Acts Series #27
Back to the Beginning:
When Church was Church
What My Grandfather Meant
Acts 15:6; 19-35
My Grandpa Patterson was a great man with a deep love and God and a deep love for righteousness
As a child while I loved my Grandfather, to me he was as much known for the things he was against as the things he was for.
He's a non-exhaustive list of some of my Grandfather's Don'ts
·1 Don't Dance
·2 Don't Drink
·3 Don't Go to Movies
·4 Ladies Don't Wear Pants
·5 Don't Play with Cards, Dice, or play Pool
Now some of those things were rules in MY house growing up and some of them were not but when we went to Grandpa's house we respected his rules even if we didn't understand his reasons.
As our boys were born and began visiting Grandpa's house we taught them to respect the preferences at Grandpa's house as well.
We would drive from Texas to their house and the boys would have their games etc in the car but if there were dice or cards they knew to leave those in the Minivan. Well one year we were leaving Grandpa's house and Grandma and Grandpa were in the doorway of the Garage waving goodbye and we were waving goodbye, Grandpa in his wheelchair, Grandma beside him. As we were waving and they were waving, 3 Year Old Bryan was waving from the back seat and something came over him, he knew the rules, he loved his Grandpa Patterson, but somewhere inside, the honesty and mischievousness intersected and Bryan thrust his Playing Card filled fist into the air and shouted "WE GOT CARDS" …. Well praise the Lord it was November and the windows were up and we were pulling out and Grandma and Grandpa continued to wave and we continued to wave as we laughed hysterically and fussed at Bryan, "put those down".
This type of list … well meaning and perhaps meaningful as it was … lost it's strength with my boys because they didn't understand it … Now I will say the 2 primary differences between my Grandfather and these men was 1) He knew JESUS … Well I'm not being ugly, I'm reading scripture. In Gal. 2:4 Paul talking about these men called them "False Brothers" he said that they had infiltrated the Christians for no other purpose than harm, deception, and destruction … My Grandfather knew and was committed to Christ 2) My Grandfather had at his heart a desire to help us and help people walk with Jesus in a meaningful, powerful, life-changing way and see the Gospel spread through the world unsullied by the things of the world
So … I'm going to come back to what My Grandfather meant, but let me begin making some observations from this Passage and come back around naturally to What My Grandfather meant and what the Church Leaders committed to God meant … and sought to achieve …
READ v 6 vv 19-35
1. Don't Make the Gospel More Difficult Than it Already Is
Don't make the Gospel something it is not.
What was wrong was NOT that they tried to teach them something about Christian living …
The Problem was that they tried to Attach something to Salvation.
This is NOT an appropriations Bill that we can add all our stuff too as long as God gets what HE wants.
We also need to differentiate between what God says and what man wants
What is the essence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ? The Gospel is Good news! The Bad News is that I am sinful in my very nature and my sin has separated me from God with NO REMEDY in myself or my goodness that can reconcile me with God. My account is overdrawn and cannot ever be made square. BUT the good news is that while I was still a sinner Christ died for me to reconcile me with God and the Gospel reveals a righteousness that I didn't even know could be achieved. It is not a GOODNESS that I can attain, but a righteousness that is found within a relationship with God through Christ Jesus in the power and working of the Holy Spirit. The Gospel, good news is that I can't attain this righteousness by my actions in the beginning, nor in the middle or to fs inish it. But first to last this righteousness is available ONLY through Faith.
The Gospel is that while all my righteousness is but filthy rags, God's righteousness is greater than the finest clothing ever made and it covers me and protects me
Now, why do we want to make this MORE difficult than it already is?
Is it difficult, yes and no. What's the difficult part, all we have to do is believe it, confess, it and receive it, right?
What is difficult is that in order to do this, we must humble ourselves. You see, in order to confess my sins, then we must by doing that admit that we cannot do it in and of ourselves.
The difficult thing is our PRIDE that says, I am good enough, God will take me like I am, I'm better than someone else. The difficult thing is humbling ourselves, confessing our sin, agreeing to make Jesus Lord, boss, of our lives.
That's Difficult enough all by itself!
When we make the Gospel Jesus + anything else we make it a burden
When we do this, we become no different than the Pharisees in Jesus' Day
Luke 11:46 … you experts of the law, woe to you because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them
Yet Jesus says in Matthew 11 my yoke is easy and my burden is light
Why, because he has borne the weight of the load we simply have to humble ourselves and come to him
Now … With that said, I am NOT saying that as believers … we do not have some responsibility for the way we live and I am not saying that teachers do not have a responsibility to teach …
James gives us an insight into this understanding in verse 21 - (READ)
That brings me to my second observation
2. God's People Have a Reputation worth paying attention to
we shouldn't be controlled by the perception of others BUT we don't want our exercise of freedom to become a hindrance to the presentation and proliferation of the gospel
James and the Church were passing on two important Biblical Commands and two less important but still significant personal convictions carried over from the Law.
The commands were against immorality and against idolatry.
The convictions from the law were regarding the way food was consumed that still had its blood. These two were no longer binding but could be detrimental to Unity and to spreading of the Gospel.
Why? Well the Unity side is obvious but notice what he says regarding the mission of the gospel … Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times …
What that says to me is that the world has expectations of us, they have expected distinctions.
I have long said that the world often expects more out of us as Christians than we do for ourselves.
We must be cautious that we do not in our immaturity exercise freedom and damage the spread of the gospel.
