A Nation Awash In Immorality

by Tom Wacaster

I attempt to awake each morning around 6:00 and get started on my days activities which include a quick visit to various websites on the internet that provide me with some of things that occurred during the night while I was asleep.  I used to take the Fort Worth Star Telegram, but I found out that about 90% of what I read in the paper each morning I read the day or night previous on the internet.  Most of the remaining 10% had to do with local advertisements, arrangements for marriages, auctions, and the local obituary page (which I seldom read anyway).   By comparing the different websites I have come to learn that much of what comes over the media is slanted by reporters put their “spin” on the facts so as to influence the thinking of their audience.   This is true with most of the main stream media.  It seems rather obvious that the media, by in large, has been captured by the liberal element in our society and is being used as a tool for propaganda to advance their liberal ideology and agenda.  But that is a topic for another article.   I find it especially refreshing that there are at least a few organizations that still provide what FOX has come to call a “fair and balanced” approach to reporting the news; but even then, FOX falls prey to the temptation to put their own slant on things from time to time.    

I have learned from experience that it is indeed true that “there is nothing new under the sun,” and today's news is a rehash of yesterday's news as well as a glimpse at what might very well happen tomorrow.  In fact, you can take just about any item that makes the newspaper headlines, evening TV news, or the “world wide web” of news, change the names and places, and predict what will be in the next day's paper or television news report with remarkable accuracy. It has been a little more than thirteen years since we moved away from Harris county [home of Houston, Humble, Baytown, Sugarland, et al].  Each year, somewhere around January, Harris county would report the number of homicides for the previous year.  In 1997, give or take a year [the memory is not what it used to be], Harris county issued a special nine month report on homicides for the simple reason that killings for that year had exceeded all previous year totals for twelve months.  By late September homicides had exceeded 750, and it was predicted that before year's end they would surpass 900 [if I remember correctly, the year closed out with a record number of homicides, the number far exceeding the 900 count].  That means Harris county averaged more than two homicides PER DAY [or seventeen per week, and seventy five per month].  We left that part of the world in late 1999.  Johnnie Ann and I would spend the next ten years living in beautiful East Texas where, generally speaking, life is much slower and folks seem a little more contented and easy going that they are in the big cities.   Mt. Pleasant, Talco, and Clarksville (all within about a forty mile radius of one another) became “home” for the next ten years.  The “local” news in small town U.S.A. is  not necessarily what might be happening in those small towns.  Newspapers are just as apt to report about things in Shreveport, Louisiana as Talco, Texas (in fact, seldom, if ever, did we read about something happening in Talco; but then, what do you expect from a town of only 500 population).   I quickly learned that moving from the big city of Houston to a small town in East Texas was not an escape from the kind of news one reads about in the Houston Chronicle, Fort Worth Star Telegram, or Dallas Morning News.   See if these headlines sound familiar:  “Song blamed for shootings”; “DISD credit card theft”; “Doctors accused of intentionally killing terminal ill patients”;  “Lottery firm under suspicion”; “Dallas Cowboy injured in freeway shooting”; “Congress deadlocked in budget battle”;  “Three killed in  night club incident”; “Abortion advocates file suit in local courthouse to protect mother’s rights.”  Every one of those headlines are at least fifteen years old.   Were I to pick up a copy of today’s Dallas Morning News, or Fort Worth Star Telegram, I could probably, without much effort, find news items with similar titles.   Solomon was right: There is NOTHING new under the sun!

Now, what does all that have to do with God, man, salvation, the church, or life in general?  It is this: a nation cannot long endure when its citizenry has become so immoral that the nation is characterized by that immorality rather than moral uprightness.  The inspired writer put it this way:  “Righteousness exalteth a nation; but sin is a reproach to any people” (Pro. 14:34).  When this nation was founded it was the intention of our forefathers that this grand Republic maintain allegiance to God first and foremost.  They did not envision a “secular” state where God is excluded from the laws and thinking of society.   James Madison is credited with these words: “We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind for self-government; upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the Ten Commandments of God.”   The fact is, dear reader, that our nation is literally awash in immorality.   The newspapers, television, radio and internet inundate us with the latest news of events that are current.  We are updated on the killings, the latest rock start, politician, or sports hero who has “come out of the closet,” and lies and dishonesty of prominent politicians.  Those are the “major stories” that are brought to our attention.  But what of the hundreds, yea even thousands of “stories” that go untold.  They are reflected in statistics regarding child abuse, broken homes, petty theft and embezzlement, dishonesty in the work place, cheating in the classroom, gang initiations, and white collar crime.   And what more shall we say, for the time will fail us if we speak of Hollywood, TV programs, pornography, gambling, homosexuality, and political powers that want to remove God from every vestige of our daily life.  Oh yes, our nation is awash in immorality.  Tragically, we have become too blind to realize this undeniable truth. 

