Sermon in a nutshell: Act 10:1-16 “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

Sermon in a nutshell: Act 10:1-16 “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
God surprises us many times! As Isaiah said, ““For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts! (Isaiah 55: 8-9).
When we stick to our thoughts, therefore, we will be surprised in many occasions by what God does. Let me share a Bible story with you. At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, “Cornelius!”
Cornelius stared at him in fear. “What is it, Lord?” he asked. The angel answered, “Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.” When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa.
Isn’t it fascinating? First of all, God appeared and talked to a pagan! At that time, people thought that God would talk to only the Israelites! However, the Bible demonstrated the fact that God talks to everybody who is “devout and doing good deeds.” He gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. That is the only condition that the Bible is mentioning. No race, no gender, nothing else is referred. That is God’s standard. It was different from the standard that people had at that time!
Secondly, God sends angels to deliver God’s messages. We have to be careful, therefore, to see if we are now meeting angels or not. Hebrews 13:2 says, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” It is obvious from this passage that mentions the hospitality of Abraham in Genesis 18:1-2, angels do not always have wings and cute faces! Maybe the person sitting next to you is an angel disguised in other form!
Then you may ask, “Pastor, then how should I discern the message from God and my own thoughts and desires that keep telling me what to do?” That is a good question! If that is the message from God, we will have a confirmation from other person or from God!
First, God sends messages not only once but more than twice to confirm them. Here, let us listen what happened to Peter in the Bible:
About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.” The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.
See, it says, it happened three times! God confirms God’s message three times. This is one criterion. The next standard is the confirmation from other people! The message that Cornelius received and Peter received will meet at a certain point. We will read about this next week!
However, this week, we will focus more on “God’s standard.” Peter had narrow idea about what is clean and what is not clean. According to that standard, Cornelius was not clean because he was a pagan. What God is preparing here for Peter is the new angle about cleanness. Even the pagans who practice godly lives are clean and acceptable to God! The new standard is not “the chosen race” but “faithful actions and words!” If we expand this principle we can even say that even the chosen race, Israel, can be unclean when their words and actions do not match God’s will! That is exactly what the prophets said many times. “Son of man, when the people of Israel were living in their own land, they defiled it by their conduct and their actions.” (Ezekiel 36:17a). That was the reason why the Israelites experienced Exile!
If we apply this same principle to our current situation we can say that nominal Christians are not what God wants. Whether they are our church members or not, if their lives are godly, God cares for them. If our actions and words are not acceptable to God, our membership would not guarantee our happiness and success! So, brothers and sisters! Let us open our hearts and embrace others who are different from us! Let us focus on living out godly life than being theoretically right!
1. What is the most difficult thing for you to accept and swallow around church?
2. What is the person that you would least expect to see in heaven?

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About biblepreacher

United Methodist Church Pastor. My wife, Hysung Hong Lee, is also a UMC pastor and my Son, Hozeh, and Daughter, Hoyon, are college students.
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