Search the Scriptures!
THE BIG IDEA: God’s desire is that we would be like the Bereans: a people who would prepare our hearts, receive the Word, and search the Scriptures.
“I could plead with you to study the Bible for personal edification; I could try the art of persuasion to stimulate your quest for happiness. I could say that the study of the Bible would probably be the most rewarding educational experience of your life… But ultimately the main reason why we should study the Bible is because it is our duty.” (R. C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture).[i]
I love the Bible! It is my absolute favorite book in the world. When I first became a Christian, I read through the whole Bible from cover to cover in three months. Since then, I have endeavored to read through the New Testament once a year, and the Old Testament once every two years. I decided that if God is real, and He is who the Bible says He is – a compassionate God who sent His son Jesus to die on the Cross for my sins – then I want to know Him. If He has written a book that reveals His heart, nature, wisdom, plans and purposes for my life, then I want to read that book. It is so important for us to get God’s Word into our hearts so that we can be transformed into the image of Jesus.
Someone described the Bible in terms of this acronym: B.I.B.L.E. = Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. What a great description. The Bible helps us live life on planet Earth. Here’s a humorous look at a sample of some actual product warning labels:
- “Warning: This product can burn eyes.” – On a curling iron.
- “Do not use while sleeping.” – On a hair dryer.
- “Caution: Hot beverages are hot!” – On a coffee cup.
- “Please keep out of children.” – On a butcher knife.
- “Do not use for drying pets.” – In the manual for a microwave oven.
- “Caution: Remove infant before folding for storage.” – On a portable stroller.
- “Do not drive car or operate machinery.” – On a bottle of children’s cough medicine.
- “Warning: May contain nuts.” – On a package of peanuts.
Meet The Bereans:
“Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night toBerea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.” (Acts 17:10-12).
1. Prepare Your Heart:
In Acts chapter 17, we are introduced to a model group of believers – the Bereans. The first thing that Luke tells us about them is that they were nobler than the people in Thessalonica. That word noble means distinguished, of exalted moral or mental character or excellence.[ii] The Thessalonians had rejected the Word, and stirred up trouble against the preachers. The Bereans on the other hand received God’s Word with all readiness. These believers remind me of one of my favorite Old Testament Bible heroes, a scribe named Ezra:
“For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the Law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach statutes and ordinances inIsrael.” (Ezra 7:10).
After I graduated from Pacific Life Bible College in 1999, I had the privilege of teaching two courses there – Bible Research and Hermeneutics (Bible Interpretation) – for the next eight years. It was a joy for me to be able to share my passion for God’s Word with future pastors, preachers and missionaries. In my Hermeneutics class, I always held up Ezra as an example of what it means to be a student of God’s Word. He did three things: He prepared his heart to seek God’s Word, he obeyed God’s Word, and then he taught other people the things that he was learning. What does it mean to prepare your heart to seek God’s Word?
First of all, when you read the Bible, always choose a time when your mind is alert and ready to glean nuggets of wisdom from God’s Word. Don’t read when you’re tired or about to fall asleep! Another way you can prepare your heart is to make sure that you get a good night’s sleep on Saturday night, so that you are awake and ready to receive the truth of God’s Word at church on Sunday morning. There is nothing more discouraging to me as a pastor than to hear stories of people who are out late partying on Saturday night, and then because of that, they choose to sleep in on Sunday morning and miss church. That tells me that they don’t respect the Word of God! The Prince of Preachers warns:
“If God has spoken, listen! If God has recorded his words in a Book, search its pages with a believing heart. If you do not accept it as God’s inspired word, I cannot invite you to pay any particular attention to it; but if you regard it as the Book of God, I charge you, as I shall meet you at the judgment seat of Christ, study the Bible daily. Treat not the Eternal God with disrespect, but delight in His Word.”[iii]
Finally, it is of the utmost importance – if you want to get the most out of your Bible reading – to take the time to pray before you read. One of the prayers I usually pray before reading my Bible is one Paul prayed for the church inEphesus: “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understandingbeing enlightened.” (Ephesians 1:17-18).
2. Receive the Word:
The next thing Luke tells us about the Bereans is that they received the Word with all readiness, or great eagerness (nasb). That word means with zeal, inclination, readiness of mind.[iv] They had an open heart attitude to receive God’s Word from the preacher. “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). When we sit under the preaching of God’s Word, we should have our hearts open and ready to hear from Heaven. Pastors and teachers are gifts from Jesus to the church, to equip us to do the work of the ministry, and to help us to come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.
Practically speaking, one of the first things you can do is to bring your Bible to church. That way, you can follow along in your own Bible with what the pastor is teaching. If you find that you never have to open your Bible in your service because your pastor never reads from it, it might be time to find a new church. Second, bring a notebook. If you believe that God still speaks through His Word today, then you should have a heart that is ready to listen and obey. When you take notes on the message, it will help your mind to stay focused on what is being taught, and it will give you a great resource to look back on and remind yourself of the things that God is teaching you.
