by Tom Wacaster

There are certain words in the Bible that astound the mind and thrill the heart. Words like “redemption,” “forgiveness,” “grace,” and “salvation” are among those words. The worldly minded can never appreciate the magnitude nor the depth of those words as they relate to matters eternal. But those who have been rescued from the bondage of sin have an appreciation that cannot be expressed in words. The word “reconciliation” is another word that falls into that category. It is not a difficult word, nor is it hard to understand. Webster defines the word “reconciliation” as meaning “to restore to friendship or harmony, to settle or resolve.” When applied to people it means to get two separated people back together again. It may refer to a husband who wants to be reconciled to his wife, or a father who wants to be reconciled to a wayward son. But when we use the word to refer to a sinner who wants to be reconciled to God we have come upon the richest use of the word in all of human language. Reconciliation occurs when sinners are brought into a state of favor with God. You may speak of material blessings, abundance of riches, or great and abundant possession in this life. But when you talk about reconciliation with God you have exhausted the meaning of what it means to be blessed.

While it is not difficult to understand the meaning of the word, it may be difficult to put reconciliation into practice, so far as human relations are concerned. It can be difficult, and even sometimes impossible, to get two family members who are at odds with one another to be reconciled to each other. Alan Smith shared this humorous story with his readers some years ago: A man once went to a preacher because he was having some family problems. He wasn’t a very well-educated man and sometimes got his words confused. He said, “Me and my wife need a re-cancellation.” What he meant to say was reconciliation, but the word re-cancellation wasn’t a bad choice. Because there can be peace for those who have been separated only when sin has been canceled. As sinners before a righteous God, we need a “re-cancellation”. And that’s exactly what Jesus made available when he died on the cross (Alan Smith,

Our English words “reconcile,” “reconciled,” or “reconciliation” appear ten times in the New Testament (Matt. 5:24, Rom. 5:10, 1 Cor. 7:11, 2 Cor. 5:18, 5:19, 5:20, Eph. 2:16, Col 1:20, 1:21, and Heb. 2:17). Some of these passages speak of reconciliation between two human individuals; some speak of God’s act of reconciling the lost to Himself; and some speak of man’s responsibility to “be reconciled” to God. It is 2 Corinthians 5:18 that I want to focus our attention on for this article: “But all things are of God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and gave unto us the ministry of reconciliation” (emphasis mine, TW). Let us notice the following truths relative to reconciliation as presented in this passage.

First, Paul speaks of the ministry of reconciliation. The very focus of our labors in the kingdom is that of reconciling men to God. So often we lose sight of our purpose as the body of Christ. God has given unto us the task of saving the souls of men. This should be the focus of our labors in all that we do. If we manage to encourage one another, to uplift the body, or organize and conduct a dozen or more fellowship meals each year, but neglect the salvation of the souls of men we have not accomplished what God wants us to accomplish. Ours is not a ministry to improve the physical man, maintain a soup kitchen, cloth the naked, pay electric bills, water bills, or stock and operate a pantry for the homeless. Paul clearly points out that God has given us the ministry of reconciliation. Our task is to save the souls of men. If we neglect that part of our work as the body of Christ, nothing else really matters.

Second, Paul sets forth the terms of reconciliation. “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature” (5:17). In another passage Paul tells us that we are reconciled unto God “in one body…through the cross” (Eph. 2:16). The important word in both of these passages contains only two letters. It is the word “in.” It is IN Christ that we are reconciled to God; it is IN Christ that we become a new creature; it is IN Christ that men come to have salvation. If we are to fulfill the “ministry of reconciliation” we must be about telling men how to get INTO Christ. If we do not fulfill that responsibility, then it will not get done. The religious world does not teach the truth on this matter and men in general have no idea as to how to get INTO Christ! When Paul told the Romans that they were baptized “into Christ” (Rom. 6:3-5), and the Galatians that those who are baptized “into Christ” did put on Christ (Gal. 3:27) he forever settled the question as to the importance of baptism in God’s scheme of redemption.

Third, Paul sets forth the results of reconciliation. “Wherefore if any man is in Christ he is a new creature: the old things are passed away; behold, they are become new” (5:17). Love of the world gives way to the love of God and Jesus; old views are replaced by new ones; new aims take the place of worldly goals; treasures are laid up in heaven rather than upon the earth. A man once said that since he had become a Christian that all things had NOT become new because he still had the same wife, and same old sun shone every morning. That man missed the thrust of Paul’s words. All things have become new in that the new creature no longer lives unto himself, but unto Him Who died for him (2 Cor. 5:15).

