AUDIO: Pastor Dan Borgelt
Pastor Dan Borgelt
“Sharing Our Faith”
NOTE: If you listen to audio only, be sure to scroll down for closing music video at bottom of this page.
“Let me ask you as we get started in our time together this morning,
When was the last time that you had a meaningful, faith-based conversation with someone who didn’t exactly share your convictions about faith?
When was the last time that you had it a meaningful faith-based conversation… you know, a conversation about real things, and real life; about faith and religion, and those types of things, with someone who wasn’t exactly on the same page as you?
You know, if you’re like me, the very thought of having such a conversation just absolutely makes you incredibly nervous.
The thought of having a conversation like that makes your heart race perhaps, or your palms begin to sweat a little bit, maybe even your voice begins to crack — the idea of… having a faith based conversation with someone who has a different belief system than you?
The reason, of course, that we start to feel that way, is because we tend to imagine the worst case scenario. We imagine, “Surely if we talk to someone about our faith we’re going to just be completely rejected by them… they’re going to “unfriend us”, if you will.
They’re going to mock us; they’re going to outwit us, and they will leave the conversation perhaps even more convinced as to why they don’t believe in our faith, because of our conversation with them.
But this video reminds us that God is that work… that he is at work working in people’s lives drawing them to himself. And that there are people out there from all different ages, from all different backgrounds, and all different situations in life, whose lives are broken, and who are ready to have someone come alongside them, and talk to them about matters of faith.
And I want to ask you this morning… I know that when it comes to the topic of sharing our faith, and when it comes to the topic of evangelism, as some of you want to label it… when it comes to this whole topic we tend to imagine the worst case scenario.
But I want to ask you this morning,
Does the best case scenario, outweigh the worst case scenario?
Here we are in the book of Acts, and we’ve been looking through the book of Acts, and seeing people repeatedly sharing their faith, having faith based conversations with people who don’t already believe in what it is that they believe in.
And my guess is that many of those people were really excited, enthusiastic about the opportunity, and there was probably also many of them who were extremely nervous and cautious about that opportunity as well.
Some of them had incredible success in their efforts. Others of them had incredible failures in their efforts, and we’re going to look at that and see that together in our Scripture this morning.
I want to talk to you about three basic points when it comes to the topic of sharing our faith. The first one is that,
1. God calls all of us to a ministry. The second is that,
2. Sometimes that ministry that God calls us to seems like a failure. And then finally,
3. Sometimes that ministry that God calls us to seems like a success.
So God calls all of us to a ministry; sometimes it seems like a failure; and sometimes it seems like a success.
And maybe you’re here this morning, and you’re sort of new to the whole idea of church. You’re here this morning you don’t even claim necessarily to have a relationship with Jesus Christ yourself, let alone tell other people about Him.
But I want you know that we’re glad that you’re here. And perhaps you’re here because someone has had their life story changed by Jesus Christ… and they want to present that same opportunity to you by inviting you to come to where they go to church.
All right let’s look at our passage of Scripture this morning.
If you’re new with us, we are going through the book of Acts, which is the fifth book in the New Testament. We are now in Acts chapter thirteen. We would love to have you grab a Bible that’s offered to you there in the pews, or your own from home, and open it up to Acts chapter thirteen. If not we will have the Scripture on the screen behind me.
Here’s what the Scripture tells us. First let’s look at this whole idea that,
1. God calls all of us to a specific ministry.
In verses one through three, here’s what the Scripture says. This is the part that Charlie read earlier to our children.
1 Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers:
Now as Charlie said there were a couple of Antiochs. When we think of the early Church, we tend to think of the city of Jerusalem as sort of being the hub of the early Church.
Jerusalem, in general, is located in the Southeast corner of the Mediterranean sea. Antioch is north, up the Eastern side of the Mediterranean Sea, on the Northeast corner of the Mediterranean sea.
And this is where this group of people were… they were prophets and teachers, the Bible says. Here were their names:
Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the Tetrarch) and Saul.
Now, most of those names probably don’t sound very familiar to you, and that’s okay. For time sake we’re going to leave them in the unfamiliar world.
But there is a name that might sound familiar to some of you who have been hanging around with us through our Acts series, and that is the name Saul. Saul was someone who used to persecute the Church. His whole goal was to make sure that the followers of Christ were put out… and had an end.
But, the Scripture told us a back in Acts chapters eight and nine, that Saul had this miraculous conversion experience. He is now a follower of Christ himself. And slowly, quickly I guess, really becoming a leader–THE leader, a significant leader, in_the_early_Church.
So, this is the group of people who are gathered together… take note of their context,
2-3 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
God calls all of us to a specific ministry.
I want to put you at ease, because the nature and the type of ministry in which Saul and Barnabas are called to here in this passage, is incredibly extreme and miraculous.
So I want to let you know from the very beginning, I don’t mean to say that all of us are called to a ministry in the same manner, or to the same type of ministry that Saul and Barnabas are called to.
But nonetheless, I want to argue, that we are all called to a specific ministry.
