I fear that Christianity often becomes a pursuit of style at the expense of substance. I crave substance, and decided to write something that reflects that. I see myself as a meat and potatoes kind of guy—at the dinner table and in life, and especially when it comes to faith—so I decided to name the blog accordingly. As I thought about it a little more, I realized God has already provided the “meat” in His Word. So I’ve named the blog “. . . And Potatoes.” Is that a little dorky? Maybe. But I’ll dare to bet it’s the only so-named blog in the non-culinary world (or in the culinary world, for that matter).
So what does all this mean, when you step away from the metaphors? What is this blog about? Simple. Over the course of the next year, I plan to “think out loud” over some of my favorite and most influential passages of Scripture. I’m a pastor’s kid, and I tend to study Scripture from a preacher’s perspective, but it isn’t my intent to preach at you. Rather, I hope to “stimulate you [and me] to wholesome thinking.”(1)
I know some of you won’t be interested in reading what I have to say, and that’s fine. Others might skim a few posts now and then, and others might consume every word. Wherever you fit on the spectrum, I have a challenge for you—one that applies to checking out my blog, reading your favorite Christian author, or listening to a sermon on Sunday. And that challenge is lifted from the book of Acts, where we read the following:
As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 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. As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men. (Acts 17:10-12)
We know little of Berea from Scripture, as it is only listed one other time outside this passage. Yet the people of Berea garnered notoriety that exists to this day based on their response to Paul’s preaching. And that is where I want to briefly focus. From this short passage we learn two things about the Bereans and two thiacts ngs about Paul’s message that I think can apply to each and every one of us as we go to church, study the Bible, or check out our favorite blogs.
First, regarding the Bereans, we see that they received the message with “great eagerness.” Several translations use the phrase “readiness of mind.” These weren’t reluctant listeners dragged along to the synagogue by their parents or just there to appear socially acceptable. They wanted to learn. How many of us—self included—are eager for a sermon on Sunday morning or excited about digging into the Word?
Second, and this is the key takeaway, the Bereans didn’t just take Paul at his word and go home. They scrutinized the Scriptures to verify that Paul was speaking the truth. And they didn’t just do it once or with one part of his message. Verse 11 notes they did so “every day.” In other words, their pattern was to listen to Paul preach and then consult the Scriptures for verification. A study of the New Testament shows that the early Church was plagued by heresies and false teachers. Christianity today is no different, with TV evangelists and lifestyle bloggers pushing all sorts of garbage that isn’t Scriptural. Before you rush off and take Joel Osteen or Jen Hatmaker’s words as Gospel, first compare them to the Gospel. And as this passage specifically relates to my blog, please do the same thing. I will strive to make sure everything I say is in accordance with God’s Word, but I’m not infallible. Just because you read it on a “Christian blog,” don’t assume it’s true. The Bible is the Christian’s ultimate plumb bob, his or her source of truth. Everyone else—me, that popular Christian author or speaker, your pastor on Sunday, or that “nudge” of the Holy Spirit—is only a source of truth insomuch as they are in agreement with the Bible. Be like the Bereans—examine the Scriptures to see if what others say is true.
I also want to touch briefly on two points regarding Paul’s message. Luke (the author of Acts) doesn’t tell us specifically what he preached to the Bereans, but we can assume it was similar to the message he had just preached in Thessalonica and which had stirred up trouble and caused the believers there to send Paul and Silas to Berea:
As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said. (Acts 17:2-3)
This again tells us two things:
First, Scripture does contain the answers for verifying truth. Paul’s letters “contain some things that are hard to understand”(2) according to Peter, but his message can be boiled down to his statement above: “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah.” Note that he was speaking to Jews, in a Jewish synagogue, and they were able to confirm this message by studying the Scriptures—that is, at that time, the Old Testament. We too often view the Old and New Testaments as separate books, with separate messages, and even separate versions of God. They aren’t. They are one, consistent book, one theme. And the Messiah who was revealed in the New Testament was clearly (to the examining heart and mind) proclaimed in the Old Testament.
Second, due to the Bereans’ eager reception of Paul and careful study of his message, Scripture notes that “many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.” The gospel message, as Paul put it, “is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”(3) We see that played out here in Acts. It wasn’t just the Berean Jews who believed, but many Greeks, including those of a prominent or honored position—that is, influential people. Compare that result with what happened in Thessalonica (Acts 17:5-9).
We learn a great lesson from the people of Berea. We ought to receive the gospel with eagerness, and examine and study the Scriptures to confirm the accuracy of our preachers and teachers and writers and bloggers. And if we do, Scripture indeed holds the answers, and those answers have power to transform lives.
I hope you’ll check back frequently. I plan to post “potatoes” on a weekly or semi-weekly basis. But whether or not you ever read my blog again or not, I urge you to follow the model of the Bereans and examine the Scriptures daily!
1) II Peter 3:1
2) II Peter 3:16
3) Romans 1:16