Acts 10 – The Real Thing

Pat Youther Audio [31:46]

Pat Youther -Transcription:
“Good morning again.  Would you pray with me.

Father, I ask that you would fill this time to overflowing with your Holy Spirit. We pray it in Jesus’ name. Amen.

In case you hadn’t noticed, we are living in chaotic times.  I don’t mean to add to the chaos, but I’m going to bring up a divisive issue this morning.  Are you ready?

Soda or pop?

(LAUGHTER) Which do you call it?

OK.. we’re going to do a show of hands.  SODA people raise your hands?  POP people raise your hands. That’s pretty close. First service POP definitely took the vote.  We could caucus about this but we probably don’t have time this morning. 

How many of you have heard of the Pepsi Challenge?

Some of you have.  It’s been going now for about forty years, which I found kind of surprising.  Well, here’s how it worked, in case you’re not familiar with it:

A representative would ask someone to take the Pepsi Challenge, offering them the opportunity to taste two kinds of Cola… and then to guess which was Pepsi, and which was Coca-Cola. 

Now, Charlie, my husband, had the opportunity quite some time back to take the Pepsi challenge.  And it was a blind taste test… he wasn’t blind folded, but you couldn’t see what it was he was being offered.

He was offered an icy cold, crisp cup of Pepsi; and a flat lukewarm cup of Coke. (LAUGHTER).  He knew which was which.  He recognized the real thing–which was how Coke was advertising itself.

So I’m going to declare myself now, I’m a Coke person (sets bottle of Coke on pulpit).  Sorry Pepsi people.

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Well, what we’re going to do this morning is we’re going to talk about some real things… some really real things… in Acts chapter ten.

So, the way we’re going to do this is, we’ll work through the chapter… I’ll read a verse, or a few verses, and stop to talk about them, and then we’ll move on.

So here we go. Hear the Word of the Lord.

  Acts 10:1 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment.

Herod the Great, some years back, had decided that Israel needed a seaport.  They had coastline on the Mediterranean Sea, and they needed a seaport. So he created one on the Northern coast of Israel.  Herod was a great builder; he built lots of things, and he built a whole seaport.

He named it in honor of the then Emperor, CAESAR, and called it Caesarea.

In Caesarea the majority of the population was Gentile.  It was about sixty percent Gentile, and about forty percent Jewish.  So it’s a Roman stronghold in Israel.

The Jews hated Herod.  And frankly they hated Caesarea.

Then the Scripture tells us that Cornelius was a centurion–that would be a Roman soldier who commanded about one hundred Roman soldiers.

Therefore he was a man with a certain amount of responsibility and a certain amount of prestige. He was about equivalent to today’s Captain. Not a Navy captain, but an Army or Air Force captain.  He was a Roman, as Jane said in her children’s message, and therefore he was a Gentile.

But the next verse tells us,

He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.

He wasn’t a Jewish convert, but he did follow the God of Israel.  He demonstrated his allegiance by his actions… by giving to those in need, and by praying.

3 One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”

Now the reason for mentioning that he was praying at three o’clock in the afternoon, is that three o’clock in the afternoon was one of the prescribed times of prayer for a Jew.

So Cornelius who is trying to follow God, prays at three o’clock in the afternoon.  And as he prays he has a vision.  And Luke says he distinctly saw an angel of God.  And this angel calls him by name… “Cornelius”…

Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked.

Now, I’m with Cornelius here.  I’d be staring in fear too.  But he does manage to pull himself together and ask what’s going on.  And here’s the response. 

The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.

So the Angel first makes an observation, telling him that the Lord has taken notice of his prayers and of his giving to the poor.  Then the angel gives him an instruction, telling him to send for Peter.  The angel even tells him where to find Peter… “he’s at the home of Simon the tanner.”

Now, tanners are not in the upper stratum of Jewish society.  Tanners were considered to be unclean because they worked with the bodies of dead animals. 

So,

When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa.

Joppa is about thirty miles south of Caesarea, and it’s on the Mediterranean coast.  So they had a little journey ahead of them.  And now our focus switches from Cornelius and Caesarea to Peter and Joppa.

Peter’s Vision

9-12 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds.

Peter was praying at about noon–noon is not one of the routine prayer times.  Peter simply wanted to spend time in prayer, and it didn’t have to be at an appointed time.  He knew that he could pray at any time. 

But while he’s praying, and while he’s waiting for his lunch, he has a vision.  His vision is not of an Angel… he sees a sheet filled with all kinds of creatures, including both clean and unclean animals. 

Back in Leviticus, eleven, the Lord had commanded the Israelites which animals they were allowed to eat–the animals that were considered to be clean; and which animals were off limits to them–the unclean animals. 

So as Peter looks…  

13 …a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”

“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.

I think this is kind of odd from a couple of directions.  Peter is told that he’s to kill and eat animals that the Jews have been prohibited from eating for centuries. 

His reaction here is really pretty understandable… “No, I can’t do that.”  But in another direction, he’s saying something outrageous.  He’s put disobedience and Lord in the same response.  Those two words do not go together.  Lord is about the equivalent of boss

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My friend Kathy Daly used to tell the girls in her ‘Action group’, “Lord means the boss of you”.  So Peter’s saying, “No boss.”  See, it just doesn’t work. 

