Summary: God changed the way two people thought in our text. So he changes us today.
Acts 10:34-38: HE WILL CHANGE THE WAY YOU THINK.
Have you ever believed something, only to find out that it wasn’t true? That has happened to me more than once. When I lived in Milwaukee, I would listen to different people on the radio. Every summer, at a huge music festival called Summerfest, these radio personalities would do their shows live from the festival. It was always interesting to me to go there and see what the radio people looked like. And almost always, I was surprised. Based on what I had heard on the radio, I thought they would look a certain way. But in real life, they looked totally different –some of them were tall, even though they sounded short on the radio! Some of them were fat, even though I had pictured them as thin. Some of them were bald, but the way they talked- they sounded like they had hair!
Have you ever believed something, pictured something one way, only to find out that it was completely different? I think that’s how it is, quite often, when people start to learn more about God. “I always thought God was this way. I always pictured him this way.” But then, after spending some time in the Bible, reading God’s Word, you find out these he’s different, not the way you had pictured him. Is it possible, that you have always believed something about God, even though it’s not really true?
That happened to a couple people in our Scripture lesson for today – a member of the Roman army, and the Apostle Peter. Both of them had pictured God one way, only to find out that he was very different from how they had pictured him in their minds. As we focus on God’s Word for today, you also might be surprised at. You might find out some things about God today that you had never known before, things that contradict the way you had always thought. God will change the way you think, as you study his Word – that always happens, and it’s always for the better. May God bless you these next few moments as we take some time to focus on the lives of two people you will someday see in heaven.
The first person we meet is a man named Cornelius. Cornelius was a centurion in the Italian regiment of the Roman army. These centurions were in change of 100 men, and they were always men of very noble character. The Bible describes Cornelius and his family as God-fearing and devout. He was always donating money to the poor, and he prayed to God regularly. Cornelius was a great guy, but something was wrong – he wasn’t going to heaven. Why? He seemed good. He followed the religion of the Jews. He prayed, he donated to the poor, he tried to live a good, clean life. In his mind, that’s what God wanted – that’s the way to heaven.
But something was wrong. Something was missing in his heart, something big, and so God sent an angel to Cornelius, and told Cornelius to find the Apostle Peter. And so he does – Peter comes to his house, and shares with Cornelius the true way of salvation. Something was missing in the heart of Cornelius, and that something was more important than all the good works in the world. And without that something, no matter how hard he tried, Cornelius wouldn’t be going to heaven. That something was faith in Jesus Christ. Cornelius had heard of Jesus before, how he died. He knew that people were saying good things about him. But he didn’t understand that Jesus was his Savior. Here, in our text, the Apostle Peter puts it all together: “You know the message God sent to the people of Israel, telling the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all.” If you’re looking for peace, Cornelius – it comes through Jesus Christ, and nowhere else. “You know what has happened… how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power…” That’s what our Gospel lesson talks about - at Jesus’ baptism, God the Father put his stamp of approval on Jesus, gave him a special measure of the Holy Spirit, gave him power. And he used that power – “he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him…” All those miracles that Jesus performed served one major purpose – to show people that he was the Messiah – the only real way to heaven.
Peter later goes on to describe how Jesus took away the sins of the world by dying on the cross and then rising from the dead. I’m sure this blew Cornelius away. He had always thought that being a good person, helping the poor, praying – that’s how you please God, that’s how you go to heaven. But now, Cornelius finds out something different. He finds out that no matter how good you are, you can never be good enough. He finds out that Jesus Christ, someone he had heard about before, was his Savior. He finds out that Jesus has taken all of his sins away, that God loves him and forgives him because of what Jesus had done for him. He finds out that prayer and good works are not the way to heaven, but instead, ways of thanking Jesus for saving him. God had changed the way he thought.