Pastor Adam taught that when faith and grace collide, it brings salvation. The law (rules about behavior) does not bring salvation or set us free. In fact, it demonstrates our need for a savior. Without Jesus and His free gift, we can never behave well enough or keep the law well enough to earn our way to heaven.
In chapter 15 of Acts, the church at Antioch was having an argument similar to those that still abound today. It sounds something like this: “If you are a Christian, you should _________” or “If you are a Christian, you should not _________.” The issue they faced was this: is something MORE than faith in Jesus required in order to be a Christian? This is an age old question and is still something people wrestle with today.
I invite you to join us in this week’s study as we examine the early church when Gentiles were first hearing and believing the story of Jesus and placing their faith in him. Most of the Jews in Antioch could not imagine that the Gentiles, and other new believers, were not going to be required to keep the same rules and regulations the Jews had been keeping for centuries. It was difficult for them to grasp that because of Jesus and His death on the cross, salvation is by GRACE and not about following rules and regulations. There is nothing we can “do” to be able to earn our way to Jesus and become a Christian.
INVITATION: Join us as we study the early church and look at how Christian leaders explain to the emerging church that they no longer have to bear a heavy weight and burdensome yoke as they seek to follow Jesus and live life as a believer.
MONDAY: Acts 15:1: In this verse, we see Christianity spreading and that many Gentiles have heard the good news and believed. Then, the we see some Jews begin teaching that they have to keep Jewish customs in order to be considered a true believer. As you search your heart, are there beliefs or behaviors that you might impose upon others that are not true to Scripture?
TUESDAY: Acts 15:2-12: Paul and Barnabas go to Jerusalem to speak to the apostles and elders regarding this dilemma. Do you feel free to bring up questions in your church? Are there people in authority at your church who are willing to hear your concerns and your questions?
WEDNESDAY: Acts 15:13-31: James (Jesus’ brother) tells stories of the people’s lives being changed when hearing the news about Jesus. James preaches that salvation comes through faith and grace and builds a case of who the Messiah is and that salvation comes through the Jews to the Gentiles. When the Jerusalem council met to deliberate and discern God’s will, they knew they needed the collective wisdom of the group. When the decision was finally delivered, the scripture states that “the people read it and were glad for its encouraging message.” Imagine a present day equivalent of the council is addressing a pressing issue in your life. How difficult would it be for you to consider the prayerful insights of others? Who are the “others” you would go to?
THURSDAY: Romans 3:23-24; Galatians 1:3-4: Paul points out that, regardless of how “nice” or “good” we feel we are, to be human is to be deeply and terminally flawed. God in Christ Jesus covers us perfectly and fully with righteousness – flaws and all. Jesus loves us so much that he redeemed us at the price of his own life. Imagine Jesus kneeling before you. He wants to pour out his love and grace to you. As a symbol of love and grace, he is pouring out water to wash your feet. As he gazes up at you with eyes of love and acceptance, what emotions do you experience? What will you say to him? What does Jesus say to you?
FRIDAY: Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:13-14: It is only through Jesus, and what He has done on our behalf, that we have redemption. Have you accepted the free gift of salvation in your life?
SATURDAY: I Corinthians 8: Many of the same issues that threatened to divide the Christian community in Corinth still plague us today. Inflated egos, choices based on personal preferences and perceptions, etc. The main challenge Paul proposes is that Christians are to be motivated first and foremost by love. Pastor Adam posed four questions to ask yourself when facing decisions: 1) Can I do this? Does Scripture have a yes or no or is there a law against it? 2) Should I do this? Just because you can do something does not mean you should. Is your conscience clear? Is there a check in your spirit? 3) What does my weakness require of me? Does it take you to a dark place? Doe it ignite triggers in you? Does it elevate itself above God in your life (such as a hobby)? 4) What does love require of you? Consider others around you. What is the right answer?