Examine the Word

The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men. 13 But when the Jews from Thessalonica learned that the word of God was proclaimed by Paul at Berea also, they came there too,agitating and stirring up the crowds. 14 Then the brothers immediately sent Paul off on his way to the sea, but Silas and Timothy remained there. 15 Those who conducted Paul brought him as far as Athens, and after receiving a commandfor Silas and Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, they departed. – Acts 17:10-15

What were special about the Bereans?

  • They received the word with eagerness
  • They examined the word to make sure it was true.

Because these things were done, many of them believed.  This was not the case in Thessalonica.  What sets the Bereans apart were they had a love of Scripture and a craving for truth.  Their hearts were prepared hear the Word.

Even then when they received the word, they examined it.  They didn’t just take it in, they were listening with discernment.  In the last section Paul was the one reasoning from the Scriptures, in this passage it’s the people who are using the Scriptures in a profitable way.  While we certainly ought to expect much from our pastors and preachers as they prepare their messages, in some ways our pastors and preachers ought to expect much from us as we listen to the Word being taught.  We ought not to be merely listening to the message, that is only bare minimum requirement, we ought to be engaging with the message.  Thought is required!  Interact with what you are hearing.  How does this line up with other Biblical truth you know?  How ought this to impact my life?  What does this change my perception of God or even myself?

Don’t just be readers of the Word or even just doers of the Word.  Be examiners of the Word!

Reasoning and Results

Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.” 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a great many of the devout Greeks and not a few of the leading women. 5 But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd. 6 And when they could not find them, they dragged Jason and some of the brothers before the city authorities, shouting, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also, 7 and Jason has received them, and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying that there is another king, Jesus.” 8 And the people and the city authorities were disturbed when they heard these things. 9 And when they had taken money as security from Jason and the rest, they let them go. – Acts 17:1-9

In Acts 17, Paul and Silas enter into Thessalonica.  In the synagogue, Paul not only preaches the death and resurrection of Christ, the text says he “reasoned with them from the Scriptures.” (verse 2).  What does it mean to reason from the Scriptures?

As always, context is key.  What was Paul trying to prove?  He was trying to show how the Christ, the Messiah, needed to suffer and die for sin.  The crucifixion was anything but a loss for Christ, it was planned long ago.  Before the foundation of the earth (Revelation 13:8) it was always God’s plan for the Son to sacrifice Himself for sin.  But, Paul used the Scriptures, the Old Testament at that time, to show this truth.  Like Jesus on the Road to Emmaus, he used the entirety of the known Scriptures to show the purpose and plan of Christ.

To say that Paul reasoned from Scripture is to say that Paul knew the Scriptures on such a level that he, like a workman that is not ashamed, was able to go beyond a mere surface level of Scripture and point men to the deeper, fuller understanding of the Bible as a whole.  He knew how to fit the individual pieces into the larger puzzle to show the whole picture.

How do we use the Word of God?  Do we pull pieces here and there?  Do we see Scripture as something that points to Christ or something that is merely meant to reinforce our preconceived ideas or even just something to make me feel better, an encouraging thought for the day?  Paul used the Scripture in such a way as to show the importance of Jesus and the Gospel.  See Christ in Scripture and point others to Him!

One final note on this passage, notice the response to Scriptural message of Jesus.  Not everyone was thrilled.  Some were offended.  Verse 6 says, “But the Jews were jealous, and taking some wicked men of the rabble, they formed a mob, set the city in an uproar, and attacked the house of Jason, seeking to bring them out to the crowd.”  When the Word is properly preached, the result may not be revival but rejection.  You can do everything right and still be rejected this by this world.

Remember, men do not reject God merely because they have an intellectual objection or had a bad experience with bad Christians.  Ultimately men reject God because their sinful hearts are darkened. Men reject God because they are depraved.  The natural man does not accept that which is spiritually discerned.

So, my encouragement then is to keep on faithfully preaching the Word.  A lack of results or rejection of the message does not necessarily mean you are at fault or that your message needs to change.  If you are faithfully expositing the text, teaching sound doctrine and using that to point men to Jesus and his gospel, keep on preaching!

Why Do We Pray?

4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge— 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. – I Corinthians 11:4-9

“Why do we have to say our prayers?” asks a little boy as his mother prepares him for bed. This child’s simple question echoes the sentiment in the hearts of many people much older and supposedly much wiser than he. Do you ever ask that question? And if so, have you found any answers?

