Good morning everyone!
LAST WEEK’S RECAP
For those of you who might be new today, we have been preaching through the book of Acts. Last week we were in Acts 9. Two major themes were going on in Chapter Nine: the conversion of Saul, which gets the most attention in Christian circles, and the story of Peter healing Aeneas and raising Dorcas from the dead.
Saul, who became Paul, was a zealous Pharisee.
Acts 7:58 RSV: Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.
Acts 8:1-3 RSV: And Saul was consenting to his death. And on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the region of Judea and Samar′ia, except the apostles. Devout men buried Stephen, and made great lamentation over him. But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.
Acts 9:1 RSV: Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
Paul was a zealous Christian; so much so that there were two plots to kill him.
Acts 9:22-25 RSV: But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ. When many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him, but their plot became known to Saul. They were watching the gates day and night, to kill him; but his disciples took him by night and let him down over the wall, lowering him in a basket.
And then the Hellenistic Jews tried to kill him in Jerusalem because he was “preaching boldly in the name of the Lord” (Acts 9:28-29 RSV). Finally Christians took him to Caesarea and sent him back to Tarsus (Acts 9:30 RSV). Peace in the church & it grew stronger (Acts 9:31 RSV).
In Acts 9:32-43 RSV, we are told about Peter healing Aeneas and raising Dorcas (who was also called Tabitha). “And Peter said to him, “Aene′as, Jesus Christ heals you; rise and make your bed.” And immediately he rose”(Acts 9:34 RSV). Acts 9:40-41 says:
But Peter put them all outside and knelt down and prayed; then turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, rise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up. And he gave her his hand and lifted her up. Then calling the saints and widows he presented her alive.
Why do I tell you all this again? Because two major things were happening: 1) God was still in the business of dramatically changing lives and 2) God was still in the business of working miracles. What’s interesting is that this all happened after Pentecost. This was after Jesus had risen from the dead and ascended into Heaven and now things were going beyond the Apostles
THIS WEEK’S OVERVIEW
This week we’re going to look into Acts 10 and I want to do a quick overview before we get down to brass tacks and bare knuckles. Acts 10:1-8. We’re introduced to the Roman army officer, Cornelius. He was the Captain of the Italian Regiment. He was a God-fearing man as was his entire household. He was a man who understood authority / service. God has also given him a vision. An angel told him that the Apostle Peter was going to be coming for a visit
Acts 10:9-16 tells us about Peter, who was on a rooftop and then falls into a trance. He too has a vision. His was a vision of sheet and various animals. Peter, still true to his character that was revealed throughout his time with Jesus, was stubborn. God tells him to rise, kill and eat but Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean” (Acts 10:13 RSV). God told Peter three times, “Do not call something unclean if God has made it clean” (Acts 10:14 RSV). Acts 10:17-23 conveys what Cornelius had charged his servants to explain to Peter when he asked them to come to his house: who they were, under whose authority they came, and the expectation that Peter return with them to their master.
To make a long story short, Cornelius had sent men to Peter to bring him back to his house per the directive of God. Unlike Peter, it only took Cornelius once to execute a command given to him by God through the vision. Peter returns with the men and then Peter and Cornelius meet. This is what happens next.
Please stand for the reading of God’s Word …
READING OF GOD’S WORD
They arrived in Caesarea the following day. Cornelius was waiting for them and had called together his relatives and close friends. As Peter entered his home, Cornelius fell at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter pulled him up and said, “Stand up! I’m a human being just like you!” So they talked together and went inside, where many others were assembled.
Peter told them, “You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you. But God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean. So I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. Now tell me why you sent for me.”
Cornelius replied, “Four days ago I was praying in my house about this same time, three o’clock in the afternoon. Suddenly, a man in dazzling clothes was standing in front of me. He told me, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your gifts to the poor have been noticed by God! Now send messengers to Joppa, and summon a man named Simon Peter. He is staying in the home of Simon, a tanner who lives near the seashore.’ So I sent for you at once, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here, waiting before God to hear the message the Lord has given you.”
Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right. This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel – that there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee, after John began preaching his message of baptism. And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we apostles are witnesses of all he did throughout Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him to life on the third day. Then God allowed him to appear, not to the general public, but to us whom God had chosen in advance to be his witnesses. We were those who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he ordered us to preach everywhere and to testify that Jesus is the one appointed by God to be the judge of all – the living and the dead. He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name.
Even as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the message. The Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles, too. For they heard them speaking in other tongues and praising God.
Then Peter asked, “Can anyone object to their being baptized, now that they have received the Holy Spirit just as we did?” So he gave orders for them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Afterward Cornelius asked him to stay with them for several days (Acts 10:24-48 RSV).
Heavenly Father … we come to you today with our hearts and minds completely fixed on you. We ask that you give us ears to hear and eyes to see. Lord, we thank you for your Word and we believe in our hearts that your Word has been with you since the beginning. The Word was with you and the Word is you. God, you created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. Father, we thank you that through your Word, your light shines in the darkness … and the darkness can never extinguish it. Amen.
Does anyone remember the old Louis Armstrong / Ella Fitzgerald song, “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off?” If you’re like me, you might have a better memory of Christopher Walken and Jimmy Fallon performing this song as a sketch on Saturday Night Live.
You say either and I say either,
You say neither and I say neither
Either, either neither, neither
Let's call the whole thing off.
You like potato and I like potahto
You like tomato and I like tomahto
Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto.
Let's call the whole thing off
You say neither and I say neither
Either, either neither, neither
Let's call the whole thing off.
You like potato and I like potahto
You like tomato and I like tomahto
Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto.
Let's call the whole thing off
Words - it’s all in how they’re said and the meaning behind each one. Scripture tells us quite often to choose our words wisely – the power of life and death are in the what? The tongue (Proverbs 18:21 NLT). Alistair Begg teaches, “Three things come not back: the spent arrow, the spoken word and the missed opportunity.” I bring this to your attention simply because I sometimes fall into the trap of preaching when I should be teaching and teaching when I should be preaching.
PREACHING vs. TEACHING
Merriam-Webster defines “preach” as “To make a speech about religion in a church or other public place : to deliver a sermon.” That’s what we attempt to do here every Sunday to encourage you to live your faiths throughout the week. Merriam-Webster also says these about the definition of preach: “to write or speak in an annoying way about the right way to behave.”  That definition reminds me of that old Madonna song, “Papa Don’t Preach.”
Merriam-Webster defines “teach” as “To cause or help (someone) to learn about a subject by giving lessons.” It’s clear what the Bible says about teaching in the church. “Dear brothers and sisters, not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly” (James 3:1 NLT).
I want to preach this morning. Why? “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news … who proclaims peace … who brings glad tidings of good things … who proclaims salvation … who says to Zion, “Your God reigns” (Isaiah 52:7 NKJV; spacing mine). Paul refers to this scripture in Romans 10:8-15 NKJV when he’s explaining righteousness through faith … rather than by the Law.
But what does [Scripture] say? “The word is near you in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!”(Romans 10:8-15 NKJV; emphasis mine).
So I pray … I pray… that you hear me as a preacher today.
REMEMBER THE SETTING
Remember where we were at in the story: Peter had just been brought to Cornelius’ house by two servants and one soldier who served Cornelius – men under authority. Cornelius was waiting for them and had called together his relatives and close friends. As a matter of tracking things, at some point, Cornelius had become a believer. Remember, he was a Roman – a Gentile – who had claimed the name of Jesus. Now he and his household were gathered. Do you remember what the Bible says about the gathering of saints? “For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20 NKJV). So God was already there … as He is here right now.
Let’s look at Acts 10:25-27. “As Peter entered his home, Cornelius fell at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter pulled him up and said, “Stand up! I’m a human being just like you!” (Acts 10:25-26 RSV). Peter had to do an on the spot correction. Reading this makes me wonder if Cornelius was a Young believer. Maybe he was a little over zealous. Maybe he was a little bit ignorant to this new “Christianese.” Maybe he wasn’t. In our world right now, ISIS is killing Christians in Iraq. It may have been that the culture in which this “new faith” was growing was one of violent persecution and they were fearful that too much of a good thing might draw undue attention from the persecutors. Either way, Peter may not have been the brightest light in the lamp but one thing is for certain … he knew that he wasn’t God. He may have denied Jesus three times before the rooster crowed … and maybe he was a bit aggressive (remember the ear incident in the Garden) … but he wasn’t going to say he was God.
