Raising the Standard for News and Views
Passion concert results in spiritual sensation
Thanksgiving celebration because Gospel is given to all ethnicities
Sermon delivered at Monday Night Live at InterVarsity Christian Fellowship by Pastor Andrew Gill of New Hope Christian Community.
Being thankful how people of different ethnicities can be given the Gospel of Jesus Christ:
“Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right. You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all. You know what has happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached— how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him. “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen—by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:34-43, NIV)
Focus on: “I now realize how true it is that Focus on: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” (Acts 10:34-35)
The unifier is Jesus and nothing more or less.
“You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.” (Acts 10:36)
Realizing that God is at work here, Peter does what he’s been commanded to do by Jesus; preach Jesus.
“He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead.” (Acts 10:42)
Jesus’ command to the disciples in Acts 1:8, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” is realized by Peter.
Peter recognizes in his experience with the vision (Acts 9), and now with Cornelius, that Jesus meant what Jesus said where the Gospel was not to be limited to one group of people, but for everyone. The gospel has already spread as seen in the book of Acts from Jerusalem, throughout Judea, into Samaria (Philip in Acts 8:4-8); and into the Gentile world (Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, a Jewish proselyte in Acts 8:26). Now the Gospel reaches a full-fledged Gentile, Cornelius.
“While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days. (Acts 10:44-48)
Peter is given further confirmation that this is from God. The Holy Spirit, which came upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost now comes upon Cornelius and his household. They begin to speak in languages other than their own, just the same way the apostles had on Pentecost. This type of action from the Holy Spirit is manifest several times in the book of Acts. It is always as a sign that God is stretching the boundaries of the Gospel. Peter, seeing this, stops his sermon and baptizes Cornelius and his household. He asks, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” In other words, if this is from God, who in the world are we to get in the way?
“The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.” Peter began and explained everything to them precisely as it had happened: “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 of the air. 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.’ “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. “Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, 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.’
“As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. 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 as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?” When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.”
Peter is called on the table by the apostles and leaders of the church in Jerusalem because he has accepted Cornelius and his household into the community if faith; not only preaching to them and baptizing them but also staying in Cornelius’ house for a few days (v.48). It can be assumed that if he stayed with Cornelius he also ate with Cornelius. Table fellowship is symbolic that one accepts those one eats with.
In Peter’s defense of himself, he simply tells what happened and asks this question, “So, if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?” That’s the question for us tonight!
“If it’s God’s will that all people be accepted into God’s community, who are we to oppose God?”
Another Scripture that would help us see that God’s community is multi-ethnic, multi-national is Isaiah 56. How do we oppose God in this? We like Peter look down on and avoid people who are different from us for various reasons. God had to prepare Peter to go preach to Cornelius with the vision of the sheet. One of the points God was trying to make with the vision was that God was not interested in Peter keeping himself “clean.” He was interested in Peter allowing God to work through him as an instrument of the Gospel. How often we avoid contact with certain people because we see them somehow as less than us, when in reality they are simply different from us?
My wife Denise and I have been in Youth ministry for 10 years before coming to New Hope Christian Community. I want to share with you about Sam and Tommy at Scenic Hills.
Tommy was seen as a bully and everyone liked Sam. No one liked Tom and he would be in all kinds of trouble. If there was a camper of the week before camp even began, people said Sam would get it. One night around 3:00 am., I saw a light in the bathroom. When I looked up, both Tommy and Sam were not on their bed. I went to the bathroom to see what was going on at 3:00 a.m. Tommy had an accident and Sam was helping him first clean himself up and then his underwear, bed-sheet & mattress. Later, Sam gave his underwear, his mattress, and his bed for Tommy to sleep in. Sam took Tommy’s bed and fell asleep. When camp was over Sam was the one that got the Camper of the week. On the last day of camp, Tommy and Sam were surrounded by water but this time it was Sam baptizing Tommy in the Lord Jesus Christ.
We like Peter, have to be taught that God is already at work in places and in ways that may surprise us. I am reminded of the missionary to Africa that Dr. Norris of Immanuel School of Religion told us about. The missionary was dropped out in the middle of the desert. He was walking through the desert, looking for the village that he’d been assigned to. He knew a little about the culture, knew little less about the language, but thought he was coming up with all the answers. He stopped to rest at an oasis. He was met there by the village’s witch doctor that called him by name (although the village did not know he was coming) and told him that God had appeared to him in a vision and told him to meet the missionary as this oasis and show him the way to the village. God was already there, and already working! God is at work in places and through people that perhaps we don’t realize.
God has blessed us in the setting of a University with the opportunity to live the Gospel, and preach the Gospel to people from all over the world. At New Hope Christian Community, we asked a raise of hands where people were from. People from every continent were represented in the congregation except from Antarctica. The reason that’s true at New Hope is that we are made up of largely students of different ethnicities from Pitt and Carnegie Mellon. Look around on campus. The university is such a wonderful place for making friends, learning about cultures, for seeing what God is doing in other parts of the world. It would be a shame to go through the university experience and not learn and have your life enriched by folks from a different nation or culture. Give time to getting to know someone different from you. While exciting, this can be a scary thing! It stretches us to allow others to see us, and for us to be willing to see them. It can be uncomfortable. It may cause us to lose face/friends. Peter faced this. Start hanging out with the homeless, with another race, with people who make your current friends uncomfortable, and you will too!
We live in a time when, quiet frankly, mixing with various ethnic groups is not going to win us a lot of friends. Being from a certain ethnic group is going to cause us to be looked up with suspicion. We’ve all heard, I’m sure of people who have been mistreated, lashed out verbally and even physically because they are, or are assumed to be of Middle Eastern descent. This must not be a part of who we are as Christians! We have a marvelous opportunity here. We can demonstrate the love of Jesus Christ for all humanity and help people come to see that we have hope for them in the person of Jesus. We can focus on the fact that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is the one thing that can unite people; that can help us to not simply overlook our differences, but to rejoice in them, learn from them, and allow them to enrich our lives. We don’t have to become each other, we simply have to accept each other with the love given to us by Jesus Christ
Volume I, Issue III