and in the resurrection from the grave” (Moorehead, The Fundamentals, Volume 2, page 69).
How blessed is mankind that Jesus lived the life He lived, “tempted in all points...yet without sin.” May we never take that for granted, but praise our Father for sending His Son, “Christ the sinless One!”
[Note: I borrowed and adapted many of the thoughts presented by Moorehead in his chapter in The Fundamentals, Volume 2. If you have never read that chapter you owe it to yourself to do so. TW]
by Tom Wacaster
For many years the Bible has been the bestselling book, not only in America, but in every country where God’s word is allowed to have free run. Non-profit organizations such as the American Bible Society have devoted untold man hours, and millions of dollars to see to it that the Bible is made available to anyone and everyone who desires to feed on the Book of books. The fact is, the Bible is the most widely printed, the most sought after, and the most influential book the world has ever had the blessed privilege of reading. The Bible is, without doubt, the greatest book ever written.
Consisting of 66 books, it stands as a monumental representation of heaven’s love for mankind. From the moment that God’s word has gone forth to man, Satan has scrutinized, criticized, de-emphasized and sought to minimize the Holy word. Critics have assailed its “contradictions” and “inconsistencies,” but the honest seeker knows that all such attempts to find fault with Scripture are mere subterfuge and a whistling in the wind. The Bible has survived the onslaught of critics, and the more scrutiny and examination the Bible receives, the more it shines. It has withstood the hammers of infidelity, and weathered the howling winds of higher criticism. Within the pages of the Bible the reader can find explicit statements as to its indestructibility. “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matt. 24:35). “The grass withereth, and the flower falleth; But the word of the Lord abideth forever. And this is the word of good tidings which was preached unto you” (1 Pet. 1:24b-25). The word of God is pictured as an “incorruptible seed” (1 Pet. 1:23), and something that cannot be bound (2 Tim. 2:9). William Hendriksen is credited with having said, “Others will carry on when I leave this earthly scene. The authorities have put me in the dungeon, but they cannot imprison the gospel. It will triumph and no enemy can thwart it.” This book will be preached until our Lord returns, it will be opened at the Judgment scene, and it will be honored throughout eternity. While history books become outdated, and science books re-edited, the Bible remains as fresh today as when it was written and needs no addition, subtraction, or rewriting. So long as men hunger and thirst after righteousness, the Bible will find a place in their hearts.
In view of the indestructibility of the word, why do so many neglect a serious study of its contents? Surely it is not because of it’s lack of availability. Have you ever thought of the amazing availability of Scripture in our modern age? We have ready access to God’s word in print and on the internet. If you have an iPad, you can download free Bible software from Olive Tree. If you have an Android phone, an iPhone, or a simple Trackphone, applications are available at no charge. Software is available for those who prefer studying at the keyboard of a computer, providing dozens of translations, dictionaries, commentaries, maps, illustrations, and study helps. I have on my computers two Bible software programs, both of which are absolutely free. At the click of a button I can look up words, search the meaning of the original Hebrew and Greek words, consult the wisdom of brethren who blazed the trail in our country in order to restore the church of the New Testament and provide generations to follow a sound and solid footing in the word, and scour the internet for literally thousands of websites and blogs by faithful brethren. The sheer amount of material available to the serious Bible student overwhelms me. So you see, it is not a matter of some lack of availability of God’s word that causes us to neglect study of His word. Yes, what an amazing age we live in! And yet, sadly, far too many saints still neglect their sacred responsibility and privilege of studying the word. In a time when our world needs a strong church to counteract the onslaught of the devil, it seems that we are the weakest we have been in decades; all because of negligence and apathy on the part of members of the Lord’s body. Some years ago I came across the following poem that addresses the problem of which I speak:
by Cleah Boaz
I am a Bible proudly displayed
for all the world to see.
With my leather cover and gilded pages
I am open at Psalm 23.
But no one ever picks me up
and lovingly turns a page,
And the place that is open at Psalm 23
is growing brittle with age.
I am a Bible proudly displayed
On a beautifully carved teak stand.
But no one ever reads the words
that were penned by an inspired hand.
My owner thinks my presence
is his ticket to Paradise,
But he has never consulted me
or heeded my advice.
I am a Bible proudly displayed
open but never read.
My owner’s soul will starve to death
for lack of its daily bread.
I don’t know if you have ever heard of William McPherson. After a tragic accident Mr. McPherson found himself with no hands and no eyes. In his despair, he turned to the Word of God. However, he could not read Braille with artificial hands. He attempted to read the Braille with his lips, but the dynamite had exploded in his face and he had no feeling left in his lips. One day he tried to read the dots with his tongue and discovered that he could distinguish the Moon system of dashes. Unfortunately, his tongue became sore and bled constantly. Sometimes he would stay up the entire night just to learn a single letter of the alphabet. Eventually, he mastered the entire alphabet and read the entire Bible with his tongue four times before his death. This man’s example ought to shame those who complain that they don’t have the time or who do not want to put forth the effort to read the Bible. Their neglect will face them in the judgment, and the very words of Christ that they neglected will judge them in the last day (John 12:48).
This year is rapidly drawing to a close. How did you fare in your daily Bible reading this year? In sixteen days you will be provided a clean slate of time: 365 days, 52 weeks, 12 months! Pick up your reading schedule for the year and don’t neglect God’s Book.