1 Cor 8:8-11 … food does not bring us near to God … 9 Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 10 For if anyone with a weak conscience see you who have this knowledge eating in an idol's temple, won't he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols? 11 So this weak brother, for whom Christ died is destroyed by your knowledge 12 when you sin against your brothers in this way … you sin against Christ 13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall
1 Cor 6:12 "Everything is permissible for me" - but not everything is beneficial - "Everything is permissible for me" - but I will not be mastered by anything
1 Cor 10:23 "Everything is permissible" - but not everything is beneficial. "Everything is permissible"- but not everything is constructive.
The cause of the gospel is more important than your freedom or my freedom
The good of the body is more important than my good or yours alone
My 3rd Observation today then for the Church who leads people to Christ alone for Salvation must encourage them to Live for Christ alone as well … that requires the understanding from the Church and New Convert that
3. Instruction in Righteousness is a Necessary Follow Up
Warren Wiersbe says that Church problems are not solved by passing resolutions but by practicing the revelations God gives us from his Word
Let's go back to the original issues
The Pharisees taught that they must be circumcised in order to be saved … Well THAT was untrue, but is there something true underneath?
That's what the church had to decide
What was the purpose of Circumcision in the first place?
Jesus wanted HIS PEOPLE to know that they were people of promise, people of purpose, and people of distinction and prominence and that was the purpose of circumcision to make them always mindful of that.
It was a reminder that they were a Holy People
Let me take you back to what My Grandfather Said and compare that to what I think he meant
·6 Don't Dance -
What he meant -- sexual temptation is great and you need to be watchful, cautious, don't put yourself in difficult situations
·7 Don't Drink
Don't be controlled by anything except the Holy Spirit - Eph 5:17,18 - … do not be foolish but understand what the Lord's will is 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.
My Grandfather was saying, when you allow something like that to control you, it leads you further away from God as opposed to the Spirit's control which will always lead you into God's will and God's Righteousness
·8 Don't Go to Movies
What he meant was two fold, 1) Avoid all appearance of evil and 2) Avoid False Teachers, those who train you in unrighteousness
·9 Ladies Don't Wear Pants
You are fearfully and wonderfully made by God with intention. Be the person that God made you to be. You are loved by your Father in heaven and you don't have to seek undue attention from someone else. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit dress it up right
·10 Don't Play with Cards, Dice, or play Pool
When he was coming up the only place to do those things were seedy places surrounded by bad influence and it was an attempt to build your hopes on a quick and easy fix and gain something you haven't earned.
What my Grandfather meant was be cautious of your environment, earn what you get there are no free meals, everything is going to cost you something, Place your hope and Trust in Christ alone
So does God expect us to be circumcised? YES
Roman 2:29 … a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God
What God means is I expect you to be set apart
A Lost Person doesn't Need instruction in Righteousness. Why? Because they are NOT righteous
But you can and we should train people indwelt by the Spirit of God, with the Righteousness of Christ imparted to them to live like it, live up to it and pass it along.
That is the purpose of the Word of God
2 Timothy 3:16,17 -The Word of God is living and active sharper than any double edged sword and is profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting, training in righteousness that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work
A Friend of mine used to say God loves you exactly like you are but he loves you TOO much to LEAVE you that way
What James did when he sent that letter and what he expected Paul, Barnabas and the other leaders to do was go back and ensure them that they were secure in Salvation through faith in Christ alone but that their new relationship with Christ held responsibility for them to walk in the Righteousness of Christ imparted to them by the Spirit
One final observation as I close
4. Discipleship is a Work in Progress that Requires Followup and Accountability
Paul and Barnabas remained … taught, preached, returned
I think I could preach a whole sermon right here but let me point out the process
It is the responsibility of the Church to Disciple and the Responsibility of the Believer to Submit to the process of discipleship
The Greek word is didasko (did-as-ko) - to teach, to hold discourse with others in order to instruct, to deliver didactic discourse - didactic (by the way) means designed to teach, to convey instruction as well as pleasure and entertainment - that tells me that Teaching doesn't have to be boring, but it has to involve discussion, and keep your attention
The word didasko also means to instill doctrine into one
Discipleship happens through Teaching
But also through
B. Preaching - that's the word euaggelizo (yoo-ang-ghel-id-zo) - which means to bring good news, to announce glad tidings, to proclaim the gospel
Discipleship needs the interaction and instruction of teaching but it also needs the urgency and proclamation of Preaching
But discipleship also requires
C. Returning / that is Accountability
In general we DO what we know someone is going to follow up on us
Paul and Barnabas returned to let them know that they cared, let them know that they were expecting them to live in the instruction that had received
If we want to grow in the Lord on a human level, we need to submit to the accountability of someone who will lovingly encourage us
Hebrews 10:23-25 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another … as you see the Day approaching
One thing I knew about my Grandfather is that to the Day he died, he longed with all his heart to see people come to faith in Christ, learn to walk in his way and glorify God with their life. His daily prayer for me was that I would serve and follow Christ.
And I know that the Desire of James and the Church was that the Gospel of Christ be spread throughout the world and Believers follow the pattern of Christ.
Trust And Obey
When walk with the Lord
In the Light of his Word
What a Glory he sheds on our way
While we do his good will
He abides with us still
And with all who will trust and obey
But we never can prove
The delights of his love
Until all on the altar we lay
For the favor he shows
And the joy he bestows
Are for them who will trust and obey
Trust and obey
For there's no other way
To be happy in Jesus
But to trust and obey