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Acts 12:1-25

Trusting God in Troubled Times

  • Jean Marais
  • Sunday Night Messages
  • January 22, 2023
  • Sermon Notes
  • Scripture

God loves a Seeking Heart
Acts 10:23-48
January 15, 2023

We are continuing in Acts 10, where we last week focused on the outflow of a God-seeking heart. The next step is to have a heart to hear what God wants and what God is busy doing. God loves a seeking heart. When He sees you seeking Him, it blesses Him, and He wants to pour out more of His presence and His life into your life, because God’s ultimate desire is to have a personal relationship with you.

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.

Peter then has a vision of the unclean animals which God says he should kill and eat. This vision was not about food, but 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.”

Also, God chose them so that His grace and majesty might become visible, even through them who, by worldly standards, were a ‘small, insignificant’ people.

Isaiah 41:14, Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.

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. Peter was also in Joppa, but he made a different choice. God wants us to take a different perspective.

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 sinners?” Jesus would eat with sinners, saying, “I came to seek and to save that which was lost.”

God is about to change history; through hearts that hear and seek Him.

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.

A. The right heart is a powerful influence

  • 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.
  • God certainly uses 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. Most people come to Christ because of the influence of a friend.

Illus. I have seen this many times. People might ridicule you because of your faith in front of their friends or peers, but when they run into trouble of the soul, they will come to you. Do not be deceived: deep down they can see the truth and the Holy Spirit is working on their hearts.

  • Here’s the point; have the right heart and then influence people with how you live.
  • Peer pressure should come from us, not the other way around. Greater is He that is in YOU than he that is in the world. We do not have to be timid and afraid. We can take this truth from the story of Gideon.

Judges 6:12, The angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O valiant warrior.”

  • We cannot just go along with the crowd, following the worldly systems.

1 Corinthians 15:33, Do not be deceived; “Bad company corrupts good morals.”

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.

James 4:6, God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

  • Interestingly, 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 keep you where God wants you to be.

2 Corinthians 10: 5, We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. 

  • You need to surrender your life to God, recognizing Him as the highest authority in your life, because He knows best.
  • 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.
  • You have the ability to talk to yourself, either positively, or negatively.

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.” Salvation is available for all.
  • There are conditions to this though. Salvation is available for those who fear Him, in other words, stand in awe of Him, recognizing Him as God, and who does what is right. Again, it speaks to a heart that is right before God; a humble heart.

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.
  • The opposite is also true. Speaking to people who are hungry for God is a joy.
  • 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 with 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 a relationship to God until our sins are forgiven because our sins have separated us.

Isaiah 59:1-2, The Lord’s hand is not so short that it cannot save; nor is His ear so dull that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God…

  • Many times, anxiety and fear can be traced back to people feeling separated from God, i.e., no peace. It is like a ship lost in the ocean without a rudder or sails. Something that you know has become a hindrance between you and God. It steals your confidence to draw near.

Illus. Imagine a soldier on the battlefield being cut off from command and losing all comms while under heavy enemy fire. It can bring a lot of anxiety. ‘What is the battle plan? Did they forget me? Is someone coming for me?’

  • There is a wonderful antidote to this; a promise we can take hold of.

Hebrews 4: 15-16, For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

  • The answer is not to run from God in pride, but to run to Him, even in your weakness, because when we are weak, He is strong.
  • The saddest thing to see is people who are broken but cover their hurt with pride, not wanting to acknowledge that they need help.
  • As you surrender and come in agreement with God, laying down your iniquity, He restores you and the Holy Spirit strengthens you, grounded in the love of God.
  • You then discover that you are deeply loved.

1 John 4:18-19, There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love because He first loved us

  • 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” to 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 message, 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.

B. Receive the life and the power of God

  • 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.
  • Verse 44 – ‘While Peter was speaking…’ One can almost sense God’s eagerness to impart His Spirit. God doesn’t reluctantly dwell with us; He longs for and is excited to be in a relationship with us through the Holy Spirit.
  • 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?

Illus.- Now a person might come to Christ and then after a while say that it is not working. It is like a grade 1 student going to school for a week, and then saying ‘it is useless. I am still the same. I cannot read or write yet; I cannot do the math and I cannot lead the debate team.’

  • 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.

  • Our focus changes. We no longer build our lives on our might and power, in other words on our abilities and talents. It doesn’t mean it is unimportant, as God can use it for His glory as it ultimately came from Him. But now the efficiency and result come through the working of the power of His Spirit and the change it brings in our lives.
  • God’s desire for us is to live a life in relationship with Him led by the Spirit, empowering us daily as we navigate through this life, empowering us to be effective in what we do. God is calling us that. Do you have a heart to hear and respond?
  • Don’t put the Lord of lords on hold.

 

Acts 10:23-48          NASB

23 So he invited them in and gave them lodging.

And on the next day he got up and went away with them, and some of the brethren from Joppa accompanied him. 24 On the following day he entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 When Peter entered, Cornelius met him, and fell at his feet and [a]worshiped him. 26 But Peter raised him up, saying, “Stand up; I too am just a man.” 27 As he talked with him, he entered and *found many people assembled. 28 And he said to them, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man [b]unholy or unclean. 29 That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for. So I ask for what reason you have sent for me.”

30 Cornelius said, “Four days ago to this hour, I was praying in my house during the [c]ninth hour; and behold, a man stood before me in shining garments, 31 and he *said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your [d]alms have been remembered before God. 32 Therefore send to Joppa and invite Simon, who is also called Peter, to come to you; he is staying at the house of Simon the tanner by the sea.’ 33 So I sent for you immediately, and you have [e]been kind enough to come. Now then, we are all here present before God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.”

34 Opening his mouth, Peter said:

“I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, 35 but in every nation the man who [f]fears Him and [g]does what is right is welcome to Him. 36 The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching [h]peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all)— 37 you yourselves know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee, after the baptism which John proclaimed. 38 [i]You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, [j]and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. 39 We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the [k]land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a [l]cross. 40 God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, 41 not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. 42 And He ordered us to [m]preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. 43 Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”

44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the [n]message. 45 All the [o]circumcised believers who came with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also. 46 For they were hearing them speaking with tongues and exalting God. Then Peter answered, 47 “Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?” 48 And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days.

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