Greatness

 by Tom Wacaster

The angel said of John the Baptist, “For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord” (Luke 1:15a). Throughout the centuries figures in history have been given the title of “Great.” Greece had Alexander the Great, Russia had Peter the Great, and for Germany, it was Frederick the Great. We could add dozens, if not hundreds of names to this list. But when I consider the “Greats” of this world, it tells me that men have a far different concept of greatness than does God. I think the late Billy Graham was much closer to the meaning of true greatness:

True greatness is not measured by the headlines a person commands or the wealth he or she accumulates. The inner character of a person-the undergirding moral and spiritual values and commitments-is the true measure of lasting greatness (azquotes.com)

William Shakespeare is credited with having said, “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them.” I am probably writing to an audience that realizes that greatness is not found in those things that are “of this world,” but rather it is to be found in one’s relationship to and usefulness by God. John was of that makeup. James Hastings hit the nail on the head with these words:

More profitable would it be to determine wherein true greatness consists, for then it would be found that much that is called great is little, and that the lowliest path leads to the summit. Vain are the strivings, vain the jealousies and emulations of those who press and struggle for the highest places, for the Divine path to greatness lies in quite an opposite direction (Hastings, 27).

John captured the essence of greatness throughout his entire life. When the time came for him to herald the coming Messiah there were those of small minds and arrogant expectations who asked John, “Art thou the prophet?” (John 1:21), to which John plainly said, “No!” John’s light would shine bright, but his radiance was only the dim moonlight that would introduce men to the Day Star from on high. When he could have stepped forward and claimed the limelight, he instead confessed regarding the Christ, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

It seems to me that the genuinely great man is the one who is completely unaware of his own greatness. He never seeks the spotlight, but rather is embarrassed when it so much as casts a flicker in his direction. Show me a great man (a truly great man) and I will show you someone who ignores his own achievements and marches onward to the reward that awaits him. John was just such a man. No wonder the angel said of John the Baptist, even while John was still in the womb of his loving mother, “For he shall be great!”

It would be impossible to exaggerate the influence of those genuinely great men who have marched across the landscape of time and left their footprints in the sands of human history. Included in that list would be men like Abraham, David, Noah, and Moses. It would also include the multitude of men and women whose names are not known, and whose influence has not made a ripple in the ocean of human affairs when considered among the earthly “greats” of this world. I would include those unsung heroes in India who preach in the villages and cities that are crowded with lost souls. In that list of great men and women would be those restoration pioneers who blazed the trail from one end of our country to the other, in times of difficulty, discomfort, and danger, to take the Gospel to those souls on the ‘Western Frontier’ and to expand the boarders of the kingdom so that the truth of God’s word could go forth in its purity and simplicity. These are what someone called “the beacon lights of the race, set there for the inspiration and guidance of mankind.”

It would be easy to get lost in the shuffle, and if not lost at least feel that we have not made an impact in life; that we somehow missed being truly great. Just remember this. John was called “great” by God; and this is all that mattered.

Know of A Certainty

by Tom Wacaster

Over a span of almost 50 years of preaching, I have frequently been asked, “How can I be sure that I am saved?” I have no doubt that those asking the question were sincere, and in many instances, those asking were among the very ones whom I considered to be some of the most faithful workers in the church. Why is it that otherwise strong Christians sometimes have this nagging doubt about their salvation? Why is it that we are prone to doubt when the Bible clearly tells us that we can know we have salvation?

Luke wrote his biography of Christ in order that Theophilus might “know the certainty concerning the things” of which he was instructed. There is not the slightest hint of guesswork, speculation, subjective intuition, or uncertainty in the Gospel of Luke. This is true regarding any book of the Bible. Luke did not write this Gospel to leave men in doubt. It is inconceivable to think that the “certainty” of any inspired writing would produce uncertainty in the lives of its readers. Consider the following.

