Community Group Study Notes
- Have someone in your group give a brief recap of Sunday’s message, highlighting the primary Scripture passages and main idea of the message.
- How did this message strengthen, confirm and/or correct your previous ideas about dealing with change?
- Describe a time you experienced significant change in your life. Were you comfortable with the change? How did you handle the change? If you were to experience the change again, would you do anything differently?
- Read Acts 15:1-2. What are steps we can take individually and as brothers and sisters in Christ to resist change that God doesn’t want to occur?
- Interact with this statement: “I would rather be a little uncomfortable in a place God is at work than to be comfortable in a place where He isn’t.” Are you reflecting this statement in your church, workplace, neighborhood, etc.?
- Is there a change that God is leading you into that can sanctify you and deepen your intimacy with God and prepare you for his work? Spend time praying for each other as you embrace these changes.
What is one thing you can do for someone in your circle of influence this week? Even if it might make you uncomfortable, try to take this action step.
Consider the following:
- Buying groceries for a neighbor
- Sharing your grace story with a coworker or friend
- Praying for somebody you encounter in your daily going
God never changes. God never changes. That's one of the most comforting and truthful statements that we can make about God. God never changes. Because when we say that, what we're describing is God's immutable nature, that's just a big word, immutable, that means it can't ever change. Why that's awesome is because God can never be anything else but holy, and good, and righteous, and just, and loving. It's who He is. He can't help it. God never changes. But it sure seems that everything He touches does, doesn't it? And in fact, that's actually the story of the New Testament, that God the Son has come among us, and through His life, His death and His resurrection, He has changed everything. That's the picture, as we begin to read the New Testament about what transpired, that's what begins to unfold, and especially in the Book of Acts, we get a specific look at the nature of the unchanging God who changes everything. That what we see in the early part of the Book of Acts is the resurrected Jesus giving a commission to His church, and then we see Him sending His Spirit to come and transform lives, we see the birth of the Church, we see actually the mission of the Church now being put into play, and we see all of that in the Book of Acts, the Book of Acts like the rest of the New Testament is a document about change. In fact, as you start in the very beginning of Acts, and as you read all the way through the Book of Acts, it is pulsing with change. The whole book, not only is that the testimony of the New Testament, but the Book of Acts itself just pulses with change. Have you ever gotten so caught up in, I imagine the new believers in all of the goings on that were happening through the work of the Holy Spirit through the apostles and all that was happening, and that was changing, have you ever gotten so caught up in change and in wonder and in something being so different, and so pulsing with life, that you maybe didn't consider the outcomes, and what that would entail, and what that would mean, have you ever done that before? I mean, I have. I even think about like Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory. I think about Veruca Salt, who came in and was overwhelmed by everything, but wasn't really listening to the fact that she was in an actual factory of chocolate, and she didn't realize it, like all the stuff, she was overwhelmed by everything, and thought it was incredible, but she didn't stay off of the good egg, bad egg thing, and she was noted as a bad egg and then she disappeared, and she's gone, right? Or Augustus Gloop who decided that even though he was told not to drink from the chocolate river, he decided he would drink from the chocolate river, and fell into the chocolate river, and then he is Gloop no more, right? He's gone. They got caught up in everything that was going on in the wonder, and in the pulsing of life, and change, and had not considered maybe all of the outcomes, and I wonder if the new believers that had come to faith in Jesus at the time of Pentecost, almost all of which were Jewish in background, I wonder if through the course of time, if they got caught up with everything that was happening, and the pulsing of life, and the pulsing of change that was going on, but maybe had not considered all the outcomes. For instance, when Jesus commissioned His disciples, His apostles, before He was ascending to the Father, He said, "You're going to be witnesses to me in Jerusalem and in Judea, and Samaria and to the ends of the Earth." And they said, "Okay", not really knowing what that was going to entail, and then what happens? Well, the Spirit is poured out at Pentecost there in Jerusalem and 3,000 are added to their number in one day, and you've got the birth of this thing that we call the Church, and they had everything in common, they were sharing with one another, and loving one another, and enjoying the fellowship that they had together, but they were staying in Jerusalem. And so God allowed for there