“…As We Stand And Sing”

Posted: February 24th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“If there is anyone here this morning who…” It’s time to put away your Bible and get out your song book. The preacher is still mumbling something, but you’ve heard it all a thousand times. Now you’re just waiting for the next cue. “…As we stand and sing.” There it is. You finally get to stretch your legs and start thinking about what your going to eat for lunch… if you haven’t been thinking about it already.

Unfortunately, this is how many have come to see the concluding remarks of a sermon. The invitation is nothing more than a traditional ending to the preacher’s message. It’s kind of like “in Jesus name, Amen” at the end of a prayer (Oh wait, that actually has meaning too). Jesus warned us against meaningless repetition (Matt 6:7), but it seems to have found its way not only into our prayers, but into our Lord’s Supper talks and sermons.

There is nothing wrong about repetition within itself. We are a forgetful people and need constant reminder. It would be foolish and dangerous for us to pursue a fresh new approach to our worship each week. It’s not the order and procedures of our worship that need to be shaken up, it is our hearts. “I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder” (2 Pet 1:13). We need to be woken up from time to time and reminded of why it is we say things and do things the way we do. Our repetition must be meaningful, not meaningless.

And so, the invitation is not an outdated practice that we should blindly discard for something more non-traditional. Nor is it something we should continue to practice as a mindless ritual. We must stir up our hearts to see its purpose and value. We must clear out our ears and consider the call that is extended to each and every one of us.

Whether at the end of a 30 minute sermon or the focus of a 5 minute talk, the invitation is an opportunity for each of us to examine our hearts. It is a time to take serious inventory of our lives and identify any changes we need to make. This may not require stepping out into the aisle and making your way to the front of the building, but that doesn’t mean the invitation is irrelevant for you.

And for some a response to the invitation may include that trip to the front. We need to consider this before we decide to pick the invitation song as our time for a quick exit or bathroom break (If as many would walk towards the front as do toward the back, we would have a lot more baptisms). We need to consider this before we chose to skip out on the invitation. What message does that send to our children?

The invitation is no less important than the rest of our assembly. It is not a meaningless ritual. We include it in our assemblies for a valuable purpose. It is well worth a few more minutes of our attention. We would each do well to give it the heed it deserves.

-Grady

 


Evangelism Report – February 2015

Posted: February 24th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance” (Luke 8:15)

Each day we are striving to find the good soil within our community. We are looking for good and honest hearts who will receive and hold fast to God’s word. We can’t see into other’s hearts and know how they will react to God’s word, however. So there is only one way to find open hearts—sow the seed.

As we sow the seed we should expect to encounter many hardened, rocky, and thorny hearts. We shouldn’t be surprised if 3 out of 4 evangelistic contacts result in a dead end. There is no avoiding this.   And there is only one way to handle it—sow more seed.

As studies fall through and contacts turn back to the world or their favorite flavor of denominationalism, we must not grow discouraged. It does not mean we are failing. It means we must search harder for the good soil. And that is exactly what we are trying to do.

First of all, our meetup group Bible studies are continuing to go well. This month our online membership increased from 34 to 41. All these people have signed up to get updates about our studies. Hopefully in time many of them will actually attend one of our meetings. In our 3 studies this month, we had one new visitor and two return visitors.

The number of personal Bibles studies we’re involved in has continued to grow as well. Some doors have closed, but there always seems to be more doors opening. I’ve had evangelistic contacts from the meetup group studies, visitors to our assemblies, friends of other brethren, and random conversations in the community. There are many opportunities for all of us to share the gospel if we are looking for them.

Efforts to revamp our tract rack have continued to progress. After reading at least 50 or 60 tracts I’m almost finished narrowing it down. I’ll be presenting about 20 tracts to the elders this month for us to order. They will address topics such as evidences, salvation, the church, and a few specific false teachings. We hope this will be helpful tools in reaching out to your friends and neighbors.

Over time I hope to add some original tracts to those we are now selecting. These tracts could be customized to address the issues we find most needed and include our contact information here at Kirkwood. If any of the brethren want to present ideas for consideration, we would welcome your input.

There are 6 qualities I consider necessary for a truly effective tract. 1. Concise (maxi-mum of 10 pages); 2. Attractive (a cover that would catch your eye); 3. Engaging (an introduction that would keep your attention); 4. Organized (broken up into smaller headings and paragraphs that logically flow together); 5. Readable (written at a 4th or 5th grade reading level, using a translation other than KJV or ASV, free of misspellings and printing errors); 6. Geared Toward an Evangelistic Audience (avoiding terminology or topics that would be confusing to someone outside of the church with limited biblical knowledge).

