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The Drama of Change

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
June 11, 2024 12:00 am

The Drama of Change

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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June 11, 2024 12:00 am

On stage, the hope of everyone is that everything goes as planned. In life, you are never really sure what God has planned for you until it happens. On stage, you stay in character – whether it is happy, congenial, or sad. In life, you are required to change your character – and you never really master any one expression. On stage, you hope you never need the help of the prompter sitting off stage, who whispers what you are supposed to say or do. In the Christian life, the prompter does not hide in the shadows and whisper, but rather, He, the Holy Spirit, directs prominently. In fact, in life, every actor is to depend on the prompter – to look for Him; to wait for His cue. A play is predictable for those involved; you are supposed to stick to the script. In life, everything is unpredictable; the scripts are written only after you have lived through the scene. And then, suddenly the scene changes; you have never seen one quite like it before, so you look for the prompter or better yet, you keep your eye on the Director.

The subtitle to the play of life could be called The Drama of Change. Paul wrote in II Corinthians 5:17: if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things are passed [continually passing] away; behold, new things have [constantly] come. In other words, the Christian’s middle name is Change.

Nowhere is such a dramatic change about to occur than in Acts, chapter 10. We arrive at this chapter in our study, and we are about to discover a great drama unfolding before our very eyes. It is the drama of change that will eventually build a bridge between the Jewish and the Gentile nations. It was dramatic to see news clippings of the Berlin wall toppling down – a wall that had stood for thirty years. In Acts, chapter 10, we will see the crumbling of a wall between two people groups that had lasted for thousands of years. Chapter 10 must be observed as an entire unit, so we will actually read the entire chapter today. The drama that unfolds in this chapter can be divided into four scenes. I will interrupt periodically to provide some insight or commentary. Join us as we witness the transformative power of the Gospel and the unfolding of God's grand design for His church.

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Through His name, what does that mean? Everything that is associated with His words and His works.

Jesus Christ, the Esos, Yeshua, it means Savior, Christos, Christ, the Anointed One, literally the Messiah, God, come in the flesh. Why did He come? Because mankind needed to be saved, and those who attest to the reality of His name, that is why He's come, and who He is, and place their faith in His name alone, can have this piece that He's talking about here. Life doesn't work like a play. You don't get the script for your life in advance.

You don't get too many opportunities to practice in life, or rehearse the words you're going to speak ahead of time. Instead, God directs us, scene by scene. And just like Peter in today's story from Acts 10, we're often called to step outside our comfort zones, maybe even break some long-held habits.

Welcome to Wisdom for the Heart. Stephen's message today is about radical change. You're about to learn what it looks like when God remakes someone's life, and even the world.

Let's dive in. I think you could subtitle the Christian's life a drama that we could call change. In fact, the Apostle Paul wrote that those of you who are in Christ, you're seeing all the old things continually passing away, and all the new things continually becoming new, that is continually being revealed to you, and you adapt, and you mold, and you change to the director of the play, the drama, our Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The middle name of the Christian is change. I think you probably considered it as dramatic as I did to watch the news clippings of the Berlin Wall come toppling down.

Wasn't that exciting? That wall had stood since 1960, some 30 years, and it went tumbling to the ground. Well, what we're going to observe in the 10th chapter of Acts is a wall come tumbling down that has stood for thousands of years. Incredible changes that are hard for us to grasp on this side of history, but we'll do our best to try to understand something of what it meant in this drama that unfolds before us, and I've divided it into four scenes, but the first scene then takes place in the home of a Gentile seeker.

Chapter 10 of Acts, which is where we left off, and verse 1. Now, there was a certain man at Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian cohort. Cornelius was a devout man and one who feared God with all his household and gave many alms to the Jewish people and prayed to God continually.

