NT Tuesday: Be A Good Berean

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 ESV

You may have heard the expression “be a good Berean” — but what exactly does this mean? To answer this we must look at the story of Paul and his travels throughout the ancient world proclaiming the Lord Jesus Christ.

As Acts chapter 17 begins we find Paul traveling on what would come to be known as his second missionary journey. Paul and his traveling companion Silas arrived in the city of Thessalonica (Acts 17:1), and in keeping with their pattern of ministry they went to the local synagogue to demonstrate from the Scriptures that Jesus Christ was in fact the long promised Jewish Messiah. (Acts 17:2-3). Their ministry was fruitful as ‘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.’ Acts 17:4.

Because some had turned to Christ, the local Jewish leaders grew jealous and instigated a riot against the Christians (Acts 17:5). The rioters violently attacked the believers– falsely accusing them of acting against the decrees of Caesar (Acts 17:6-7).

That night the believers in Thessalonica sent Paul and Silas to the nearby town of Berea. Once again, upon arriving at the city they went to the Jewish synagogue and boldly declared Jesus Christ as the Messiah (Acts 17:10). As was the case in Thessalonica, their ministry was once again fruitful as many believed (Acts 17:12).

However there was something different about the Jews in Berea for which the Scriptures commend them. We are told that they were ‘more noble’ than their counterparts in Thessalonica. What was the difference? What made them ‘more noble’?

We are clearly told what that difference was in Acts 17:11 ESV. The Bereans:

  • received the word – they listened to what Paul and Silas were saying.
  • with all eagernessthere was a difference in their attitude— they received what Paul and Silas were teaching with eagerness.
  • examining the Scriptures – they examined the Scriptures. This clearly implies more than just reading God’s Word. The original Greek word used here means to ‘to scrutinize, investigate, interrogate, discern or search’. This is how the Bereans approached God’s Word…they went considerably deeper that a cursory reading— they actually interrogated the Scriptures.
  • daily – ’nuff said. This was not something that happened just once… this was the Bereans’ daily habit. This was their modus operandi, their pattern of living, it was how they ‘rolled’– they interrogated God’s Word DAILY.
  • to see if these things were so. – the Bereans had a goal. They had an objective in their interrogation of God’s Word… they wanted to know if Paul and Silias’ teachings were true. The Bible, God’s Word, was their standard– it was their measuring stick. They determined what was true by what God’s Word said and by nothing else.

So what is meant by the phrase ‘be a good Berean’? It means to follow the example set by Bereans. To judge everything by the sole standard of God’s Word, the Bible, with a good attitude on a daily basis to determine if it is so.

Because of the Berean’s noble approach to Paul and Silias’ teaching it is no surprise that ‘many of them therefore believed’.

Be a good Berean!

One more thought: if you happen to go to a church, or associate with some group, where you are discouraged from judging their teachings with God’s Word then you should leave that group! If you are ever told that you are not capable of understanding the Bible yourself… or you have not had the proper training to understand… or that you need their teachers or their literature to know what the truth is, you should leave that group immediately. A true teacher of God’s Word would never feel threatened if their students compared their teachings with God’s Word. In fact, a true teacher of God’s Word will welcome and even encourage you to challenge their teachings with God’s Word. After all, THAT is EXACTLY what the Bereans did and they were called ‘more noble.’

If you would like help in finding a local church please contact Digital Sojourner.

 

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Home Call: Samuel E. Robinson

I recently received word that brother Samuel E. Robinson was called into the presence of his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ on Saturday afternoon. Sam, as he was most often called, was a faithful servant of our Lord Jesus Christ. He had a strong interest in the Great Commission and devoted much of his time to helping the cause of the Gospel by serving missionaries.

For 52 years Sam served as a director of Christian Missions in Many Lands, Inc. , a missionary service organization that serves overseas missionaries commended from North American assemblies. For 24 of the 52 years, Sam served as President of the organization. It is worth noting that all of his service was on a volunteer basis. If you are not familiar with the work of this organization a brief history of CMML, written by Sam Robinson, is available on the CMML website.

