Posted in Worldview Analysis

Ultimate Standards: Whose Image do you Reflect?

“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” (Acts 17:11)

The Jews in question here were from the city of Berea. Paul and Silas have been sent there because of the trouble that they had suffered in Thessalonica. When Paul and his band of fellow ministers entered Thessalonica they found the city’s synagogue and reasoned with those in attendance from the Scriptures for the next three Saturdays (Jewish Sabbath) proving that Jesus was in fact the Christ (Acts 17:2-3). The result of his preaching bore much fruit as some Jews and a larger number of Greeks were saved, including some important women (Acts 17:4). Not everyone was pleased, for a large number of Jews who became jealous (more than likely at the conversion/inclusion of Gentiles into the family of God) began to stir up the people with their words. They got other like-minded people to side with them, formed a mob, setting the city in an uproar, all in order to attack those who had been preaching Jesus (Acts 17:5). Their claim to the civil authorities was that, “These men who have turned the world upside down have come here also…and they are all acting against the decrees of Caesar, saying there is another king, Jesus” (Acts 17:6b-7).

After this Paul and Silas were sent away out of concern for their safety, and the place where they stopped was Berea. Most people, I would imagine, would take the cues from the populace and remain quiet. Or at least do their preaching behind the scenes, in private, in order to stay safe. However, the first place they went was the Jewish synagogue (see Acts 17:11 at top of page). Paul and those with him attested to the same message. In fact, everywhere they went this was the message that Paul sought to convince the people of, and he would continually argue with the people from the Word of God that Jesus is Christ (Messiah; King).

The question, I want to pose to you today is this: “Why were the Bereans considered to be more noble than the Thessalonians?”  “What was it that marked them as different?” “How were they special?” Notice that when Paul preached they received the “word with all eagerness,” and they “examined the Scriptures daily” to check him. When Paul taught, he taught from the Old Testament Scriptures (Torah). His message was an accurate reflection of God’s message.

Paul’s claim would have been just as radical to his 1st century’s audience’s ears, as our own. And yet, the Bereans were hungry for what he had to say, and they tested his words with the Bible. Let those last few words sink in a bit. “They tested his words with the Bible; with the Word of God.” You say, “Why is that important? Why should that matter?” Over the past few weeks I have touched on worldviews and the foundation stones of those views. At base every person has an ultimate standard from which they judge, test, or measure all other truth claims. All people in their heart of hearts, have one supreme standard by which they make sense of the world around them. The same way in which a foundation holds up a house, or a pair of crutches keeps the person with a broken leg from hitting the ground, our ultimate standard upholds our thinking. As I’ve said on another occasion, this standard governs the way we think, the way we act, the way we see and interpret the world around us.

For the Bereans that standard was God’s Word. True, the Apostle Paul preached and taught with a lot of passion. No doubt, his voice was full of passion and zeal. However, the Bereans did not trust in what they were experiencing. They were not convinced by his words because of some burning in their bosom, or the conviction found in his mannerisms. No, when it came to know the truth from the lie, they trusted the Scriptures above all else. My point, if you have not got it yet, is that they trust God’s revealed, inspired, breathed-out Word over and above anything this Apostle of Christ had to say.

In case you are tempted to believe that this was not/is not expected of all people, listen to the Apostle Peter: For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty…And [yet] we have more firm the prophetic word, to which we do well giving heed, as to a lamp shining in a dark place….” (2Pet 1.16; ESV; 19a; YLT). Peter is saying to his readers, it is true that we did not teach you myths or fables, for we were eyewitnesses to the things that came to pass; however, something more reliable, something more perfect is given, so that you may know the truth—the prophetic Word; the Word of God.

Each and every person on this earth, regardless of their ethnicity, is God’s creation (see Acts 17:26). All people bear the mark of having been made in the Image of God (Gen 1:26-27). God’s intent is for His creatures to reflect him to the world around him. We are like shadows made to mimic our Creators thoughts and actions. This is only possible, however, if our final standard of appeal is His revealed Word; The Holy Bible, both Old and New Testaments.

Not only is the Bible our final standard of appeal when weighing truth statements, but it is naturally—as our ultimate standard—our starting point. For the Bereans of Paul’s day this was true, and we too may share in the Holy Spirit’s obvious nod of approval, if we likewise start with and end with Scripture. What my fellow construction workers called getting an “adda-boy” from the boss. While, God is so much more than just a boss to us, the truth remains that He does reward faithfulness to the standard for which He has set, and shall judge all men by.

In short, remember this, God created you for a purpose and that purpose is not your own. He created you to bear His Image to all creation, to reflect His way of thinking and acting. Although the necessary prerequisite is true faith in Christ alone, those that profess to be Christians need to learn to walk as He walked (cf. 1John 2:6). This is only possible when God’s Word is our Ultimate Standard for all things. That is what it means to truly be a Berean. Even better yet, a true Christian.

End Notes:

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Posted in Christian Witness

Opposing Lies, Embracing Truth.

“The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate” (Prov 8.13; ESV).

“You who love the Lord, hate evil!” (Psalms 97.10).

