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Blessed Are The Pure in Heart
"The Sermon on the Mount" is the first of five major discourses in the Gospel of Matthew. In this sermon, Jesus gives us another powerful statement on the fruit of those who allow the Holy Spirit to work in their lives.
He gives us one of the most important themes found in Scripture, "Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God." (Matthew 5: 8)
Purity of heart is the main thrust of true Christianity. "Surely you desire truth in the inner parts..." (Psalms 51: 6) The pure in heart are those whose minds, motives, affections and principles have been cleansed by faith in Christ and through the washing of rebirth. (Titus 3: 5) They seek to not only have their external actions corrected, but they desire to be holy in heart. They know that although man looks on the outward appearance, God looks into a man's heart. (Galatians 2: 6; Samuel 16: 7) The pure in heart care nothing for such sights that lead man into sin.
Anyone who is single-mindedly pursuing the kingdom of God and His righteousness in God's way will be inwardly pure. Inward sham, deceit, and moral sin cannot coexist with heartfelt devotion to Christ. This Beatitude destroys hypocrisy.
Pastor Henry Booth writes, "According to the nature and character of the fountain will be the character of the stream. The heart may be compared to a reservoir which supplies a large town with its hundreds of streets and thousands of pipes. If the water be pure in the reservoir it will be conveyed in its purity through the pipes to the inhabitants; but if turbid there, it will be impure at its destination. The heart is the reservoir from which life flows. The mouth, hands, feet, looks, actions, etc. are the pipes. If the heart is pure, purity will be manifested in life."
The pure in heart will see God. The greatest happiness to a Christian is the fact that someday he will see Christ face to face in the beauty of His holiness. None but the pure in heart will be able to look upon the face of God. What pleasure could an unrepentant soul have in the vision of a holy God? God cannot behold iniquity, nor can the impure stand to look upon God's purity. The unclean will never enter into God's dwelling place.
The Bible says, "I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to what his deeds deserve." (Proverbs 17: 10)
Only the blood of Christ can cleanse you from sin. Receiving Jesus Christ as personal Savior and Lord will put you under His blood and your sins will be covered, forgotten and cleansed, causing you to become a new creature in Christ. This will turn you from sin-centeredness and self-centeredness to God and Christ-centeredness. This is the blessedness of becoming pure in heart.
Those who cry out to God as king David did in Psalm 51: 10, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me," they will see God.
Call upon Christ today and He will forgive you and give you a fresh clean start before God. He will purify your heart so that the sins that desire to consume and destroy you will no longer have dominion in your life. Purity of heart and victory over sin will be found only in Jesus Christ!
Sermon Central Staff
ADULTERY and IVAN THE TERRIBLE
We need to look at adultery in the light of the manifestations of Ivan the Terrible in order to see how his rise to power, his government, his exploits and his fall closely compare with occurrences connected with adultery. Ivan the Terrible made an impact on Europe and Asia; he lived in the 16th century from 1530 to 1584.
Ivan the Terrible became a czar of Russia, an Asian country, at a rather young age of seventeen (he spent thirty-seven years in power). People who are trapped in the sin of adultery will likely have had a seed of sexual immorality sown in their early life; for instance, the seed of pornography (indulging in the picture of naked people) is a common but unnoticed example which opens the door for unclean spirits to enter a person through the eyes. You should teach your children to expose such ungodly literature to you, that is the only way you may ever get to know if they had access to pornography right under your nose. You should also buy them religious and godly literature. As a preacher said in a message titled Thunders of Revelation 8, "Lust of the eye brings about the lust of the flesh."
Adultery always tries to lay a strong foundation from the outset: Ivan called a council at the age of nineteen to strengthen the autocracy-- an absolute government by one person. Several witchcraft techniques can be used in an attempt to sustain the adulterous relationship such that you cannot just talk someone out of it in such cases. The cage of adultery will remain except focused fasting and prayer is used against it; this is because spiritual deposits can be placed at the ribs or food can be charmed in order to maintain the caging power.
Ivan won control of the Volga River and its trade links with the east in 1552. The Volga River is often called Mother Volga by the Russians and is thought of as the life blood of Russia. Adultery will not only win control of finances by channeling it to the sin partner, but will also bring his cousins-- wastage and devourer (appears as a bear in the spirit)-- which swallow funds unnecessarily.
Just as Ivan recovered from illness to punish plotters for appointing czar designate in the year 1553, adultery will even go beyond that to destroy any rivals competing for the game (the victim-cum-sin partner) not minding whether the rivals would be of similar spiritual orientation or incline.
Livonia was invaded and Estonia also fell to Ivan’s armies in 1558 as he also turned to terrorism. That is how many lose their homes to strange seducers of their husbands or wives as the adultery becomes firmly rooted. A reign of terror called oprichnina was organized by Ivan in 1564; similarly, after a while, one of the partners committing the sin changes from being soft to become harsh, and will tend towards destruction of the life of the weaker partner who would have less spiritual power or is lukewarm in faith or is just neutral concerning spiritual strength.
Ivan was also notorious for killing his wife. He also killed Adashev and imprisoned priest Sylvester, who were both members of his privy Council. He killed magnates whose land or power he wanted to have; he killed the next Ivan who was to take over from him. "... can a man scoop fire into his lap without his clothes being burned?... so is he who sleeps with another man’s wife; no-one who touches her will go unpunished." - Proverbs 6:24. "All at ones he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter like a deer stepping into a noose till an arrow pierces his liver." - Ezekiel 16:32. "Do not let such a woman win your heart... if you go to her house, you are on the way to the world of the dead. It is a shortcut to death," - Proverbs 7:25-27. Those who will die in adultery would wonder, in regret and in grieve, how they let this after-all worthless act get them into eternal punishment because they will be unable then to reconcile with God.
Ivan made Moscow a major power in eastern Europe and supervised Russia’s expansion to the east. Today, there has also been a major disintegration in that region. Typical of Ivan’s long reign, adultery could last a very long time if it is not arrested in time.
--From a sermon by Obioha Amanze, Adultery the Terrible, 6/26/2012
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - His good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:1, 2)
The true worshiper of Christ determines God's good, pleasing and perfect will for his life, not through the latest religious fad, but through sacrificial living for the Lord. Obedient Christians are sacrificing self and sin, and have chosen to enter the narrow gate and walk the narrow path which leads to that abundant and eternal life promised by Jesus Christ. (Matthew 7: 13)
One must be careful not to run with men who are lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, unholy and without self-control. The Bible says have nothing to do with them. For you will stay uncontrolled, conceited, and a lover of pleasure rather than a lover of God. You would end up with a form of godliness yet denying God's power. (2 Timothy 3:2-5) You will find yourself committing sins which are obviously acts of the sinful nature. (Galatians 5: 19 - 21) You will join those who will not put up with sound doctrine and gather around yourself teachers who will tell you what your itching ears want to hear. (2 Timothy 4: 3)
However, you could choose to accept Jesus Christ to be both Savior and Lord, thus discovering His forgiveness, love, and empowering through the Holy Spirit to overcome self-centeredness and sin-centeredness. Those who do have seen marriages reconciled, been delivered from chemical dependencies (alcohol and drugs) and are known to be over-comers. Their testimonies reflect a relationship with Jesus Christ, a changed life.
The first step in understanding Biblical change is to agree with what Jesus said causes mankind to sin. "For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and makes a man unclean." (Mark 7: 21 - 23) The circumstances around man do not cause him to sin, it is what is in the heart of man that causes him to sin.
Dr. Jim Berg uses the illustration of a tea bag to help us understand that it is not financial, social, medical, or circumstantial pressures that causes man to sin. When a tea bag is put into hot water, the water activates the tea in the bag, unleashing its taste into the water around it. The hot water doesn't create the taste, it merely reveals, or draws out, what is in the tea bag. The circumstances around you only reveal what is still in your heart. If you don't like the flavor of the tea, then you must change the ingredient within the bag, or rather your heart.
Your either making bitter tea or tea that is pleasing to God. In view of the price paid for your sins at Calvary, I urge you to look to Christ. Only He can bring about Biblical change.
Evangelism Quotes and Illustrations
1. Paul Harvey said, "Too many Christians are no longer fishers of men but keepers of the aquarium."
2. Paul Little in his book "How to Give Away Your Faith" defines witnessing: "Witnessing is that deep-seated conviction that the greatest favor I can do for others is to introduce them to Jesus Christ."
3. Elton Trueblood, the Quaker scholar, once compared evangelism to fire. Evangelism occurs, he said, when Christians are so ignited by their contact with Christ that they in turn set other fires. It is easy to determine when something is aflame. It ignites other material. Any fire that does not spread will eventually go out. A church without evangelism is a contradiction in terms, just as fire that does not burn is a contradiction.