Although Sam was a very capable businessman spending much of his career working for the American Bank Note Company in New York City, his passion was for the pastoral care of overseas missionaries. For many decades he spent countless hours counseling, shepherding, and encouraging the Lord’s workers—over the phone, in his office, and in his home.

I am very grateful that I personally had the opportunity to get to know Sam and his lovely wife, Ruth (who entered into the presence of the Lord in April of 2010). For the better part of 11 years (1994 – 2005) I had the privilege of working closely with Sam in the New Jersey offices of CMML. During that time I also fellowshipped at the same assembly as the Robinsons, and was often a guest in their household.

While numerous memories of brother Sam fill my thoughts, here is a small sampling of some of the more memorable:

  • At the CMML office Sam was tirelessly dedicated to the gospel and was deeply passionate for shepherding the Lord’s servants. He was often first to the office in the morning– one had to rise very early to arrive before he did!
  • At the assembly Sam was faithfully dedicated to the meetings of the church. One Lord’s Day morning Sam and his wife were conspicuously absent from the Lord’s Supper– after the meeting it was announced that overnight there was an apparent hostage situation in their neighbor’s home and the SWAT team had the entire area surrounded. Thankfully, the situation was a misunderstanding, there really were no hostages, and no one was hurt. Nevertheless, the story does illustrate brother Sam’s dedication to the meetings of the assembly– only the SWAT team could keep him away.
  • In their home the Robinsons loved to show hospitality to all of the Lord’s people. Ruth was an excellent cook and Sam loved to discuss the things of the Lord. Because of Sam’s aversion to all things poultry Ruth often prepared her trademark pot roast. Without question the most savory pot roast I’ve ever tasted.
  • One final memory: when my wife and I started to tell our friends and family that we were expecting our first child Sam was overjoyed for us… in fact, he was the only non-family member who actually broke down in tears of joy for us! I will never forget how excited he was for us.

Brother Robinson will be missed; however he has left behind a legacy of service, compassion, and dedication to the cause of Christ. Two thousand years ago Paul wrote to Timothy “…what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” 2 Timothy 2:2. Sam Robinson was one of those ‘faithful men.’

It is my prayer that I will follow Paul’s admonition to Timothy and pass on to another generation those things that I have learned from brother Sam. To God be the glory!

Information regarding funeral arraignments is available on the CMML website here.

 

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The Heavens Declare…

eso1242

The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Psalm 19:1 ESV

The European Southern Observatory recently released an absolutely ginormous 9 gigapixel image showing over 84 million stars from the ‘central bulge’ of our own Milky Way Galaxy. Link: eso1242 Photo Release

I find this to be incredibly staggering… according to Wired Magazine the image is 108,200 by 81,500 pixels in size. If the full resolution 24.6 gigabyte image were to be printed it would measure 30 feet tall and 23 feet wide… and yet the image only captures a relatively small portion of only one galaxy.

How anyone could contemplate this with an open mind** and then walk away unconvinced that there is an all powerful creator God is beyond me.

 

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**Because atheists have eliminated even the possibility of the existence of a supreme being– atheists, by definition, do not have an open mind.

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Have You Taken It To The Lord?

Hezekiah received the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it; and Hezekiah went up to the house of the Lord and spread it before the Lord. And Hezekiah prayed before the Lord… 2 Kings 19:14-15a

 

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

 

Sennacherib King of Assyria, the world’s loan superpower at the time, wrote a threatening letter to Hezekiah King of Judah. See 2 Kings 19:8-13. The letter was fairly simple and read something like this “Assyria has wiped many nations off the map. You’re next! You’re God is a lier and will not save you.”

Hezekiah’s reaction to the letter was amazing– He literally took it to the Lord in prayer. We are told in 2 Kings 19:14-15 that after reading the letter Hezekiah went to the house of the Lord and “spread it before the Lord.” Amazing. Then, over the letter he prayed an impassioned prayer to the God of Israel. See 2 Kings 19:15-19.

The words that Hezekiah speaks to God are a wonderful example of a deeply spiritual man seeking the Lord’s help. He begins in worship v15, then he describes his difficult situation vv16-18 and asks God for deliverance from the enemy v19a. He closes his prayer with an explanation of why God should save him and the nation of Judah from Sennacherib: “that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God alone.”

