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In Acts 10:34-11:15 we learn how we must let go of our comfortable traditions and pious prejudices to fear God and do what is right. Todd teaches us three ways we can know we are humble men worthy of praise, able to receive the gift of grace. He also reminds us how Godly men and women, who know the love of God, must purge themselves of bias and cultural and racial arrogance.
The Myth of Herod’s Power and the Fact of His Existence
3 Things that Happen When God's People Pray
The Good Infection: Christianity
Humility in Men and Prejudice in the Church: Something to Be Praised and Something to Be Purged
The Conversion of Cornelius AND Peter
How the Saints Go Marching Out
Saul: The Second Most Important Conversion in History
Extraordinary Living Marked by Ordinary Obedience
The “Illusion” of a False Faith and How to Deal With It. Simon Magus and Tares Among the Wheat
Tale of Two Adams: A Strategy to Change the World
Hello, Watermark Dallas, Plano, and Fort Worth. It is great to be with you as we dive back into Acts 10-11. If you were with us last week, you heard a lot of application. What I did is I just read a long section of Scripture. We actually made it right up until a dramatic point in Cornelius' life happened, and then we stopped. We're going to pick it up there this weekend. We're going to see a lot of the same material is covered in the Scripture that was taught last week, because this is a message the church absolutely has to hear. Let me pray for us, and we are going to dive in. We're glad you're here.
Father, thank you for your Word, how it is living and active and sharper than a two-edged sword and is able to pierce a man, separate soul and spirit between the joint and the marrow, you say. So we pray you would take the spade of your Word and this week it would pierce us. We pray even the Word we heard before, what we review from last week, will continue to till our hearts until that which you desire to plant in there would come forward and bear great fruit, that we might be useful and fruitful to you.
We know that tradition and pride and prejudice die hard in men, so we pray we would get this truth right that you have preserved for us, that we might live rightly and be the bride you intend us to be. So teach us now. We thank you for the privilege of being together. In Jesus' name, amen.
If you were here with us last week, you understood that what we looked at was not just the conversion of this Gentile, Cornelius, who was a centurion, but really it was the conversion of Peter. It was the clarification of the church. I said to some of you when we were together, depending on what service we were in, that the Lord, the Holy Spirit, had to do an amazing work not just in the lost dog… That's what Jews used to call non-Jews. They called them dogs.
Many people think Acts 10 should be noted because of it being the very first Gentile conversion that happens inside the church. There were non-Jews who had believed all the way back to your Old Testament and through the Old Testament. God's intention was always that all of the nations of the earth would be blessed through his revealing himself to Abraham, and the Jews were never to confuse their election with God's favoritism.
There is no race that God loves over another, and the church has done messed this up for a long time. I will reflect on that with you more deeply in just a moment. It wasn't just the lost dog who needed to be converted but the legalistic disciple so that the church would be the Lord's delight. The Holy Spirit was up to something very important here, and you're going to see that when Peter had his eyes opened through the revelation God gave him…
Why did Peter's heart grow? Why did he start to see things the way God wanted him to see things? The answer is that he was seeking the Lord. He was prayerfully asking for God to show him more of himself, and he was walking in obedience. This is what it says in Scripture. "He who has My commandments and keeps them [abides with them] is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.""I'll show you more of me as you show me that you care about all you've already seen."
Peter was seeking the Lord. What you're going to see is that Peter did not just have a vision and then invent doctrine. You're going to see the church doesn't have an experience and justify it by twisting a text. No. The word of the Lord came to Peter, and he paid attention to it. May we do the same this morning. You're going to see Peter, when he is challenged at what he's doing because it disrupts the traditional understanding of men, shares his experience, and then he says, "And, by the way, this experience lines up with the word of the Lord."
Be careful that you don't go to texts like this and have some dream and start thinking it's okay for you to date a nonbeliever, or you have some dream and start to think you should adopt to the cultural mores that are around you. What you want to make sure you do in whatever you experience is make sure divine revelation is what is informing your experience or your vision or your inner prompting or your Community Group's advice or your denomination's leanings. It's the Word of the Lord.
That is what Peter sought, that's what he received, and you're going to see that God affirmed and showed him what he was trying to teach him in the Scripture by revealing his work in the life of a Gentile dog. We're going to very quickly, as we dive in, just encourage you guys with a few things. One of the things I said to you all last week was that the Lord was going to have some people this week in Dallas, Fort Worth, Plano, and wherever you were watching online who were at their wits' end, and they were going to cry, "God, if you're there, show yourself to me."
