Day 36: Acts 13-15 (NEW TESTAMENT 90)

Today’s reading comes from Acts 13-15 follow the link provided here to read the ESV online.

Acts 15:20 – To what extent does the gospel shape a culture? Some of the Jews were insisting on circumcising the gentile converts. This forced the question, “is Christianity a sect of Judaism or is it something different?” In other words, do converts to Christianity need to become fully Jewish to be fully converted or do the demands of the gospel stop short of converting to Judaism?

The answer was that the gentiles were to be counted as “sojourners” among the Jews in that they were only asked to fulfill the moral aspect of the law (all of this is found in Leviticus 17-18) and not the ceremonial aspect of the law (circumcision). This is part of the reason it’s okay for believers now to eat bacon, shellfish, etc. because these things were part of the ceremonial or national law and weren’t part of the Moral law.

Christianity is not fulfilled by Judaism, it is the fulfillment of Judaism. Circumcision was the rite of passage into the Jewish faith, but that had been replaced by baptism. The result was that Christianity pressed forward and forged an identity apart from Judaism.

The application is this. When encountering a new culture or embracing new believers from our own culture, what are the demands of the gospel and what are our preferences? If we are not careful we will force our preferences on others rather than just pressing the gospel. Some implications to think through would be how we dress to go to church. The style of music we prefer to sing to. Where there offering belongs in the service. etc. 

FATHER, Thank you that the New Testament church worked through the struggles it faced. We are grateful for the clarity they provided in helping us understand what it looks like to be a fully committed follower of Jesus. We ask for wisdom in navigating the culture and sharing the gospel in our own generation. We look for humbleness to receive your word and apply it. We ask for boldness to proclaim the gospel to others. Thank you for the grace of leading your people. IN JESUS NAME, AMEN.

What did you take away from today’s reading? What are your thoughts or questions? Feel free to comment below and enter the discussion.

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Philippians 4:14-20 (Devotional Thought)

Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Philippians 4:14-20 ESV)

Paul is beginning to wrap up the letter to the Philippians. He is so glad that the gospel has taken root in their lives and that it is transforming them. The church there is not ashamed to be associated with Paul. He gives us a rare picture of what happened after he had to leave Philippi in Acts 16. He travels on to Thessalonica to start another church. Scholars estimate that Paul didn’t stay the Thessalonica long before he had to leave, perhaps a few weeks. Yet, even while he was in Thessalonica a group from Philippi had caught up with Paul and brought him some money to make sure he didn’t have any needs.

This small church had only been in existence for a month, maybe two and they are already Continue reading “Philippians 4:14-20 (Devotional Thought)”

Philippians 1:3-6 (Devotional Thought)

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:3-6 ESV)

When I was twelve I belonged to a BB gun club that met in the basement of a bank. We met each week, shot our targets, talked about BB gun safety, and compared the guns we had. It was cool. I really liked hanging out with my BB gun club friends.

Over 20 years have passed since I participated in the bb gun club and truth be told, I don’t know those guys anymore. I’ve forgotten their names. In these verse we see a picture of a stronger bond than BB guns, sports teams, chess, or stuff like that. He writes about fellowship (it’s the word translated at partnership in the passage above).

Fellowship rightly translated as partnership here is more than getting together and hanging out. It’s a deep bond where both parties are committed to a common goal or agenda. Fellowship requires a commitment of time, energy and even finances.

If you haven’t already, look back at Acts 16 and read about the first three converts to Christianity at Philippi. They hardly had anything in common: a wealthy business women, a formerly demon possessed slave girl, and a suicidal jailer. They were from three different economic classes. They probably didn’t move in the same social circles. They were probably different ages. If they had facebook, twitter or Instagram back in those days they wouldn’t have even crossed lines on social media… but something drew them together! It was the power of the gospel! This rough group of people had a common experience with Jesus Christ that so changed their lives that they partnered together so that other people might experience the same relationship with God that they had.

From the very start the people of this church were dedicated to seeing the gospel not only transform their lives, but transform the lives of others as well! They worked to help establish the church at Philippi, they gave money to help take the good news of Jesus to those who hadn’t heard yet, they are faithful in prayer for the Apostle Paul. This is why Paul can say “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). Paul knew that the gospel had truly impacted their lives because this church was partnering together in various ways to spread the gospel all over the world.

How has the gospel changed your life? If you don’t see how the gospel has changed your life, spend some time in prayer asking God to reveal this to you.

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Mark 5: where are you going?

Mark 5:19 – “Go Home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

I used to beg God to send me as a missionary to one of the darkest places on earth. I’ve heard that some people dread that God might call them to Africa, that wasn’t me. I have several friends who are now on or headed to the mission field, some of them from my own ministry. I have to admit sometimes I wish it were me. Who knows maybe one day God will call me to leave my country and go.

However, the last time God said “Go” it was just an hour away. So we sold our house, uprooted our family and moved an hour away; still in the South, still on the gulf coast, and in a town very much like the one we left. In a sense, we are still home.

I used to think that perhaps we were second rate Christians just trying to reach our neighbors and teenagers and stuff. After all we didn’t have to learn a new language or customs or anything. We just had to find a way past the fence.

I’ve come to find that by comparison it isn’t the darkest place on earth. There are a lot of churches that talk about the gospel here. (note: Have you ever tried to attend one as a guest? I’ve been to various churches my whole life. When we are on vacation it’s still one of the most intimidating things to walk into a new church as a visitor.) But I’ve come to find that there is still a lot of darkness here. There are actually still a lot of people who have never heard the gospel on the gulf coast. I know because I’ve shared with dozens who profess that they have never heard it before.

I used to ask God if I was missing his call. I used to wonder if I was a second rate Christian for going “home” with the gospel. I heard a missionary once say the question isn’t weather or not God is asking us to go, but if He is asking us to stay. I know he was well intended, but even if God calls us to “stay” home with the gospel, He is telling us to “go home” with the gospel. We should always be going with the gospel, even when we are going home.

The demon possessed man at the beginning of Mark 5 found freedom in Jesus and wanted to follow Jesus wherever he went, Jesus instead commissioned the man to “go” home with the gospel. If you are a believer the question isn’t, “should I stay or should I go?” It is, “where has God called me to go with the gospel?” are you sharing the gospel where you are?