Pastor Dan Borgelt – Audio [22:02]
You know when I was just beginning the ministry, I had some friends who had heard about the fact that I had begun the ministry and become a pastor — some friends from my high school days, who I hadn’t seen for many years, who had heard that I had become a pastor, and quite frankly, many of them were surprised that I had become a pastor. (Laughter).
Apparently they had an idea of what a pastor should be like, and I didn’t quite fit that mold for them when I was in high school.
And truth be told, there was a part of me that took that as a compliment — that I didn’t fit the pastor mold, but I also saw the underlinings of what they were saying… and that is, that often, my behavior in high school was not consistent with someone who claimed to be serious about their relationship with God. And so they were surprised that I had become a pastor.
Let me ask you this morning…
Of all the people that you know in your life, who would you be most surprised to hear that they began to have a serious relationship with God?
Of all the people in your life who would you become the most surprised to hear that they had begun a serious relationship with God. No, mam… you may not point to your husband, back there. OK? (Laughter).
I’m kidding, nobody was pointing… no pointing allowed… pointing is rude (Laughter).
But it may be, your spouse. It could be another immediate family member. It might be an extended relative; or maybe a classmate; or maybe a coworker; or a neighbor.
Maybe even yourself…
Maybe you’re here this morning not because you’re really into it, because you’re here for some other reason… someone’s dragged you, or you’re just trying it out; and quite frankly, if you ever got serious about your relationship with God, it would be a real surprise to you.
This morning, I believe the heart of our passage is to convince us of this — to tell us that
There is no one who is too far from God.
That there is no one who so far from God, that He can’t draw them, or wants to draw them into a relationship with himself.
There’s no one with whom we should be totally surprised, if they were to come into a relationship with Jesus Christ.
And I want to encourage you by that. I think that should be encouraging news. It should be encouraging to some of us, because some of us feel like we’ve done some really messed up things in our lives — that we feel like maybe we’re the ones who are too far from God.. and there’s no real hope for us yet.
Others of us though we have people in our life who we really love, and care about –people who we have been praying for, and longing for them to have a relationship with Jesus Christ for a long time, with no sign of any hope or optimism. And it can be discouraging and frustrating.
And I want you to be encouraged by the idea that the heart of our passage this morning tells us,
No one is too far from coming into a relationship with God.
But it should also be challenging to us, because quite frankly, some of us, probably all of us if we’re honest, have dismissed_some_person in our life, or some people group in the world as being too far from God.
We say, “There’s no hope for someone like that… there’s no hope for those people who believe that; there’s no hope for people who have done those types of mistakes, to ever really come into a real relationship with God.”
But the heart of our passage is to say, “There is no such thing as that“.
We’re continuing through the book of Acts. I want to invite you; if you’ve got a Bible with you, or you want to turn to one that’s in the pew… to the Book of Acts. It’s the fifth book of the New Testament, to Chapter eleven.
Acts chapter eleven, we will have the Scripture on the screen that we’ll be looking at if you don’t have a Bible with you.
But as we go to Acts, chapter eleven… first I want to acknowledge that Pat, who is a staff member here at Kirkmont, preached in my absence last week, and I gave her a really long chapter to deal with last week. And it was on Daylight Savings, so she had more Scripture to preach on with less sleep.
I thought she did a great job; I listened to the message, and she clearly laid out the heart of Acts, chapter ten.
But, for those of you who weren’t here, or haven’t been with us in our Acts series, let me recap for you.
By the way, I can recap quickly because someone transcribes our sermons, and they informed me that Pat and my last sermons were the exact same length, time wise, but I spoke twice as many words. (LAUGHTER).
So we each preached for thirty two minutes… I’m not going to preach that long this morning by the way… in our last couple sermons, I spoke six thousand words and she spoke three thousand words, so we had a little argument about it… does she talk too slow, or do I talk too fast… so, I think the lot has fallen on me, I talk too fast.
