Heavenly Father, thank You that it isn’t anything that I am or do that matters, but what Jesus did for me.
Read Acts 15:1-11
 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.”  The apostles and elders met to consider this question.  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.  Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear?  No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. All rights reserved throughout the world. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
ReflectWhat was this argument about and why was it important?
Christians in different countries have different interpretations of what behavior defines a Christian. It became apparent to me that there were things my friends in the USA assumed were right which I subconsciously thought were inappropriate for a Christian! It challenged me to consider more deeply what’s really essential. As we reflect on the scripture today, the same challenge faces us. The early church was considering whether circumcision is a defining mark of Christianity. As a God-instituted procedure, should it define his people throughout history or was its significance specific to a particular context and culture? For Peter the last word does not go to culture but to God. The God who would pour out his Holy Spirit on the uncircumcised as well as the circumcised is the God who has already revealed what really matters (8). Peter affirms that salvation comes when a person’s heart has been “cleansed … through faith” (9) through “the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus” (11). So we turn from the past (repentance) to embrace a new King (surrender). That’s what matters most.
Read Acts 2:38. Thank God for the blessing of forgiveness and the joy of following him regardless of our cultural context.
Lord, I want to be able to distinguish between the cultural and what matters most to You. Give me wisdom, I pray.
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