Scriptural Answer or Human Experience?

by Tom Wacaster

Among the many false doctrines that have occupied the minds of men is that of the necessity of the direct operation of the Holy Spirit upon the heart of an individual in order to procure salvation.   Such are the fruits of Calvinism.  Once you adopt John Calvin’s doctrine of election, the outgrowth of such false doctrine is the necessity of God to somehow operate directly upon those who have been “predestined” to salvation so as to “get them saved.”  It is what the Quakers and Pentecostals refer to as a “religious experience.”   David Lipscomb, in “The Life and Sermons of Jessie Sewell” demonstrated the absurdity of relying upon a spiritual experience for one’s assurance of salvation.  It seems that a fair, honest working famer of remote Tennessee had come in contact with brother J.J. Trott, a gospel preacher.  This famer had just returned from a “revival” where he had shared his “experience” with those present.  He told them that he had a vision wherein he was taken up by a great bird to the top of a high mountain.  The bird had held him over a precipice and let him go.  The man fell upon a bed of downy softness, and a feeling of his sins being forgiven overcame him.  Such was the man’s “experience” upon which his confidence in forgiveness rested.  Brother Trott asked, “Do you mean a large bird actually took you up?” to which the farmer replied, “Oh, no sir; it was only imagination…a vision if you will.”  Brother Trott responded: “Imagination of something that was not actually true?”  “Yes sir,” replied the farmer.   Brother Trot then asked him, “Were you really carried to the top of a high mountain?”  “Oh, no sir; again, I only imagined I was.”  Again brother Trott replied, “You again imagined what was not actually true?” “Yes sir,” the man replied.  Continuing, brother Trott asked, “Did you really find yourself on a bed of downy softness?”  Again came the farmer’s reply, “Oh, no sir, I only imagined I was.”  Quickly brother Trott responded, “You again imagined what was not true?”  “Yes sir,” the farmer replied.  Brother Trott then concluded, “Then your experience consists of imagining four things you know to be falsehoods or imagination.  How do you know but that the fifth item, that is that your sins were forgiven, is not also a mere imagination?” 

This story shows the absurdity of relying upon one’s feelings to determine whether one can be certain of his salvation.  Yet there are untold thousands, yea millions who rely upon such religious “experiences” in one form or another.   The subjective approach to spiritual matters is scattered across the landscape of every imaginable form of religion that the fertile minds of men have created.   Many a deluded soul will take the “feeling in his heart” over the rock sold truth that is recorded in the Bible.   I once had a man with whom I was studying, and before whom I had placed an open Bible, push my Bible back at me and tell me that he would not trade the feeling he had in his heart for all the Bibles in the world.   Mormons pray for that warm feeling in the heart; Pentecostals seek the overwhelming of the Holy Spirit; and much of the denominational world seeks for the “religious experience” so prominently upheld by false teachers as the panacea for the soul’s hope and assurance of a heavenly home that awaits the faithful. 

The Lord’s church has not escaped the ravages of Calvinism.  Twice in my lifetime I have witnessed movements within the churches of Christ that we would label Post-Calvinism.  The misunderstanding of the work and nature of the Holy Spirit has driven otherwise sensible thinking brethren into the same kind of mind set addressed above.  Rather than rely upon the word, they depend upon how they “feel” at the moment.   How else can you explain the actions of those who, knowing the will of God, plunge headlong into doctrinal and moral error?  Casting the word of God aside, they trust in their emotions, all the while exclaiming, “The Holy Spirit is leading me in this direction.”  Such is simple tomfoolery and sophisticated silliness.  The Scriptures never once encourage the honest seeker of God to search for a “feeling” or “experience.”  Quite the contrary, the Bible warns us, “that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23).   Again, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, But the end thereof are the ways of death” (Pro. 16:25).  Rather than rely upon feelings, or some tingling sensation within, it seems more reasonable and much smarter to trust in the Lord (Pro. 3:3-5).   “Be ready always to give answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15).

Let us remain loyal to the word of God, for therein is the power unto salvation and the only means by which the man of God can be complete, furnished completely unto every good work (2 Tim. 3:16017). 