One of the key reasons we pray is to commune with God. Prayer fosters a two-way relationship between us and the God who loves and cares for us. Consider a child growing up in a home where his parents have given him everything: life, love, food, clothes. In everything, the parents have provided the very best they could afford. But as the child gets older, he decides that he doesn’t have time for his parents, so he hardly ever comes home except when he has to. When he does, he stays busy in his room, rarely responding to his parents. Finally, the child grows into a man, goes out on his own, finds a job, and gets married. He never visits his parents; he never writes; he never calls.

What would you call such a child?

What would you call a person who receives life and love from his Father in heaven, the Father who watches over him and provides everything he needs in this life, including the food he eats and the clothes he wears? He receives innumerable blessings, and yet he grows up, never talking to his Father, never visiting His house. Unconcerned with his relationship with his Father, he never prays. What do you call such a person? The Scripture calls such a person a “pagan,” a person without God, a godless human being.

But we who know the Lord delight in spending time with Him. Why do we pray? Not so that He will do more than we ask or think, although He does. We pray so we can walk with God.

Today, spend some time with your Father. Tell Him what’s on your mind and in your heart. And listen for Him to tell you about Himself, too. He wants a daily, two-way relationship with you more than you could ever imagine.

Prayer does not change God, but changes him who prays. —SOREN KIERKEGAARD

– D. James Kennedy, Daily Truth

Solid Joys and the Cure of Me Addiction‏

17 “But if, in seeking to be justified in Christ, we Jews find ourselves also among the sinners, doesn’t that mean that Christ promotes sin? Absolutely not! 18 If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.  19 “For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”  -Galatians 2:17-21

Solid joys and lasting treasure

None but Zion’s children know ~

John Newton

Solid joys. This is what I need. This is what my soul needs. Because I am an addict. I am addicted to me.

I can’t get over me. I will resolutely choose to indulge in me “one last time”, perhaps even in excess so as to punish myself and make me not want me anymore. You know, the reasoning of all addicts. The Me drug is adaptable. It mixes just as well with a holy hymn as with porn. I am my own supplier and I give me to me with no threat of overdose unless it is to sell me on me with the line that the big dosage is well-deserved me time. I believe the lie. I’ve bought into the ideology of the characters of Infinite Jest that the cure of excess is excess.

Some drugs have nasty side effects. Dry mouth. Munchies. Vomiting. Distorted perception. Paranoia. The list goes on. Me indulgences render me cynical, afraid, angry, numb, reticent, barren. When on me everything I do is disabled. I slather my prayers with me, thinking that they are not real unless me flavors all my worship. Subjectivism trumps the objective when I am high on me. 

I need an intervention. I need a halfway house. An escape. I cannot neutralize the fatal attraction of me. Me consumes me. Is there a place where I can be healed? Is there a place where addicts like me can go to be freed of me?

The Church is the halfway house for the me addict that I am. There, in the midst of many other druggies, I encounter solid joys. The kind of joys that only those born again of the Spirit can grasp. From the Church, that halfway house that harbors those on their way from me to forever likeness of God there wafts the fragrance of Christ. It makes some me addicts so sick they turn the other way. But for this me addict, the fragrance of Christ makes me puke up me. In the communion of Christ I run from me to the cross of Jesus where not only did my Healer die for me, but me was stripped of its addictive powers. At the Table of the Lord, surrounded by many other me addicts, the subjective surrenders to the Objective and I feel the power of me crucified and the satisfaction of sensing, “It is no longer I that lives, but Christ lives in me.”  As surely as I taste the bread in my mouth and the wine on my lips is the joy of my freedom from me. 

The cure of Me Addiction is a new me. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Communion with Jesus is joy. It is treasure. It is solid and lasting. And this Sunday, once again, I meet with the halfway house to confess where I have come from and be reminded where I am going.

Bob Bixby

How we’ve misused Romans 8:28‏

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.  31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? – Romans 8:28-32

I’ve witnessed Romans 8:28 misused more than any other verse. And I know I have been guilty of misusing it myself. Maybe you’ve heard it thrown out in a small-group setting, maybe in a casual discussion. Inevitably someone has just shared a painful story about what she’s going through or has gone through. We don’t know what to say—the predicament is a sad one. It goes beyond the normal categories and struggles. It’s awkward. We want to help, perhaps, but we also want the moment to end. Or maybe we are just focused on saying the “right” thing.

