September 22

But I said, ‘Not so, Lord! For nothing common or unclean has at any time entered my mouth.’ Acts 11:8

This verse demonstrates the depth of conflict that arises in someone who is discovering the freedom from sin that flows from a heart full of the Holy Spirit. Peter had never broken the dietary laws of Moses, and this must have been a treasured achievement in his spiritual ‘balance sheet’. Yet here God was commanding him to break that law. Obviously, this lesson has its dangers, since many people have the opposite problem, and treat God’s law with casual disregard. But Peter was not of that sort, and was here struggling to come to terms with the fact that God will not have His gospel associated with religious do’s and don’ts. God was commanding Peter to eat pork, and this troubled him. Yet without this step of faith, Peter could never have brought the gospel to more than a very narrow section of humanity. Not only that, his faith would have been polluted by a sense of personal achievement, that he had never broken the dietary laws. We must learn to distinguish between the moral absolutes that must never be broken, and the religious habits and ideas that are more to do with human pride than with holiness. If we will not break with religious superstition, we will frustrate Christ’s joy and liberty from flowing in our hearts. Our power as Christians does not lie in promoting ideas about Sundays, clothing, or food and drink, but in discovering the greatness of the Person of Christ. The chief opponents of Jesus were Pharisees, who felt undermined because their sense of being right with God lay in their religious habits rather than in a real relationship with God through Christ. It is not that we throw ourselves open to carnal self-indulgence, but that we fellowship with Him who is the most free human being who ever lived, and yet the most holy.