But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.” And after Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some of the others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and the elders about this question. So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers. When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and the elders, and they declared all that God had done with them. But some believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees rose up and said, “It is necessary to circumcise them and to order them to keep the law of Moses.” Acts 15:1-5
Have you ever stopped to think about how many decisions you make on a daily basis? A study concluded we make somewhere around 35,000 decisions every single day. That makes roughly 2,000 decisions per hour (that you’re awake) or one decision every two seconds. Decisions really do make up the fabric of our lives. As Haddon Robinson said, “We want to make right decisions, for we realize that the decisions we make turn around and make us. As we choose one end of the road we choose the other.”
However, not all decisions are created equal. There are some decisions that carry more weightiness than others. We don’t typically pray about what shirt we’re going to wear, but we do pray about things we deem more important – like how to navigate a difficult relationship, which job to pursue, or which apartment to rent. When it comes to life-altering decisions, what grid should we use? The scriptures don’t give us a checklist, but they do give us a series of stories and real life experiences that can serve as a framework for us to use.
Acts 15 recounts arguably the most important decision the church has ever made. It’s the story of the Jerusalem Council where church leaders decided Jesus followers were not bound to the Mosaic Covenant. Throughout this narrative, there is a decision making grid that is espoused.
- See the trajectory: does the decision I’m considering align with the way I see God working in my life and in his world? Every decision we make is the next chapter of our story, not a new story.
- Compare for consistency: does the decision I’m considering honor the commands given in the scriptures and the life Jesus called us to live? If it’s contradictory to God’s commands under the New Covenant, it’s not God’s will.
- Seek out collective wisdom: what do people I respect think about the decision I’m considering? Have I sought out godly advice?
- Ask God: in Acts 15:28 it says, “it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” As the church leaders did the previous three steps, they were praying and asking God to confirm the direction – and he did! There was no clear word from heaven, but there was a clear leading from the Spirit.
Following the steps outlined in Acts 15 doesn’t guarantee we’ll always find God’s will, but they are tools for seeking God’s direction in a way that has worked for people of God in the past. So, what decisions are you facing? Choose one big decision and lay it over the grid presented; ask Jesus what he might want to say to you.
By Ryan Paulson