February 18 - Acts 21
THY WILL BE DONE... AS SOON AS I FIGURE OUT WHAT THY WILL IS: We all desire to do God's will, but it can be so hard to determine what God wants us to do at times. Yesterday we read that the Spirit 'compelled' Paul to go to Jerusalem (20:22), and now today we read that fellow Christians, speaking 'through the Spirit urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem (v4).' We can be certain the Spirit is not giving contradictory messages. This verse can be interpreted to mean that through the Spirit, these people knew Paul would face grave danger in Jerusalem, so they urged him not to go. The lesson here is that there will be times in life where you get good, yet seemingly contradictory advice from good Christian friends and family regarding a decision. This is why honing our Spiritual Disciplines is so critical, because it's only through these daily activities that we will truly be aligned with God's will and can make these difficult decisions. In v14, Paul's friends recognize that Paul is following God even as he rejects their well intentioned advice.
I THOUGHT YOU SAID WE DIDN'T HAVE TO DO THAT STUFF: Paul has been traveling all over the empire telling Gentiles that they do not need to jump through all the hoops required in Mosaic law in order to be saved (we will especially see this in the letter to the Galatians), but yet as soon as Paul gets to Jerusalem he seems to go overboard in showcasing his support for Jewish customs. He seems like a politician, saying whatever it is that his audience wants to hear. Of course this isn't the case; it all boils down to a person's rationale and motivation for following certain rules and customs. If you are following a rule because your salvation depends on it, then you are as wrong as can be. Remember what the Jews were saying in 15:1 - 'unless you are circumcised, you cannot be saved. Paul rightfully flipped out over that. However, if a person is adhering to rules or customs because those activities define them culturally, as many of these Jewish customs did, Paul says no problem, in fact, I'll shave my head too. Culturally specific customs and rules can often be very good, but we must never impose them on other Christians. In theory this makes sense, but in practice it is really, really hard to live and let live because these things can often be so deeply ingrained in our psyches.
ACKNOWLEDGE WHO GOD IS: The God of all creation, and the Lord of Jews and Gentiles like us: Hispanics, Laotians, Anuak, Polish, Norwegians and even Dutchmen.
ALIGN YOUR LIFE WITH GOD'S WILL: Pray that God will enable you to set aside your own opinions, no matter how well rooted they may seem, so that 'The Lord's will be done (v14).
ASK GOD FOR WHAT YOU NEED: