Summary: I preach expository messages, and this is the nineteenth in my series on the Book of Acts.
“God’s Grand Opening”
September 16, 2007
It came to be known as “Black Sunday”. Following a 15-day heat wave, the thermometer on that July day registered 110 degrees. The asphalt, laid only the night before, was still steaming, and thus the ladies who came attired in high heels found their shoes literally stuck to the pavement. Added to this misery was the fact that local plumbers had been on strike, and thus most of the water fountains weren’t working.
Black Sunday, you see, was a Grand Opening that wasn’t all that “grand” after all. Yes, there were dignitaries, like Ronald Reagan, who would one day be president, as well as Art Linkletter, Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lewis, Sammy Davis Jr., and Debbie Reynolds. But there were also traffic jams galore; the food ran low due in part to the fact that many counterfeit tickets were used, running the opening-day crowd well over 28,000. A gas leak gave folks a scare, and a falling chunk of glass crashed down on the head of a state senator. Off to such an inauspicious start, this enterprise, launched with a gala Grand Opening on July 17, 1955, would seem to be doomed to failure. And yet, somehow this place managed to attract 50 million-plus guests within its first ten years, because despite its rocky start, some folks called it a “magical” place, and despite the fact that Peter Pan’s Flight kept breaking down that fateful day, somehow, Disneyland has managed to make a go of things!
Grand Openings aren’t always that grand, to be sure, but they are special, and today’s Grand Opening here at Red Oak is a special day that we’ll long remember; thanks for being a part of it. The Bible speaks of what may be seen as a “Grand Opening” of sorts in the 10th chapter of Acts; the text is on the screen, or you can read along in your Bible.
Peter, one of Jesus’ twelve apprentices and the leader of the first church in Jerusalem, is in the living room of a man named Cornelius, a military captain who had issued an invitation to him to come and tell them God’s good news. God had given Cornelius a vision that led him to issue that invite; one big problem, though: Cornelius was not a Jew—and Peter was. Jews thought that the fact that they were God’s chosen people had made them God’s only people, that only Jews could have first-level access to God. Non-Jews could come in, but only after submitting to certain rituals, even painful ones, and even then, they’d be second-class citizens, not really accepted by the pious Jews at all. But then, God gave Peter an object lesson to convince him otherwise.
I. The Good News: God is Open to Everyone! :34-35
We might call this “God’s Grand Opening” of the gospel to every person in the world. We can almost picture the big bright light bulb above Peter’s head; “I get it! God doesn’t play favorites after all!” In a sentence, Peter sweeps away centuries of racial and ethnic prejudice. This may not be revolutionary to us, but it was tremendously so for pious Jews of that day. It shouldn’t have been; the prophets of God who had spoken to the Jewish people had made it clear that it was God’s grace, and not the fact that the Jews were more deserving, that had motivated God to choose them as His covenant people. Further, in the address God gave to Abraham at the very inception of the Hebrew people, He said that it would be through the Jews that everyone on earth would be blessed. And yet the Jews had so prided themselves in their connection to God that they’d dismissed non-Jews as being beyond the possibility of God’s favor.
Here was a man named Cornelius, whom the Bible describes as a man who genuinely feared God, a man who prayed, a man who gave to the poor, a man who sincerely wanted to know God. He was a seeker of truth.
Why do you think some people really seek to find the truth, and other people seem not to care as much? What keeps people from being seekers of truth?
Cornelius was a seeker of truth, but he didn’t know God in a personal way. There are lots of people in that same boat:
• “Religious”, upstanding citizens, the “salt of the earth”, if you will.
• Believe that God exists (vast majority of Americans profess this)
• Have a healthy respect for God
• Pray, and do “religious things”
• Do good deeds to help people
Cornelius did these things—but they were not enough. Romans 10: How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?