Marks Of The Spirit - Acts 15:20-35 NIV
Bible Study Application. When reading this it is easy to read as history without applying to our current lives today. Circumcision, meat sacrificed to idols, blood not an issue for most of us. So we tend to skip over. When reading the Bible we should stop and ask the Holy Spirt what He might have to say to me or to us in our culture. If we stop and think about it for just a few seconds, we would realize that marks of the flesh (tattoos, jewelry) have become an important part of our culture. People mark themselves!
#1- The mark of the __________ is what matters, not the mark of the _________.
We've come to an important place in our reading of Acts because we can now start cross-referencing with Paul's other writings. (Also notice with this chapter the use of "we" and "us." Luke is now on board personally.) Here is what Paul had to say to this same group of people (Galatia!):
"For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love." Galatians 5:5-6 NIV
This is not to say that it's wrong to wear tattoos expressing our faith (or jewelry that identify us as Christia), just that this is not what really matters one way or the other. Don't be fooled. Many non-Christians will wear Christian art on their flesh. What matters is not the outside but the inside, the marks of the Holy Spirit in our lives. There should be change!
#2 - Three instructions were given: "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things." Acts 15:28-29 NIV (Also v. 20)
This is the letter that is written to the new congregations in Galatia and beyond - the new Greek Christians.
There are 3 things we ask you not to do -
(1) don't eat food sacrificed to idols,
(2) don't eat blood or strangled animals,
(3) don't engage in intimacy outside the bounds of marriage.
It's easy to dismiss these 3 as culturally important issues of that day but not this day. Idol worship and animal sacrifices were still a big part of the Roman Empire. Also the culture of that day was loose with sexual morality. These 3 outward signs would identify a Jew and (now) a Christian as well.
But is there anything here under the surface that may apply to us today also?
A. God only__________ prioritized.
(Abstain from food sacrificed to idols.)
Our culture may not sacrifice animals to idols, but we surely do have a worship problem. It is so easy for us to worship other gods - sports teams, music artists, movie stars. With the advent of social media and YouTube, it's now possible to raise reality stars to the level of worship.
What about you this morning? Is there anything going on in your life that could be considered more important than the time you spend with God? Not intentionally maybe but it is so based on both money and time spent?
B. God given __________ symbolized.
(Abstain from blood & meat of strangled animals.)
This is one that is easy to miss for us today. Let's look at the underlying issue. The Jewish people of the Roman Empire recognized God-given life inside the blood. The blood was life. It was wrong to eat the blood of an animal not just as a food restriction but because it disregarded the miracle of God given life.
Is it possible that we - in our culture - also disregard the miracle of God given life? The more things change, the more they stay the same. YES! We struggle with this very issue today. God gives life to human beings. It is not up to us to choose to end it early - either with abortion or euthanasia.
C. God directed ____________ honored.
(Abstain from sexual immorality.)
Our culture thrives right now on how many different ways we can get this wrong - all under the banner of individual freedom and expression. If I am not hurting anyone else, why shouldn't I be able to express my own sexuality the way I choose and with whomever I choose?
What we miss here is not just the sexual relationship (the physical bonding) but the intimacy that is expressed - emotional, feeling bonding. When it came to defining these boundaries in Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 7 and Ephesians 6, Paul always compared the intimacy of a man and woman within marriage to the intimate relationship we have with God. When we mess up our intimacy with one another - by personally defining our own or others' sexuality or the lifelong bond of marriage necessary first - we end up redefining what intimacy really is and that messes up our heads when it comes to intimacy with God.
So before we gloss over these 3 rules of Christian conduct written to the Galatians in Acts 15, are there applications here to us? Our culture is every bit as anti-Christian in its philosophy as were the Romans of the 1st century. Have we become accustomed to our culture? Do we minimize the problem of idol worship within our hearts? Have we minimized the truth of God-given life? Have we devalued the issue of intimacy and surrendered to the demands of sexual identification? How you think about these defines you as a Christian more than a tattoo or jewelry!
#3- Be led by the Spirit and demonstrate the _________ of the Spirit.
"If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." Galatians 5:18,22-23 NIV
Ultimately what identifies us as Christian is not just what we DON'T DO but what we DO DO! Again coming back to Galatians 5 written by Paul to this same group of people (and now maybe you'll understand the context better), Paul says that we are not under the law. That means our identification is really not so much about keeping the rules of the faith and making sure we don't worship someone or something other than God, or don't value God-given life, or don't express intimacy incorrectly.
Our Christianity is so much more than NOT DOING. There is a positive, expressive, DOING to our Christianity that immediately identifies us as God's children.
The fruit of the Holy Spirit is incredible change in our attitudes towards ourselves and towards one another. When God's Spirit is in charge - we will love more, experience greater joy, become more peaceful and live easily with other people's differences because of Good within us. How about you this morning? Do you have marks of Holy Spirit!?