Make no mistake, in this context, Romans 8:28 can be a bona fide conversation stopper. A spiritual “shut up,” if you will. And lest we think only Christians are prone to such insensitivity, the secular translation, “Don’t worry. It’ll all work out,” is no less common. Both are classic minimizations of suffering.

Quick fixes are inevitably attempts to minimize. And so is the offering of “cheer up” platitudes. But whether suffering is approached through the eyes of faith or not, the God of the Bible never reduces or compartmentalizes suffering—ever. The problems of life are large and complex. Pat answers are not only inaccurate but also unkind.

Our big problem requires a big solution. And in the old rugged cross, we have one. Despite our efforts to contain, move past, or silence it, the cross stands tall, resolutely announcing that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (v. 28). All things, Paul said, even misused Bible verses and the men and women who misuse them. Instead of diminishing our pain, then, these words proclaim the corresponding and overwhelming gratuity of our Redeemer.

– Taken from Tullian Tchividjian’s book It Is Finished: 365 Days of Good News

God Replaces our Ladder with His Cross‏

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as people migrated from the east, they found a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar.Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confusedthe language of all the earth. And from there the Lord dispersed them over the face of all the earth. – Genesis 11:1-9

The story of the Tower of Babel makes one thing perfectly clear: none of our best attempts and none of our self-righteous strivings (and that is exactly what they are) can get us up to God. In fact, as the tower builders are making their tower that is supposed to reach the heavens, God has to come down to even see what they’re doing. All that work, and they’re not even close!

But can’t you understand the desire to build the tower in the first place? We are like the tower builders—addicted to a ladder-climbing life. We think that a life of ladder climbing is a life of freedom—free to move at our own pace, up or down depending on our decisions, responsible for our own progress. We climb our ladders for the same reasons that the people of the world built their tower—to make a name for ourselves, to ensure our own legacy, to secure our own value. We love to imagine that we’re on a higher rung than someone else, a better father than someone else, a more accomplished follower of Christ than someone else. But ladder climbing actually and inevitably leads to slavery.

But there is good news: our towers of Babel don’t remain standing.

God loves us too much to leave us in the hell of unhappiness that comes from trying to do His job. Into the slavish misery of our ladder-defined lives, God condescends. His first act with the builders of the Tower of Babel is an act of judgment. He scatters and disorganizes them, literally. God takes away their faith in themselves, the very misplaced faith that enslaves them. When everyone in the world spoke the same language, God came down in judgment, breaking the world apart. But at just the right time, He descended the ladder again, this time to reconcile that sinful world to Himself. He replaces our ladder with His cross. His final descent was to save us, and to set us free.

God is not at the top of a ladder shouting, “Climb!” He is at the bottom on a cross whispering, “It is finished.”

– This devotional is taken from Tullian Tchividjian’s book It Is Finished: 365 Days of Good News.

My Joy…Your Joy

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love.10 If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11 I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. – John 15:9-15

What was the joy that Jesus had? Joy should not be confused with happiness. In fact, it is an insult to Jesus Christ to use the word happiness in connection with Him. The joy of Jesus was His absolute self-surrender and self-sacrifice to His Father— the joy of doing that which the Father sent Him to do— “…who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross…” (Hebrews 12:2). “I delight to do Your will, O my God…” (Psalm 40:8). Jesus prayed that our joy might continue fulfilling itself until it becomes the same joy as His. Have I allowed Jesus Christ to introduce His joy to me?

Living a full and overflowing life does not rest in bodily health, in circumstances, nor even in seeing God’s work succeed, but in the perfect understanding of God, and in the same fellowship and oneness with Him that Jesus Himself enjoyed. But the first thing that will hinder this joy is the subtle irritability caused by giving too much thought to our circumstances. Jesus said, “…the cares of this world,…choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful” (Mark 4:19). And before we even realize what has happened, we are caught up in our cares. All that God has done for us is merely the threshold— He wants us to come to the place where we will be His witnesses and proclaim who Jesus is.

Have the right relationship with God, finding your joy there, and out of you “will flow rivers of living water” (John 7:38). Be a fountain through which Jesus can pour His “living water.” Stop being hypocritical and proud, aware only of yourself, and live “your life…hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:3). A person who has the right relationship with God lives a life as natural as breathing wherever he goes. The lives that have been the greatest blessing to you are the lives of those people who themselves were unaware of having been a blessing.

– Oswald Chambers
My Utmost for His Highest