to be persecution, because He said, "I've got a mission for you to accomplish, and you're staying put, and I told you you were gonna be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the Earth." And that persecution started spreading these believers out all over the place, and these mostly Jewish Christians were now being spread out into Asia Minor, all over the place, including places like Greece and Turkey, and all of these places, which is great, right? It's a wonderful thing, because the Gospel is now getting to all of these people. But it's awesome, right? Yes, of course it is. But maybe those early believers, who were Jewish in background, started figuring out what the implications of this commission were, because now they started realizing, "Yeah, now we're bringing the message of the Gospel, and non-Jews are receiving the Messiah Jesus, and they're coming from very different backgrounds. You see, our background is pretty pure. We were codified as a people around some commandments, and some laws and some customs, but these people are coming out of just craziness. This is gonna be messy. And what about us? Like we were really the first ones, like we're the Jewish people, we're the chosen ones, we're the ones with the Word of God, we're the ones that had the Messiah come through our line. We're the people of the covenants. We're the people of the promise. What is going to happen with us? And if we keep telling these Gentiles about this message of the Gospel, there's gonna be more of of them than there are of us." They figured out real fast that there's a lot more non-Jewish people, than there are Jewish people. "And that if these people start coming to faith in Jesus Christ, we're gonna be outnumbered in a hurry. And what does that mean for our background? What does that mean for our culture coming out of Judaism, and now putting faith in Jesus Christ, the Messiah? What does this mean for us? Do we require of them to become like us? Do people that are not Jewish need to become Jewish in order to be saved, and a part of the people of God? Do they need to take on the covenant mark of circumcision? Do they need to embrace the dietary laws and the customs of Moses?" This was what was happening in the Church. And the Church had to have a meeting, they called it the Council of Jerusalem. It was a meeting where they were going to be all together, the apostles and the elders of Jerusalem with some other apostles that were coming in for this meeting, because they needed to dialogue about this very question. This question was now located in the Book of Acts, in Acts 15, it's in the center of the entire book. It's really kind of the hinge on which the book changes, and turns, because they're having to deal with a significant question now, and this is a question of Gospel importance that they're dealing with, and this Council where they got together, and you've got apostles and elders in Jerusalem all together, was it a Council that was mostly meeting about theology? Sort of, was it a Council that was talking about doctrine? Well, sure, yes. But do you know what it was also? It was a meeting on how to deal with change. Change that God had implemented. And how would they deal with that, as this new fledgling church made up of Jewish background believers, and Gentiles background believers. How is that going to look? How do we deal with change? It was a unique meeting, so it's not something that we can replicate, the Church of today looks different than the Church of then, so it's not something that we have recorded for us in order to replicate, but it is recorded for us. Dr. Luke wrote all of this down for us, so that we would have a testimony by the Spirit of God about what occurred there, not just as history, even though it is, but for us to learn from. And what is it that we can learn from that passage of Scripture in Acts 15, where they gathered in this Council? I think we can learn some things about change that we need to embrace. In fact, let me tell you what the first one is. I'll give you a handful. Here's the first, "Don't resist change that God is initiating." This is our first lesson in change. Do not resist change that God is actually implementing or initiating. Now, let me show to you in the very first verse of Acts 15, it says certain people, isn't that really specific? Ha-ha. Nope, it's not specific. I'll tell you who I think they are in a moment. "Certain people came down from Judea", which is where Jerusalem is, right? So they came from Jerusalem to Antioch. Antioch is kind of modern day Turkey, okay? It's where they were. "Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch, and were teaching the believers, 'Unless you are circumcised according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.'" This is a startling statement, isn't it? I mean, who are these certain people that came down? Well, there were one of two classes of people, and I'm not positive, I kind of have a tendency to think that they were believing Pharisees. So we'll find that out in just a moment, because there were believing Pharisees, believers in the Messiah, who were of the Pharisee party, they were there in Jerusalem, and they actually participated in the Council of Jerusalem. So it could be Pharisees who put their belief in Messiah, but then kind of pulled themselves back into this Judaism, and began teaching