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These Necessary Things

Acts 15:28

 

Earlier in this chapter the disciples called a meeting to discuss and settle once and for all how we are saved…they have just downplayed the role of good works in salvation, and now they uplift the fact that good works do have their own place of importance…not in salvation, but because of it.

 

It’s the chicken and the egg as we look at good works in Christianity.  [which came first?]  Some believe they are the cause and some agree w/ God that they are the effect!

 

v. 28-29           This is not a contradiction to v. 11.  These are not requirements of salvation, but natural results of salvation. 

 

If this teaches us anything at all it teaches us that if you truly come to the Lord for salvation, it will affect the way you live.  What you believe should always affect how you behave.  Your creed should affect your conduct.  Your doctrine will lead you to decision and duty.

 

When I got saved, I got a new heart…but you can’t see my heart.

God gave me faith…but can you see it?

        The only things that give outward testimony to what’s on the inside is what I do and what I say.

 

Jesus said in Matthew 5:16

    Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

 

I Samuel 16:7

    …man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.

        Often I hear people use this verse to justify sinful behavior…outward things they do.  [“But God knows my heart!”]   Or, some use this verse to say, “don’t judge me, you don’t know me!”  They have the attitude that the only one they need to worry about is God.

 

I’ll agree that He’s the One we should try to please, and we cannot help but be falsely judged sometimes and we should take comfort in the fact that He knows the truth…but, why did God leave us here after we got saved anyway?  To reach other people!  And since man does look on the outward appearance, it matters how we live!

 

Ill.—2 men were talking one day.  “Are you saved?” the first one asked the other.  He responded, “Why would you ask me that?  I could tell you anything I want…it’s easy to say yes, I am.  But why don’t you ask my wife how I treat her…she’ll tell you if I am a Christian.”  Boss/children/neighbor.

        He wasn’t saying that being good would make him a Christian, but that being a Christian would make him a better husband, father, worker, neighbor…and that if it doesn’t, then something is wrong.  [Jesus said, “by their fruits ye shall know them.”]

 

So, the Jerusalem Council wrote the believers this letter, encouraging practical obedience in 4 areas:

1.     Avoid idolatry

2.     Abstain from immorality

3.     Abstain from eating blood

4.     Abstain from eating meat from animals that had been strangled.

 

The last 2 don’t have much direct application to us today…these were cultural things which applied to 1st C. believers in the Jewish culture. 

 

Ex.—eating meat offered to idols is not an issue today, but would have been very offensive to the Jews…so, “don’t be a stumblingblock in any outward way, whether it be wrong and you know it, such as is w/ fornication, or even if you know it’s no sin…perception is reality to your Jewish brethren, so don’t offend.”

        So, the disciples are trying not to put the Gentiles under OT law, but at the same time they were asking them to be sensitive not to offend their Jewish brethren’s sensibilities.  “Don’t just please God, but also remember that men are watching!”

 

Well, we may not be able to apply all 4 of these things directly today, but we certainly can see some principles to apply:

 

Necessary Things:

1.     To maintain a moral responsibility to ourselves.

The moral standard was very low in that day.  Most of the believers were saved out of pagan worship, and much sexual deviance.  Priestesses were nothing but prostitutes, orgies were commonplace…even in worship!  “If it feels good do it”, “satisfy yourself.”

        Now the Jerusalem Council says to these new believers, abstain from fornication, live a clean, pure, moral life that’s brand new to you.

 

We live in a day, once again, of very loose morals, and all of us, inc. our new converts, have to be totally re-taught because we’ve been brainwashed by the world that anything goes and it’s no big deal…it’s commonly accepted today that you’ll take a test drive before you buy!

 

Ill.—I read an article that quoted hotel managers saying the number of unmarried couples checking in together has skyrocketed and is off the charts.  Even if the manager doesn’t approve of it, they can’t turn down the business because it’s such a large part of their business.

        Folks, years ago that was considered a shame, and tho’ it’s always happened at some level, they at least had the decency to lie about it and check in as Mr. and Mrs. Smith.  But now they don’t even try to cover it up…it’s commonly accepted!  No shame.  Now that’s the culture in which we live today!

 

But God says to you and I,

II Cor. 6:17

    Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate…

        We’re to live by a higher standard/march to the beat of a different drum.

Those new believers could have continued on in their sexual practices and still fit in in their world, but they needed to know that was displeasing to God, and they needed to maintain a different moral mandate.

 

Profanity:

Many of you are immersed in it in your workplace/school…it’s so common that many don’t even know they do it anymore!  Even young girls today say things that would make a sailor blush.

        I’m not ashamed to say that I’m still offended by that.  Freedom of speech was never intended to include morally offensive speech!

Ill.—restaurants ask you when you enter, “smoking or non?”  I think they should add a whole new category:  “cussing or non!”…and have a section where they let everyone just sit and swear at each other!  They should let us who don’t want to hear it sit in a different section.

 

I don’t want my kids hearing that…but here’s the principle of a higher standard:   “I don’t want to hear that either!”

 

In 1999 a new invention came out that filters profanity from TV and movies, the TVGuardian…we got it and liked it so much we “bought the company!”  Seriously, I became a representative and sold over a hundred of them.

        It was touted as something to help keep your kids from hearing such things…but I recommend it to adults who don’t want to just accept any old thing into their home!

