"Follow Me"

By Tom Wacaster

The invitation that Jesus extended to Matthew is as timely today as it was almost two-thousand years ago. “Follow me” is the standing invitation that heaven extends to all men. It is an invitation to enter into a relationship with God and Christ that is far and above any and every human relationship. That same invitation is expressed is some of the most beautiful language imaginable in at least two other passages in the New Testament: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heaven laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and by burden is light” (Matt. 11:28-30). “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And he that heareth, let him say, Come. And he that is athirst, let him come: he that will, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17). Yet there is something about those two words, “Follow me!” Two words, yet the implications of those words could fill a dictionary, and when expounded upon would surpass the largest of encyclopedias. Consider the following.

From the standpoint of the Master Who uttered those words, it is a call to submit to His leadership. He does not lead from behind, but rather as the Captain of our faith, He marches forward leading His army into battle, ultimately to rest on the banks of the Jordan having once and for all conquered every enemy, not the least of which is death itself (1 Cor. 15:26). Having “been in all points tempted like as we” (Heb. 4:15), He now sits on His throne taking “captivity captive” (Eph. 4:8), and assuring us that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed to us-ward” (Rom. 8:18). “Follow me!” No coercion, no force, no high-handed tactics. Only two simple words: “Follow me!” With those two words He has captured the minds and hearts of men for generations; men and women who are willing to die for Him. Willing to go where He leads without question, complaining, or murmuring, they go forth conquering and to conquer. John Quincy Adams once said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, and do more, you are a leader.” Jesus was, and still is, the ultimate leader, and from Matthew Levi to the lowliest saint in the kingdom of God, the acceptance of the invitation to follow our Lord has never disappointed those who have truly heeded that call and followed in obedient faith.

That brings us to the second point. From the standpoint of the disciple, those two words, “follow me,” present a challenge to the one and only thing that can keep us out of heaven – our self-will. So far as the disciple is concerned, he must be willing to consecrate himself fully to the Lord, “deny himself, and take up his cross daily” and follow Jesus (Matt. 16:24), “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” (2 Cor. 10:5). The element of self-sacrifice is an absolute essential if we are to accept the invitation to follow Jesus. Without full and complete surrender to the will of God and the determination to weather the storms of persecution that come our way, following in the steps of Jesus will soon become wearisome and complete abandonment will follow as sure and night follows day. James Hastings is credited with the following:

In every life there must be a cross. ‘Follow me’ came the call to those early disciples, and they arose and followed Him. And as His road led Him to His Cross, so for some of them their following led them to their crosses. And for all of them their following of Him meant increasing self-sacrifice. They emptied themselves of their own desires and wishes that they might fill them with the desire for His purposes. They saw the Cross along the road they had to travel, but they did not shrink (Hastings, quotes in my file system).

“Follow me” is the call that comes to all men through the gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Thess. 2:14). There is more to this call than simply claiming to follow Jesus. It is more than having our name on some church roll, for even some of the most devoted ‘followers’ of Jesus later learned that their “mighty works” were of no avail (Matt. 7:21-23).

“Follow me” is not a frivolous call, nor is it a futile call. It is one filled with promises and blessings the likes of which we may never fully appreciate this side of heaven. We may have to “suffer hardship…as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 2:3), as we attempt to “walk in the light as he is in the light” (1 John 1:7), but fellow-sojourner, be assured that the promises that stand behind the call to follow Him are as strong as the Rock of Gibraltar.

No, we cannot see heaven with the physical eye; but then Abraham did not see that “city which hath the foundations, whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10) with the physical eye. It has been said, “Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe.”

Thank God that Jesus spoke those two words to Matthew. And thank God that He continues to speak those words to all of us, and to generations yet unborn. “Follow me!” The question is, “Will you?”

He Came Down From The Mountain, But Not The Cross

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.

Wherein Is Our Battle?

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). 

He Only Is My Rock

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
(Psalms 62:1-2).

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!

Laying Up The Word of God In Our Heart

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.”