Title: Reasoning Done Right! Text: Acts 17:10-15:
Intro: What is it about these early mission reports from the front-lines that make them so compelling? Maybe that for all the tools for communication available to us, there is painfully little personal connection and lasting transformation going on. Our bookstores are replete with audios, videos, and programs for spiritual enhancement but in most cases they fail in the most needful of ways because they offer no engagement with another person.
Teaching students has long offered me a mechanism for translating the tried and trusted truth of God’s word into the language of living. That exercise, unfortunately is usually one sided, offering me little more than a few weeks to join the student in his pursuit of a better understanding of God. And, as usually is the case, I try to keep up with the students’ progress, especially if there is an interest. Unfortunately that fades as well, acknowledging that both teacher and student have lives to carry out. But with one such student, that has been different. This individual wrote me back, just this week, thanking me for checking up on me, and suggesting that it was an answer to prayer. And then she said…
If it wasn’t for the fact that it WAS Christmas-time (and I didn’t want those memories for my kids associated at all with Christmas), and just the “belief” that with the right medications – I was so close to committing suicide. While talking to the psychiatrist, she asked what was “holding me back,” and I said “Because I’ve seen to many attempted suicides come into the ER who didn’t succeed in their try. I don’t want that to be me. I have a fear of not succeeding.” I have two beautiful children, a marriage that is almost unheard of here on earth (my soul-mate, as far as humans can be), a school education that is going great, a job with promise…. but none of that mattered – and I just didn’t care. Honestly, Mark – I didn’t care. NOTHING mattered. I tolerated everything. I was “physically there” but emotionally and mentally, it was such a “waste” of…. everything. I wrote my suicide notes… I started to research pesticides and antifreeze… mixing them with chemicals and medicines… where I could go, so that my girls wouldn’t find me (and, actually, no one would who would be able to revive me). But the 1 thing that I was MOST afraid of was the look on Jesus face when I finally saw Him face to face. It is my deepest goal and desire to hear “Well done, my good and faithful servant” when that day comes – and I know if I did end my own life on my own terms, I would not hear him say that. I don’t fear losing my salvation – but I fear the disappointment that He would have in me.
What she is seeking is what most Christians never secure… A dialogue with the truth,and the opportunity to rubs shoulders and lives with others, themselves bouncing through life.
David Livingston, I am prepared to go anywhere so long as its forward
THE MISSING INGREDIENTS
Certain lessons associated with starting and growing a business: Deb kneads Dough but the dough needs salt.
What was active in Berea:
AN OTHER-MINDED MINISTRY:
The Apostle and everyone who signed on to go had evaluated their level of commitment and realized they were in it for the long haul. PAUL, is the measure of one committed to others. Having no family, he marshaled the whole of his affections into people. (I Thess 2:7). We were gentle among you…for sure his brethren but equally to his opponents as well. Neither beatings, threats, bad food, poor accommodations, prison cells, nor vocal opposition had been able to thwart the determination and desire that Paul and the team felt to be on the road extending the church’s footprint. Sometimes that involved the public, with officials, and philosophers…sometimes it brought him at arms length, while chained to Roman soldiers.
Culture in need of authentic living:
The Bereans looked at authentic spirituality as mutually valuable and personally desirable. A positive peer pressure: a positive incentive to grow and develop. The men that meet weekly for fellowship and study I hope are coming because it represents a positive start to their day… A priority for growing into the men they want to be for their families and the leaders God wants them to be in the church. As such its a very hands on experience. There is no attendance to take, no pulpit to pound, and what I really want to get out of is doing most of the talking.
Whatever you want to make of the Jewish culture already on the ground, either because of it or in spite of it, or as a result of its inherent weaknesses, it made the people in Berea hungry for something that would fill their need of hope and fulfillment.
Rational driven preaching and teaching:
Paul’s preaching and teaching was neither sensationalized nor without passion. He had the mind of a published scholar, the passion of a redeemed slave, and the drive of a Roman soldier. Many shortcomings he was accused of but boring was not one of them and therefore neither do we have the authority to take the most powerful message of hope in the universe and make it as dry as a piece of butter-less toast.
