Summary: Preached on Memorial Day but can be easily altered for any time. Our prayers and service are the memorial that we offer to God.
Your Memorial Before God
By Pastor Jim May
The Book of Acts contains a story that I would like to bring to you this morning. It’s all about a memorial that God has for all of us who serve him. Since this is Memorial Day weekend I thought it would be good to think about what God considers to be the best memorial that you could create in your life.
Acts 10:1, "There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band,"
The first thing that we need to see here is that this is a most unusual character. In fact, this man, Cornelius, is somewhat of an oddity, especially in the day in which he lived. He was a Roman soldier, and not just common soldier, but a Centurion. He was a man of rank among the enemies of the Jews and was a symbol of the power of Caesar that held Israel as a conquered people. He was despised by most of the Jews and feared by the men of his own band. He was an Italian, and all 100 of his soldiers were very likely lonely for family and home back in Rome. This was a foreign land to them and an unfriendly place. And yet, for all of these things that were against him, there was something very special about this Roman Centurion.
Acts 10:2, "A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway."
What is this? A Roman soldier who served the Lord Jesus Christ? I wonder if he served God in secret? The Romans had many gods that they worshipped, and this Centurion had renounced all of his Roman gods and confessed his belief in the God of Israel. This could easily have been seen as an act of treason against Rome. But somehow I don’t see Cornelius as a man who was afraid of a fight. He wasn’t worried about his position. He put it all on the line to serve God. He was known for his generosity and as he walked the streets of Jerusalem he would drop a few Roman Coins into the hands of the beggars on the street. He was a man of prayer and there is no doubt that he had many things to pray about. He had a stressful job in a dangerous place. He lived life on the edge of disaster all the time. As a commander in the Roman Army he knew that each day brought new dangers and new temptations to exercise his authority, and yet he was able to be a Christian in spite of it all.
Acts 10:3-6, "He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do."
At 3 o’clock in the afternoon, we find Cornelius in an attitude of prayer and meditation before God. In fact, he was so caught up in the Holy Spirit that he had a vision of an angel coming to him. What are you usually doing at about 3 o’clock in the afternoon? Most of us are just looking forward to another hour or so, so we can get off of work and go home. Rarely do I hear of anyone whose prayer time is in the middle of the afternoon. Could it be that a Roman Centurion made time for God when we can’t seem to? How important is it for you go get alone with God?
Another thing that strikes me is that Cornelius had a close relationship with God. He knew the voice of the Lord. Even so, Cornelius was fearful at the awesome power and holiness of God. He respected the Lord and this man who had looked death in the face on the field of battle so many times was reduced to a fearful servant at the presence of God.
I see people in the church who claim to love God. They claim to serve Him, but wonder if they even know him? I wonder if they have ever had a close relationship with Jesus Christ? Why do I say that? It’s because I see no fear of him at all. We walk into the House of God like we are walking into a party instead of a worship service. Where is our awe of God? Where is our fear of his power and respect for his glory and holiness? I’ve seen Christians say things about God that to me are almost blasphemous. We shouldn’t use his name in vain and yet so many times God is referred to as just another pal and not as God Almighty. When we don’t have respect for God, how can we expect others to desire to know him?