CHANGE CAN BE A GOD THING
THEME: God changes Cornelius to hear the Gospel. But God must do a great change in Peter to prepare him to bring the Gospel to Cornelius. The Jewish arrogance and racism must be changed into love and openness before Peter will be the tool God needs to open the church to the Gentiles. Peter must make a huge change in his thinking in order to be the person Jesus wants him to be. Often we need to make a change in our thinking and prejudices to be the person God wants us to be.
SCRIPTURE: Acts 10: 1-29.
I. God changes Cornelius to receive the Gospel (vv. 1-8).
A. God decides it is time to officially open the church to full blown Gentiles. But before He does, He must prepare the Gentiles to receive the Gospel.
1. God picked the Gentile who was most receptive to the Gospel and was located near Jerusalem.
2. He needed to pick a Gentile who was “respected” by many Jews.
a. Cornelius gave his money to those Jews in his area who were in need.
b. His family and associates were all devout, upstanding, decent people.
3. There are many scholars who think that Cornelius was the centurion of Matthew 8: 5-13.
a. That centurion was in Capernaum at the time Jesus healed his servant.
b. Luke also reported the incident, (Luke 7: 2-10), and if it had been the same man, he would certainly have made mention of it.
4. It probably was not the same centurion, but you can be sure that the centurion whose servant was healed told all his friends (and professional compatriots) about Jesus and the miracle.
a. So Cornelius might have been very familiar with Jesus’ ministry before hearing the Gospel.
5. Either way, his heart was on the right track:
a. He was a man of regular prayer to the one and only God.
b. He was a man of good deeds to his fellow man.
c. He was a man of good reputation among a people who hated outsiders.
d. He communicated his interest in God to many people. Note the large crowd who turned up to hear Peter preach!
6. KEY POINT: Even though Cornelius was a very good person, doing good things, and praying, he still was LOST and needed the Gospel and Jesus Christ. He needed to change.
7. Far too many people today think that just because they are good in the eyes of the world (and themselves), they are Christians and will spend eternity in Heaven with Jesus.
a. Being good in the eyes of the world will get you a ticket straight to HELL!
b. If Cornelius had not believed the Gospel of Jesus, he would have gone to HELL when he died – regardless of all the good things he had done his whole life.
c. All those good deeds and prayers would have gone down the drain because, without Jesus, CORNELIUS WAS A LOST MAN – DESTINED FOR HELL!!!
B. But God, in His mercy, chose Cornelius to be the Gentile to become the official first Gentile Christian. Cornelius’ heart and life and actions were on the right track already – he just needed the knowledge and understanding of what it was he needed to do.
1. He thought his present life was pleasing to God, but he also felt there was something missing, although he did not know what it was.
2. When God sent His angelic messenger to him, he obeyed completely and instantly.
3. Would that we who ARE Christians would be as obedient as Cornelius.
C. Cornelius had influenced those around him for God – he was a witness and a missionary before he even knew what he should be spreading.
1. Note that even some of the soldiers who served under him were following his lead:
(v. 7) “a devout soldier who was one of his attendants”
2. In the Roman army, the centurion was responsible for the religious life of his soldiers, but the official line would have been emperor worship at this time.
3. Cornelius knew that the emperor might be head of state and the army, but he was no god, so he had sought out whom he believed to be the true God – and followed Him the best he understood.
II. Why Peter needed to be prepared and changed in order to preach the Gospel to Gentiles.
A. It is interesting to note how intently God works on Peter in order to bring him into thinking that Gentiles “were good enough to receive the Gospel.”
1. Jews of that day called all foreigners, especially Romans, “dogs.” And that, in context, was much worse of an insult than any of today’s racial epitaphs.
2. Israelites considered themselves better than anyone else on earth just because Yahweh was their God. It had gotten so bad that it looked like the Jews treated God as a “good luck charm” to keep as their personal possession and certainly not share Him with anyone outside their people.
3. We can look at when might have been the start of this attitude in the time of Jonah, around 800 BC or so. All we have to do is listen to Jonah himself: (Jonah 3: 10 thru 4: 3) “When God saw what they [the people of Nineveh] did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion and did not bring upon them the destruction he had threatened. But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the LORD, “O, LORD, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I know that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”
4. Jonah had rather have died than seen God spare Nineveh, the soon to be enemy of his country. He was also afraid that God just might be turning away from being the God of Israel to being the God of Assyria or some other nation, and he could not stand that insult to his pride.
B. Even Jesus was aghast at the way and result of proselytes: (Matthew 23: 15) “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.”
1. This sounds familiar to us today when we think of the way some people in the various denominations sound and act: “You are not saved unless you are a ________ (member of our denomination).”
2. Not only is this attitude anti-Jesus and anti-Biblical, it is legalistic and a lie.
3. However, we also must remember what Jesus teaches us about people who do follow Him: (Luke 6: 43-45) “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn bushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.”
III. God changes Peter to open the door for the Gentiles. (vv. 9-29)
A. God used a vision to get Peter to thinking.
1. Immediately, Peter understood that the vision was not about clean/unclean foods and eating.
2. Peter knew that Jesus had already cleared that up during His ministry: (Mark 7: 14- 15, 18-19) “Listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a man can make him ‘unclean’ by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him ‘unclean’. . . Don’t you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him ‘unclean’? For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods “clean.”)”
3. So Peter thought hard about this vision. He was having such trouble understanding it that when Cornelius’ messengers came to the gate, the Holy Spirit had to almost spell it out plainly: (v. 20) “Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.”
4. The clue bird lands on Peter – and he gets it! He not only talks to these Gentiles, but he invites them to eat supper and spend the night with him.
5. He finally understands that these men are just as clean as he is, so to speak.
6. Peter shows clearly that he has not only understood the vision, but taken it to heart in (v. 28) “But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean.”
IV. God changes people He is working with and through.
A. If God hasn’t changed you, then you better go back to the beginning and start over, because every one of us needs to change when we make the decision to follow Jesus: that is the essence of following Him, to change to be like Him.
1. This change to accept the Gentiles was the second biggest change for God’s chosen people. (Jesus as their Messiah was the first).
2. This was so radical in the minds of the Jews that even Paul is overwhelmed by it. Read Romans 9-11 to see how great a change in the mindset and worldview it truly was.
B. God changes us to be like Him.
1. Think about the state of mind and action you were in before accepting Christ and where you are now.
2. Aren’t you a totally different person? Of course you are!
3. That change in you is absolutely necessary to become a Christ-follower.
4. If you have been following God’s will in your life, you will note more changes in you.
5. It seems to be a continuous process for us: we are in a constant state of change.
6. We can see how the Apostle Paul changed in many ways throughout his life and ministry.
C. The only time we are not changing is when we die. Then God makes a real and eternal change in us.
1. Also, at the time of the Resurrection during the Second Coming, there will be another change for eternity in each of us.
2. What a glorious change that will be, for we will be changed to be like Jesus Himself!
Be open to God’s change: Change in basic life.
Change in outlook and worldview.
Change in mission and duty.
Change in heart, mind and spirit.