Another evangelistic effort you should keep in mind is our Spring Gospel Meeting with David Thomley. It is scheduled for April 12-17, only about a month and a half away. Mark it on your calendars. Start including it in your prayers. By next month’s evangelism report we should have flyers ready to pass out in the community.

The tools and opportunities for you to sow the seed are plentiful. Don’t leave the seed in the barn. You never know where you might find a patch of good soil amongst the thorns and thistles of this world.

-Grady

 


A Temple Made With Hands

Posted: February 24th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

In the late 1990s residence of St. Louis were treated to a spectacle of plush opulence, crass materialism, superstitious rituals, and biblical ignorance when they were permitted to tour at that time the latest and newest Mormon temple. This, my notes indicate, was the 50th temple the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had built in various parts of the world. It is clearly a temple made with hands and is just as clearly a place where God does not dwell (see Acts17:24).

The only biblical rationale for erecting such an elaborate edifice is God’s command to Solomon to build a house for the Lord in Israel. The temple of Solomon became the permanent residence of God to replace the portable tabernacle Israel carried with them from place to place throughout their trek in the wilderness on the way to the land of promise. The “holy place” and “most holy place” were the rooms, both in the tabernacle and temple, where God-ordained rituals were performed to glorify and honor God under the Mosaic Law. In the “most holy place” God’s glory appeared once a year when the blood of an unblemished goat was sprinkled on the mercy seat to atone for the nation’s sins.

This ancient temple was clearly an elaborate physical and material display of worship designed by God to foreshadow a spiritual temple and the entrance of the Messiah into heaven before the face of God to make “real” atonement for sin. The blood of bulls and goats could never take away sins and was only a “type” or material illustration of the sacrifice of Jesus that would purify the conscience of man from dead works of sin. God, however, brought to an end that sanctuary of “this world” that contained “carnal” ordinances that purified only the defilements of the “flesh.” It was but a “figure” or parable of a perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, which Jesus would dedicate (see Heb 9:1-28; Heb 10:1-25). Furthermore, God annulled the law of Moses at the cross of Jesus and destroyed the temple made with hands by the Roman army in A. D. 70 (see Matthew 24).

God’s temple today is the church—his fellow citizens and saints who have been sanctified by the blood of Jesus through faith. These citizens are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets laid by the preaching of the gospel through the Holy Spirit. It is among these people who have been raised to sit with Christ in heavenly places that God dwells. God took away the old covenant and its worldly, carnal, material ordinances to establish the new covenant by which sinners are purified through the obedience of faith and are clothed in Christ and righteousness (see 1 Cor 3:16-17; Eph 2:1-22; Acts 26:18; Rom 1:5, 16; 1 Pet 1:21-22; Heb 10:9-10).

The Mormon idea of temples made with hands, decorated with white enamel, and compartmentalized into holy rooms, where men can array themselves in white garments and be sanctified by humanly-conceived rituals is Mosaic and pagan in concept and radically different from “biblical” Christianity in general and the “first-century” church in particular.

Our tour of the Mormon temple years ago is still a startling and jarring reminder to serious Bible students of Judaism and the inadequacy of “worldly” and “carnal” ordinance to redeem man. Jesus came to mediate a “new” and “better” covenant which was enacted upon better promises. Thank God who through Jesus and his sacrifice delivered us from those “earthly” ordinances of Moses and from that “law of sin and death” delivered to Moses by angels. May God keep us from similar entanglements in modern forms of Judaism such as Mormonism and other temples made with men’s hands (Rom 8:2; Heb 8:6; Gal 1:6-9; Gal 5:1-4).

-L. A.

 


Managing Multiple Priorities

Posted: February 16th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“And Jesus answered and said to her, ‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things” (Luke 10:41).

Even in the simplest life that one can live, there are still many things to be done. Those who would grow strong spiritually must learn to work energetically and productively without being eaten up by the time pressure that characterizes so many of our lifestyles. We must discover how to manage multiple priorities without sacrificing that which is our highest priority: the glorification of God. This is a discipline that we can learn, but learning it will be anything but easy in this age of the world.

It is possible to be very busy and not suffer from the corrosive stress that most of us feel when we’re busy. Jesus, for example, was extremely busy, and He well knew what it was to be tired (John 4:6), but His activities were always surrounded by the peacefulness of complete surrender to the will of God. Although He was busy, He was never frantic. He felt no need to “make things turn out” according to selfish demands.