Fourth, Paul tells us about the method of reconciliation. “Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21). If a man is estranged from his wife, he might be able to bring about reconciliation with some flowers and a large dose of humility. But when man sins against God, his “iniquities” will hide God’s face from him, and separate him from his Father in heaven. All the flowers in the world cannot atone for sin. We were not purchased with “corruptible things, with silver or gold, from your vain manner of life handed down from your fathers; but with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot, even the blood of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:18-19). The vicarious suffering of our Lord is the method by which God would save man. Thus, as the innocent suffered for the guilty, suffering what sin deserved to suffer, God could be just and the justifier of them that believe (Rom. 3:26). Voluntary substitution is in perfect harmony with justice, provided every step is voluntary – the substitute in offering, the government in allowing, and the criminal in accepting. Seeing that none of us have it within our power to pay the price for our sins, the very offer from the eternal God of grace to provide a substitute should drive us to our knees in grateful appreciation for this method of reconciliation! C.C. Crawford once wrote:

This principle of vicarious suffering is the foundation upon which civilization has been built - in fact upon which all society has been built, civilized or uncivilized. It is also the essential principle of human progress towards that one, far-off event, towards which the whole creation moves. Not so many years ago there went forth from our homes thousands of fine young men. They crossed the rolling deep and pitched their tents on Flanders fields and in the valleys of the Argonne. When they started out, many thought it would be a lark. But the poetry of war soon vanished, and nothing was left but the prose. They lived in dug-outs. They marched and ate and slept in mud. They rushed into living hells. They had ribs fractured, eyes put out, lungs filled with gas, limbs shot away. Thousand cried for water as they lay dying on the battlefields, and received it not. They were cold and weary and homesick. No one but Almighty God knows the length and breadth and depth of the awful anguish and suffering of those who fought, bled and died on those European battlefields. Why did fathers leave their homes and go to the front? Why did young men, postponing the day of marriage, press the last, long, lingering kisses upon the lips of the sweethearts, and then rush away into war with its uncertain future? I am still convinced that they died for a principle. I refuse to believe that it was all in vain - that a sacrifice is ever in vain. There may have been greed, graft and corruption mixed up with all of it, but there was nobility, too! Autocracy had to be overthrown, lest our own wives and daughters might have to suffer what the innocent women and children of Belgium and France suffered. The war had its sordid side, of course; but surely all this bloodshed was not meaningless! A thousand times; yea, ten thousand times - no! I still believe that these men suffered to advance the cause of democracy and freedom. As for me I glory in the crimson line. I am thrilled when I read its suggestive meaning in the cup of the Lord’s Supper. I am moved with an unexplainable ecstasy when I see the ancient altars dripping with the blood of the slain lambs. Now I understand why the destroying angel who passed over Egypt at the hour of midnight, passed over those houses where the blood was sprinkled on the door-post. Now, I know to whom Isaiah refers, when he writes of One “in red apparel coming in dyed garments”; whom John the Revelator refers to, when he describes that heavenly chieftain whose vesture was dipped in blood; what Simon Peter means when he writes of that precious blood which cleanseth from all sin; and what the writer of our text has in mind when he declares that “apart from shedding of blood there is no remission.” I want to say to you, with all the power of emphasis and persuasion of which I am capable, that by the precious blood of Jesus you will be saved, or you will never be saved at all. In all ages God has never pardoned a single sin-sick soul except on the merits of our Savior’s precious blood, and He never will. That lonely hill back of Jerusalem was the battleground of which the Prince of heaven fought with the powers of darkness, and won. There God turned an evil thing into a channel of blessing. There, Sin, in slaying the Son of God, slew itself.

Beloved, if mere men are willing to suffer for the betterment of mankind, how grateful that our Lord was willing to suffer and die for us. How wonderful, indeed, is the ministry of reconciliation that has been placed in our hands!

The Silencing of the Voice of Opposition

by Tom Wacaster

For slightly more than one year the Handley church of Christ has placed an article in the Meadowbrook News advertizing our services, location, and focusing on a wide variety of subject matter. Attempting to develop a lengthy discussion on any particular subject is futile in what limited space we were allotted. So, I would occasionally write two or more articles on one particular topic and run these in a series. The Meadowbrook News is not the only paper in which I have used the opportunity to place a weekly or bi-weekly article. Almost every place I have done local work we have used the power of the printed page to encourage the community to think and reason with us. Such articles, though short in nature, provide an opportunity to keep the church out before the public while teaching the truth on a wide variety of topics that are important to society in general, and to individuals in particular.

