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The Berean and the Goldfish... the rest of the story
By Stephen James
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2012 Stephen James
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This is a collection of ideas for the people who seek to know and enjoy more of God's Word. As referenced in the book of acts Chapter 17, Verse 11: "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." This enormous compliment and honor is paid to the Bereans – and I use this reference to associate with all those people who place the Word of God above tradition, above rumor, above fiction, above social acceptance, above entertainment, above religious propaganda, above political correctness, and above cultural differences.
This work analyzes and expands our understanding of key doctrines – using scripture extensively. It expands our understanding of and our need for the Gospel. I believe this work accurately represents the need for the Gospel, and that it presents the Gospel in simple terms, from several different perspectives, so the reader cannot misunderstand. Hopefully, even a good Christian of many years will enjoy and learn something from this presentation.
I address key doctrines such as the Trinity, the soul, death, faith versus works, and sleep. I teach untaught details about the lamb of God and the seven letters, national Heritage, and national sins & Consequence. I distinguish between this life and the one hereafter, the names of God, the laws of God, and I confront popular errors in teaching on topics such as Sunday, Christmas, Easter and God's Chosen People.
Then we go on to 'straighten out' several issues that are often misunderstood, or misrepresented, or not represented at all. Often, we find the same error of the Pharisees which Jesus condemned – the traditions of the elders. By this I mean to suggest that a great deal of teaching in the church is incomplete and sometimes in error. We really need to get these things right – and I show why and how with many included scripture references.
None of this is based on any denominational doctrine. There is not a common theme to this work, but several. I am revealing several topics that I had to discover on my own through analytical biblical studies that began 30 years ago. This work should be an interesting and unique bible study for individuals who want more, who dig deeper – seekers.
There is a certain boldness required to try and present points of controversy. Tact is nice, but accuracy is essential. I believe this work lifts up Jesus and unifies the old and new Testaments into an agreement which we often miss. The whole idea of The Berean and the Goldfish points to digging deeper and learning things that are not commonly taught on the surface. Anyone with questions about common errors, confusion, or just interested in getting closer to God's infinite Word will find this appealing.
And we read in 2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.
Applying the Berean principle of seeking truth by digging into scripture will help us in our daily walk with God. The bible tells us to test the spirits – l John 4:1. There will be many teachers who are right, some who just think they are right and some who are outright wrong by reason of ignorance, and some who are actually trying to mislead you. Beware ... And prepare.
There are many of us who place the highest priority on the everlasting Word of God that never changes and is "the same yesterday, today and forever." – Hebrews 13:8. Also see Matthew 5:18, 24:35, Mark 13:31, Luke 16:17, 21:33.
John 1:1, 14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God .... And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, ...
Malachi 3:6 For I am the LORD, I change not ...
This work is filled with many scriptural references on several topics which can lead to looking up verses, researching cross-references and commentaries, and prayer. I know you already have all of these references in your own bibles, but hopefully these are arranged and organized in a very useful order to better facilitate inspired discovery. In many ways this may serve as an individual bible study. If you have the enthusiasm and spirit of a Berean, you are likely to enjoy this opportunity for additional study. on the other hand, some of you will be satisfied with this work as it is. In either case, if I am helpful to any, my mission is accomplished.
I affirm that those of us who study the Word of God, and believe it is from Him, discover continually and increasingly that we know less and less. I believe it was Will Durant who defined EDUCATION as "a progressive discovery of our ignorance." Another wise man observed that when we study God's Word, we are altogether incapable of critiquing the Word, but the Word will always critique us – producing change in our lives.
The Word of God is arranged in an amazing way that stimulates additional research. For example, if we learn a certain teaching from Jesus, it's a good thing. But if we dig a little deeper we find there is more detail in the Word on the same issue. Then we find there is even more ... And more. This additional knowledge can clarify, expand or even alter our understanding. eventually we learn to ask, "What else did He say?" as we learn this principle we develop an appetite and thirst for more. This principle applies to everything uttered by God and by his apostles and Prophets. When we hear a certain doctrine proclaimed from the Word, especially if it's an important one – like 'you can never lose your salvation' – we should ask, "What else does it say?" I can tell you with certainty it says much more ... especially when we begin to listen with our spiritual ears.
Proverbs 30:5-6 Every word of God is pure: he is a shield unto them that put their trust in him. Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar.
In this context, it is my belief that those who study and contemplate more, and those who allow the spirit to do a work over time, generally possess a considerably more balanced perspective, yet are also less likely to insist on their own authority. By this I mean to suggest that many preachers and teachers, in and out of the faith, come on with great power and authority, often assumed. It is right and appropriate to speak with authority, if and when you are right. but the growth of the church suffers due to so many people aggressively asserting their authority into areas that are uncertain. If 100 teachers proclaim things differently, without recognizable unison, then the world will know we are not of God by our disagreement.