Foolishness

by Tom Wacaster

“For the word of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us who are saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18).  The world is made up of so many kinds of personalities. I suppose this is good, for it would indeed be a boring life if we were all alike.  But amidst all the various types of personalities, our God has selected to classify them into one of two categories.  These two classes of men are sometimes referred to as the “saved,” or the “lost.”  On other occasions in the Bible they are called the “goats” and the “sheep.”   God’s word has also classified them as the “wise” and the “foolish.”  “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by his good life his works in meekness and wisdom” (Jas. 3:13a).  “The fool has said in his heart there is no God” (Psa. 14:1).   This particular classification is quite revealing, for it places all men into one of two categories based upon their own acceptance or rejection of God’s word.   To those that are saved God’s message is the power to save the souls of men.   The “wise man” not only knows the word of God, he applies it to his life (Matt. 7:24-27).   As a consequence, the wise man will “show by his good life his works in meekness of wisdom” (Jas. 3:13b).  The “wise man” will conduct himself in accord to God’s word.    The “fool” is quite the opposite.  To those who are perishing, God’s word is foolishness.  The fool consists not only of those who disbelieve in a God, but those who refuse to build upon the word of God, and who, in turn, trust in their riches (Luke 12:16-21).  Of particular interest in the passage to which we referred at the beginning of this article is the fact that Paul said “to them that perish” the word of the cross is “foolishness.”  It would be interesting, and beneficial, to observe how this “lostness” and “foolishness” fit together. Let’s think along this line for a moment.

First, let us consider the atheist.  To him the story of a resurrected Savior simply does not make sense.  He will accept nothing he cannot see with his physical eyes; he will believe nothing that cannot be experienced with the five senses.  He refuses to believe viable witnesses who claim to have seen Jesus nailed to the cross, laid in a tomb following His death, and then raised from the death three days later.  The atheist ignores the evidence of design, and in his foolishness, he brands himself as a fool in the sight of God.   It is not so much the fact that the atheist denies the existence of God that makes him a fool; it is that he does so in the face of such incredible evidence that cries out, “There IS a God in heaven!”  

Second, those who “are perishing” would include the ignorant.  To the ignorant, God’s word is unimportant. Oh sure, he believes in God – of some sort!  He may also believe that he ought to respect that God – in one form or another.   But his service consists of worshipping and serving God in a manner that is self centered; what Paul calls “will worship” (Col. 2:23).   Unwilling to reject the existence of a Divine being, he has progressed beyond the status of the atheist, but because of his ignorance of God’s word, he is still considered as foolish in the sight of the Almighty.  All those who look upon the word of God as some book of rules only to be ignored and broken fall into this category.  Those who are deceived by false teachers, ever learning and never coming to a knowledge of the truth, fall into this category.  They study, but they are deceived by false teachers into believing something that simply is not true.  They follow men and put their trust in human wisdom.  Unwilling to abide by God’s simple design and pattern, they launch out into the vast ocean of human stupidity in an attempt to satisfy the inner conscience while ignoring the very Book that can lead them to the Father.  

Finally, there are the unfaithful, unruly, rebellious, indifferent, lukewarm members of the body of Christ.  Members of the family of God? Yes!  Faithful?  No!  Like the atheist, who ignores the word of God, and the ignorant who change or pervert the word of God, these who once “were enlightened and tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and tasted of the good word of God, and the powers of the age to come” (Heb. 6:4-5), now find themselves in the same category.  They are fools, for they have turned their back on the only means of salvation. They have done despite unto the precious blood of Christ.  By their actions they have put themselves down as foolish in the sight of God.  

Oh yes, to those who are “perishing” – the atheist, the ignorant, and the apostate child of God – God’s word is simply not important.  To them it is foolishness.  The question you must entertain is: “Am I wise, or am I foolish?”   Dear reader, how do you regard God’s word?  

