Aim: Jew or Gentile, there is only one way: Jesus
Last week we saw the conversion of Saul, and what a turn around that was – from persecutor to preacher. He saw the light. We also heard that Saul was being given a mission, to help spread the good news about Jesus to the Gentiles – people that weren’t Jewish. Now this caused quite a stir because the Jews were God’s chosen people, so was this going to be OK? Should they be invited, too?
So, as we begin to think about our lesson this week, picture this: William and Kate (Prince/Princess) are coming to your town and throwing a huge party that lasts a really long time. However, tickets to the event cost $1 bizzillion (a really, really big number). Is there any way you can buy a ticket? Is there anyway that anyone can pay that kind of price? Probably not even the queen. But, wait, they just announced that they are going to give away free tickets with only 3 requirements:
- You have to accept the gift of the ticket. You can’t ignore it, or throw it away, or sell it, or anything like that.
- You have to come in through the front door only, the door that is opened by the host to let in his guests. No trying to sneak in the back.
- While not a requirement, it is strongly suggested that you act grateful for this amazing gift.
That is how things are with God. When Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, He paid the price for all of our tickets. And God wants everyone of us to accept that ticket and join the party. But he gets very frustrated when someone shows up with a fake ticket that they tried to make on their own. Or they try to sneak in some backdoor.
There is only one way into this party. It doesn’t matter who you are, who your parents were or how much you work to make your own ticket.
Division 1: Acts 9:31-10:48
In chapter 9 we have 2 amazing stories of healing and prayer. The power of the Holy Spirit is overflowing and as Peter travels outside of Jerusalem he is partaking in and witness the power of the Holy Spirit, not only in changed bodies, but in changed hearts and souls. The first is the story of Aeneas, so crippled that he had stayed in bed for 8 years. Then, with one blessing from God, he gets up and walks. Are you saying, we’ve seen that before – ok, how about Dead Dorcas? Her friends pray and talk about the gifts she has made and… back from the dead.
But in Acts 10, we get into the really interesting story of Peter and Cornelius. Peter was a Jew. Jesus came to the Jews. And when you are a Jew you live as a Jew. This isn’t a club, it is a way of life, every moment of every day. You mess up one thing, touch a dead animal by accident, brush against someone with a skin disease, and you can be living outside of the city for days or weeks.
I’m going to talk about the blanket and food restrictions. This meeting with Cornelius, in his house, eating and just how big of a deal that was. But the whole time God was working on Peter, from the inside out, to help him see God’s love for all.
Principle: God welcomes all who believe
Illustration: Picture the gates of heaven. In your mind, do you see a sign next to the door that says, Girls only, no boys allowed? Or boys only? Or only people with black hair allowed? Of course not. There is a big welcome mat saying all believers enter here.
Applications: Do you understand that God is bigger than skin tone, eye color, nationality or any other difference in humans?
Do you welcome into your church family people that don’t look, act or sound like you? Do you call them brother and sister?
What “rules” are you expecting people to jump through because that is how you did it when you were a new believer?
Division 2: Acts 11
The jewish born christians are troubled by this new understanding that Peter has received and they have no issue speaking up about it. Peter goes to Jerusalem, right to the heart of the discussion and lays out the facts. In one verse (18) they understand, “so, then, that’s how it is.” God said it, done deal. Meanwhile, Antioch becomes a hotbed of God’s spirit, Barnabas is dispatched, joined by Saul and the new church gets its legs.
Principle: God’s word unites believers
Illustration: Have you ever used the words, “Mom said” or “Dad says” or “the coach said to”? When you are in a family or on a team, it is important to know who is in charge and calling the plays. There is nothing wrong when you see someone heading a different direction to stop them and ask questions. But when the direction comes from God, it is best to get on board.
Application: When you have an issue, do you go to the source or chitchat rumor about it?
When you understand that a direction is spelled out in the bible, do you accept it or still want to argue?
Division 3: Acts 12
King Herod (Agrippa), seeks to build his political cachet by imprisoning some of the heathen christians. When that goes well, he murders James. Seeing how well that is received he imprison Peter, with plans to kill him as well.
(retell story of the Peter in jail, shackled, 2 guards, sound asleep, freed by H/S, Rhoda, the church praying)
Finally, King Herod get eaten by worms and dies – yuck!
Principle: God sets us free of earthly confines
Illustration: (I’m sticking with Peter and this story)
Application: If someone wanted to jail the christians, would they know you were one?
What are you losing sleep over?
Do you believe it when God answers your prayers?
What are you shackled to that God needs to set you free from? Past sins? Current guilt? Worry? Fear? Secrets?
Conclusion: In all that is happening, don’t miss the skill movement of the master’s hand in everything that is happening. I was reading an article on grand masters at chess. It pointed out that if you take any chess game, at any point in the game, and for less 2 seconds show the board to a master. They can go to another board and place every piece in place, where a non-chess player is doing good to get 3-4 pieces. God not only knows this board that we live on, He created it, and He is the Master of All.