by Sherry Neese
Bereans Then and Now
"These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so." Acts 17:11
Noble = Morally good; superior in nature or character
The original Bereans listened courteously to the Apostle Paul’s strange new message. They were open-minded but not gullible. There were no Bibles for them to conveniently "search the scriptures daily.’ In fact, no one had the written Word at that time "“ they had to go to the synagogue and sift through the various manuscripts to test Paul’s message. Can you imagine anyone doing that in our day? These dedicated men and women set an incredibly high standard of biblical scholarship.
Bereans of our time who carry on the torch of truth minister in various capacities to warn the Church about wolves in their midst. Many have a world-wide sphere of influence to the greater Body of Christ primarily through the internet. Then there are the "rank and file" Bereans who minister on a local level in their own churches and communities. In addition, every pastor and leader in ministry is called to be a Berean. In fact, every believer should be a Berean, but there are those with a special calling on their lives to declare the truth and expose error as a specified ministry. I am by no means an expert but just offering some thoughts the Lord put on my heart. They serve as reminders for my own behavior as a Berean.
Unbridled Zeal "“ Stampede to Disaster
Those who would exercise discernment and stand for truth are often misunderstood; that goes with the territory. It is a noble calling but a difficult one. However, there can be times when our standards slip or our flesh shows and we fall into Satan’s trap and shoot ourselves in the foot. I was prompted to write on this topic partly because I was made aware of just such an incident that happened recently at the grass-roots level.
In these last days with apostasy coming out of the woodwork in every shape and fashion, the Berean can become overwhelmed. Zeal for the truth can get out of balance and lead to hasty actions that are not seasoned with grace. Righteous anger can morph into the unholy kind in a heartbeat. We are to hate what God hates, but we must be careful not to cross forbidden boundaries and into unrighteous judgment. God will not bless those efforts and such indiscretions can slam the door on any further light to reach dark places and cause people to turn a deaf ear to life-giving truth. It is difficult enough to get a hearing as it is and each opportunity has to be used wisely. Reputation and credibility are essential "“ we must be above reproach.
Grass-roots Bereans "“ Don’t Mow "˜Em Down!
"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal." 1 st Corinthians 13:1
Foot soldiers for the truth, the average Joe and Josie Berean are discernment cops walking the beat in their local neighborhoods. The manner in which they conduct themselves is of paramount importance. In the process of defending their designated turf from an invasion of untruth, their first instinct might be to fire off a nasty gram reading the offender the riot act. Silence would be more helpful than this tactic. Although there is no guarantee that a respectful communication will be received in the spirit in which it is sent, an angry rebuke is guaranteed to go immediately to the recycle bin or the round file. With humility, plead with them; don’t beat them over the head with the Bible or insult them. Assure them you are praying for them and you are not taking potshots from some lofty righteous vantage point.
Bereans love the truth, we love God’s Word more than anything else or anybody else. But we are to love others with the love of Christ and treat them with respect. We must be ever mindful who the real enemy is "“ flesh and blood are not our foes. Issues can be addressed in a noble way that is worthy of the name Berean. Each time an issue is addressed, we as Bereans are representing our Lord and His truth and we need to keep that in mind. We need to pray before making a contact, that the Lord will use it for His glory. We must ask God to search our own hearts to be sure our motives are pure. We should always look to the LORD for the results and not our own efforts. We cannot afford to take rejection of our message personally and throw ourselves a pity party. Having a thick skin while keeping a tender heart helps! We need to pray for wisdom as to when our task is complete and when it is time to let go and move on. The entire battle does not depend upon one individual. We always want to move on having left the person with no grounds for accusing us of not speaking the truth in love and with an open mind for later dialog.
Bereans on the Front Lines "“ Beware of Friendly Fire!
Don’t shoot your wounded!
The greater the sphere of influence, the greater the responsibility to get it right. Intense pressure is brought to bear on those who stick their necks out in the public domain. As Bereans we need to be alert to attempts by the enemy to drive wedges of division in our ranks. Satan would like nothing more than to pit one ministry against another. We are all in this together "“ we serve the same awesome God and represent the same glorious truth and we have a common enemy. We are all walking around with huge targets on our backs. We can’t afford to be slinging arrows at one another.
Due to our varied God-given personalities, Bereans are bound to disagree from time to time, but as we pray for one another and lift one another up we will not allow our differences to divide us. Discernment ministry has its unique challenges and we need each other’s support. If one of us gets off track, we should to be willing to extend or accept a rebuke, hopefully gently delivered. Proverbs 27:6 says: "Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful." To be sure, there are wolves in the discernment community that give the rest of us a bad name while we work hard to maintain credibility and a good reputation. Suffice to say, my colleagues are a dedicated group of folks the Lord is using mightily in these last days. We are not perfect, but we share a common burden and bond for exposing the deeds of darkness and we are not afraid to lay it on the line for the sake of those for whom Christ died.
Shepherds - Circle the Wagons!
