Here’s this weeks edition of Further Thoughts from yesterday’s message:
Further Thoughts- from Acts 15
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.” 2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them.
The Bible teaches that God saves in this way:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
We are saved through faith in Jesus, plain and simple- by putting our trust in what Jesus accomplished on the Cross- paying the price that our sins deserve and transferring to our “account” the goodness or righteousness of Jesus.
This is what the Bible teaches. But what makes it so difficult for us to accept?
Part of the reason is that we want to do something to earn our way, to feel deserving somehow.
In Acts 15, we encounter people who were saying that people needed to trust in Jesus AND be circumcised and obey the Law- the rituals prescribed by God in the Old Testament for the Jewish people. Paul and Barnabas disputed this strongly and it led to some intense conflict.
What are some of the “Unless you ______” things that people say today?
Perhaps it’s “Unless you go to church regularly…”
“Unless you stop ____________”
What are other examples?
Have you encountered any of these? How did you respond?
The way the early church handled this conflict stands out as an amazing example of conflict resolution. These were some of the steps they took:
- Don’t ignore the problem! Paul and Barnabas took this issue straight to the church leadership- they didn’t let it fester or go underground. Too much was at stake!
When are you most tempted to ignore conflict? Are there any situations that God might be nudging you to address an issue?
- Get the right people in the room.
They got the various parties in the same place to talk through the issues. So often we will talk to others- a friend, family member, someone we want to vent to—instead of the people directly involved.
- Name the issues and then listen to one another.
They didn’t tap dance around things or sugar coat what was going on- there was no “spin”. But then they spent lots of time listening to one another.
Why is listening- patiently, fully, and honestly- so difficult? What is needed to listen well? When was the last time you listened to someone that had a differing viewpoint without trying to come up with a reply in your head whole they were speaking?
- Listen to and empower wise people.
In this situation, some of the wise people who were listened to and empowered were Peter and James. They were able to discern well and had godly wisdom to help bring resolution.
Who are wise people that you know? When have you sought their advice? Is it easy or difficult for you to seek wise counsel? Why or why not?
- Look for a way that both sides can “win” when possible.
In this situation, the gospel could not be compromised or negotiated. But there was still sensitivity in the instructions that James gave to Gentile believers that made fellowship between Jews and Gentiles possible.
When have you seen solutions offered to conflict that created “wins” for both sides? How did that work? What is required to think “win-win”?
- Keep the main thing (Jesus) the main thing.
Even though this conflict was a major event in the life of the church, the gospel was still front and center. They didn’t allow lesser issues to take over center stage.
What are some of the “lesser” issues that tend to get blown out of proportion in the church today? (There are plenty) How can we keep Jesus our central focus when these issues come up?