Thursday, March 30, 2017

March 30 - Acts 11

Today's reading in our daily plan is Acts 11. Take a moment to pray, asking God to speak to you from this passage. Then read, using the following notes and questions to help you get everything out of the passage.

SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
  • Because the Jewish community held very tightly to religious laws and requirements, the disciples became upset when they heard that the Gentiles had come to faith. In their minds, Jews and Gentiles were not supposed to associate. But once Peter told them the story of his encounter with God (which we read in the previous chapter of Acts) and how the Holy Spirit came on the Gentiles the same way it had the Jews, they became convinced that God's message was for all people.
  • Up until Peter's encounter with the Gentiles, the persecuted Christians were only sharing the good news with other Jews. However, a few branched out and shared Jesus with the Greeks in Antioch.
  • It was in Antioch that Saul and Barnabas spent a year teaching about Jesus. It was also here that the word "Christian" was first used to describe Jesus' followers.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
  • Sometimes, as Christians, we form small cliques. We don't mean to, but we feel comfortable being around people just like us. God reminds Peter and the church that this is not okay. Jesus' love is not an exclusive club.  It is something that should be shared with anyone and everyone.
  • And sometimes, like the Christians in Jerusalem, we're just wrong. Our opinions and viewpoints don't line up with the word of God. We need to be willing to change our hearts and our minds to what the Bible teaches. And if our friends or family question the change of view, that can open the door for us to lovingly explain what God has done in our lives.
  • "Christian" actually means "little Christ." Those of us who have given our lives to God should live lives that look like Jesus. This doesn't mean we're perfect, but it does mean we're constantly striving to grow our relationship with God and live it.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
  • Are you willing to get out of your comfort zone? The church in Antioch was full of believers from all around the globe. Is there someone you've been hesitant to spend time with, or share Jesus with, because they're different than you? Ask God to change your heart and break down that barrier today.
  • Is there a belief or habit you've been holding onto that you know God wants to change? Maybe you need to give something up, or maybe it's something new you should start doing (like spending regular time with God, or being more generous toward people). Ask God to show you what beliefs you have that need to shift or change.
  • If you're a Christian, you're a "little Christ." Can somebody point to your life and say, "That person is definitely an example of Christ?" Does your behavior and the way you treat people reflect the way Jesus would treat them? Ask God to help make you more like Jesus, and look for ways today to do just that.