His message was intentional from beginning to end. And it all resonated through Paul’s style and manner of living out Jesus. Phillip Schaaf opens a window into his world, He writes,
Paul’s style is manly, bold, heroic, aggressive, and warlike; yet at times tender, delicate, gentle, and wining. It is involved, irregular, and rugged, but always forcible and expressive… His intense earnestness and overflowing fullness of ideas break through the ordinary rules of grammar. His logic is set on fire. He abounds in skillful arguments, bold antitheses, impetuous assaults, abrupt transitions, sudden turns, zigzag flashes, startling questions, and exclamations. He is dialectical and argumentative… He reasons from Scripture, from premises, from conclusions… He varies the argument by touching appeals to the heart…. He is never dry or dull, and never wastes words… His words are as many warriors marching on to victory and peace; they are like a mountain torrent rushing in foaming rapids over precipices, and then calmly flowing over green meadows, or like a thunderstorm ending in a refreshing shower and bright sunshine. ( pg. 753-754)
With no apparent family, he lived out his life in defense of the faith, and in a relentless pursuit of growing people in godliness. These folks were looking with scrutinizing eyes at the concepts Paul was discussing and running them back through their brains.
The verbs: examine: anakrino: judicial investigations: Herod/ Jesus: Luke 23:14-15; Sanhedrin, Peter/ John: Acts 4:9; Felix/ Paul
Stott suggests that it implies integrity and the absence of bias.
It was inevitable in Jewish evangelism that the OT scriptures should be both the textbook and the court of appeal… What is impressive is that is neither speaker nor hearers used Scripture in a superficial, unintelligent or proof texting way. On the contrary, Paul argued out of the Scriptures and the Bereans examined them to see if his arguments were cogent. And we may be sure that Paul welcomed and encouraged this thoughtful response. He believed in doctrine ( his message had theological content) , but not in indoctrination ( tyrannical instruction demanding uncritical acceptance). As Bengel wrote in verse 11, A characteristic of true religion is that it suffers itself to be examined into, and it’s claims to be so decided upon. Thus Paul’s arguments and it’s hearers’ studies went hand in hand. I do not doubt that he also bathed both in prayer, asking the Holy Spirit of truth to open his mouth to explain, and his hearers’ minds to grasp, the good news of the salvation in Christ. (Stott, pg. 275
Personal application: dialogE, discussiON, AND CONNECTION
Changed lives: The value of the dialogue is always played out in the reality and regularity of changed lives. If these people, now having better understood the Scriptures are considered more noble, it is because the principles laid before them had found their mark in the dialogue that shaped teaching into truth and finally had yielded training. Nobility becomes the child of conviction not birthright. Puritan Matthew Henry writes,
Those that rightly study the scriptures, and meditate therein day and night, have their minds filled with noble thoughts, fixed to noble principles, and formed for noble aims and designs. These are more noble.
Chaffing critics: The dialogue and discussion was having an impact: the very fact that the Jews in the cities behind their travels were keenly aware. Don’t kid yourself: if the ground level work of this team was not having success, the Jewish contingent From Thessalonica would not have beat feet down to Berea but they knew something was up and they had better stamp it out right now! [remember Gamaillel ]
Contagious growth: Likewise, how futile are the attempts to exterminate when they succeed only in expansion. Every town that chased them out brought them to into a new community that found their teaching necessary. Reminds me of the exploration of Spanish conquistador, Coronado. In search of gold amongst the native people’s of Arizona, the natives quickly discovered their best hope of getting rid of their unwelcome guests was to tantalize their egos with the greater hope of treasure in the next tribe… All the way to Southwest Kansas.
Regularity of our rearing: Families reared on balanced diet of biblical dialogue ask more questions, challenge more assumptions, and usually clear more hurdles in advancing the work of the kingdom.
Richness of our relationship. Col. 3: Families craving a dwelling where the richness of Christ is a welcome presence usually find more reason to rejoice in the dailies of their lives.
Rightness of lifestyle: Families finding willing listeners, open hearts, and noble friends usually find that a threesome hard mix to beat.