The thing about salvation...
Today's Reading: Acts 15:1-2 NIV
1 Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: "Unless you be circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved." 2 This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about the question.
In the 1982 blockbuster hit film, E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial, the lovable alien E.T. pointed a gnarly glowing finger at his little friend Gertie and said in a long, monotone voice, "Be good." There's something to be said about being good, choosing to do the right thing. After all, young Elliott saw his strange new friend as someone he needed to protect from a harsh reality. Elliott took it upon himself to provide shelter and protection for a stranger in need. Isn't that what we are taught to do - to take care of each other, and provide for the least, the last, and the lost ones in our world today?
There are some really great people out there. On many of our evening news broadcasts, there are five minute segments, like NBC's "Making a Difference," where we learn about some folks who do incredibly unselfish acts simply to reach out and help others. Is it enough to be good, or is there something else necessary to turn God's all-seeing, all-knowing eye?
For centuries, the Jewish tradition taught their people to strictly follow the laws of Moses. For them, it wasn't just a matter of being good or doing the right thing; it was an imperative in order to receive God's favor and mercy in the last days. God gave His commandments for right living and directed His people how to live out their days. Folks who chose to step outside of the boundaries God had drawn were punished for their sins. The act of circumcision identified every male Jew as a follower and keeper of the laws of Jahweh. To abolish that custom and time-honored tradition seemed unacceptable to the God-fearing Jews in Antioch. Do you believe that one must be circumcised to be recognized by God as His precious child? Does wearing a cross around one's neck today, or having a Christian symbol tattooed on one's body help the Lord identify who His children really are?
I can only imagine the kinds of arguments that erupted in Antioch that day, as Paul and Barnabas arrived. It probably sounded a lot like some of the conversations I listened to at the 2008 United Methodist General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas. Passionate people with positional statements of what they believe, why they believe it, and why others should too, can set the tone for a spirited, heated debate. There are just some things that must be discussed. Paul and Barnabas were appointed along with some others, to go back to Jerusalem and ask the other apostles and elders of the church about their burning question. As United Methodist Christians all over the world prepare for the 2012 General Conference, may we be compelled into daily prayer over the burning issues that will be discussed at length and acted upon at this meeting.
Paul and Barnabas had experienced God's amazing grace when Jesus Christ became Lord and Savior of their lives. They knew that while the teachings of Moses were very important and should not be simply set aside, that submitting to the rules alone was not enough to save. All of us can try to follow the rules or morality, of our country and community. We should all try to do good where ever we can, and we can wear our symbols of faith as evidence of what we believe. And yet, this would never be enough to gain salvation. The law cannot save in and of itself. It is only by grace through faith in Jesus Christ that we can receive full salvation. And when you receive it, your life will never be the same.
So what thing must you let God have before you can fully accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior? Jesus said, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." John 3:16-17 NKJV.
Grace and peace,
Faith UMC - St. Charles, MO
Copyright 2011, Deb Spaulding
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