A Devotion Based on Acts 15.1-21

The apostles gathered in Jerusalem to discuss a very important question: “Do people have to be like us in order to follow Jesus?” This was a critical decision because it would significantly impact the future of the Church in the world outside of Israel.

The disciples were Jews. They follow Jewish Law. That means that they had to follow kosher dietary rules. They observed the Sabbath. They attended annual Jewish festivals in Jerusalem. And most importantly, the men had to be circumcised.

For the Jews, these things were a blessing. These were their identity markers: these are the things that make them Jewish. You could not be Jewish unless you observe these identity markers.

But for everyone else in the world, these markers were not a blessing; they were boundaries. Can you imagine how hard it is for an adult to change their dietary habits? Don’t imagine it but you probably will agree with me that it will be extremely painful to be circumcised as an adult. All of these markers – these boundaries – would make it incredibly difficult for someone from the Gentile world to follow Jesus.

Thankfully the Early Church leaders understood this and made the right decision. They decided that it is more important to become like Christ than to become like them. And so they removed these requirements that have prevented Gentiles from becoming Christ followers.

We need to examine ourselves these days: Are we inviting people to be like Jesus or to become like us? This is important because you can follow Jesus without singing hymns. You can preach the gospel wearing a sarong. You can teach Kids Church wearing head coverings. People don’t have to look, sing, and dress like us in order to become Christ followers.

Just like Christianity, Islam is more than just a religion. It is also a culture. And Muslim Indonesians highly value their culture and tradition. It is foolish for us to try to take them away from their culture. Instead, we should be excited to bring Jesus into their lives.

I believe that if we are as mature as the Early Church, if we are ready to love our Muslim neighbors just as they are, there will be a revival in Indonesia. God raised Jesus from the grave so that these people can have the opportunity to become like his son Jesus. It is time to focus on that instead of trying to turn them into one of us.