In Acts 15, the earliest church members are making up the rules to their new church. They said, "It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: Abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things."
Two things stand out to me. First, the earliest church only had four rules. Four rules! How many rules does your church have? 'Cause my church has a rule about everything.
If we eat the temple food it sets a bad example, it makes us look like we're benefitting from pagan sacrifices to gods we don't believe in. We should avoid bloody foods—that's really just for health reasons.
But strangled animals? That's a weird one. I guess it wouldn't be a church without at least one weird rule. And then they're like, "Last rule: don't sleep around." Common sense, right?
More than that, what stands out to me is that phrase, "it seemed good to us." It seemed good to us. The church loves to quote the verse that says, "There's a way that seems right to a man but in the end it leads to destruction." I don't know where that verse is located but I've heard it so many times it's absolutely drilled into my head.
There may be a way that seems right to a man, but Acts 15 makes it clear that there's a way that seems right to God's man, to God's woman, and it's end isn't destruction at all.
We use that verse, "a way that seems right to a man," to teach that you should never trust your gut. You should never go with what seems right, feels right. You ought to submit. Submit to your pastor and elders and deacons and your mom and dad and whoever's stupid small group resource is trending at LifeWay right now.
It's like, they're saying just give your whole life over to this authority or that, along with your conscience and your intuition and your own ability to know anything at all. In fact, from here out, you're not allowed to know anything at all.
That's how my parents treated me growing up. They still act that way any time there's any debate, really. You can't claim to know anything because there's a way that "seems right" and it leads to destruction. Your little ideas about life and about church and about God, everything that originates from your little head, it's all devilwork. You're on the highway to hell.
But the early church said, "it seemed good to us" to lay down just a few basic ground rules. Are they saying that if you don't follow these four rules you'll get kicked out of the church or disciplined by the presbytery or you'll go straight to hell? Nope. They're just saying, "it seemed good to us" to have some rules. That's it.
It seems good to the rec center not to allow running around the pool. The floor is slick and you could fall and bust your head open. That's a liability. It seemed good to your parents not to let you eat seven pop-tarts each morning. You'd throw up. You'd get fat. These aren't "commandments" with universal, apocalyptic implications, they're judgment calls.
The conscience is the place from which we determine what "seems good." And on all matters pertaining to our own lives, the conscience is king.
I believe Jesus was the greatest teacher who ever lived and I believe that he really was God in the flesh, that he really did raise up from the dead. That's why I read his words and follow them. But if Jesus didn't speak to it—which, you know, Jesus didn't speak to a lot of issues—then I leave it up to my conscience to decide what "seems good."
Jesus only ever gave us one commandment. It was to love God and love your neighbor, which sounds like two commandments but then later he said that loving your neighbor is in itself an act of loving God. Jesus' simple message of radical love changed the world. But it's since been coopted and perverted by people pushing their own agendas. Mostly shameless cash-grabs.
The ancient Greeks had this idea of visceral beliefs, of the beliefs you hold to your very core, from the seat of your emotions. If we were to cut you open, what would spill out? What do you believe in the trenches? How do you live when no one is watching? That's your perspective. That's what "seems good" to you.
If you're found in Christ, there's no way that that Spirit inside you is leading you to destruction.