that you had to be circumcised to be a part of the people of God. Or it could have been the people that Paul describes in Galatians where he talks about these false kind of, you know, proselytizers, and so I have a tendency to think it's believing Pharisees. But let's just, for safety's sake, let's just call them agitators, okay? These are agitators, and they are showing up, they've come from Jerusalem, and they've come to Antioch, and here's what message that they've said. "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved." And you can imagine, right? If you came from a Pharisee background, you're part of the religious kind of leaders, you're very conservative, you've been following after the law all the time. It's just law, law, law, law, law, law, law, right? And by the way, many of those laws were given by God, most of the laws that they were trying to embrace were probably man-made, because they called them fence laws, they were trying, they made laws to keep you from breaking God's law, so they had laws out here that were man-made, that you tried not to break, so that you would never get to breaking God's law. It was a lot to carry, 600 plus of these things, like it was a lot to carry, right? So these believing Pharisees now hear about the Gospel going to Gentiles and all of this, and they're thinking to themselves, "We're gonna be outnumbered. Our culture's gonna be watered down. This is going to be a mess." So they come bringing this message. You have to be basically Jewish to be a part of the people of God. That's the message that they brought. And you can imagine them not being open to change, right? Because of their background. Because they come from the the people of God, right? They're the chosen group, and they've been following after the law. And you can just imagine, they probably are a little reluctant to change, but the truth is what they were resisting was something that God was initiating. And you and I have to remember that we don't wanna resist change that God is initiating. We know, we can identify like them a little bit, can't we? We are creatures of comfort. I mean, you sit in the same dead gum seat every single week. Let's be honest. Some of you going, "That's true. That is true." And I don't care about that. That's no big deal, right? We're creatures of comfort though, aren't we? And sometimes we, when our comfort is imposed upon, we don't like it. You know that most churches over the last few decades, most churches in the Western culture, and let's just talk about the United States specifically, it's true of Canada as well for our Canadian viewers. But let's just talk about the United States specifically, over the last few decades, generally speaking, the vast majority, and by vast majority, I mean vast majority of local churches have not grown, at all. The vast majority have not grown. Now there's a bunch of reasons why that's the case, and of course, COVID affected everybody, so I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about well before that. A couple of decades, even before that, churches have not grown. Why is that? Because in many cases, the church is a group of people that know one another, the average church size is 67 people today in the United States, it's the average local church size. It was a little over 100 prior to COVID. So let's call it 100 people. They kind of know one another, they're kind of like one another, they look like one another, they vote like one another, they like the same style of music as one another, and all that stuff. And do you know what happens? They start to get fearful that if they actually reach people that aren't like them, that their church will be different. And so they're content, which is staying like they are. You see, before we start pointing at these believing Pharisees, we might want to realize that we can easily fall into that trap. We can easily become that, and what we don't want to do is we don't want to resist what God is actually initiating. And see, they came to Antioch, these believing Pharisees, they came and brought this message to Antioch, and Antioch knew a thing or two about what it meant to be uncomfortable with change, but still be willing to do it. I don't know if you know this, but the people that made up the kind of the leadership team at the Church at Antioch, it was awesome. In fact, listen to what it says in Acts 13. It says, "Now in the Church at Antioch, there were prophets and teachers, Barnabas", you know that name, right? "Simeon called Niger", who was an African, " Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the Tetrarch", in other word, he come from a Jewish background, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord, and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, 'Set apart from me Barnabas and Saul, for the work to which I have called them.' So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off." What a testimony of the Church at Antioch. Let's be honest. If Barnabas and Paul were a part of the leadership team at the church that I was at, and the Spirit said, "I'm gonna take those two", I'd be like, "No, no, we need them. They know stuff. They're being used. You're ... No, we need 'em here." That's not what the Church at Antioch did. They lived with the discomfort, and they agreed with God, and did what God asked them to do. So these agitators are