In one sense questioning one’s status in life is healthy. Likewise, a regular spiritual “checkup” is good for the soul. It seems that humility may play a part in doubts that arise from time to time, but caution must be exercised that we do not go to the opposite extreme and run from a proud spirit to one of self-debasement and fearful doubting.  The following is attributed to an Egyptian king by the name of Akhenaton: “True wisdom is less presuming than folly. The wise man doubteth often, and changeth his mind; the fool is obstinate, and doubteth not; he knoweth all things but his own ignorance.” Another expressed the wisdom in doubting like this: “How prone to doubt, how cautious are the wise!” (Alexander Pope). Even some of the strongest of Bible characters had their questions and doubts. Abraham doubted God’s promise that he would have a child in his old age through whom the Lord would bless the world and sought instead to have Ishmael fill that role. Thomas would not believe the Lord had been raised from the dead until he could see it with his own eyes and touch the Lord’s side with his own hands. Even John the Baptist had some very serious questions about the Lord when he (John) was facing the closing days of his life in prison. You see, doubt should drive us to deeper investigation and self-examination. Doubt becomes dangerous when we began to question God’s promises. What, then, is the answer to our doubts and fears regarding death, salvation, and that spiritual realm wherein our hope resides as an anchor of the soul (Heb. 7:19)? There are at least three factors that affect the depth of our confidence: faith, facts, and feelings. These sustain an important relationship to one another and play a vital role in developing assurance in the heart of the child of God.

Consider this word faith.  To have faith in some thing or some person is to trust the object of that faith. I have faith in the local bank to protect what I have deposited up to and including the point at which I desire to make a withdrawal. It is because of my faith in that institution that I can fully expect the funds to be there when I need them (of course the FDIC helps in this area, but then again, I must have a certain degree of faith in that branch of government as well). Solomon told us, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, and lean not upon thine own understanding” (Prov. 3:3).

Now we turn our attention to the facts. The Hebrews writer defines faith as “assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). The KJV reads, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” I am interested here in the Greek word translated “assurance” (ASV) and/or “substance” (KJV). The word denotes support for something; something upon which a hope is based. Biblical faith is not a blind faith, but rather one that is founded upon evidence that is brought to bear in any situation. Barclay points out three distinct areas in which faith and hope find application: (1) It is belief against the world; (2) It is belief in the spirit against the senses; (3) It is belief in the future against the present. Or as one author put it, “Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible, and achieves the impossible.” I believe in God because of the “facts.” The KJV sums it up with the word “evidence.” When a jury sits in judgment upon an accused, they do so based upon the evidence (i.e. facts) that is presented during the court proceedings.

Now we come to feelings. Feelings, or emotions, in and of themselves, are good. God created us to feel, to be moved with compassion, to shed a tear over loss, whether ours or that of someone else. If man had been created completely void of emotions and/or feelings he would experience no sorrow; but then, neither would he experience joy and happiness. It is important to note that God warns us against the deceptive nature of feelings. “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Prov. 16:25). The sad truth is that many people base their spiritual status on how they feel with little or no consideration as to what the Bible teaches on the matter.

Now with all that said, it seems to this humble scribe that the absence of assurance among those who have obeyed the gospel, and who are doing their best to live a faithful Christian life, is due to the failure to keep faith, fact, and feelings in proper relationship. Fact: God has promised forgiveness, along with a home in heaven, to those who obey the gospel and live a faithful Christian life. Faith: I believe what God has said because of the evidence that supports that promise. Feelings: I rejoice in that assurance, knowing that, though I fall far short of what I should be, God has promised to save me to the “uttermost” through the cleansing power of the blood of His Son. It is when men take their eyes OFF the facts, and allow their faith to falter, that their feelings kick in and they no longer “feel” as if they are saved. Remember, “faith comes by hearing…the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). Or as one put it, “Doubt comes in at the window when inquiry is denied at the door.”

A pilot is instructed to always trust the instruments in the plane rather than the way he feels. Feelings can be deceptive. The same rule applies spiritually. Trust the instruments that God has given to us in His word. His promises are sure, the evidence incontrovertible. If the instruments contradict what you feel, then it is your feelings that are wrong and not the instruments! If you walk by your feelings rather than trust in the word of God, you will rob yourself of the joy and happiness that comes with God’s promises. But worse yet, you will never rid yourself of doubt, and you will continue to be plagued by the unanswered question, “How can I be sure?”

