Faithlife Sermons

Let God Work

Go in the Power of the Word   •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Introduction

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2019/09/24/cimabue-painting-christ-mocked-found-womans-kitchen-france/2426702001/ - Holding on to a painting worth $6.6 million!
What are you holding on to that if you let go of, it would open up a door for God to work through you in ways like never before?
Simple message: Let God work. Will we allow Him to work through us or hinder His work?
- Peter confronted with a choice: will he let God work or will he hold on to prejudices that he had held his entire life and hinder the worldwide work that God wanted to do through the believers in Jerusalem?
For Peter to let God work through him, he first had to let God work in him to change those prejudices.
Three ways to let God work in you so He might work through you.

Be honest about your own prejudices.

Last few chapters - stories of unlikely converts - hated people responding to the Gospel - Samaritans, Ethiopian Eunuch (He was just weird.) and Paul.
Now a story of an enemy being converted. Really the story of two conversions. Cornelius to faith in Christ and Peter to the mission of God to reach the world with the Gospel.
One thing to reach Samaritans - at least they were half-Jew. But, Romans? At Caesarea? A Roman city on Judean soil - on Mediterranean - major port city built by Herod the Great. Caesarea = Caesar. Even the name evoked hostility. Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor over Judea, governed from Caesarea.
Cornelius - Couldn’t be any more Roman - A roman centurion - entrenched in the Roman empire - commanding a group of 100 soldiers - paid up to 5xs more than a Roman soldier. His soldiers roamed the streets of Judea reminding the Jews who was in charge.
But, God-fearer. Learned about Yahweh in synagogues? Came to believe in one true God. Faithfully prayed and gave. The gods of the Romans weren’t satisfying to Cornelius. He was searching.
BUT… being a God-fearer not enough. Being spiritual not enough. Even praying to the right God not enough unless you believe in Jesus. () Cornelius needed more… God was gracious. An angel to Cornelius - “Go get a man named Peter.”
The angel could have shared the Gospel with Cornelius, but messengers of the Gospel aren’t angels but people. And, Peter was the person God chose to take the Gospel to Cornelius.
A Jewish fisherman taking the Gospel to a Roman centurion! Two very different people, and something would have to change in Peter’s heart for him to accept a Roman Gentile as a brother.
Two questions:
People are open to the Gospel, but are you open to people? Be honest. Prejudice resides deep in all our hearts. When you see someone of a certain skin color, you immediately form a judgment. When you see the transgender person you cringe. When you see the poor person you turn the other way because you don’t want to get involved. In your mind, all Democrats/Republicans are going to hell. Why share the Gospel? But, some of the people you are prejudiced against are open to the Gospel. If you invested, they would respond. People around you are searching but your prejudice keeps you from talking.
Are you a barrier to the Gospel? Who might hear the Gospel if you dealt with your prejudices? That neighbor across the street who’s a different skin color? That homosexual man at work that you refuse to build a relationship with? If you are not open to people, you are a barrier to the Gospel.

Be willing to look past your limited perspective.

