I am afraid that we have put God to the test for far too long. For hundreds of years we have designed missionary work around Western forms and taken them to places and people around the world, expecting new converts to follow our forms. This has weakened the message of the gospel and hindered the spontaneous work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of converts.
This was exactly the issue the apostles faced at Jerusalem in Acts 15. “Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” (Acts 15:10). It became obvious to those who witnessed God at work in the Gentiles, that adding rules, regulations and forms that are not part of the gospel of grace, they would hinder what God was doing.
Why has the Church had such a problem with this same issue down through the centuries? We still do not really understand the grace of God in the gospel, nor the power of God as it is received. The power of the Holy Spirit is either denied or confined to certain activities that we try to control. Our desire to control spiritual outcomes is because we do not fully trust the Holy Spirit to work as He pleases in hearts. As Peter said to the Jerusalem church; insisting on forms is “a yoke on the neck of the disciples” that hinders spiritual maturity and spontaneous expansion of the gospel and the Church.
It was just at the time of this gathering in Jerusalem that Paul wrote his first letter. Note his words: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). Are you standing firm in this freedom in the gospel? If not, you are enslaved and bring others into bondage.
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