And I want you to notice the context in which they are called to this ministry.
The Scripture says that Saul and Barnabas were not hanging out by themselves, doing ordinary things, if you will, but these men were gathered together with other brothers in Christ, and
they were Worshiping and fasting.
And this is when God gives them this specific ministry for their lives.
And I think this is an important component for us to understand, because I believe this is when God tends to speak to most people in their lives. So it’s when they’re doing some form of a spiritual discipline, that they begin to receive what God wants them to do with their lives.
It’s the reason why it’s important that we create an atmosphere here on Sunday morning when we’re Worshiping through song — that God can speak to you.
Or when we’re opening up the Scripture, that God might speak to you through it, because this is the type of gathering where God might call someone, and place upon their heart, a specific type of ministry for their lives.
It doesn’t have to be a Worship setting… it could be a Sunday School class; it could be a Small Group; it could be just an informal gathering of Brothers and Sisters in Christ… or it may have absolutely nothing to do with any spiritual discipline at all.
God owns all of our circumstances, He could speak to us at any time. He could speak to us and place a call or ministry upon our life, doing the most mundane thing.
You might go out one day for a jog. And there you are jogging around you look up and you see a billboard… and the billboard informs you about the number of people in your community who struggle from hunger, and aren’t well fed, and God uses that billboard to speak to you, and place that ministry upon your heart.
Or perhaps he doesn’t.
And the only thing that billboard causes you to do is to think about how hungry you are. So when you get home from your jog, you get your car, you drive off to the Chinese buffet. And while you’re at the Chinese buffet, sitting there stuffing yourself, all of the sudden God reminds you that there are millions of orphans in China, and you should do something about it… right?
Or maybe He doesn’t.
Maybe you eat your Chinese buffet with absolutely no conviction at all, you get in your car and you’re driving home, you turn on the radio. And it’s not until you turn on the radio and you hit the ‘Seek’ button that the local R&B Hip Hop station comes on… your liking the rap song, but somehow in the midst of the rap song. God speaks to you and says, “You know what? There’s a lot of people in inner city Dayton who need your help. “
God can speak through all of those circumstances.
But what I’m trying to say, is that I don’t think we should ignore the reality that he called Saul and Barnabas in the midst of a spiritual discipline of worshiping God and fasting, because statistically, my observation is that, that seems to be when God places a ministry upon our hearts.
And I’m worried that there are churches filled with people all across America who would hear a message like this and think to themselves, “I’m not really sure what God wants me to do for his kingdom. I’m not really sure what he’s calling me to do. What is my ministry?”
And one of the main reasons they haven’t discovered that is because they don’t have enough times or opportunities when they’re alone with God… or have spiritual disciplines in their lives where God might speak His heart for them.
Well, the Scripture tells us that this is the call, this is the ministry that he gives Saul and Barnabas. And I want you to realize that,
“How He calls us,” might be similar… but it also might be different.
I mean, do you see in the Scripture how he called them…
the Holy Spirit said, “(quote)
I’m the kind of person who might say to someone, “I really feel like God was leading me to do this…” or, “I feel like you know God had placed this on my heart.” I might say, “I feel like God was telling me…”
But it’s all understood that I’m not really quoting him. I’m not one hundred percent sure… I just have a really strong inclination.
But here Luke comes along and he tells us that this group of people are spoken to so clearly–perhaps audibly, perhaps not I don’t know. But so clearly to by God, that they were able to say . “The Holy Spirit said… and now, there he is… “in quotes”.
And some of you might be able to relate. But I suspect that most of you are more able to relate to me… we don’t really tend to have God speak to us, in that way.
He might place upon your heart, a call for ministry in another fashion. It doesn’t necessarily have to be this MIRACULOUS, is what I’m trying to say to you. He places a burden on your heart. And perhaps you ignore it and then he places it on your heart again, and you ignore it again, and then he places it again; that’s probably…
If God gives you a burden, if you have a burden on your heart a repeated amount of times, it’s probably a good indication, it’s not from the devil… it’s probably from God.
So he can call us to our specific type of ministry in many different ways and circumstances, but I also want you to see that the type of ministry he calls us to, might be similar, or it also might be different.
Listen to the type of ministry he calls them to: they are not being called to just stick around their hometown, and begin to become the pastor of one of the local churches… they are being sent off to a cross cultural experience, where they are sharing Jesus Christ with people they don’t know, in a region that they are not familiar with.
And this is the type of experience and call, that some people in our church have. We have some people at Kirkmont, who spend a good portion of their lives overseas, somewhere else, doing that type of ministry.
But again, God doesn’t call all of us in the same way that he called Saul and Barnabas here. He might give us a a different burden — for some of us he might place on our heart a burden for missions, but we’re not the one who’s necessarily supposed to go, we’re the ones who are supposed to make sure that our church is generous, and supporting, and encouraging, and praying for missionaries, and sending others off.
That might be the burden that he gives you.
Other people might have a a global, social justice burden that God puts on their heart.