It has been more than seventy years since McGuffey's Reader was a regular textbook in our public school system.  William McGuffey was not just an educator; he was a man of integrity and moral uprightness.  But he was a man of great wisdom.  He once penned these words:  “If you can induce a community to doubt the genuineness and authenticity of the Scriptures, to question the reality and obligations of religion; to hesitate, undeciding, whether there be any such thing as virtue or vice; whether there be an eternal state of retribution beyond the grave; or whether there be any such being as God; you have broken down the barriers of moral virtue, and hoisted the flood gates of immorality and crime.  I need not say that when a people have once done this, they can no longer exist as a tranquil and happy people…Avarice, perjury, ambition, and revenge would walk through the land, and render it more like the dwelling of savage beasts than the tranquil abode of civilized and Christianized men” (William McGuffey, quoted in Power Lectures, The Parables of Jesus, page 320). 

I fear that we are rapidly becoming this “dwelling of savage beasts.”  Only history will tell.  But the fact is, history is not on our side.  General Douglas McArthur wrote: “History fails to record a single precedent in which nations subject to moral decay have not passed into political and economic decline.  There has been either a spiritual awakening to overcome the moral lapse, or a progressive deterioration leading to ultimate national disaster.”  We stand at a cross roads in this decade.  Shall we turn the tide, or shall we remain awash in immorality? Only time will tell. 

Our Christian Walk

by Tom Wacaster

I am profitably engaged in a study of Colossians.   This is part of my annual personal study that I usually do early in the morning, along with my daily reading of both Old and New Testaments.   I was particularly struck by Paul’s words that we “walk worthily of the Lord unto all pleasing” (Col. 1:10).  Having prayed for their spiritual enlightenment, Paul next prays that they might have a worthy walk. He is praying that the Colossians might not only be spiritually enlightened, but that there might be the practical application of those things that they know to be the will of God.   Here is a purpose clause introduced by the infinitive "to." If we make the connection with verse 9, stating only the second clause, Paul's prayer was for them "to walk worthily of the Lord unto all pleasing." Our walk is to be such that is pleasing to God in all things. There is no area of life that cannot be committed to God. Every thought, every act, every desire must be brought under submission to the will of God. This phrase ("unto all pleasing") is especially significant.  It suggests doing every thing in the best manner, in the most proper time, and in a becoming spirit. Even a good work might be marred and rendered fruitless by being done improperly, out of season, or in a temper of mind that grieves the Holy Spirit.  Our attitude should be that of the Psalmist who prayed, "Teach me to thy will" (Psalms 143:10). The word translated "pleasing" is not found elsewhere in the New Testament.  It appears that the word had a bad connotation in Classical Greek, sometime used to describe a servant with a cringing and subservient habit, ready to do anything to please his master; not only to meet but to anticipate his most trivial wishes. But the One Whom we are to please is God, not man. No effort should be spared to make sure we are walking pleasing before God. The specific details are then given so that we can know how to be pleasing unto God. 

The "walk" is then modified by four present tense participles which define precisely how it is that one is to walk: (1) "bearing fruit in every good work," (2) "increasing in the knowledge of God," (3) "strengthened with all power," and (4) "giving thanks unto the Father." Seeing these define the Christian walk, it behooves us to take a closer look at each of these. Keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list of those things that characterize the Christian life.  I want to use my limited space in the next few bulletins to touch on this “worthy walk.”

First, our walk is to be productive, "bearing fruit in every good work."  It is unfortunate that works of obedience have come to be identified with works of merit on the part of so many in Christendom. Consequently the doctrine of salvation by "faith only" has gained a considerable amount of following in the religious world. The truth of the matter is that good works and salvation are inseparable. One author put it this way:  “We are justified along three lines. We are justified by blood (Rom. 5:9), which is what makes salvation possible; we are justified by faith (3:28), which is what makes salvation personal; and we are justified by works (James 2:21), which is what makes salvation practical.  

