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Are You Sure About That God?

Acts 9:32-11:3

God does not always act as we think He should.  More often than not, He doesn't.  Not because He isn't consistent He is. Theologians refer to God's consistency as the immutability of God.  God said, "For I, the Lord, do not change." (Malachi 3:6 NASB) and the Psalmist wrote,  "Of old Thou didst found the earth;  And the heavens are the work of Thy hands. [26] Even they will perish, but Thou dost endure; And all of them will wear out like a garment;   Like clothing Thou wilt change them, and they will be changed.  [27] But Thou art the same, And Thy years will not come to an end." (Psalm 102:25-27 NASB) The writer of Hebrews said something similar when he wrote,  "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever." (Hebrews 13:8 KJV) 

 Today the error of Open Theology spuriously teaches that God evolves.  He does not.  He is the eternal constant in a constantly changing world. When God spoke to Moses He identified Himself as "I AM WHO I AM." (Exodus 3:14 NASB) Enough said. 

 Yet even though God never changes, there are times that He is a complete mystery to us times when we cannot anticipate what He will do and we are completely surprised by something He says.  Take our text today.  Immediately after the conversion of Saul, some things happened that were a bit out of the ordinary.

 This portion of the text begins with an unusual miracle.  Tabitha, a good woman who was constantly doing good deeds died.  The church reacted by ministering to the family's immediate needs.  They cleaned her up and sent for their pastor, Simon Peter to come.  Peter immediately went to her house.  The other widows greeted him, openly wept over their loss and showed Peter the clothes that Tabitha had made for them while she was still alive.  Peter asked them to leave the room, and when he was alone with the body he knelt and prayed.  He looked toward the corpse and said, "Tabitha, get up!"  (vs. 40) And she did.  As news spread throughout Joppa of the miracle, a strange thing happened.  Peter stayed in Joppa with Simon, a leather tanner (vs 43).  Strange because according to Leviticus 11:35-40 Simon was "unclean." 

 As a tanner, Simon was constantly touching carcasses and was unclean, yet Peter stayed with him.  It was in that environment that God would speak to Peter and cause him to ask, "Are you sure about that God?"

 Peter went up to the rooftop to pray.  It was around noon, so his prayers were fighting for his attention with his hunger and his hunger won.  During the preparation of the food he slipped into a dream-like state and God began to speak to him.

 Meanwhile, Cornelius, a God-fearing gentile had sent some of his servants to get Simon Peter.  An angel of the Lord had appeared to Cornelius and said, "'Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God. [5] And now dispatch some men to Joppa, and send for a man named Simon, who is also called Peter; [6] he is staying with a certain tanner named Simon, whose house is by the sea.'" Acts 10:4-6 (NASB) 

 While the servants traveled, Peter dreamed.  Acts 10:11-16 says, "He saw the sky open, and something like a large sheet was let down by its four corners. [12] In the sheet were all sorts of animals, reptiles, and birds. [13] Then a voice said to him, 'Get up, Peter; kill and eat them.' [14] 'Never, Lord,' Peter declared. 'I have never in all my life eaten anything forbidden by our Jewish laws.' [15] The voice spoke again, 'If God says something is acceptable, don't say it isn't.' [16] The same vision was repeated three times. Then the sheet was pulled up again to heaven." (NLT) 

 Verse 14 has two words together that should never be together, "never" and "Lord."  A strong reaction from Peter.  It reminds me of another time Peter said "no" to God.  In Matthew 26:34  Jesus said to him, "Truly I say to you that this very night, before a cock crows, you shall deny Me three times." (NASB) Do you remember Peter's response?  "Peter said to Him, 'Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.'" (Matthew 26:35 NASB) Peter said no, I won't deny you, but just as Jesus said he would, he did.  I don't think Peter was arguing with Jesus in the dream like he did before, I think his resistance came from an inner conflict between the religion he was raised with and the relationship that was transforming his life.  It was Peter asking, "Are you sure about that God?  Are you sure that you want me to violate what I was taught, so I can do what you say?"

 There comes a point in all of our lives when we must own our faith.  It isn't that we necessarily reject the faith of our parents or arbitrarily cast off the teachings of our church it is that we all come to a point where we are old enough to make up our own minds about what we believe.  This was that sort of moment for Peter.  God never intended for the Jewish people to form an exclusive group one that kept people from coming to Him.  His plan from the beginning was for salvation to come to the world through His chosen people.  But somewhere along the way they got sidetracked and became a stumbling block to the world.  Peter asked, "Are you sure about that God?" and God said yes.

 With the vision fresh on his mind, Peter responded to a knock on the door from Cornelius' servants.  Verse 20 says, "But arise, go downstairs, and accompany them without misgivings; for I have sent them Myself." (NASB) Peter made the journey and two conversions took place.  Cornelius became a Christian and Peter came to understand that the gospel is for all the people, not just for people like him.  He said, "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, [35] but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right, is welcome to Him." (Acts 10:34-35 NASB) 

 A point Paul made with clarity in Ephesians 3:6 when he wrote, "And this is the secret plan: The Gentiles have an equal share with the Jews in all the riches inherited by God's children. Both groups have believed the Good News, and both are part of the same body and enjoy together the promise of blessings through Christ Jesus." (NLT) And in Col. 1:27 when he wrote, "to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (NASB) 

 In his book, An Unstoppable Force, Erwin McManus writes, "Jesus came and destroyed the dividing wall that not only separated man from God but also Jew from Gentile.  God is about destroying walls that divide.  The church will gain traction in the multicultural environment when she begins to dismantle the walls created not by the hands of God but by our own hands.  Sometimes this will require nothing less than confession of the sin of racism and prejudice and the kind of repentance that leads to change.  It isn't enough to go to church with a diverse world; God calls us to embrace those who are different as brothers and sisters." (An Unstoppable Force, p. 54)

 Today most people agree that the gospel belongs to all people and they should have equal access to it.  The problem isn't with our belief system here, but our application of our beliefs. There are two ways to apply this belief.  One is to welcome all races, cultures and backgrounds into the same church.  The other is to build separate churches for every group a separate but equal policy that smacks of segregation. 

 The cornerstone of the church growth philosophy is the homogeneous unit principle that people will more likely cluster into groups of people like them.  And so many churches take the path of least resistance and only concentrate on people like them.  Recently, I was asked about the homogenous unit principle at a Future Church Conference by a denomination worker.  "We've found it more efficient to plant church for each group," he said.  I didn't argue with his point, because I believe he is right it is more efficient.  What I said was this, "our church property is valued at $10.5 million, does the denomination have that kind of money to plant a church in our community to reach Hispanics?"  His answer, of course, was no.  And my reply was, then we'll continue to build a church that welcomes people from all backgrounds.  Not because it is easier.  Not because it creates less problems in the church.  But because it is the right thing to do. 

 Peter said, "I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, [35] but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right, is welcome to Him." (Acts 10:34-35 NASB)

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