Rev’d Bruce Thompson
- Have you ever seen the Hand of God at work in your life? Most of us can say absolutely yes. And I hope that’s true for you too
- God wants us to see His Hand at work in our world, and here in the Word of God we can some of the reasons why.
God works to educate and show us what matters.
God definitely wants to enlighten us about what matters. We can see how important this is when Peter returned to Jerusalem. Listen again to vs. 1-3:
1Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. WOW this was the subject of the gossip among those Jews who had become Christians. They believed that they were an exclusive group of people……….ad lib…
2And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, That so called exclusive group confronted him,
3saying, “You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!”
Horror of horrors Peter had eaten with people who were not in the exclusive group. These people believed they had exclusive rights to salvation through Jesus Christ and this was their main priority but….Sometimes God’s people get their priorities out of balance. The Christians in Jerusalem heard that some of the Gentiles had embraced Christianity. That is great news! Nothing in this world is more important to God than that, and we know this because God paid the highest possible price for our salvation.
So when Peter got back to Jerusalem, The Christians there should have been shouting out, “Praise the Lord!”? But No…….. It was, “Peter, what’s the matter with you!?! We can’t believe you went into a Gentile’s house and even ate with him. That’s disgusting!” It is hard to imagine the intensity of the indignation that the Jews felt for the Gentiles in the first century. Most Jewish people thought that Peter had betrayed their trust. They accused him of doing something that was unlawful. Peter obeyed the will of God but then experienced hostility like he had never known before.
Those Who Do Things God’s Way Can Expect Criticism
When you are doing what God has put in your heart to do, you can expect some opposition – even from other believers you know and trust. This is especially true when you do not follow what we can call “The party line”. God leads you to do something that goes against the accepted social, cultural or religious standards, as He told Peter to do.
I want us to notice how Peter responds (4). This isn’t the same man we knew from the gospels accounts… The man who three times denied that he even knew Jesus. The man who acted impulsively and cut off the ear of the high priests servant. Peter has now learned the lesson of thinking before opening his mouth – what we often refer to as ‘starting your brain before putting your mouth into gear’ – he’s learned the principle from Proverbs 15:1…
A gentle answer turns away wrath,
But a harsh word stirs up anger.
I personally admire how mature Peter had become in handling this exasperating situation. He could slam them of insensitivity! He can accuse them of impartiality or even hypocrisy! But instead of creating another enemy, he attacks the real issue of the day, the issue of ignorance to God’s new movement. He patiently explains to them the facts to battle conservatism. With his wise response, Peter taught us how to approach and to handle opposition and criticism.
Earlier in chapter 11, when Peter went into the house of Cornelius, a Roman (Gentile), God knew that when Cornelius became a Christian there was going to be contention in the church at Jerusalem. So (as Peter was about to tell these mixed-up believers) God showed His Hand at work in a powerful way. God sent the angel to Cornelius, and He sent the vision to Peter, knowing that these signs would help persuade the contentious believers that God did offer salvation to everyone even to the gentiles. God’s people had their priorities out of balance, and sometimes we do the same thing.
It’s easy to see why. We live in a world that is upside down. When we hear of sports men and to a lesser degree sports women being paid millions of dollars to play their chosen sport. When I lived in Canada in 1980 it was all over the local newspaper in London Ontario where we lived that a 17 year old high school student from Catholic Central High school in London had been offered a contract with the Edmonton Oilers Hockey team for 3 million dollars a year to play just 16 games a season. Many said good on him but a lot of people believed that he had sold himself to become just a commodity where he could be bought and sold just like a slave. We live in a world that is upside down.
We live in an upside down world, and often we Christians get our priorities out of balance. So God reminds us of what is important. God calls us back to the main things:
- Worshiping & witnessing.
- Holiness and helping others.
- Love for God and love for our neighbours
We have read Peters story in verses 4 through to 12.
God acted in amazing ways here to build up Peter’s faith. For some reason in vs. 12, Peter left out the last part of the sentence when he gave his report. But if we look back, we see that the Holy Spirit actually said to the three men from Caesarea who had arrived at the house that they were staying in “Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; FOR I HAVE SENT THEM.” God wanted Peter to know that he could trust His leadership…and the Lord wants us to trust Him too…in unusual situations, in difficult situations, in unexpected situations. God wants us to know that we can rely on him – when you find yourself in a place of contention, remain steadfast, trusting, and wise in your Spirit. The key is remembering to pick your battles carefully so you can respond with a God directed perception of your responsibilities. Peter learned how to state the facts in love, humility and with the Spirit’s power. The gospel of Luke records “They held their peace.
After stating the facts, Peter closed his narrative by mentioning the Word of God wherein he stood firm. He proved to them that he is standing in solid ground. That what is happening is not fiction or some products of imagination. That it is actually fulfilment of what is written on the Word of God. The people were struck on their hearts. The Holy Spirit enlightens their minds that their criticism turns to praise and thanksgiving. Peter won the spiritual battle and he silenced the enemy of conservatism and criticism.
What a change had come over Peter! He who would have never gone into a Gentile’s house, now says, “Who was I that I could withstand God?” And the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem, who didn’t have a clue about what really matters to God, now glorify God, saying, “God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.”
These Jewish believers were willing to lay aside centuries of prejudice against the Gentiles and accept that God’s plan included them. Now, we know in one sense that it wasn’t quite that simple. We will see that many Jews who had received Jesus as their Messiah still struggled with accepting Gentiles into the family of God. Nevertheless, those we read about in our text praised God when they began to understand that God was offering forgiveness to Gentiles as well as Jews.
Today, perhaps you sense that you need to start doing things God’s way. Maybe you used to do things His way, but something distracted you or totally stopped you. Maybe you’ve never done things God’s way- only your way. God wants to help you find the right way. He will forgive your failure and help you start over. You can overcome anything with God’s help.
As a Navy Chaplain I feel I must say something about the significance of tomorrow ANZAC Day when folks the length and breadth of our country and Australia will gather at war memorials to remember those who made the supreme sacrifice for our security. For many, ANZAC relates only to the first and second world wars, but our forces have been engaged in actions in Korea, Malaysia, Vietnam, Timor, and Afghanistan as well as numerous peace keeping operations over the years.
People often say to me, ‘Why does God allow wars?’ My answer to them is that God gave humankind a free will and if nations decide to abandon God’s principals and his way of life, that’s when wars result. Our Lord Jesus said that there would always be wars and rumours of wars until the end of time, but as responsible people we always pray for peace in our time. On the walls of this church are memorial plaques dedicated to men of this parish who gave their lives in time of war. I am going to ask that we pray silently, asking God for peace in our time and giving thanks for those who paid the supreme price. Let us pray silently.