Have you heard the one about the preacher trying to “sell” a new idea to his elders. After his most impassioned plea, they voted down the proposal 6-1.
The elder leading the meeting said to the preacher, “Sorry, but it looks like you’re the only one voting for the proposal.”
“Well, that’s all we had on the agenda tonight,” the elder concluded. So he asked the preacher to lead a prayer to close the meeting.
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!”
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?”
The lead elder, dusting himself off, sighed and said, “Well, I guess that makes it 6-2. But it’s still not enough to pass your proposal.”
I think I know some religious “leaders” like that. The Lord could confirm his word with a miraculous sign, and some would still reject it.
I reminds me of today’s Bible reading in Acts 10 about the conversion of Cornelius, the first Gentile convert. This chapter provides many wonderful lessons for us to consider.
#1 Christians, even religious leaders, are not perfect.
Peter had his flaws. He was impetuous. Sometime he doubted and was afraid. And, of course, we know he denied Jesus. Three times.
Like most first century Jewish Christians Peter had a problem with Gentiles. They were different. The two groups didn’t socialize. Racial prejudice was real. So God used a miraculous vision of the clean and unclean animals to convince Peter to preach the gospel to Cornelius.
Like Peter, we are all a work in progress. Learning. Growing. Experiencing. Working to over overcome our short-comings. Imperfections. And prejudices.
#2 Morality doesn’t make one a Christian.
Cornelius was a devout, God fearing man. He was generous. Prayerful. And set a good example before his household (v2). Yet, he wasn’t a Christian. He was told to send for Peter to learn what he “must do” (v.6).
Good morals and charitable deeds doesn’t make someone a Christian. Sometimes I hear folks who ought to know better identifying others as Christians just because they do good. Value morality. And help other people. There’s more to being a Christian that just good works.
We must preach the gospel in its entirety. Preach Jesus. Preach the plan of salvation. Preach baptism for the remission of sins. Don’t assume some good folks are already saved.
#3 Man is not worthy of worship
When Peter arrived at Cornelius’ house, he was an answer to this sincere seeker’s prayers. Peter was a man of God. Cornelius wanted to show respect. It seemed like the right thing to do. But Peter was a mere man. Fallible. Filled with foibles and failures.
Although, he was an apostle and later would become an elder in a local church, Peter said, “Stand up. I too am a man.”
It’s a lesson lost on many today who accord mere men greater homage than they deserve. No preacher, pastor, or church leader ought to be worshiped with words, titles, or deeds that elevate him to a God-like status.
#4 God desires that everyone become a Christian.
Peter began his sermon with this affirmation. “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (v.34-35).
God is not prejudiced. The Gospel is for everyone. Every race. Every ethnic group. Every nation. Every skin color. Every man and woman.
It’s easy for us today to stereotype others. To judge them unfairly. To harbor some racial prejudice. To resist association with others because of their background, ethnicity, or social class. Yet, the Bible teaches us that the Gospel is for all.
Peter’s sermon ends with another miracle convincing him to “baptize them in the name of the Lord.” The command “Repent and be baptized” (Ac. 2:38-39) applies to Jews, Gentiles, and everyone today.
Today, God is not sending us visions, miracles and supernatural wonders to convince us. He’s given us His Word which provides us “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3) and will completely equip us for every good work (2Tim. 3:16-17).
Read it. Believe it. Obey it.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman