Summary: Part 6 of "Being the Church," focusing on the crucial importance of letting God have His way in the life of a church.
Stephen N. Collins
Being the Church
Part 6: Getting Out of God’s Way
Scripture: Acts 11:1-18
Icebreaker: I can’t hardly stand to wear my contacts anymore. So when I got my new, thick, black-rimmed glasses, I got them because I wanted something modern and stylish that I wouldn’t be embarrassed wearing. It was a pretty big change for me, so I was anticipating what others would say about them. As soon as I walked in the door when I got back home that day, my mom says, “Oh, I love them!” And my sisters says, “Ehhhh.” When I started wearing them to church, one of my friends told me she loved them. Another friend told me they didn’t do a thing for me!
-Sometimes, we deal with change well, sometimes, not so much.
Quote: “The only constant is change.” (Greek Philosopher Hereclitus)
Intro: God loves changing things. In your life, there will be many changes, and the attitude you have regarding those changes will directly impact how deal with those changes.
-Many times, we don’t know how to deal with change. When confronted with change, humans ten to focus most of their efforts on maintaining the status quo.
-Today, we’re continuing with our look into the book of Acts, and I’ve titled today’s message, “Getting Out of God’s Way.” And while the principles we’re going to talk about can be applied to our personal lives, what I really want all of us to focus on is how this applies in our experience of “being the Church.”
-So far in our series, we’ve seen the principles on which God has founded His Church, how God uses His Church to impact people’s lives, and how God grows His Church. We’ll talk about these principles more than once throughout our time in the book of Acts.
-Today what we will find is how the early believers responded to some radical changes in the way they “did” church. And what we have to understand before we read this is that in the beginning, the Church consisted almost exclusively of converted Jews. And the Jews had extremely strict dietary laws. There were certain foods you were only permitted to eat during certain occasions, and some foods were not permitted all together.
-Furthermore, many of the early Jewish Christians thought that only Jews could be saved. It had been engrained into their minds that the Jews were God’s people, chosen and loved by Him…and everyone else were Gentiles, condemned, rejected and hated by God. Early Jewish Christians refused to even associate with Gentiles. For around 1500 years, this had been the only way of life they knew.
-So keep that in mind as we read, and you will hopefully have a better appreciation for just how radical the change that was taking place in the Church was.
-It’s found in Acts 11:1-18. (Read Scripture).
-Can you sense the tension in the attitudes of the early believers at this juncture in history? I would love to tell you that this was an issue that never came up again in the lives of the early believers, but I can’t. Some of them still refused to believe that God could offer salvation to Gentiles. Some of them still placed themselves in God’s way and refused to budge. They became a hindrance to the work of the Holy Spirit in the early Church.
-But those developed healthy, Godly attitudes towards the change were on the cutting edge of what God was doing in the world. And they got to see amazing things happen, things that their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, had only dreamed about.
How to Have Healthy Attitude Towards Change
1. Realize that some changes are inevitable.
Illustration: When the railroads were first introduced to the U.S., some folks feared that they’d be the downfall of the nation! Here’s an excerpt from a letter to then President Jackson dated January 31, 1829:
“As you may know, Mr. President, ’railroad’ carriages are pulled at the enormous speed of 15 miles per hour by ’engines’ which, in addition to endangering life and limb of passengers, roar and snort their way through the countryside, setting fire to crops, scaring the livestock and frightening women and children. The Almighty certainly never intended that people should travel at such breakneck speed.”
-Martin Van Buren Governor of New York
Questions: How many of you have traveled above 15 miles per hour? When traveling at that speed, do you feel that your ‘life and limb’ is in danger? Wouldn’t you agree that some changes are going to happen, no matter how much ruckus dissenters may raise?
Statement: The same principle applies to us, today. No matter how much we may rail against certain changes, they are going to happen. The best thing we can do is to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit to help us honor Jesus with those changes. So the first thing we need to allow God to do in us is to help us realize the some changes are inevitable.