Monday, June 9, 2014

say "No!" to favoritism

(by Pastor Joe)
The Word for today:
Acts 11:1-18
Mark this: Acts 10:34 (KJV) 
"God is no respecter of persons"
God's plan of redemption involves all nations and peoples.
From the beginning with His promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3), to the end of history in Revelation (7:9-10), His plan was always for the entire world.
(See the blog from Friday, January 7, 2014 for further info).
The question then becomes, how is He going to carry it out?
Today's passage and the whole incident in Acts concerning Cornelius begins to provide the answer. As stated in the blog from a couple of days ago (June 7, 2014) (Christ) is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility. (Ephesians 2:11-14)
Jesus Christ is the great leveler.
In Him, all the things that matter so much to everyone on planet earth (race, culture, age, gender, class, income level, geography, background etc.) no longer apply. All these things are so secondary to the amazing message and person of Jesus. (See Galatians 3:26-38)
But this message was in danger of being lost, to the very ones saved by it. And so God makes it very clear that when He says "no respecter of persons" or "no favoritism," He really means it.
Look carefully at the message that Peter gave to the Jews on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2) and the message he gave to the Gentiles connected to Cornelius (Acts 10). It is the same exact message:
- Jesus is Lord of all (2:26 & 10:36)
- Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit (2:33 & 10:38)
- Jesus helped others by healings and signs (2:22 & 10:38)
- Jesus was crucified (2:23 & 10:39)
- But God raised Him from the dead (2:24 & 10:40)
- The Scriptures testify to this same Jesus (2:35 & 10:43)
- Jesus gives forgiveness of sins (2:38 & 10:43)
Look at how similar the circumstances and responses are to those two messages:
- The Holy Spirit fell on all who believed (2:4 & 10:44)
- The Sprit enable them to speak in tongues (2:4 & 10:46)
- The people were baptized (2:41 & 10:48)
God wanted to make it clear to the Jewish church leaders that this faith in Christ was truly universal, that everyone was equal at the foot of the cross. But the leaders were not super quick to accept this 180 degree change in their thinking. So in today's reading, we have a little early church conference.
Peter once again describes the entire incident with his vision, the visit with Cornelius, and this kind of second Pentecost. He reminds them of the words of Christ (from Mark 1:8) and then states a profound question: "Who was I that I could stand in God's way?"
Great question! I wish we asked it more of ourselves today. Each of us are prone, in some way or another, to categorize people and somehow think that certain persons or groups of people are more likely to be forgiven and come to Christ than others. We might not say it out loud, but I think we all tend to limit the scope and power and reach of God. What arrogance. What a shallow perspective.
Who have you type-casted today? Who do you believe is beyond God's redemptive work? I firmly believe that God often, as He did in this case, seeks to shake us up, enlarging our vision and our understanding of what He wants to do on planet earth. The last thing we need to do, is become professional "packagers of God." So do yourself a favor and quit trying to box God into any of your categories, because God has a way of blowing off the top.

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