Second, our worthy walk is to find us progressing, "increasing in the knowledge of God." The American Standard Version footnote suggests "by" the knowledge of God. This would affirm that the knowledge of God is the MEANS by which the Christian grows. The word of God nurtures our spiritual growth. The more we know of and about God, the more we mature spiritually. Albert Barnes wrote,

It is by endeavoring to become better acquainted with his true character. God is pleased with those who desire to understand what he is; what he does; what he purposes; what he commands. Hence he not only commands us to study his works, but he has made a world so beautiful as to invite us to contemplate his perfections as reflected in that world. Men are often displeased when others attempt to look into their plans, for they are sensible they will not bear the light of investigation. God has no plans which would not be seen to be, in the highest degree, glorious to him (Barnes, ESword)..

If the child of God is not growing, he is dying. It is either upward and onward, or downward and backward. Let us be found increasing in the knowledge of God.

Third, our worthy walk is to find us empowered, "strengthened with all power." Here is the third participle describing the worthy walk. We are to be strengthened so as to meet all temptations, all trials, and to bear up under the various situations of life. In this verse, the Greek language actually uses the same word, once as a noun, once as a verb, literally, "empowered with all power" (Pulpit Commentary, ESword). Such strength that provides power is "according to the might of his glory." Hendriksen has an excellent comment on this: "When a multimillionaire gives 'of' his wealth to some good cause he may be giving very little; but when he donates 'in accordance with' his riches, the amount will be substantial." Lenski also has an interesting comment:

The next participle shows how this knowledge is able to do what Paul has just said...By means of this knowledge God ever keeps filling us with dynamic power...In no power that we need for fruit-bearing and growing does God leave us deficient. If we ever prove deficient, it is never because he fails to supply us; it is always only because we do not let him ‘fill us with the knowledge of his will,' with this knowledge that is so effective a means for making us bear fruit and grow...Look well to the empty spaces in your knowledge. The fruit that is lacking in your life is due to the spaces that are still without full knowledge and thus still without the power that should be in them.

While there are some among us who see in this and similar passages a direct operation of the Holy Spirit upon the hearts of the child of God in order to produce strength, the Bible teaches us that the strength we have derives from a careful study of God's word and an increase in knowledge. The word of God is the "sword of the Spirit" (Eph. 6:17) and the means by which the child of God is strengthened. It is also important to note that the power with which we are strengthened is "according to the might of his glory." Paul uses two different Greek words in verse 11 to describe the power of God. When he speaks of us being strengthened with "power," he uses the word 'dunamis,' from which we get our word 'dynamite.' When Paul says it is according to the "might" of His glory, he uses the word 'kratos,' which means power that is put forth in action. We can reflect upon the Old Testament stories and recall the great feats that God accomplished, such as the dividing of the Red Sea, or slaying of the armies of Sennacherib. Or we can meditate upon great things done by the apostle who wrote this letter. But we must not forget that the victory we win over sin every time we resist temptation is a manifestation of the power of God that resides in His word. The Hebrew writer reminds us that "the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb. 4:12). When the word is applied to our life it manifests great power in the self control we exercise. We must never forget that "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; And he that ruleth his spirit, than he that taketh a city" (Proverbs 16:32). This is why the apostle, in speaking of the manifestation of this strength that is ours, zeroes in on three most unlikely characteristics of Christian virtue: "patience," "longsuffering," and "joy."  

That power comes from God’s word, not from some magical, mystical, better-felt-than-told direct operation of the Holy Spirit.  This is why the apostle, in speaking of the manifestation of this strength that is ours, zeroes in on three most unlikely characteristics of Christian virtue: "patience," "longsuffering," and "joy."  Consider each one of these for a moment:  (i) Patience:  "Patience" is best translated, "endurance" or "steadfastness."  It comes from the Greek word ‘hupomone,' which means "cheerful (or hopeful) endurance, constancy."  If the Christian does not learn to be patient, it is not likely that he will learn much of anything.  (ii) Longsuffering: This Christian virtue is the opposite of wrath or vengeance.  It is the attitude of a person who does not retaliate in spite of injury or harm.  From the Greek, ‘makrothumia,' it means "self restraint."  Someone once suggested that patience has to do with circumstances, while longsuffering has to do with people.  "It is the quality of mind and heart which enables a man so to bear with people that their unpleasantness and maliciousness and cruelty will never drive him to bitterness, that their unteachableness will never drive him to despair, that their folly will never drive him to irritation, and that their unloveliness will never alter his love" (Barclay). The epitome of longsuffering is our Father in heaven (cf. 2 Peter 3:9).  Solomon warned us, "He whose spirit is without restraint is like a city that is broken down and without walls" (Pro. 25:28). (iii) Joy:  There is a little song that our "pew packers" used to sing, which words capture the extent of this apostolic admonition.  "Joy is the flag that flies o'er the castle of a man's heart when the King is in residence there."  It should be noted that Paul enjoins patience and longsuffering "with" joy.  In other words, "when circumstances are difficult, we should exhibit joyful patience; and when people are hard to live with, we should reveal joyful longsuffering."  Caution should be exercised that we do not confuse joy and happiness.  Happiness is often, though not always,  dependent on circumstances.  But joy is completely independent of circumstances.  Perhaps the most joyful epistle that Paul wrote was that to the Philippians.  But he wrote that letter while in prison in Rome.  Barclay quotes C.F.D. Moule: "If joy is not rooted in the soil of suffering, it is shallow."  He then goes on to note, "It is easy to be joyful when things go well, but the Christian radiance is something which not all the shadows of life can quench." 