Running In The Wrong Direction

By Tom Wacaster

Roy "Wrong Way" Riegels played center on the 1928 University of California football team, The Golden Bears, which had 6-1-2 record at the close of the 1928 regular season. On January 1, 1929, the Golden Bears faced the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, USA. Midway through the second quarter, Riegels, who played center on both offensive and defensive lines and who was then playing in a role similar to that of the modern defensive nose guard or nose tackle, picked up a fumble by Tech's Jack "Stumpy" Thomason. Just 30 yards away from the Yellow Jackets' end zone, Riegels was somehow turned around and ran 69 yards in the wrong direction. The following describes what transpired from Riegels' perspective:

I was running toward the sidelines when I picked up the ball," Riegels told The Associated Press. "I started to turn to my left toward Tech's goal. Somebody shoved me and I bounded right off into a tackler. In pivoting to get away from him, I completely lost my bearings. -Roy Riegels

Teammate and quarterback Benny Lom chased Riegels, screaming at him to stop. Known for his speed, Lom finally caught up with Riegels at California's 3-yard line and tried to turn him around, but he was immediately hit by a wave of Tech players and tackled back to the 1-yard line. The Bears chose to punt rather than risk a play so close to their own end zone, but Tech's Vance Maree blocked Lom's punt for a safety, giving Georgia Tech a 2-0 lead.

During Roy's wrong way run, Georgia Tech's coach Bill Alexander said to his excited players who were jumping up and down near the Tech bench: "Sit down. Sit down. He's just running the wrong way. Every step he takes is to our advantage." Broadcaster Graham McNamee, who was calling the game on the radio, said during Roy's wrong way run: "What am I seeing? What's wrong with me? Am I crazy?" After the play, Riegels was so distraught that he had to be talked into returning to the game by coach Nibs Price for the second half. Riegels did play, and he turned in a stellar second half performance, including blocking a Tech punt. In addition, Lom passed for a touchdown and kicked the extra point, but that was not enough. Tech would ultimately win the game and their second national championship 8-7. Georgia Tech's safety score after the wrong way run made the difference in the outcome of the game, which increased the significance of Roy's mistake.

Will Rogers, well known actor, comedian, newspaper writer and author picked up on the story and came to Riegels' aid. Mr. Rogers wrote the following: "Why heap criticism upon this unfortunate fellow for running with a ball in the wrong direction? Is it not a fact that a vast majority of us are headed in the wrong direction and running at top speed toward the wrong goal?"

Over the past weeks I have heard numerous friends, work associates, preachers and pundits point out that this year has been one for the books; and indeed, it has! It is becoming increasing evident that the world is running in the wrong direction. In 1985 The Judds released an album containing the song 'Grandpa, Tell Me About The Good Old Days." The first stanza in that song contained the following lyrics:

Grandpa, tell me 'bout the good old days
Sometimes it feels like this world's gone crazy
And Grandpa, take me back to yesterday
When the line between right and wrong
Didn't seem so hazy!


That was in 1985, almost four decades ago. The scene has only gotten worse. Political leaders running so far to the left it staggers the mind. Theologians upholding abortion, homosexuality, and same-sex marriages. The list goes on! It is full speed ahead toward a goal that can only bring ruin and regret. The vast majority (Matt. 7:13-14) are plunging over the precipice into eternity every day. Blinded by the "god of this world" (2 Cor. 4:4), they are running toward the goal of sensual pleasure, material wealth, and personal glory, thinking all the while they are running toward victory and some imaginary utopia. And what can the righteous do? Preach the gospel! Let us, like Benny Lom, Riegel's teammate, do all we can to rescue them before they cross the line into eternity. Let us run the race, and scream at the top of our lungs, "You are running the wrong direction!" Maybe, just maybe, we can reach them before they cross the line into eternity!