Each day it seems we see another pastor, teacher or ministry fall into deception. As disheartening as that is, we know this is one of the major signs of the end times. Earthquakes and wars are commonly mentioned as prophetic signs, but rarely is it heard from the pulpit that the falling away is one of the main escatological signposts. Much of Christendom is in denial, deluded into thinking they are on the right track when in reality they are headed down a perilous path. This is due in large part to the failure of pastors to teach those in their charge to be Bereans and practice discernment. In fact, discernment as we know it is for the most part spurned in our day. The Lord has stern words for leaders who do not watch over their flocks and protect them from wolves. "But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, the people are not warned and the sword comes and takes any person from among them"¦.his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand." Ezekiel 33:6 What a weighty responsibility!
Mike Oppenheimer of Let Us Reason Ministry says it well: ( Excerpts -Emphasis added.)
"We are told to "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" II Tim. 4:2
"And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove (show them for what they really are) them." Eph.5:11
"All these (verses) are stated to protect sheep that do not know better and can be influenced by something non-Biblical that can affect their Christian walk adversely. It is also to stop the aberrant teacher so they can be corrected. Keeping the church open to a person’s ministry that is teaching falsehood is not a loving action. A true shepherd’s first concern is to protect the sheep and then direct his attention to the individual who needs the correction.
"Today the Church has moved from the challenges from without to addressing those from within. The center of concern is now within the Church’s walls itself"¦..When we find false teaching outside the Church, for instance from Jehovah’s Witnesses or Mormons, everyone can agree there is a problem. But when false teaching is found inside the Church then the issue becomes delicate, and the act of addressing and exposing it is considered fault-finding! This is a tragic irony, for discernment means bringing into question something that can or already has divided the Church from the doctrine we are to uphold and practice. For the apostle John says "If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed. For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds." 2 John 10, 11 Back then the house was the church; they were not to give these people a platform to influence the assembly. Today many people watch ministries on TV who bring another doctrine and let them in their house, we are commanded not to.
"It’s been said by some that the truth can defend itself, there is no need to address falsehood. This statement is not only non-Biblical it can be disastrous. Jesus, Peter, Paul, John, and Jude all addressed error and falsehood.
"The famous preacher J. Gresham Machen said it this way: "Again, men tell us that our preaching should be positive and not negative, that we can preach the truth without attacking error. But if we follow that advice we shall have to close our Bible and desert its teachings"¦"¦" (What Is Christianity, as cited in Biblical Separation, by Ernest Pickering, p. 97).
"If we acted like the Bereans that Paul commended, much of the teachings we hear today by the Word of God and not according to someone’s popularity, we would have to reject many popular ministers. The fact is"”some big ministries should be questioned by the church. Not promoting them is not enough-the people need to be warned about them"¦"¦"¦." [Read full article at http://letusreason.org/Pent48.htm ]
Wise shepherds teach discernment to their flocks and are not offended if they are sincerely and respectfully questioned. If a Berean comes to them about leaven that has crept into the church, hopefully they will not dismiss it because it may be the Lord’s way of speaking to help protect the sheep. Wise pastors value Bereans within their flocks. This of course does not apply to those who are harsh, speak without grace and have critical spirits. True Bereans will be noble, not nasty.
As one of my favorite "dead guys" H.A. Ironside said, ""Any error, or any truth- and-error mixture, calls for definite exposure and repudiation.Ã‚Â To condone such is to be unfaithful to God and His word and treacherous to imperiled souls for whom Christ died."
Bereans "“ Hang Tough and Tight!
And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. Gal. 6:9
Whether a "rank and file" Berean or one called to minister on a larger scale, we are all one and the same and important to the Lord’s work. We all carry a huge responsibility in these final days,
Bereans in the trenches, Bereans in broader ministry, and shepherds "“ we are all on the same battlefield. Discouragement, Satan’s favorite weapon, lurks around every corner. We need to work as a team, praying for one another and valuing each other and if necessary, correcting one another, following the biblical procedure for correction and refrain from engaging in gossip. Then and only then will we see the flocks protected from wolves and the Word of God held in high esteem as did our Berean ancestors.
Soon the battle will be over and we will reap the fruit of our labors and dwell in the presence of perfect truth Personified. Until then, let’s exhort, encourage and uplift one another as we run the race. Our work is only done when we are whisked from this earth into eternity either by death or the catching away. We cannot deny our calling any more than the prophet Jeremiah when he said "But His word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay." We are unable to rest until we answer our calling. It is a sacred trust, a noble cause.
Grant my mind and my affections
Wisdom, counsel, purity,
That I may be ever seeking
Naught but that which pleases Thee
Let Thy knowledge spread and grow,
Working error’s overthrow.
Holy Spirit, strong and mighty,
Thou who makes all things new,
Make thy work within me perfect,
Help me by Thy Word so true;
Arm me with that sword of Thine,
And the victory shall be mine. In the faith, oh, make me steadfast,
Let not Satan, death, or shame
Of my confidence deprive me;
Lord, my refuge is Thy Name.
When the flesh inclines to ill,
Let Thy Word prove stronger still.
By Heinrich Held "“ The Daily Sacrifice by H.A. Ironside
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