“Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded 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.” – Acts 17:10-11 (NKJV)
The good people of Berea “received the word” and “searched the scriptures daily.” Such people are a rare, dying breed today. Most of us aren’t like the Bereans. Spiritually, we’re too lazy.
We don’t study the Bible for ourselves. We expect others to do it for us instead. That’s why books and devotionals about the Bible, both in print and online, are trendy today. Popular Bible teachers for women include Kay Arthur, Anne Graham Lotz, Beth Moore, and Priscilla Shirer. John McArthur, John Piper, R. C. Sproul, and Chuck Swindoll are popular ones for men. With some reservations, these are the better preachers and teachers. Many others are worse. They don’t know what the Bible says and don’t care. They just want to make money.
Still, when is the last time we compared a Sunday school lesson, a pastor’s sermon, a devotional, or a book by Beth Moore or John Piper to the Bible? If their facts were wrong or their theology unbiblical, would we notice? No. Our attitude is that whatever they say about God and the Bible goes. We just take their word for it. No wonder false teachers abound today!
The same can be said of prayer. We ridicule Roman Catholics for praying to Mary and dead saints while relying on priests. Then we brag that Jesus Christ is the only mediator between us and God (1 Timothy 2:5), that we belong to a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:5, 9), and that we don’t need anyone – dead or alive – to pray for us. So do we pray for ourselves, our families, and our friends when a need arises? No. We still expect clergy to do it. “Pastor Smith, my sister needs a job. Can you pray for her?” “Brother John, I’ve been sick all week. Can you pray for me?”
If we’re truly a holy priesthood, then pastors’ prayers are no more powerful than anyone else’s. Why do we think that they are? Maybe we want certain pastors to pray for us because we believe that they’re closer to God. If we see spiritual fruit and answered prayers in their lives that are lacking in our own, then this belief is valid. God doesn’t hear the prayers of sinners. We must repent if we want God to hear and answer our requests. However, if we think pastors are closer to God because of their elevated position in a spiritual hierarchy, then we’re wrong. In Christ’s kingdom, all saints are equal. The prayer of a child is no less powerful than that of a pastor. So when will we become like Jesus and learn to pray each day for ourselves and our families?
Children and young people need daily spiritual and moral guidance. Sunday school teachers, youth leaders, and pastors are excellent guides. Still, they should only supplement, not substitute, parents. Church lessons and sermons shouldn’t substitute home Bible study, worship, and prayer either. These things are better as supplements. Contrary to popular opinion, VBS is not the ideal place for a child reared in a Christian home to hear the gospel and be saved.
Yet church is just the beginning of the spiritual laziness that plagues Christians today. Too many parents trust the hearts, minds, and souls of their children to schools, both public and private. Many schools provide atheistic education in science, history, health, and other areas. Thanks to Planned Parenthood and the UN, scouting programs are no better. Where are the Bereans? Where are the parents who will ground their children in the Word before they enter the classroom?
Spiritual laziness is most alarming in the entertainment industry. Some secular films appear suitable for Christian audiences but may contain anti-Christian messages. Although I liked “The Book Thief” (2013), I found its message on death atheistic. Yet many Christian friends praised the film. They didn’t notice what it said. Even more disturbing was the number of pastors who endorsed “Noah” (2014), which preaches atheistic environmentalism rather than biblical grace.
So-called Christian films are little better. Both “The Bible” (2013) and “Son of God” (2014) preach a New Age gospel of self-affirmation rather than the gospel of Christ. “Heaven is for Real” (2014) introduces audiences to an unbiblical heaven. Yet thanks to the marketing strategies of Movie to Movement, Saddleback Church, and others, countless Christians have been swayed to watch and endorse these films. Why? In spirit, they’re not Bereans.
Too many Christians take the word of others as gospel. Some friends and pastors rightly endorse or oppose a film or TV show. Others don’t. Still, why should we take their word for it? Where are the Christians who will learn a film’s message and decide for themselves, through prayer and Bible study, whether or not it is biblically-based entertainment? Where are the Bereans?
God gave the church pastors, teachers, mentors, and others in order to edify and equip the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:11-12). These people have a rightful place in the lives of Christians. Still, it matters who we follow and listen to. Some leaders are godly, others false or abusive. Only Bereans can discern the difference and choose wise leaders, both for themselves and the church. If we aren’t Bereans, then we won’t be able to distinguish between true and false, wise and foolish, godly and ungodly. As a result, we may be deceived or led astray. We don’t want to follow the blind and end up in a ditch (Matthew 15:14)!
Bible study, prayer, mentoring, and cultural discernment are spiritual hard work. They’re daily, exhausting disciplines. But if we love our families, we’ll do them. We won’t leave these tasks to others. Therefore, let us repent of our spiritual laziness and become Bereans. The souls of our children are at stake. Jesus is coming soon and we don’t want anyone to be left behind.
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35). So, will we trust the fleeting words of man or the eternal Word of God? Will we put our lives in the hands of false shepherds who love to deceive and imperfect Christians who can be deceived? Or will we give ourselves to an unchanging, perfect, and holy God? The choice is ours.