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"Uncomfortable Grace"

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Like most of us, John Burke (pastor of Gateway Church in Austin, Texas) assumed that he was not a judgmental person. But just in case he was wrong, he tried an experiment: for a whole week he kept track of his judgments about other people. Here's what he discovered:
Judging [others] is fun! Judging others makes you feel good, and I'm not sure I've gone a single day without this sin. In any given week, I might condemn my son numerous times for a messy room; judge my daughter for being moody—which especially bothers me when I'm being moody (but I have a good reason!) …. even my dog gets the hammer of condemnation for his bad breath ….
Some of you may be thinking, "Wait, are you saying that correcting my kids for a messy room is judging?" NO! But there's correction that values with mercy and there's correction that devalues with judgment.
I watch the news and condemn those "idiotic people" who do such things. Most reality TV shows are full of people I can judge as sinful, ignorant, stupid, arrogant, or childish. I get in my car and drive and find a host of inept drivers who should have flunked their driving test—and I throw in a little condemnation on our Department of Public Safety for good measure! At the store, I complain to myself about the lack of organization that makes it impossible to find what I'm looking for, all the while being tortured with Muzak—who picks that music anyway? I stand in the shortest line, which I judge is way too long because—"LOOK PEOPLE—it says '10 items or less,' and 1 count more than that in three of your baskets—what's wrong with you people?" And why can't that teenage checker—what IS she wearing?—focus and work so we can get out of here?
Judging is our favorite pastime, if we're honest—but we're not! We're great at judging the world around us by standards we would highly resent being held to! Judging makes us feel good because it puts us in a better light than others.
Another major turning point in the history of Christianity.
This story is just as much about Peter’s conversion as it is Cornelius’s.
Another major turning point in the history of Christianity.
Really need to dive into the racial divide between Jews & Gentiles.
Act
Acts 10:1–8 ESV
At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God. About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, “Cornelius.” And he stared at him in terror and said, “What is it, Lord?” And he said to him, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who is called Peter. He is lodging with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea.” When the angel who spoke to him had departed, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those who attended him, and having related everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.
CORNELIUS:
The Message of Acts 2. Peter Is Sent for by Cornelius (10:1–8)

It is difficult for us to grasp the impassable gulf which yawned in those days between the Jews on the one hand and the Gentiles (including even the ‘God-fearers’) on the other. Not that the Old Testament itself countenanced such a divide. On the contrary, alongside its oracles against the hostile nations, it affirmed that God had a purpose for them. By choosing and blessing one family, he intended to bless all the families of the earth. So psalmists and prophets foretold the day when God’s Messiah would inherit the nations, the Lord’s servant would be their light, all nations would ‘flow’ to the Lord’s house, and God would pour out his Spirit on all humankind.11 The tragedy was that Israel twisted the doctrine of election into one of favouritism, became filled with racial pride and hatred, despised Gentiles as ‘dogs’, and developed traditions which kept them apart. No orthodox Jew would ever enter the home of a Gentile, even a God-fearer, or invite such into his home (see verse 28). On the contrary, ‘all familiar intercourse with Gentiles was forbidden’ and ‘no pious Jew would of course have sat down at the table of a Gentile’.

a man of great power & influence
MLK - 11:00 Sunday morning is the most segregated hour.
a God-fearing/God-worshiping man
Demopolis youth minister’s meeting
led his family to worship God
a giving man
a devout praying man
THE VISION:
“Go get Peter.” Caesarea was 65 miles away from Joppa.
This was easy evangelism! This is probably how we all wish it would happen!
A major problem - Cornelius is a Gentile…explain. We really can’t identify with this. Sure, there are many of you lived through the turmoil of the civil rights era....our city in particular.
The Message of Acts 2. Peter Is Sent for by Cornelius (10:1–8)

It is difficult for us to grasp the impassable gulf which yawned in those days between the Jews on the one hand and the Gentiles (including even the ‘God-fearers’) on the other. Not that the Old Testament itself countenanced such a divide. On the contrary, alongside its oracles against the hostile nations, it affirmed that God had a purpose for them. By choosing and blessing one family, he intended to bless all the families of the earth. So psalmists and prophets foretold the day when God’s Messiah would inherit the nations, the Lord’s servant would be their light, all nations would ‘flow’ to the Lord’s house, and God would pour out his Spirit on all humankind.11 The tragedy was that Israel twisted the doctrine of election into one of favouritism, became filled with racial pride and hatred, despised Gentiles as ‘dogs’, and developed traditions which kept them apart. No orthodox Jew would ever enter the home of a Gentile, even a God-fearer, or invite such into his home (see verse 28). On the contrary, ‘all familiar intercourse with Gentiles was forbidden’ and ‘no pious Jew would of course have sat down at the table of a Gentile’.