For Peter, it wasn’t just prejudice. He also had a limited perspective of how God worked that he also had to get past. Will Peter go to the people he’s prejudiced against? He’s in Joppa - where Jonah fled to because of his prejudiced against the Ninevites. Will Peter repeat Jonah’s mistake? (Simon bar Jonah) Will he run from God’s will?
Cornelius is not the only one to have a vision. Peter also has a vision. While on the rooftop praying his stomach begins to growl and God gives him a vision of heaven opened up, a sheet descending with the four corners extending to every part of the earth. On the sheet were animals as far as Peter’s eye could see, but they were animals that Peter wasn’t allowed to eat based on Old Testament Law. ( - Didn’t eat specific animals for hygiene reasons or they were used in pagan worship.)
Now… “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” (vs. 12) Vs. 14 - Peter, “No!” Not a good idea to tell God no!
A huge wall between Jews and Gentiles. Gentiles unclean because they ate the wrong kinds of animals! If you entered the home of a Gentile who ate bacon, you polluted yourself!
Jesus had already declared every kind of food clean (), but Peter obviously hadn’t made the connection. Even now, he’s having a hard time making the connection. (God showed him the vision 3xs!)
The issue wasn’t food, it was people! It was ok to enter the home of a Gentile and build a Gospel relationship and not worried about being defiled! The sheet spread to the corners of the earth. Peter’s problem wasn’t discriminating against food, it was discriminating against people because they didn’t hold to his traditions, because they didn’t live like him! His traditions were more important than the salvation of people!
Peter has the dream, and Cornelius’ men approach the gate with caution. The Spirit says to Peter, “Go...” A breakthrough is beginning. Peter invites them in as his guests! A huge step of faith for Peter…
Meets Cornelius who falls down and worships Peter. You can understand why - God sent a man to him! Had gathered his family and friends.
Peter’s first words - “I’m not supposed to be here. My whole life I believed people like you weren’t clean, but God has changed my heart. Why am I here?” (vs. 29) Duh… (Acts 1:8!)
Cornelius shares vision. “What has God told you to tell us?” (vs. 33)
Peter preaches Gospel. (vs. 34 - no partiality - everyone can hear - both Jew and Gentile.)
Vs. 44 - Peter doesn’t even get to the invitation and people respond! Vs. 45 - Jewish believers amazed! Holy Spirit falls on Gentiles just like Jews! The WALL has come down!
Two questions:
How do we let God work? Look past your limited perspective. Limited perspective = seeing God’s Kingdom work through your eyes rather than His. When you have a limited perspective of God:
Are your traditions more important than the salvation of people?
Traditions are more important than the salvation of people. We fight more for preferences than the Gospel. We fight more our way of doing church more than lost people. “I want a church like...” vs. “God, what do you want for my church?” Traditions: Hat in church, interracial marriage, tattoos, etc. When your traditions discriminate,
Our vision of God’s Kingdom stays too small. “As long as I’m good with God, I don’t care who else is good with God...” Your personal relationship with God was never intended to be personal. God has extended grace to you so that through you He might extend grace to someone else.

Be a part of a church that embraces people like you.

Peter goes back to the church at Jersualem, and the church in Jerusalem not happy with Peter. “You ate with Gentiles?”
Peter retells the story of what happened. Conclusion: “If then God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?” () Let God work! People praise God for His work among Gentiles! I want us to be a church that embraces people like us! But, as we’ll see in later chapters, discrimination continues to be a problem in the church.
I want us to be a church that embraces people like us!
Embracing people like us does not mean:
Same skin color.
Same economic condition.
Same education level.
Same preferences.
Same religious background.
Same political background.
Same moral background.
Embracing people like us means first seeing yourself for who you are. Your identity is not white American, middle-class, college educated, republican, straight, etc...
This is who you were:

9 Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

You have more in common with the people that you discriminate than you think. describes every one of us. Paul goes on to write:

11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

I want to lead a church of people like us - Because ultimately what defines us is not our skin color or our social status - but the grace of God. We were all in the same position. Eternally separated from God because of our sin, but God loved us so much that He gave us the gift of salvation through the death and resurrection of His Son. Challenge for us:
See ourselves for who we really are. You aren’t any better than anyone else. Heart of prejudice says: “I’m better than...”
See others for who they really are. In desperate need of the Gospel.
See God for who He really is. The One who redeems people from every background.
Unbeliever: today, like Cornelius, you can be a part of the family of God. He is drawing you. Believe that Jesus died and rose again for you. Believe that He is the only way to salvation and surrender to Him.
Believer: Be honest. Your vision of God is too small. You don’t see yourself as a vessel of grace. Be honest. Deep-seeded prejudice that you need to confess to God. It’s rendering you ineffective. Let God work on you so He might work through you.
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