ACTS – The Acts of God
Remember the old chorus…And they’ll know we are Christians by our….rules and cultural traditions? Outsiders looking in might think so. We are guilty still as God’s people to “train” new believers in our ways, following our traditions, following all our man-made cultural unspoken rules as we out-god God in transforming them to be like us. Yikes! It is no wonder some fall away. The club down the street has less rules and regulations to follow!
“Wear what we wear” we subtly say by our actions. “We have jewelry, t-shirts and other stuff that tells others we are Christians…you’ll want to get that”. “We read only this translation of the Bible…you’ll want to get that, too”. “Don’t worry, we will teach you our songs because that’s the right music to sing”. “We will even cue you as to when to raise your hands, stand, sit and pray”. Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our….? How do we fill in the blanks today?
There was a disagreement in the Jewish ranks about the new “pagan converts” (oxymoron??) over following the tradition of circumcision mandated by the Law of Moses. Jesus didn’t go over this in his teaching, He only sought the lost, died and rose again to save them from the sin that destroyed their souls and separated people from God. You know, the “basics”. He also taught us how to love each other. This was the New Covenant. He taught the greatest commandment above all: Love God. Love others in the extreme way God loves us.
Above all, don’t out-god…God! Peter’s words are perfect for solving the issue at hand in a powerful, loving way. Read and reflect and be blessed.
Acts 15, The Message
To Let Outsiders Inside
15 1-2 It wasn’t long before some Jews showed up from Judea insisting that everyone be circumcised: “If you’re not circumcised in the Mosaic fashion, you can’t be saved.” Paul and Barnabas were up on their feet at once in fierce protest. The church decided to resolve the matter by sending Paul, Barnabas, and a few others to put it before the apostles and leaders in Jerusalem.
3 After they were sent off and on their way, they told everyone they met as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria about the breakthrough to the non-Jewish outsiders. Everyone who heard the news cheered—it was terrific news!
4-5 When they got to Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas were graciously received by the whole church, including the apostles and leaders. They reported on their recent journey and how God had used them to open things up to the outsiders. Some Pharisees stood up to say their piece. They had become believers, but continued to hold to the hard party line of the Pharisees. “You have to circumcise the pagan converts,” they said. “You must make them keep the Law of Moses.”
6-9 The apostles and leaders called a special meeting to consider the matter. The arguments went on and on, back and forth, getting more and more heated. Then Peter took the floor: “Friends, you well know that from early on God made it quite plain that he wanted the pagans to hear the Message of this good news and embrace it—and not in any secondhand or roundabout way, but firsthand, straight from my mouth. And God, who can’t be fooled by any pretense on our part but always knows a person’s thoughts, gave them the Holy Spirit exactly as he gave him to us. He treated the outsiders exactly as he treated us, beginning at the very center of who they were and working from that center outward, cleaning up their lives as they trusted and believed him.
10-11 “So why are you now trying to out-god God, loading these new believers down with rules that crushed our ancestors and crushed us, too? Don’t we believe that we are saved because the Master Jesus amazingly and out of sheer generosity moved to save us just as he did those from beyond our nation? So what are we arguing about?”
12-13 There was dead silence. No one said a word. With the room quiet, Barnabas and Paul reported matter-of-factly on the miracles and wonders God had done among the other nations through their ministry. The silence deepened; you could hear a pin drop.
13-18 James broke the silence. “Friends, listen. Simeon has told us the story of how God at the very outset made sure that racial outsiders were included. This is in perfect agreement with the words of the prophets:
After this, I’m coming back;
I’ll rebuild David’s ruined house;
I’ll put all the pieces together again;
I’ll make it look like new
So outsiders who seek will find,
so they’ll have a place to come to,
All the pagan peoples
included in what I’m doing.
“God said it and now he’s doing it. It’s no afterthought; he’s always known he would do this.
19-21 “So here is my decision: We’re not going to unnecessarily burden non-Jewish people who turn to the Master. We’ll write them a letter and tell them, ‘Be careful to not get involved in activities connected with idols, to guard the morality of sex and marriage, to not serve food offensive to Jewish Christians—blood, for instance.’ This is basic wisdom from Moses, preached and honored for centuries now in city after city as we have met and kept the Sabbath.”
22-23 Everyone agreed: apostles, leaders, all the people. They picked Judas (nicknamed Barsabbas) and Silas—they both carried considerable weight in the church—and sent them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas with this letter:
From the apostles and leaders, your friends, to our friends in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia:
24-27 We heard that some men from our church went to you and said things that confused and upset you. Mind you, they had no authority from us; we didn’t send them. We have agreed unanimously to pick representatives and send them to you with our good friends Barnabas and Paul. We picked men we knew you could trust, Judas and Silas—they’ve looked death in the face time and again for the sake of our Master Jesus Christ. We’ve sent them to confirm in a face-to-face meeting with you what we’ve written.
28-29 It seemed to the Holy Spirit and to us that you should not be saddled with any crushing burden, but be responsible only for these bare necessities: Be careful not to get involved in activities connected with idols; avoid serving food offensive to Jewish Christians (blood, for instance); and guard the morality of sex and marriage.
These guidelines are sufficient to keep relations congenial between us. And God be with you!
Think about it…
–You have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
–“Be responsible for the bare necessities”… “basic wisdom”, those sins that can harm us physically and emotionally forever and worship of idols that distracts our worship and allegiance to God.
–We do not have to become Jews to become Christians. Christians’ goal is to become Christ-like as the word indicates.
–We are not to become like each other, either. We are to strive to become more like Christ.
–Mature believers should be pointing to the Perfection of the pattern of living as lived by Jesus Christ.
–We are not God. We are not Jesus. We do not save anyone. Only Jesus saves.
–Does this mean we keep doing what we’ve always done and just add our salvation in Jesus Christ to our life? No, Jesus gives us a new life with new desires. The old ways are gone. His Holy Spirit will guide our thoughts and actions into this new way of living that produces new fruit, the fruits of God’s Holy Spirit. Love, joy, peace, gentleness, patience,
And they know we are Christians by our LOVE. Christ now lives in us. His Spirit comforts, guides, convicts, challenges and directs like no one else can. Our continued transformation is accomplished by Christ alone. We can build each other up and encourage each other to stick with Christ, but it is Christ who does the work within us.
Yes, they know we are Christians by our love.
In Jesus Name, Amen