Acts Lesson 25 - The Drama of Change
Did you know that when speaking of God, there are two words you can't use in the same sentence? ('No' and 'Lord') He is either Lord of your life, or He isn't!
As you can tell from the scenery around me, on this stage tonight, nearly 100 children are going to present the production, Nic At Night.
Weeks of practice, singing, staging, lighting, costumes, will all converge for an unforgettable children’s musical.
There will be a lot of sweaty palmed, nervous parents (I mean children) all hoping their they remember their lines.
I find it interesting to compare what happens on a stage like this and what happens in life. . .it’s quite a bit different.
Here on this stage tonight, the hopes of everyone is that everything goes as planned. In life, you’re not really sure what God has planned for you until it happens.
On stage, you stay in character - wether it’s happy, congenial or sad.
In life, you are required to change your charcter - and you never relly master any one expression.
On stage, you hope you never need the help of the promptor sitting off stage - who whispers what you’re supposed to say or do.
In the Christian life, the promptor doesn’t hide in the shadows and whisper, He, the Holy Spirit, directs prominently - in fact, every actor in life, is to depend on the promptor - to look for Him - to wait for His cue.
A play is predictable to those involved - you supposed to stick with the script.
But in life, everything is unpredictable - the scripts are written only after you’ve lived through the scene. And then, suddenly the scene changes - you’ve never seen one quite like it before - and so you look for the Promptor - better yet, you keep your eye on the Director.
The subtitle to the play of life could be called, “The Drama of Change.”
Paul wrote in II Corinthians 5:17 “If any man is in Christ, he is a new creation - the old things are continually passing away; behold, new things are constantly being revealed.”
In other words, the Christians middle name is change.
Nowhere is such a dramatic change about to occur than in Acts chapter 10.
We arrive at this chapter in our study, and we are about to discover a great drama unfolding before our very eyes - the drama of change that will eventually build a bridge between the Jewish and the Gentile nations.
It was dramatic to see news clippings of the Berlin wall come toppling down; a wall that had stood for 30 years - what you have in Acts cahpter 10 is the crumbling of a wall between two people’s that has lasted for 1,000’s of years.
The drama that unfolds in chapter 10 can be divided into 4 scenes - you’ll find them in your study guide - consider it more like a program guide this morning.
Now chapter 10 must be observed as an entire unit - so this morning, we’ll actually read the entire chapter - I’ll interrupt periodically to provide some insight or commentary.
Scene #1: Is in the home of a Gentile seeker
10:1 Now there was a certain man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort,
Time for the first interruption. I thought you’d find it interesting to learn a little aside about this character in our play. The name “Cornelius” is interesting becuase a very special event made it famous. Historical records describe that, around the year 82 B.C., Cornelius Sulla liberated ten thousand slaves. All of the male slaves took their liberator’s name to begin their new life. It is likely that this centurion was a descendant of one of those freed slaves.
2 Cornelious was a devout man, and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people, and prayed to God continually.
Now you need to understand that Cornelious is not a Christian - he’s still living under Old Testament truth as a God fearer - that expression, “he feared God with all his household” referred to Gentiles who had embraced the Jewish religion and had begun attending the synagogue services as well as observing the Sabbath. He, like many other Gentile God-fearers had stopped worshipping idols and they prayed to the God of Israel only.
He still doesn’t know about the redemptive work of Jesus Christ - He doesn’t know that forgiveness of sins is by faith in Christ alone.
3 About the ninth hour of the day he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had just come in to him, and said to him, “Cornelius!” 4 And fixing his gaze upon him and being much alarmed, he said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and alms have ascended as a
memorial before God.
In other wores, becuase Cronelius was a Gentile, he was barred from presenting offering to God in the Jerusalem temple- but here we read that God was acknowleding his prayers and acts of giving.
5 “And now dispatch some men to Joppa, and send for a man named Simon, who is also called Peter; 6 he is staying with a certain tanner named Simon, whose house is by the sea.” 7 And when the angel who was speaking to him had departed, he summoned two of his servants and a devout soldier of those who were in constant attendance upon him, 8 and after he had explained everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.
Now, there is a shift away from Caesarea to Joppa. Scene #2 takes place on the rooftop with a Jew named Peter
9 And on the next day, as they were on their way, and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. 10 And he became hungry, and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance; 11 and he beheld the sky opened up, and a certain object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, 12 and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. 13 And a voice came to him, “Arise, Peter, kill and eat!”