bringing a new message into Antioch, but I would remind us that we don't wanna resist the change that God is initiating, but the corollary or secondary is that we don't embrace change that God is resisting, right? So we not only don't resist the change that God is initiating, but we don't want to embrace change that God is resisting, He's standing against. Listen to how this played out in Acts 15:1, and the beginning of part two, "Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch, and were teaching the believers 'Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.' This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute, and debate with them." Man, I like how Luke just kind of tells it like it is right here. The agitators wanted Antioch to change back. You see, what had happened is, is the Gospel had gotten to Antioch, primarily a Gentiles background place, and God was doing wonderful things, you had this multiethnic group of people that were now gathering together in full fellowship with one another, enjoying the blessing of God, and the comfort of the Holy Spirit, and there they were doing what God had called them to do all together as a family of God, and the agitators show up and say, "No, you need to go back to this. You need to stop and become Jewish for this to work." And Paul and Barnabas said, "No way." Sharp dispute and debate is the term that Luke uses. I love it, it's somewhat understated. He was basically like Paul and Barnabas they put their foot in the ground right here, and they went, "Mm-mm, nope." Now it's a good reminder, by the way, and the culture that we live in, which is an outrage culture, a culture that teaches us to be outraged about everything. I would just remind you as the people of God, we probably need to save our energy for being outraged at things of Gospel importance. You can actually, listen, I wanna just go ahead and give you permission. You are free not to be outraged at everything in the entire world. You are free not to have to comment and share your opinion enraged about everything in the entire world. You're free to do that. I've just given you permission. You're welcome. Hmm. We need to save some of our outrage for that which is of Gospel importance. And here Paul and Barnabas put their foot in the ground, because these agitators came and said, "You need to go back to the works of the law. You need to go back to the externals in order to be saved." And they said, "Absolutely not. That is anti-Gospel. That is an anti-Gospel." It was strong. Now you're saying, "Well, that debate was for then. It's not really for now." Oh really? Because just this past week, the Orthodox Church, because of what's happened with the Russian Orthodox Church, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, got together, leaders of those churches got together of the Orthodox Church, in that region in Greece, to discuss the heresy and the sin of ethnophyletism. And here's what that means. It means that because some portion of the Russian Orthodox Church has conflated country and church together, and now what has happened is that they are talking about how they will only minister to those of their nationality. And do you know what the Orthodox Church is coming together to say? "Nope, we're putting our foot down, because that is anti-Gospel." That would be like us saying, "We are here for only certain men, women, and children." Instead of our mission being every man, woman, and child. We have to be able to stand against whatever is trying to be foisted upon us, that God is actually Himself resisting, because if the agitators would've gotten their way at the Council of Jerusalem, it would've meant that we would've had a separation into an ethnically Jewish church, so to speak, but that is really now moving backwards, and not embracing the fullness of the Gospel, and a Gentile church that would've been at odds. And that was never God's heart. God wants one church. Brothers and sisters, I tell you this in love, Jesus is not a polygamist. He has only one bride. That's why we always talk about here, The Chapel is one congregation of the Church of Western New York. We are not the Church of Western New York. We're one congregation of the Church of Western New York. Because what God's desire is for us to operate as one. So as they're having this debate, they make a decision that this needs to be appealed to Jerusalem. Here's what it says in verse two and following. "So Paul and Barnabas were appointed along with some other believers to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question. The churches sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the believers very glad, and when they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders to whom they reported everything that God had done through them." And so you love seeing this, right? Antioch appeals to Jerusalem, it's kind of the mothership, right? It's where everything started. And you can see already that there's an interdependency in the nature of the Church in the early timeframe, that Antioch needed Jerusalem, and Jerusalem identified with Antioch, like this was all a part of the church of Jesus Christ. And you see that they brought this before multiple leaders, not one singular leader. The New Testament knows nothing of singular leadership outside of the One who is the Head of the Church, which is