May the Lord save us from our Foolish selves. If not for the Grace which we so richly do not deserve, none of us could stand, or even show our faces in polite society.
“Train up a child in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Prov. 22:6
Like it of not, we are all trained as children-we are all, in part, products of our environments; if the environment is good, well and good.
But not many are so blessed in childhood-more of us, if not from broken homes, come from ones that are least bruised and walking around on crutches. Sadly, we children are trained up in ways that we should not go. And when we grow old, we must depart from them, or we pass our infirmities onto our children. The departing part is hard, too hard for many, possibly any of us to do on our own. We have a tendency to over compensate and swing too far to the opposite position. And often we then swing back again, to where we started.
Many of us who came out of false churches now worship God in true churches, and learn from God’s Word how we should live.
But like a dirty pendulum, without realizing it we can swing back and start rebuilding the false faith we came out of-while we may reject the doctrines we have learned are man made, legalism can still sneak in and make us muddy up the Grace we live in. And then we have problems.
Peter, in his life, is an example of this muddied Grace. He had the benefit of learning from Jesus in person; he saw many of the miracles, heard all of the teachings from Jesus’ own lips, and witnessed how Jesus cared for His Creation. If there was anyone who “Got it” and knew better, it was Peter.
“9On the next day, as they were on their way and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. 10But he became hungry and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; 11and he saw* the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, 12and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. 13A voice came to him, “Get up, Peter, kill and eat!” 14But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” 15Again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” 16This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky.” Acts 10:9-16
Although Peter had been a follower of Christ for years, he was still holding in his heart to the Jewish laws about what he should or should not eat. God was taking him to task about holding onto the Law when he was under Grace. He had been canalized; that is, trained up as a child with the Law, and was having a hard time breaking free from it.
So God gave him a lesson which we can apply to our lives, also: His Grace is sufficient for us, and we are no longer under the Law. Note that the animals were brought down three times. Remember that Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him. I think that with Peter, showing or asking him once wasn’t enough; to get down to the nudas veritas, to get past the bluster, it took at least three times. Luckily, we are forgiven more than 70 times 7 times when we mess up. It’s called Grace and Mercy. We’re not done with Peter yet.
“11But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. 13The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. 14But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?
15“We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; 16nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified.” Paul, writing in Galatians 2:11-16
Muddying up the Grace. The pendulum swung back into the Law, and I’m sure that Peter thought that he was totally justified. Scripture doesn’t record Peter’s answer to Paul, but I’m sure that he confessed, sought forgiveness and was restored as a brother. Because Grace is greater than our sin.
“1Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions. 2One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only. 3The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him. 4Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” Romans 14:1-4
“14I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean.15For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died.” Romans 14:14-15
To avoid the charge of taking verses out of context, please read the entire chapter and ask God what lessons we can learn.
What I believe God is teaching us here is not about food and drink, but about not allowing our beliefs to tear down the faith of another Christian who may believe differently.
While God knows all, we are all students at different points in our life-long learning about God. He accepts us where we are when we are saved, and through His Spirit, in a long, long process, conforms us to the image of Christ.
I have a friend who came out of Catholicism, rejects it‘s doctrines, is a Bible student who worships in a good Baptist church...and believes differently than I do on a number of subjects, including the meaning of the Sabbath for Christians. He believes that although we are under Grace, we really should do no work on the Sabbath, or enjoy any guilty pleasures, but instead give up TV, sports, etc on the Lord's Day. In effect, follow the Law even though we can not please God in doing so. I don’t argue with him, but accept that we believe differently. Love for my brother makes me do that. I can’t edify and tear down at the same time. Love for another brother brought me to write this post.
I have another brother who, getting caught up in legalism without even realizing it, showed contempt for the faith of other Brethren, refusing their Lord’s table as being unworthy of him.
“4Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.”