Faithlife Sermons

Preferences, Opinions, Convictions, and Requirements

His Old House: Acts  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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I Have Them

I have a requirement that I eat.
I have a conviction that I eat every day.
I have opinions about what I like to eat.
I have preferences about what I eat.
I have another conviction. I will eat whatever my wife puts in front of me whether I like it or not.
Conviction? Or, strongly held opinion that she will never poison me?
A requirement is something that absolutely has to happen.
Have to eat nutritious food.
A conviction is a firm belief that will never change no matter how much pressure there may be to change it.
2 or 3 meals per day.
An opinion, even a strongly held opinion, can change given the right circumstances.
Meat has to involved almost every meal.
I’d have a hard time being vegetarian. But, I think I could do it if a doctor told me my life depended on it.
Preferences are things we’d like have happen but aren’t necessary and we will accept them anyway.
Bacon. Red meat. Pork chops. Chicken. Salmon, okay. Shrimp, once in a while.
No canned vegetables; esp. spinach and peas. Fresh!
Chocolate, often. The darker the better. Used t/b a stronger opinion, but my clothes keep shrinking.
Church. Requirements, convictions, opinions, preferences.
To be a member of Church; “C”. God’s house.
VS. t/b a member of a local church.
Baptized: Immersed or sprinkled
As an child? Age of accountability?
Faith
In Jesus, alone, His necessary death on the cross and resurrection.
That there is a God
Speak in tongues.
Fruit. Evidence of a spiritual life that we can see.
Fruit of the Spirit, any fruit, or not fruit necessary.
Divorce.
You’ve been divorced. Member?
What you believe about divorce.
Conviction or strongly held opinion?
No divorce, no way, no how. Then something happens and you realize it’s more of an opinion.
Abortion.
You’ve had an abortion.
You paid for an abortion.
You’re responsible for the pregnancy that ended in one.
Conviction or strongly held opinion?
Same-sex marriage.
Can you be a Christian w/ these convictions or preferences?
A member of a local church?
Worship services.
Mass. Sacraments.
Hymns.
Contemporary music.
Amplified, acoustic.
Organ, piano, rock band.
20-minute sermons. 35-minute sermons.
Hour-long sermons. Interesting sermons. Informative.
Prayer
The Lord’s prayer
Spontaneous
No prayer.
Churches and church leaders deal w/ these issues all the time. Our culture requires that we have prayed through, discussed, and brought some resolution to these and other issues.
We are confronted w/ these issues as the church continues to expand and grow.
Is that person included? Can we let them in?
Do they meet the requirements? What requirements are there? Versus, just our preferences?
This is something the c.1 had to deal w/ as more and more people who weren’t like the founding members came to faith.
Just like we have to deal w/ it as more people who aren’t like us come to faith.
What are the requirements? To be a Christian and be a member of God’s family. Then, to be a member of a local church.
There is only one requirement to be a member of God’s family. Then, we’re called t/b sensitive to those who prefer to worship God in different styles.
The only requirement is faith. Faith that salvations is thru grace by the work of Jesus. Necessary and undeserved.
If this is what you believe then you’re in God’s house.
Now, don’t be critical of those who prefer to express their faith in different ways than you.
This is what is established in . An issue arose that required a big and important meeting in Jerusalem
This is the account and their resolution that we hold to today.

The Problem

Acts 15:1–5 NIV
Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them. Then some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, “The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to keep the law of Moses.”
What do we do with all these people who are coming to join but they live different lifestyles and worship in different ways?
Are they really Christians? Are they saved?
There are a lot of them. The leaders felt pressure to get a handle on the answers to these questions early on before the issue grew even larger.
What are the requirements for inclusion? To be considered part of the organization what do they have to do?
Keep the law? Become Jewish? Or, does none of that matter any more?
A group of Jewish Christians raised the issue.
They bel’d that every new convert, regardless of background, still needed to keep the entire law.
Circumcision was ref’d, but it was representative of the entirety of the law.
By itself, it was a sign of belonging to God’s family.
If you were going to let someone do that to you as an adult it had to be a big deal, a requirement not an opinion.
A deep division arose. A serious conflict. No one was backing down. Tension. Strong feelings on both sides.
They saw Gentile conversion as a positive thing.
First time “conversion” was used. Converts.
Change in thinking. Change in life direction.
Was it enough?
What about the law? It had been so important up till now, since Moses.
The promises were all originally given to Israel. But, Christianity is new; not just an extension of the old.
This was a big enough issue that they needed to take it back to the mother church in Jerusalem and let the elders decide.
This positive feeling about so many new converts set the tone for the meeting that is about to occur to resolve this issue.
This was big enough, they needed to take it back to the mother church in Jerusalem and let the elders decide.
It could not be handled out on the fringes of the movement. Nor, by the principal parties representing each side.
It had to come from headquarters and be adopted throughout.

The Meeting

The apostles and elders all got together to discuss the issue. Illustrates the importance of a plurality of leaders.
All formerly Jewish. Even Paul, once a Pharisee. And, James, Jesus’ half brother who was the pastor of the church.
All considering the terms and conditions of including these new converts in their organization.
They would hear from key leaders then make their decsion.