Jesus. And every other local expression of that has multiple, not singular, in terms of its leadership and wisdom, but it really opens the door for a third truth here about change, and that's this, that change should be testified to by the Spirit, and the Word. This is how we can testify to the nature of change, particularly that God is the One initiating this, it's about the Spirit and the Word. In fact, what you have is you've got three people that get up and talk at the Council of Jerusalem. You first got the agitators who kind of bring the, "You've gotta be circumcised, like that's what you gotta do." And then Peter talks. Peter probably wasn't in Jerusalem still at that time, he was outside of it, but he had come back for this Council, and then you got Barnabas and Paul who came over for this, and then you got James, who's the half-brother of Jesus, who is the the Leader, the Lead Elder in the Church of Jerusalem, right? And he talked last, but what did they do when they got up and talked? They testified to the change that God was initiating by appealing to the work of the Spirit and the Word of God. Watch. Here's Peter. It says, "Then some of the believers who belong to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, 'The Gentiles must be circumcised, and required to keep the law of Moses.' And the apostles and elders met to consider this question. After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them. 'Brothers, you know that sometime ago, God made a choice among you, that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the Gospel and believe. God who knows the heart, showed that He accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them just as He did to us. He did not discriminate between us and them, for He purified their hearts by faith. Now then why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of Gentiles a yoke that neither we nor our ancestors have been able to bear? No, we believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved just as they are." What a startling reminder for Peter about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He makes this bold proclamation that we believe that they are saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus, just like us. And what he was doing when he was talking is he was saying, "You know that I've been a part of this, right? You know that I've seen this firsthand." What he's doing is he's recounting his interaction with Cornelius. Do you guys remember that story? Peter was actually in Joppa, and he was up on top of a roof, and he was kind of, you know, taking a nap or whatever at Simon, the Tanner's house. That's where he was staying. And he gets a vision. And that vision is there is a kind of a scroll that comes down, a sheet that comes down, and on it are a bunch of animals, that he's not allowed to eat, and interact with. And the voice in the vision says, "Peter, get up, kill and eat." Peter argues, "Oh no, uh-uh. I have never had a barbecue sandwich in my life. I am a good Jew and I will not start today." And then He says to him, "What I have made clean, do not call unclean." And Peter knew He's not just talking about food, though He is, but He's talking about Gentiles.
- And then He says to him, "What I have made clean, do not call unclean." And Peter knew He's not just talking about food, though He is, but He's talking about Gentiles. And so then He's told, Peter is told, "There's gonna be some people that are gonna come for you, and you go with them." So Peter kind of wakes up from all this, and "Peter, we're here coming for you." Peter says, "Okay, I'm supposed to go with you." And he goes to Cornelius's house, a Gentile, but who is a God-fearer, and who is actually praying, and was told by way of the Holy Spirit, "You need to call for Peter, and when he comes, listen to everything he says." So he told Peter, "So I called you and you came", and Peter's like, "Well, I was told that you were gonna call for me", and can you imagine this, right? Cornelius is just like, "Yeah, I was told to call for you", and Peter's like, "well, I was told to come, because you were calling for me." And so there they are, and Peter begins preaching the Gospel to this Gentiles household. And what happens? Here's what it says in Acts 10, "While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter", 'cause Peter brought some, you know, Jewish-background guys with him, "they were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles, for they heard them speaking in tongues", that's other languages "and praising God. Then Peter said, 'Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.' So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, and then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days." You see what Peter did, when he got up and talked at the Council of Jerusalem is he testified to what he had seen the Spirit do. He preached the Gospel to the Gentiles, the Gentiles came to faith in Jesus Christ, they were transformed, they were made new, they were baptized in the Holy Spirit, as a part of the family of God. There you have it. And Peter gets up and says, "There you go, Council, if you're trying to figure these things out." And then Peter's not the only one that talked, Barnabas and Paul also talked, watch what they said after this, "The whole assembly became