This Sunday the Scriptures we learned from at Fellowship were Acts 15:1-35.
This story is very interesting as the Church deals with false teachers and even disagreement over the Gospel. Did Gentile believers have to follow the Law of Moses? This issue was taken very seriously by the Gentile believers and the Jewish believers and it was resolved.
There are some lessons we ought to learn here. First, a simple quick truth, we should work through disagreements. One of the saddest issues in church life today is the fact that many believers simply run to another church every time they face a disagreement. That don’t even have the common courtesy, much less take their Biblical responsibility, to seek out any reconciliation with those they came into disagreement with.
I give you an admonishment. Never, ever, ever be that church member. You take your sin with you.
One of the points I made yesterday is necessary if you are going to be a person that does not commit such sins in your church involvement. It is this. The Gospel calls us to love people more than opinions. Now remember the Gospel is not your opinion…it is the truth. But the majority of things we are argue about within Christianity in some form or fashion has opinion in it. Don’t love your opinions more than you love people.
Here are a few warnings to show this is true of you.
1. You email instead of talk. Why does that say that about you? It is one-sided and information only communication. It is not a conversation and it is not personal. You just want to throw your opinion not have a discussion.
2. You have belonged to many churches in the same area. You keep moving from place to place because people will not do and see things your way.
3. When you think about Christianity, you think more about how church government and structure more than your personal life and walk with the Lord.
Just a few warnings.
There is a huge truth fought for in this part of the story of the early church that we must be willing to fight still today. People wanted to add something to the Gospel. Peter teaches us in this passage that God “made no distinction” between Jew and Gentile. We learn that they were purified by faith just as the Jews were. We hear that the Jews were saved by grace just as the Gentiles were.
A few key points to consider…
The Gospel is not a message of “do not” and “cannot.”
The things you do not do will never make right the things you have already done.
The Gospel has no exceptions and no exclusions.
It is the same message for every person. It does not see color or background.
Christians ought to be careful they are not adding their opinions of what following Jesus looks like to Gospel. The headline the Gospel gives is simple.
I am spending Father’s Day at the beach with my family. Mom and Dad and my sister’s families. What a blessing.
We headed out for our first morning at the beach to find red flags up. It’s a warning that the current is strong.
Well we played in the water anyway…of course. But it did not take long for me to see the difference between the effects of the current on the kids and me. The current was strong indeed…dangerous even.
The Bible tells us to be “in this world yet not of this world”.
In is not the problem…of is.
I noticed that riding a wave in was more fun because of the strong current. Riding in is fun and everyone wants to do it over and over again.
It’s the pull out after the wave crashes and before the next one comes that gets us.
We are in the water but we cannot be of it. We cannot allow it to toss us to and fro.
But it will.
What did my children need in the strong current today…me. They needed their dad. To lift them when the wave was too big and to hold them when the current was too strong. Then…and only then…could they safely ride the waves.
You will always face strong currents in this world.
Who are you with?
I want to continue with some thoughts from my Sunday recap blog on Acts 12.
Earnestly means urgency with sincerity.
The thing we struggle with in life is why do answers to earnest prayers surprise us? Why when what we desire earnestly happens are we surprised? I want to give you a couple of reasons from this passage in the Bible.
First…We are conditioned more by our circumstances than by our convictions.
It is natural. It is true of each and every one of us. This reality is why more and more our culture rejects the existence of God. See faith is being sure of what we hope for and being certain of what we do not see. Circumstances are what we see and touch and feel. Convictions are what we believe and hope and dream.
It is fortitude of faith that allows a person to live a life more conditioned by conviction than by circumstance. This life is not the average life. The average life is conditioned by the circumstances. Convictions give way to circumstances. Passion gives way to practical. Dreams die in the face of duties.
See this group of people were living in great persecution. Why would the expect Peter to actually be delivered? That was not their circumstance eventhough it was their conviction.
Second…Our expectations are too often defined by our experiences.
Most of us hope to experience something we have not. Most people are hoping they will see more in life than they have already seen. More success…more love…more joy…more experiences…more friendship. Yet too often, we don’t actually expect it to happen because we have not experienced it already.
If you will live earnestly you will be urgently sincere about expectations of great things. If you live earnestly you will be sincerely urgernt about seeking out the great things you expect.
So here is the test…the earnest test…the test to define whether or not your are living a life fashioned by circumstance or by conviction.
It is the is not or will be test.
Is what “is not” true about your life determining what “will be” true about your life…OR
Is what “will be” true about your life determining what “is not” true about your life?
What “is not” does not have to become what “will be” if what “will be” determines what “is not.”
Acts 12 finds the followers of Christ facing persecution. One is killed by the sword and another now in jail. The believers gather in the middle of the night to pray. God answers the prayers and Peter is delivered from jail by an angel. He shows up at the house of the prayer meeting and no one believes it is him.
