Grace Crashers

Have you ever stopped and wondered “Why do we do the things we do?”  For example, why do we push the elevator button multiple times? Do we not believe it is coming? Will it actually come faster? When women put on mascara, why do they always have their mouth open?  Why is it that doctors call what they do "practice"?  Why do Baptists do things the way they do? Do you realize that we love committees so much we have a committee set up just to set up committees!

The book of Acts tells the rather amazing story of how a group of ordinary people, laborers, tax collectors, and a few women started the largest religious movement in history. Never had a larger assignment been given to a less qualified group of people. After Jesus had risen, he gathered his ragtag group of disciples on the side of a mountain and said, “Your job is to spread this message and make disciples for me in every country in the world,” and then he ascents into heaven. You’ve got to think about what that was like. With this new movement spreading like wildfire across the world, something was bound to go wrong and they were bound to have some disagreements. 

Acts 15 tells of such an occasion and we see leadership's desire to “fix” the problem.  We see how this early community, filled with the Holy Spirit, spread the gospel message over the entire world and learned how to deal with difficulties that came up as a result. It’s not so much what they decided as how they decided it …

Acts 15
But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”

Jesus hadn’t given them a manual; they couldn't google it to figure out the process of handling disagreements.  But Jesus had given them the Holy Spirit to guide them. He gave them the zeal to start this new movement, the conviction to preserver even through adversity, and the love to carry each other’s burdens!  
Most of the new Christians were Jews who adhered to Jewish customs.

 [2] And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question.

This was a long trip for Paul and Barnabas… about 300 miles and its right in the middle of Paul’s missionary and writing career.  In the midst of this, Paul walks back to Jerusalem, because whatever is being discussed is so important he’s willing to come all the way back to Jerusalem to discuss it.

[6] The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. [7] And after there had been much debate, (that means, a lot of yelling) Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. [8] And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, [9] and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. [10] Now, therefore, why are you testing God by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?

Peter was a Jew, but with the more than 600 laws the Jews had added to the God-given law, Peter and his fellow Jews could not live up to the law. Peter is saying, if we could barely keep these laws, and we were born Jews, why would we project that burden onto the Gentiles?

[11] But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”
 None of these things could save us anyway. Faith in the finished work of Christ saved us! Not what we did; but faith in what he had done.
[12] And all the assembly fell silent, and (then) they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. [13] After they finished speaking, James (the half‐brother of Jesus) spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. 14 Simon has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles. 15The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:

 16 “‘After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, 17 that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’ 18 things known from long ago. 19
It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.

We should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Any obstacle we can eliminate, I think we should. Even preferences for things I really like; things I am comfortable with.

 First we need to think about why we are here …what have we been called to do, be, undertake. Second we need to ask the question … are we accomplishing this mission God has called us to undertake? Are we doing anything to reach lost souls or are we hindering lost souls? Are we doing ANYTHING?

We need to speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent! I will not hinder someone because of a simple tradition or preference!  Are you going to reach out to people this week?  Are you going to be a hindrance because of tradition or preference?  I pray that God always reveals to us the areas where we are sliding into our own traditions and
away from the Gospel of Grace.

In Him,
Pastor Boyd

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