“Yes, again and again they…limited the Holy One of Israel” (Psalm 78:41, NKJV). The word for ‘limited’ here comes from two root words that mean “grieving God by scratching out an imprint.” In short, limiting God means drawing a line or a circle and stating, “God is in here, and he goes no further.”
That’s just what the early church in Jerusalem did. They limited Christ to a small circle, confining him to the Jewish population. We may scoff at this idea now, but this thinking also describes many believers today. We’ve marked in our minds a very small imprint or concept of Christ’s magnitude.
Jesus can’t be confined. He is constantly breaking out of our little, confining circles and always reaching out to the uttermost.
Let me give an example. Years ago, Pentecostals seemed to have the baptism of the Holy Spirit confined to their movement. Many Pentecostals thought, “We are God’s Spirit-filled church!” Pentecostal preachers bemoaned the deadness of mainline denominations. “They don’t have the full gospel like we do,” they declared. Suddenly, God’s Spirit burst through everyone’s drawn circles. The Holy Ghost fell on believers in all kinds of denominations. A classic book was written about this move of the Spirit, called They Speak with Other Tongues by John Sherrill.
The Lord also used my book The Cross and the Switchblade, especially in Catholic circles. Like Peter in Acts chapter 10, I had to allow God to work in my heart before I could accept what was going on. I had been raised Pentecostal, and for the first time in my life, I saw priests weeping with conviction, crying out to Jesus.
Soon I had evangelical preachers contending with me, demanding, “What about those Catholics’ Mariology? How can you minister to people who believe in that?” I found myself answering in the same spirit as Peter did: “I don’t know anything about Mariology. All I know is there are spiritually hungry people in the Catholic church, and there are true Jesus worshippers among the priests. God is filling these people with his Spirit.”
God has his people everywhere, and we are not to call any of them unclean. As Peter was told in his vision, “What God has cleansed you must not call common” (Acts 10:15). We have to be careful that we do not represent Jesus as being small and box him in with our puny thinking.