Maybe, you’re the kind of person who says, “You know what… there are millions of people who don’t have access to clean drinking water… that should not be. I want to do something about it.”
You might be the kind of person who says, “You know what? There are millions of people who are sold into slavery every year. That shouldn’t be. I want to do something about it.”
Or maybe you are more of a local person and you want to sign up for our Work Days with the Gospel Mission Project and go to downtown Dayton and and help some inner city people who could really use your love, and care, and support.
Or maybe God has given you a real heart and a passion for the Pro-Life movement, and you want to sign up for the Miami Valley Women’s Center and support them.
Whatever ministry he might have given you, He can give it to you. It doesn’t necessarily have to be as extreme, if you will, as what he gave Saul and Barnabas, or be cross-cultural at all.
In fact, I want to argue that really what God tends to invite most of us to do is to really not do anything else different… but instead by placing a ministry on our hearts, what he’s actually inviting us to do is to continue to live out our ordinary lives, but to begin to live them with extra-ordinary purposes.
To begin to do the things that we are already doing, but to now do them with Kingdom Purposes… to do that which comes natural to us but with supernatural purposes.
So for many people the ministry that he calls us to, unlike Saul and Barnabas, it won’t require a change in your schedule in any way at all. It will just require you to do what you’re already doing, with a new intention… for the Kingdom of God.
And I have often discovered that what God tends to place on our heart… while many of those causes, and issues I mentioned are significant and important… God tends not to put causes and issues and programs on people’s hearts… he tends to put people on our hearts.
And so many of you may never identify with some great ministry or some great cause that you sign up for. But instead, in your ordinary, mundane life, God will put people in your path, who he burdens you with: the person whom you buy a coffee from every day… He may all of the sudden say, “Alright… it’s time that you be a light in this person’s life.
You see what I’m saying… that it’s not all like Paul. It’s not all like Barnabas. It’s often doing that which is ordinary for extra-ordinary reasons… it’s not often programs, its more usually people.
And that person that God places upon your heart, may be extremely open and SO grateful for the fact that you took the risk of sharing your faith in Jesus Christ with them… or… they might be incredibly belligerent of the fact that you tried to share your faith with them.
And that brings us to our second and third points… that
2. Sometimes, the ministry that God gives us seems like a failure; and
3. Sometimes the ministry that God gives us seems like a success.
Let’s go on in the Scripture, on Acts 13, verse four the Scripture tells us
Now on to Cyprus. The Scripture is about to tell us that from Antioch, Saul and Barnabas went down to the port city Seleucia. And then they sailed across the Mediterranean, not that far across it, to Cyprus… Cyprus was an island on the Eastern side of the Mediterranean. And there they start to minister in a couple of different cities. Here’s what the Scripture says,
4-11 The two of them, sent on their way by the Holy Spirit, went down to Seleucia and sailed from there to Cyprus. When they arrived at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues. John was with them as their helper.
They traveled through the whole island until they came to Paphos. There they met a Jewish sorcerer and false prophet named Bar-Jesus, who was an attendant of the proconsul, Sergius Paulus. The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith. Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas (this is Bar-Jesus, just a different name for him) and said, “You are a child of the devil and an enemy of everything that is right! You are full of all kinds of deceit and trickery. Will you never stop perverting the right ways of the Lord? Now the hand of the Lord is against you. You are going to be blind for a time, not even able to see the light of the sun.”
Immediately mist and darkness came over him, and he groped about, seeking someone to lead him by the hand.
Now let’s pause there. So the Scripture tells us they come across a man named…. what was his parents thinking? … Bar Jesus.
Now. I got on my phone and I started searching for all the bars in the Dayton area. I found a Bar Louie, a Tank’s Bar, a Timothy’s Bar, but no “Bar Jesus”
Bar Jesus actually it means “son of Jesus”… in Aramaic it’s Jesus, but in the Hebrew it’s Joshua, or Yeshua. And so the Son of Yeshua is this guy’s name.
And the Scripture tells us that when Saul and Barnabas arrive, this man, not only does he not receive their message, not only is he not converted or persuaded by their talks about Jesus, but in addition to his rejection of them, he is working to make sure that others around him don’t receive their message of Jesus Christ. Particularly… this proconsul.
So here we find that Saul and Barnabas encounter this man… and I think that this is a common theme in the book of Acts that,
…sometimes our ministry efforts, that God calls us to, seem like a failure.
And the reason why I use the word “seem” like a failure is because sometimes that which seems like a failure is really a success. And sometimes that which seems like a success is really a failure.
But the truth is,
…that many times, when it seems like it’s a failure, it’s a failure.
(Laughter)… and when it seems like it’s a success, it’s a success.
So here we find they encountered this man Bar Jesus, and if their goal was to turn him and convert him by all practical means we could say this was a failure–they faced some resistance at this point.
This is a common theme in Acts. We cannot read Acts, and see all of the advancement of the Gospel, all of the ministry successes, without also seeing that almost every time there’s a ministry success, it’s accompanied with the ministry failure.