4. Evangelism is not what we tell people, unless what we tell is totally consistent with who we are. It is who we are that is going to make the difference. If we do not truly enjoy our faith, nobody is going to catch the fire of enjoyment from us. If our lives are not totally centered on Christ, we will not be Christ-bearers for others, no matter how pious our words. [Show and Tell, Citation: Madeleine L’Engle, quoted in Christian Reader (May/June 1998, p. 50)]
5. Recently, I saw a letter written by a relatively new Christian to the person whose life had influenced hers so greatly. She actually lists about a dozen qualities she found contagious in the life of this older Christian. Listen to some of what she wrote: You know when we met; I began to discover a new vulnerability, a warmth, and a lack of pretence that impressed me. I saw in you a thriving spirit - no signs of internal stagnation anywhere. I could tell you were a growing person and I liked that. I saw you had strong self-esteem, not based on the fluff of self-help books, but on something a whole lot deeper. I saw that you lived by convictions and priorities and not just by convenience, selfish pleasure, and financial gain. And I had never met anyone like that before. I felt a depth of love and concern as you listened to me and didn’t judge me. You tried to understand me, you sympathized and you celebrated with me, you demonstrated kindness and generosity - and not just to me, but to other people, as well. And you stood for something. You were willing to go against the grain of society and follow what you believed to be true, no matter what people said, and no matter how much it cost you. And for those reasons and a whole host of others, I found myself really wanting what you had. Now that I’ve become a Christian, I wanted to write to tell you I’m grateful beyond words for how you lived out your Christian life in front of me.
Basically, she was saying, "Thanks for being a Contagious Christian." Reading a letter like that motivates me to live as a contagious Christian too. How about you? I’ll bet you want your life to count for a whole lot more than trinkets and toys and zeros on a pay check, too. From: Becoming A Contagious Christian
6. Recently I heard Dieter Zander, the pastor of the first GenX church in America speak at a conference about reaching people in the age of relativism. He cited a Barna study that asked people to use single words to describe Jesus. They responded, "wise, accepting, compassionate, gracious, humble." Then he asked them to use single words to describe Christians, they said, "critical, exclusive, self righteous, narrow and repressive."
"There is a difference between knowing the good news and being the good news," Zander said. "We are the evidence! How we live our lives are the evidence. Everything counts--all the time."
"With previous generations, a strong preacher could give a good message, even if the church was hypocritical and critical and people would still get saved," Zander continued, "but not any more. I’m seeing a change in what seekers are looking for. Not something they can relate to. They are looking for a transcendent God. They don’t want to be entertained they want to be transformed."
7. There is something wrong when people are leaving the church to find God
8. "It is our privilege to have world evangelism as a passion, not our responsibility to have as a burden." Mary Nordstrom
9. Jim Wallis writes in The Call to Conversion (HarperCollins, 1992, p.
108) his testimony: "When I was a university student, I was unsuccessfully evangelized by almost every Christian group on campus. My basic response to their preaching was, "How can I believe when I look at the way the church lives?" They answered, "Don’t look at the church, look at Jesus." I now believe that statement is one of the saddest in the history of the church. ...People should be able to look at the way we live and begin to understand what the gospel is about."
10. "Our English word witness comes from an Old English word we do no use very much anymore but we used it in Elizabethan times and afterwards. It is the word wit. ’To wit’ means ’to know’ A ’wit’ is ’a knowledgeable person.’ So a ’witness’ of some who knows something and testifies to it."
11. A free flowing river purifies itself and is alive with life. So also is the Christian who becomes involved with others in sharing the Gospel. That Christian will discover the reason for his or her existence. Being involved in the ministry of a witness is essential to finding the fulfillment we desire as humans.
12. Richard Baxter, the Puritan preacher of the 17th century conveys the urgency, the zeal of Christian witness when he said, "I preached as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men!"
13. Jesus issues the same call to all, but to different tasks. Someone put it rather quaintly: "to some, Christ calls ’leave boat and bay, and white-haired Zebedee.’" To some, the call is harder - "stay and mend the nets for me."
14. CT STUDD: "wealthy, nationally famous athlete put it all aside to disappear into the mission field: China, India, and then Africa. Lost from sight for 13 yrs without contact. WHY? ’Some people love to dwell near church with choir and steeple bell. But I want to run a rescue station a yard from the gates of hell.’"