The Lord wants to be able to say, just like he said to Cornelius, "There's a guy in Joppa who's at Simon the tanner's house. His name is Peter. He goes by Simon. Go get him and bring him here. He knows me." Like he said to Paul. "Hey, there's a guy in Damascus who lives on Straight Street. His name is Ananias. He's a disciple. He knows me. He'll open your eyes." This week, did you prayerfully live, "Lord, here I am. Send me. Here I am. Give me sensitivity to those around me"?
Did you have any conversations this week with others? Did you boldly share the gospel or did you want to stay by your little Mediterranean seaside resort? Because that's where Simon was. He was in one of the most beautiful places on earth. Joppa is on the Mediterranean seacoast. He was up on a roof looking out over the sea and probably happy to get a little rest after all the chaos that had been going on around him, and yet he heard he had an opportunity to hike for 10 hours to share his story of redemption that he saw in Jesus and had been revealed to him by God with others.
It reminds me of a friend here who talked about when he was one time in Nepal in the mountainous region, the most mountainous region on earth, the Himalayas. He was with a Nepalese pastor, and that pastor said to him, "Hey, I want you to go with me today. There are two women I heard who don't know the gospel. Will you go with me?" They go, "Sure."
They didn't know at the time it was a five-hour hike up and down mountainous regions into valleys where there were two widows he had heard had not clearly heard the gospel from folks who understood it. It was a five-hour hike in, a one-hour conversation, and a five-hour hike back. The guy said, "It turned out to be the greatest day of our trip."
I made the observation last week that when the Lord tells you there are people of no knowledge of or intimacy with him, godly people waste no time and spare no resource to go share it. I'm just going to remind you. It's appropriate when it's a natural application. Right here at Watermark, we have opportunities for resource application in order that people who aren't intimate with God or maybe even know him can come to hear him and can be discipled and grow.
We all sometimes think somebody else is going to respond to that. I bet you Cornelius was happy Peter felt like he should respond, and I'm praying that you feel like you should respond, both in releasing the resources God has entrusted you and also being attentive to the relationships he already has around you.
Let me tell you a quick story of a member of our church, Celestin Musekura, who is the director of ALARM, who we partner with all throughout Central Africa. I was with my buddy Celestin in Southern Sudan right after Southern Sudan proclaimed and received its independence from Northern Sudan. It had just become a country and was training military leaders and government leaders and spiritual leaders in Southern Sudan.
Celestin told me a story very humbly that I want to share with you. He was just talking about how he at times was a guy who would grumble and dispute about what God was asking him to do to preach the gospel. Here I am in Southern Sudan. I'm in Juba. I'm staying in what I thought was a really nice place. I was there in 2011, but my buddy Celestin was there years before me while the northern part of Sudan was still using force.
They were Islamicizing the Southern Sudanese Christians by force, and there was a war that was breaking out. There were great tensions that were going on. ALARM started a Christian leadership institute in Sudan to train and equip pastoral leaders and the persecuted church in the nation to be reconcilers with others.
So he goes there in 2005 and builds what's called a tukul. A tukul is just a home you would make. Up in Alaska you would make a tukul and call it an igloo, but in Southern Sudan you make a tukul out of dung and mud and whatever else you can find. Celestin was going there to teach these guys who were being Islamicized by force about forgiveness and reconciliation.
If you don't know Celestin's story, he is a Rwandan who was graciously spared the genocide in his nation when almost a million Rwandans died in 100 days. God called him to a ministry of reconciliation, and now he's in Southern Sudan teaching it, living in a little hut that is made out of manure and mud with a sheet that is his door. You can imagine. He said, "I've never seen so many mosquitoes and flies in my life."
The conference was about to start on a Monday, and on Sunday he had been in a river where elders stood upstream from him with sticks beating away the anacondas and other snakes in order that it would not disrupt the baptism. He was already self-conscious because he had been bitten by so many mosquitoes. He thought he looked kind of awkward. He counted at least 40 mosquito bites. He was concerned about malaria.
He went to bed angry. The next day he got up to start this conference. He was saying, "Lord, here I am to serve you. I'm living in this crap, literally, and I'm feeling not so well, and I don't know if I'm going to get malaria." He was complaining, and at the end of the very first session he walked outside. Celestin and I are in Southern Sudan. He's telling me this story.