silent, as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles, through them." What were they talking about? Well, remember Barnabas and Saul were in Antioch, right? And they were ministering there, and then the Holy Spirit said as they were praying, and worshiping and fasting to the church at Antioch said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul. I've got a mission for them." And then they left there and they began ministering in other places, and they went from Antioch into some other places, and then they were in Pisidia in Antioch, a different place than Antioch, okay? Still in the region of Turkey. And what transpired there? Well, they started preaching to Jews, and the Jews said, "Nah." And so they said, "Okay, we'll turn to the Gentiles", and listen to what Paul preaches there, and where he appeals to the Word of God. Here's what it says. "On the next Sabbath, almost the whole city gathered to hear the Word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy. They began to contradict what Paul was saying, and heaped abuse on him. Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly. 'We had to speak the Word of God to you first Jews, since you reject it, and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles, for this is what the Lord has commanded us. 'I have made you a light for the Gentiles that you may bring salvation to the ends of the Earth.'" He's quoting from Isaiah 49. "When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the Word of the Lord, and all who were appointed for eternal life believed. And the Word of the Lord spread through the whole region. But the Jewish leaders incited the God-fearing women of high standing and the leading men of the city, and they stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. So Paul and Barnabas shook the dust off their feet, as a warning to them and went to Iconium, and the disciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Spirit." What is it that Paul and Barnabas are appealing to when they address the Council? They're appealing to the work of the Spirit, and the Word of God. This is what God's intent was. It was not just only gonna be about Jewish background people, it was going to be about every single person, and we can testify both by the spirit and by the Word that this is God. And then James, right after Paul and Barnabas finished talking, here's what James summarizes. "When they finished, James spoke up 'Brothers', he said, 'listen to me. Simon has described to us how God first intervened to choose a people for His name from the Gentiles. The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written.'" He's quoting from Amos 9. "'After this, I will return and rebuild David's fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who bear my name' says the Lord, who does these things, things known from long ago." What does Peter do? He appeals to the work of the Spirit. What do Paul and Barnabas do? They appeal to the work of the Spirit and the Word of God. What does James do? He appeals to the Word of God and says, "This is God doing these things." We are reminded that change should be testified to by the Spirit and by the Word. But the fourth truth here, very briefly, change can sanctify us by causing us to think of others before ourselves. Hmm. Boy, is this needed in our day and age. Because we found out, by the way, when change happened with COVID and all that kind of stuff, do you know what happened? And I'm just, I'm not talking about just in the world, I'm talking about in the Church. People were quick not to only think of others, but just to think of themselves. Quick. It was like first move. First move was, "Well, I think ..." Okay, I got it, cool. But why don't we think about one another? Why don't we do that? That is fundamentally what it means to know Jesus is to think outside of ourselves and about other people. And that's exactly what we see when James says, "Here's what we need to do." Listen to what he says beginning of verse number 19. James says, "It is my judgment, therefore that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God." By the way, if you're an adult and somebody says to you, "You gotta be circumcised to be a part of this group, let's call that difficult, shall we? Here's what James says. "Let's not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God." In other words, they don't have to do those things. "Instead, we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals, and from blood, for the law of Moses has been preached in every city from the earliest times, and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath." Don't be confused by what James was doing here. James wasn't saying, "Let's tell the Gentiles to obey four specific laws, because this'll be great." What James was doing here he is talking to two different groups of people. He first says, "Hey, Jewish background believers, I need you to understand something. The Gentiles, they don't have to be circumcised. They don't have to obey the dietary laws. They don't have to do any of that to be fully a part of the people of God, because the Spirit and the Word has testified to this. And hey, you Gentiles, you can come into the family of God by faith and grace, that's how it happens. By the grace of Jesus, through faith in Jesus, this is how it happens, and you are fully apart. The spirit of God will indwell you, just like