Now remember, Jewish people didn’t eat non-kosher foods. They faithfully followed the dietary laws of the Old Testament -
Peter had never eaten a pork chop - bargecue or sausage. And many other things.
In fact, he, like the Jewish people around him refused to buy their meat from a Gentile butcher. They never ate in a Gentiles home - if they bought a kitchen utensil from a Gentile, they would boil it first before using it. It was Mosaic law.
Now, Peter is already flexing some becuase of where he’s staying. Look back up at chapter 9:43. And it came about that he (Peter) stayed many days in Joppa with a certain tanner, Simon.
The orthodox Jew was not permitted to have any dealings with anyone who worked with dead animals. In fact, tanners were required to live so many hundreds of yards outside a village. But this tanner was a believer - a member of the church in Joppa - he’s invited Peter to stay in his home - to eat with his family - to eat at their table - with Gentile utensils.
And Peter does - you can see, even here, how God is preparing Peter for the bigger challenge . . . and here it comes - in the form of a vision - with all kinds of clean and unclean animals on it.
You can imagine a fat pink pig right in the middle of the sheet . . . and the command comes - “Arise, Peter, kill and eat!”
14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.”
Don’t you resemble that response? “
“Peter, set aside everything you’ve ever learned about eating - set aside the teachings of Moses - there’s something new about the Christian life - you can have some bacon.”
And Peter said, “By no means Lord” In our vernacular, “No way, Lord, not me . . . never!”
By the way - did you realize that Peter used contradicting terminology.
Notice verse 14 again . . . 14 But Peter said, “By no means (waht’s the middle word in that phrase? “No!” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord!”
Has it ever occured to you that you ca not say, “No” and “Lord” in the same sentence.
It’s either “No!’ and he is not Lord - or “Lord” and you never say no.
Now I want to give you an assignment to do at home - that area in which God is challenging you to change, or obey, or repent, or submit . . . I want you to take your pencil when you get alone and go to this verse and cross out one of these expressions - cross out the words, “By no means - not so” or cross out the word, “Lord.”
15 And again a voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” 16 And this happened three times; (Peter’s like us - he’s a slow learner - he needed the demonstration repeated 3 times) and immediately the object was taken up into the sky.
Now scene #3 unfolds in the living room of Simon the Tanner
17 Now while Peter was greatly perplexed in mind as to what the vision which he had seen might be, behold, the men who had been sent by Cornelius, having asked directions for Simon’s house, appeared at the gate; 18 and calling out, they were asking whether Simon, who was also called Peter, was staying there. 19 And while Peter was reflecting on the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. 20 “But arise, go downstairs, and accompany them without misgivings; for I have sent them Myself.” 21 And Peter went down to the men and said, “Behold, I am the one you are looking for; what is the reason for which you have come?” 22 And they said, “Cornelius, a centurion, a righteous and God-fearing man well spoken of by the entire nation of the Jews, was divinely directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and hear a message from you.” 23 And so he invited them in and gave them lodging.
Here’s another step in the right direction for Peter - he invites these Gentiles into the home - so Peter sets aside the Jewish restrictions on associating with Gentiles - they sit at the table that evening and eat together and, undoubtably talk about the vision - what it might mean - we know what it means - the gospel is about to be formally introduced to the Gentile nation - they are about to be invited as equals into the body of Christ.
Now, the final scene takes place in the estate of a Roman Centurion
23b. And on the next day he arose and went away with them, and some of the brethren from Joppa accompanied him. 24 And on the following day he entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 And when it came about that Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and worshiped him. 26 But Peter raised him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am just a man.” 27 And as he talked with him, he entered, and found many people assembled. 28 And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. 29. That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for. And so I ask for what reason you have sent for me.’ 30. And Cornelius said, “Four days ago to this hour, I was praying in my house during the ninth hour; and behold a man stood before me in shining garments, 31 and he said, Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. 32 ‘Send therefore to Joppa and invite Simon, who is also called Peter, to come to you; he is staying at the house of Simon the tanner by the sea.’ 33 “And so I sent to you immediately, and you have been kind enough to come. Now then, we are all here present before God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.” 34 And opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, 35 but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right, is welcome to Him. 36 “The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)— 37 you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. 38 “You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed by the devil; for God was with Him. 39 “And we are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. And they also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. 40 “God raised Him up on the third day, and granted that He should become visible, 41 not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us, who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. 42 “And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. (now here comes the new message - delivered to the representative of the Gentile nation as it were, Cornelius) 43 “Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”
No more sacrifice - no more priestly caste - no more ritual or religion - no more Jew or Gentile - it is a message of redemption that comes from a personal faith in Christ alone for the forgiveness of sins.