He said he saw a guy with his foot up on a bench who was wiggling a bunch of his toenails that were black. He said, "What are you doing?" The guy said, "Well, I'm trying to get rid of my toenails because they're diseased. I need to get rid of them." He goes, "What's wrong with your toenails? What disease do you have?"
The guy goes, "Well, here's the deal," and he mentioned where he was from. He happened to be from a place that was about an eight-day hike from there. I wrote down what this guy, who was a lieutenant in the Southern Sudanese liberation army said. "We heard that a great man of God was coming to teach us, and we didn't want to miss the opportunity. Six other men from my village and I started to journey. The Nile had burst its banks, so it was dispersed all out."
In that part of the world, when the Nile bursts its banks, obviously, it's a time when all of the animals come in. They had to make their way through, many times crossing different rivers, including the Nile, where there were no bridges. Animals were farther out than they usually are, because the Nile had burst its banks.
They literally would continually cross rivers, fighting hippos and crocodiles in teams of men tightly bound together, trying to scare them away so they could cross and get where they were going. Two men ended up going back. Six made the journey. The guy's feet had been rotted, and his toenails were all coming off because of the bacteria, and the guy was there with great joy, because he said, "We heard a great man of God was here to tell us something."
Celestin the night before had been cursing God, saying, "Why didn't you kill me in the Rwandan genocide or in Dallas traffic," where he lives now, "instead of bringing me here to be bitten to death by mosquitoes?" He sat there and listened to this amazing young man tell him this story, and he said… I'm going to read you his words exactly.
He said, "As [he] was telling me this story, I heard the Lord whispering, telling me, 'You are complaining about mosquitoes? What will you do if you have to fight a hippo or crocodile in the swamp for three days? Where is your faith, and what are you here to teach them? Learn before you teach.'"
Celestin said, "I was humbled. I was ashamed. I was humiliated. I confessed my lack of faith and ridiculous prayers, and I made a commitment to God that I would not complain about the mosquitoes again. And that night I laid in my bed and I said, 'Mosquitoes, here I am. Feast on me.'" He said, "To my knowledge, I didn't get bitten one more time the entire time I was there, but I was convicted about my love of ease."
I tell you that story because some of you are still bitter you had to walk six minutes to get in here. Some of you are upset that you don't have enough room next to you. We just need to repent. We saw Cornelius go to no small effort to get where he wanted to go, where he believed there was a man of God, and we saw a man of God willing to go through hippos and crocodiles in a 10-hour journey in order that he might bring that message to him.
Let's read the Word of God. We're going to pick it up in verse 34. We actually read down last week a little farther. We read down through verse 38. Peter is at Cornelius' house, and he is beginning his message in verse 34. That's where we'll pick it up. I'll read at least down through the end of this section in chapter 10, and then we'll show you what the church had to learn, even as Peter had to learn it as a leader of the church. Acts 10:34:
"Opening his mouth [in Cornelius' house] , Peter said: 'I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ…from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed.
You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God…'"
In other words, some of us have come to know who Jesus is, and when you come to know who Jesus is, just like many of you, you are then commanded by God to do what Peter was commanded to do. "…not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He ordered us to preach to the people…"
Just like you, who have by God's sovereign grace, just like Cornelius was about to be, a man who understood the gospel of Jesus Christ and that Jesus is not just dead in the grave but is a risen king… You fellowship with him, you sup with him, and you tell other people about him. You preach the gospel.
"'…and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.' While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message."
When the Holy Spirit falls upon you, to use that phrase, when God in his kindness comes to you, you will respond with a sense of joy and repentance, and you will testify of the goodness and the grace of God. If you are not a person who is overwhelmed with the testimony of the kindness of God because he has met you in your trespasses and sins, then I don't know what you've had, but you have not been convicted by the Holy Spirit.
You might have walked forward because some pastor told you, "This is a moment that you can walk forward," but walking forward is not what changes your relationship with God. Saying some magic prayer is not what changes your relationship with God. What changes your relationship with God is when the Holy Spirit comes to you and you receive him. I'm going to tell you in just a moment… I'm going to walk you through something that was true of Cornelius and needs to be true of you for you to have that moment when you do business with God.
