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Closing the Space Between Us (Part 3)

December 13, 2020 Speaker: Damian Mericka Series: Kingdom Vision 2020

Topic: Closing the Space Between Us (Part 3)

  Sermon Title: “Closing the Space Between Us (Part 3)”

Sermon Series: Acts: Kingdom Vision 20/20

Text: Acts 11:1-18   

Speaker: Pastor Damian Mericka

  1. Introduction: The in Crowd (Acts 11:1-3)

While the conversion of Cornelius, a Gentile, was an incredibly significant moment in history Peter must have had an idea of the questions that would be waiting for him back in Jerusalem.  Remember, after the removal and subsequent death of Pontius Pilate the region of Jerusalem was not as threatening as it had been during the time of Stephen.  It had become safer to name the Name of Jesus – at least for now.

As the Gospel would continue to flood the streets of Jerusalem (declaration and demonstration) more sects within the Jewish community were coming into the Faith.  However, as is the nature of Humanity, even the predominately Jewish populated church would succumb to sects.

Word spread fast as Peter stayed a few days with these new believers.  As he returned to Jerusalem, a particular sect of Jewish believers met him with great criticism.  While the generosity of God can be understood, equality alongside themselves with God cannot.  The idea behind the Greek for criticism here is that they withheld fellowship and community from Peter, discriminating against him with hostility.

This sect may have been former Pharisee’s and felt that the understood ways for Gentiles to be grafted in was to be the present way.  In a sense, to become a Jewish Christian you must first become a part of Judaism.  Up front, they are not enemies to the work of Christ; they had an idea of what this was going to look like and had yet to understand God has something else in mind. See -> Proverbs 16:1-9   

Remember: This is a transitional period.  Hence Luke retelling this story three times!  Peter is also going to display incredible patience, yet consistency with his insistence on what God is doing! See -> Ephesians 4:1-7

Going Deeper: 1) Why did word spread so quickly about Peter and the Gentiles?  What did the Jewish Believers’ criticism look like for Peter? Where they the bad guys for feeling like this? How did Peter respond? How do you respond when facing resistance for something you did others do not understand?

 

  1. The Kingdom of God: One Playground (Acts 1:1-8)

Jesus had spent 40 days with His Disciples, speaking about the Kingdom of God.  Israel has been God’s kids longer than any other nation.  They were used to be an only child in a sense.  It was all about them and God.  Their security was in this identity- they were God’s people.

While they were longing for their ancestral heritage, there was much work to be done.  Their eyes were on yesterday; Jesus was looking toward tomorrow.  In verse 8 Jesus tells them His Spirit will pour out on them and they will be a part of God’s Kingdom coming- and growing!

See -> Isaiah 32:14-17 It is not business as usual; God’s Spirit will change everything!

See -> Isaiah 49:1-7 Jesus is more than a Jewish Messiah- He is Humanity’s Messiah!

Going Deeper: 2) How would Israel feel like they are “God’s kids” compared to other nations? Where were the Disciples looking in Acts 1:8?  Where was Jesus looking? What do the two passages from Isaiah tell us about the Spirit and Jesus?

 

III. The Patient Leading of God: Play Nice (Acts 11:4-16)

Peter recounts faithfully what had taken place.

  1. Between God and Peter
    1. I was praying! Peter affirms his regular rhythms of prayer.
    2. Then I was in a trance. He was suddenly in a state different than normal.
    3. I saw a vision. (The Lord provides the Vision)
    4. What I saw.
      1. A great sheet descending, held by its four corners, coming down to his level.
      2. Looking closely Peter sees animals- both clean and unclean. (See -> Leviticus 11:24-25)
    5. What I heard
      1. Voice: Rise, kill, and eat.
      2. Peter: Protest- not so Lord; unclean!
  • Voice: What God has made clean, do not call unclean.
  1. This happened three times; sheet was drawn back up into heaven.
  2. Three men arrive asking me to come with them; the Spirit said go making no distinction. (The Spirit provides the Interpretation)
  3. I, along with six other Jewish brothers, go with these men.
  1. Between God and Cornelius
    1. Cornelius had been commanded by the angel of the Lord to send for Peter who will show how he and his household can be saved.
    2. As Peter was sharing the Gospel, the Holy Spirit fell on them, just as He had done at Pentecost.
  • Between God, Israel, and Gentiles
    1. Peter recalls Jesus’ Words regarding this baptism as the sign of inclusion.
      1. See -> John 14:25-29

Through Peter’s gentle recital of the events that took place, he displayed the patient leading of Christ to that of His Bride. See -> 1 Thessalonians 5:12-24

Going Deeper: 3) How do we see Peter’s patience with those bringing criticism upon him? Does God do something that would contradict His Word? Why would narrating this point by point be helpful? What is the sign of being including in God’s Kingdom / family- circumcision or baptism?  Was Peter giving into the pressure of this sect and keeping the Gentiles at a distance, or was he choosing to stand with them?

 

  1. One Kingdom Living is demonstrated by Jesus (Acts 11:16-18)

As Cornelius and his family with close friends hear the full Gospel message, all loose ends pulled together into the Person and Work of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit falls upon them!  Peter hadn’t even gotten to the invitation yet!

This outpouring came from God directly as it had the Believers in the Upper Room- even the believing Jews who accompanied Peter were amazed.  God exceeded their expectation on what He would do in their lives -> may He do this for all we are interceding in prayer over!

Seven Jewish Believers stand before this sect of Jewish Believers in Jerusalem (Peter and the other six) to bear witness that this was all God’s doing.

Who are they to stand in God’s Way?

Peter’s vision and this event agreed with Scripture.  God will not bring vision, lead, or do contrary to His Word.  Truth does not change, although our understanding of it may!

Verse 18 is such a beautiful testament to the reality of the Love of Jesus that unites us.

See -> John 14:33-35.

God does not only tell us to play nice with each other; He shows us how through Jesus and empowers us with His Spirit!

See -> I John 4:10-14.

God’s love filling believers is to overflow out into the world of unbelievers.  How we view others, withing and without of Christ, is important to God.  He wants us to love as He loves us.  He wants us to be like Him. (Note: Isaiah 49:15)

Show the world how wonderful it is to be a child of God through His Son, Jesus!

God has closed the space between us and Him, and each other, forever in Jesus.

Going Deeper: 4) How many Jewish people witnessed the Gentile conversion and Baptism of the Spirit?  Did any of these events- the vision, Peter’s interpretation, or the outpouring of the Spirit contradict God’s Word in any way?  Does God care about how we look at each other- believers and unbelievers? What is it that unites us? Pastor used the illustration of a playground. Do you remember recess as a child? What group did you hang with?  Did you ever feel you were not a part of the ‘in crowd’? How did that affect you and your treatment of others?  Does your heart look in love to share Jesus with unbelievers, and celebrate Jesus with believers?

More in Kingdom Vision 2020

December 6, 2020

Closing the Space Between Us (Part 2)

November 29, 2020

Closing the Space Between Us (Part 1)

November 22, 2020

All People Matter to God