If you are a pastor or lay person who wants to use this to preach in church – that is why I posted it. I don’t care about credit, I only care that God’s word is preached and Christ is glorified. I pray He uses this sermon in a mighty way through you. You have my permission to alter it and use it however God leads you. God bless you in your ministry. You can also bookmark this to check out the other free written sermons on my blog.
I’ve heard people say before that they like to go to church and not get involved in the ‘politics’ of the church. Some of you have never held a church office and have never been to a church meeting. One of the things I have worked toward here is getting more people involved as members of the PPRC, Trustees, the Finance Committee, going to annual conference and other areas of leadership in the church. I have been thrilled to see people who never dreamt they would be a church leader go on committees and I have enjoyed seeing people go off those committees as well. And I don’t mean that in a negative, but as a positive. Sometimes when you get people entrenched on committees, they start to think they’re the boss. They can begin to think this church belongs to them instead of the reality that they belong to the church. Each of us is a part of the larger body and our boss is Jesus. I’m not the boss, and none of you are the boss. We are all servants of Jesus.
Over the years I’ve heard people say they don’t want to get involved in the inner workings and behind the scenes things because they don’t like conflict. To be honest, we haven’t really had too many exciting, controversial, contentious meetings in my six years here. A couple, maybe, but all in all, it’s been a pretty good time to be involved with the inner workings of the church because it’s been pretty peaceful.
Peter is obviously in the inner workings and politics of the church up to his neck. And the Scripture tells us that Peter is getting some grief over something that the “in crowd” doesn’t agree with Peter about. It sounds as if Peter is being called out. You see, the early church was wrestling with the question of ‘who’s in and who’s out’? As the Jews saw it, there were basically two groups of people: Jews and non-Jews. The non-Jews they referred to as Gentiles. After Jesus there was still the Jews and the Gentiles, and the Jews now had those who were followers of Jesus and Jews who weren’t. And the Jews that WERE followers of Jesus, or of the Way, were trying to convert other Jews to being followers of Jesus, but in no way were they interested in allowing Gentiles to be followers of Jesus.
But God revealed to Peter that He wasn’t just interested in those who were in the in-crowd. Chapter 10 tells us that God sent Peter to the home of a Gentile named Cornelius who was a centurion – a Gentile. And Peter realized that God wanted him to testify to them about Jesus. Peter tells them what he knows.
I went to the hospital to see someone last week. It was obvious to me the person was weak and wasn’t up for a long talk or a long visit. After 2 minutes of small talk, I said, “Listen. I’m not here to chit-chat. I don’t want to talk about the weather, or how good you look, or your wife’s pretty shirt. I want to tell you what I believe about God and Jesus. I believe there was a great being who created everything. The Bible calls this being God. And I believe when we die we’re going to stand before God and he is going to allow us to remain with Him forever or send us away to be separated from Him forever. And the deciding factor is not if you went to church. There are going to be people who went to church their whole lives who God is going to send away. The deciding factor is not going to be whether you were a good person. Nobody is good enough. I believe God sent His Son Jesus to this earth and the only way we get to be with God forever and make it to heaven is through the sacrifice of Jesus. I claim His perfect life by accepting His sacrifice and that, and only that, makes me right with God. Every other religion has people trying to earn heaven. That’s impossible. God says it’s only by grace through faith in Jesus. Do you believe this?” I simply told this person what I know.
So still in Chapter 10, Peter tells Cornelius what he knows. “Listen,” Peter says, “God anointed Jesus with the Holy Spirit and Jesus went around doing miracles. I saw it. And they hung Him on a tree and killed Him. But on the third day, God raised Jesus from the dead. I saw Him. And He told us to tell people. And whoever believes in Him and calls on His Name will have their sins forgiven.” And while Peter was still speaking, Cornelius and his household said yes. They became followers of Jesus. And Peter said to some Jewish followers of Jesus with him, Well, now what? Shouldn’t we baptize them? Let’s git-r-done. So they were baptized. And as often happens between followers of Jesus, there was some disagreement. We reach the Scripture we read from chapter 11 and said, “Hey Peter. What in the world are you doing? We’ve been hearing things. What were you doing with THEM?”
And again, Luke who wrote Acts, tells the story all over again. God sent Peter to Cornelius’ house. And Peter told them what He knew. And God acted. If God hadn’t acted, Peter would have told them what he knew, testified to them about Jesus, they would have said, “Uh… thanks, but no thanks.” And Peter would have left and the non-Jewish Cornelius would not have been a follower of Jesus. We don’t convince anyone to give their lives to Jesus. We tell them what we know, tell them that God loves them, and then we wait to see if God acts and if they believe. It’s not a notch on our belt. I’ve never saved anyone. Peter just told them what he knew.
And now Peter is telling his fellow followers what he knows. He knows more than he knew a week earlier. Now Peter knows that God offered the Gentiles the same gift of Salvation and the Holy Spirit as He offeredthe Jewish people. And it’s not up to Peter and the rest of the Jesus followers to decide who gets God’s grace through Jesus.
The Scripture says they quit accusing Peter and they glorified God saying, “Well what do you know? God has indeed offered Salvation to everyone.” God offers salvation to Gentiles. God offers salvation to Roman Centurions. God offers salvation to despised tax collectors.
God offers Salvation to the people on drugs. God offers salvation to alcoholics. God offers salvation to slumlords. God offers salvation to judgmental people in church. God offers salvation to bank robbers.
And like the good Jesus following Jews, all we can do is say, “Well, what do you know? They’re welcome, too. Everyone’s welcome. Hmmmmm.” There’s not one person in Mason or Meigs County who God does not want in a Meigs or Mason county church. There’s not one person who is here today who is any less welcome or more welcome in this church than any other. If you feel like you’re not as good as some others here, you’re wrong. Lift your head and look up. God has decided to bestow grace on the non-deserving. If you feel like you’re more worthy to come here than anyone else, you’re wrong. Our good standing in this church and with God rests solely on His grace. If we want standing or seniority or credit based on the work we’ve done in this church or the money we’ve given to God through the offering plate of this church, we’re not getting it. James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble.” If you are convicted today about your pride, lift your head and look up. God has decided to bestow grace on the non-deserving.
We should banish forever from our minds that there are some that are welcome and some that are not, that there are some worthy and some unworthy, that any of us are better than anyone else. The early Jesus following Jews learned it. And this Scripture is reminding us. Everyone is welcome and the ground is level at the foot of the cross. If we ever look at others’ sins as worse than our own, we do not recognize the depth of our own sin. AW Tozer writes that we have earned banishment, but through God’s grace we can be reconciled to God. We all deserve the pains of hell, but through God’s grace can enjoy the bliss of heaven.
Where do you stand today? I have just told you what I know. God’s grace is available to all. Is He calling you to receive that grace today?
Arise, my soul, arise; shake off thy guilty fears; The bleeding sacrifice in my behalf appears:
Before the throne my surety stands, Before the throne my surety stands,
My name is written on His hands. ~ Charles Wesley