There are some great things we all would benefit from learning out of this passage.
First…what is persecution. It says that Herod had intent toward Peter. Intent to kill him. Persecution is intention not rejection. Quit making yourself a martyr and embracing the role of vicitm. Rejection is not persecution it is rejection. Christians are too often the worst about this when it comes to our faith. Someone disagreeing with you in a mean-spirited way is not persecution. It is rejection. Move foward and tell someone else.
Second…The believers gathered together and prayed EARNESTLY. This is a big word here because it has rich meaning and we can learn a lot about life from this one word.
Earnestly means urgency with sincerity. Understand that urgency is less about immediately and more about priority. Something urgent gets attetnion, but too often what gets attention does not get sincerity and what gets sincerity does not get attention. Being earnest means giving both. It will take time, conviction, and passion.
If you earnestly desire a better marriage you will be urgent and sincere about the changes that will cause it.
If you earnestly desire your children to live lives that honor Jesus you will urgently and sincerely honor Jesus with every facet of your life.
If you eanestly believe that Jesus is the sole Savior of the world you will urgently and sincerely share the Gospel with others.
What are you being earnest about in life?
Acts 12 is week. Great passage about prayer. Peter is in prison…the believers are praying earnestly…God delivers Peter…the believers are shocked.
Food for thought “Why are we surprised when God does what we earnestly and sincerely asked him to do?”
This week we will explore our own hearts and the Word of God in seeking out what it means to pray earnestly and what faith looks like when it becomes sight.
I’ll give you this preview line Earnestly is urgent sincerity.
What are you both urgent and sincere about in your life? Urgent not because you are being selfish but because of the depth of your sincerity?
If you have seen the newer Karate Kid movie you know that a jacket on and off enough can teach a kid kung fu. Much like waxing cars, painting fences, and sanding decks. Depends on which era you grew up in.
Well I read a Scripture about armor on and armor off that I wanted to share.
The king of Israel answered, “Tell him: ‘One who puts on his armor should not boast like one who takes it off.'” 1Kings 20:11
This quote hit me. Why? It is great advice.
Our words before a battle is fought should sound very different than our words after a battle is won.
One of my biggest pet peeves in life is trash talk. I cannot stand it. I have always believed if you are really that good you should not need to tell anyone. Plus it is the epitome of poor sportsmanship. But this truth is much larger than sports and war.
You should guard your words before you go out. You never know what lies ahead. Often the humility necessary for success was lost before the endeavor ever began.
Acts 10-11 is an interesting story. Peter sees a vision of unclean animals (meaning animals that God had instructed his people not to eat in the Law). Peter was told by the Lord to get up, kill, and eat. He refused because he had always obeyed these laws. After the vision Peter finds out that some folks just showed up looking for him because God told them to come find him. He goes with them to a house of a Gentile and brings the Gospel to those outside of the Jewish nation. God is doing strange things in this portion of the book of Acts.
God breaks wide open the grace, love, and hope found in Jesus. Much of the prejudice and issue that Peter had to deal with were man made addition to the Laws of God while other sentiments were the misunderstanding of the Law. The Law was intended to set aside a holy people to God, but they became a way for the People of God to feel like they deserved that place with God…which they did not. The chosen people of God had always been intended to be a blessing to every nation…to all peoples. Yet they had chosen to simply be a blessing to themselves.
Unfortunately we still struggle to breakdown similar traditions in our lives today. We can get so caught up in what God has told us to do that we totally fail to be who God has called us to be. Faith becomes routine and meaningless.
So here are the main points from Sunday…
Lives that honor God are truth-focused not tradition-filled.
One of the saddest issues in Christianity today is that the world sees it through the lives of many people who simply honor the traditions of the faith but do not honor the truth it is based on. That is why they have such a low opinion and terrible understanding of the Gospel and Jesus. Please note that this is not a truth against having some traditions. We have some in our family like me cooking muffins every Sunday. It is church day and my kids know it is special because I make it so. But don’t just have a Sunday church attendance tradition in your life. Live a truth filled life that includes a Sunday tradition.
When we practice tradition without presenting the truth we set a trap.
We trap ourselves and those who come behind us. Statistically it is more likely that a child that does not hear about Jesus in their home will grow up to be a faithful follower of Christ than a child that grows up in a home of a lukewarm person professing a false version of Christianity.
Remember the practices of your life will always speak louder than the proclomations of your mouth.
Tradition breaking is typically seen as truth abandoning, initially.
When I began a church that was more modern in its strategy and music, I found out that some heard that I was liberal. Which, if you are around me long, you will know is pretty ridiculous. But people confused tradition with theology. An old song sung does not make for a conservative message preached.
So those are some lessons from this part of the narrative of the early church. It is a great story found in the book of Acts. I encourage you to read it all in one sitting. The story comes together but the reading takes some time.