One more observation before we leave this section.  Since "bearing fruit," "increasing in the knowledge of God," and "giving thanks" are individual responsibilities, why should we draw the conclusion that "strengthened with all power" is some OUTSIDE force that acts upon us without some input or effort on our part?  We are "strengthened unto" patience, longsuffering, and joy.  The strength comes when we APPLY that power available to our life.  The POWER to be patient, to be longsuffering, and to be joyful resides in God's word.  Any shortcoming on our part so far as these Christian virtues is concerned, is due to our unwillingness to apply the word of God to our life.  

Fourth, our walk is to be one of gratitude, always "giving thanks unto the Father."  This letter stresses thanksgiving in other verses:  "As therefore ye received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and builded up in him, and established in your faith, even as ye were taught, abounding in thanksgiving" (Col 2:6-7).  "And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Col. 3:17).  "Continue stedfastly in prayer, watching therein with thanksgiving" (Col. 4:2).  

The remainder of this verse, on through the 14th, serve to remind us of some of the reasons why we should be thankful.  But before noting the reasons for thanksgiving, let us consider to Whom we are to be thankful.  It is "unto the Father."  There are at least two things suggest by Paul's admonition that we give thanks unto our heavenly Father:

(i) First there is the intrinsic nature of God, namely His omnipotence, omnipresence, and immutability.  It is because of Who and What God is, that we are to pray to Him. 

(ii) Next, there is His personal nature and qualities.  He is a personal God.  He has feelings, can love, care, etc. He also has wrath.  It is to this "Father" that we are to give thanks.

I have observed over the years that the absence of a grateful heart quickly leads to an absence of faithfulness in other areas of Christian living.  It is imperative, therefore, that we never forget to offer thanks to our Father from Whom we receive every good and perfect gift.    To do otherwise is to falter in our Christian walk and stumble along our journey toward that heavenly home.

I’ll close with a humorous but pointed illustration regarding our using caution and wisdom in our Christian walk.   A prosperous business man who traveled frequently learned to fly, and bought his own plane.  After several years he decided to buy one with pontoons so he could fly to his cabin on the lake.  On the very first flight in his new plane, he forgetfully headed for the airport landing strip where he had regularly landed for years.  Luckily, just before he hit the runway, his wife yelled, “Pull up, George. Pull up!  You can’t land here, you have pontoons!” Flushed and humbled, he hit the throttle, veered off toward the lake, and landed safely in the calm, blue waters.  He shook his head rather ruefully and said, “I don’t know where my mind was. I just wasn’t thinking. That’s probably the dumbest thing I’ve ever done.”  He then opened the door, stepped out of the plane and fell into the lake.    When the apostle Paul admonished us to “Look carefully how you walk” (Eph. 5:15-16), he knew that people are prone to do foolish things.    Brethren, let’s determine that we will be careful in our walk, give thanks to the Father always, and “be 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).



Are There Sincere Christians In Every Denomination?

by Tom Wacaster

The title to this article derives from a statement made by a brother in Christ at a preacher’s forum in 1983.  Since that time our brother (albeit, apostate brother) has widened his circle of fellowship to embrace many of those in error.  Others now parrot this new-found doctrine, and efforts at unity with the denominations finds increasing popularity, leading eventually to participation with them in their vain worship.  All of this is done under the guise of seeking to uphold and maintain the restoration movement.  But the implications of such a position will lead a man to abandon the principle of the restoration movement rather than uphold it.  If I believed for a moment that a man could be a ‘sincere, knowledgeable, devout Christian’ and stay and work within the framework of denominationalism, I would immediately cease to preach and plead for a return to the ancient pattern.  Some have been so bold as to do this, but we think to the detriment of their soul’s salvation.   That it is possible for a man to become a Christian and then somehow become associated with a denomination, I do not deny. But for such a one to grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord and remain in that denomination, and then claim that somehow he is still in fellowship with God and acceptable in His sight, we deny.   Brother Alan Highers addressed this issue in a most forceful way: 