Getting There From Here

by Tom Wacaster

I am sure that all of us have, at one time or another, had someone jokingly say, “You can’t get there from here.” Uncertain as to the ability of someone to grasp directions, we first seek to put them in a position where the instructions are simple and easy to follow. Take for example the story of a salesman who was seeking to locate a family who had requested someone to contact them regarding a sale or delivery. The family lived in the back woods of east Texas, and every attempt to navigate the roads that had neither name nor number for easy reference produced a growing frustration on the part of the would-be salesman. Finally, the salesman came across an old farmhouse, and sitting on the front porch was an elderly gentleman sipping on a cup of coffee and reading his newspaper. The salesman stopped and asked directions to his destination. The farmer leaned back in his chair and commenced to provide instructions: “Go south on this road, and make the first turn to your left. Travel about 3 miles, cross the bridge, and follow the narrow, winding road that runs parallel to the creek bottom. This will dump you out on a gravel road, at which point you will want to turn back to the left. From there, go about 6 miles south, till you come to a small house on your right.” Anxious to get to his destination, the salesman said “Thanks,” and scurried off to his car and in search of his customer. After more than half an hour driving, he ended up right back in front of the farmer’s house. Frustrated, the salesman asked for an explanation. The farmer replied: “I wanted to see if you could follow directions before I tried to explain to you how to get to your destination.”

We might chuckle at this hypothetical anecdote, but in many respects, life is like that. One of my favorite prophets is Jeremiah. Here was a man who had the courage of a lion, and a determination to follow God’s instructions at all costs. Judah needed to repent, and Jeremiah was commissioned to call the nation back to God. Before the prophet completed his mission he would be mocked, maligned, and mistreated by his fellow Jews. God told Jeremiah, “Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth” (Jer. 1:9b). Jeremiah’s commission is clearly stated in chapter 1:10: “See, I have this day set thee over the nations and over the kingdoms, to root out, and to pull down, and to destroy, and to throw down, to build and to plant.” Pay close attention to the order of the words. Before Jeremiah could “build and…plant” he must first “root out…pull down…destroy, and throw down.” In order to build, it was important for Judah to know, “You can’t get there from here!” Before progress could be made it was essential that the rubbish be cleared away.  The heart and soul of Judah needed to be changed. Jeremiah could not reform that which was corrupt - he could not get Judah to where God wanted them to be from where they were!

The application of this principle is far reaching. Let us, for example, consider the present state of our government. Fiscal responsibility is run amuck; morality means little or nothing to many (if not most) of the politicians in Washington and/or our state governments.  Methinks that Washington (from the White House, to the Halls of Congress, and including the Judicial branch) needs a lesson in simple hermeneutics. The Constitution seems to mean nothing in many circles. Sensible thinking individuals seek for a return to law and order and allegiance to the Constitution. Unfortunately, “You can’t get there from here!” Perhaps those who are seeking to “throw the bums out” are much wiser than those who simply want to reform the bums who are presently there!

 “You can’t get there from here” most certainly applies to those caught up in religious error. Before you can implant the pure and engrafted word into the heart of an individual, it becomes necessary in many cases to remove the error that dominates their thinking. Political correctness and relativism stand as gigantic roadblocks to any attempt to break down error and supplant it with truth. If you attempt to point out error you had better be ready to be labeled “judgmental,” “hyper-critical,” or “homophobic.” Phil Sanders commented on just such a mind-set: “The thinking of the day is not so much to deny the reality of truth as it is to dismiss it with the back of the hand. Truth becomes trivial, irrelevant…Whatever is said may be taken back so that it may not offend. Truth must be made to become uncertain so that no solid foundation will have control over our lives; no one group can ever dominate again” (Sander, Adrift, page 26). That kind of thinking has to be broken down before we can hope to bring a person to a knowledge of and obedience to the truth.

“You can’t get there from here” is most certainly applicable to those who once “tasted of the heavenly gift…and then fell away” (Heb. 6:4-5). If you have ever tried to carry on a logical and scriptural discussion with a liberal brother in Christ (an oxymoron if I ever heard one), you quickly realize “you can’t get there from here.” Before you can convince someone who thinks instrumental music is “not a salvation issue” that it indeed IS a salvation issue, you have to break down the walls of the liberal mindset. Until the liberal is brought to the point where he can understand and apply what we call the “authority principle,” it will forever remain true that “he cannot get there from here.”