he would with Jewish people background, right? Like you'll be a full part of the family of God. But I'm gonna ask you to leave your pagan worship practices in the past, because that's what those four pieces were all of them were actually affiliated with the pagan worship of their past. And so he said, "I'm not telling you that, because you have to do these things to be saved, I'm telling you that, because Jew and Gentile alike in Jesus need to be able to sit down at the table of fellowship without a fence." That's why. You see, Paul would write about that later, when he wrote to the Church at Rome. He would talk to him about how Jews and Gentiles actually needed to be able to consider one another instead of just themselves, and their own backgrounds and cultures. Here's what he wrote in Romans 14. He said, "Let let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it's wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It's better not to eat meat or drink wine, or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall." Paul's saying "It's not just about you. Your freedom doesn't mean non-consideration of your brothers and sisters. Your freedom actually means that you are free to limit yourself out of love for them." That's the message of the cross. That's the message of the Gospel. That's the beautiful truth, even if it is a little bit uncomfortable. Now. Margaret Buchanan, she passed away in 2015 at 93-years-old. And she was the founding member of the church that I came from in southwest Florida. before I came to The Chapel. A wonderful lady and her husband George, he had this great laugh you know, his laugh was just like legendary. Miss Margaret was just a tremendous, tremendous woman. She literally, literally the founding member of the church. And she, by the time the Lead Pastor there got there, they were a church of 60 people, made up of 60-somethings. So you've got 60 60-somethings that are hanging out together, right? So it was a bit of an older church, no young people, nothing like that. By the time that they found me to call me the Senior Pastor, the Lead Pastor there who I'd known and said, "Hey, would you leave Georgia, and come to Florida and serve with us for a while?" It was already like almost a church of 300 at that point. They actually had two young couples. Yeah, aha, true. And when Edie and I showed up, it made three. We were like, "Dude, we just grew by a third in the young couples, right?" And then in eight years, the church went from 300 to 1,500, in southwest Florida. And Miss Margaret was there for all of it, every bit of it. You know, when she started out, it was just like they would sit around, a handful of them, right? Sit around and somebody maybe bang on a piano for a moment, and they'd sing a few hymns or whatever, and then they would do whatever they do, share, teach a Bible study, do whatever they do, right? And over the course of time, what she saw is she saw everything change. Literally everything. The leadership structure changed, the music style changed, a lot, the building changed, the demographic changed, I mean, could you imagine? Like there was a group of people that just knew one another, and then historically that goes from just a handful of people who knew one another to 1,500 people, most of whom she didn't even know. And she's the founding member of the church. I often wondered what she thought about all of this change. She witnessed it all. So I asked her one time, "Ms. Margaret, you've seen it all. Tell me about that." I don't remember the exact quote, this was sometime, it was many years ago, 25-ish or more years ago. I don't remember her exact quote, but it was something like this. She said, "Well, you know, is everything that we've done over the course of time been a fit for me? No. But I'd rather be a little uncomfortable in a church where God is at work, than to be comfortable in a place where He is not." Okay, Ms. Margaret, may God increase your tribe. That's called godliness. Maturity. Understanding. She would be the first one to weep with people coming through the waters of baptism. She may not understand all the methods, and all that, and it all changed, right? And she was older, and she couldn't get out, and do all the stuff that she could do, but she was just loving what God was doing, and instead of resisting what God was up to, she embraced it. Do you know that today, this day, January 22nd, is the exact day that we were born as a church. January 22nd, 1961, The Chapel had its first worship service. Isn't that incredible? 62 years ago. It's really a beautiful thing. Do you know how many people there were at the first worship service of The Chapel 62 years ago? Nine. Nine people. Do you know what the offering was that day? $93, and change. Now you're going, "Well you know ..." By the way, in 1961, if you equate what that is to what that is now, it would've been like each one of those nine was giving 100 bucks. So they were willing to go in, they were willing to get going. Like this wasn't ... 