Time: How Are You Using It?

by Tom Wacaster


While doing mission work in South Africa, we had opportunity to make a trip to Zimbabwe.  One thing that impressed me about the “local” citizens (by local, we mean those who still lived in remote areas of the country), was the absence of any concern about time and/or schedules.   You might tell them that worship would be at 9:00 in the morning, but that did not mean anything to them.  Oh, they would do their best to abide by the “white man's” time frame, but most of them did not own a watch, taking the events of the day as they got to them.  But somehow the absence of watches did not stand in the way of their arrival on time. In fact, for the most part, the brethren would get there before we missionaries, and would be waiting for you when you arrived.  I asked brother Mitchell, local missionary in Mutare, if their lack of concern for hourly appointments ever presented any problems.  He assured me that the bushmen probably got more done in a day's time without their watches, than you and I got done with our watches.  Why was that the case?  It was a matter of proper management of time.  The local bushman realized that there was only a limited amount of time between sunrise and sunset, and he would use it wisely and prudently as the day progressed.  The following recently came to me via the internet.  “Imagine there is a bank that credits your account each morning with 86,400. It carries over no balance from day to day. Every evening deletes whatever part of the balance you failed to use during the day. What would you do? Draw out every cent, of course!!!!  Each of us has such a bank. Its name is TIME. Every morning, it credits you with 86,400 seconds. Every night it writes off, as lost, whatever of this you have failed to invest to good purpose. It carries over no balance. It allows no overdraft. Each day it opens a new account for you. Each night it burns the remains of the day. If you fail to use the day's deposits, the loss is yours. There is no going back. There is no drawing against the 'tomorrow.' You must live in the present on today's deposits. Invest it so as to get from it the utmost in health, happiness, and success! The clock is running. Make the most of today.”  That is precisely what those native Zimbabweans did.  They made the most of today.    Another has made this observation:

“To realize the value of ONE YEAR, ask a student who failed a grade.
To realize the value of ONE MONTH, ask a mother who gave birth to a premature baby.
To realize the value of ONE WEEK, ask the editor of a weekly newspaper.
To realize the value of ONE HOUR, ask the lovers who are waiting to meet.
To realize the value of ONE MINUTE, ask a person who missed the train.
To realize the value of ONE-SECOND, ask a person who just avoided an accident.
To realize the value of ONE MILLISECOND, ask the person who won a silver medal in the Olympics.”

The Psalmist writer put it this way:  “So teach us to number our days, That we might get us a heart of wisdom” (Psalms 90:12).  If a man in some remote corner of the world can “number his day” without the aid of a watch, or a calendar, so as to make the most of every moment, why is it that you and I, with the assistance of precise clocks, fail to get done what needs to be done?  Perhaps the problem lies not in the awareness of time increments, with its hours and minutes, but in how we use that which has been given to us.  

There Is No Shortcut To A Knowledge of God's Word

by Tom Wacaster


We live in an age of quick fixes, instant oatmeal, and disposable diapers.  Get-rich-quick schemes abound, and con artists are having a heyday on the unsuspecting and gullible.  Some years ago a man was asked if he had read the newest release of Random House Dictionary, to which he replied, “I’m waiting for the film version.”   Patience and hard work have fallen upon hard times.   Entitlements from Uncle Sam are demanded by the electorate, and it seems our government officials are scrambling to see who can provide the most for their constituents, regardless of the price tag or inability to fund those government perks.  I watched a small clip on the internet in which Jessie Jackson, Jr. proposed that the constitution ought to be changed to include the right to “laptops, Ipads, and decent housing” for every American (I’m serious…he really believes this nonsense).    This Century may very well witness the complete demise of the Western world, if for  no other reason than the fact that we wanted to take some short cut to those things that our parents and grandparents worked a life time to achieve.   

Sadly, this “short cut” mentality exists with regard to spiritual things as well.  In 1982 the Reader’s Digest came out with a condensed version of the Bible, cutting 55% out of the Old Testament, and 35% from the New. With the exception of Philemon, 2 John, 3 John and Jude, every book of the Bible was condensed to some degree.   Theirs was a futile attempt to provide a short cut to a knowledge of God’s word.  The Denominations print their church manuals in order to provide a short cut to a working knowledge of the doctrines and by-laws of the denomination.   Oh yes!  The Devil has done a remarkable job of providing the short cuts for those who are not interested in spending the necessary time to come to know the Word of God.   Unfortunately some of those reading this week’s bulletin may have fallen prey to the “short cut” mentality when it comes to a study of the Bible.   If the only spiritual instruction you receive is a one hour dose of Bible class topped off with a thirty minute sermon once or twice on Sunday, you are not getting the spiritual nutrition necessary for spiritual growth.   Even if you order the “full meal deal” and come on Wednesday night, and yet neglect private study during the week, you are still attempting a short cut to spiritual growth and maturity.  I think it was the late N.B. Hardeman who was once approached by a lady after a meeting one evening.  She remarked, “Brother Hardeman, I would give the world to know the Bible like you do.”  Brother Hardeman replied, “That is exactly what it will cost you.” 

