Following Instructions

by Tom Wacaster

This past December I decided that it was time to replace the old DVD player with an updated player that had “blue ray” feature.  When I unpacked the box there were four manuals (one in English, one in Spanish, one in French, and one in German), a special HTML cable to route the “blue ray” signal to the television, and some extra paraphernalia for first one thing and then another.    Everything was included in the box that would give me an “enjoyable experience” with my new DVD player (they even included the batteries).  Most manufactures of electronic equipment have figured out that many of their customers are anxious to “get started” and so they include, along with the owner’s manual, a “quick start guide” that enables the customer to get his equipment up and running, even if he does not know what he is doing once he does get it going.   Once the customer has his equipment up and running he is encouraged to take the time to read the owner’s manual.   But if I know the human race, by this time most of the new proud owners of the latest in electronic gadgetry are saying to themselves, “Who needs the owner’s manual? What do they think I am, a dunce? I can do this on my own.”    This same mind set kicks in when it comes to consulting a map to figure out where you are, putting together a complicated piece of lawn equipment, or following instructions for any number of complicated, or not so complicated, items.   Were this mind set limited to the temporal and physical realm in which we live, we might only have to suffer an occasional embarrassment, or at worst, like Tim “the-tool-man” Taylor, make a visit to the hospital now and then.   But tragically this same kind of mind set seems to have infected the masses when it comes to listening to, or consulting with the God of heaven in matters of religion.   I have, on a number of occasions, referred to the Bible as our soul’s “owner’s manual.”  Within the pages of this book are instructions that will provide us with a peaceful and happy life here on earth (Phil 4:7), better health and overall happiness (1 Pet. 3:10), our daily provisions of food, clothing and shelter (Matt. 6:19-33), and the hope of life everlasting when this life is over (Rom. 8:25, 1 Cor.13:13, Gal. 5:5).   When we examine the religious landscape about us it is rather obvious that the “many” (Matt. 7:13) have gone about seeking to establish a system of religion based upon their own wants and desires rather than taking the time to read and study the owner’s manual.  “I don’t need that manual,” or “I’m smart enough to figure this out on my own” seem to permeate the thinking of mankind spiritually speaking.  It seems to me that there are at least four classifications of those who have failed, or are failing, to read the manual.

First, there are those who have never even heard of the manual.  Living in the dark recesses of the earth, they are completely unaware of the Bible, the message contained therein, or it’s Great Giver.  These need not live in Africa, or the Congo, for there are some even within the borders of our own United States who have never heard of God, Jesus Christ, the Bible, or the plan for man’s salvation.  Millions upon millions living in India bow at the feet of their Hindu gods while millions here in America bow at the shrine of material gain without so much as an inkling of an idea of who God is or the wonderful blessings that await them through His Son Jesus Christ.  
Second, there are those who know about the manual, but have not taken the time to study it carefully.  These have some vague idea as to the system of Christianity, but at some point in time they decided that they do not need God, nor do they need to take the time to read the Bible, or comply with the commandments contained therein.  That “manual” may have been good enough for mom and dad, but after all, “I  have more important things to do than to waste time reading some manual; I can figure this out for myself.”

Third, there are those who want a “quick start” in their “Christianity,” and, rather than read the manual itself, have relied upon others to read it for them.  Heed is given to their “pastor,” or “preacher” upon whom they rely for instructions in religion and the exercise thereof.   The false teachers, with their “smooth and fair speech…beguile the hearts of the innocent” (Rom. 16:18), and these careless souls are carried away with every wind of doctrine imaginable (Eph. 4:14); all for the lack of taking the time to read the instructions.

Finally, there are those who have quickly read the manual or a small portion thereof, and who care not what the Book says but are intent on doing it their way.  “I like it,” or “I want it” are the twin manifestations of a selfish heart that despise the narrow-minded pattern of God’s word.  Rather than confine themselves to the instructions from above, they are determined to walk in the path of their own foolishness.  They ignore the warning of old, “O Jehovah, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23).  To them, how to worship God is not so important as their desire to worship him. Sincerity trumps truth, and feelings outweigh facts. From those caught up in denominational error to those who have been deluded by the change agents within the body of Christ, the end result will be the same, for “if the blind guide the blind, both shall fall into the pit” (Matt. 15:14).

When it comes to life, and the eternal destiny of the soul, it is imperative that you take the time to read the instructions and follow them cautiously and carefully.  You may be able to eventually figure out how to operate that new piece of electronic equipment.  You may even be able to figure out “how to get there from here” without consulting a map.  But beloved, you are NEVER (I repeat, “Never”) going to make it to heaven if you do not take the time to read and follow the instructions.