The resolution

First, Peter speaks

Acts 15:7–9 NIV
After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: “Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith.
He addressed the group and recounted his experience w/ Cornelius. This was right after the food vision when God gave permission to eat what had been forbidden.
Cornelius and his friends, none Jewish, all heard what Peter said and believed. Immediately, the HS indwelled them and they started speaking different languages, just like what happened to the Jews on Pentecost.
No one had been circumcised. And, no one got baptized until after.
God chose to send Peter to those Gentiles w/ the same message and chose to give them the HS in the same way.
None of them decided on their own. It was God’s plan.
The HS would not have come to them if they were not completely accepted by God, lacking any requirement.
They met the only one; faith. God rec’d them equally, just like everyone else who responds to the gospel w/ faith.
After Peter, Paul and Barnabas spoke and shared their experiences.

Paul and Barnabas

Acts 15:12 NIV
The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.
Acts 15:
The same message as Peter.
God worked in the same way among the non-Jews they brought the gospel to, as well.
Miraculous signs accompanied the presentation of the gospel and their acceptance.
And, none of the new converts had any opportunity to commit to or keep the law.
So, the same message from those whose boots were on the ground. They were there and saw w/ their own eyes what God was doing in response to the conversions of the Gentiles.
Next, James spoke. As an elder, the pastor of the church, leader of the mother church he summarized their conclusion and brought resolution to the issue.

James

Acts 15:13–14 NIV
When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. Simon has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for his name from the Gentiles.
Acts 15:
James affirms Peter’s account and conclusions. God would not have given them the HS, gifts and all, if they had not met all of His requirements.
Who are they to add requirements that God has not?
This new community is in continuity w/ the promises made to Israel long before.

The reminder

Acts 15:15–18 NIV
The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written: “ ‘After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’— things known from long ago.
Acts 15:15–18 NIV
The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written: “ ‘After this I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things’— things known from long ago.
Amos 9:11–12 NIV
“In that day “I will restore David’s fallen shelter— I will repair its broken walls and restore its ruins— and will rebuild it as it used to be, so that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that bear my name,” declares the Lord, who will do these things.
Acts 15:
James quotes .
Amos predicted that people from all over the world would be included in God’s people.
This is an old promise that is being fulfilled in their presence right before their eyes.
Abraham had been promised that the entire world would be blessed thru one of his descendants. And, David’s fractured kingdom would be restored and include people from these nations around the world.
James conclusion was it was happening right then. This new way was revealed in these old promises.
They should not be surprised.
They needed t/b reminded of this.
It’s change. It’s different. But this is the fulfillment of God’s plan all along.
They didn’t realize what it would look like nor the issues it would force. But, now that it’s happening, they recognize God hand in the work and the issues can be resolved.
The issues can be resolved so long as they don’t put any more requirements on people than God already has.
What they do decide to include as restrictions, don’t add requirements. They confirm the only one.

The requirements

Acts 15:19–20 NIV
“It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.
He says don’t make it hard. Then, it looks like he added things that would contradict.
Each of these 4 things is related to the one requirement.
Faith in the work of Jesus alone, thru God’s grace.
Meat polluted by idols.
Later, Paul wrote in Corinthians there is no such thing as an idol so it’s okay to eat meat from an animal that was used in idol worship.
In fact, it was usually the best meat. Go ahead and shop at the butcher shop next to the Pagan temple.
So, what’s James referring to here?
Eating meat in the context of idol worship.
In fact, all four were practiced during the idol worship as acts of worship.
Immorality. Using the Pagan temple prostitutes.
Yes, all immorality is sin and should be avoided. But, this is specific reference to availing yourself of the temple prostitutes as an act of worship.
They would strangle the animals and drink their blood during the ceremony.
If they had faith in Jesus alone, then they would not participate in any Pagan worship practices.
So, these restriction that they agree to are confirmations that they had met the 1 requirement.
Like our doctrinal statement. To be a member of MPCC you have to agree to our doctrine. All the points in our doctrine elaborate on the one requirement of faith.
So, we haven’t added anything. We have elaborated on what God requires.
There aren’t many points. We keep it to a minimum.
Be faithful to the one true God. Worship only Him. It’s okay for our worship to reflect cultural norms. But do not allow any idols or idolatry into our worship services.
What about how the Jewish Christians worship? Has the law become an idol?
James goes on in v.21 to encourage the everyone to be sensitive to the preferences of the Jews in their worship practices.
Don’t throw it all out just b/c you don’t understand it or want to do it that way.
The law, and all of its practices, were originally designed to support the one, same requirement.
Faith in God, who thru only His gracious work will save you.
Love the Lord your God w/ all your heart, and w/ all your mind, and w/ all your soul, and w/ all your strength.
Have no other gods before God. No carved, etched, or drawn images. etc.
But, over time, the people superceded the law over their relationship w/ God.
B/C they could control everything about the law but could not control God.
The elevated themselves and their rules.
This was the environment that Jesus came into. And, after He left the people were left to sort out how the old was to be incorporated into the new.
There was a sharp disagreement. So they held a meeting. It was a good meeting and an agreement was reached.
Salvation is by grace alone. No compromise. Only faith in the gracious work of Jesus. Everyone who believes this is included in this organization.
Worship is a religious practice. Religion is how we practice what we believe. So, no religious practice should be performed that even hints at anything except the one required truth.
But, to those groups who practice differing styles, as long as they support the one truth they are okay. And, we should all be sensitive and gracious, not requiring everyone to worship in the same way.
Be hard in terms of the gospel. Be soft and flexible in terms of religious practice and acceptance.
All people are okay worshiping as they prefer.
This is not a salvation or inclusion issue.
All who believe are saved and are included.
Worship however you want as long as you worship only God.
This was the resolution and restriction that came out of their meeting.
Next, they needed to make the announcement.