But the voice doesn’t stop there.  

15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

So Peter receives a second command, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”  How can this be? — centuries of teaching, centuries of rules… but it’s repeated three times over. 

Whenever I hear something three times over, it gets my attention.  And it got Peter’s attention too.  He tries to understand what he’s just seen and heard. 

Verse seventeen,

17-20 While Peter was wondering about the meaning of the vision, the men sent by Cornelius found out where Simon’s house was and stopped at the gate. They called out, asking if Simon who was known as Peter was staying there (and he was).

While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.

The Spirit speaks to Peter and tells him that three men are there.  And he gives Peter his marching orders.  He tells him to make no objection, to go with them.  And the Spirit lets him know that He, the Holy Spirit, is the one who has sent them.  So Peter obeys the Spirit. 

21-23 Peter went down and said to the men, “I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?”

The men replied, “We have come from Cornelius the centurion. He is a righteous and God-fearing man, who is respected by all the Jewish people. A holy angel told him to ask you to come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.” Then Peter invited the men into the house to be his guests.

Now this is pretty unheard of… Peter invites three Gentiles, considered to be unclean, into the home where he is staying–a Jewish home. 

Peter at Cornelius’s House

The next day Peter started out with them, and some of the believers from Joppa went along. 24 The following day he arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. As Peter entered the house, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet in reverence. But Peter made him get up. “Stand up,” he said, “I am only a man myself.”

27 While talking with him, Peter went inside and found a large gathering of people.

So Peter arrives in Caesarea to find not just Cornelius, but a lot of people.  Cornelius falls at Peter’s feet as if to worship him.  But Peter is not having any of that.  He tells Cornelius to stand back up.  And then,

28-29 He said to them: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.  So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?

Peter here draws the connection between the vision he had… at noon, waiting for lunch, and the command to meet with Cornelius.

Foods, are no longer unclean… people are no longer unclean.  Peter asked why they have sent for him and Cornelius explains it.

30-33 Cornelius answered: “Three days ago I was in my house praying at this hour, at three in the afternoon. Suddenly a man in shining clothes stood before me and said, ‘Cornelius, God has heard your prayer and remembered your gifts to the poor. Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He is a guest in the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.’  So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.

There are a couple of things there in Cornelius’s last sentence that I think are noteworthy:

  1.  One is Cornelius recognizes that they are in the Lord’s presence — that God is with them.God is with us right now… remember that.
  2. The second thing is… Cornelius understands that the Lord has given Peter a message to be shared with them.  And they are expectant, and waiting to hear whatever it is God has given to Peter to tell Cornelius and his family.

So now I’m going to go through Peter’s message… which is “The message of the Gospel”.  I’ll read it all in one piece and then we’ll go back and talk about a few items in it.

34-43 Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.  You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, announcing the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.

“We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.  He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.

That’s the Gospel — Peter gives a narrative of Jesus’ ministry, from his baptism, through his death, and resurrection. 

So let me draw out a few points from Peter’s message:

First:  We are seeing the outworking, of Acts One, Eight.  

Way back in Chapter One… all those weeks ago when we started the message of Acts… Jesus, just before he ascends to heaven, says to his disciples,

“But you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in Judea, and in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

The Gospel moves in exactly that way.  It started in Jerusalem, it went to Judea, it went to Samaria, and it went to the ends of the earth.  And here we are seeing that it’s now moving to the ends of the earth.  And that is going to move through a Roman centurion and his family… Gentiles–the unclean.

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Way back in Genesis., God made a promise to Abraham.  He promised Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky, and as the sand on the seashore. And that the Gentiles would be brought into the covenant. 

The Gentiles, the unclean–that’s you and that’s me. 

And so we see here, that the Gospel is now moving to the ends of the earth.  Not just in place or geography, but also in timeWe are the fruit of what Jesus told His disciples before he ascended.

Second point:  God is the active agent in all of this.

Cornelius and Peter didn’t know each other, but using separate visions for each of them, the Lord brought them together so that Cornelius and his family would hear the message of the Gospel.

But then look at what Peter goes on and he says (back to vs 34)…

 34b  God shows no favoritism… God accepts…  God sent a message… God anointed… God raised Jesus from the dead… God chose that appointed.

God is the active agent.  He is the one who makes these things happen.

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I think sometimes when we think about sharing our faith.  When we talk about evangelism; when we talk about outreach… it makes us start to sweat… it makes us… break out in hives… it makes us hide. 

I’d just as soon not talk about my faith. 

What we need to remember is, if we’re given the opportunity to share our faith, it’s God who put that into place.  We don’t have to crank it up, we don’t have to make an opportunity… He already has. 

And so when He opens the door for you, for me to talk about Jesus to people, he’s still with us–that’s his promise.  He is the one who has made a place, and a way for us to talk about Jesus to people who don’t know Jesus.  And he expects us to do that.

It’s part of the command,

“You will be my witnesses…  Go and make disciples.”

