Sunday, 23 July 2017

Stories of Grace - Cornelius - Acts 10

Cornelius is a Roman soldier and a Gentile. Jewish people kept their distance from Gentiles, maintaining separation between clean and unclean. Yet Cornelius was searching for God, and he both prayed and gave to the poor.

God appeared to Cornelius in a vision, and gave him clear instructions to send for Peter. It must have been weird, for presumably Cornelius had never heard of Peter. But Cornelius acted, and sent servants with the message to come.

Peter was well intro ministry - serving Jesus. He did it out of his Jewish-ness, respecting the Jewish customs he had grown up with. Yet the Spirit intervened, giving him a dream about accepting what was previously called unclean. Coming out of the dream he heard messengers at the door, people asking him to come to the house of Cornelius the gentile!

Peter went, taking some Christian helpers with him. On arrival Cornelius explained his desire to hear about God. Peter wasted no time in telling Cornelius (and his gathered guests) about Jesus. This was a new experience for Peter - to actually go in a gentile home was not a done thing.

Yet even as Peter preached the Spirit continued to take over - enabling praise with the gift of tongues in Cornelius and the others. Peter realised that God was up to something, bringing salvation even to gentiles. Normal water baptism seemed like a mere formality in the face of what the Spirit had orchestrated.

From this Peter and the early church had to re-write their understanding of God and His ways - that all might be saved regardless of race or background. This was a major shake-up, perhaps why the Spirit had brought visions, dreams, organised timely coincidences and then taken over the preaching!

It raises questions for us. Could it be that our own understanding is still too narrow? Do we think we have it sussed out, yet in reality we need to yield to the Spirit's control rather than our meagre thinking? Hence the key question & challenge:

[OUT] Is there any area where the Lord would want to shake up our views?
Challenge: Be open to God doing completely new things

If we are not open then surely we risk limiting God and hindering His mission? God does not require us to be perfect up front, but does need us to be open to journey, to be teachable ... for there may be whole new vista waiting which requires a re-writing of past stuff! Let us be a people who in seeking to be every closer to Jesus, are prepared to let Him surprise us. For Kingdom Life may come across the city in unexpected places and people!

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