Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Don’t Block the Doorway to God

“We should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.
– Acts 15:19

You might find this hard to believe, but up until the early 1800s, most Christian leaders in Europe believed that missionary work was a waste of time. That was before God raised up a young shoemaker named William Carey, who grew up in an obscure, rural town in England. From a young age, William Carey felt a burden for sharing the gospel with people in other countries who had never heard the name of Jesus. One day he took some shoe leather and thread and made a crude little globe. He would often hold that globe in his hands and pray and weep over it. It broke his heart to think of millions of people around the world going to Hell without anyone ever having shared the gospel with them.

Carey attended a minister’s meeting one day, and he stood up and urged the church leaders to prioritize missions. But one of the older pastors shouted him down, saying, “Young man, sit down! When God pleases to convert the heathen, He will do it without your aid or mine.” Sadly, William Carey heard comments like these all the time. It was discouraging, but he pressed on. Not long afterward he preached a sermon which included the now-famous words: “Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.”

Within a year of first speaking those words, William Carey moved with his family to India, where they spent the next 40 years bringing about 700 people to a saving knowledge of Christ. His inspiring example sparked the modern missions movement. Over the past 200 years, millions of Christians around the world have been inspired to do what William Carey challenged us to do. Despite the opposition, despite the criticism and despite the naysayers, they decided to “Expect great things from God [and] attempt great things for God.” 

These words could have been the motto of the Christian Church in Antioch—the first church to share the gospel with Greeks who didn’t have a drop of Jewish blood in their veins. Thousands were being saved, and everything was going so well … until we get to Acts 15:1: “Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers: ‘Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.’” We’re not given the names of these men, but verse 5 makes it clear that they were “believers” in Christ. They were saved. They were Christians. They were just very misguided Christians—the kind who could do more damage to the church from the inside than unbelievers could ever do from the outside.

When it came to following Christ, the new Christians in Antioch had been ALL IN. Then, suddenly, some brothers came along and told them: “You aren’t really saved. Believing in Jesus as Lord and Savior isn’t enough. Repenting of your sins and getting baptized isn’t enough. Walking in obedience to Christ’s commands isn’t enough. Unless your men undergo a circumcision surgery and you all start obeying all of the Old Testament laws, you’re all going to Hell.” Now the new Greek Christians were utterly confused in their new faith. Centuries later, Warren Wiersbe shared this great insight: “The progress of the gospel has often been hindered by people with closed minds who stand in front of open doors and block the way for others.” We pray for open doors. But just because God opens a door, it doesn’t mean that someone won’t block the doorway.

So, the church acted quickly. They sent Christian leaders, including Paul and Barnabas, to Jerusalem so that the apostles and church elders could render a final verdict. Once they were assembled together, Peter, Paul and Barnabas all made the case for rejecting the notion of circumcision and law-keeping being necessary for salvation. Then James made this great point in verse 19: “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.” The Jews themselves had not been able to follow the Old Testament laws to the letter—why should they expect it of the new Greek believers?

Jesus said in Matthew 11:30, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” But so often Christians have made Jesus’ yoke out to be hard and his burden to be heavy. Many Christians, unknowingly, make the same mistake as the circumcision preachers in Acts 15. While trying to promote righteousness in the church, we heap burdens on new believers that do more harm than good.

Many of us hold strong opinions about matters of our faith and worship. We may hold strong beliefs about speaking in tongues, about free will, about end times prophecies, and about how a worship service should look on a Sunday morning—what kind of songs should be sung, how long the sermon should be, whether or not communion should be taken every week. These opinions can all be fine and good. But we have to be very careful about taking our personal convictions about areas that are not essential to salvation and requiring new believers to believe the same way. Because when we do that, we can muddy the simple message of grace in Christ. May we always pray for open doors of ministry and keep ourselves and others from blocking the doorway once God opens it.

Dane Davis is the Lead Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Join us for our Grand Opening at 10 am Sunday, October 6th at the new Ralph Baker School in Victorville. For more information, visit

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