How true are the words of the hymn writer: “O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”

 

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Hymn quotations from What A Friend We Have in Jesus written by Joseph M. Scriven. 1855.

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10 Reasons Why I believe Jesus Christ is God

“The very abundance and persuasiveness of the evidence of the deity of Christ greatly increases the difficulty of adequately stating it”1

 

3D 10Benjamin Warfield was right… the sheer volume of evidence that Jesus Christ is God makes it quite difficult to adequately state it. It can not be understated, nor could it be more clear: the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is God.

Yet, despite the overwhelming evidence there are many who would deny this fact. In studying this topic I have compiled a list of 10 Biblical proofs as to why I believe that He is in fact God.

Disclaimer: this listing of 10 reasons is not exhaustive. Additional reasons could be added to the list, and additional scripture references could be added to many of the 10 reasons.

10 reasons why Jesus Christ is God:

 


1. The prophet Isaiah stated that the coming Messiah would be God


  • Isaiah 7:14          “…shall call His name Immanuel”
  • Matthew 1:23     tells us the name Immanuel means “God with us”
  • Isaiah 9:6-7        “His name will be called … Mighty God”
  • Isaiah 40:3 JND “Prepare ye the way of Jehovah”
  • Isaiah 40:3 JND “make straight in the desert a highway for our God”
  • Matthew 3:1-3    tells us Isaiah 40:3 is referring to the ministry of John the Baptist

 


2. The Lord Jesus Christ said that He is God


  • John 5:17 -18     His Jewish audience clearly understood His claim… in the following
    verses He explains, but never retracts His statement.
  • John 10:30-33   Again, His Jewish audience clearly understood His claim to be God
  • Revelation 1:8   He refers to Himself as “the Almighty.” This is the first of nine uses of this word in Revelation and is clearly a reference to deity.

 


3. God the Father proclaimed The Lord Jesus Christ to be God


  • Hebrews 1:6       The Father commands the angles to worship Him
  • Hebrews 1:8       The Father calls the Son God

 


4. His deity was and is attested to by the Angles


  • Hebrews 1:6       Angles commanded to worship Him
  • Revelation 5:11ff           Angles worship Him around the throne
  • Matthew 13:41   The angles obey Him and are called “His” (also see 16:27 & 24:31)

 


5. Demons worshipped and feared The Lord Jesus Christ


  • Mark 5:6             He was worshiped by demons
  • Mark 5:7             He was feared by demons

 


6. The saints confessed the deity of Jesus Christ


  • John 20:26-29   attested to by Thomas.
  • Romans 9:5       attested to by Paul.

 


7. His deity can be seen in His earthly miracles


  • Luke 1:22-23       His testimony to John the Baptist
  • John 5:36           His works bear a clear testimony of Him

 


8. The New Testament declares that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Creator of all things


  • John 1:3             This fact is stated from the positive and negative point of view
  • John 1:10            The world was created by Him
  • Colossians 1:16  He is the creator and the object of His creation
  • Hebrews 1:10    Again, He is the creator

 


9. The Bible declares that the Lord Jesus Christ is the sustainer of all things


  • Hebrews 1:3       “upholding all things” He is the sustainer of His creation
  • Colossians 1:17     “…in Him all things consist” he is the basis of all things

 


10. Jesus has the authority to forgive sin


  • Acts 5:31             He can give “repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”
  • Mark 2:1-12       His Jewish audience clearly understood that only God can forgive sin

 

As mentioned there are many more scriptures and reasons to believe in the deity of Christ. Feel free to list additional reasons in the comments.

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1 B B Warfield, (Reprint 1993) The Fundamentals, Vol. II – The Deity of Christ Grand Rapids: Baker Books, p. 241.

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Ordination or Commendation?

Ocean RocksIf you have been following Digital Sojourner you already know that Tuesdays have been nicknamed “New Testament Tuesdays.”