Amos 3:3 Can two walk together, except they be agreed?
Genesis 11:6 And the LORD said, Behold, the people are one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.
Matthew 12:25 And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:
1 Corinthians 1:10 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
1 Corinthians 3:3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
Ephesians 4:11-13 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ:
There is enormous power in agreement, and a house divided against itself will fall. Where you see a government, a business or a family in agreement, it will stand. Where you see a government, a business or a family in chronic disagreement, arguing between its members continually, it will fall. on the other hand, any group unified behind a common goal, in agreement, has the best chance of victory.
Religious propaganda is the stuff that makes denominations disagree with each other. every denomination, by definition, has some points of disagreement or variation in their theology. There are so many splits and denominations – I regard this to be a word meaning division and disagreement. They each have their different doctrines, different priorities and separate understandings with different applications. but we are supposed to be unified in agreement! In the final analysis, it doesn't matter so much where you go to church or what they believe ... what is crucial is what you believe and who you know.
We are living in a time when many are receiving a diluted Gospel. Jesus tells us that in the last days there will be two groups ... A 'few' group and a 'many' group. In those days 'many' will come and they will cry out, "lord, lord, ..." He describes this frightening scene where many will come thinking they are saved, they think they got the real gospel. But the devil has watered it down and they find out they are lost. – Matthew 7:21-23. one reason the Gospel is watered down is because preachers want to be popular. Another reason the Gospel is watered down is because people don't want to hear anything that's too challenging. They want what they're itching to hear (to feel good, not told to change or that they are wrong or needy).
'If you're Heaven born, you'll be Heaven bound.'
'Get right – or get left'
let me clarify. In a later chapter, I will present 'The Gospel', as I understand it. But this topic, and many others I hope to touch on, have been dealt with in so many ways, and with so many variations that any sane person might throw up their hands in confusion and frustration. I will present my variations too, but I will also state plainly that which I perceive to be solid and unchangeable. There are countless theories, perspectives and discoveries, but let not these things distract you from the absolute truth upon which we should all agree. There are certainties, there is right and there is wrong. There is good, and better, and best. Certain things really happened, certain things were and are required, and there are absolutely certain matters of cause and effect.
Hopefully, there will be a calming difference in that I know I am only one more voice, with another perspective – I will make that plain. And I have special interest in the many areas of scripture about which we may never hear from the pulpit. We all know that many thousands of dedicated scholars with great minds have devoted themselves to the analysis and understanding of scripture for centuries. none of them are stupid. I will allow that probably all of them are sincere and doing their best to unfold the mysteries that are surely contained in the Word of God. Sometimes the discovery of a new idea or viewpoint causes rejection of an older view. I must urge all readers to understand that it might be appropriate to reject the old or the new. But it might also be appropriate to not think 'either/or', but to think 'and.' often times in my work I find that a new angle or a new concept does not necessarily negate the previous view, but adds to it another dimension, additional perspective.
As we begin to grow in our knowledge of the Word of God, we formulate certain understandings. Because God is infinite, our response to each new learning should be, "What else does it mean? How else can I apply it?" We should understand that His Word comes to us in layers ... An unknown number of layers. We should realize that everything about God and His Word is wider, deeper, louder – and quieter.
Isaiah 28:10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little ...
There are many voices in the air which seem to be spiritual and often are – 1 Corinthians 14:10. I do not argue with the idea that there are many spiritual voices and that they are heard by people. But what many people have grossly misunderstood is that not all spiritual voices are of God. There is good and there is evil, and both sides speak. In fact, most of the church has turned its back on the need for spiritual warfare with the works of the devil. Satan's most effective lie is softly whispered in our ears ... "I'm not here," and he is very good at helping us to be ignorant and ill-equipped to engage him in combat.
1 John 2:18-23 Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us. But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things. I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.
1 John 4:1-6 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.
The above words are very important and say a great deal about the many deceptions that are so pervasive in our world today. How should we equip ourselves to rightly discern the information we access? Give it some serious thought, lest you be deceived as well. We need to place a high value on real knowledge and real truth. Where do you think we should find it?
On Knowledge, Truth & Understanding
Proverbs 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal a thing: but the honor of kings is to search out a matter.
Hosea 4:6 My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.
John 8:31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
1 Corinthians 13:6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
2 Thessalonians 2:12 That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
1 Timothy 6:3-5 If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; He is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.
2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth.
2 Timothy 4:4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.
Titus 1:14 ... Not giving heed to Jewish fables, and commandments of men, that turn from the truth.
Hebrews 10:26 For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.
James 4:17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.
1 John 1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
1 John 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.
1 John 2:4 He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. When this was written, there wasn't yet a new Testament.
Excerpted from The Berean and the Goldfish by Stephen James Copyright © 2012 by Stephen James. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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