“Peter told them, “You know it is against our laws for a Jewish man to enter a Gentile home like this or to associate with you. But God has shown me that I should no longer think of anyone as impure or unclean. So I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. Now tell me why you sent for me” (Acts 10:28-29 RSV). Peter finally got it! We are all God’s children! It wasn’t about the law given through Moses and compounded by the religious hierarchy. It was about the grace given only through Jesus Christ. Think about this folks. Peter was living out what you and I and millions of others have been reading about for the last 2000 years. We have the advantage of hindsight. We have the advantage of generations of scholarly work to better understand the Bible. We have the luxury of being armchair quarterbacks – more so than any other time in history. But God doesn’t call us to be armchair quarterbacks, does he? God calls us to be starters; first string play makers. Peter lived this!
Paul gets all the accolades for taking the Gospel to the Gentiles but through Peter, God was about to blow his “children’s” minds and their whole belief system. This was absolutely radical. For centuries, the Israelites – the Hebrew children – had distanced themselves from “unclean” things and were now about to be blown out of the water! Verse 12 says, “Four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air.” Peter had to be thinking, “Are you serious God?” Verse 14 says, “But Peter said, “No, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.”” Now if Peter was saying, “No,” imagine what the truly zealous Jews would have said!
But as much as this is about Peter receiving this kind of revelation … we have to recognize that ultimately, he was obedient to God’s commands. Folks, when God speaks to you … are you obedient? When you pray and are seeking his will … are you receptive to hearing God’s answer? What about when He gives you an answer you don’t want to hear? Do you debate what’s being said? Do you make excuses … or do you execute? Jesus said, “If you love me … obey my commandments” (John 14:15 NLT).
THE GENTILES HEAR THE GOOD NEWS
“Then Peter replied, “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right” (Acts 10:34-35 RSV). Peter was finally getting it! If you jump back to John 10, Jesus was trying his best … to get his disciples to understand this … when he shared the parable of the Good Shepherd and his Sheep. Let’s start at John 10:6:
Those who heard Jesus use this illustration didn’t understand what he meant, so he explained it to them: “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd sacrifices his life for the sheep. A hired hand will run when he sees a wolf coming. He will abandon the sheep because they don’t belong to him and he isn’t their shepherd. And so the wolf attacks them and scatters the flock. The hired hand runs away because he’s working only for the money and doesn’t really care about the sheep. “I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep (John 10:6-15 NLT).
Here’s the key …
I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.
That’s the key …
The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded (John 10:16-18 NLT).
We continue in Acts.
This is the message of Good News for the people of Israel That there is peace with God through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee After John began preaching his message of baptism. And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we apostles are witnesses of all he did throughout Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him to life on the third day. Then God allowed him to appear, not to the general public, but to us whom God had chosen in advance to be his witnesses. We were those who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. And he ordered us to preach everywhere and to testify that Jesus is the one appointed by God to be the judge of all … the living and the dead. He is the one all the prophets testified about, saying that everyone who believes in him will have their sins forgiven through his name (Acts 10:36-43NLT).
Peter is basically telling this gathering of people that this is what the Gospel is all about: Jesus is alive – He is the Risen Messiah. He is – I AM. I AM yesterday, today, and forever. “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God and the Word was God” (John 1:1 NLT). “Heaven and earth will disappear but my words will never disappear” (Matthews 24:35 NLT). “I am the Alpha and the Omega – the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come – the Almighty One” (Revelation 1:8 NLT).
Remember … these people are gathered and they are hearing the Word of God and faith comes by what? Hearing. And hearing by what? The Word of God. And God was already present because believers were gathered … so what happened next?