It’s so important for us to realize that… because I’m concerned there are many people, when you talk to them about evangelism, or sharing their faith, or participating in a ministry, they will tell you about some experience they had — they tried that at one time. And here’s why they don’t do it anymore… because it’s failed.
Well here’s the thing.
Failure happens in the Bible.
This your coach, kicking you in the butt saying, “Get back on the field, you can do better next time.”
Failures happen… this happens. And so many people get discouraged–they don’t anticipate it. And so when it happens they think, “Well this must not be what God’s called me to… I must be doing it wrong somehow.”
But the reality is,
…sometimes you might do everything right, but sometimes our ministry, that God calls us to, is still_a_failure.
It’s crucial for us to grasp because often times, I’ve discovered, that the failure come before the success.
Some of you know the story of the first time I was ever called to lead a Bible study. I was in high school. And I didn’t grow up in the church, I had no real Sunday School knowledge. And I was just trying to attend a Bible study, but someone elected me to be the Bible study leader.
So that week I started reading this book by a Max Lucado, and it was “In The Grip of Grace”… a wonderful book, and he has this section in there that God really spoke to me… and I really felt like he was telling me to share this with this group of students.
I was excited… I was nervous, but I was more excited because I felt like God was behind me and he was supporting me, and I had this great thing to share. And I got into the room. And I completely tanked… It was a miserable experience for me, and I’m sure for everyone else in the room as well.
I know because we had like twenty-five students the first week, and like twelve the next.
But that morning I went back to my locker and I sat there and I cried, in my public high school, at my locker, thinking, “God, this is the first time that you’ve asked me to step out in faith and do something like this and this is what happens?”
And the thing is that, since then, and even in my ministry today, things go back and forth.
There are some Sundays where I leave church I feel like a real success… and other Sundays I leave church I feel like a real failure. Some Sundays I leave committee meetings, or session meetings feeling like a real success… and others I leave feeling like a real failure.
Sometimes I get emails from people that make me feel like a real success… and other times I get emails from people that make me feel like a real failure (Laughter).
You get the idea.
And here’s the thing… we have to be prepared for that reality. God will give you a ministry, but that doesn’t mean that it will always be accompanied with success — at times you will also experience failure.
And I think the reason why He does that is to make sure our hearts are on the right place.
Because if I talk to someone about my faith in Jesus Christ and they reject me… are they any worse off than they were before? No.
But I feel worse. I’m now wounded. And what prevents me from going back? …my care for them? …or my care for myself? It’s my care for myself — that’s what keeps us from having these hard conversations… it’s because, if we’re honest before God, we really care more about ourselves than them.
And I think one of the reasons why he allows us to fail before we experience success is because we have to get to a place in our heart where we care about the other person, more than ourselves.
Isn’t that the Gospel?
… that when we care about them more than ourselves we can have that conversation, even in the face of rejection, because we’re there for them, we’re not_there_for_ourselves.
There’s this Facebook quote, I threw up on our Facebook page here at Kirkmont the other day… and I’ll throw it up on the screen for you… this speaks to this whole topic that we’re discussing… it says,
To be brave enough to start a conversation that matters… it takes bravery, because sometimes those conversations fail — but they matter, because sometimes they succeed.
Let’s look at the very last verse in our Scripture together this morning.
12 When the proconsul saw what had happened, he believed, for he was amazed at the teaching about the Lord.
Isn’t it nice that the Scripture section here ends with that as well… not just this Bar Jesus guy.
Sometimes ministry seems like a success, and in this case, indeed it was.
And this ought to motivate us… for the Gospel of Luke chapter fifteen verses eight through ten tell us this.
The Parable of the Lost Coin
This is Luke, the same guy who was writing in the book of Acts, now quoting Jesus when Jesus said,
Luke 15:8-10 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”
Church, at the beginning I asked you…
Does the best case scenario, outweigh the worst case scenario?
And I think this Scripture is a vivid reminder that,
Are you willing to be mocked —the worst case scenario… for the best case scenario… which is,
the angels in heaven rejoicing over a sinner who has repented.
Indeed… the success is worth the failure.
And may we, this morning, leave this place… may we go into the world, with the love for others — the same love that drove Jesus Christ to the Cross for us, and for them…
And with the power of the Holy Spirit — the same power which raised him from the dead, that we might be used by God to change people’s stories.
I want to invite our Praise Team to come forward as we prepare to sing our closing song together this morning … this is a song, “Your praise will ever be on my lips”. This is a song they introduced to us just a few minutes ago during our offering. And now we have the opportunity singing together as a congregation.
Will you stand and join us as we close together.
Listen to recent sermons
Pastor Dan Borgelt
(If you listen to audio, be sure to scroll down for video at bottom of this page)
“Those are words that, if we’re honest with ourselves, probably every single person in this room has asked God at one point in time… Why me?
Maybe you’re here this morning, and you have experienced the tragic loss of a loved one and it led you to ask the question… “Why me?”
