- Sermon Notes
A Heart to Hear
Acts chapter 10 is about bringing the gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ, to the Gentile world. Up to this point, the church had primarily been a Jewish thing, but Jesus told the disciples to take the gospel even to the ends of the earth, and He didn’t mean for them to take the gospel only to the Jews that might happen to live at the ends of the earth.
If the gospel is to be brought to the entire world, then the attitude and perspective of the disciples will have to change. God begins with Peter.
The Jews at this point, including Peter, didn’t exactly have a favorable attitude toward the Gentiles. They considered the Gentiles unclean and unholy and would not associate with them. They would not eat with them and they most certainly would not invite them to lodge in their homes.
One day Peter was in Joppa, a small port town next to the Mediterranean Sea. He was staying with a certain tanner named Simon. At about the noon hour Peter was up on the housetop to pray and fell into a trance. He had a vision that the sky opened up and a certain object like a great sheet came down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and in it were all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures and birds of the air; and all of them were unclean. Then Peter heard a voice, “Arise, Peter, kill and eat!”
At first Peter refused saying, “By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.” But the voice came to him a second time, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.” This happened three times.
This vision was not about food, it was about people. And it’s a great lesson for all of us. God does not show partiality and neither should we. In other words, don’t look down on anyone. God’s love and grace is offered freely to every man and woman.
God didn’t look at the Jewish people and say, “What a wonderful, marvelous people, I just can’t help Myself, I must pour My favor out upon all of them.” No, in fact, in Deuteronomy 7:7 Moses said, “The Lord did not set His love upon you, nor choose you because you were greater in number than the other nations, for you were least of all peoples.”
God chose Israel and poured out His favor because their father Abraham was a man of faith who honored God in his life. Moses continued in Deuteronomy 7:9, “Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to the thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments.”
Perhaps an example of the wrong attitude would be Jonah. He was told by God to bring the message of repentance to the Assyrian city of Nineveh, but he didn’t like the Assyrian people and didn’t want them to repent, so he went down to Joppa and booked passage on a ship going in the opposite direction. You know the story then, that they encountered a terrible storm so that Jonah was thrown into the sea and taken by a great fish who vomited him up on the shores of Assyria. He reluctantly gave them God’s message and when they repented he became angry. What a contrast to Peter.
Then you see Jesus who was called the friend of sinners. In fact, at one point Jesus came to the booth of a tax collector and saw a man called Matthew and said to him, “Follow me!” And Matthew got up and followed Him.
Matthew then called all of his sinner friends and Jesus was reclining at the table with them. When the Pharisees saw this, they said to His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with ‘Republicans’ and sinners?” Okay, He didn’t quite say that, but the point is that Jesus would eat with sinners, saying, “I came to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Or how about the parable of the good Samaritan? A man was going from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was attacked by robbers who left him beaten and half dead. A priest happened by and cross to the other side. So too, a Levite passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan took pity on him.
God is about to change history; through hearts that hear.
I. Be Eager to Hear
- We first met Cornelius earlier in this chapter. He’s an officer in the Roman army, a centurion. He’s just the kind of person Peter would want nothing to do with. But he has a good heart that’s eager to hear.
- As a typical Roman, Cornelius had been exposed to all the Roman gods, but he discovered Jehovah, the God of Israel, and became devoted.
- He gave generously to the Jewish poor and he had a consistent and faithful prayer life.
- Cornelius is hungry for the truth; he sincerely seeks after God. He has a heart that’s eager to hear. God loves a seeking heart.
- While Cornelius was waiting for Peter to arrive, he called together his relatives and close friends.
- Right away you see Cornelius’ influence because these are the ones who receive the Holy Spirit.
- His heart and his life is the influence. They see in him the heart they want to have and so they also have a heart to hear.
Illus - We saw the same thing when Jesus called Matthew, the tax collector. The first thing Matthew did was to call all of his sinner friends to come and meet Jesus.
Illus - When I was in Bible College, I worked as a server on the weekends. I had an opportunity to speak at a church so I invited all of my “sinner friends” as well.