All too often the lost soul deludes himself into thinking that he is on his way to heaven (whatever his “definition” of heaven might be). Repentance means nothing to him - he wants salvation on HIS terms rather than God’s. As one author put it:

We have turned to a God that we can use rather than to a God we must obey; we have turned to a God who will fulfill our needs rather than to a God before whom we must surrender our rights to ourselves. He is a God for us, for our satisfaction - not because we have learned to think of him in this way through Christ but because we have learned to think of him this way throughout the marketplace. And so, we transform the God of mercy into a God who is at our mercy. We imagine that He is benign, that he will acquiesce as we toy with his reality and to co-opt him in the promotion of our ventures and careers…And if the sunshine of his benign grace fails to warm us as we expect, if he fails to shower prosperity and success on us, we will find ourselves unable to believe in him anymore (David Wells, God In The Wasteland, page 114).

Remove repentance from the picture and “you can’t get there from here.” The same can be said about any and every command that God has placed at the threshold of the church. If a sin sick soul thinks he is going to make it to heaven in his sin, or in spite of his sin, he will awaken on the Resurrection day to realize his tragic condition (Matt. 7:21-23), and will learn, too late, that “you can’t get there from here.”

Finally, there are scores of lukewarm, indifferent, uninvolved, absentee members who seem to think that God’s grace will somehow overlook their mediocrity and usher them into the eternal abode when Jesus comes to gather the faithful unto Himself. They will learn, too late, that the proverb is as applicable to them as it is to all the lost. Unwilling to commit themselves to the Lord Who died for them, or to take seriously the responsibilities laid upon their shoulders as soldiers of the cross, they will learn, “You can’t get there from here.”

"Must"

 by Tom Wacaster

Have you ever noticed how many times the word “must” is used in reference to some felt necessity on the part of our Lord? Here is a small sampling: “But he said unto them, I must preach the good tidings of the kingdom of God to the other cities also: for therefore was I sent” (Luke 4:43).  “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and the third day be raised up” (Luke 9:22). “Nevertheless I must go on my way to-day and to-morrow and the day following: for it cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem” (Luke 13:33). “But first must he suffer many things and be rejected of this generation” (Luke 17:25). “Zacchaeus, make haste, and come down for to-day I must abide at thy house” (Luke 19:5). “For I say unto you, that this which is written must be fulfilled in me, And he was reckoned with the transgressors: for that which concerneth me hath fulfillment” (Luke 23:37). “And he must needs pass through Samaria” (John 4:4). There is more, but I think you get the picture.

Here is one more for your consideration. It is in Luke 2:49: “And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? Knew ye not that I must be in my Father’s house?” It is in this passage that we get a glimpse of our Lord when He was a mere 12 years of age. His mother and father had been to Jerusalem for the Passover, and when they started home somehow Jesus was left behind. I do not find that hard to believe. I once left my daughter at church, drove the short distance home, and it was not until someone from the church building called that I even missed her. We had taken two cars to church that morning in anticipation of some guests coming for lunch right after services. I presumed she rode home with her mother, and her mother presumed she would ride home with me. Still, this passage in Luke 2:49 intrigues me. One thing that interests me is that these are the first recorded words spoken by our Lord. Notice one word in that response of our Lord to His parents: “Must!” From the few references mentioned above you can see that He used that word on several occasions. Sometimes it was “I must.” Other times He would say “The Son of man must!” Do those words not suggest some kind of constraint? Oh, yes, indeed they do! I think Jesus recognized the moral and spiritual constraints to which He had willingly submitted – not because He had to, but because He wanted to. It was not something He did – it is what He was! When it comes to those words, “I must,” consider the following.

First, I see in the life of Christ the must of obedience. It seemed to come naturally with Jesus. He was subservient to the Father’s will in every situation, and in the face of every obstacle He encountered. Jesus stands before us as the example of obedience, for it is in His footsteps we are to follow (1 Pet. 2:21). His obedience grew out of a heart so in tune with the Father that submissive obedience became as easy as breathing. I came across this quote some time back. Written by James Hastings, it touches on the point now under consideration:

Religion is meant to make it a second nature, an instinct – a spontaneous, uncalculating, irrepressible desire to be in fellowship with God, and to be doing His will. There is no obedience in reluctant obedience; forced service is slavery, not service. Christianity is given for the specific purpose that it may bring us so into touch with Jesus Christ, that the mind which was in Him may be in us; and we too may be able to say, with a kind of wonder that people should have expected to find us in any other place, or doing anything else. As certainly as the sunflower follows the sun, so certainly will a man, animated by the mind that was in Jesus Christ, like Him find his very life’s breath in doing the Father’s will.