Or maybe you’re here this morning, and it wasn’t a life or death matter, but you just feel like you’ve experienced more misery, or more hardship, or more tribulation in your life than you really deserve, or you really earned–than you think God should’ve allowed you to experience… and it led you to ask the question. “Why me?”
Or perhaps you’re here this morning, and you’ve asked the question “Why me” from the opposite end of things… you actually feel like God has blessed you, has spared you, has cared for you… greater than you deserve, in a certain instance, or over the course of your life, and it has led you to ask the words, “Why me?“… why have you treated me so well, and spared me when you haven’t others?
Either way. We’ve asked the question…“Why me?”
And today in our passage of Scripture, as we continue through the Book of Acts, we come to Acts chapter twelve, and we find two Biblical characters, two guys who were early leaders in the church… who both loved God and wanted to honor Him with their lives, but who seemingly get treated very differently by God.
And quite frankly, I couldn’t blame either one of them, if they would have asked the words… “Why me?”
I want to invite you to our passage of Scripture together this morning… as I said, it’s found in the Book of Acts, which is the fifth book in the New Testament. I’d LOVE to have you take a Bible and turn there with us to the Book of Acts–whether it’s your own or one of the ones we provide for you in the pew.
Fifth book in the New Testament, the Book of Acts chapter twelve.
If not we’ve got the Scripture on the screen behind me… we’ll pull it up for you. So here we are in the Book of Acts, chapter twelve starting in the very first verse.
Let’s look at these two characters and see how God treats them in a seemingly very different way.
It’s entitled in most of your Bibles something like, “Peter’s Miraculous Escape From Prison“… as we got a glimpse of earlier in our children’s message. The Scripture says this,
Peter’s Miraculous Escape From Prison
12:1 It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them.
So Luke, who’s writing this, his early account of the church… he comes along and he tells us that a man named King Herod… now when we think of a king we think of somebody who’s like the absolute top authority. But in the Roman Empire that wasn’t the case. The emperor was the top authority, but the kings were in charge of various regions of the empire empire and they were appointed directly by the emperor.
So, King Herod was sort of like the second in command, the second tier of authority, if you will…. and for all practical purposes, he was in charge of the daily events of his area, his region. He got to decide how people were treated in his area on a day to day basis.
And so it tells us that this king, King Herod, his name was Herod Agrippa… decides that
“he’s going to arrest some who belong to the church”.
Now, “some”… we don’t know exactly who he’s arresting, we don’t know exactly how many, but he decides to come along and he arrests some of them for the purpose of persecuting them.
We don’t know why he’s motivated to arrest them, to persecute them yet–we’re going to see that in a second, but this is what he’s decided to do.
He comes along and in verse two the Scripture says,
2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.
We might be asking ourselves, “Who is James?“…besides the fact that we know he had a brother named John, because Luke just told us that.
Who is James?
So if we go all the way back to the Book of Matthew, Chapter four we look at verse twenty-one the Scripture tells us this.
21 Going on from there, he saw (that is Jesus saw) two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John.
So now we’re talking about the guys who Luke is talking about in Acts chapter twelve.
22 They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him.
This was a key moment in Jesus’s life as He’s beginning his ministry, and he’s decided to gather together twelve disciples who are going to be his best friends, whom he’s going to train in the matters of the Kingdom of God.
And among the twelve, two of them are a man named John and his brother James. James might have been the older brother since he’s listed first, we don’t know for sure, but he’s called James.
So this James guy is, of all the people that Jesus could have chosen to follow him out of the twelve that he chose, he’s one of them.
And not only that, but most people agree that John, his brother, was Jesus’s best friend. So not only was he chosen by Jesus to be one of the twelve. But he was the brother of Jesus’s best friend. And this is the guy that King Herod Agrippa decides to put to death at the sword.
When he saw that this pleased the Jews.
So now we have an understanding of why Herod’s about the business of putting these Christians in jail and having them killed–it’s a political move.
He not that invested personally in the church one way or the other… but he’s a political figure, and as we know, sometimes, they tend to do things that might just make people happy… that might make them more popular. And so we discover that that is why he does this.
He saw that this met with approval among the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also.
Now you might not recognize the name James, but if you’ve been hanging out with us here at Kirkmont for the Acts Series, you would recognize the name Peter… because Peter is the leading figure in the early church at this point.
He’s been involved in almost every chapter of Scripture we’ve looked at so far. Peter, John, and James, the brother of Jesus, at this point are probably the three biggest leaders of the early church.
So what you have is really kind of this movement of Herod… he goes from James to Peter, and I think it’s on purpose.
Now we have to realize that when James is put to death at the sword, this is the first time that one of the original twelve disciples was martyred for their faith. They had been mistreated… Peter had been mistreated in the past… other people have been killed for their faith, but James is the first of the twelve disciples who gets killed for their faith.
And now, Herod realizing, and thinking… “Hey. .. the whole James thing seemed to go over pretty well… people kind of like that.; let’s step it up a little bit and let’s go for the top dog of the church. Let’s go get Peter.”
And he has Peter thrown in prison.