Our anxiety, on the other hand, is often the result of an urge to control certain outcomes. It springs from the desire that things should happen as we wish rather than as God wills. Yet if we can let go of this desire, much of the compulsiveness that drives our activities will disappear.

Having said that, however, we should also say that most of our lives would profit from some serious simplification. As a people, we are over-committed and strung out. We try to do more than one human being can do effectively. And the result is one that ought to alarm us greatly: we are at a disadvantage when it comes to the devil. Richard J. Foster, who has written perceptively on the value of the simple life, has said, “Our Adversary majors in three things: noise, hurry, and crowds. If he can keep us engaged in ‘muchness’ and ‘manyness,’ he will rest satisfied.”

Spiritually, we are never more vulnerable than when we are, like Martha, “worried and troubled about many things.” Thus one of the most constructive spiritual steps that we can take is to simplify our interests and our activities. But even when we do, there will still be many matters to claim our attention. We must learn the art of God-centered restfulness.

“Lord Jesus, make my heart sit down” (African Proverb).

-Gary Henry

 


Midweek Bible Study

Posted: February 16th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

It is sometimes said that midweek Bible studies, as conducted by most local churches, are no more than a human tradition. The follow-up to that statement may involve one or more of the following:

  • We don’t have to meet on Wednesday. For some this means that the church could choose to stop doing it, but with others, it means that even if the church continues to meet, they are not obligated to be there.
  • Some feel a sense of responsibility to the local church family and will be present when in town, but when traveling don’t feel they have any obligation to someone else’s midweek studies.

When someone says it is “no more than a human tradition,” exactly what are they saying? Are they suggesting it is wrong to meet any time other than the first day of the week (Acts 20:7)? If so, they must explain the daily gatherings of the early church (Acts 2:46) and the special gathering of the church at Antioch in Acts 14:27. Surely, no one could be serious in thinking it is wrong for the elders or the church as a whole to choose to meet midweek to worship God and strengthen one another.

Now, if they are saying local churches can but are not obligated to have these gatherings, I would agree and would also recognize the right of a local church to make the decision to forego them if they felt it best. However, I am thankful those who watch for our souls (Heb 13:17) have seen fit to provide these extra opportunities for young and old alike to grow in knowledge (2 Pet 3:18), receive spiritual encouragement (Heb 10:24-25), and focus on things above (Col 3:1-4).

For those who think attendance is optional, I would offer the following. Aren’t we to obey and be submissive to those given the oversight of the church (Heb 13:17)? Since these men have determined it would be best for the church to meet each Wednesday, is it really optional to go against their leadership? Does Heb 10:24-25 speak only of an assembly on the Lord’s day, or does it warn against any and all “forsaking the assembling of ourselves together?” Am I seeking first God’s kingdom and righteousness if I miss when I could be there?

Do I feel an obligation to be present when the church of which I am a member meets? Yes! But it is far more than an obligation.

  • The spiritual exhortations and opportunities to grow in knowledge are beneficial to me and I don’t want to miss out on these.
  • This is an opportunity to let my light shine and make a statement to those around me about what really matters. Matt 5:14-16
  • Midweek studies allow us to both influence and be influenced for good. Prov 12:26; 13:20
  • It was always beneficial to have my children afforded opportunities to learn more about the Scriptures (2 Tim 3:14-17); be with good people (Prov 13:20); and learn to choose the good part (Luke 10:38-42).

But what if I am traveling and cannot be with the group of which I am a member? It has always been my practice to seek out a group with whom I could worship and study for the reasons below:

  • All four of the things listed above would still apply.
  • It is one of the best teaching moments we will have with our children, family we are visiting, coworkers with whom we are traveling, etc.
  • Brethren in other cities will be encouraged by our taking the time out of our trip to worship and study with them. It is a chance to be a Barnabas or to be like the brethren from Rome whose journey to meet Paul caused him to thank God and take courage (Acts 28:15).

I know where I plan to be Wednesday—how about you?

-John R. Gibson

 


Longsuffering

Posted: February 16th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

Someone noted that “longsuffering” is the ability to “suffer long” with people and circumstances; to put up for long periods of time with disagreeable relationships and situations. It is relatively synonymous with our use of the word “patience.”