- God certainly use as pastors and evangelists, but the most powerful impact for the gospel is made by you, because of the influence that comes from a right heart. Here’s the point; have the right heart and then influence people with how you live.
1 Corinthians 15:33, Do not be deceived; “Bad company corrupts good morals.”
Illus - Our son-in-law was in the Marines. The influence in that environment is not good. When he got out, he and my daughter came to Oregon and we insisted they move in with us. What a joy to see the influence of our family on him, and now he influences others for Christ as he and my daughter serve in youth group.
Luke 6:45, “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good.”
B. Hear with a humble and teachable heart
- When Peter entered, Cornelius fell at his feet and worshiped him. It was because of humility. As an officer in the greatest army in the world, from the Italian cohort nonetheless, attitude would be easy.
- Being humble and teachable is part of a good heart. God is honoring him because of it.
James 4:10, Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
- It’s interesting that it says “humble yourself.” In other words, you are going to be humbled one way or the other, but if you humble yourself in the sight of the Lord, He will lift you up. He will honor you.
- How do you humble yourself? By putting a guard on your heart and your thoughts that keeps you where God wants you to be.
- There are times you need to pull yourself down from your high horse and there are times you need to strengthen yourself in the Lord.
Psalm 43:5, “Why so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.”
- Peter sees Cornelius bowing down and immediately raises him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am just a man.”
- We then see Peter’s humble and teachable heart when he says in verse 28, “God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean.”
- Then also in verse 34, Peter said, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality.”
- Well that’s right out of Deuteronomy 10, but now Peter has a teachable heart. We need the same thing.
II. “This is My Son, Listen to Him”
- In verse 33 Cornelius said, “We are all here present before God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.”
- What a receptive audience; they are ready to drink in every word because they know it’s from God. That shows us the power of the heart that’s hungry to hear.
- I have spoken to some hard audiences and I can tell you as a pastor; that will not make your day.
- Peter now gives the gospel to the Gentiles, and this sermon will change church history. No longer will the gospel be only a Jewish thing, but will spread to the ends of the earth.
A. This is the One sent by God
- Peter begins by saying in verse 36, saying, “The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ.”
- Without a personal relationship to God through Jesus Christ, there cannot be true and lasting peace in the heart. We have to get this settled first.
Ephesians 2:17-18, He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.
- Peter went on to explain that peace comes when we receive forgiveness of our sins.
- This is the foundation of the gospel, the good news that God sent for us to hear. We cannot have relationship to God until our sins are forgiven because our sins have separated as.
- Peter also explains that God has provided much evidence for our faith. When Jesus was on the mount of transfiguration, a voice came out of heaven…
Luke 9:35, “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!”
- God gave the “signs of the times” for them. Jesus healed the blind and the lame and cleansed lepers and raised up those who are dead.
- God raised Him up on the third day after they put Him to death, hanging Him on the cross. That’s the greatest evidence of all.
Acts 17:30-31, Having overlooked times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
- This was the very thing Peter said in verse 42, saying, “This is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead.”
- But he also went on to say, “Yes, He is the judge of the living and the dead, but He’s also the One offering forgiveness of sins.”
Illus - There is a heaven and a hell. That’s not a popular message today is it? The church is tempted to throw it out the window for the sake of attendance and popularity, to be politically correct. But there’s only one correct politic, only one Lord of Lords; only one King of kings. In the final analysis, when you’re standing before the judgment throne of God, it won’t matter whether you’re politically correct, it will only matter whether you were correct regarding this One whom God has sent.
- As Peter was sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit fell upon the crowd. This became like the Gentile Pentecost moment.
- They began speaking in tongues and exalting God.
- Peter then ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and the history of the church was changed forever.
- Notice that when you receive the forgiveness of sin by believing in the name of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, you also receive the life and the power of God through the Holy Spirit.
- When you ask Jesus into your heart and are born again, what next? Answer; you need to build a foundation in your life on the word and the Spirit.
Zechariah 4:6, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,” says the Lord of hosts.
Acts 10:23-48 NASB