It says, "While Peter was still speaking these words…" Before he gave the altar call. People ask me sometimes here, "Todd, why don't we do an altar call?" Answer: Because I don't want to convince anybody or manipulate anybody of anything. I give you a chance to respond all the time. I say, "If you are here and you want to have a relationship with Christ, come speak with us or pray with me right now," but I don't want your confidence to be that you came and talked to me or you made some prayer.
I want your confidence to be that you know you have intimacy with the Father, and his Spirit testifies to your spirit that you know you're a sinner, dead in your trespasses and sins, and in his kindness, through the finished work of his Son Jesus Christ, who died for you and was raised as evidence that he was a sufficient sacrifice, you are at peace with the Father. You have been justified by faith through Jesus Christ your Lord, and you have peace with God.
You're going to see that just like in Acts, chapter 2, when devout Jews needed to be converted, this devout Gentile needed to be converted, and those devout Jews who were converted… There was evidence to the early church, as God always does… "Here you can know this is of me." The world was amazed, because these guys who were uneducated and untrained all of a sudden had the ability to speak in known human languages to others and to testify about the greatness of God. I'll be doggone if the same thing didn't happen to them.
"…the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. All the circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also." How did they know that? Because just like when they received empowerment from God… This is what it says in Acts 1:8. We all know this. "…but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses…"
In Jerusalem at that time there were people from nations all across that region who would come as devout Jews to worship God through temple sacrifice, and all of those nations that were there… They're listed in Acts 2. Go read them. You'll find out there were men testifying in their dialect. These were not men alone in a prayer closet (as we've covered before) having intimacy with God. These were men in known dialects (the same word that's used here) who were speaking clearly in a language they had never learned about the greatness of God.
Peter is like, "I'll be doggone. These uncircumcised dogs who don't have an external sign of what we say you must have if you're a devout fearer of God have circumcised hearts, and they get exactly what we get. So that which makes you a part of God's family must not be these external acts of devotion to God. It must be something more."
You're about to see the miracle of the church born, where the dividing wall is broken down and there is no longer a distinction between barbarian, Scythian, Jew, or Greek. We are all one, because there is one God, one Lord, one faith, and there is one baptism into relationship with God through his Spirit.
"For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God." That's what you do when you are transformed. It's not that you speak in a language you don't understand with your tongue. It's that the tongue you have speaks of the greatness of God. It goes on to say, "Then Peter answered, 'Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?'"
If you are one who has come from a heritage that believes in what is called baptismal regeneration, that you need to pop in the water in order to be truly saved, this is what is called a problem text, because these people clearly had a relationship with God. By the way, I don't care if you want to do altar calls. Just make sure people have their faith in an intimate relationship with the Spirit and not just some momentary, maybe emotional response.
If it'll bless you, I'll give you an altar call today, but I'll tell you what will bless you: if you bow before the altar of the cross and genuinely profess your need for a savior and identify that Savior as Jesus. Peter is saying, "We can't deny these men the water, that outward sign of an inward faith. Let's baptize them." And off he went.
"And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days. Now the apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him…"
They were like, "Hey, what are you doing hanging out with Gentiles?" Do you remember what Peter had said just a little bit before? He said, "Hey, this is not lawful for me to be with Gentiles." I'm going to teach you something on that, but I want to do something first. Let's go back through and pick out some really good points of application for us.
We'll start with that statement in verse 35. I spent some time last week talking about the unevangelized heathen and how those who have never heard of Jesus could be saved. It says right there in verse 35, "…but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him." This is what changes you. We saw that we have a devout man (Cornelius) who was philanthropic, who was loved by the Jews, gave his alms to the temple, led his family well, but he needed a faith in a savior.
It says in verse 35, "…in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him. " I'm going to tell you right now what it means to fear him and to do what is right. Micah 6:8 says something very similar. "He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness…"
Most folks know that's what we have to do: do justice and love kindness. That's not what the Scripture says alone. You always must do what Acts 10:35 and Micah 6:8 say, which is to walk humbly with the Lord. If you're out there and you're thinking that means you have to do that for a long time a certain way so that you build up a résumé that you might be saved, you don't understand what it means to walk humbly with the Lord.
Here is what I'm going to do. I'm going to give you three things that explain to you what it means to sincerely seek the Lord or when you can know you walk humbly with the Lord. Some people… This happened in John, chapter 6, by the way. Jesus had just fed the multitudes, and they were following him because they liked what he did for them.