To be in love with the Lord is to hold dear what He holds dear, and to hate what He hates. The church in Ephesus was condemned for losing their “love of God,” (Rev 2.4) whereas, they were commended for hating the Nicolaitans and what they stood for just as Christ did (Rev 2.6). In one sense the church was given praise for testing the doctrines of others against the truth (Rev 2.2-3)—i.e. Word of God—but was rebuked for losing sight of what was more important—the love of Christ Jesus. If they were willing to bear Christ’s discipline, then they would receive the promised reward: being allowed to “eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Rev 2.7).

While the former is by far the more important, the latter goes hand-in-hand with it. As Christians, we are called to love God with all that we are, and in so doing stand firmly upon the rock of Truth (cf. Matt 7.24; John 17.17). What happens, though when we fail to do this? What are we saying to the world around us? More importantly, what are we saying to the God who saved us, whom we say we love, when we fail to embrace the truth over and above the lie?

Think hard upon this. Jesus condemned the religious leaders of his day, because they were more invested in the lies of their father, than the pure truth of Scripture (cf. John 8.44). Jesus said a defining mark of those that were truly his disciples, where those that were vested in the truth (John 8.31-32). in other words, it is through God’s precepts and instruction that we who are the children of God gain true understanding, and therefore as a consequence rightly hate evil (Psalms 119.104).

What then shall we say of those within Christ’s church who fail to challenge a lie? Who refuse to stand upon the Truth, out of fear of being ostracized, out of fear of being rejected by those who they know. One way to put yourself in the seat of opposition is to point out falsehood when you see it. To stand for what is right, what is true, what is pure, when the opportunity presents itself. Sadly, those that profess the Name of Jesus and shirk in the corner out of fear, are many.

Perhaps, this is the byproduct of living in the culture in which we do. In America, the secularists idea of tolerance has been unknowingly adopted by many in the Christian faith today. So much so, that they are apparently blind to it. We do not want to offend, we do not want to put off the appearance of being narrow-minded, we are fearful someone might call us a “hater,” a “bigot,” a “legalist,” a “fundamentalist,” “illogical,” “irrational,” “nonsensical,” a “backward, behind the times, dunderhead.” What we fail to see, though, is that by remaining silent when confronted with the lie we are demonstrating to the world around us—before an unseen audience of angels and the Triune God of Creation—that we are ashamed of Christ.

If we do not demonstrate in our lives that we hate evil, that we fear the Lord God above all else, then we are just as guilty as those who have embraced the lie. In our silence we have become partakers of the very same evil that we would, in private church settings, say we hate! As Christian men and women we do not have the luxury of silence. Our lives are not our own, and God expects our allegiance. Christ cannot truly be the Lord of our hearts, if we cower in the corner allowing the lies to stand in this life unchallenged.

Not only do we show no love for the Lord with such behavior, but we also show that we have no love for our neighbor. For if we truly loved them, then we would stand for the truth, in the hope that they too would see it and embrace it. I realize that our tendency is to avoid conflict at all costs, to not be offensive, to be seen and not heard. We want the people around us to see us and to speak well of us. We hate the idea of someone taking note of us in a negative fashion. However, we would be wise to pay attention to Jesus’ way of life.

In John chapter 6 we read of the feeding of five thousand men (not including the women and children there that day) on the shores of the Sea of Galilee (John 6:1-15). The next day the crowd finds out that Jesus has left. They did not see him get in the boat with his disciples, but many of them decide to make the journey across the lake anyway. When they arrive in Capernaum, they find Jesus teaching in the synagogue there. The people want to know how Jesus got there, but he says in response, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves” (John 6.26). In other words, the people did not chase after Jesus because they truly believed in him. Instead, they saw a free meal ticket. They had the mentality of “what can you do for me.”

Over the next several verses Jesus teaches them several deep theological truths. He explains that He is the Bread of Life (John 6.35, 48). That in order to live they must eat of his flesh and drink of his blood (John 6.51-53). Jesus is not teaching the people to become cannibals. Rather, he is using hyperbolic language to demonstrate that unless they believed in Him, they would perish and die in their sins.

Now the language that Christ used was offensive to the Jews. Not just the comments about his flesh being bread and his blood being drink, but that coming to him in belief was not possible unless the Father drew them to the Son (John 6.44). He said if the Father did not draw the person, “no one” would be able to believe. The offense was that their Jewish heritage would not save them. The offense was that their will would not save them, but rather God’s will (see John 1.12-13). Those that turned to Christ in belief, as was required, did so because the Father enabled them.

Many people left Jesus that day disgruntled. Many of his disciples left also. However, before they left Jesus posed this question to them: “Do you take offense at this?…It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all” (John 6.61b, 63). The question I pose to you the reader is this: Did Jesus tell the truth to the crowds that day, to his own disciples, people who had been following him for a long while, or did he remain silent? The answer is obvious. The reader of this biblical account cannot deny it. What governed Jesus teaching, was the truth. He embraced the Truth and opposed the Lie at all points in his life. In so doing, he demonstrated that He did in fact love the Father more than anyone else, and that he loved his neighbor as himself.

EndNotes:

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