OK, Acts, chapter eleven… before we get to Acts eleven, we’re recapping.
Here we are the Book of Acts, if you don’t know this, it is the history of the early church — it’s the history of the early followers of Jesus Christ. And what we’ve been discovering is, the early church BOOMED… it boomed numerically.
It went from 120 people, to 3000 people, to 5000 people, to countless number of people. It also boomed geographically as well… it started spreading and spreading and spreading. Against all of this opposition it was booming and growing.
But up until this point the majority of the early followers of Jesus Christ, were Jewish people.
And last week, we began to see that something was going to change, it was going to shift. That by the Divine initiative of God, he was going to make something happen.
So last week what happened, is God raised up a man named Peter, who was an early leader in the church. He was a Jewish man… and he encountered, through God’s miraculous intervention, a Gentile— a non Jewish man, who was a God fearing person, but did not have a relationship with Jesus Christ.
And he brings the two of them together, so that the non-Jewish world out there would hear about Jesus Christ — in other words, God is saying, “I have had a special relationship with Israel for two thousand years, but now it’s going bigger than that.“
This thing that Christ has come to do on the Cross, it is for the entire world.
OK… and so he initiates Peter to do this, and to share this message, but… as you can imagine, not everybody was extremely excited about what happens.
So here’s what the Scripture tells us in Acts chapter eleven, verse one; it’s really the continuation,
Peter Explains His Actions
Acts 11:1 The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God.
So the Apostles are the early church leaders — they’re Jewish. And the brothers throughout Judea — that is the majority of the early church… again, mostly a Jewish church at this point in time… they all hear, this is big news. They receive this news, that not just Jewish people are beginning to follow Jesus Christ, but the Gentile people as well, are not only hearing about Jesus Christ, but are receiving it, they’re embracing this message.
So we would expect, what kind of response? … If I got up and reported to you that there was some group of people in this area, that previously hadn’t heard about Jesus Christ, and wasn’t following Christ, and I reported to you that they were now, what should the proper response be?
It would be (‘yea’ from a member of the congregation)… “YEA“, that’s right, it would be one of excitement and enthusiasm. We’re glad about that, and excited about it… but… the Scripture tells us this,
2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem (which is the heart of the Early Jewish Church), the circumcised believers (that’s just another way of saying, ‘the Jewish believers… they didn’t celebrate with him, they didn’t thank him for his faithful service to the world in telling people about Jesus Christ, instead, they) criticized him and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
So what they are getting at here is, that for a faithful Jewish person in the Old Testament, they had some laws about how they would stay pure and clean, and those laws included, the way they ate and what they ate.
And so, what they hear is that Peter, in order to share Jesus Christ with these Gentile people, he had a meal with them, he sat and ate with them, he was their friend; he hung out with them.
But apparently, they were the host of the meal. What was served and how it was served was in a Gentile fashion, not a proper, religious Jewish fashion. And Peter, knowing that what he was doing was far more important than about cleanliness of food, he went ahead and ate with them, and dined with them… and the disciples hear this, some of the early church followers hear this, and they criticize him for having an_unclean_meal.
They’re not able to celebrate the fact that these people have come to faith in Jesus Christ. They’re busy arguing with Peter and criticizing him because he’s done something unholy or impure in their eyes.
Now it kind of reads as if these people might have just been concerned about Peter’s personal holiness. You know, “Peter, we really love you and care about you as a brother in Christ… and we’re just worried, did you really make a wise decision here?” … you know that kind of thing… it sort of reads that way.
But friends, that is not the issue. The issue is that they had received the report that Gentile people were coming into the fold of the church. And they don’t like it. The real issue is the fact that God used Peter to bring these types of people into the church… and they don’t like it.
They’re not really concerned with Peter’s personal holiness. They’re concerned with the idea that their church bubble is about to burst…. that the church and religion and faith as they know it, is about to get completely turned upside down. Because now, these types of people are going to become a part of them as well… and they’re critical of it.