At some point in the midst of that, Jesus looks out at them and says, "Hey, man. You're following me because you want more bread. I'm not here to give you bread. Repent of your love for health, wealth, and prosperity, and understand that you're not healthy in your relationship with me because of sin. You can never earn up enough righteousness to be wealthy in your righteousness before me, and you will not prosper apart from me."
They ask Jesus in John 6:28, "What then shall we do so that we might do what God wants us to do? What must we do that we do the works of God? How can we be men who fear him and do what is right?" Look at what Jesus says. Jesus says in John 6:29, "This is the work of God…""You cannot be a man who fears me and does what is right if you reject Jesus. I don't care how much you love kindness and do justice. You're not walking humbly with me unless you know that the Father has revealed himself in the Son and the Son is God's expression of love for you."
"This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.""…there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved." We covered that last week. So to seek God means this.
1.You acknowledge and forsake idols in your life that you live or depend on for pleasure, position, or peace. This is what Cornelius did. He said, "I'm rejecting the gods of Rome." This is what devout Jews did. "We're forsaking our own works, our temple worship, our sacrificial systems." This is why baptism was such a big deal to the Jews. It was the ceremony to end all ceremony. There was no more walking in the mikveh and ceremonial cleansings on every day. It was a once-and-for-all act.
I died with Christ who died for me, and I live now in newness of life. I have been cleansed. I have been forgiven of my sins. There is no longer any ritual. There is no longer anything I have to do except abide with Jesus, remain in him. So you have to let go of everything in your life that you say is a source of pleasure, a source of prominence and position, or that gives you peace.
There is only one thing that can give you peace. Again, I'll say it. Romans 5:1. It says there that God in his kindness… We have been justified by faith through Jesus Christ our Lord, and it is through him that we have peace with God. I let go of everything else. I'll say this about Cornelius. There are stories like this all over the world. I read a story this week in a devotional about the book of Acts about a chief in Malaysia who was repairing a wooden idol one day.
When he finally got frustrated, he told his wife, "This is foolish. What are we doing worshiping these wooden idols when our hands are greater than them? I'm repairing this god. Surely there must be a higher being, the God who created all of us. Let us worship him." For 25 years, this Malaysian got away from his idols, and he and his wife went in and prayed to the unknown God.
Notice what he didn't do. This is what Cornelius did. He was a God-fearer, the monotheistic God of the Jews. This guy wasn't like the people on the Acropolis in Acts 17 who kept all of their little mythological systems up there, and just in case they were missing one they had a statue to the "Unknown God." That's not what this guy did. It's not what Cornelius did.
That's why you can't stay kind of hanging around Muhammad's view and Joseph Smith's view and Oprah's view and work Jesus in. No. You have to go, "What Muhammad and what Oprah and what Joseph Smith and what anybody else can offer me is not worth seeking, and I denounce that, and I'm seeking this one God."
There is no syncretism here. There is seeking the unknown God that this guy didn't know for 25 years, and then God finally got his Peter to him. He showed up and shared with him the gospel, and he said, "This is the God we have been seeking" and trusted in Jesus Christ. I made a note to myself when I was reading last week about some of this stuff…
I mentioned to you in Romans 3:11 how it talks about how there are none who seek good, none who do good, none who do right. The only time somebody like Cornelius or this Malaysian chief begin to seek God… The Spirit of God is already there. When the Spirit of God is there to make somebody who doesn't understand and doesn't seek for God start to understand their idols are worthless and that they should seek this God they do not know, God is already there.
I just wrote down in my Bible, "God is already there where he must eventually be present." Did I confuse you? What I'm saying is the fact that God eventually preserved that guy and got a missionary to him… God is already there, working in that guy's life, where he must eventually be present and the gospel must be present. "There is no other name under heaven by which men must be saved." So you make sure you don't work Jesus into your syncretism. You let go of everything. You denounce everything.
For us, we know the Bible says it's Jesus. Some people other places go, "I don't know his name, but I'm going to seek him." If God has somebody truly humble before him, he'll get his Word to him. Mark my word. Just make sure you're ready to take it and are willing to go get bitten by mosquitoes and beat off hippos and crocodiles, or maybe, for most of us, just get out of your Mediterranean seaside here in north Texas. What I mean by that is you don't even have to leave Texas. Just get out of your little air-conditioned homes and serve and love other people.
