Differences Can Bring Us Together: Acts 15

“We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.”

Acts 15:11

Differences. They divide relationships. They keep people apart when individuals land on either side of the difference.  We see in the news the differences between groups regarding politics, racial issues. As more differences arise the further apart people become from one another. 

But differences do not need to divide. 

This week we are looking at Acts 15.  The believers gathered in Jerusalem to discuss how to welcome the Gentile believers. Some thought the Gentiles needed to be circumcised in accordance with the Law of Moses. Others do not see the necessary need for this extra burden on them. This was a great difference.

They discussed for a long time.  Then James spoke about how the Old Testament prophets foretold the Gentiles coming to faith.  There was not word about them being circumcised. They agreed this truth and wrote to the Gentile believers to abstain from immoral life and grow as followers of Jesus Christ. 

The Jerusalem meeting could have resulted in a division amongst the Apostles.  Rather than argue to win a point they chose to listen to one another, study Scripture together and prayed for God’s wisdom. They did not seek to be divided by their differences.  Instead they sought to be in agreement.  They listened to learn from one another. 

We learn from them the importance of learning from differences.  Many times we find ourselves in arguments whether in person or via social media working to prove that we are “right” and the other side is “wrong”. The health of the relationship does not matter as long we ‘win’. 

As followers of Jesus we resolve to listen to learn from one another. Everyone receives the undeserved grace of Jesus Christ.  No one is better than another because of how one lands on an issue.  We freely share God’s love with all from our own experiences with God. We see differences as a way to connect with each other. 

During these times may we reflect God’s undeserved grace to all people.  As we are forgiven so are they. As God loves us unconditionally so are they. As Jesus rose from the grave to save us from sin He did so for those we disagree with on some issues. 

The times we find yourself disagreeing with someone on an issue look to the Apostles in Acts 15.  See how they listened to learn from one another.  Find common ground with one another.  There are probably more things you agree on than disagree. Seek to find a solution as the Apostles did about the Gentiles. 

May we be examples in the world of how God’s love unites us together.  May each of us begin to see that differences do not divide us but rather brings us together.

This Week’s Challenge

Have a conversation with a person who you disagree with on an issue. Seek to understand one another finding common ground together.

What is a Disciple? A Disciple Listens

The word disciple means “follower, student.”  A disciple is one who learns from one another so that he will draw closer to the Teacher. In the process of learning one’s listening skills are put to the test. Is there an open heart within the disciple to fully listen to learn.  A willingness to listen to new concepts that will flip turn upside down one’s world? These are some of the marks of a listening disciple.

A disciple listens to the Voice of God to learn how she can serve and share the Gospel of Jesus Christ in every aspect of her life. She listen with a humble heart that is willing to begin to see the world, see people through the eyes of God. This is because a disciple is not greater than the Teacher. A disciple sits at the feet of the Teacher to hear His words for him. These words help build the foundation for one’s life and ministry.

Think of it this way:

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” (Matthew 7:24-27)

A disciple knows, is aware that there will be trouble in life so he builds his life on Jesus’ words to have a firm foundation that will not crumble when the storms come. This foundation only comes from listening to God.

So what does listening look like in every day life?

That is a great question!

Listening looks like quiet time with God. Reading Scripture not simply to check off the box on the To Do List, but to authentically listen to what God is saying to you in that particular text.

Listening looks like regular prayer time where we don’t do all the talking but we also stop talking to listen to God. Our hearts are moved, peace and hope are restored to our souls. We are strengthened in faith to not be deterred by what the adversary throws at us.

Listening looks like a conversation with a fellow disciple and the Holy Spirit stirs within us to lead, nudge us to where God is leading. 

As disciples of Jesus Christ we listen to the Father to learn from Him. The more we listen, the more we learn to recognize His Voice the better we become at listening. It takes time each day and over a period of time to grow. But don’t lose heart you will grow.

Remember it all begins with sitting at His feet like Mary (Luke 10:39) listening to His teaching. So be not distracted with the busyness of life like Martha (Luke 10:40) to miss what He has to share with you. The dishes will still be there. Let them soak. Set that show to record and watch it later. For right now stop, sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to learn directly from Him.

As you continue on your journey with Jesus Christ take the time to listen to learn from Him.  Be prepared to be completely changed, transformed from the inside out.  It will be scary at times but the growing pains you experience will enable you to see the full life that God has for you.  

This Week’s Challenge

Each day note in your journal, Bible, favorite notes app, Post-It note one thing you heard from God as you sought to listen to Him that day.  

What did you learn?