Summary: Every believer is a living telegram [text message]of God’s love and acceptance.
Intro: Have you ever been part of a group where you had a sense that your acceptance was tentative at best? In some ways, my memories of Jr. high and high school are like that. I was accepted because I was considered a good athlete, a nice guy, one of the cool kids. However, as my faith grew and I dared to take a stand for what was right, my acceptance became less certain. I can only remember one time that I was called a Bible Thumper, and I thought about thumping the kid who said it. But I sensed that it might not be the best way to handle things.
-God wants people to know that He loves them and accepts them just the way they are. They don’t have to do anything to earn His love anymore than a newborn baby has to do anything to earn his or her parents’ love. God loves people because He made them in His image and He wants to show people how great His love really is. That leads us to the main point of the message today:
Prop: Every believer is a living telegram of God’s love and acceptance. [We are living text messages sent from God to people who need to know they are accepted.]
Interrogative: How does God use our lives to accomplish this?
TS: There are a number of ways, but I’d like to make 4 observations that will help us understand how God meets the deepest needs of a person’s life.
I. Even Good People Need Jesus (2)
A. Cornelius was devout and God-fearing- He was reverent. He was righteous. He had embraced the Jewish religion, with the exception of being circumcised. He worshipped the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He respected and honored God by living a holy life and doing what was morally right. What a profound difference it would make in our world if people were more careful to do right because they had a healthy respect and reverence for God. But is it enough to do good?
B. Cornelius was generous- He gave generously to those in need. Wow! No strings attached benevolence. He did not require repayment with or without interest. No, he likely considered his gifts as offerings to God. He cared about helping people who were in need. Proverbs 19:17 says, “Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the LORD, and he will repay him for his deed.” What a kind, loving man Cornelius must have been! But is it enough to be kind and generous? Is it enough to be a nice guy?
C. Cornelius was a man of prayer- He prayed to God regularly. Twice a day (9AM & 3PM), devout Jews prayed publicly to God. These times coincided with the morning and evening sacrifices that were given to God. In addition, they prayed in private at least 3 times a day: morning, noon, and night. That is why we find the God-fearing Gentile, Cornelius, praying at 3:00 in the afternoon, and Peter the Jew praying at noontime. Cornelius called out to the God who hears from heaven and rewards those who diligently seek Him.
-To sum it up, Cornelius was a really good man. However, he did not yet know Jesus. One would think that praying, giving, and being good would be enough. Why didn’t God just say, “Son, Cornelius really loves Me and is doing a lot of good on earth. What do you say we go ahead and let him into heaven, even though He doesn’t believe that You were the Messiah who died to pay for his sins?”
-Why did God go to the trouble of sending an angel to speak to Cornelius about sending for Peter? Why did the Lord bother Peter with the vision of eating gross, unclean animals and tell him to go see Cornelius?
-The answer is this: Even good people need Jesus! Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
-Cornelius had been seeking the Father, obeying the Father, talking to the Father, but he would never be able to go to the Father except through Jesus. Every living person on this planet needs Jesus. It does not matter how intelligent they are, how kind they are, or how moral they are. Nobody gets into heaven without putting their faith in the Son of God who died in their place and rose again. That is why God went to great lengths to get the message of Jesus Christ to Cornelius. However, it wasn’t all that easy for Peter to understand what was going on.
-TS: That brings us to the 2nd point.
II. Even Godly Leaders Need to Adjust their Thinking