3. Search the Scriptures:
Finally, Luke tells us that the Bereans searched the Scriptures daily to make sure the things the preachers were saying were actually in the Bible. To search means to investigate or examine. Although it is important to have a heart attitude to receive the word with all readiness, we also have a responsibility to go back to the Bible and make sure what we are being taught actually lines up with the Bible. You must “Study to show yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15).
There is no preacher, pastor or teacher of God’s Word who has a perfect understanding of the Scriptures. Because of this, God gives all believers the responsibility to make sure that what they’re learning lines up with the written Word of God. Many Christians blindly accept everything they hear from the pulpit or read in a book, and because of that, they can potentially be led astray. As you’re reading through this book, I encourage you: don’t take my word for what I’m teaching. Go back to the Bible for yourself and look up every Scripture I have quoted, and make sure that what I’m teaching you is true. You should do this with every book you read and every sermon you hear.
There is another benefit to reading the Scripture that goes beyond just guarding yourself from deception. Reading the Bible feeds and nourishes your spirit. Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4). I hope I do not weary you by sharing all of these quotes with you from Spurgeon, but there is such timeless wisdom here:
“As for you, my brothers and sisters, the best food for you is the Word of God itself. Sermons and books are well enough, but streams that run for a long distance above ground gradually gather for themselves somewhat of the soil through which they flow, and they lose the cool freshness with which they started from the spring head. Truth is sweetest where it breaks from the smitten Rock, for at its first gush it has lost none of its heavenliness and vitality. It is always best to drink at the well and not from the tank. You shall find that reading the Word of God for yourselves, reading it rather than notes upon it, is the surest way of growing m grace. Drink of the unadulterated milk of the Word of God, and not of the skim milk, or the milk and water of man’s word.”[v]
The Power of the Word of God:
A favorite story about the transformational power of the Word of God is one that Pastor Barry Buzza shared in his book The Red Thread. (As an aside, The Red Thread is a three-part series of books that was written to help average-type people digest and apply the life changing principles of the Bible to their every day lives. See http://www.barrybuzza.com for more info about ordering these books).
“Several years ago, a missionary inAfricawas handing out free New Testaments as a large outdoor evangelistic meeting, when he came across a young, rebellious looking, African transient… When the missionary greeted the young man, he asked him if he would like a New Testament to read.
“No,” he responded, “I really have no interest in reading your Bible.”
“This book has the answers to life’s biggest questions – it could give you a new start on life.”
“Sir, if you give me this book,” he was now thumbing through the thin white paper, “I’ll just end up ripping out these pages and using them to make cigarettes.”
“I’ll tell you what,” the missionary countered, “You go ahead and use the Bible for cigarette wrappers. That’s OK, as long as you do one thing for me.”
“You must read each page before you smoke it.”
“You have a deal. I’ll do it.”
Years later, the now aging missionary was back in the same area. He was to be the honored guest at a large Christian rally, where a forty-something black evangelist was preaching. After the service, the speaker approached the older man and asked, “Do you remember me?”
“No, I can’t say that I do.”
“About twenty years ago, you were the preacher at a meeting near here, and you saw me hanging around outside begging. When you offered me a free Bible, I said I’d take it, if you let me use its page as cigarette paper.”
“I do remember you. I asked you to read each page before you smoked it. I can hardly believe you’re the same person – what happened?”
“Well, I did what you said, reading each page of the New Testament before I rolled it into a cigarette. I smoked my way all through Matthew. I smoked all of Mark. I smoked the entire book of Luke. Then, I was smoking through John’s Gospel, and I got to John 3:16and read, For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that whoever believes in him would have everlasting life. I began to cry when I realized how much God loves me, and I knelt down right where I was and asked God to forgive me and come into my life. Like you promised, everything began to change from that point on!”[vi]
My desire is to stir up your hunger for more of God’s Word in your life, and to inspire you to expect great things to happen when you read the Bible. What God did for that man inAfrica, He can do for you. The Word of God is living and powerful, and it can change your life today.
The Boy King Josiah:
As we are considering the life-transforming power of the Word of God, let’s look at the story of another of my favorite Bible heroes. His story may not be as well known as the story of David and Goliath, but it is no less impacting. Josiah was a young man whose life was changed by the Word of God.
Josiah’s grandfather Manasseh was a wicked king that reigned in the nation of Judah. The Bible tells us that Manasseh “did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, imitating the detestable practices of the pagan nations whom the Lord had driven from the land ahead of the Israelites… Manasseh even sacrificed his own son in the fire.He practiced sorcery and divination, and he consulted with mediums and psychics. He did much that was evil in the Lord’s sight, arousing his anger.” (2 Kings 21:2,6, nlt). Josiah’s father Amon became king when Josiah was six years old, and “He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, just as his father, Manasseh, had done. He followed the example of his father, worshiping the same idols that his father had worshiped.” (2 Kings 21:20-21). He was so bad that his own servants plotted against him and assassinated him in his palace two years into his reign.
