Summary: Simon Peter’s experience with Cornelius gives us four lessons about dealing with change.
DEALING WITH CHANGE
INTRO: Heraclitus said no one could step in the same river twice. So it was and so it is. The rivers keep moving and the world keeps changing. If Alvin Toffler was right in his book Future Shock, the only difference in our day from that of the past may be a more rapid rate of change.
Simon Peter’s experience with Cornelius gives us four lessons about dealing with change.
I. GOD OFTEN INITIATES CHANGE OUTSIDE THE CHURCH (10:1-8).
The story does not start with Peter but with Cornelius, who was not a member of the church. As a God-fearer, he attended the synagogue and was sympathetic with Christians. In the middle of the afternoon, this Roman officer was visited by an angel who told him to send men to Joppa to bring Simon Peter.
ILLUS: After hearing of a solo-around-the-world journey in a sailboat, a group began to discuss the navigation problems involved. Someone said that ancient sailors used stars to steer by, but the helmsman had to keep changing stars all night because the heavens appear to move at night, to rotate. If a sailor bore toward the same star, he would simply steer his ship in circles, and would never arrive at his destination.
Getting somewhere requires change. It requires growth. As we look around our community, what changes are crying out for us to make in order to reach our community?
II. ALL OF US RESIST CHANGE (10:9-16).
Simon Peter was on the housetop of Simon the tanner when the Lord commanded him about eating all kinds of animals. Although a voice told him three times to eat, Peter refused. Notice that Peter never did eat! (10:13-16)
ILLUS: A railroader told a story about a young engineer making his first run. After noticing the old engineer’s routine, the young man asked, “Why do you tap the wheels before leaving?” The veteran replied: “I don’t know. The engineer who taught me tapped the wheels and I never thought to ask.” But some do ask! And sometimes we are resistive to change.
III. PROPOSED CHANGE SHOULD BE VERIFIED IN SEVERAL WAYS (10:17-48).
Peter was inwardly perplexed at first, but events were unfolding that would help him understand this change was from God. Almost immediately after his vision, Cornelius’ men arrived from Caesarea and asked Peter to go with them. The next day they went to Caesarea to see Cornelius.
Cornelius related how God had spoken to him. Simon Peter opened his mouth with insight, “Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality” (10:34). When Peter stopped speaking, the Holy Spirit fell on the gentiles (10:45).
Not all of our ideas about change come from God. But change from God can be verified. In this story from Acts 10 there was: 1. A vision; 2. God sent his messenger; 3. The Holy Spirit fell on everyone.
IV. GOD’S PEOPLE MUST BE OPEN TO CHANGE (11:1-18).
The Judeans did not enthusiastically greet the outpouring of the Spirit on all people. Peter told the story of how God had showed him the need for change. Since the change was from God, how could he oppose God (v. 17). The people were silenced (v. 18).
Some people think that change is wrong. That those who want to change are only fanatics or radicals. But, people of God who bring change are to be sensitive people. They must sense what God wants to do in their world today.