Paul instructed us to “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).  Someone may reply, “But brother Tom, the original does not really mean study.”  This is true, but the original word ‘spoudazo’ most certainly implies serious study.  The Greek means “to be diligent, to make effort” (Strong), the end result of which is to “rightly divide the word of truth.”  If someone can explain to me how it is possible to give diligence so as  to rightly divide the word without study, I would like to know how to go about doing it and save myself some time!    

Beloved, there is no short cut to a good knowledge of the Bible.  It requires (1) reading a portion of the Bible daily; (2) taking advantage of every single opportunity available to hear the word proclaimed by attending Bible classes and worship on a regular basis; (3) memorizing passages that will help you ward off temptation.  There is no quick gimmick to a knowledge of God’s word. If you want to know His truth for you then you must determine to search it out by careful and diligent study.   Simply put, there is no short cut to a knowledge of God’s word!

Is It Worth It?

by Tom Wacaster


It has been more than 25 years since I sat behind the controls of a Cessna 172 and enjoyed the thrill of flying.  I have even thought of renewing my pilot’s license, but then reality catches up with me and I know that at this stage in my life I should leave the flying to those with quicker reflexes (not to mention the cost of renting a plane these days).     Maybe it is my love for flying, or perhaps a simple fascination of aerodynamics that makes me want to “look up” when I hear the roar of an airplane overhead.   Every time I watch a plane in flight I still stand in awe that such machines are able to stay aloft; and the bigger the plane, the greater the fascination.  

Over the years I have had the opportunity to attend various and sundry air shows hosted by a local flying club, or some well known flying group such as the Confederate Air club or the USAF Blue Angels.   Now that may not excite you, and you may wonder why in the world anyone would pay money to sit in bleachers, endure the heat, twist your neck in all sorts of contortions, and suffer through the noise of roaring engines.  I am aware that not everybody enjoys watching airplanes take off, land, do loop-de-loops, or barrel rolls; but for those who are aircraft enthusiasts, there is something about enduring all the inconveniences that go along with watching a pilot skilled in aerobatics take the control of an airplane and maneuver that aircraft with such precision.    Some years ago I attended a Confederate Air Show.  For the most part the planes were vintage aircraft from WWII.   I can well remember some of the “stunts” those pilots performed; and I can also remember that I came away from that air show with a sore neck, sunburn from the exposure, and a headache from all the tension and noise.   But I learned some important lessons.   It matters little with regard to the surrounding circumstances if one is determined to enjoy himself.   I enjoy airplanes and I get an immense thrill out of watching them perform.  Perhaps it is the joy that overrules the necessary inconveniences that makes attending an air show worthwhile.   There is something to be learned in all this, is there not?

First, attitude is behind so much of my outlook on life.  This is true with regard to our secular occupation, the various circumstances we face in life, and/or family relationships.  But it does not end there.  How I view the church will have a direct bearing upon whether or not I truly enjoy my association with brethren or the worship services of the church.  What is my attitude toward the church?  Do I perceive of it as being dull?  Then it will be dull!    Unimportant?  Then it will be unimportant! Exciting and fulfilling?  Then it will be exciting and fulfilling.  The same is true regarding a number of areas having to do with the work of the church.  Second, I learn that the rewards of life are worth the inconveniences and sacrifices I have to make to achieve the end result.  This is especially true with regard to the Christian life.  The inner peace of mind, the thrill of serving Christ, and the expectation of heaven help me to sing, “Surely heaven will be worth it all.”   When we are tempted to be negligent in our responsibilities, or if the going gets rough, or if there seems to be a lack of love among my brethren, or any other number of inconveniences, just remember that the joy of living the Christian life will help you to bear up under the difficulties.  