 

When we get saved we have a moral responsibility to clean up our lives, and that includes our mouths!  Some of you may have been saved for some time but you haven’t notified your mouth…it’s time!

 

Joke—I heard about a farmer who was 2 hours late getting home/wife badgered him about it/explained that the mules pulling him in the wagon almost completely stopped/why?/on my way home I saw the preacher on the road and picked him up/what does that have to do w/ it?/ “Once that preacher got in the wagon those mules couldn’t understand a word I said!”

 

People cuss and then apologize to me.  I say, it’s not me you need to worry about.  And don’t act like I’ve never heard it before…I’m married!

 

Eph. 4:29

    Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.

        Believers have a new moral responsibility as the temple of God, to guard our bodies, our tongues, our eyes, our ears, our thoughts!

 

Yes, we’re saved by grace, but that does not give us a license to sin!

Another necessary thing…

2.     To maintain an ethical responsibility to others.

This is the primary teaching of this passage.  That believers should be willing to give up some of their rights for the sake of not offending others.

        Jewish legalists here gave up their insistence on the Gentile believers having to be circumcised, and the Gentiles gave up some of their dietary habits for the purpose of not offending their Jewish brethren.  It was a good compromise.  Some things we should never compromise, like doctrine.  But these were all believers, and yet from different backgrounds and cultures, and they needed to find some common ground of fellowship.

 

Ill.—ever dropped a pebble in a pond?  There’s a ripple effect that grows wider and spreads far out!  The same happens when we get saved.

        Our salvation is about a new relationship we form w/ God, but it affects every other relationship we have.

 

We have an ethical responsibility to others, and “Others” includes:

  • The saints—other believers in the body of Christ.  Jesus is the head, but we all make up the rest of the body w/ different functions…right now I’m functioning as the voice of the body as I preach the Word.  Many function as legs and arms and hands, eyes and ears, and some in the nursery right now as laps!  This speaks of our interdependence…our “connectedness.”  In other words…we need each other.  When one member hurts, we all hurt, when one rejoices, we all do! 

Ill.—just smash your thumb w/ a hammer…first you’ll scream [but what do your vocal cords have to do w/ your thumb?], then you’ll dance around, then you’ll suck on it!  We’re connected…no man is an island…we affect each other and we have a moral responsibility to each other!

 

It matters whether you are here in services or missing…we’re all affected!  Sin in life/helping in the ministry/tithing/how you live away from here…sin is a cancer, and it spreads beyond where it starts!

 

If my eyes decided they weren’t coming today I’d be in trouble in many ways:  walking up to the pulpit, reading scripture, singing a special, driving here…just getting out of bed or getting a shower.  The only thing unaffected would be my choice of colors…actually, it probably would improve!

 

  • The state—Christians should be model citizens.  God tells us to submit to the powers that be for the Lord’s sake.  When they asked Jesus if believers should pay taxes [I wish He’d said no] He said yes, render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and unto God the things that are God’s…a brilliant answer which left God on His heavenly throne and Caesar on his earthly throne.  We have a responsibility to God and also to others!
  • Society—the lost are watching, not for us to fit in, but for us to stand out.  Everyone is looking for something different, and they need to find it in us.

 

Ill.-- Several years ago a preacher moved to Houston, Texas.

  Some weeks after he arrived, he rode the bus from his home to the downtown area.  When he sat down, he discovered that the driver had accidentally given him a quarter too much change.  As he considered what to do, he thought to himself, "You'd better give the quarter back.  It would be wrong to keep it."

Then he thought, "Oh, forget it, it's only a quarter.  Who would worry about this little of an amount?  Anyway, the bus company already gets too much fare; they will never miss it. Accept it as a gift from God and keep quiet."

"When his stop came, he paused momentarily at the door, then he handed the quarter to the driver and said, "Here, you gave me too much change."

The driver, with a smile, replied, "Aren't you the new preacher in town? I

have been thinking lately about going to worship somewhere. I just wanted to see what you would do if I gave you too much change."

When the pastor stepped off the bus, he literally grabbed the nearest light

pole, and held on, and said, "Oh, God, I almost sold your Son for a

quarter."

Our lives are the only Bible some people will ever read.

 

We have a moral responsibility to ourselves, we have an ethical responsibility to others…another necessary thing is…

 

3.     To maintain a spiritual responsibility to the Lord.

When you know you’re saved, when you know how much you were saved from, when you know how much you’re saved UNTO…you don’t mind giving up some things for the sake of Christ.  When you remember what Jesus gave up, it makes it easier!  He did it for love, and when we truly love someone we’ll make changes for them too!

 

What a privilege it is to give up some habits, to forgive some hurts, to get over some hang-ups, to get over bitterness and back to making eye contact, to make some wardrobe changes, to develop a new vocabulary, to find some new friends, to throw out some old music, to cancel that premium channel, to add a new spending category to the very top of our budget, to stop going to those places…and what a privilege it is to replace the old ways w/ some new, Godly ways, all for the sake of Christ.

II Cor. 5:17

    Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

 

Ill.—an artist was painting a picture of Jesus/spent much time on it, making sure every hair, every line was just right/someone watching was impressed and said, you must really love Him to spend that much time painting Him/yes, I do love Him…but fact is, I know in my heart that if I loved Him more, I would paint Him better.

 

Fact is, we all paint Him every day…may we paint Him better!

 

If you are not saved, you are 1 heartbeat away from hell.  You can be saved today, and your life can be changed!

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