I have learned over the years that some topics seem to receive a “ho-hum” response. If I write on the church, the plan of salvation, or other topics that focus on the distinctive nature of the church and her doctrine, the response is often one of apathy and/or indifference. With but few exceptions, folks simply no longer care what the Bible teaches. Let me run an article titled, “What Does The Bible Really Teach on Baptism,” and the majority of those who may take the time to flip through the Meadowbrook News will simply pass the article by. The thinking in the mind of some is summed up in two words: “So what?” There have been exceptions, as was the case about ten years ago when a series of articles in the Mt. Pleasant Tribune led to a four night debate with a denominational preacher on the subject of baptism. The wide-spread apathy on such matters is the result of post modern thinking. Truth, to some, no longer matters, and rather than attempt to provide an answer to those who challenge error, the thinking is, “Let’s just ignore it and it will go away!”

Articles that are more personal in nature may receive some interest on the part of those who peruse the paper. That is because the article makes them feel good. Unfortunately, when we happen to write on the spiritual blessing of grace, hope, salvation, etc., few seem to realize that those spiritual blessings are located only in Christ, and they simply fail to put two and two together and properly conclude that they must obey Christ in order to receive those great blessings.
And then there are those topics that run completely contrary to the moral standard of those who are caught up in sin. Let a preacher write an article, or preach on television or radio on such subjects as abortion, homosexuality, the exclusive nature of salvation, et al, and he will find himself castigated, criticized, and if possible, run out of town on the proverbial rail! Some years ago I ran a series of articles on abortion in a small paper in Ada, Oklahoma. I pointed out in those articles that abortion was not a political, or even a Constitutional issue, but a moral issue. The decision of the Supreme Court to legalize abortion was not only contrary to the spirit of the Constitution of the United States, but a direct violation of the teachings of God’s word. In short, I logically and reasonably laid out the argument that abortion is sin at best, and murder and shedding of innocent blood at worst. I even had the “audacity” (as one angry reader said) to speak against the decision of the highest court in this land. The response to that series of articles was, for the most part, negative. I was called a “male chauvinist,” a “woman hater,” a bigot, and anti “pro-choice.” I have always considered it strange that those who preach toleration for varying opinions and diversity of thought are the one’s who are the first to be so intolerant. I suppose that will always be the case. But we press on in our undaunted efforts to present the truth on all matters, whether our preaching be in season or out of season.

This brings me to the point in this article. Most of you are aware that I had written and submitted four articles to the Meadowbrook News on the subject of homosexuality. After the first article ran, I received an email stating strong opposition to the article. I was called “hateful,” “unreasonable,” and opposed to people being able to pursue “happiness” as set forth in the Constitution. For some reason I do not think the framers of the Constitution had in mind the practice of homosexuality or some other form of deviant behavior as being the “pursuit of happiness.” Shortly before running the second article I receive a second email from a different source. The respondent said that I should take another look at the Bible on the subject and if I studied with an open mind and a loving heart that I would come to realize, as that respondent had, that homosexuality was not only approved, but encouraged in God’s word. My, my, what twisted reasoning. After the second article was run two weeks later, the emails and complaints become more frequent, and accusations of “hate,” “trouble maker,” and “homophobic” mentality were cast upon me. The third article was run two weeks later, and the president of the Business Association of Meadowbrook sent me a letter telling me that I was engendering hatred in the community, and that this would not be tolerated by the Meadowbrook community. Wow! Such kind and tolerant words for someone who is supposed to be unkind and intolerant! The bombshell came in a registered letter dated January 30th, 2012, from the President of the Greater Meadowbrook News informing us that “The Greater Meadowbrook News has always prided itself on being a family oriented, Eastside paper, promoting what is good about the people and this community...Therefore, as of this date...we are terminating your contract with Greater Meadowbrook News.” Our voice has been silenced because of the pressure that was evidently brought upon the Meadowbrook News by those who hate having their sin exposed. Like so many in today’s politically correct society, Mr. Conlin (President of the Meadowbrook News) has no idea of how “family oriented” the truth is when it comes the practice of homosexuality. By silencing the truth, the family is hurt, and society takes one step closer to complete destruction, as was the case of Sodom and Gomorrah. The tragedy is that the voice of truth on the matter of homosexuality and the sinfulness thereof has, for all practical purposes, been silenced. Radio stations, television stations, and newspapers will not tolerate an open and honest examination of such immoral practices. Ten years ago, Babara Walters made this amazing, but enlightening statement: “We have done a great many programs about gays and lesbians. We hope that we've opened some minds -- and if they're not open, we just don't care anymore” (ABC News talking-head Barbara Walters, accepting a GLAAD [Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation] Media Award for a "20/20" feature touting gays as parents). Most denominational preachers (and even some so-called preachers for the Lord’s church) will no longer preach on the subject of homosexuality or abortion because it produces too much controversy. So, it is left up to you and me to proclaim the truth of the matter—to our friends, our neighbors, our children and anyone who will listen. There is too much at stake to remain silent on the matter. The voice my have been silenced by the enemies of truth, but that does not change the truth—and all of those who helped to bring about such silencing of the truth will give account to God on the Judgment day.