They’re threatened by that… they don’t like that at all. And so they begin to sort of criticize Peter because they don’t want to be associated — they don’t think God’s people should be associated with these types of people.
And let me tell you something… when it comes to the church, whether it’s churches or people in the church, I think there are really two types. I think there’re two types of churches, or two types of people in the church, however you want to look at it:
- There are those people who care about those people outside of the church.
- And there are those people who criticize those people who care about those people outside of the church.
Peter, through some work of God, becomes one of those people who cares about people outside of the church, and he wants to draw them closer to God. But there are also people in the church who criticize those people who care about people outside of the church.
I mean if you ever want to see this on display go to a small church, that does not care about outsiders, and start inviting people there, and see how well that goes over. Not only will your friends be ignored, but eventually you’ll be judged and shunned because you’re trying to bring these types of people in.
And there’s all kinds of reasons why churches don’t want to have new types of people brought into their fold. All types of reasons why the Jewish people didn’t want these Gentiles brought in. But nonetheless, that is the criticism that Peter’s receiving.
And I’m repeatedly telling you this morning, no one is too far from God to be brought into a relationship with him.
So the Scripture tells us that Peter responds.
Now I commend Peter’s response; because sometimes when you and I receive criticism, we chalk it up as just being not very wise criticism and we dismiss it.
And I think Peter had a case here… he could have just told these people, “Your hearts are in the wrong place… you are so far from the heart of God here…” he could have just totally ignored them and moved on; but instead, the Scripture says,
4-8 Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story: “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles and birds. Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’
“I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’
So what essentially Peter’s saying is,
“I had this dream… and God showed me a bunch of animals. And he said. ‘I know that for two thousand years of your history these animals have been considered unclean, but that’s changing now.. they’re no longer unclean.’”
But God is not concerned with Peter’s diet. He’s teaching him about animals so that he would make the connection with people.
“Peter, I know, that for two thousand years I called the Israelites to be separate from the world. But now, that’s changing. I’m calling you to go and to be a part of the world. To be in the world. To minister to the world. To tell them about my Son Jesus Christ. That’s all changing Peter.”
And for Peter this would have been a major shift in his thinking. In fact the Scripture tells us, that God apparently needed to repeatedly tell this to Peter for him to get it. So the Scripture says,
9-10 “The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.
Three times. So it’s like God is saying,
“Peter… there is no such thing as someone who is unclean.”
Peter’s like, “Yeah, yeah… I hear you; but no, seriously, you really want me to eat with those people?
“Peter… there is no such thing as someone who is unclean.”
“Yeah I heard you God… but I mean, those people… really? Come on.”
“Peter, how dare you call someone unclean that was made in my image, by me. There is no such thing as someone who’s unclean.”
You see… there’s no one who’s too far from being in a relationship with God… and this ought to challenge us. As we think about our family members, our relatives, our friends, our classmates, our coworkers…. the annoying people we see on the news.
And we want to write people groups off… we want to write them off, and just say, “They’re unclean; they don’t get it, they’re lost.“
And we want to wash our hands of their blood and say, “Be gone with them… God judge them.” Right?
All of these types of things that come through our minds and here the heart of God is coming through Scripture shouting at us… saying,
“No… I love them. I created them. How dare you call them unclean. I want to have a relationship with them. And further I want to work through people like you to draw them into a relationship with me.”
So then the Scripture says and verse eleven,
11-14 “Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea (Last week Pat explained Caesarea was a Gentile dominated area… so these are Gentile men… they) stopped at the house where I was staying (this is Peter, a Jewish leader speaking). The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me (so apparently he brought some of his brothers in Christ with these three men), and we entered the_man’s_house. He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will_be_saved.’
Do you see the crossroads that the early Church is at here? And how God is divinely ensuring that the Gentile people of the world would hear about Jesus Christ and be saved.
