I love true religion which is described in the New Testament but I hate this type of religious mentality where everyone has to adhere to my personal standard of Christian conduct/dress especially when it comes to the outward appearance. I’ve been talked about for wearing a suit, for wearing jeans, for not wearing a tie, for not wearing a suit for not wearing jeans because of personal preferences. Body of Christ, we need to be more concerned about the heart than we are the outward appearance. When the heart gets right, the Holy Spirit will direct everything else. If we were to go back to the biblical dress code, I would not be in a suit or jeans preaching but rather a robe of some sort. Never let personal preferences keep you from loving others and rejoicing with others.
Paul was talking about all those who had got saved and filled with the Holy Spirit and how revival had broken out, miracles were happening and the religious stood up immediately and said, “They have to be circumcised like us”. They wanted to steal the spiritual freedom the new born Christians had just found. They wanted to make them live by the law instead of grace!
I remember back years ago when we had a school at the church and one of the teenagers came up to me shrewdly and said in essence, “Pastor you are going to hell”, to which I responded “Why”? He proceeded to tell me, “You can’t go to heaven with a beard”. I said to him, “Really”? He said, “Yes, you can’t be saved and have a beard”! I said, “That’s sad because I was trying to cover my ugly and look more like Jesus” and he immediately showed his lack of knowledge by saying, “Jesus didn’t have a beard”. I replied, “The Bible says they plucked His beard”. He said, “It does?” and I said, “It sure does, it was prophesied they would pluck his beard” and he walked off speechless.
Religion loves to condemn while Christians celebrate the victories of others. They should have been so happy about the conversions but rather they couldn’t wait to say their religious two cents worth.
They had always lived by the law because that’s all they had been taught and was not receptive to the truth that Jesus had fulfilled the law once and for all. Now people could be saved by grace through faith and not by works.
Let’s read the conclusion of this debate because Paul says it better than I could:
6 So the apostles and elders met together to resolve this issue. 7 At the meeting, after a long discussion, Peter stood and addressed them as follows: "Brothers, you all know that God chose me from among you some time ago to preach to the Gentiles so that they could hear the Good News and believe. 8 God knows people's hearts, and he confirmed that he accepts Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as he did to us. 9 He made no distinction between us and them, for he cleansed their hearts through faith. 10 So why are you now challenging God by burdening the Gentile believers with a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors were able to bear? 11 We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus." 12 Everyone listened quietly as Barnabas and Paul told about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles.13 When they had finished, James stood and said, "Brothers, listen to me. 14 Peter has told you about the time God first visited the Gentiles to take from them a people for himself. 15 And this conversion of Gentiles is exactly what the prophets predicted. As it is written: 16 'Afterward I will return and restore the fallen house of David. I will rebuild its ruins and restore it, 17 so that the rest of humanity might seek the Lord, including the Gentiles—all those I have called to be mine. The Lord has spoken—18 he who made these things known so long ago.' 19 "And so my judgment is that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead, we should write and tell them to abstain from eating food offered to idols, from sexual immorality, from eating the meat of strangled animals, and from consuming blood. 21 For these laws of Moses have been preached in Jewish synagogues in every city on every Sabbath for many generations."
Prayer Points: Father God, never let me get caught up in religion that condemns and never let me be deceived by false doctrine of any kind. Keep my heart and motives pure in your sight, Amen!