A City of Light In A World of Darkness

by Tom Wacaster

You might say that this is a "tale of two cities."   The first city that I want to tell you about is Las Vegas, Nevada.   Any attempt to adequately describe the brightness of this "gambling capital of the world" would be feeble at best.   Daytime in the midst of night time is an understatement.  Standing outside the Golden Nugget in downtown Las Vegas at 11:00 P.M. could be likened to standing outside in the early morning hours at Anytown USA.   While it may not be as bright as the sky at high noon, it is bright enough to dispel the darkness and leave the distinct impression that it is anything BUT nigh unto midnight.   Two years ago the citizens of Las Vegas erected a canopy over a four block stretch of one downtown street.  Inside this canopy are more than 2,000,000 lights, and every hour on the hour from dark to dusk the city provides a computerized, motion picture type light show. The glitter and glamour of this Nevada town is without equal.  Here is a city bathed in lights, but one that sits in darkness.  The apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians and informed them, and us, that "they that sleep sleep in the night; and they that are drunken are drunken in the night" (1 Thess. 5:7).  If there was ever a word which might describe the spiritual status of that city, it is the word darkness.  This is a kind of darkness that does not come with the setting of the sun, but sin within the soul.  It is spiritual and intellectual darkness.   This darkness cannot be dispelled with electric lights, florescent bulbs, or light extravaganzas blinking on and off.  This is the darkness of a Christ-less life. It is the darkness of ignorance and immorality.  It is the darkness of enmity toward and separation from God.  It is the darkness of wickedness, wherein is partying, drunkenness, adultery and wild abandonment.   But most interestingly, it is a darkness that is chosen above light by the masses of humanity.   People who are enslaved to this darkness actually love that darkness, and avoid the light.    Here is how our Lord described it:  "And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their works were evil.  For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, lest his works should be reproved. But he that doeth the truth cometh to the light, that his works may be made manifest, that they have been wrought in God" (John 3:19-21).  Our Lord came to deliver us from darkness (Col. 1:13).

Now let me tell you about another city.  This is a "city set on a hill" (Matthew 5:14). It is the "heavenly city," that one day will be called home to heaven, away from this world of darkness and sin.  It is a city whose light must shine so as to provide light for a world that sits in darkness.  I am speaking of the church of our Lord.   We have been called "out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).  We are to have no fellowship with the "unfruitful works of darkness" (Eph. 5:11-12).   Even as we drove down the "strip" so bathed in lights, and watched the crowds who were enamored with the glitter of the hour, my heart ached because of the countless thousands who wandered the streets with their eyes blinded by the brightness of the Las Vegas lights. 

All men live in one of two cities.  They either live in the "Las Vegas" of this world, or the city which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God.  I do not know who wrote the following, but I shall close with its clear and concise message:  

 "If there were no other light in the world, I would let my light shine.... If there were darkness everywhere, it would take only one, small candle - perhaps mine - to begin pushing back the darkness.... If there were no one to join with me in pushing back the darkness, I have a God-given obligation to do what I do to the best of my ability for as long as I can.... If there were no one to walk in the light, but only the rumblings of those who curse the darkness from the shadows, my light will not be discouraged.... If this were all there is to life... to knowledge... to relationships with our fellow man, then even the lighting of one candle with conviction is significant."