This was the dysfunctional family that Josiah was born into. This was his ungodly heritage. I like this story because even though his family was messed up, Josiah didn’t adopt a victim mentality that said, “I can’t help being the way that I am because of my dad. This is the family that I grew up in, and that’s why my life is a mess today. I can’t help myself.” This young boy was eight years old when he became king, but he refused to allow his past to affect his future. Josiah didn’t say, “This is the way my grandpa and dad were, so I’m just going to follow in their footsteps.” Apart from the power of God’s Word in his life, that is the natural course his life would have taken. But the Word made all the difference for him.
I saw this to be true in my own life. I was raised in a dysfunctional family; the son of an alcoholic father who abandoned his family; my mother, my two sisters and I, before I was five years old. He was a philanderer, and as a result of his sexual relations with women all over western Canada, I also have two half-sisters and three half-brothers. When I was in high school, I started down the same road my father had taken. I dated many girls, and went to parties and bars to get drunk. Had it not been for the Lord Jesus Christ who saved me at the age of eighteen, I know I would have become just like my father. But because of the power of God’s Word changing my life, I can testify today that I have been happily married for over fifteen years; the Lord has blessed us with four wonderful children; and I have never once been unfaithful to my wife. I don’t say that to boast in myself, but rather to give glory to God for the blessing and benefit He provides to those who trust in Him and follow His ways. What God did for me, He will do for you, too.
Let’s take a look at the story of the boy king Josiah, and see how God’s Word changed His life:
“Josiah was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned thirty-one years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Jedidah the daughter of Adaiah of Bozkath. And he did what was right in the sight of the Lord, and walked in all the ways of his father David; he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left. Now it came to pass, in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, that the king sent Shaphan the scribe, the son of Azaliah, the son of Meshullam, to the house of the Lord, saying: “Go up to Hilkiah the high priest, that he may count the money which has been brought into the house of the Lord, which the doorkeepers have gathered from the people. And let them deliver it into the hand of those doing the work, who are the overseers in the house of the Lord; let them give it to those who are in the house of the Lord doing the work, to repair the damages of the house.” (2 Kings 22:1-5).
In this passage we are told that Josiah walked in all the ways of his father David. We know that Josiah’s father was Amon, and his grandfather was Manasseh. David was actually Josiah’s great, great, great, great grandfather. But when Josiah chose a role-model for his life, he didn’t choose his biological dad. He reached back a few generations to find David – a man after God’s own heart – and chose to follow that righteous example. We have the power, with God’s grace, to choose who we want to become.
When Josiah became king, he noticed that the house of the Lord was in ruins. Both his father and his grandfather had neglected the temple, and instead chose to engage in gross sin and immorality. As Josiah was established in his kingdom, he determined to make some changes inJerusalem. He gave money to one of his scribes to take to the builders to repair all the damage that had been done to the house of the Lord. In the process of restoring God’s house, they discovered in the rubble a treasure that was so amazing, wonderful and powerful that it would change absolutely everything:
“Then Hilkiah the high priest said to Shaphan the scribe, “I have found the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord.” And Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan, and he read it. So Shaphan the scribe went to the king, bringing the king word, saying, “Your servants have gathered the money that was found in the house, and have delivered it into the hand of those who do the work, who oversee the house of the Lord.” Then Shaphan the scribe showed the king, saying, “Hilkiah the priest has given me a book.” And Shaphan read it before the king.” (2 Kings 22:8-10).
This book they found wasn’t just another book. There was something very special about it. It was the Word of God. When Josiah read the Bible, his life was forever changed. And not only his life; the Word of God brought about a revival and a reformation that transformed the face of that entire nation. That’s the power of the Word. As Josiah read the Bible, he discovered that God had laid out principles for life change. He realized that God’s people weren’t walking in obedience to what the Lord had called them to do, so Josiah purposed in his heart to make some changes.
“Now the king sent them to gather all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem to him. The king went up to the house of the Lord with all the men of Judah, and with him all the inhabitants of Jerusalem–the priests and the prophets and all the people, both small and great. And he read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant which had been found in the house of the Lord. Then the king stood by a pillar and made a covenant before the Lord, to follow the Lord and to keep His commandments and His testimonies and His statutes, with all his heart and all his soul, to perform the words of this covenant that were written in this book. And all the people took a stand for the covenant.” (2 Kings 23:1-3).
After drawing the line in the sand, Josiah pulled down all the altars that had been used in false religious practices and burned them all. He destroyed the temples of the pagan religions, including altars his grandfather had erected. He called the people of God to return to a true and passionate worship of the Living God. Second Kings 23:25 is a fitting epitaph to this mighty man of God: “Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him.”
Pastor Chris Jordan
[i] R. C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture. (InterVarsity Press, October 2006).
[ii] noble. Dictionary.com. Unabridged. Random House, Inc. (accessed: April 11, 2010).
[iii] Charles Spurgeon, The Bible Tried and Proven.
[iv] The New Testament Greek Lexicon.
[v] Charles Spurgeon, How to Read the Bible.
[vi] Barry Buzza, The Red Thread. (Life Pathways, 2004).