15. Alexander Whyte said, " It would change your whole heart and life this very (day) if you would take Peter and Cornelius home with you and lay them both to heart. If you would take a four cornered napkin when you get home, and a.. Pen and ink and write the names of the nations, and the churches, and the denominations, and the congregations, and the ministers, and the public figures (men), and the private citizens, and the neighbors, and the fellow-worshippers - all the people you dislike, and despise and do not, cannot, and will not, love. Heap all their names into your unclean napkin, and then look up and say, ’Not so, Lord, I neither can speak well, nor think well, of these people. I cannot do it and I will not try. If your acted out and spa...
Trouble in the Church
I. Decision 15:1-4
A. Men 15:1
B. Method 15:2
C. Messages 15:3-4
II. Demand 15:5-6
A. Demands 15:5
B. Deliberations 15:6
III. Declaration 15:7-12
A. Choice 15:7
B. Comparison 15:8-9
C. Conversion 15:10-12
Peter had seen the grace of God fall upon the Gentile believers when he went to minister at the home of Cornelius, the Roman centurion in Caesarea. He did not demand that they keep the Mosaic Law, and this had generated opposition from Judaizers in Jerusalem (Acts 10:1-18). Paul and Barnabas had seen the grace of God fall upon Gentile believers when they ministered in many lands during their first missionary journey (Acts 13:42-43, 48; 14:23).
The Judiazers, who came up from Jerusalem to harass Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria threatened to split the church there. A delegation composed of Paul, Barnabas, and others were chosen to go to Jerusalem to get a ruling from the apostles and elders on this matter. The church council which resulted produced a clear decision favoring salvation by faith alone, apart from the works of the law. Gentiles have benefited from it ever since.
Do you realize that most Christians in the world today are Gentiles? That was not the case in the early days of the church. Most believers at that time were Jews who had been convinced that Jesus was their long-awaited Messiah and Savior. It was through the ministry of men like Paul, Barnabas, and others that Gentile converts began to outnumber Jewish converts. Controversy was bound to happen and it would take a decision by the church leaders in Jerusalem to resolve it.
I. DECISION 15:1-4
A. Men: 1 And certain men which came down from Judea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.
Paul and Barnabas had just returned and finished giving their report of the hundreds of souls saved and the starting of many churches.
Satan heard what was going on and did not this progress to continue and did everything in his power to hinder this work that had begun.
At this point “certain men came down from Jerusalem” and tried to pull everyone else down with them.
Who were these men? Jews from Jerusalem labeled Judaizers, meaning that they expected even Gentile believers to be governed by Judaism (law). They taught that physical circumcision after the Jewish manner and Mosaic Law was required for men to be saved from their sins.
This was an attempt to mix law with grace and works and faith. They said, ”Except ye be circumcised, ye cannot be saved.” (v1)
Where did these “certain men” come up with this idea? God Himself. Exodus 12:48 – “And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land: for no uncircumcised person shall eat thereof.”
To share in the Passover, one had to make themselves part of the people of Israel. Receiving the covenant of circumcision and taking Passover were all part of the same package.
Perhaps these men from Jerusalem were sincere and devout. They may have said, “This is the way we have always done it, and we are not about to change now!” To these “certain men” the way into the Church led through the door of Judaism.
The most unspiritual are usually the greatest sticklers about form and ritual. There counterparts can be found in the world today, and we need to be on guard against them.
These nameless men, which disturbed the peace of the church with this controversy, were the forefathers of a group still in existence, who are not known for their spirituality or success in the Lord’s work, but who are ever-ready to put those in their place who ARE being greatly used and blessed by God.
Today we have those who are saying, "Unless you have been baptized after the manner of the Church of Christ, you are not saved." Others who are saying, "Unless you have been baptized in the name of Jesus only, you are not saved."
These are the same types of people as came to the church in Antioch.
a. The one is preaching circumcisional regeneration.
b. The other is teaching baptismal regeneration.
c. Both are teaching salvation by rituals.
A ritual is a work, thus both teach salvation by works.
There are those who say that if you do not worship on Saturday, you are not saved. They declare that Sunday worship is the mark of the beast. This also is salvation by works.
Here is the pivot point. Must I do something other than believe and repent in order to be saved? God alone has the power to save us from our sin. There is nothing we can do to merit salvation.