You have to be somebody who, like it says in Romans 1:21, acknowledges you did not honor God as God, that you have been futile in your speculation, that your foolish heart is darkened, that you (verse 22) profess to be wise, that you were a fool, that (verse 23) you exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible philosophies of men. I'm glad you're here this morning, because you're hearing about the name you need to hear.
2.You acknowledge your lack of understanding and your ignorance of God as he has revealed himself, and you listen to him as he reveals himself to you. In other words, you just repent of your little human philosophy where you've made God in your image, and you stop saying, "I'm going to try and figure out what God is like and speculate by reading all of the great philosophies of the world," and you're going to look at the Word of God.
If you want to do studies about why the Bible can be trusted as the Word of God, let's go. This is what it says. In Isaiah 66:1-2 it says, "Heaven is my throne, earth is my footstool. Where is the house that you can build for me?" "I don't dwell in houses made by human hands. I don't exist in philosophies or the rationale of men." Verse 2: "For my hand made everything…" "Including the men who try and figure out who I am. Everything comes into being through me, but not false ideology."
This is key. "Do you want to know who I'm going to look to? Do you want to know where Cornelius is, Malaysian chiefs who are going to get saved, guys who live in north Texas who are going to get saved?" "But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word." This is the Word of the Lord. "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast."
"…there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved." Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and nobody comes to the Father except through him. Proverbs 18:2: "A fool does not delight in understanding, but only in revealing his own mind." Stop telling God who you think he is and start listening to the Word of Jesus Christ.
3.You are truly seeking the Lord when you accept the consequences or experiences that will come your way as a result of faithfully seeking the Lord and following Christ. You're not seeking the Lord when you go, "I'm coming to this God who's going to make me healthy, wealthy, and prosperous." No. You come to a God who is King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, to whom all glory and honor is due. That's 1 Timothy 1:17. First Timothy 1:15 says who has come to you, the chief of all sinners that you consider yourself, and has saved you.
You don't come to God saying, "You're going to make my life better." You come to God saying, "My life couldn't be worse, and I need a savior. You are the King eternal, immortal, invisible, and you alone are wise, and all glory and honor is due you. There is nothing I, a devout, philanthropic, good leader of my family could ever do to be appeased to you. How do I know you, O God?" Answer: "Find somebody who knows the gospel or read my Word."
There are so many things I could push you to right here, but let me just say, you have Daniel 3:14-18. You have to have an "even if" faith, like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego did, where they said, "Hey, you can throw us in that fiery furnace if you want, and God can save us, but even if he does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve you." That's the faith that seeks God.
Hebrews 11:32-40. You go read it. There are great men of the faith. There's Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, and Samuel. There are the prophets. Then there are guys who are sawn in two, who are tempted, who are put to death with the sword, who are stoned, who went about in sheepskins and goatskins, who were destitute, afflicted, ill treated, men of whom this world was not worthy, who sought God and didn't say, "Make me great in the eyes of this world" or "Let me have a mighty ministry."
I talked to a friend this week. I had dinner with him last night. He was traveling with other brothers, and they went through a rebel checkpoint. One brother had six bullets put into his head next to him, and he passed. The same God was sovereign over both of them and loves them both. If you say, "I'm serving you, God, as long as I'm not the one who gets the six bullets," then you're not seeking him humbly. I don't know what your story is going to be. I know who God is.
Let me pick it up in Acts 11:1 and read this, because what we're about to see is that Peter saw something and his life was changed. He had had a vision that God has pronounced all things clean. I'm going to read it to you again, because some of us… It's often a more difficult thing, if you will, to get the saved synced up with the Word of God than it is to get the lost saved.
What I mean by that is the church sometimes gets weighed down in its traditions and its way of doing things, and when you have people who think they're doing what God wants them to do and don't remain humble, they'll get locked up in a system God doesn't like. Maybe some of you guys saw the movie The Big Short on VidAngel before it got tied up in court. The Big Short has in there a quote I was reminded of by Mark Twain, which says, "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."
Do you know what I love about that? When I saw it in the movie I thought this. That actually wasn't said by Mark Twain. It was said by a guy named Josh Billings or some derivative of it that he should have gotten the credit for, which is really funny that a movie that was saying it's not what you don't know that gets you into trouble said, "We know that Mark Twain said this," and he didn't. If he did, he stole it from Josh Billings.
