No Greater Burden

Today’s reading is Acts 15.

James recommended and the congregation wrote in its letter to the Gentile congregations impacted by the men who had gone out from Jerusalem, that they would lay no greater burden on the Gentiles than to abstain from 1) what has been sacrificed to idols, 2) blood, 3) what has been strangled, 4) sexual immorality. Does James mean Gentile Christians can steal? Can we murder? Not at all. On a general level, the point is that just because the Gentiles are not amenable to the Law, doesn’t mean every legal stipulation of the Law has been abrogated by the gospel. In specific, James is addressing the major baggage the Gentile of his day had to face. No, they didn’t have to surrender to the Law, but they weren’t allowed to hang out in idolatry. They needed to flee it. They needed to get away from idolatry and abandon all its accoutrements. As we have seen on multiple occasions, converts often want to bring their baggage in with them. We need to drop our baggage at the door. Be devoted to Jesus. Get rid of everything else.

Today’s reading is Acts 15.

Continue reading “No Greater Burden”

Perspective Matters

Today’s reading is Acts 14.

In yesterday’s post, we talked about all the hardships Paul and Barnabas went through on this missionary journey. Today, notice the report they gave about it. “When they arrived and gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles.” The report wasn’t about all the Jews had done to them. It wasn’t about all the pain they had experienced. It wasn’t about all the suffering they went through. It wasn’t about all the rejection they faced. It was about the miracles and the acceptance of so many Gentiles. I don’t want to blow PMA smoke as if the key to success in any endeavor is simply to maintain a positive mental attitude. However, I think it is important to recognize when it comes to conviction, faithfulness, perseverance in the face of opposition and persecution, perspective matters. If we focus on the rejections and hardships, we’re going to give up. When we focus on the working of God and the doorway of faith that folks are actually walking through, we’ll stick with it. Paul had a persevering perspective. I want to develop one too. How about you?

Next week’s reading is Acts 15.

Continue reading “Perspective Matters”

Repentance that Leads to Life

Today’s reading is Acts 11.

Let’s face it. Acts 11:18 is weird. I mean, I would understand it more easily if they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted life.” Or “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted salvation.” Instead, they glorified God saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance.” Yes, they go on to point out that it is repentance that leads to life. But, for just a moment, stop and consider what was granted the Gentiles. They were not granted unconditional salvation. They were not granted unconditional life. Rather, God granted them access to the pathway that leads to life. They still had to choose to get on it. Gentiles are also allowed to repent. And when they do repent, they also get life. Since I am a Gentile, that is good news for me. Have you repented? Have you given your allegiance over to Jesus Christ? If we can help you with that, please, let us know in the comments below.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 11.

Continue reading “Repentance that Leads to Life”

Eating with the Uncircumcised

Today’s reading is Acts 11.

Conversions abound. A Samaritan sorcerer, an Ethiopian eunuch, the Priest’s persecutor all turn to the Lord. But when a Gentile receives the word of God, the circumcision party is having none of it. “How dare you?” they essentially say to Peter. “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.” Okay, wait a minute. Hold the phone. Gentiles have received the Word of God and the biggest concern on some of the Jewish Christian’s mind is “You ate with Gentiles”? Peter was just involved in a revolutionary moment of teaching and conversion, but the circumcision party can only think about the meal. They didn’t criticize him saying, “You baptized an uncircumcised man.” Or “You taught the Messiah to the uncircumcised.” Or, “You shared the Word of God with an uncircumcised family.” No, they were focused on the meal. That is, they were saying, “What you did can’t be right because it caused you to eat a meal with the uncircumcised. Whatever else happened, we know that simply isn’t allowed.” Wow! That’s a mountain made out of a molehill if there ever was one. Honestly, I understand the circumcision party questioning whether Gentiles were allowed to be part of the new covenant. That was a seismic shift. But it blows my mind that their biggest concern was about the meal. In their attempts to interpret and apply the Law faithfully, they had developed a custom that took on the face of Law, not only that, a Law that becomes the litmus test. It’s a reminder to me that we always need to make sure to keep the main thing the main thing. When we allow some small detail to become the all-encompassing litmus test, we may end up missing the true teaching of God. That is especially the case if the small detail is actually based on custom and not actually what is in the Scriptures. Thankfully, for all their unfounded criticism, it appears they listened to Peter’s defense and were swayed (at least for the time being). Perhaps that is an even better lesson. After all, we all have our preconceptions. We all have our longstanding habits. We all have our knee jerk reactions. We probably won’t get rid of those, not even realizing we have them until they raise their ugly heads. But when we have them, we can at least persevere long enough to listen and possibly learn. Sometimes, we will learn we were right all along. Other times, we will learn where we need to repent and change. But in either case we will be better disciples for the patience.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 11.