 Those aren’t just suggestions… those are commands from our Lord and Savior.

And… do I sweat?  Do I hide?  You bet I do.  And I’m ashamed of myself when I do. Because I want to be bold, and I want us to be bold about telling people about Jesus.

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The next thing I want to talk about is the word,

Witness… 

In Acts one, eight, Jesus says,

“You will be my witnesses.”  

Now Peter is using that same word twice in his proclamation of the Gospel.  He says twice,

We are witnesses.”  

So what is it that a witness does?  

A witness sees , hears, experiences; a witness then tells what he saw, or heard, or experienced.  That’s exactly what the disciples did–they served as witnesses of who Jesus is. 

So how does that apply to us?

Well… we too are called to be witnesses, to see, to hear, to experience; and then to tell people what we’ve seen and heard and experienced. 

I think sometimes we make the message of the gospel BIG and complicated.  When the message of the Gospel is really very simple. 

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A couple of weeks ago we finished in Sunday school the Becoming a Contagious Christian course.  And Mark Middleburg, one of the authors of the course has a four point, very easy presentation of the Gospel.  

I should tell you there will be a quiz… not really 🙂

1. God loves us. 

2. We blew it. 

3. Jesus paid for it. 

4. We must receive him. 

Pretty easy:  God loves us.  We blew it.  I hope you agree with that… I hope you understand that we are all sinners.  Scripture says that very clearly.

 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  There is no one righteous, no not one. 

We blew it.  Jesus paid for it.  We must receive him.  So one of the things, as we work our way through the book of Acts, there are some recurring themes because this is a story of the church growing. 

And the church did not stop growing in the first century, or we wouldn’t be here.  The church continues to grow, and God intends for it to continue to grow, and he intends to do that through us. 

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So there are some things that you can do to be ready. One is…

1. Be ready to tell your own story

How did you come to faith in Jesus Christ? It doesn’t have to be an hour long presentation, with Powerpoint.  You should be able to tell your story in about three minutes. 

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Week before last, our new members met with session.  And one of the things that I am really enjoying about new members classes, when new members meet with session, they each tell their story.  They, in ‘church talk’ give their testimony.  And so, each person in the new members class talks about how they came to faith in Jesus Christ.  It is a precious and wonderful time. 

One of the things, if we had the time right now, we certainly don’t, to tell all of our stories, what you would see is, God has worked differently for each one of us.  He has tailored our conversion to who we are, and what we need, because he loves us. 

And so, when you hear the stories of people, it builds up your faith.  When I hear the stories of those new members, I come away thinking… “What a God we serve !!!”

So be ready to tell your story… talk about

  1. What your life was like before Jesus;
  2. How you met Jesus; and
  3. The difference he’s made in you. 

Three points are very easy.  Be ready to tell His story. 

The four points I just gave you above are His Story:

  1. God loves us
  2. We blew it
  3. Jesus paid for it
  4. We must receive him. 

That’s the Gospel, in four short points.  That’s His-Story. 

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The last thing is… given the opportunity,

2. Be ready to PRAY with someone to come into relationship with Jesus Christ. 

OK, now you’re really sweating.  It’s easy, it is very easy.  Pastor Dan last week, in his sermon, gave us a very easy outline of how to do that.  It was an A.B.C..

  1. Admit that you’re a sinner. 
  2. Believe in Jesus Christ. 
  3. Commit your life to Him

A B C… ADMIT, BELIEVE, COMMIT. When you’re asking somebody to pray with them, those are the points that you need to cover.

In the Alpha Class here at Kirkmont, there’s an another very similar… I hate to say formula: SORRY, THANK YOU, PLEASE

“Lord,  I’m

  1. SORRY that I have sinned against you.
  2. THANK YOU for sending Jesus to die for me–to do what I could not do for myself.
  3. PLEASE Jesus come into my life. 

Sorry. Thank you. Please. 

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All that said… look at what happens next. 

44-48  While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Then Peter said, “Surely no one can stand in the way of their being baptized with water. They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.”  So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

 A Jew, staying with Gentiles… at a Gentile house.  Look what God has done.

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Now, at the beginning I spoke of the Pepsi challenge.  Some of you think that Pepsi is the real thing. I’m sorry. (LAUGHTER).

Some of you think that Coke Is the real thing.  Now the truth is, if Pastor Dan were here, he would say.  “Oh no no, no… Mountain Dew is the real thing” (Laughter as she puts each can on pulpit in turn).

But the bottom line is… and we know this…

Jesus is the real thing. 

People… the Lord continues to challenge us, to share the message of the Gospel, far and wide… to be witnesses of what we have experienced. 

This is the challenge. 

This is the real thing.  

Amen.

Would you pray with me please. 

Father we thank you for Jesus who is the real thing.  We thank you that he has come, that he died for us to do what we could not do, because we are sinful people.  And that he has come to save us from our sins… to give us eternal life — that we will be able to be with you forever and ever. 

And so we are thankful for that Lord.  And I ask that we would be bold about telling people the wonderful glorious news we have been given.  We pray it in the name of our Jesus, and for his sake.  Amen.

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