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A.D. The Bible Continues

Part 12 - Pride and Prejudice Acts

Pastor Gary Buchman
Emmitsburg Community Bible Church

(6/21) Happy Fatherís Day. Because this is Fatherís Day, I want to tell you about my father. His testimony goes very well with this last message from the A.D. The Bible Continues series. Some of you have heard all or some of this before.

My dad was born January 24th, 1929. The youngest of 9 children. His dad, my grandfather, was a farmer and cattle dealer that was killed in an accident when my dad was 5-6 years old. Dad grew up during the depression and WWII. Dad prayed to receive Christ as His Savior at around 16 and was active in Youth for Christ until he met and married my mother. For whatever reason, he stopped going to church and never told me about Jesus. But dad was a hard worker and a generous and moral man. He taught me how to be polite, how to work, and how to shoot and hunt. Because he worked the 4-12 shift at Black and Decker and almost another full time job, my dad never threw a ball with me or watched me play ball until I was a senior in High School.

Dad bought our farm when I was in seventh grade and it was his pride and joy. I loved my dad very much. My mom had a lot of mental and emotional issues. She was manic depressive and/or bi-polar. We were never really close. But Dad and I were very close.

When I got out of the Army and started Bible College, Dad started going to church with us and one Sunday evening in 1977, he went forward during an altar call and rededicated his life to Jesus. He said he wasnít going to tell anyone, he was going to let his life speak and he did. But my dad had a problem. He didnít smoke, drink, chew, or use much foul language. My dad was prejudice. It seemed to be something that he carried from his youth and I donít know why, but he was prejudice. He was less than fond of people of other races.

When Debbie and I decided to adopt an Asian girl, dad asked if it wouldnít be better to just sponsor a child for $29 a month. He nor my mother did anything to help us with the adoption and they didnít really want to talk about it. One day he asked me why we were doing this and said that we couldnít save them all. I told him we werenít trying to save them all, just one. I say again, I loved my dad.

Two years after Amanda was part of our home, she had a Play School childrenís cassette player and was listening to a tape of childrenís worship songs. As the song, Oh How I Love Jesus, was playing, the tape player malfunctioned, and I yelled, "Oh no, itís eating the tape," which scared a 3 year old. And then the phone rang and it was my dad.

After I spoke to him for a moment, Amanda, said, "I want to talk to Pap Pap." So, I handed her the phone, and she proceeded to tell my dad the story of her tape player and it went almost word for word like this. "Pap Pap, my tape player ate my tape. It was playing, Oh How I love Jesus. Pap Pap I love Jesus. Pap Pap do you love Jesus?" The Bible says, "Out of the mouths of babesÖ" My dad said, Amanda broke his heart and his prejudice. He said, I want you to know that she is as much my grandchild as the rest of them. And he would cry whenever he would retell that story. But that is not the end of the story. God wasnít finished yet.

Dad loved to share the gospel using the colored beads. One day a black boy came into my dadís booth to hear the Old, Old Story of Jesus and His Love. Dad shared Christ with him and then he prayed to receive Jesus. Well that boy left and came back with his whole family, and my dad told them the story and they all prayed to receive Jesus, and then God brought a black Christian man to share the gospel alongside of my father and my dad repented of all his prejudice. He was about 70 years old at the time. When he shared the story he would say, that I used to tell him that God was going to get him for his prejudice. I really donít remember saying that, but he did. Dad continued to share the story of Jesus and this testimony that I just shared with you, until the Alzheimerís started taking over in 2008. My dad died on March 19, 2014. Did I tell you that I loved my dad? I miss him very much. The last line of John Denverís Thank God Iím a Country Boy says, "My daddy taught me young how to hunt and how to whittle

Taught me how to work and play a tune on the fiddle

Taught me how to love and how to give just a little

Thank God I'm a country boy

Like my dad, Peter grew up a blue collar guy. Though he loved God, he carried some prejudice that he learned from his childhood. Some of it was religious. Jews were not to mix with or marry Gentiles. They were to remain set apart, Holy to God. Gentiles were heathen and considered dogs and pigs, unclean and not children of God like the Jews. Jews would not go into Gentileís homes nor eat with them. Anything bought from a Gentile had to be purified before being used. When traveling from a Gentile territory back to Israel, Jews would remove any dirt or soil from their shoes before entering Israel, thus shaking off the dust of their feet.

Remember Jonah? Jonah wanted no part of offering grace to Nineveh. Even though the prophets taught that Israel was to be a light to the world, and the seed of Abraham was to be a blessing to the whole world, and Gentiles would be drawn to the light. Jews wanted to be distant and distinct from them.

To remind them that they were to be Holy to God, there were also dietary restrictions. Leviticus 11 tells us what animals, insects, fowl, and fish could be eaten and what could not. Leviticus 20:25-26 tells why, "You shall therefore distinguish between clean animals and unclean, between unclean birds and clean, and you shall not make yourselves abominable by beast or by bird, or by any kind of living thing that creeps on the ground, which I have separated from you as unclean. 26 And you shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy, and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be Mine."