There are at least two senses in which we might expect to find Christians caught up in the errors of denominationalism. First, one might obey the gospel, become a Christian, and be faithful for a while, then apostatize, forsake the truth, and join a denomination. Second, one might study the scriptures, learn the truth, and obey the gospel, but thereafter become affiliated with denominationalism for lack of understanding about the New Testament church.  In the first case if the individual is knowledgeable about the church, he cannot be sincere in joining a denomination. In the second instance if one is sincere, he cannot be called knowledgeable.  The issue, therefore, is not whether one who is a child of God may sometimes become entangled in denominationalism, but whether he can be sincere, knowledgeable, and devout in so doing. If one is knowledgeable as a Christian, he will know that denominationalism is sin (1 Cor. 1:10). One who is sincere cannot knowingly participate in that which is sinful; therefore his knowledge would preclude his sincerity in becoming affiliated with denominationalism.  On the other hand, if one is sincere as a member of a denomination, it must be because he feels he is doing right. That sentiment, however, would signify a lack of knowledge; therefore, his sincerity in belonging to a denomination would exclude the possibility of his being knowledgeable. Consequently, if one is knowledgeable, he could not be sincere; if he is sincere, he could not be knowledgeable. In this context, the terms are mutually exclusive” (Fifth Annual Spiritual Sword Lectures, page 305).    

Sincerity is essential in one’s faith, but it is not the secret talisman that makes all things right and somehow determines what direction we should go.  The Proverb writer clearly declared, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man; But the end thereof are the ways of death” (Pro. 14:12).  Saul of Tarsus was sincere, but he was wrong. 

In an effort to bolster up this new fancied doctrine, we hear of some who claim, “We are Christians only, but we are not the only Christians.”   This is not a new phrase, but we think it has been used in a new way.   It is imperative that we define the word “we.”  If by the word “we” someone is referring to the New Testament church, then one cannot scripturally declare that we are not the only Christians, for all Christians are members of that church and only that church. How could it possibly be otherwise in light of the Scriptures?   It should be clearly understood that the word “we” is being used by some of those infected with liberal tendencies to refer, not to the New Testament church, but to those Christians who have not affiliated themselves with a specific denomination.  Such individuals perceive of the church of Christ as a segment of the church rather than then church as a whole.  Their message is clear, though blatantly false:  “We (Christians who are undenominational) are not the only Christians, but we are Christians only (in the sense that we claim nothing more).    The late N.B. Hardeman declared:

I do not claim, and have never so done, that those who have taken no stand with denominations are the only Christians upon the earth; but here is the contention: Having simply believed and obeyed the gospel, we propose to be Christians only. Now, there is a wonderful difference between saying that we claim to be Christians only and that we claim to be the only Christians.  The Bible clearly predicts that the Lord’s people, some of them, will be engaged in a state of confusion; and the Lord bids his people come out of that state and just stand, if you please, as humble Christians only.  The confusion of the twentieth century is denominationalism.  There is no doubt about that (Tabernacle Sermons, Volume II, page 253).  

Another restorationist pioneer, and one time editor of the Gospel Advocate, brother F.D. Srygley, was once asked if there were Christians in the denominations. He answered: 

When there are Christians - not the best variety of Christians, to be sure, but the same sort that lengthen the lists of members on all ‘our church books’ — in saloons, on the race track, at the theater, in the ballroom, around the gambling tables, in the calaboose, behind the jail doors, in the penitentiary, and on the gallows, it should not create surprise or start a scandal if a few of the meanest specimens of them should occasionally be found temporarily in the most respectable and pious religious denominations of this degenerate age and God forsaken country.  If there are Christians ‘in all denominations,’ or in any denomination, they ought not to be there, and the sooner they get out the better (source lost).  

If it is the case that there are ‘Sincere, Knowledgeable, Devout Christians’ in every denomination, then let us ask how they got there.  They were either baptized into that denomination, in which case they were not baptized into the proper sphere.  Or, having once obeyed the Gospel, they then “joined” that denomination, a step or action that is foreign to the New Testament.   Why can men not be satisfied with the simplicity of God’s word and the beauty of His pattern?  We plead with all men to abandon man made institutions and return to the old paths, and walk therein.