So their circumstances are very, very similar. And yet the outcome.. very, very different.
This happened during the Festival of Unleavened Bread. 4 After arresting him, he put him in prison, handing him over to be guarded by four squads of four soldiers each. Herod intended to bring him out for public trial after the Passover.
5 So Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.
6 The night before Herod was to bring him to trial, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains,
So, some time has passed by… we don’t know if it’s a night, or couple nights, or a few nights; but either way what we can gather is that this is now the night before he’s about to be brought to trial.
So Peter has every reason to believe this is his last night here on earth. He’s going to be put to death tomorrow.
He’s bound with two chains, and sentries stood guard at the entrance. 7 Suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him up. “Quick, get up!” he said, and the chains fell off Peter’s wrists.
8 Then the angel said to him, “Put on your clothes and sandals.” And Peter did so. “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me,” the angel told him. Peter followed him out of the prison, but he had no idea that what the angel was doing was really happening; he thought he was seeing a vision.
So in other words, Peter thinks he’s having some sort of an out of body experience–a dream if you will, whereby God is showing him in this dream a miraculous escape.
Now you thought you had a dream that you woke up from and were disappointed to find out it wasn’t true. Could you imagine, had Peter woken up from this and it was just a dream, “Hey, I showed you what it would have looked like, and how it could have felt to be escaped from prison…”
This is sort of Peter’s state of mind; he’s sort of in this trance, he thinks this is a vision, sort of an out of body experience… however you want to get your head around it…that’s what the Scripture is telling us.
Then in verse ten, it says,
10 They passed the first and second guards and came to the iron gate leading to the city. It opened for them by itself, and they went through it. When they had walked the length of one street, suddenly the angel left him.
11 Then Peter came to himself and said, “Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen.”
So here we are, two leaders in the early church… both of them who seemingly loved God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength… wanted to serve the Kingdom of God. We have no Biblical indication to think that one of them has committed some erroneous sin that God would want to punish them for… they for all practical purposes seem to be on the same level, on the same par,
and yet, God allows one to be put to death with the sword… and one is miraculously freed from prison.
And I could not blame either of them for asking the question,
James asking the question, “Why is this happening to me?” Peter asking the question, “If that happened to James, why are you freeing me?”
We could not blame them if they asked that question. And truthfully we could heap all other kinds or types of questions on this. There are all types of scenarios that flow out of this. Which seem sort of difficult to respond to, and to handle.
Now if we want to try to answer the question, “Why me?” from the text, our mind goes to the subject of PRAYER… because that’s a subject that Luke, clearly involves in this passage of Scripture.
He makes sure that we know that while Peter is in prison, the Church, repeats on two occasions, “the Church is earnestly praying to God for them.” They were gathered around praying for him.
So we cannot deny that Luke is including a component of the miraculous power of prayer. And that part of the reason why Peter has escaped from prison and freed from prison, is because of the power of prayer.
That is certainly something we are supposed to take away from this chapter… but can that serve as the only answer? Can that stand alone, in answering the question,
“Why does God free one, and allow the other to be put to death?
Certainly it can’t … because that would beg the question, ‘What about James?” Was no one praying for James. Had they forgotten to pray for James? Are you telling me that one of the leading leaders, one of the leaders of the early church, one of the twelve disciples is in prison, and at risk of having his life come to an end… and no one thought of praying for him?
Are you telling me that James didn’t think to pray for himself? Are you telling me that Jesus who called him into a relationship with him, himself who was seated at the right hand of God the father, forgot to intercede to the Father on his behalf.
“No one prayed for James…”… right? …”and people prayed for Peter, and that’s why it happened.”
That’s doesn’t hold up.
Of course the other problem with that would be, we would naturally be asking the question, well what about all the scenarios in my life where two people are put in very similar difficult circumstances. And the number of times of which the person who had a bunch of people praying for them, and was not spared, was not delivered.
And there are other occasions where someone doesn’t have a bunch of people praying for them, and maybe they did indeed NOT even think to pray for themselves. And yet they were freed.
What about that? How does prayer stand up to that?
It doesn’t completely suffice in answering the question, “Why me?”
And a lot of other scenarios that would piggyback off of this scenario. I mean there are some people who experience “the James thing”, and then kind of “the Peter thing”.
Then some people who experience sort of the Peter scenario, and then only to experience the James scenario.
That’s something that happened, I think, in Amanda and my life. In the last few years, I think we’ve sort of experienced the Peter thing… and then experienced the James thing in our life. Let me tell you what I mean by that.
A few years ago, we felt like God was calling us to start the adoption process… through the country of Ethiopia. We felt like he was calling us to adopt two children from Ethiopia.
And quite frankly we put it off for a year or two after we felt like he was prodding us to do that. Because the money was just intimidating, and we didn’t have it. We thought his timing must have been wrong.
And so eventually though, a couple of years after God was sort of prompting us in that direction, we had had a recent miscarriage, and I think we finally just decided to sort of submit to God’s will in our life.
