And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. Acts 10:13-15 (KJV)
He had been a Jew all his life. He knew all the rules and regulations concerning eating meats and all those other matters (including relating with Gentiles). He had carefully observed all those rules and regulations from the days of his youth till today. Even the Lord Jesus whom he had followed as a disciple never confronted him concerning it. In fact, it appeared as if he saw his Master Jesus disregard any form of ministry to the Gentiles. Most of the days of our Lord on earth were spent in ministry to the lost sheep of Israel, and then to the Samaritans. Apart from these, He didn’t really pay any special attention to the Gentiles. This attitude, and the knowledge that Peter had about the law, formed a stronghold in his mind. He felt he now knew God and the way God operated.
This is not to say that the Lord had not spoken to him concerning these matters. There was a time Jesus was teaching them that it is not what goes into a man that defiles him, but what comes out of the man…. But Peter did not hear. Why? Strongholds in the heart. On the day of His ascension to Glory, when Jesus was giving them their mandate, He told them that they were to reach “the ends of the earth”. Did it not dawn on Peter that the ends of the Earth must have included Gentile nations? No, it didn’t. It appeared like his heart were closed to the realities that the Lord were opening up in the coming days.
You see, succeeding in life is not about knowing principles and practices of life and God, it is about following the leadership of the Holy Spirit per time.
So, while Peter was standing by the principles and practice of yesterday, the Spirit was telling Peter that it is a new day. In a vision of the night, he saw a sheet let down from heaven full of strange and “impure” creatures, and the Lord said to him, “Rise, Peter, kill and eat.”
This is the irony of it all: he knew that it was the Lord speaking to him. He even called him Lord, yet he said to the Lord, “Not so, Lord”. This is not how to do it, Lord. This is not what our fathers taught us.
It is tragic that a concept, idea or principle can sit so strong in a man’s mind that even when the Lord says to him that it is time to change strategy and do things differently, he will look the Lord in the face and say, “Not so, Lord.”
Blessed is the people that know the joyful sound: they shall walk, O Lord , in the light of thy countenance. Psalms 89:15 KJV
I am glad that our father, Peter, followed the leadership of the Spirit, and hence opened the door for the Gentiles to get the Gospel and be saved. Of course he was misunderstood and criticized by “the brethren”. But he owed no apologies, whatsoever, for doing what the Spirit led him to do. Many months afterwards, it took some brethren who were also listening to the Spirit to start preaching the Gospel to the Gentiles, and thus leading to the formation of one of the greatest Gentile Churches ever – the Church in Antioch. What would had happened if Peter had stood firm on his principles and had refused to listen to the Spirit’s leading?
AND SO? Do you have a current sense of where you are standing now? Yesterday, God may have said, “wait”, but what if He’s now saying, “attack”? Yesterday, God may have said, “strive”, what if today He’s now saying, “rest”?
True success does not lie in hardwork, or in resting. It does not lie in having many connections, nor in being lonely. It does not primarily lie in the knowledge of keys and principles, but in following the Spirit. This is the path of true wisdom. May the Lord grant us eyes to see and ears to hear the joyful sound. May the Lord deliver us from holding on to ancient principles, no matter where they came from, while God is telling us, “change.”
Amen and Amen.