Sunday13th May 2018
I don’t know if you’ve ever been in a situation where something happened that was really hard to believe could happen – the morning you woke up to discover Donald Trump was President…… One of those moments happened for Peter in our reading today.
The fifth book in the New Testament is often referred to as the Acts of the Apostles. It is easy to see why – it tells the story of the early church and how the gospel was spread as people went on missionary journeys. However, we must also remember that it also tells us of the acts of God. God is actively working in reaching the lost back to Himself. In fact, it looks like He is more involved than we care to believe.
If His desire is to reach out to a lost world to draw them back to Himself, then He must be working today, as much as He did in the times of ACTS.
We are called to join Him at what He has been doing and is still doing today. If we make ourselves available, we’ll see God working out His will through us.
We see God moving again in Acts 10.
He reveals His plan through visions to both the seeker, Cornelius and the one with the answer, Peter.
Both needed help – one seeking to know God but without Christ he could not, the other, a disciple who could share Christ, but without a heart change he would not.
God prepared them and brought them together. It was a divine appointment. God brought these TWO together the same way He brought Philip and the Ethiopian man together, the same way He brought Ananias and Saul together – miraculously!
God is still actively bringing people together! Every encounter we have in sharing Christ is a divine appointment!
Watch out for those whom the Lord brings near to you because there is no coincidence with God.
Cornelius was a military man. He was devout and God-fearing. And he was a generous man, who gives to the poor and needy. But he was not saved. Religion could not save him. Morality could not save him. Good works could not save him.
You can have all of these and still be lost. Your sin needs to be dealt with and only Jesus can resolve that.
But Cornelius desired to seek God. Those who seek Him will surely find Him.
It reminds me of God’s promise in Jeremiah 29:11-14 to the people of Israel: “For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you," declares the LORD, "and will bring you back from captivity.”
God is not interested in playing ‘hide-and-seek’ with anyone. He wants to be in relationship with you. If you feel that he is far from you then it’s because you have moved away.
So God directed Cornelius to find Peter – the one who could tell him about Jesus and the Lord worked to prepare Peter’s heart. He must overcome his prejudice and allow even the Gentiles to embrace his Messiah JESUS.
God showed him a vision of unclean animals and commands him to kill and eat. Peter protested: “Surely not, Lord! I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” And God said: “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
What you considered unclean – in his mind, the Gentiles, the irreligious ones – the Lord says, I will make them clean.
God showed this 3 times in the vision, to get it across to Peter.
And then Cornelius’ men arrived at his house. Peter might not have fully understood the vision, but he was prepared.
The Spirit of God said, “Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.” (10:20)
GOD Initiates and GOD INSTRUCTS… He is constantly speaking
God instructed Philip, Saul, Ananias and now Cornelius and Peter.
They may not know what to do but God knows. And He speaks and He guides.
If this is true, then we need to be LISTENING and be TEACHABLE. In both cases when God speaks to them, the recipients were praying.
- Cornelius was praying in his house at three in the afternoon (10:30).
- Peter was on the roof top praying when he saw the vision (10:10).
They made room to seek God and God came. They made time to hear God and God spoke.
Not everyone is really listening. To do so you need to pay attention, you need to stop what that you are doing and be quiet.
Focus on God and He will speak, through his word, the bible, and spontaneous thoughts and impressions that come to you.
- You can only be led if you are listening.
- You can only obey when you are listening.
The bible is quite clear that God speaks and gives very clear instructions.
It would seem that if we are not getting clear messages today, it is because we have not been making room to hear Him. We have not been spending quiet times with Him. Sometimes when I am with Linda my attention slips to something else and I’m no longer really listening. We’re together physically but I’m caught up in my thing and don’t really hear what she’s saying. It takes real effort to truly focus on another person.
If it’s hard to do that when that person is physically present in the room with you, how much harder when you can’t see the person you’re talking with? What can you do?
- Start with reading a bible passage and see what it says about God: his character and attributes. Praise and thanks
- What does it say about you or to you?
- Say the phrase Eli taught Samuel, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.” 1 Samuel 3:9
Peter was teachable. His understanding of God’s salvation plan was not complete but he was willing to learn, to think through and eventually embrace God’s heart for the salvation of everyone.
Cornelius too was teachable. He has been faithful and kind, but he needed to know God. There was more to it than just religious piety.
He was open – open to God and what God says. He needed to know more and he sent men to look for Peter.
In fact, he was so passionate for the truth that he wanted his relatives and close friends to hear it too so he gathered them in his house, and when Peter arrived, he saw a large gathering of people (10:27).
A disciple is a learner – a learner of the truth with a desire to live the truth.
If we are to make disciples then we need to learn as well. Peter couldn’t see that God’s plan was for all people, not just the Jews. Is there someone we think cannot, or will not, receive God? Is there someone you have stopped praying for or talking to about Jesus because you have decided it is too hard or because they didn’t respond in the past? Invitation weekend, Alpha….
A disciple must be FAT. As disciples of Christ we want to be FAT. What is FAT? Faithful, Available and Teachable.
We have nothing to lose being teachable. We have everything to gain.
Finally, Cornelius and his family became the first Gentile converts. The Holy Spirit came upon them, given them the miraculous sign that they have been accepted by God through their faith in Jesus Christ.
The Gospel has gone beyond Jerusalem and the land of Judea, to Samaria, Ethiopia and now to the Gentile foreigners beyond.
It came true, just as the Lord promised in Acts 1:8 “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
The last thing we see is that GOD EMPOWERS… His plan will be fulfilled. Even when we respond to His call, it will not be US that makes it successful.
We can only do what Peter did, share the good news. The latter half of the story has to be the work of the Holy Spirit. When we take the step of faith and do what we are called to do, God has promised to be with us.
God will ensure, by the power of His Spirit, that His plan will be done in His way, in His time, to accomplish His purpose.
All we need to say to Him is, “Lord, count me in! I want to be a part of what you’re doing today!”
What we need to do is to respond to His prompting with faith, and do the thing He has placed in our heart to do. Then leave the rest to Him!
God is actively working and God is constantly speaking. Are you willing to be FAT for him? Faithful, Available, Teachable.