B. Method: v2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.
We are not told the specific things said as Paul and Barnabas argued with the Judaizers from Jerusalem.
The author tells us that there was “no small dissension” after these heated discussions reached an impasse, it was decided in Antioch that an appeal be made to ah higher authority for resolution.
Paul, Barnabas, and others were chosen to go to Jerusalem. It can only be assumed that Judaizers agreed to this and may have gone on home.
In the early days of the church, the Judaizers did not deny the facts of the Gospel, for there were too many witnesses. The question arose then over the interpretation of the facts.
Though dispute and debate were undesirable, the presence of serious doctrinal error made it necessary. There are times when the absolutes of the Gospel must be defended.
See the Church – divided – torn by disputation – yet still reached a resolution.
C. Messages: v3-4 And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy unto all the brethren.  And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them.
It appears that members of the Antioch church escorted the delegation during the first part of the trip toward Jerusalem or at least helped finance the journey.
As they traveled the overland trip southward, Paul and the others stopped at various places to meet with the “brethren” sharing the news of the Gentile conversions. The response was one of excitement and joy.
These messages were but a prelude to the message given by the delegation from Antioch after they reached Jerusalem.
When they got to Jerusalem, “They were received of the Church and the apostles and elders.”
Opportunity was given to report their message on “all things that God had done with them.”
Paul and the others had the opportunity to tell all, to let everybody know of the Judaizers who had come down to harass these Gentile converts. But they said nothing of the Judaizers, they did not attack them, there was no reference to the dispute brought by those who objected to salvation by grace through faith.
Today we would have told everything we knew and made up the rest.
It is always good to hear reports of what God is doing in the lives of people.
II. Demand Acts 15:5-6
A. Demands: v5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.
It is interesting to see that there were some super-conservative Pharisees in Judaism who cam to believe in Jesus as the Messiah.
Still, there were some so entrenched and indoctrinated in Judaism that they could not leave it behind and embrace Christianity.
The moral principles found in the law were required for Christians, but the ceremonial principles fulfilled by Christ were no longer binding on them. The Judaizers could not or would not accept this and battle lines were drawn.
They wanted to add something to the Gospel, something that had worked for them before. But whenever you add something to the Gospel you no longer have the Gospel but now you have a religion.
Paul, who had been a Pharisee, saw things differently. Why?
B. Deliberation: v6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter.
“The apostles and elders came together” – Church leaders heard the demands of the Judaizers and the reports of the missionaries, and they decided to hold a council to resolve the matter.
The outcome was crucial to the continued success and expansion of the Gospel to the world.
If the Judaizers had their way, missionary work would have been hampered, shut down, or possibly a split would have taken place.
III. Declaration Acts 15: 7-12
A. Choice: V7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.
We are not told specifically if the apostles met in private or in public for this counsel. There were evidently differences of opinion among them for there was much arguing that took place over this issue.
Peter, who at one point may have had these same feelings and ideas, saw first hand what God did among the Gentiles. How that God poured out His Spirit on all people.
Peter stood up and reviewed the fact that God had chosen him to go to the Gentiles at Caesarea and give them the Gospel so that they might be saved.
It had already been agreed upon by the Church that God had opened the door of salvation to the Gentiles by faith apart from the Mosaic Law.
This matter had been settled nearly ten years before when God led Peter to Cornelius’ house. Sometimes you will never realize why God led you through something until time is right.
This was probably not the first time Peter had spoken on this issue. Can you imagine Peter sitting back quietly, patiently, waiting for his turn, while this heated discussion was taking place?
The Council would listen to Simon Peter because he himself was considered a Jew among Jews. He said of himself, he had never eaten anything unclean, and he would have never considered the thought of entering the house of a Gentile.
Peter stuck as close to the Mosaic Law as any other.
Now he testifies that the Gentiles had heard the Gospel from his own lips and had believed.
They were saved by grace through faith. Peter himself had to learn that salvation was not decided by whether ones eats meat or doesn’t eat meat. Whether one eats pork or doesn’t eat pork.
Salvation was not and is not dependent on observation of the Sabbath or Sunday on any other day.
B. Comparison: v8-9
v8 = And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us;
Peter reminds them of the fact that God knows the heart of all men, Jew and Gentile.
See that God’s knowledge of the heart is:
V9 = And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith.
Peter rose up and addressed the Council as one clothed in the authority of God. Peter spoke up addressing what his eyes had seen of the power of the Gospel among the Gentiles and how God had “given them the Holy Ghost, even as He had did to us.”
