Bludgeoned by Old Tapes

Acts 11:9 “…Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

Observation: Peter found himself called on the carpet in Jerusalem defending his recent visit in a gentile home: “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.” (v. 3) His defense, though, wasn’t simply focused on accepting the hospitality of gentiles; he struck to the heart of the apostles’ real objection, that the gentiles had through Peter received the word of God. (v. 1)

Application: It is interesting that even in such an early account of church history there were those who felt they had a corner on all truth and were willing to use their position as a bludgeon against others. Some things seem never to change.

Accordingly, Peter found himself playing defense, but with an ace his accusers knew nothing of. God, he said, had given Peter an extraordinary vision of something like a sheet being let down from heaven, filled with all sorts of creatures that Jewish law called unclean but which God ordered Peter to kill and eat. Peter’s objection caused God to repeat the vision twice more, after which he was directed by the Spirit to accompany some men to a gentile’s home where he proclaimed the Gospel.

According to Jewish tradition, gentiles were not to be addressed at all, let alone eaten with and preached to. Yet Peter had done all this in response to God’s audible voice, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

Within that simple phrase is summed the entire battle that so often rages within my own heart. I find it easy to be like the circumcised brothers, playing old tapes that declare my unworthiness for the good things of God. In response, I firmly declare to my soul that God’s promises are for my good, that He has made me a new creation, one known to Him now through the covering of Christ’s blood. Then the tapes argue in counterpoint, reminding of my short-comings and failures, to which He responds that I am righteous in Christ (Rom. 5:19). Back and forth I go, seemingly unable to stop hosting mental battles.

It ought to have been settled once for me as it was for Peter by God’s simple statement, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” And thankfully, I am learning to recognize the length and breadth and depth of His cleansing work within me. Christ has won, and He is daily winning. Anguish over shortcomings is gradually squeezed aside until I can say with David, “Though You probe my heart and examine me at night, though You test me, You will find nothing.” (Ps 17:3) Christ has made me clean indeed!

Prayer: Father, I still find myself tempted by old tapes in opposition to what You have said about me. But You have convinced me, Lord, that Your perspective is the true one: Christ’s sacrifice has made me eternally clean. Hallelujah!

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