The church has this exact same problem. Some people who know me might say, "Wagner, there's a lot of sanctification happening in your life, but your right foot needs a little more Jesus," in reference to sometimes driving. If you think my right foot is slow in being sanctified, I will tell you that traditions and prejudice die slowly, but when you hear from God, you'd better let them die.
I'll say this really quickly. Charles Spurgeon…not a bad guy. When Charles Spurgeon was leading in England, he was about to build this major tabernacle over in England. Somebody said, "You ought to go to America and raise money for it, because your fame in preaching has made its way there. You could probably in a 10-week journey through America raise all the money you need."
A Reverend H. went and visited Spurgeon and said, "Mr. Spurgeon, I don't recommend that you go to America, because word is that you have a stance on slavery that may not play well there." Spurgeon goes, "Really?" He goes, "Yes." That guy got to Mr. Spurgeon a few newspaper articles about him, specifically… I'm going to read you some of these comments about Spurgeon. One is from a newspaper in February of 1860 in Montgomery, Alabama.
It said, "Last Saturday, we devoted to the flames a large number of copies of Spurgeon's sermons… We trust that the works of the greasy cockney vociferator may receive the same treatment throughout the South. And if the pharisaical author should ever show himself in these parts, we trust that a stout cord may speedily find its way around his eloquent throat [that says we should view black men like us]." That's the church.
There was a vigilance committee that followed suit against people who wanted to sell his books. In Virginia, a Baptist preacher, a Mr. Humphrey H. Kuber, whose name should be read just to shame it still 150 years later, who was considered a highly respectable citizen of Mathews County, led a burning of Spurgeon's volumes because of his stance on equality and the abolition of slavery.
In Florida they said, "Spurgeon is a beef-eating, puffed-up, vain, over-righteous, pharisaical, English blab-mouth." In Virginia they called him a "fat, overgrown boy," in Louisiana a "hell-deserving Englishman," in South Carolina, a "vulgar young man." This is the church, people, whose pastor didn't know how to teach Acts 10-11, or even a better way to say it, who didn't know the God of Cornelius and Peter. If there is something in you that thinks you are better than another race, I beg of you to repent.
There were some Jews and church leaders in Jerusalem who heard Peter had been hanging out in an unlawful way with some Gentiles, and they summoned him home. "Now the apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised [who had the external signs of devotion] took issue with him, saying, 'You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.'"
Never mind that Jesus did that in John 4:9. "Why are you, a Jewish man, asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink? That is unlawful." It's interesting that in John, chapter 18, when they were turning over this Jesus to be crucified, they would not go into the Praetorium where Pilate was because they didn't want to be unclean. Aren't they glad a Jew was willing to go into an unclean area to die for them?
Mark 2. Luke 15. Jesus. "Why does this guy eat and drink with folks we wouldn't eat and drink with?" Answer: "Because they are made in the image of God, and I love them. I'm not hanging out with them doing what they're doing, but I'm letting them know what they must know so they would not be hung before a holy God."
"But Peter began speaking and proceeded to explain to them in orderly sequence, saying, 'I was in the city of Joppa praying; and in a trance I saw a vision, an object coming down like a great sheet lowered by four corners from the sky; and it came right down to me…'" If this sounds familiar, it's because it's a rewrite of Acts 10. "…and when I had fixed my gaze on it and was observing it I saw the four-footed animals of the earth and the wild beasts and the crawling creatures and the birds of the air." All of them, cloven hoof, split hoof, those that eat the cud, those that eat slop and waste.
"I also heard a voice saying to me, 'Get up, Peter; kill and eat.' But I said, 'By no means, Lord, for nothing unholy or unclean has ever entered my mouth.' But a voice from heaven answered a second time, 'What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.' This happened three times, and everything was drawn back up into the sky. And behold, at that moment three men appeared at the house in which we were staying, having been sent to me from Caesarea."
"Which means long before I was even understanding what God was doing, God was working to bring people to faith." I'm going to insert this here just to encourage your little selves. This week, over at our clinic here in Dallas, there was a guy who came in, and he was from Afghanistan. He only speaks Farsi. The volunteer who was sitting there…
This guy came up and said, "I don't speak English. I can't fill out the form." The volunteer didn't know what to do, so he got up and went and found my buddy Christy Chermak and said, "Christy, what do we do? There's a man here from Afghanistan who only speaks Farsi and isn't comfortable enough with English to fill out the form. What can we do for him?"
