Some of the first century Messianic Jews had followed the Mosaic law all their lives. They could not conceive of anyone being chosen by God who did not follow those laws. Therefore they began to insist that the gentile believers be circumcised and follow all the dietary laws of Moses.
But Paul had seen gentiles converted by the Holy Spirit's falling upon them. The conversion of the heart came despite the outward appearances of the person. He recognized that people unaccustomed to the Jewish regulations would be hindered by these laws. What was important was the heart of the person being brought to Christ.
What is needed for the believer is a faithful heart, a heart hungry for the Good News.
Notice that the letter to the gentiles from this first church conference deals with the appetites. It asks them to follow certain dietary laws: abstaining from food offered to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.
These regulations are not only spiritually healthy, they have consequences for physical health as well.
When food has been offered to an idol, you have no idea what it has been exposed to, what salmonella or trichinosis or other disease it may be carrying. Often food contamination has to do with the dripping juices from raw meat (ie. blood). Blood is the ideal incubator for bacteria, especially at room temperatures. When an animal is strangled, the blood suffuses throughout the tissue - still an ideal incubator for bacteria. While there may be over-riding moral grounds for following the proscriptions, there are valid physical health reasons as well.
How interesting that sexual immorality is lumped together with these food proscriptions. I can't help wondering if the health reasons are not a large part of this proscription as well.
The thing most needed is a heart for God. When one desires only to please God, these "regulations" will not be onerous. They are simply a way of conveying one's gratitude to the Lord for all He has done for us.
Create in us grateful hearts, that we may follow Your edicts willingly, not grudgingly. Help us to recognize that what we gain is far more and better than what we eschew.
In Jesus' most precious name.