Being a Berean

Are you a Berean? Acts 17:11 reads:

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

When it’s time for the sermon, do you listen with great eagerness? Then, do you read your Bible on your own to see if what they said is true?

I admit to having a bit of trouble with the first part, especially if the topic is one I’ve heard a lot of teaching on (think Parable of the Sower). After all, the Bereans were hearing the message for the first time. I squirm and fidget and annoy Pete with my complaining until he reminds me that 1) I can always learn something new, and 2) maybe the speaker is offering a good example of how to teach this passage to others. I’ve learned to take notes; they help me stay focused.

It’s the second half of verse 11 that resonates with my skeptical mindset. I love the idea of examining the Scriptures to see if the pastor got it right! Well, maybe my motivation isn’t quite as pure as that of the Bereans, but it’s still important to look things up, rather than assume that everything we hear is true. This is called discernment.

Sitting in the congregation is mostly a passive activity. The person speaking up front has done all the work. They’ve researched and compared and prayed and assembled a coherent message to expound some portion of the Bible. It’s easy to assume that all we have to do is listen. (If we’re really spiritual, it may occur to us to act on what we hear.)

For example, I recently heard an outstanding worship pastor say something to the effect that worship is one of the few things we can do here on earth that will last for eternity.

That sounds really profound, especially if your job is leading worship. I highly respect the person who said it. It’s the sort of statement you can easily imagine repeated and retweeted—a short, pithy nugget, the perfect sound bite. But is it true?

I spent some time that afternoon looking up some verses and came to the conclusion that, as good as it sounds, worship is not in some special category of “things that will last for eternity.” Rather, much of what we accomplish on earth will persist into eternity, as long as we build it on the foundation of Jesus:

For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. (1 Corinthians 3:9-15, NKJV)

Or consider what Jesus says in John 15:16—“I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last.”

As essential as worship is, and as important are our worship leaders, their work is no more eternal than that of any other vocation to which God calls us.

Thankfully, we attend an excellent church with mature, Godly speakers. Only rarely do I find myself at odds with something proclaimed from the pulpit. More often, I realize that I’m the one who has been wrong, and it’s my understanding that needs to be reworked. That’s when I’m even more happy that I took the time to do some research on my own.

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