READ: Acts 15:22-35
THINK: We all need standards, boundaries and guidelines. But problems arise when we try to determine all of these according to our own ideas and preferences. Left to ourselves, none of us–even as Christians–would adopt the same values, and most of us would give little consideration to how our freedoms and restrictions affect others. That’s why God gives us the commands and guidelines in His Word. He also gives us the Holy Spirit to guide us in making appropriate decisions that honor Him and benefit others. One of the marks of Christian maturity is when we become sensitive enough to the Spirit to willingly refrain from activities that could not only compromise and corrupt our own morals but could also offend or mislead others spiritually.
RESPOND: How did the church leaders arrive at their decision regarding how the Gentiles should follow up their commitment to Christ? (See 15:28 note.) Why must you depend on the Holy Spirit’s guidance in making decisions? What’s the significance of the specific standards and restrictions that the church leaders presented to the Gentile believers? (See 15:29 note.) How do these moral restrictions apply in practical ways to believers today–particularly the issues of “idols” and abstaining from sexual immorality? How did the Christians in Antioch respond to the message? Why must you look past your own preferences and what you feel is okay and consider how your actions may influence others? What are some examples of how consideration for others could affect your own lifestyle choices?
PRAY: Pray that you’ll refrain from activities that could compromise your own faith and moral values, and that you will also demonstrate the maturity to refrain from things that may offend or mislead others in their faith and morality.
ACT: If you’re in the process of making a big decision, give God opportunity to voice His guidance, and be sure to listen for the Holy Spirit’s direction in making your decision. Also, allow God to expose ways in which you may be compromising your moral standards or setting a questionable example for others who are trying to maintain godly purity in thought and action. Demonstrate maturity by making a change and doing what’s best both for you and for others.