Christy looks up and goes, "Lo and behold, one of our volunteers who's here a half day a week with us, who's sitting right over there four feet from you, is from Afghanistan. He speaks Farsi, and he was a leader in the underground church in Afghanistan for 12 years." I love it. Acts 10, man. It's happening. Peter said, "God was at work. He brought him to me." "The Spirit told me to go with them without misgivings." Don't worry about your traditions.
"These six brethren also went with me and we entered the man's house. And he reported to us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, and saying, 'Send to Joppa and have Simon, who is also called Peter, brought here; and he will speak words to you by which you will be saved, you and all your household.' And as I began to speak, the Holy Spirit fell upon them just as He did upon us at the beginning."
So Peter goes, "What do you want me to do with that? The Word of God said this was going to go down, that Jesus has broken down the barrier wall. He told some guy through one of his angels to come get ahold of me because he needs the Messiah we are supposed to tell the world about, so I went and told him about him, and guess what? When I told him what we needed to hear, what he received is what we received. What do you want me to do with that?" Lo and behold, they said, "I think we should sing and rejoice that the church is some new, beautiful, glorious work of God." And that's what they did.
I don't have time to give you a fun illustration of how the church continues to be so stinkin' confused on issues. We divide now not over race. We divide over the right way to sing about God. I talked to a guy who's a leader and an elder at a church this week whose church is dying because those in positions of influence are committed to singing "How Great Thou Art" rather than being consumed with helping other people know how great God is.
I said, "You'd better go back and tell those people that in their prejudice there's a right way to worship, that they're not going to hear 'How great you did, servant,' one day, and that they'd better repent and get their legacy right by saying, 'It's not about the hymns we sing; it's about the him we serve.' You don't go singing songs that are man-centered and aren't theologically right, but, man, you'd better leave your love of music and increase your love of God."
Can I tell you this is not a new problem, just like racial prejudice isn't a new problem in the church, and God tried to correct it from the beginning? In 1742, there was a guy from Ireland who tried to put together something that would praise God, and when he played it in Ireland, the Irish liked it. So much so they rented out a major conference hall in England. High church, snooty England, who loves God and all that is good of him.
When this guy broke out his music, they went, "There are some good words in there, but you shouldn't have those words sung in a concert hall, and the music around it isn't God-glorifying." This was the song that was sung. Listen.
For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
For the Lord God omnipotent reigneth…
[End of song]
Isn't that amazing? Right now you can't call yourself a Christian if you don't just fall on your knees and go, "That is how angels should sing," but there was a time in our church when we said, "No! That is being sung in the wrong places with the wrong musical styles around it, and we in our traditions reject it."
I want to tell you something. You'd better make sure you're not rejecting that which is making your King famous, because that's the only tradition he cares about. You'd better not think in your traditions that you're better than another race because you've never known them. You'd better know that God loves them and wants to use you to reach them.
I pray today you will seek him and let go of all that gives you prominence and peace, position and pleasure that is not of Jesus. I pray you stop making God into some figment of your imagination but start to let the Word of God reveal himself to you, which is that there is a man named Jesus. This is Peter's message. I wish I had time to tell you that Peter's message in Acts, chapter 10, verse 34, down through verse 43, is an outline of the whole gospel of Mark, which is Peter's gospel.
It tells you as clearly as you can know that Jesus came to offer peace. It tells you as clearly as you can know that God coronated him with power and good, that God crucified him by human sin and rebellion, that God conquered death and the worst man could do to him, and that God is the commander of all who know him to tell them to go and preach, and he will be the coming Judge of all men. I pray you respond to him and serve him this week.
Father, thank you for a chance for us to be reminded of things that are true. May we let go of all our traditions and all that we hold dear to us that is not consistent and dear to you. May we become all things to all men that by any means they might be saved without compromising your Word. May we never elevate our experience over your Word. May we never hold on to our traditions or prejudice beyond your Word.
May we only love the one whose name is great, and may we sing "hallelujah" to him by doing nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind consider others as more important than ourselves. That means if we have resources, Lord, let us unleash them, and if we have relationships, Lord, this week, let us tell them of your Son, our King, the eternal, immortal, invisible, only wise God, who is worthy of all glory and honor.
If there is somebody here this morning that the Holy Spirit would fall on them and let them see their sin, I pray you wouldn't let them do anything but respond to your Spirit, that they might be saved. In Jesus' name, amen.