But things began to change when Jesus showed up. Jesus went through Samaria and spoke to a woman and then to a whole town (John 4). Jesus went into Gentile territory several times. Caesarea Philippi was in Syria in Matt. 16. Gadara was one of the 10 cities of the Decapolis in Luke 8 and very heathen. Yet Jesus insisted on going to the other side. He led the disciples in reaching people of every nation with the message of grace and after He died and rose again, He commissioned them and us to make disciples in every nation (Matt. 28:19-20). Acts 1:8 gets very specific. "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

The first 7 chapters of Acts tell us how the message was shared in Jerusalem and Judea. Acts 8 tell us how Philip, followed by Peter and John shared the message in Samaria, a tremendous step of faith and obedience. And then it happened. It was time to focus on the world. First the Ethiopian Eunuch, then Saul (Paul) going to Syria and Cilicia, and then our man Peter makes the Jewish History books.

Our story today, is about a Roman soldier, the CO of a company of 100 men (Read Acts 10:1-18). Thus, he was called a centurion. How long he had been stationed at the seaside city of Caesarea (about 50 miles NW of Jerusalem, along the Mediterranean) we donít know. Nor do we know how he became a believer of the one true God. We just know that he was a sincere seeker.

(Show VIDEO clip)

Acts 10:1-2, "There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, 2 a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always"

Here is Life Lesson #1. Being Good is not good enough. This soldier was a very generous man. A Good man. But being good is not enough. For those who disagree, I ask these questions. Q. How good do you have to be? When do you have to start being good? How much bad ruins your good? Check out Eph. 2:8-9, and Titus 3:4-6, "But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior."

Here is Life Lesson #2. Believing in God is not enough! Cornelius believed in the one true God. He was devout. He prayed. But the Lordís brother James reminds us that it is not enough to believe in God. James says the devil also believes and trembles. A person has to be born again by faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:3-16). Peter would say in Acts 4:12, "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." This echoes Jesusí own words in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."

Here is Life lesson #3. God will reveal himself to any genuine seeker of truth. He did so with the Eunuch from Ethiopia and with Saul of Tarsus, and now with this Roman Army officer. He will do the same today for anyone who genuinely seeks to know the one true God. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. (Jer. 29:12-13)

Here is Life Lesson #4 (Look at verses 6, 22, 33). Faith comes by hearing, not from just seeing, but from hearing (Romans 10:17). The message of Jesus must be heard and that means someone must share it clearly. Cornelius like the Eunuch, needed to hear the words of truth. So does your loved one or friends.

Here is Life Lesson #5. God has chosen to use us to tell the story of Jesus (v. 42) He could have used that same angel to tell the same story, but he told Cornelius to fetch Peter and told Peter to go and speak wonderful words of Life. Godís plan is to use His children-us- to communicate His message to the world.

Here is Life Lesson #6. Godís delay in answering prayers is not Godís denial. Verse 2 says, "he prayed to God always." Verse 4, "And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, "What is it, lord?" So he said to him, "Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God. The memorial or remembrance means God is ready to act on his prayers. The time was right for Godís plan. What those prayers were we can only guess. Perhaps Cornelius still felt empty and wanted to know how to have peace with God. He believed in the one true God and worshipped the best he could but something seemed to be missing.

Often Godís delay is not that He is saying, no, but that it fits in his master plan better at another point. Remember that our Lord Jesus said we should never stop praying, or losing heart (Luke 18:1ff). Luke 11 and Matt. 7 is where Jesus says, Keep Asking, Keep Seeking and Keep Knocking. Do you understand this? Really? So remember this principle, Godís delay doesnít mean Godís denial.

Well, like my dad, Peter was changing but he was not there yet. Notice, when our story begins, he is staying in the home of a tanner named Simon. This man made his living being ceremonially unclean. For he had to constantly be touching dead animals in order to turn skin and hides into leather. Yet Peter had no problem staying with him. God had recently re-affirmed that half Jews could be part of the body and Peter had no problem accepting the Samaritans. But Gentiles? And in this case not just a Gentile but an occupying enemy soldier. Even though he had seen Jesus minister to just such a man in Luke 7 in Capernaum, he had some lessons to cement in his mind and in all the Messianic brothersí minds. (Read Acts 10:9-20).

While the servants of Cornelius were on their way to fetch Peter, Peter got hungry and as his host was preparing lunch, Peter went into a trance. And he saw a sheet lowered from heaven with rabbits, squirrels, pigs, and Maryland blue crabs and God said, "Rise Peter, Kill and Eat." Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty says this is his favorite verse. But Peter couldnít, in good conscience, kill or eat these which were not kosher. And he said words of protest as only Peter can do, "Not so, Lord," (pause). He didnít say, "Iím a little confused here." He said, No, implying No way, not ever, to God. I have never eaten anything common or unclean. But the voice said, "Donít call common or unholy what God has cleansed." Now this happened 3 times.