With the realization that (1) attitude is behind much of my outlook on life, and (2) that the rewards are worth the sacrifices, then perhaps I can say with the Apostle Paul, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content.”   Indeed, when life is over we will look back at our brief time upon this earth along with the sacrifices we had to make, and the inconveniences we had to endure, and declare with the redeemed of every age, “It was truly worth it!”

God's Fellow Workers

by Tom Wacaster


“For we are God’s fellow workers: ye are God’s husbandry, God’s building” (1 Cor. 3:9).  The Corinthians had just been rebuked for their carnality as evidenced in the divided allegiance they held.  Some said they were of Paul, others of Apollos (1:10-12).  Paul reminds them: “What then is Apollos? and what is Paul? Ministers through whom ye believed; and each as the Lord gave to him” (3:5).  It seems that Paul wanted to emphasize the preeminent roll which God played in all their labors.  It was God Who gave the increase, not men.  It should be God, therefore, who receives the glory.  Two times Paul declares, “It is God that giveth the increase.”  Recognizing that vital truth the question naturally arises, “What roll do you and I play in the growth of the church?  Exactly how important are you and I in the work of the Lord?”  While it is proper and fitting that God receive the glory for the increase of the body, we must not go to the other extreme and conclude, therefore, that we are of no importance; that we play a completely insignificant roll in the growth of the church.  God does not want us to claim preeminence, or somehow credit the growth of the church to our various programs.  But neither does He want us to feel so insignificant that we fail to become involved.  Thus, under three illustrations, Paul explains how important we are in the work of the Lord.

First, we are God’s fellow workers. The King James Version reads, “We are labourers together with God.”   Without us the job will not get done.  Figuratively speaking, we are the “hands” and “feet” of the Lord.  If we fail to “go” and to “plant” then God’s work will not be done.   There is a certain sense of pride in knowing that I am God’s fellow worker.  I am not in it by myself, but rather we are all in this together with God.  That partnership makes up a powerful combination that can defeat the enemies of the cross and bring increase to the kingdom. 

Second, we are God’s husbandry. The American Standard foot note reads, “tilled land.”   This is a strange metaphor in view of the fact that the “seed” (God’s word) is planted in the hearts of men thereby giving increase to the body of Christ.  There is, we think, a reason why the Holy Spirit selected this beautiful metaphor.  Imagine if you will a garden, carefully laid out and freshly tilled.  The laborers in this garden go about planning seed that will eventually germinate and grow.  It is in this garden that they concentrate their labors.   When the garden comes to fruition those who observe the fruit of the husbandman’s labors stand in awe at the wisdom of the husbandman.   The application is simple.  We are God’s “tilled land,” the church, the body of Christ.  Consequently it is in the church that God gives the increase of saved souls.  No wonder Paul (actually the Holy Spirit through Paul) wrote: “Unto him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations for ever and ever. Amen” (Eph. 3:21).  It is in the church that our God is “able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us” (Eph. 3:20). 

Third, we are God’s building.  We know that God is not confined to a building.  The church is not the building that is situated at 3029 Handley Drive in Fort Worth, Texas. Why, then does Paul use the metaphor of a building?    People come to your house to see where you live.   If allowed to spend a lot of time at your house, to observe how you live at home, they would come to learn a lot about your personality, hobbies, and how much you care for your family.    It is in that house that much of your personality unfolds in the sight of others.   If people visit the church and see a well ordered, morally pure, friendly, loving people, they will see Christ living in us, and get a glimpse, a small glimpse, of what our Father is like.   By telling us we are God’s building, God’s house, or God’s temple, we learn that we are a part of the family of God and the recipients of His Divine grace and mercy.   That speaks volumes about the church, does it not?

Perhaps it is knowing that we are God’s fellow workers, husbandry, and building that encourages us to greater faithfulness and dedication in God’s service.   If not, it should!   We may not be indispensible, but neither are we insignificant.  “Therefore 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).