It is the word that describes God’s patience with a world of sinners. God, he has told us, hates sin and he is prepared by his very righteous nature to punish it. But though he hates sin, God loves sinners and in His longsuffering is putting off the day of judgment to provide transgressors time to turn from their iniquity. The apostle Peter tells us: “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some count slackness; but is longsuffering to you-ward, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pet 3:9).

As disciples seek to imitate the love of God Paul teaches them that love “suffers long, and is kind.” In the apostle’s descriptive portrayal of God’s greatest commandment, he also notes that love “is not provoked,” or as another version says, “is not irritable or resentful” (1 Cor 13:5, ESV). All brethren appreciate the longsuffering and patience of God, but, as the brethren at Corinth, are often short of it when relating to one another (see 1 Cor 3:1-3).

We sometimes struggle with it when relating to newborn babes in Christ. We too often expect them in the early weeks and months of their lives in Christ to have all the character of a mature saint. But in longsuffering we must patiently work with them to nurse them, to spoon-feed them, and to speak daily words of encouragement over a considerable span of time. As long as we see in them signs of belief, indications of effort, openness to reproof, and elements of spiritual life—there is always hope that with longsuffering and nurturing these babes will mature unto the measure of the stature of Christ. That is the goal of every local church in its work of edification (see Eph 4:11-13).

I recall when I was first selected and appointed to the eldership, I was easily discouraged by the response of some to my visits and words of encouragement. And it was important to keep reminding myself that these things take time and that there were other avenues I needed to explore in trying to reach these brethren. I remembered the words of Peter and Paul and counseled myself to be “patient” and to be “gentle” in seeking to reach the hearts of weak brethren and implant within them the seeds of faith and hope and love that bear the fruit of faithfulness and devotion to God.

What is so easy to forget is that many folks have spent years messing up their thinking, perverting God’s design for their lives, and digging themselves into a deep pit of self-centered and worldly behavior. Let us not think that a few home studies, baptism into Christ, and a couple of exhortations are going to set everything right in a newborn’s life in Christ. It is easy when sinners obey the gospel to forget about the demands and difficulties of repentance.

Repentance demands an entirely different way of thinking, calls for a completely new lifestyle, and requires a commitment and devotion to One I must permit to control me totally. Bringing forth fruit worthy of repentance is no small task and if God sees the need to be “longsuffering” with sinners, who am I to take this quality of life lightly.

And so it is with all of us brethren. We must keep trying to teach our erring brethren. We need to call on them, send them cards of encouragement, and pray for God’s help in reaching them. Elders cannot accomplish the work of restoration alone. We have recently received the help of many members and have seen signs of encouragement in some of our weak members. Longsuffering is good, but is not just sitting and waiting for brethren to repent. It calls for patient effort to bring them to repentance.

-L. A.

 


What’s In A Name?

Posted: February 13th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” This is a well-known line from William Shakespeare’s play, Romeo and Juliet. Juliet’s point is that regardless of the name someone wears, the reality of who they are is unchanged. We can see an element of truth in this statement. The name Judas literally means “praise the Lord” and yet “betrayer of the Lord” is a more fitting description for the owner of this name. Wearing the right name is not enough. A godly label is no substitute for godly living.

Does this mean that names don’t matter? Should we start calling evangelists—pastors? … sprinkling—baptism? …rock concerts—worship? Why don’t we just call ourselves the Church of Jezebel or the First Herodian Church? Names don’t make any difference, right? Obviously they do. A rose named skunk is still going to smell sweet, but no one is going to get close enough to find out. A name within itself may not be enough, but it still makes a difference. Names have meaning. They are intended to refer an audience to the identity of their owner. When we choose a name, we need to consider what message we are conveying.

Throughout Scripture God chose names to express many different ideas. He changed Abram’s name to Abraham—”father of a multitude” (Gen 17:5) and Jacob’s name to Israel—”he who strives with God” (Gen 32:28). He named His own Son Jesus—”the Lord is salvation” (Matt 1:21). The list could go on and on. God was very purposeful in the names He gave and the messages they conveyed.

Throughout the New Testament, God’s people were called by many different names. Disciples, Christians (Acts 11:26), the Way (Acts 24:14), churches of Christ (Rom 16:16), churches of God (1 Cor 11:16), churches of the saints (1 Cor 14:33). All of these names express different aspects of who we are and to whom we belong. Which of these names should we put on our sign? How exactly do we want to be identified? What message do we want to convey? We don’t want to be identified with the modern day “Disciples of Christ,” “Christian Church,” or “Church of God.” These names would suggest false doctrines that we do not want to be confused with.