So…what is Peter going to do, here? This goes against everything he was raised to believe. This goes against everything that “feels right” to him. This goes against everything that makes him comfortable!
Acts 10:9–29 ESV
The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven. Now while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean, behold, the men who were sent by Cornelius, having made inquiry for Simon’s house, stood at the gate and called out to ask whether Simon who was called Peter was lodging there. And while Peter was pondering the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are looking for you. Rise and go down and accompany them without hesitation, for I have sent them.” And Peter went down to the men and said, “I am the one you are looking for. What is the reason for your coming?” And they said, “Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation, was directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and to hear what you have to say.” So he invited them in to be his guests. The next day he rose and went away with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa accompanied him. And on the following day they entered Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called together his relatives and close friends. When Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him. But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am a man.” And as he talked with him, he went in and found many persons gathered. And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean. So when I was sent for, I came without objection. I ask then why you sent for me.”
This story is just as much about Peter’s heart change as it is Cornelius’s! God wanted to do something that would, literally change history! This event is what opened the door to the Gentiles to receive the gospel! In other words - YOU AND ME! Think about this…it wasn’t a matter of whether or not Cornelius would believe the gospel and obey. The issue was whether or not Peter’s heart would be changed in such a way that would overcome his prejudice. Prejudice is a matter of the heart.
I think it’s pretty obvious that the vision Peter has isn’t simply about whether or not Peter could eat unclean foods....not just about dietary laws - what foods were clean/unclean & ok for a Jew to eat. We can know this because right after the vision, the Gentile visitors arrive.

“common and unclean” = prejudice

The greek word is “koinow” - same word as koinonia (fellowship). I’m not going to have fellowship with this person because of something about them.
Prejudice is a matter of the heart.

“hesitation” = judgmental

“to pass judgment”

“unlawful” = socially taboo

The blood of Jesus makes no racial, social, or cultural distinction.

There are no second-class citizens in God’s kingdom.

God’s acceptance of a person is based on a pure heart that results in obedient faith.

This story is just as much about Peter’s heart change as it is Cornelius’s! God wanted to do something that would, literally change history! This event is what opened the door to the Gentiles to receive the gospel! In other words - YOU AND ME! Think about this…it wasn’t a matter of whether or not Cornelius would believe the gospel and obey. The issue was whether or not Peter’s heart would be changed in such a way that would overcome his
One of the things we said last week is that we tend to “label people.” We make snap judgments. Way too many times we’re guilty of not being able to look past a person’s:
Past
Present
Appearance
1 Samuel 16:7 ESV
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
1 Samuel 16:7 ESV
But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
Psalm 147:10–11 ESV
His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.
Psalm 14
So…what is Peter going to do, here? This goes against everything he was raised to believe. This goes against everything that “feels right” to him. This goes against everything that makes him comfortable!

Many times God will call us to the uncomfortable. If we want to experience Greater Things we must be willing to follow Him into the uncomfortable.

Uncomfortable Places
UNCOMFORTABLE PLACES
Uncomfortable People
Uncomfortable Situations
UNCOMFORTABLE PEOPLE
UNCOMFORTABLE SITUATIONS
Here’s the thing - we need to understand that if God is calling us, He’s already working. It’s not like God is playing games. He was already working in Cornelius’s life…all Peter had to do was go!
Tonia Coe - I was VERY uncomfortable. That particular place…that particular situation…Tonia became our “person of peace.” Celebrate Recovery…instrumental in helping with food distribution.
What if Peter hadn’t obeyed? What if he’d stayed where it was comfortable?
Jonah - Joppa
You know, something interesting happens when God first speaks to Peter’s heart....calling him into the uncomfortable. Look at
Philippians 2:5–8 ESV
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Philippians 2:5-
Acts 10:14 ESV
But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.”
THE INCARNATION // JESUS CROSSED ALL SORTS OF CULTURAL BOUNDARIES.
He says, “No, Lord!” Let me tell you something…if Jesus is really Lord and King of your life, you won’t be saying “No” for long. You’ll only be able to run for so long.
JONAH - JOPPA
Jonah - Joppa
Peter repents:
Acts 10:34 ESV
So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality,
I want you to see what happens when you step into the “uncomfortable.” It makes others who are in their comfort zones extremely uncomfortable.
Acts 11:1–3 ESV
Now the apostles and the brothers who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcision party criticized him, saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
This is exactly what happened to Jesus, too!
Luke 15:1–2 ESV
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
When we leave what we would call our “comfort zones” we are more like Jesus:
When we leave what we would call our “comfort zones” we are more like Jesus:
Philippians 2:5–8 ESV
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
THE INCARNATION // JESUS CROSSED ALL SORTS OF CULTURAL BOUNDARIES.
Philippians 2:5–8 ESV
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Why did Jesus do this? TO SAVE YOU AND ME.
Are you letting fear keep you from obedience?
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