New Testament Tuesdays started back in the early spring with a series of articles by Jack Hay entitled “Which Church? A Problem.” In the series Brother Hay looked at 11 patterns, or principles, of how the early church gathered together in local congregations. Unfortunately, even a casual observer will note that there numerous discrepancies between what is commonly practiced in most local churches today and the pattern of meeting together as found in the New Testament. A PDF ebook of the series is available here for free.

After the Which Church? series concluded, Brother Mike Stoudt picked up Digital Sojourner’s Tuesday time slot and continued to write about various other patterns and principles found in the pages of the New Testament. Due to a prior ministry obligation Mike was unable to write a post for today, so I thought I could share a little about a subject found in the New Testament that I am currently studying: commendation.

What in the world is commendation you ask? Don’t worry you are not alone! The vast majority of evangelical churches never use the term nor practice the principle – even though the practice of commendation is clearly found in the New Testament. See Acts 11:19-26, Acts 13:1-5, Acts 14:24-28. Even a cursory reading of these passages will reveal that the church in Antioch recognized that the Holy Spirit had called out from among them two believers for a work that God had called them to.

 


Ordination



 

Seems fairly simple… and it is simple. Unfortunately we like to complicate what God has made simple. Today most ecclesiastical circles will speak of “ordination.” Though the practice differs widely, ordination typically means that one has successfully mastered a prescribed religious curriculum, has been approved by an officially recognized inter-church ruling body, and has been ‘ordained’ during a special church ceremony. The one who has been ordained is then considered to be a member of a special class of Christians called “the clergy” and can hold certain offices and practice certain ministries that most other Christians “the laity” can not.

The modern practice of ordination may seem fine. Unfortunately, however, the practice can not be found in the New Testament. Because the practice is so common today many refuse to believe that there is no New Testament precedent regarding ordination. However, I would like to suggest that not only does the modern practice of ordination lack a Biblical foundation, in many ways ordination is actually contrary to New Testament teaching.

How is the modern practice of ordination contrary to the New Testament? Consider this…

  • There is no ‘prescribed religious curriculum’ other than the Bible itself — no other book or even church history is authoritative. Revelation 22:18-19
  • There is no ‘officially recognized inter-church ruling body’ sanctioned in the New Testament — The passages referenced above clearly show that it was the one local church alone that recognized what the Holy Spirit said. Acts 13:1
  • There is no ‘special church ceremony’ described in the New Testament for this purpose. When the local assembly in Antioch ‘sent off’ Barnabas and Saul for the work that God had called them to do they fasted, prayed and laid their hands on them. Acts 13:3. This does not sound like an ornate ceremony with great pomp and circumstance — in fact the Lord Jesus taught against this. See Matthew 6:5-7 and Matthew 6:16-18
  • There is no distinction made in the New Testament between the ‘clergy’ and the ‘laity.’ The New Testament actually teaches that all true Christians are members of the so-called ‘clergy’ — the priesthood of all believers 1 Peter 2:4-5 KJV

I know that this may sound shocking to you, so I would ask you not to take my word for it, but rather go to God’s Word alone and prayerfully study what God says about this topic.

 


Commendation



 

Well, if commendation is not ordination — what IS commendation? From the above referenced passages in the book of Acts one preacher has defined commendation as “an action by a local assembly in which they recognize God’s call of one of their own for a specific ministry and they hand the individual over to the grace of God for His care and blessing.”1

So, commendation is simply…

  • the local assembly recognizing that God has called one or more of their own for a special work. Acts 13:2.
  • the local assembly giving way to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Acts 13:2.
  • the setting apart of the called believer(s) to the Lord. Acts 13:2.
  • the setting apart of the called believer(s) for a specific work of God. Acts 13:2.
  • the setting apart of the called believer(s) from the local assembly. Acts 13:2-4.
  • an ongoing relationship between the commending assembly and the one commended. Acts 14:26-28.
  • involves the entire local assembly. Note the multiple use of the word ‘they’ in Acts 13:2-3.
  • involves the assembly fasting and praying. Acts 13:2-3 — in accordance with Matthew 6:5-7 and Matthew 6:16-18 both fasting and praying should be done in a spirit of humility, and in such a manner that does not draw attention to the ones who are fasting and praying.
  • the local assembly identifying itself with the one(s) being commended as symbolized through the laying on of hands. Acts 13:3.