Can you, dear brother and sister, say without hesitation that “I must be about my Father’s business” as did Jesus?

Second, I see in the life of Christ the must of duty. Before you accuse me of contradicting what I said in the first point, let me assure you such is not the case. The must of duty focuses on our sense of responsibility. Too few in our generation want to accept any responsibility. It is always “someone else’s fault, not mine!” It seems to me that folks in Portland, New York City, Minneapolis, (or any of the big cities now under siege) have missed the concept of responsibility. Our entitlement mentality (supported and encouraged by liberal politicians) has produced a nanny state that is being consumed with growing debt and lawlessness. The must of duty is inseparably linked to the must of obedience. This is because obedience recognizes a superior authority and accepts the duty that goes with that recognition. Why do you think our Lord said, “I must work the works of him that sent me” (John 9:4)? It is because the must of obedience compelled our Lord to accept responsibility and fulfill His divine duty as our Savior. That quite naturally leads to the next point.

Third, I see in the life of Christ the must of love. Why do parents sacrifice so much for the good of their children? This is not the dummy question for the week. You know the answer. It is because love compels them to do so. Without the must of love, the duty and obedience we render would be void of any value. Is that not what Paul taught us in the opening three verses of 1 Corinthians 13? “If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am become sounding brass, or a clanging cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And if I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and if I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profiteth me nothing.” Why did Jesus leave heaven, come to this earth, and die for our sins? It was because of the must of love.

Finally, I see in the life of Christ the must of sacrifice. A man may sacrifice in the absence of love, but it is impossible for a man to love without sacrificing. “The Son of man must be lifted up” (John 3:14). That our Lord “must suffer many things, and be killed” (Mk. 8:31) was a message communicated to the disciples on numerous occasions. There is a certain sense of sadness in these words of Jesus. I do not think Jesus was reluctant to sacrifice. This is because of the love He had for lost humanity. Nor do I think He was attempting to shirk His duty. As one author noted: “He must die because He would save, and He would save because He loved. His obedience coincided with His pity for men, not merely in obedience to the Father, but in compassion for the necessities of sinners.” Our Lord’s ‘must of sacrifice’ demands that we likewise die to self. Unfortunately, as an unknown author noted, “People will argue for religion, write for it, fight for it, die for it - anything but live for it.”

I will close with the following observation. There is a song in our hymnals that most of my readers probably know the lyrics by heart. One of the stanzas reads thus: “Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, Demands by soul, my life, my all.”  That, my friends is the ‘must’ for which our Lord felt, lived, and died.

The Certainty Of Things

 by Tom Wacaster

 

I have started in earnest my next volume of New Testament commentaries. This one is going to be a study of the Gospel of Luke. Having titled my two-volume work on Matthew, “The Majesty of Jesus,” and my two-volume set on John, “The Magnificence of Jesus,” it is my intention to title this work, “The Manhood of Jesus.” The very title should give some indication of the focus of Luke’s biography of the life of Christ. In this article I want to focus on some words in Luke’s prologue. The first four verses in our English translations contain a remarkable literary and theological sentence. All four verses in our English translate one single Greek sentence. Written in ‘koine’ Greek, Luke’s prologue incorporates much of the language of the Greek historians and physicians. There are four things Luke tells us in this prologue: (1) He names his subject - those things of which Theophilus had been instructed; (2) he gives the sources of his information - the “eyewitnesses and ministers of the word”; (3) he describes the method of his work -  to trace those things accurately and in order; and (4) he reveals the purpose of his writing - that Theophilus might “know the certainty concerning the things wherein” he was instructed. It is this last point that is the focus of this article.