What God had to teach Peter is that the Old Covenant was passing away and the New Covenant was beginning. God was building His church and it would involve people from every nation. De-classifying foods as un-clean was a picture of de-classifying people as unclean or of less value. Look at verses 34-35, "Then Peter opened his mouth and said: "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him." Peter had to let his prejudice go. He learned what Jefferson said in our Declaration of Independence, "That all men are created equal."

Here is Life Lesson #7. Anybody know where we are going with this one? If you are prejudice towards any nationality, race, skin color, etc. Stop it. Stop it now. Many of you were brought up with the same prejudice as my dad. You think that all __________ (and you can fill in that blank) are alike. They all __________. You may not like what has happened in many of our cities including Baltimore, and Ferguson, Missouri. You may not like the immigration laws. You may not like the political positions of many in our own nation. But here is what our Lord taught Peter. The problem is not skin. What is it class? It is sin! If you donít have Christ in your life, you are dead spiritually, dead vertically. You are alive horizontally, alive to the leadings of your sinful nature and to the god of this age, the prince of darkness. Man without a true relationship with God is lost and Jesus loves them. Jesus died for them. Jesus wants us to reach them.

A few years ago, an aged man who loved the Lord, called me and said he had a fairly large gift to give the church. He asked, "Did we have any special projects?" I said we had an active youth group, and we were preparing to go to Mexico. He said use it for the youth, because he wanted nothing to do with Mexico. In his old age, he had hung on to prejudice. Over 20 years ago, I had the opportunity to go to Russia with Josh McDowell, and I received hate mail from people in our church. Why should we go there? Khrushchev said he would bury us?

Why go to Mexico, or Russia, or China, or Paw Paw? Because God so loved the White Anglo Saxons of America? No, because God so loved the world and He wants us to love it too.

Look at verses 34-43, Then Peter opened his mouth and said: "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. 36 The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus ChristóHe is Lord of alló 37 that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. 39 And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they[e] killed by hanging on a tree. 40 Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, 41 not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. 42 And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead. 43 To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins." Underline or highlight that last line.

Man will not and cannot change until he is changed from within by the Holy Spirit of God as Titus 3:4-6 reminds us. You must look past their skin, past their nationality, past their politics and know that they are slaves to the evil one and will remain so until they believe in Jesus! The problem is not their skin. What is the problem class? It is sin. You must pity anyone who doesnít have the life of Jesus Christ. They have no hope.

Sin, and skin, and politics, and possessions, have divided the world. The only hope of peace in the world is the gospel and the church of Jesus Christ.

Here is Life lesson #8. God is at work to bring together in one body people of every nation on earth.

Turn with me to Ephesians 2:11-22. This ought to arrest any prejudice. You and I are saved today, because Jews like Peter, Paul and Philip crossed racial lines to share the grace of God. The Message of hope was first given to the Jews who were not anxious to share it with us, but because of this event with Peter and Cornelius, they did. And now we are part of the family of God. We look up and call the God of the universe, "Our Father," just like every born again Jew, Russian, Mexican, Chinaman, and African. We are all part of the family of God and every born again believer is your brother and sister.

One day, those of you who know Jesus are going to lift your voices with people of every color and nationality to worship and praise God. And they sang a new song, saying:

"You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain,

And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, 10 And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth." 11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice: "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!" (Rev. 5:9-12)

Together we are going to worship the one who adopted us into His family by our belief in Jesus Christ.

To whom do you harbor prejudice?

Blacks, Jews, Hispanics, Arabs, Indian/Pakistani, Chinese, Russian, Vietnamese, Korean, Democrats or Republicans

Jesus died for them all as He did for us, and their problem, our problem, is not our skin or nationality, or politics, it is our sin nature that is nourished by the god of this age. They need Jesus as we need Jesus. They need us to tell them about Jesus. Only when they believe in Jesus will there be peace. That is the truth that my dad learned at the age of 70. That is the truth that God wants you to learn today.

Do you need to repent? Perhaps you need to turn to another brother or sister, whether it is Debbie, me or the person sitting next to you and say, "That is me. I am prejudice, but today I repent, please pray for me and with me as I ask God for forgiveness and to help me by His Holy Spirit to change." Maybe there is a person of a different background that you need to confess to and ask for forgiveness.

Maybe you need to go on short term mission trip to Baltimore, or Mexico, or China and be the Rock like Peter here in Acts 10. Because he went, Cornelius and his whole family and his staff became part of the family of God. Today, people of every tribe and nation are part of that family, because Peter obeyed God.

Read other thoughtful writings by Pastor Gary Buchman