So we started the process, making it known to our friends and family, knowing that we didn’t really have the means to finish the process.
And, you know, that within forty eight hours or so my sister called us up, and she said, “I saw that you’re starting the adoption process.,” I said, “Yes.” And she said, “Do you know that I’ve been thinking about you guys and adoption, and that if you ever did, we would want to help you, we would want to support you in that process.”
And, she said, “I just haven’t been wanting to bring it up because of the miscarriage… it just seemed insensitive, but if you’re ready to move forward we want to help you out.” And she said, “What’s your immediate need?”
I said, “Well, to get started, there’s a three thousand dollars payment to our agency… and I mean we’re stuck from the get go. And she said, “I’ll make that happen.”
And we hung up the phone, and we were just thinking, “Oh my gosh.. God is clearly providing for us.” And this happened time and time again.
The closest we’ve ever experienced, to God’s miraculous hand in our life, seeing Him, just provide for us, like God did for Israel with manna in the desert on a daily basis.
And this happened time and time again. We would get a thousand dollar check from a family member right when we needed the money; but probably the biggest incident that happened, happened several months later.
We were up against a five thousand dollar road block… that’s what we owed our agency and it was just this, insurmountable amount to us at that time.
But, for the past few years leading up to that, I had been volunteering for a role in our denomination… I had been serving in this role, as a volunteer.
And my time came to an end, right as we were owing this money. And our denomination came to me and said, “You know when we asked you to do this, we didn’t realize how much work this was going to take.” And so they said. “We would like to give you a ‘thank you’.”
Now when I heard that I wasn’t even thinking about the adoption process. I was thinking, ‘Fifty dollar Applebee’s gift card’… you know… like, “We’re going to dinner tonight!” … or something like that. Or maybe a hundred dollar check; but they give us a check for…, well, you just tell me how much… “Five thousand dollars”… that’s right.
So… here we were, God is treating us like Peter.
And then last May, our agency called us up, and said, “You know what, we can no longer afford to operate in Ethiopia. We regret to inform you that we are closing our adoption process through the country of Ethiopia.”
And in effect… “All of the time, and all of the money that you’ve spent on the process, are now gone, and wasted.”
And the biggest thing for Amanda and I in wrestling with this was, “Why would you bless us so, only for this to be ‘The End’. Why would you treat us as Peter, only to eventually treat us as James?
And you know others have experienced similar circumstances, maybe you here in this room. And others have experienced the opposite. They’ve been treated as James, but eventually treated as Peter.
Perhaps you’ve heard of a group of men, most notably known by the name of Jim Elliot, he was one of them. As a group of men, who went to Wheaton College in 1945, and eleven years later in 1956, they felt God was calling them to go be missionaries, to a specific tribe of people in Eastern Ecuador, in a Tropical Rainforest, and to minister to this group of people.
And this tribe of people were known to be extremely violent. And also known to have never really heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ as a result.
So they felt like God was calling them to take their wives and their young families and move, and try to share the Gospel with this tribe that was notorious for killing people with their spears, and for their violence.
So they moved, and they relocated to a point where they were at a safe distance, but close enough that they could reach them. And they began by taking their plane, and flying it towards where the tribe was, and dropping, sort of, “Care packages”, if you will.
So that they would start to associate the plane, with their care and their provision and their love for them as a tribe. And eventually, these five men finally decided it was time… they felt like they had warmed up with them enough, that it was time to land the plane get out of the plane and to make personal contact with them.
And the very first time that they got out of the plane, and tried to make contact with them, the tribesmen speared all five of them to death.
And I couldn’t blame any of those men, if while it was happening, if they hadn’t said something like,
“Why would you put this upon our heart for this to be the end of it?”
And I certainly wouldn’t have blamed their wives, and their children if they had all just packed up and gone home, and said, “Well… this must be a James incident.”
But you know what? … what happened in history is that their wives, and their families, and other friends, came alongside and supported them, and they stuck it out.
And eventually through the Divine Providence of God, He gave them the opportunity to communicate with them safely… they were able to communicate to them a message… could you imagine this, a message of forgiveness.
The tribe’s hearts were softened by the Spirit of God… they gave their life to Jesus Christ. And this group of white people and this tribe became family.
Later we’re going to see a video clip, about how some of this comes to an end. But just imagine being a child, growing up with this tribe, knowing that one of these men around you, is the man that probably took your father’s life.
See, this began as a James Story, but it ended up as a Peter Story.
And so God has all of these miraculous ways, and all these different ways of working, and we could have multiple questions about, “Why Me?” … And why does this happen… why does it start with James and become Peter, or vice versa… Or why one or why the other, but we’re here for answers, more than we are for questions, right?
And I think the answer lies in the idea that we as a church here in America have completely lost our way when it comes to understanding what it means to be blessed by God.
We’ve completely lost our understanding of what it means to have God treat us fairly, to care for us, to bless us. We have adopted and embraced the mentality of the world’s blessing around us and therefore we haven’t a clue anymore, when we have been blessed, or when we haven’t been blessed.