Do we want to be identified with the modern day “Church of Christ”? What message does that send to the community around us? If it conveys that we have Christ as our only head, the doctrine of Christ as our only creed, and unity in Christ as our only fellowship, then why would we not want to be identified by this name? If within our community it was sending a message we didn’t want to be confused with, maybe we would consider a name that better identified who we are. But I don’t believe that is the case.

Names do matter. They convey meaning. We need to choose them carefully. But even more importantly, we need to live up to them. Let us not take the name that we wear lightly. Let us conduct ourselves worthy of the name of Christ.

-Grady

 


Defining Moments

Posted: February 13th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

A “defining moment” is a time in the life of an individual or the history of a nation that determines the outcome or character of that person or people. This expression can also be applied to the Lord’s church or individual Christians. History records many of these moments.

Within a decade after the final chapter had been written in the scriptures, steps were taken that defined the “church” for the next several centuries. Elders were exalted above other elders in local churches and metropolitan areas and were called “bishops.” Ignatius, one of those bishops, wrote of this as early as A. D. 110-120. Out of that decision developed a hierarchy of authority and rule, unknown to scripture, that found its culmination in a special priesthood through which saints had to access God and by which the authority of the pope of Rome dominated and ruled the Catholic Church.

By the 16th century the same could be said of the Reformation Era. In 1517 Martin Luther rebelled against the authority of the pope and exalted the scriptures as the only authority from Christ. He championed the biblical idea that every Christians is a priest and declared that sinners are saved by “faith alone.” Others joined Luther in promoting this “unbiblical” view of faith. The result was the proliferation of denominational bodies which spread throughout Europe and eventually the world. “Faith only” was the fatal flaw of the reformation movement that defined Protestantism and allowed each church to determine its own mode of baptism, form of worship, organizational structure, and basis for membership.

By the 19th century a number of men saw the folly of division spawned by the Reformation and came to the momentous determination that a scriptural course of action was to “restore” the practices of the first-century church. They determined that to do this they must “speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent,” clearly a biblical idea (1 Pet 4:11; Gal 1:8-9; 2 John 9). That worked well until brethren became enamored with the support of human organizations and social and entertainment programs. These were added without scriptural precedent to enhance the work and growth of the church and, oddly enough, have led beyond these unscriptural practices to fellowship with denominational bodies that are committed to salvation by the Reformation theology of “faith alone.”

Defining moments are not limited to religious bodies. They have also brought down individual Christians. Disciples have faced temptations that challenged their conviction and courage—challenges that first gave pause for reflection and prayer, but in time created hardness and insensitivity to truth and righteousness.

Young business men in their beginning years are often bothered by dishonesty or greed, but in time feel no pangs of guilt as those sins scar and sear their consciences. So it is with brethren who imbibe that first drink or exchange that first smutty joke with their socially elite and worldly friends. Similar conduct occurs among brethren who retire and search for hobbies to occupy their time—hobbies that consume them, dampen their enthusiasm for the Lord, and rob them of opportunities to study, pray, visit, teach, and in other ways work the works of the Lord.

Every apostate brother lost the battle against sin at a particular moment. That time and the challenge he faced defined what he later became. Faithful brethren faced that same moment, but overcame the temptation and, in so doing, defined what they now are. This should tell all and any of us that life is and has always been a challenge of what we are and what we can become. Our choices at any given moment may set a course, good or bad, for what we shall be and where we will spend eternity.

It is God who instructs and defines what we ought to be. It is we who choose and define what we actually become.

-L. A.

 


Whether Pleasant or Unpleasant

Posted: February 6th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

“Then they said to Jeremiah, ‘May the LORD be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with the whole message with which the LORD your God will send you to us. Whether it is pleasant or unpleasant, we will listen to the voice of the LORD our God to whom we are sending you, so that it may go well with us when we listen to the voice of the LORD our God” (Jer 42:5-6).

This passage is one of the most amazing statements of submission to God’s will found within the scriptures. It should describe the way we approach God’s word each time we sit down to study. It doesn’t matter what I want to believe or practice, it matters what God wants. We cannot form God’s word to fit our own mindset; we must form our mindset to fit God’s word.

It is so easy to convince ourselves God is saying whatever it is we want to hear. We are often deceived into thinking we have given God control of our lives, when really we are just using Him as a puppet. We imagine Him directing us wherever it is we already wanted to go. When the narrow way becomes too steep, we find another “narrow way” that is more to our liking. We try to make our path just difficult enough to make us feel like we’re following God and yet not so difficult that we actually have to break a sweat. This is counterfeit obedience. It may look good on the surface, but it has no real spiritual value.