 

The word “certainty” (v. 4) is derived from the Greek word ‘sphallo,’ meaning “to totter” or “to fall.” In this verse the verb has the prefix ‘a’ which negates the action of the word. The full knowledge contained in Luke’s account will prevent Theophilus from tottering. That same truth is echoed throughout the New Testament. Take, as an example, Paul’s words to Timothy: “Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness: that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The power to save the souls of men, and to keep them saved, resides in the inspired word of God. Peter expressed the same truth with these words: “For if ye do these things, ye shall never stumble” (2 Pet. 1:10b). Luke was writing this first volume of his two-volume work, with the marked intention of providing Theophilus full knowledge of the life of Christ. Others had evidently attempted to write about the life of Christ, but they were lacking in orderliness and factual accuracy. Guided by the Holy Spirit, Luke would present to Theophilus an orderly discourse that rings with “certainty.”

 

The books of the New Testament, from the Gospels to the final revelation to John on Patmos, though differing in style, are marked by this characteristic of certainty. I submit to you that this is one of the things that separates God’s word from all the literary works of Rome, Greece, Europe, the “age of enlightenment,” right up to our day and age. The writers of the Old and New Testaments believed that what they wrote was the word of God. Of this they were certain. Without a single exception, those inspired authors wrote, not from mere probabilities, speculation, or educated guesses, but from a firm belief in what they wrote, and from Whom that message originated. The Bible is not folklore or romance. Such writings do not have that ring of certainty of which I now speak. C.S. Lewis addressed this very point. So far as the writings of men, he noted:

 

I distrust them as critics. They seem to me to lack literary judgement, to be imperceptive about the very quality of the texts they are reading...If he tells me that something in the Gospel is legend or romance, I want to know how many legends and romances he has read...I have been reading poems, romances, vision-literature, legends, myths all my life. I know what they are like. I know that not one of them is like the Gospels (Christian Reflections, 154-55).

 

Sir William Ramsey sought to disprove this “certainty” in Luke’s Gospel, but in his research  he discovered that Luke was a “first-rate historian, not making a single error in the numerous details he was able to check” (Geisler, Answering Islam, 245). It is this certainty in their writings that gives us hope. For if the writers of the New Testament had expressed any doubt, any hesitation, or hint of disbelief, it would not produce the courage, faith, and determination in those who imbibe their writings. It is the divine principle that a tree is known by the fruit it bears. Now consider the fruit of God’s word. Alexis de Tocqueville, after carefully observing American life in 1830, wrote:

 

There is no country in the whole world in which the Christian religion retains a greater influence over the souls of men than in America and there can be no greater proof of its utility, and of its conformity to human nature, than that its influence is most powerfully felt over the most enlightened and free nation on earth.

 

The concepts of life, liberty, and justice stem from the principles contained in the Bible, which principles were the foundation of Western civilization. Our society’s present fetish with “cancel culture” mentality is seeking to remove not only our rich heritage historically, but spiritually as well. They do not realize the Pandora’s Box they now attempt to open. For well over half a century forces have done all within their power to eliminate God and the Bible from our society. Little do they realize that the Bible has done more for good than any other book in the history of man. This is because of that certainty held forth in God’s word. If the devil can succeed in getting men to doubt the authenticity of the Bible, all hope will be vanquished, and the end result is too horrible to imagine. What is playing out on the streets of Chicago, Portland, and New York City (to name but a few of the places) is the fruit of uncertainty, hopelessness, and despair that has filled the void left by the absence of God’s word in the lives of those of whom we speak. What will happen if forces now underway to cancel our Christian heritage succeed on a broad scale across this nation?

 

In their book, What If Jesus Had Never Been Born,” James Kennedy and Jerry Newcomb list some of the contributions the Bible and Christianity have made to civilization: Hospitals, universities, literacy and education for the masses, capitalism and free-enterprise, representative government (particularly as it is has been seen in the great American experiment), separation of political powers, civil liberties, abolition of slavery, modern science, discovery of the New World, elevation of women, benevolence and charity, the “Good Samaritan” ethic, higher standards of justice, condemnation of adultery and homosexuality and other sexual perversions, high regard for life (both born and unborn), the civilization of barbarian and primitive cultures, codifying and setting to writing many of the world’s languages, greater development of art and music, countless changed lives morally speaking, and the eternal salvation of countless souls.