THE GENTILES RECEIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT
“Even as Peter was saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell upon all who were listening to the message” (Acts 10:44 RSV). And faith comes by what? Hearing. “The Jewish believers who came with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles, too” (Acts 10:45 RSV). The Holy Spirit is not a Jewish thing … He is a God thing!
For they heard them speaking in other tongues and praising God. Then Peter asked, “Can anyone object to their being baptized, now that they have received the Holy Spirit just as we did?” So he gave orders for them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 10:46-48 RSV).
So I ask you this dear Christian? What or who is the Holy Spirit? A second question might be: what are some of the attributes of the Holy Spirit? The Psalmist alludes to the Holy Spirit as that force that keeps him in God’s presence (Psalm 51:11). John lists him as the Advocate or Helper (John 14:26). Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20). Jesus was baptized by the Holy Spirit, led into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit and walked in the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4). Every sin can be forgiven except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31).
These people – first the Jew and then the Gentile – were experiencing the fullness of God’s manifestation of his Holy Spirit. On this particular occasion, speaking in tongues was the evidence that they had received the Holy Spirit. They had the power of God in them. They had the Spirit of Truth. They had the Advocate and they were GENTILES. They weren’t Jews. Again … this was radical in that day and age. God had chosen to manifest his presence outside the society of Jewish believers. God wanted and continues to want the world to know that He is I AM – that He is the Living God – that his power is freely given to those who believe. “Peter said: “Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34-35 RSV). Whether Jew or Gentile, man or woman, slave or free man … anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. The Gospel is not bound by our limited idea of who God is. God is infinitely more than we can ever imagine.
My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9 NLT).
We have the Bible – his Word – that He has freely given us so that we might know him and his love story throughout the passage of time
What do we do with this now? Again, we have the luxury of 2000 years of studying this Word by experts. We’ve been guided by theologians who know how exegete and extrapolate truth based on source documents, presuppositions, and years of rigorous research. But the simple answer is this: “You will seek the Lord your God and you will find him if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 4:29 RSV). Because God is truth, try it this way too; you will seek the Truth and you will find it if you search after it with all your heart and with all your soul.
SEVEN TAKE AWAYS
God wants us together // the First Church
And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:42-47 NKJV).
God wants us to know that He’s God and we’re not // The Rich Young Ruler
Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” (Matthew 19:16-17 NKJV).
God wants us to be obedient // Abraham & Jesus
This is what the Lord says: Because you have obeyed me and have not withheld even your son, your only son, I swear by my own name that I will certainly bless you. I will multiply your descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will conquer the cities of their enemies (Genesis 22:16-17 NLT).
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross (Philippians 2:7-8 NLT).
God wants us to be under authority // The Roman Centurion
I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it (Matthew 8:9 NLT).
God wants everyone // Longsuffering
But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:8-9 NJKV).
God wants to answer your prayers // the Psalmist
You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds, O God our savior. You are the hope of everyone on earth, even those who sail on distant seas (Psalm 65:5 NLT).
God wants you to be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit // Jesus’ Last Command & Paul’s encouragement
Jesus’ Last Command
And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven (Luke 24:49 NLT).
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13 NLT).
1) God wants us together; He wants us in fellowship
2) God wants us to know that He’s God and we’re not
3) God wants us to be obedient
4) God wants us to be under authority
5) God wants everyone
6) God wants to answer your prayers
7) God wants you to be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit
God … you brought us here today to share in the hearing of your Word. I pray that your Word did not fall on deaf ears or hard hearts. I pray that the Holy Spirit has stirred hearts this morning as I pray he does every day in the hearts of those who serve you. As we walk out of this sanctuary, I pray that your Spirit empowers us to be the church outside these walls. Encourage us so that we can encourage one another. Bless us so that we may be a blessing. In all these things, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
 http://www.lyrics007.com/Louis%20Armstrong%20Lyrics/Let%27s%20Call%20The%20Whole%20Thing%20Off%20Lyrics.html (Accessed on August 8, 2014).
 Ibid., (Accessed on August 6, 2014).