True obedience is about submitting to the pleasant and the unpleasant. It’s about denying self, taking up our cross, and following Christ (Matt 9:23). It requires sacrifice and self-discipline. We must daily echo Jesus’ prayer in Garden of Gethsemane, “Not my will, but Yours be done” (Luke 22:42). And we have to do more than pray it, we have to live it.

The sad thing about this passage from Jeremiah is that it was little more than lip-service. “But as soon as Jeremiah, whom the LORD their God had sent, had finished telling all the people all the words of the LORD their God—that is, all these words—Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, and Johanan the son of Karea, and all the arrogant men said to Jeremiah, ‘You are telling a lie!’…” (Jer 43:1-2).

Why did these men not believe the words of Jeremiah? Did they have reasonable grounds to question the legitimacy of his message? Were his words somehow in conflict with other revelation from God? No. They were only in conflict with these men’s hearts. These words were unpleasant. And instead of softening their hearts and submitting to God’s will, they opted for counterfeit obedience. “Surely, God is not telling us to do that!   We all know this is what He really wants, right?”

How will you react to God’s message? Whether it be pleasant or unpleasant, will you listen to His voice? Will you submit to His will? Will you let Him be in control?

-Grady

 


“Readiness of Mind”

Posted: February 6th, 2015 | Author: | Filed under: Articles

After the apostle Paul departed from the city of Thessalonica, he left behind a few believers, but the Jews in general had closed their minds to the message that “Jesus is the Christ.” These Jews had access in their synagogue to scrolls of Old Testament scriptures. Paul preached from these scriptures that Jesus of Nazareth died for their sins and arose from the dead to prove He is the Messiah the prophets of their nation had anticipated for centuries. Although a few men of that city believed, a host of rabble rousers closed their minds, refused to countenance such an idea, stirred up persecution against the saints, and forced the apostle to “get out of town” late one night (see Acts 17:1-9).

Paul made his way some 50 miles down the road to the city of Berea. Again, as was his custom, Paul entered a synagogue of the Jews and began the same process over—alleging and demonstrating from the Old Testament scriptures that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ. The apostle found among these Jews open and receptive hearts—men who honestly and eagerly examined the scriptures Paul read in their midst. Luke tells us that these men of Berea not only received Paul’s teaching, but they daily examined the scriptures to determine “whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

When Luke commends the nobility of these Bereans, he made specific note not only of their study habits but also their “readiness of mind” (Acts 17:11). This attitude was prerequisite and fundamental to their willingness to examine and study the scriptures daily. The word “readiness” combines a preposition “before” and the word “mind” to describe the mindset of the Bereans before their study of the scriptures even began. The “mind” is essential to man’s examination or study of the scriptures, but its “before” condition determines whether that study ever takes place. The mind, as the Greek word suggests, must be “ready.”

The minds of the Jews at Berea, as Jews everywhere, were conditioned by scripture to anticipate at some point in their history the arrival of a Messiah—an anointed savior. Hundreds, even thousands, of years had passed since the first prophecies of the coming Messiah and many Jews had become lethargic and indifferent about its prospects. Others were so misinformed that Jesus didn’t fit the pattern of their thinking and was dismissed as perverse and false.

The Bereans, however, were different. They were both excited about the claim and the scriptures that proved it. When Paul unrolled the scrolls of the Old Testament writings and announced Jesus as the Messiah, their minds were “ready,” “eager,” and “prepared” to examine the prophecies and Paul’s application of them to Jesus.

Would it not be wonderful today if every one of us who claim to be Christians was this eager to grow in Bible knowledge and Christ-like character? If we were, we would daily open our Bibles, examine verses and chapters, and answer a few simple questions that are designed to prepare our hearts for Sunday and Wednesday Bible studies and our lives for eager service in God’s kingdom.

Think, brethren, how much each of us would grow in wisdom and stature with God; think of the knowledge and strength we would gain in preparation for living in an ungodly world of sin; think of the deepened faith we would have in God and in His word; think of the love and care we would begin to show one another; and think of the zeal and enthusiasm we would have to teach sinners.

When Bereans had this kind of mind, God called them “noble”—a word that means of “high rank.” That’s who we’d be in God’s kingdom. Not only an “elect race,” a “holy nation,” a “royal priesthood,” but also “noble citizens” ranking high in the mind of God. How special would that be, brethren?

-L. A.