Does Peter say that their hearts were purified by keeping the law? NO! By going through a ceremony? NO! By joining a church? NO! Peter says if was by FAITH!
“God had put no difference between us and them”, said Peter. They were just as welcome to the grace of Christ as the Jews. Where did this come from, his vision of the sheet and the clean and unclean animals.
“Purifying their hearts by faith” = Peter shows how the heart is purified: “By faith.”
So, it would stand to reason. if they were purified by faith, then there was no need to be purified by submitting to ceremonies found in the Mosaic Law.
As a Christian, we are not only saved by faith, we are made pure by faith.
When we are saved, we are justified, and our hearts are purified, and we begin the process of being sanctified.
If your heart is purified by faith, you are being sanctified (or set apart) to resemble others like you. We resemble one another so that whatever the difference we may have between us, there is nothing to keep us apart.
C. Conversion: v10-12
V10 = Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?
The law was a yoke which neither their fathers nor them were able to bear up under.
Had the children of Israel been able to follow ALL the rules, regulations, and requirements?
V11 = But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
Peter, as Bro. Randy says, “put the jelly on the very bottom shelf.”
= Some of you need to quit trying to keep a law that was fulfilled.
= Some of you need to quit trying to carry around a yoke that was never designed to carry.
= Some of you need to quit trying to trust in yourself and what you can do.
> Believe that through the grace of Jesus Christ we can all be saved.
V12 = Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had wrought among the Gentiles by them.
There was great silence in the courtroom when Paul and Barnabas finished speaking.
The river of God’s grace is too broad to flow through the narrow minded channel of man’s pride, prejudice, and presumption.
THE LESSON FOR TODAY
These Jews had a problem that is common to all of us. They were more comfortable with others who shared their point of view. They were willing to bend enough to allow the Gentiles to come into the church, but they wanted the Gentiles to become more like them first.
We also tend to be more comfortable with people who will become more like us before they come into our fellowship. I myself do not feel comfortable in a place where they is a lot of emotional show. I realize that there are places where you will never hear an “AMEN”, hear where you will hear “Sic’em Preacher.”
Another lesson we need to learn from this passage is that can be vigorous differences of opinion and they can be strongly expressed without destroying the fellowship of the body of Christ.
The Church at Jerusalem is an example to us in the way differences should be handled. They did not panic but called for calm consideration. They were clear on the fact that the admission of the Gentiles was not a debatable matter. It was a matter of the revelation of God and could not be debated. However, what should be expected of new converts was a matter of legitimate difference of opinion and could be strongly argued.
Even severe controversies can often be settled without alienation. Some principles that will help us are:
1) Areas of agreement should be carefully sorted out. Both Jew and Gentile in this passage could rejoice at the advancement of the Gospel.
2) A determination should be made of what differences can be tolerated with violating the very fundamentals of the faith. There are some things that all of us can tolerate in others that we ourselves would not do.
3) All possible concessions should be made to another’s opinion in a spirit of Christian charity. We must go beyond what we see the requirements to be to allow others an area of grace.
Max Lucado, in his book In the Eye of the Storm, tells the story of Chippie the Parakeet. He writes:
"Chippie the Parakeet never saw it coming. One second he was peacefully perched in his cage. The next he was sucked in, washed up, blown over.
The problems began when Chippie’s owner decided to clean Chippie’s cage with a vacuum cleaner. She removed the attachment from the end of the hose and stuck it in the cage. The phone rang, and she turned to pick it up. She’d barely said ‘hello’ when ‘sssopp!’ Chippie got sucked in.
The bird owner gasped, put down the phone, turned off the vacuum, and opened the bag. There was Chippie—still alive, but stunned.
Since the bird was covered with dust and soot, she grabbed him and raced to the bathroom, turned on the faucet, and held Chippie under the running water. Then, realizing that Chippie was soaked and shivering, she did what any compassionate bird owner would do . . . she reached for the hair dryer and blasted the pet with hot air.
Poor Chippie never knew what hit him.
A few days after the trauma, the reporter who’d initially written about the event contacted Chippie’s owner to see how the bird was recovering. ’Well,’ she replied, ’Chippie doesn’t sing much anymore—he just sits and stares.’
It’s hard not to see why. Sucked in, washed up, and blown over . . . that’s enough to steal the song from the stoutest heart."
I suspect that all...