We don’t even understand that anymore, because our mindset is completely adrift from God’s.
You think about this passage from our mindset here in America… we are trained to read it and say, “James was obviously treated unfairly… Peter was obviously the recipient of God’s blessing.”
Many of us, if I had preached that message, would have never ever questioned that–it seems so obvious to us that that’s the way it is, we’re hard wired that way.
But just Paul in his Epistle… does he say later in the New Testament, “Oh by the way to die is to be cursed by God?” Does he say, “To die is somehow to not be treated fairly by God?” Does he say, “To die is not to be blessed by God?”…or does he say, “To die is…” what??? …
Philippians 4:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
He says those words because he has a perspective that many people in the Church have forgotten even though it’s one week since Easter… and that is he has an Eternal Perspective… he understands the power of the resurrection, and the beautiful Glory of Eternal Life; and the promise of eternal life and therefore he views God’s treatment of him through that lens.
But most people in the church have completely forgotten about that.
We review God’s treatment of us through the lens of the world around us. Our understanding of being blessed is no different than the world around us.
- We want to have a spouse that’s good looking and doesn’t argue with us just like the world wants.
- We want to have a house that’s big enough so we never have to worry about how much room we have, just like the world does.
- We want to have a car that others envy that we don’t have to worry about breaking down from point A to point B… just like the world does.
- We want to have children who are smart, and good looking, and successful — just like the world does.
We want all of the same blessings that they do, and we haven’t ever really asked ourselves, “Is that what it means for God to bless us?”
There are folks in the Bible, maybe you’ve heard of the stories: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, in the book of Daniel, chapter three. The Scripture tells us, starting verses sixteen through eighteen.
The context is, these are three men who want to honor God with their lives, and they’re being forced to consider that idea of worshipping a human king. And they refused to do that and the king basically says, “Okay if you refuse I’m going to put you in a fiery furnace and you will die.”
And you thought YOUR religious freedoms were being challenged… And so they say this,
16-17 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand.
Now let’s just pretend that the verse ended there, the whole passage ended there, that that was the essence of their response. What they would basically be saying is,
- We believe in a God that can miraculously deliver us.
- We believe in a God who will treat us like Peter. And as long as he does we will keep worshipping him and praising him; we will be faithful to him.
- We’ll honor him, we won’t regret having honored him because he will deliver us like he does Peter.
But that’s not the end of their response. They also say,
18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
In other words, “We will continue to be faithful to him regardless of whether he spares us or whether he doesn’t. We won’t worry about that… God gets to treat us how he will, he will have mercy on whom he will have mercy, and he is our God regardless of the outcome.”
And the thing is, that we have too many people in the Church who view God’s blessing through the lens of this world, and not through an eternal_heavenly_perspective.
Too many people in the church who want to go to heaven some day and they, quite frankly, want to have heaven today too.
And not enough people in the church who have the heart and the spirit of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego… that say, “God has done all that he needs to do for me by saving me through his Son Jesus Christ. ..
This life is his… and he can treat me as he will…and I will continue to honor him with my life.
I want to play this video clip for you as I promised. It’s from The End of the Spear–that’s the name of this movie.
There are a lot of movies and books that surround this whole story, but this is the scene whereby the son of one of the men who was killed by this tribe has grown up.
They’re still in relationship with this tribe, but by now the tribesmen have become brothers and sisters in Christ… and he learns who the precise man was, that took his father’s life. And the whole subject of forgiveness and stuff as just round up and this.
We’ll let you watch it.
This message this morning isn’t necessarily a topic about forgiveness per se, but we can’t deny that forgiveness isn’t wrapped up in it… that if we are clinging to this world’s view of being blessed by God, and without an eternal perspective, then those people who have taken something near and dear to us, away… will be very difficult to forgive.
And as we transition. And as we come to this table we are reminded that this table is indeed a sign and a seal of God’s covenant of grace… His covenant of forgiveness.
For by his body in which it was broken, and his blood which is shed, we experience the full measure of that forgiveness. And as a result of it we have the promise of eternal life, so we are able to say to God, with complete confidence, “You can treat me in this life, and allow whatever circumstance you want to happen to me in this life… as you will, because I am forgiven, the grave will not contain me,.it cannot hold me, and I will go to a place that you are preparing for me, even as we are gathered here this morning.
I want to invite our elders who are so helping to serve to come forward and just time.
And as they do, I want to let you know that if you happen to be new with us here at Kirkmont, that this is not a table that we claim ownership of. And certainly, I’m not the host of it. And by that I mean you are welcome… regardless of whether this is your first time here or not, to come to the table and join us for Communion, to participate in these elements.
We ask only that you have placed your faith and your trust in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.
And if that’s you, you are invited to participate on the table together.
I would remind you that on the night that Jesus was betrayed, that Jesus, having given thanks for the bread, he then broke the bread and in plain view of his disciples, saying to them,
“This bread represents my body, which is broken for you.”
And then he invited them to do this and remembrance of him.
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.
Listen to recent sermons
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.