My Old Bible

Though the cover is worn,
And the pages are torn,
And though places bear traces of tears.
Yet more precious than gold,
Is this book worn and old,
That can scatter and shatter my fears.

This old book is my guide.
This is a friend by my side
It will lighten and brighten my way;
And each promise I find,
Soothes and gladdens my mind,
As I read it and heed it each day.

To this book I will cling,
Of its worth I will sing,
Though great losses and crosses be mine;
For I cannot despair,
Though surrounded by care,
While possessing this blessing divine.

Dog Ears

by Tom Wacaster

This may seem like a strange title for this week’s article.  Before I get to the point I want to make, let me tell you something about my little five pound poodle.  Millie is eleven years old, and stands about eight inches tall.  Although she occasionally barks at strangers, her bark is worse than her bite.  I really think she is begging for attention.   Millie loves to have her ears scratched.  Occasionally she will climb up in the chair next to me, and position herself in such a way that my hand naturally lands across the top of her head.  The natural inclination is to scratch her head and behind her ears.   In response she will raise her head a notch or two in order to get the full effect of my hand scratching.  Should I quit, she’ll either lift her head another notch or two, or turn and look at me as if to ask, “Why did you quit?”    I came across this little observation relative to my personal experience:

Have you ever seen a dog that loved to have his ear's scratched?  There are dogs that just love to have their ears scratched. They don't care who does it, as long as it is being done.  This kind of dog will go up to anyone, just hoping that the person will reach down and scratch his ears. It doesn't matter if the person is his owner. It doesn't matter if the person is a complete stranger. This dog will just sit and let the person scratch his ears. If the person scratching stops, the dog will put his nose up to the person's hand indicating that he wants the person to continue scratching. If the person gets up and walks away, the dog will follow the person. The dog will continue to follow the person until the person finally decides to scratch again; unless, the dog can find someone else to scratch his ears.  You see, the dog is not loyal to the first scratcher. He is just loyal to whoever will scratch his ears. He is not choosy about the kind of person scratching his ears. He only wants his ears scratched (author unknown)

The apostle Paul stressed the importance of preaching the word, whether in season or out of season: “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;  and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables”  (2 Tim. 4:3-4).  Spiritually speaking, such individuals might be said to have “dog ears.”   There are some observations that beg closer consideration.

First, those who have spiritual “dog ears” will not endure the truth.  Their love for truth vanished long before their abandonment of the same.  Because of their distaste for the spiritual milk that is without guile (1 Peter 2:2), they run recklessly after anyone who will scratch their spiritual ears.  Tragically, such individuals bring upon themselves a spiritual hardening that blinds them to the truth and prepares them for the wiles of the devil.  “And for this cause God sendeth them a working of error, that they should believe a lie” (2 Thess. 2:11) simply because they “received not a love for the truth” (2 Thess. 2:10).

Second, there is no loyalty to the Master, but a heaping up of false teachers who will bow to their increasing demand of having someone scratch their spiritual “dog ears.”    It matters not whether the truth is spoken – in fact there is an ever increasing abhorrence toward truth eventually leading to a willful exchange of the truth for a lie (Rom. 1:21-25).  Heaping to themselves such false teachers, “they will accumulate a hand-picked little conglomerate of ‘clergy’ that will play any ‘fiddle tune’ that is requested” (Wayne Jackson). 

Third, the motivation for such foolishness lies in their selfish desire to have their “ears scratched.”  I have watched my dog, and other dogs for that matter, attack an “itch” with such vigor and vitality that one would think the ear might fall off.  Humans are like that – occasionally I get an itch in a spot that I cannot reach with my arm or hand, and I search for some way to alleviate the discomfort.   The desire to have one’s spiritual “dog ears” scratched in the manner here described by the apostle derives not out of a longing for the truth, but rather to fulfill one’s own desires and lusts (James 1:14). 

Finally, spiritual “dog ears” that long to be scratched by whatever means available will lead a person to ruin.  Things will go from bad to worse, and the end result is that the individual will find himself turning unto fables to satisfy the itch within.  The Greek word here translated “fables” is ‘muthous’ and means “that which lacks the substance of reality.”  I never cease to be amazed at the sophisticated silliness that men will embrace when once they have abandoned truth.  In an effort to fill the “void” within they will believe almost anything – and the more bizarre, the greater the number who seem to follow such nonsense.  No wonder that men have so widely embraced the foolish notion that a frog or tadpole can, given enough time, evolve into a man.  Such tickles their ears and satisfies their inner stupidity!

It comes down to this: Each one of us has within our hearts a strong love for the truth, with ears attuned to the word of God, and motivated by no other desire than to please God.  Or like the proverbial pooch that will follow anyone so long as they scratch their itch, they can only be described as those who have spiritual dog ears!