Monday, July 13

For the Sake of the Gospel

Today’s devotion builds on Friday’s Daily Devotion and yesterday’s sermon. You can view the sermon via this link - https://vimeo.com/437451836

“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.”
Acts 15:19-20

In order to settle the dispute over whether or not the Gentile believers would be required to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses, James, the leader of the church, came up with a compromise solution, and like all compromise solutions, it works and it doesn’t quite work.

It works in the sense that it removes the barrier of circumcision between the Gentiles and the Gospel, it gives some guidelines for living peacefully in this new multi-ethnic, multi-cultural church, and it laid the “official” theological foundation for the inclusion of the Gentiles into the church. However, it doesn’t work in the sense that not everyone instantly embraced the guidelines of the compromise, and so there continued to be disunity in the church concerning these issues for a long time.

For instance, Paul addresses those who continued to trouble him and the Gentile believers by insisting upon circumcision in the Book of Galatians. In the same way, Paul also addresses Gentile believers who fail to be sensitive to the eating practices of the Jewish believers in Romans 14:13-21 , but over time, and with a lot of work, the issues of circumcision and Jewish eating practices have become things that we just read about today.

However, I would argue that we have an even more daunting task today in the age of mass communications and social media to be united in our shared primary identity in Christ while our individual identities come into conflict with each other in very public ways, creating barriers between the disconnected and the Gospel. So how do we do this? How do we remove these barriers? We look to God’s Word for guidance.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (1 Cor. 9:19-23).

What Paul is saying here is that there are differences between people, but those differences do not make them any more or less valuable to God. This is why we should be willing to give up a part of our personal identity and preference in order to find common ground with those who are different than us so that we can develop relationships with them. It is through these relationships that we have the opportunity to share the Gospel and connect the disconnected.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, this is Pastor Trey writing this, and one of my favorite things to do is to have spiritual conversations with people in places where they weren’t expecting to have spiritual conversations, such as bars, beer festivals, and tattoo conventions. My approach is very simple and effective. I start by trusting that the Holy Spirit will work through the conversation. Then I ask, “What’s your name?” I follow that by asking, “What’s your story?” Then I listen… and then I listen some more. I listen to learn and not to respond, even when—especially when—I’m offended by or disagree with what they are saying.

By doing this, I’m building a relationship with them. I’m showing them that I care about them so that when they eventually ask me to tell my story, they have invited me to share how the Gospel has transformed my life in a way that does not condemn, judge, or place an unnecessary barrier between them and the Gospel. Some respond, and some do not, but that’s not up to me—that’s the job of the Holy Spirit—my job is to love my neighbor.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank you for the gift of the Gospel. Help us to love our neighbors by setting aside our personal identities and preferences in order to build relationships with those who are different than us for the sake of the Gospel, so that we can share with them in its blessings. Help us to trust that the Holy Spirit will work through our relationships. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.