Do you hear the heart of God as he’s saying, “There is no one who cannot benefit from the message of Jesus Christ, and the Salvation that He offers on the Cross.”
We need to start with this room and just say, “There is no one in this room…” I believe the Scripture is shouting to us,
“There’s no one in this room who cannot benefit from Jesus Christ and the Salvation that is found in Him through His death on the Cross.”
There is no one in your life who cannot benefit from Jesus Christ and the Salvation that is found in Him through His death on the Cross.
And there was no one in this world who cannot benefit from Jesus Christ and the Salvation that is found in his name, through his death_on_the_cross.
And further… the Scripture says that if that happens… if someone begins to trust in Jesus Christ. In verse fifteen he says,
15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning.
Do you believe that there are people in your life who have absolutely nothing to do with God… who seem spiritually to be in complete contrast to him. But by the power of God, they can not only place their faith in Jesus Christ, but receive the Spirit of God and have him come upon them in his full measure.
16-17 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?”
And our last verse for this morning… ya know, when I read this verse, I had to change directions a little bit, because I was really wanting to criticize the church for even challenging Peter. You know… “Man, these people, there hearts are in the wrong place. and they’re so messed up and…“ I was preparing to say all this type of stuff, and then I read verse eighteen, and was then like, “Oh… OK… alright…”
18 When they heard this (they ran Peter off? … no, the Scripture says), they had no further objections, and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
Thanks be to God for this Early Church, and I want him to just invite us to just read this sentence. The Sermon title has an underline in place of the word Gentile… because I think God would rather have us put someone in our life in that spot.
Just imagine whose name God would like to whisper to you this morning…
Who maybe you’ve given up on. You want them to have faith in Jesus Christ but you’ve given up on them… it doesn’t seem possible anymore.
God has granted even that person repentance unto life.
This is the promise and the encouragement from the Word of God.
You know, my wife Amanda and I moved to Ohio about a year ago, as some of you know. But for the first twelve years of our marriage we always lived far from family. We were really never close to relatives, and for the most part, that was OK.
We were able to make friends and get by, but the holidays always kind of seemed to, you know, highlight the fact that we are so far from family.
Whether we were in Boston, or Illinois, or Minnesota… my family’s in Ohio, and we weren’t close to her family that’s now in Louisiana.
But often times, the church that we associated with would be really kind, and someone from the church would reach out to us, and invite us to one of their family gatherings during the holidays. And then we would say, “Yes.”
And we had interesting experiences at some of the people’s family gatherings as you can imagine. And many of the families, thanks be to God, were just so inviting and welcoming us. And people just received us that afternoon or evening like one of the family members.
But there were also times when we had a real hard time breaking into the relational dynamics of the family gathering, and we were having a hard time getting people to talk to us, and kind of sensed even at times where maybe the other family members weren’t that excited that their family members had invited some outsiders into the Thanksgiving meal, or whatever it might have been.
And, you know, when it comes to the church, one of the things is that… that just shouldn’t ever be the case in the church. We celebrate the idea that we’re a family of God. And that we love each other and we’re close, and we get to know each other, but the thing that we’re discovering here, from this chapter, is that God has an incredible heart for those people who aren’t here also.
And so it should never be the case that when someone new comes into our fold, whether by personal invitation, or just walking through the door, that they don’t feel welcomed, and loved, and received.
It should never be the case where our folks are criticizing the Peters’ of our church. For reaching out to people who don’t know Jesus Christ and inviting them to come, just as they are… right?
…to come in, and to experience the love of Jesus Christ.
I want to invite our Praise Team to come forward as they prepare to close our time together this morning. It’s a song, called Just as I am. It’s a song that many people are familiar with, and we want to invite you to stand and to prepare to worship with us.
We get to come just as we are because we are here not to worship ourselves for the quality of life that we lived. But to worship Jesus Christ for dying on the Cross for our mistakes, and for our sins.
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