 

I ask you: “Why have men embraced the words contained in the New Testament?” It is not because they believed the Bible was a myth, or folklore. They embraced the teachings of the Bible because of this ring of certainty that runs through its pages like a fine thread. And because they were certain of what they wrote, we can be certain of the hope that is held out in its pages, and march onward with the Sword of the Spirit in hand, and tell others of the certainty of the promises it holds out to all those who will follow and obey its precepts.

Christianity In Action

By Tom Wacaster

 

The book of Philemon takes up less than one full page in my Bible. Though small, it tells in a remarkable way the story of how Christ comes into the lives of men and women and, acting as leaven, slowly changes individual lives and the society in which they live. Perhaps just as importantly, this little book tells how Christianity sweetens the relationship between men who otherwise might be at odds with one another. I like the way Hastings put it: “Christianity tells how Christ steps in to dissolve the bitterness, to soften the misunderstandings, to put us right with one another in the little things in which we often go wrong, and finally to set our varied relationships on such a footing that our little circle of friends or associates shall become part of that blessed society of souls which is the Kingdom of God.” The background leading up to the writing of this epistle is a story in itself. Yet, it is what comes out of that story that provides us with the greatest value. There are two characters in the story: Philemon and Onesimus. Philemon had been converted by Paul, and it would appear that their friendship had grown over the passing of time. Onesimus was a slave; Philemon’s slave. One word sums it up. A “bond slave” (as the Greek puts it), with no essential rights of his own. Onesimus must have grown weary as a slave and made his escape, taking with him something of value belonging to Philemon. He must have fled to Rome to get lost in the maze of human debris and there spend his ill-gotten gain. Somehow, he came in contact with Paul. How, or under what circumstances we are not told. Paul took the man, taught him, converted him, and molded him. When the time was right, Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon to make things right. This letter we now have in our possession by divine inspiration, is Paul’s plea that Philemon receive Onesimus back and treat him as a brother in Christ. From this epistle we learn two lessons on human relations.

 

First, this little epistle tells me that Christianity enriches the relationships in life. When Onesimus ran off, Philemon had lost an indifferent and insolent slave. Onesimus was a Phrygian slave, and history tells us such men were stubborn and hard to deal with. Paul’s observation that Onesimus had been “unprofitable” to Philemon, leads me to believe that Philemon’s loss was not all that big a loss. When Onesimus returned to Philemon he was a different man. He had been a slave to whom duty was drudgery and life was miserable beyond description. Did Philemon accept Onesimus back? Who can doubt it? Both were now brothers in Christ, and everything else being equal, Onesimus’ relationship to Philemon was forever altered. Whether now as a slave under Philemon’s house, or returned to minister to Paul, to Onesimus duty was music, and life was lit with love. Your relationships in life may not be ideal. You may have a poor employee, or a pathetic boss, but Christianity does not giver either the right to worsen that relationship. One author put it this way: “The conditions of life may not be good, and the relations in which we stand to one another may not be ideal, but Christianity, when it is real, will make them as good as they can be. When Christ comes in, the whole outlook of life and work and service is lifted above the narrow horizons of our own pleasure, or even the accepted standards, and becomes centered on Christ.”

 

Second, Christianity breaks down the barriers that keeps the brotherhood of man from splintering into thousands of fragments thereby producing civil unrest. Don’t tell me the book of Philemon is not relative. Look at what is happening in Portland, Washington, Wisconsin, Chicago, and Minneapolis. When Christ came into the lives of Philemon and Onesimus, he gave them the essential tools and understanding in life to break down those barriers that keep men from acting the best toward each other. It was Christianity that broke down the institution of slavery in Rome. It is Christianity that broke down slavery in America, and the rest of the civilized world. It is Christianity that will break down the civil unrest and racial tensions that are spilling out into the streets of America, even as I write these lines.

 

I once read of a play depicting the life of Abraham Lincoln, and with which I will close this article. One scene in that play depicted an aging, black preacher by the name of Fredrick Douglas, who was invited to visit Mr. Lincoln in the White House. When he walked into the room, the President invited Douglas to take a chair. Douglas was reluctant to sit down, and said to the President, “No sir. I am black and you are white.” “No, no,” replies Lincoln, “we are just two old men talking together.”