Therefore, commendation is something that is simple and spirit lead. All too often the modern church has added layer upon layer of rules and regulations to the simple and clear teaching of the Word of God. Yet, so many true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ seem to be blinded by the traditions of man.

So, what do you think? Has the modern church over-complicated and possibly even overruled the Scriptures with the modern practice of ordination? I would appreciate hearing your thoughts in the comments.

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1William Yuille (June 27, 2012) Commendation, message given at Greenwood Hills Bible Conference, Fayetteville, PA.

Also special credit to: Tom Irwin (July 30, 2012) Commendation, message given at North York Gospel Chapel, York, PA

Photo credit: Chris Buggins, used with permission.

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Practical Tips For Evangelism

Lego Mini FigureOn Wednesday night at my assembly’s mid-week Bible study and prayer meeting brother Chuck Henderson moderated a fascinating discussion regarding evangelism.  The context of the discussion had in mind personal, or one-to-one evangelism in the “real” world (you know the physical, offline world).  Because the information is intensely practical, and should be of great help to any believer who would like to effectively share their faith, I have reproduced my notes in bullet point format below.

Warning: the following has only been slightly edited so there is a good chance that you will have a question or need some clarification.  If so just leave a comment, and I’ll see if I can help interpret my notes.

 

What is the goal? For people to come to a saving knowledge of Christ.
— focus on the goal
— keep on track – don’t be drawn away from the issue at hand
— the goal is not to win a debate

Know who it is you are sharing the Gospel with… and act accordingly.
— where does this person stand spiritually?
— are they an atheist?
— are they from a religious background?
— what do they already know?
— what are they confused about?

Skeptics… There are 3 types, know which type you are interacting with as each type should be dealt with differently.
— intellectual
— emotional
— volitional

How much contact do I or will I have with this person?
— will I ever see them again?
— how frequently?

What do you know about their beliefs or the doctrines they hold?
— don’t assume you know what they do or do not believe
— don’t assume they define words and terms the same way you do

Be respectful, be aware of others listening… Don’t embarrass the person.
— don’t be arrogant
— avoid jargon, use words that people can understand

Do your homework, know what you believe & why.
— be aware of your limits

Memorize scripture
— example: Romans 8:9 refutes the error of the second blessing

Other practical tips:
— avoid inappropriate relationships
— be aware of your surroundings
— be aware of any safety issues

 

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Photo flickr/blitzen

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3 Modern Ideas for Sharing the Gospel

Modern Ideas for Sharing the Gospel

 

This past Saturday was our annual neighborhood yard sale. When the weather is favorable (as it was this year) the event can attract several hundred people. This is, of course, a perfect opportunity to share the Gospel message with a world that so desperately needs the Lord Jesus Christ. It’s also a great opportunity to involve the entire family in the effort: my wife organized and set up several tables with the usual garage sale items, my children set up an ice cream stand, and I set up the Gospel table.

In the above picture of the Gospel table I numbered three specific ideas that you could incorporate into a similar effort:

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Digital Church?

Digital Church

 

Christian blogger and Evangelical leader Albert Mohler recently posted a thought provoking blog entry on the rise of the ‘digital church’ as a replacement for traditional, physical church gatherings.

Brother Mohler rightly points out that digital technologies can be of great value for the believer and the church alike. Online sermon libraries, online archives of the written works of Christian teachers of prior generations, and use of social media for gospel outreach are just a few of the examples cited.

Mohler goes even one step further by implying that an online presence is even NECESSARY for ministry in the 21st Century:

A church without a digital presence is a church that, to many people, simply doesn’t exist.

However, we need to exercise caution. Even with all of the potential benefits that modern, digital technology offers there are some serious dangers that we must consider.

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Choose Your [Facebook] Friends Wisely

Facebook

“Choose your friends wisely” I can still hear my mother’s voice saying this many years ago as I would head off to school each day. Her advice is similar to the words of Solomon, “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Proverbs 13:20 ESV. Like Solomon, my mother knew that I would begin to look, act, and sound like the people who I spent the most time with.

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