"Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life." Acts 11:18
Peter was part of a leadership group, convinced they had received the gift of The Spirit from God, but they were not so convinced that the gift was to be shared with others. They were more than stunned, when Peter returned to Central Control, with news of Gentiles being baptized into their Holy Club.
The Chosen People were very proud of their Abrahamic Covenant relationship with God. The circumcision of males was a sign of a covenant between Abraham and God, and a promise that the nations of the world would be blessed by the descendants of Abraham. Somewhere along the way, they forgot why they were chosen, and began to take pride in the fact that they were chosen, and others were not. They were not happy at the prospect of church growth, if it came at the cost of losing their unique identity with God, and having to rub shoulders with "those people."
"Those who were circumcised took issue with him, saying, 'You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.' " Acts 11:3
Translation: You got some 'splainin' to do!
"But Peter began speaking and proceeded to explain to them in orderly sequence, 'I was in the city of Joppa praying..." Act 11:5
Notice the sequence. Prayer was the first thing Peter offered up, as the key component of his explanation. Prayer explains a lot! Talk is cheap, but there is great value in prayer.
"Prayer is how we set our sails to catch the wind of Heaven." G. Campbell Morgan
Prayerless people miss out on a great deal of what God has in mind. The prayerless make up their own minds, without seeking God's mind, and end up losing their minds, in the process.
Any prayerless person or prayerless church that makes decisions, without seeking God's direction, protection and correction, will become so open-minded, their brains will fall out. The praying person yields their will to God, through prayer, and discovers God is a great deal bigger than they ever thought He was, and His family is a great deal larger than they ever had in mind. Prayer will keep a person in touch with God, and His Spirit will reveal, from God's Word, what God had in mind, in the first place.
"The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them." Isaiah 9:2
The early church fathers didn't mind shining the light on the Gentiles, if they were free to point it at them, to expose their sin. They didn't want to use the light to guide Gentiles home to God. A flashlight is a useful tool, if it points to the right path, but it can cause blindness, when someone shines it right in the face of a person who has lost their way. Shine the light, but shine it right. Point it to the right path, not right in someone's eyes. If they turn, they will thank you for it. If they don't turn, their refusal to repent is on them, not on you. If their failure to turn doesn't bring you to tears, you may want to check your heart, and your motives.
In this mad rush of the contemporary church to reach out to seekers, without offending their sense of direction, it is worth remembering that Peter looked like he was out of his mind, when he reached out to people who did not know how to get to Jesus. Praying led him to obeying the words he had heard Jesus say. Praying always improves a person's memory and their level of obedience.
"And I remembered the word of the Lord, how He used to say, 'John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.' Acts 11:16
Two thoughts: (1) Praying and obeying the word of the Lord improves your memory.
Peter had filed away, in his mind, more of the words of Jesus than the Bible contains. He had walked and talked with Jesus for three years. Diligently reading every word of Jesus recorded in the Bible, may take minutes, perhaps hours, but not years. Peter had forgotten more about Jesus than we will ever know, this side of Heaven. Praying hit the recall button in Peter's mind.
(2) Jesus repeated what He thought was important. The fact that Peter recalled, "how He used to say", gives some indication that Jesus said it more than once. Peter still forgot it. It took the Holy Spirit to remind him of what was truly important. The Holy Spirit honors the words of Jesus. He never makes up His own words. He points to Jesus. He only does this...EVERY TIME.
In Texas, when a man gets himself hung up on something trivial and misses the significant, people say, "He steps over dollar bills to pick up nickels." I was on a plane coming home from Baton Rouge this week. It was one of those American Eagle machines: Small seats, smaller overhead bins, low ceilings, narrow aisles, wide flight attendants and over-booked.
By the time "Cramp Air" landed at DFW, I was ready to fight my way off the plane, like a rat off a sinking ship. I looked down, with my hands filled with carry on, and no room to move, and I saw two dimes on the floor. Two dimes! Not a nickel, but two whole dimes. I thought about it. Generally speaking, I'm not too proud, to pick up a penny, and this treasure trove was worth way more than that. I didn't do it. I got off the plane. My mission was to get home, not pick up more baggage, Not even 20 cents worth.
Peter and the boys at Central Control had forgotten the mission. They were sending missionaries all over the known world in wider, and wider concentric circles. The problem was that they didn't see the value in drawing Gentiles into their circle. They had a rule that wouldn't allow them to have any contact with them. They were focused on keeping the rule, and the rule kept them from seeing what was truly valuable to God...lost people
Jesus had established "The Outback Rule" long before the steak house hit on it. "No Rules. Just Right." Those who are made right by Jesus, don't need rules. They are filled with His Spirit and ruled by Jesus. Measuring oneself against others, always makes a person look taller in their own eyes. Measuring oneself, by the stature of Jesus, proves anyone to be vertically challenged. There are a lot of little self-appointed and self-anointed apostles running around today. Avoid people interested in being rulers, but don't give any evidence of being ruled. Jesus rules. Follow Him.
The saved don't just seek Jesus, they follow Him. They make a turn from their way to His way. They get off their high horse, and walk with Him, in a new direction. This is repentance. Not penance. Penance can ride a slow horse to hell, but still arrive at the same destination, unless there is a turn around. Penance shows sorrow for sin, but repentance turns from it. Heading in the wrong direction will wear you out, and kill your horse. When the horse is dead, dismount. Turn around, and start walking with Jesus. This is called repentance. It is life-changing, life-giving and completely essential evidence of the saving grace of Christ.
"God gave to them the same gift as He gave to us also after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God's way.?' When they heard this, they quieted down and glorified God saying, 'Well then..." Acts 11:17-18
The Gift of the Holy Spirit comes after believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. Good to know. Prayer places us in the way of this same Holy Spirit, and He brings a spirit of humility, and proper perspective, to prayerful people.
Prayerless people are prideful people, full of themselves, but not the Spirit of God. They tend to get in the way of God, not in a good way, but in a restrictive way. If they don't step aside, the collision won't stop God, but it will leave a mark on them.
Note to self: Pray and get out of the way.
"They quieted down and glorified God." Apparently, the early church was not a quiet place. It was a rowdy place. They did church loud! When they disagreed, they didn't do it silently or politely. They didn't mind speaking their mind, but the saving grace of the early church was their willingness to come to the end of themselves, personally and corporately and receive the mind of Christ. At the end of the day, all that mattered was the answer to one question, "What did Jesus say?"
The mind of Christ will only be secured by prayerful people. Long held personal preferences, prejudices, and policies die hard. Those that don't may prove to be death defying, but they will never be life-giving. They just kill the church. Stop the insanity. Have you lost your mind. Get off your high horse, and down on your knees. You will find your right mind, by moving in the right direction. It leads to the mind of Christ, and a heart for lost people.
TALK LESS! PRAY MORE!