Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Open Minds and Open Hearts

“Now the Bereans were of more noble character …  for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” – Acts 17:11

With the launch of Impact Christian Church just a month away, we’re handing out lots of invitations around town. Last Wednesday evening a couple of the greatest teenagers in the world joined me for what I like to call “Donut Run Evangelism.” We made a donut run and made sure that the donut shop had invitations to church on their countertop. Then we stopped by a few other stores to give them invitations too. Well, at one point we were in a little strip mall in a not-so-great neighborhood. And as I was making my way back to my car after dropping off some invitations, I saw a gang-banger-looking guy walking across the parking lot. He was all tatted up on his arms and had gang tattoos on his face and around his eyes.

I felt the Lord wanted me to invite him to church, so I did. And he turned, looked at me, and said, “Pastor Dane!” I was blown away! It turns out that he is an active member at Victory Outreach Church, and he met me a few years ago when our churches were doing ministry in the same building. I told him about our church’s big move, and he started preaching to me. He said, “Yeah, man. Your church is like Elijah. God gave Elijah a brook with plenty of water, but that brook dried up, so God moved him somewhere else. Your church is over on that old military base and it’s all dried up, so God is moving you guys to where there’s life!” 

This was one of those wonderful, unexpected moments in my life when God wanted to tell me something important, and I would have missed it if I hadn’t had an open mind and an open heart. In the early church, Christ’s followers faced a similar problem. They often ran into closed minds when they tried to share the gospel with the Jews, especially in Thessalonica. But the results were much different when Paul preached the good news in Berea. According to Acts 17:12, “Many of the Jews believed.”

Why did so many more Jews in Berea accept the message than in Thessalonica? The answer is in verse 11: “Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” There are three key phrases in this verse, and each phrase reveals something important about the way the Bereans handled God’s word. Let’s look at these phrases one at a time.

1. The Bereans were “of more noble character.” What on earth does that mean? If we look up the same phrase from a few different translations, we read that the Bereans were more “noble-minded” (NASB), “fair-minded” (NKJV) or “open-minded” (NLT). These other translations shed some light on the situation. The Jews in Berea were more open-minded to Paul’s message. They didn’t immediately put up a wall, stop up their ears and say “LA LA LA LA LA LA LA! I’M NOT LISTENING!” They were willing to hear Paul out and give his message an opportunity to be heard.

Friends, sometimes when we are learning God’s word, we come across things that challenge our way of thinking and acting. Sometimes God’s word challenges us to make different choices than we’ve been making and establish more godly priorities. Don’t build up walls or stop up your ears. Like the Bereans, we need to receive God’s word with open minds and open hearts.

2. The Bereans received the message “with great eagerness.” There in that Berean synagogue when Paul opened the Old Testament scrolls and began to explain the prophecies that were fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the Bereans listened eagerly. Each time Paul taught, they were ready to hear it—eager to hear more, to learn more, to adjust their lives however necessary to the fresh revelation of God’s word. They were excited and enthusiastic as they learned God’s word.

If you and I are only going through the motions of listening, and if we have little enthusiasm for learning God’s word, the teaching will have minimal impact. I promise you, God’s word can transform your life. But you have to want it to transform your life. That requires some good old-fashioned eagerness and enthusiasm. So, have your Bibles ready in church each Sunday. Put your Bible on your nightstand or on your coffee table or wherever else you’ll see it every day, so that every day you can open God’s word and study it with eagerness and enthusiasm.

3. The Bereans “examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”
You and I can run off on all sorts of theological rabbit trails if we skip this critical step. If we’re open-minded and enthusiastic, but we fail to cross-check what the teacher is teaching with Scripture, we are cruisin’ for a spiritual bruisin’. Each of us is called to follow in the Bereans’ footsteps, examining the Scriptures to make sure that we are being taught the truth. And unlike the many false teachers out there, we as Christians are not afraid of anyone in the church examining the Scriptures to confirm the truth.

When open-minded pastors preach God’s word with enthusiasm and careful study, and the congregation receives God’s word with enthusiasm and careful study, that’s a match made in heaven. Open minds and open hearts in Christ’s church are a beautiful thing.

Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Join us for our Grand Opening at 10 am Sunday, October 6th at the new Ralph Baker School in Victorville. For more information, visit www.GreaterImpact.cc.

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