Summary: When Peter was sent to the home of Cornelius, God was trying to change Peter's and the churches perspectives toward Gentiles. Peter had some prejudices against Gentiles that needed to change. Perhaps we also have biases and prejudices that God wants to change.
A. One day a preacher went to his monthly meeting with the elders and presented an idea that he believed he had received from God.
1. After giving his most impassioned plea and really “selling” the idea to the elders, they voted down the preacher’s proposed changes 12-1.
2. The elder leading the meeting said to the preacher, “Sorry, but it looks like the only vote you received for your proposal was the vote you cast for it.”
3. The elder continued, “Well, that’s all we had on the agenda tonight.” So he asked the preacher to lead a prayer to close the meeting.
4. The preacher, not wanting to give up on an idea that he felt God had given him, lifted up his hands to heaven and prayed with all his heart, “Looorrrddd, I know my brothers here do not have the same vision that you have given me. Please help them see that this is not my vision, but that it is your vision. Please give us a sign. In Jesus name, AMEN!”
5. Immediately, a lightning bolt with a loud clap of thunder burst in through the window in the meeting room, striking the table, splitting it in two and knocking all the elders to the floor. As the dust cleared, the preacher looked at the elders and said, “So, what do you think now about my proposal now?”
6. The lead elder, dusting himself off, sighed and said, “Well, I guess that’s 12 votes to 2, still not enough to pass your proposal.”
B. Change is really hard on all of us, even when it is obvious that God is the one instituting the change.
1. Old traditions and old habits are hard to break.
2. And old mindsets, biases, and prejudices are even harder to change.
C. Today, as we turn our attention to the life of Peter, we come to one of the most challenging situations he had to face in his life and ministry.
1. As we will see, God was orchestrating an amazing turn of events that was intended to signal that it was time for a big change.
2. It was a change that Paul described as a mystery kept hidden for generations but was now revealed to the saints (Colossians 1:26).
3. In Ephesians 3:6, Paul revealed what that hidden mystery was: This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.
4. When God desired to expand the horizon of the church, God first had to expand the personal horizon of Peter, one of the church’s strongest and most important leaders.
5. As we examine Peter’s experience and what God was doing in him and through him, I want us to wrestle with a personal question: How does God want to expand my horizon?
6. Are there any old traditions and habits, any old mindsets, biases and prejudices that God wants to help me give up and move beyond?
I. The Story
A. The experiences in Peter’s life that we want to explore today are found in Acts chapters 10 and 11.
1. We won’t be able to read those chapters, but I will tell the story like a play in several scenes.
B. We might title scene one: Cornelius Has a Strange Vision (10:1-8)
1. The story begins with a man named Cornelius – he is a gentile, a Roman, and an army officer.
2. He was a “devout man…a god-fearing man…an alms giving man…and a praying man.”(vs 2)
a. He makes a pretty good example for us to follow, wouldn’t you say?
3. Nevertheless, at this point Cornelius was an outsider; not a member of the church; not a disciple of Jesus .
4. But he was an outsider who was willing to be instructed and guided.
5. This is where God takes over and leads this willing follower to Himself.
6. We are going to see that in this drama both Cornelius and Peter must be obedient to God, and both of them are being directed at every turn in the plot by someone greater than they.
7. In the vision given to Cornelius, an angel told Cornelius to send for a man named Peter who was staying with Simon the tanner in Joppa.
8. When the vision was completed, Cornelius did exactly what he had been told to do.
C. A good title for scene two is: Peter Also Has a Strange Vision (10:9-16)
1. About noon the day after Cornelius had his dream, Peter was praying on the flat roof of Simon the tanner’s home.
2. As Peter prayed he became hungry and wanted something to eat (have you ever noticed that the second you want to get spiritual and draw near to God there is always something earthly that tries to distract you?)