Somewhere between verse 43 and verse 44, everyone in that home invited Christ to forgive their sins - they placed their faith in His name - meaning everything that His name represented - verse 36 - “Jesus Christ” - Jesus, Yeshua or savior and Christ - annointed one - Messiah - God come in the flesh.
44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. 45 And all the circumcised believers who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the Gentiles also. 46 For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, 47 “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” 48 And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.
A church movement began among the Gentiles in Ceasarea becuase:
1)Peter was willing to change something ancient
You need to take careful note of the key difference between several things:
1) Needed change vs fleshly compromise
Don’t use the phrase, “Oh that’s some old way of living” to justify personal compromise of integrity and purity.
2) You need to understand the difference between traditions vs tradionalism.
Traditions are not necessarily bad - Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “Stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught.”
these traditions “tie us to the mast of truth when storms of uncertainty come.”
Godly traditions are Biblical and moral absolutes;
Traditionalism is simply hanging on to the past for the sake of our comfort zone, or our lack of desire for change in thinking patterns, and methods.
3) We also need to critically evaluate the difference between Biblical conviction vs personal predjudice.
“The difference between a conviction and a predjudice is that you can explain a conviction without becoming angry.”
Well, in this chapter Peter was willing to change something ancient - for something new.
2nd: Peter was willing to embrace someone different
Can you hear the timidness in peter’s voice as he explains in verse 28 - “It is unlawful for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him. . .” In other words, “I’m really not supposed to be doing this and if my friends back in Jerusalem could see me now, they’d have a kosher kiniption.”
Why did Peter do it? Becuase God explained to him that, in effect, the death of Christ and the gospel of redemption was for Jew and Gentile.
Someone wrote, “The only thing that can destroy an old predjudice is a new love.”
3rd: Peter was willing to defend something new
Now I’ve arranged these three thoughts in order of their progression - first
Peter became willing to change something ancient - then embrace someone different - then, defend something new.
Skip ahead to verse 2 of chapter 11. And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him saying, “You
went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
The rest of that paragraph reveals Peter, a man once known for his distance from Gentile pagans, now the primary defender of their nation.
Peter was a changed man!
Are you prepared for change?
One author wrote, READ SWINDOLL
In other words, how many of you this morning, are not sitting passively on the stage with your head in your hands waiting for the curtain to fall, or some scene change to come along that you prefer - how many of you are actively involved in the drama of the Christian life.
By the way, as the Book of Revelation comes to a close you can read in chapter 21, where the Lord triumphant says, “Behold, I am making all things new!”
Think of that - even after the rapture, the tribulation, the millenial kingdom - about the time you and I would think we have a handle on things, the Lord is telling us that He will even then create a fresh new series of changes!
The best way to prepare for new things then - is to embrace them now.
- Putting off the old man and putting on the new man - a change of lifestyle
- Being transformed by the renewing of your mind - an change in thinking
- Developing the fruit of the Spirit - love joy peace patience, gentleness - a change in personality.
- A heart that worships God - a change of heart.
Get involved in the Drama of the Christian life - a Drama Called Change! Who knows, maybe you’re willing to change, He may use you to begin a movement of the Spirit in a household, a business, maybe even a nation!
“Has God been allowed to change your attitude toward someone - has He been able to change an area of stubborness in your life - or a deep-seated habit that has hurt your home and hindered your relationship with others for a long, long time. . . or a pattern of discourtesy in your driving . . . or a profane tongue . . . or cheating . . . or laziness? “The flesh dies a slow, bitter, bloody death - kicking and struggling all the way down. “Putting off” the clothes of the old man - the old habitual lifestyle will not be complete until you are determined to “put on” the garment of the new man - the new, fresh, Christian lifestyle. And the tailor’s name is change. He is a master at fitting your frame. But the process will be painful . . . and costly. The tailors real name is the Holy Spirit. You can count on Him to dispose of your old threadbare wardrobe as quickly as He outfits you with the new. By the way, He’s also on call 24 hours a day when you have the urge to slip into the old duds “just one more time.” If you ask Him, He’ll help you remember what you looked like on the day your first walked into His shop. He has a mirror with memories - it’s called the Bible. God did not give us His Word to satisfy our curiosity: He gave it to us in order to change our lives.
Exactly what changes do you have on your personal drawing board? What are the changes you are asking the Lord to alter and adjust in your life?
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