The Announcement

Trust these messengers

Acts 15:24–29 NIV
We have heard that some went out from us without our authorization and disturbed you, troubling your minds by what they said. So we all agreed to choose some men and send them to you with our dear friends Barnabas and Paul—men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore we are sending Judas and Silas to confirm by word of mouth what we are writing. It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things. Farewell.
The leaders needed to make a public announcement. They couldn’t email it, text it, or even FedEx it.
They wrote this letter, made copies, and sent it to all the known churches in existence.
Jewish believers could continue to worship their own preferred way.
And, Gentiles would not be required to keep the law. That is, forced to live like Jews.
Unity on the essential centrality of Christ, God’s grace, and the uniqueness of salvation thru grace by faith alone.
Right up front the Jerusalem leadership confirms that the hearers of this letter can trust the messengers who delivered it.
They, as opposed to, the messengers who taught that everyone still needed to be circumcised.
They spoke of things they had no authority to speak of.
These messengers have the authority as bestowed by the leadership of the mother church.
Unified leadership ;agreed on the solution. Sent by trustworthy men. These men were also participants in the process. They contributed to the discussion and resolution.
So, they had some experience and expertise when communicating the process along w/ the letter.
The resolution was read aloud in each church. The recipients were glad and relieved.
In fact, you probably could have heard their sigh of relief for miles around.

“Sigh!”

Acts 15:30–31 NIV
So the men were sent off and went down to Antioch, where they gathered the church together and delivered the letter. The people read it and were glad for its encouraging message.
Joy.
No cultural imposition. They were not forced to live and worship like Jews. They could find their own way following the lead of the HS.
The entire law was unnecessary. But, think about the men who realized now they didn’t have to be circumcised.
Phew!
Worship practices. Lifestyle practices. Whatever helps you connect w/ God is okay. No one has to do what everyone else is doing just b/c it helps them.
Find your own way as the HS leads you.
There is nothing else you have to do to be saved. This is the central passage in Acts, literally.
12,000 verses precede and 12,000 verses follow
Central to the theology, too.
Jesus alone. By faith thru grace, one God.
Everyone who meets this one basic requirement is included in God’s house.
Jewish Christians can practice the law if it helps them connect w/ God. Not if it supersedes God.
Non-Jews can ignore the rules of the law.
Charismatics can practice the sign gifts.
Liturgical churches can recite liturgies.
Traditional churches and contemporary churches can each do their own thing.
Denominations and independents can, too.
This passage completely legitimizes the Gentile mission. Which, by the way, led to MPCC.
Faith alone rotted in the grace of God thru Jesus alone as the requirement of inclusion.
Each one must do what his conscience permits him w/out imposing the same requirement on anyone else whose conscience does not.
No matter how you may worship in the valley, this is how we worship here.
We have no grounds to be critical of anyone else.
Full-timers and part-timers
Catholics who may use this building
Sunday morning and Saturday nights
Traditional or contemporary or some combination.
We worship the One true God of the Bible.
We are included b/c we believe we are saved by our faith in the gracious work of Jesus. Necessary and undeserved.
This is the only requirement to be a member of God’s family in His Old House.
We will be sensitive to those who prefer to worship in different ways.

Applications

Don’t be critical

Of those who prefer to worship in different ways than you do.

No idols!

“I don’t have any carved images in my house!”
Not likely.
Idols are anything that takes a higher priority than God.
Anything that has distracted you during this service may be an idol.
Anything you make greater sacrifices for than God may be an idol.
Are you able to give as much as you believe God is telling you to give?
Or, is there something else you’re paying for that does not allow you to give as much to God’s service.
Here, the valley, missions, whatever...
Anything that takes up your time not allowing you to spend time daily w/ God may be an idol.
Evaluate whatever gets in your way preventing you from worshiping God and eliminate it.
Is there something that God is telling you right now has to go?

What does the Bible say?

Do you know what the bible says so when someone tries to tell you something that contradicts can you call them on it?
The only requirement is faith alone.
Our convictions are biblically based.
Our opinions matter but may change w/ experience and education.
Our preferences are important to us but will not prevent us from enjoying friendships w/ those who have different preferences.
Faith in the gracious work of Jesus. It’s necessary and undeserved. Everyone who believes this is included in what we do.
Communion.
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