|Vol. 14 No. 11 November 2012||
Rodney Nulph, Associate Editor
When life threatening issues caused the apostle Paul to leave Thessalonica, he came to a place called Berea. After leaving Thessalonica, where people did not like truth, Paul found, in Berea, a devoted group of Christians. In fact, Scripture calls them “more noble” (cf. Acts 17:11). Just exactly what would cause the Holy Spirit to call these Christians “more noble,” and what would we have to do today to be such as they were?
Firstly, the Bereans had open hearts. Luke recorded, “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word…” (Acts 17:11a). These folks, in contrast to what Paul had found in Thessalonica previously, really desired “the word.” Our “openness” or receptiveness to God’s Word is dependent upon our attitudes. The open heart is the one whose attitude is, “what doth the Lord require” (cf. Micah 6:8). Not everyone desires and receives the Word! Consider Stephen’s hearers, of whom it was written, “…they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears…” (Acts 7:57b). Many of Paul’s hearers on Mars Hill “mocked” (Acts 17:32). Sadly, not everyone is interested in the truth of God’s Word. Although not everyone will obey, the Book still declares that we are to “receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21b). Spiritual nobility begins with open hearts!
Secondly, the Bereans had open minds. Luke continued, “…with all readiness of mind…” (Acts 17:11b). Without an open mind, we can never really come to a full knowledge of God’s Word. Again, James reminded, “receive with meekness” (James 1:21). Throughout recorded Bible history, many sincere people have been wrong about their religious beliefs, and because of their open minds, they were taught the Word more correctly (cf. Cornelius, Acts 10-11; Lydia, Acts 16; Apollos, Acts 18; et al.). Spiritual nobility demands open minds!
Thirdly, the Bereans had open Bibles. Luke concluded, “…and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11c). Far too few people ever pick up the Word of God! Sadder still, far too few people ever study the Bible! Some people are diligent in reading God’s Word, but they never “search” it! This is true even among our fellowship. Study is different than reading. One cannot study without reading, but one can read without studying! “Search” as is used in our text denotes the idea of “investigating, examining, scrutinizing.” Diligent study and searching God’s Word has become a “lost art” among many Christians today. Spiritual nobility is never possible without open Bibles!
I wonder what words the Holy Spirit would use to describe most congregations today. Would we be considered noble? Imagine coming to Bible class next Sunday, and there sits the apostle Paul; what would he say about our classes? Do we, like the Bereans, have open hearts, open minds and open Bibles? How do we rank when it comes to spiritual nobility? May we ever strive to be like “those noble Bereans”!
Given by Jonathan Edwards in 1758 when he was president of College of New Jersey (now Princeton University), his famous sermon “Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God” was preached several years before (1741) in Enfield, Connecticut. This was not a sermon, but I feel that we as Christians could very easily adopt these five resolutions and give scriptural support for them.
Resolved: To live life with all my might while I live. Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 9:10 that there is no work or thought or knowledge in the grave! In Ecclesiastes 12:14, Solomon again penned that God will bring every deed [work] into judgment whether good or bad! Thessalonians 2:16-17 reads, “Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation, and good hope through grace, Comfort your hearts, and establish you in every good word and work.” Jesus said, “I must work the works of Him who sent me…” We note the work of Christians whenever we sing the song “To the Work.” In Revelation 14:13 we find, “And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead, which die in the Lord from henceforth, Yea, saith the Spirit, that they shall rest from their labors; and their works do follow them.” Faithful Christians live their lives with all their might as long as they live!
Resolved: Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in any way we can [a jiffy = 1/100 of a second]. Ephesians 5:16 instructs us to make the best use of our time, “Redeeming the time for the days are evil.” Time keeps passing for all of us. We need to make time for God. From Galatians 6:9-10 we learn that ability + opportunity = responsibility. “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (NKJV).
Resolved: Never do anything that I would despise or think meanly of in another. Do not be hypocritical. Matthew 7:3 instructs us to remove the beam or log in our own eyes before attempting to remove a mote or speck in another person’s eyes. For instance, do not condemn someone for stealing or embezzling, and then turn around and falsify income tax returns. James 4:8 advises, “above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” Remember the Old Testament parable told by the prophet Nathan to David (2 Samuel 12:1-7).
Resolved: Never to do anything out of revenge or envy. “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. …Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. Therefore ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17-21). “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). Both the Old Testament and the New Testament abundantly instruct mankind to react in a God-prescribed manner to fellow men. “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord” (Leviticus 19:18). Compare Matthew 5:38. From Numbers 35:13 one can see that God provided cities of refuge to which persons might flee to escape revenge for accidentally killing someone.
You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48).
Ephesians 4:32 direct us to “Be ye kind one to another, tender hearted forgiving one another as God in Christ has forgiven you.”
Resolved: Never do anything that I would be afraid to do if it were the last day of my life. Our Lord will return “suddenly” when we least expect Him (Mark 13:34-37). In the meantime, we must do what good we can accomplish, recognizing that the Lord’s will ultimately will triumph and determine how long we live and what we can do (James 4:13-17). After all, we have one life to live, after which it is certain that judgment will come (Hebrews 9:27). The way we live is the way we are going to die. The way we die (in what state spiritually) is the way we will be judged. The way we are judged will determine where we will spend eternity (Matthew 25:31-46).
Especially Christians need to live their lives with all their might in the service of Jesus Christ – as long as they may live. Thoughtful and committed Christians will resolve not to allow one wasted minute to characterize their lives of Christian service. Faithful Christians will resolve to think well and not ill of fellow Christians – and even of our enemies. We will not act out revenge and envy in our Christian lives. May we live our lives as though each day we live is our last day – the day our Lord will return and hold us accountable.