Do you remember how Jesus gave Peter a dream, as Peter sought him in prayer and fasting (Acts 10:9-16)?:
9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. 11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.” 14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” 15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” 16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.
This was a dream that turned his world upside down. What did that dream show him? That Christ had fulfilled the law for man, not only to free them from their striving to fulfill it, but also so that they (the Jews) would no longer have to withdraw from what was once unclean, to remain clean themselves. Now God was giving them a Way, through Christ, to break bread with the Gentiles, who ate unclean food and were unclean themselves, the world over, so that these Gentiles could come to know God and His righteous covering, also.
And yet, what was Peter’s response to this beautiful invitation? He went to sit amongst his Jewish brothers and sisters, who continued to require his and others’ adherence to the law’s requirement not to eat “unclean” food and not to fellowship with those who did. He feared man’s word above God’s.
As I reflect on this story, I see my own story before me. You see, when God opened my eyes to a newborn faith in Him, after more than twenty years wandering in my sin as a Prodigal child, I too returned to sit amongst those calling what is clean, impure. Even though I disagreed with them internally, my decision to return to sit in their midst, as they continued to reject God’s Word, was me bowing to man’s word above God’s.
But praise God, just as He sent Paul to rebuke Peter in his sin, God also rebuked me in my sin. He spoke His Word to my heart also (Galatians 2:17-21, ESV):
17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.
As I read through the book my (now former) church uses, my spirit was deeply perturbed. I saw how the author had taken Scriptures out of context, feeding people worldly wisdom as the Gospel and condemning people in their weakness and need, as unclean.
It spoke of man reaching a “freedom” on earth, devoid of weakness. And where weakness and illness was present in people, it taught that this was proof of unclean spirits or evil being present in these believers, who had given their heart to Jesus. It saw weakness and illness as being caused by curses that needed to be broken, by believers following the steps outlined in the book.
Suddenly, all the Scriptures God had been feeding me to give to my pastor made sense. God’s heart broke for His children. He saw that the very place they went to, to meet with Him and experience the freedom that is theirs in Christ Jesus, that they were meeting with the enemy, believing that enemy to be Him. They were being encouraged to live unto the law, rather than dying to the law to live unto Christ, that their Savior might live in and through them to fulfill the law through them.
I could see my pastors’ desire was to bless their congregation, and not to harm them. But sadly, they could not see God’s heart at work in me, as I came to one of my pastors with those Scriptures (before knowing what God was saying) and then later, to the other pastor, with what God had shown me, in my exit talk.
As I shared God’s Word with him and showed him how the course denies the finished work of the Cross, he told me something like: “yes, but this method works. I have done this in my own life and it has helped me so much.” And sadly, as I listened to his reasoning, I found myself saying something like: “yes, maybe it’s not all bad.” And this even though I had watched the course strip the confidence of a friend of mine in the love of Jesus for her.
After leaving my church in obedience to God, I felt bad for speaking up and like I had been in the wrong for doing so. I yo-yoed between standing in the truth and clothing myself in the enemy’s accusations that I was “divisive” and “unforgiving” for obeying God’s commands to me to leave and cut all ties.
After a while, I began attending my friend’s new church. This church was pastored by a man, whose wife (whom I knew from Bible studies held in my home) I had sought out with my concerns about the teaching, when I was still attending my old church. I had trusted her and her husband because her husband had come in as a guest speaker to give a sermon on the very Scriptures God had had me sharing with my pastor.
And yet, sadly, he, like my pastors, did not see my desire to bless my pastors and my church, but rather, questioned my decision to investigate the matter. He said he trusted his friend’s judgment. And now I attended his church and my friend’s, even knowing that they both disagreed with my decision to speak up.
Why? I believed the enemy’s accusations against me that my not having a church to attend or call my “home” proved that I didn’t belong to God. I longed for the love, approval and acceptance of fellow believers to affirm God’s love for me and to still my fears. But God longed for me to let His perfect love for me, and for those He asked me to surrender, cast out all my fear.
John 13:34 (ESV) A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.
He wanted me to put my trust in Him and to learn to see with heaven’s eyes that I might love others, just as He has loved and still loves me – in truth and grace. And so, He commanded me to confront them, which He knew would lead to our parting.
That same fearful Peter, who like me sat amongst those who denied the Living Word of God, would one day stand in their midst, no longer as one of them, but as an apostle of Jesus, preaching the Good News to them. A Good News built upon nothing but the blood of the lamb. And many would repent and receive Jesus as LORD.
Jesus gave Peter back something so much more precious. A heavenly joining and unbroken fellowship with his brothers and sisters into eternity. And it is in this heavenly hope that Jesus is growing my heart now also. He is lifting my eyes up to see His blue thread weaving in every prayer He gives me to pray and every Word He compels me to speak.
Now, as I remember the story of the two disciples walking with Jesus to Emmaus and not recognizing Him until He broke the bread before them, I see the incredible gift of that broken bread. As God breaks us – His Body – apart, His heart breaks for us in our sin. But He also rejoices in what He sees coming: our eyes opening to recognize Him – and the Good News of His death and resurrection – in our midst.
Through the breaking of His Body, Christ destroys our idols and our false teaching, to restore us all to a true, eternal and enduring fellowship with Him and with each other, through Him. He weaves us in the blue (eternal) thread of His Body that was broken to give us peace with God and peace with each other – in and through Him.
Yes, I believe all things work together for those who love God and are called according to His purposes. It took more than twenty years for me to see the fruit of the Word I spoke as a little girl that turned man’s back on me. But oh how beautiful that repentance and restoration was when it came and oh how it broke my idols in two and filled me with compassion for those who had turned me aside.
Now, I know that God makes all things beautiful in His sovereign timing because He sees what I cannot and He knows what I do not. His thoughts and purposes are so much higher and more amazing than mine. One day I will see it all before me – whether here or from the cloud of witnesses.