Continue reading “Eating with the Uncircumcised”

God Shows NO Partiality

Today’s reading is Acts 10.

“So Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I understand that God shows no partiality…” That is, Jesus didn’t die for Jews or Gentiles. He didn’t die for the rich or the poor. He didn’t die for the educated or the ignorant. He didn’t die for the American or the Russian. He didn’t die for the Republican or the Democrat. He didn’t die for the Capitalist or the Socialist. He died for everyone. He has no partiality. He doesn’t care who your parents are. He doesn’t care what town you grew up in. He doesn’t care what language you speak. He doesn’t care what is the color of your skin. He wants to save everyone. Of course, please note, Peter doesn’t say He will save everyone. Rather, in any nation, those who fear Him and do what is right will be acceptable to Him. Therefore, Cornelius can be saved by Jesus just as Peter can. You can be saved by Jesus just as I can. The conditions are the same for all and everyone can meet the conditions. The question is will you turn to Jesus? Will you fear the Lord and do what is right? Will you follow in Cornelius’s footsteps? If we can help you do so, please let us know in the comments section below.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 10.

Continue reading “God Shows NO Partiality”

Pick Christ Over Preconceptions

Today’s reading is Acts 10.

Peter had a preconception. It was actually a pretty good preconception. It was, after all, based on the Law. All kinds of animals, birds, and reptiles were unclean. He wasn’t supposed to “Rise, kill, and eat.” Not only that, Gentiles were unclean. He wasn’t supposed to go eat with them. However, in a threefold vision, Jesus explained the New Covenant had a different perspective on both of those things. The Law had been looking forward to a new kingdom, a new covenant, a new relationship with God based on the death of Jesus Christ, not based on the legal requirements of Moses’s Law. Jesus declared those foods clean. They were. Jesus declared Gentiles could be part of the covenant. They could. Now, Peter has a choice. He can either hang on to his preconceptions, arguing with Jesus (he had been known to do that before). Or he could accept Christ, follow what He said. Of course, Peter sets the right example for us. No matter how good and solidly based our preconceptions are, if they conflict with what Jesus reveals, then we need to choose Christ over our preconceptions. It’s just that simple. It may not be easy. Giving up our preconceptions rarely is. But it is just that simple.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 10.

Continue reading “Pick Christ Over Preconceptions”

Get Back Up When You Fall

Today’s reading is Acts 3.

Let’s think about the healed lame man for one more day. He responded to Peter in faith and accessed the healing grace of God meaning he could walk. He went walking, leaping, and praising God not just that day but for every day thereafter, knowing with every step he was walking because of God’s power and grace and not his own ability. No matter how he felt about the responsibilities of walking, he knew he had been healed, so he kept walking. And then…then the unthinkable happened. He tripped and fell. Who knows? Maybe he just stubbed his toe on a rock jutting out in the road. Maybe he simply got his feet tangled up with one another. Maybe some of the local kids made a game out of tripping up that old beggar man who used to be lame. However it happened, he is lying face down in the dust, that old familiar position. What do you think went through his mind in that moment? I can imagine what would go through my mind. “I knew it was too good to be true. I knew it couldn’t last.” But even with those fleeting thoughts, what did he need to remember? “I have been healed by the power of Jesus Christ. I’m a healed man. It is time for me to get back up and keep walking.” That is just like our salvation. We are going to trip. We are going to stumble. We are going to fall. For any number of reasons, we will find ourselves face down in the spiritual dust. And in that moment, Satan will whisper in our ears, “You knew it was too good to be true. You knew you couldn’t keep it up. You knew you couldn’t make it. You should just stay down here in the dirt and grime and filth of the ground with me.” But what do you need to do? You need to remember you are a healed Christian. You have been saved by the crucified blood of Jesus Christ. Your sins are washed away. You are healed. You need to get back up when you fall and walk like the healed Christian God has made you into. That is who you are. You aren’t the fallen sinner, you are the saved Christian. Get back up when you fall and walk like a healed Christian. Praise the Lord!

Next week’s reading is Acts 4.

Continue reading “Get Back Up When You Fall”