a new way of thinking
In Acts 10 we read the story of Peter, who, observing the Jewish hour of prayer, left the hustle and bustle of Joppa life and went up to the roof of his house to pray. Falling into a trance, heaven opened before him and a great sheet fell in front of his eyes. Inside the sheet were animals; wild beasts, those that creep and birds of the air. And, as Peter looked, a voice came to him saying…..“rise Peter, kill and eat.’ With a shake of his head, confused and disillusioned he replied with a definitive ‘no. Lord!’, for he’d never touched anything that was deemed unclean or common. And soon, another reply, the voice of the Lord resounded once more : ‘what God has cleansed you must not call common.’
To hear this would have been absurdity to Peter’s ears. For all of Peter’s life up until this moment he had known that Jews did not associate or mix with gentiles, his hands didn’t touch unclean meat and neither did he eat it. So with the words of God ringing clear, Peter finds himself in the midst of a contradiction, the law saying one thing, and God saying another.
Nothing could have prepared Peter for the situation he would find himself in in that moment. No teaching, no learning, and no doctrine. It was a completely new grid, no book had said it, and no mouth had uttered it in anticipation.
It’s often our experience of something, that can prevent us from accepting something new. We simply become used to what we know. I believe that sadly, this is why many churches and individuals struggle with the Holy Spirit. He’s been deemed unsafe, unruly in the most part because He challenges the perimeters we’ve allowed God to function within. As a result, we stay in our safe theology camps, missing out on what He really wants to do…we’re rarely shaken, and barely stirred. The truth is, if you put God in a box He’s not gonna be there, because He can’t be put in one. The Holy Spirit blows where He pleases and not according to where we want Him to blow. What if God was waiting for you to hear what you’d never known before, what if the Holy Spirit, who has too often been shelved, disregarded and silenced, is the new thing He’s been waiting to speak.
The message Peter heard that day was vital. What if God was wanting to deliver a word to you that was vital, that altered your way of thinking and that changed the your whole theology? What if it would affect those around you, be the key to the city, and to the nations. Because, behind Peter that day stood you and I… those who weren’t first thought to be accepted or welcomed in, and now get to run into the Father’s arms, undefiled and adored.
A new way of thinking also had to be addressed in John. The disciples lives had been transformed by the man who had beckoned them from darkness and depravity, and made them fishers of men. They’d poured out their hearts to Him, travelled, ate, witnessed incredible miracles with Him dwelled with Him and got to spend their time with the kindest most gentle man to ever walk this earth. But one day, Jesus tells them He’s going back to be with His Father, and they don’t understand. In the disciples confusion they ask questions and tell each other they ‘don’t know what He is saying’ (John 16:18). This wasn’t anticipated, they didn’t plan for this, and it’s so far from what they anticipated. What would happen? Who would heal, cast out demons and share the gospel…surely there was none like Jesus.
The truth is, when God is doing a new thing, it’s because what’s coming is greater. Yes Jesus was going back, but His promise was that He was sending someone greater. He said to His friends,
this was the same for Peter, as a gospel that was thought for a few, became a gospel for all. The same with me, the marriage that was so far off my grid, or staying in England, or leaving Cambodia, they were the greater things I needed. Take His word.
When something comes along that is new and seems out of our comfort zone, it isn’t to be automatically assumed that it is wrong. Peter explains to those around him in Acts 10:28 saying, it is unlawful for us to be friends with jews, BUT, and it’s a big one, GOD HAS SHOWN ME that I should not call any man uncommon and unclean. Peter had to come before a party of people with what God had said. He had no script, no written evidence, no photographs of the vision and no voice recording. He simply had the assurance that God had shown Him.
Sometimes, we fear the new way of thinking because of what those around us may say, we stand before them with our only defence being that God has spoken, or shown us. And I’m sure on that day where Peter stood and explained what he had been shown, there was speculation, debate, mocking and scorning, the pharisees sneering and the men of the law telling Peter he’d got it wrong. We so easily fear what the church will say, what those outside the church may say, or we may doubt the word that has been spoken and we become afraid of looking the fool in anticipation of being proved wrong.We worry it’s not bee done before, that it doesn’t agree with society that it’s ‘unlawful’. But, we need to be like Peter holding fast to what he knew his God has said. Peter had to throw away His own understanding and all earthly understanding and trust the Lord. I think the question is, would you rather be in trouble with God or man? are you more fearful of God or men?
God will never pamper to what we don’t know or fear, at the cost of growing us in greater faith.
What has God shown you? What have you assumed? What have you been taught, but not learnt.. not heard? What new way of thinking has He called you to?