'Cause, right, if you did the math there, you'd go, "It was about 10 bucks a person, right? They put in, 'cause it was a $93 offering." But in today's dollars that would be about $100 roughly, they were sacrificial. And do you know that some of those that came maybe not right in that group of nine, but that were in that year, 1961, '62, maybe even into '63, '64, '65, 'cause they were meeting in a rented school, park school, and that's where the first worship service was for The Chapel. And do you know that there are still people in our church today that were a part of our church in the early 60s? I honor them, because they've been faithful, and they've seen everything change. But you know what they thank God for? That no matter what they were used to, or the rhythms that they were used to, or maybe it felt a little uncomfortable here or there, or "This wasn't my preference, or this musical style's not my preference or whatever", you know what they wanted to be a part of? They wanted to be a part of what God was doing, and they remained faithful serving still in our context. May God increase their tribe, because that's what God calls us to. 'Cause brothers and sisters, change in the world that we live in, it's inevitable. You can't fight it, you can't act as if time stands still, change is inevitable. And what we don't want to see is we don't want to see us being an eight track church in a digital world. I remember a Professor named Howard Hendrix, who's with the Lord now, he taught at Dallas Seminary for a long time, and this was back in the 90s, but a church called him out and said, "We want you to consult with us", and he took two days and he consulted with the church, and he got to know everything about them, and then they wanted to ask him, "What's your final conclusion?" And he said, "Well, here's what I think you should do. I think you should build a fence around your property." And they were like, "Okay." And they're jotting it down. And they said, "Now why should we build a fence around the property?" He said, "Because I think you should sell tickets." And they're like, "What? Okay, why should we sell tickets?" He said, "Because people would love to come, and see what church was like in the 1940s." He said, "You're not even flirting with trying to reach people right now. You're not even pretending." And then he began to unpack for them what that needed to look like. Brothers and sisters, we need to make sure that we don't make it hard for people to come to God. That was what they decided upon at the Council of Jerusalem. And that's the kind of people that we want to be, that our lives don't make it hard for people to come to God. But that what we do is we measure change by God's own activity, and we embrace what God is changing, we resist what God is resisting, and we allow the Spirit and the Word to testify to us about the nature of change, so that we can be sanctified and become more like Jesus. And that means sometimes it feels a little uncomfortable to get outside of our tribe, to get outside of just the people that we know, to get outside of people who just maybe don't look like us, think like us, vote like us, all that stuff. We are a body, we are a family. And the Council of Jerusalem said, "This is how you have to operate, when change happens in the world", and it does, this is what we lean into. Let's bow our heads together. I wanna take a moment here to just pray. And certainly if you're here, and you've never before, and trusted your life to Jesus, we wanna give you an opportunity to respond to that, and I'll tell you how to do that in just a moment. But I just wanna pray for us as a church. Father, I am to some degree, even a little sentimental today thinking about this day being an anniversary of the actual day that our church was birthed, here at The Chapel. I thank you for the faithfulness of those nine people. I thank you for the $93 offering that was simply an indication of hearts that wanted to do what it took to be able to reach people. I thank you for the faithfulness of people over many, many years, many of them have gone on to be with you, Lord, some still remain, some are still here, I thank you for their faithfulness over the many changes that you have brought. Now we're a church reaching thousands, with campuses all over the place, but God, this is your initiation. We've been, we've let your mission be the Senior Pastor of this place, and we want to make sure that we continue to do that, because you, Jesus are the Head of your Church. What you ask of us, we want to embrace and not resist. We pray that we would also be just as quick to draw lines in the sand to resist anti-Gospels of our age, because they are there, and they are prevalent, but may we as your people be resistant to the anti-Gospels of this age. May what we do be saturated by the Spirit and the Word, so that we're not operating on our own agendas, but that we're operating as your people being led by your Spirit walking in step with your Spirit. And I pray you would sanctify us, sanctify us by your truth, your Word is truth. Those very words from the Lord Jesus Christ need to be true of us today, and I pray you would sanctify us by your truth. Your Word is truth. So Father, I look forward to what you want to do in this place, and we, even at the beginning of this year, we surrender our agendas to yours, and we ask you, Holy Spirit to do what only you can do, in our midst, in our lives, among our neighbors, our coworkers, fellow students at school, in your church, in Western New York, I pray you would glorify yourself, that you would do your good pleasure in our midst, for your glory and for the beauty of the proclamation of the Lord Jesus. We pray. Amen.