Now, you need to understand, as we interrupt for the first time, that Cornelius is not a Christian. He is living under that Old Testament economy as a Gentile who was pursuing the Jewish religion. The Bible refers to these as God fearers, and so you hear the text or you read the text, one who feared God. That means they did put away their pagan idolatry and they began to worship, as it were, in the best way they could, the one true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These Gentiles did not go through the rite of circumcision, and they didn't follow all of the rules and prescriptions of the Old Testament dietary laws. But for the most part, these people saw the bankruptcy of idolatry, and they sort of followed and mimicked the Jews of that day.

They would be known as Gentile God fearers. But at this point in Cornelius's life, he is not a believer. He doesn't know what Peter will deliver to him later, that Jesus Christ redeems people. Jesus Christ forgives sins, but he's as close as you can get.

He'd be kind of like a fella today in church, who's moral, upstanding, spiritually minded in that he knows there's a God, he knows there is a system of truth, and would have great respect for this book, but has never come to a point in his life when he has said, Lord Jesus, I can't offer you anything but sin. I want you to be my Savior. Have you ever done that? You only have to do that once to be born again, according to the Scriptures. Well, he has not done that yet. He will in a few verses of Scripture, but I want you to know that now. Verse 3, about the ninth hour of the day, he clearly saw in a vision an angel of God who had just come into him.

I can't slow down, I'm sorry. And said to him, Cornelius, and fixing his gaze upon him and being much alarmed, he said, What is it, Lord? Literally, what is it, sir? And he said to him, Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God. In other words, because Cornelius was barred from the temple system of sacrifices, as they offered their sacrifices as memorials to God. God said, in effect, I have taken note of your alms giving and your praying.

They have come up before me as memorials. Verse 5, and now dispatch the men to Joppa and send for a man named Simon, who is also called Peter, for he is staying with a certain tanner named Simon, whose house is by the sea. And when the angel who was speaking to him had departed, he summoned two of his servants and a devout soldier of those who were in constant attendance upon him. And after he had explained everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.

Now, there's a rather swift scene change from Caesarea and this vision to Joppa. Now, scene two takes place on a rooftop with a Jew named Simon Peter. Verse 9, and on the next day as they were on their way and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray, and he became hungry and was desiring to eat. But while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance, and he beheld the sky opened up and a certain object, like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground.

And there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and the birds of the air. And a voice came to him, arise, Peter, kill and eat. Now, remember, Jewish people don't eat non-kosher food. There are certain animals that are considered unclean, certain animals that are considered clean. And Peter, being the orthodox Jew that he was, as we'll learn later, he's never eaten any of that unclean stuff.

He has never had a pork chop or sausage or barbecue or a ham sandwich, many other things. In fact, he, like the Jewish people around him, refused to purchase meat from a Gentile butcher. If they went to the shop and a Gentile sold them or Peter's wife a utensil to be used in the kitchen, they would take that home and before employing it in the service of the kitchen, they would ceremonially cleanse it. Because it was considered unclean, it had touched Gentile hands. So this is the kind of person we're talking to, and it's hard for us to imagine, not only thousands of years, but for Peter's life, he has been reared in this, he's been taught this, he has believed it, he has lived it, and now suddenly, change. The most dramatic change you can imagine.

Now, he's already flexing a little bit. If you look back up at chapter 9, verse 43, it tells us that after the service is there, when he first arrived, it came about that he stayed many days in Joppa with a certain tanner named Simon. And that's significant because tanners were considered unclean, probably a Jewish man.

But he had to go through all kinds of ceremonial cleansing, and he lived by the sea where there was plenty of water, he dealt with dead animals, skinned them. But he evidently was a believer, evidently a member of the church at Joppa, and so after some service, Peter maybe doesn't know where he's going to stay, and this man, Simon, comes up and he says, hey, Peter, why don't you stay with me, I've got room. Now what do you do? To say no would be to potentially offend this brother who is in an occupation that Peter would consider untasteful or distasteful. To say yes, oh, what if my friends find out?

Am I in trouble with people, with maybe the Lord? Well, I don't know, but I do know that he went. He made the right decision. And see, God is preparing him by making this change, this flex for something much bigger. And this is the biggest thing you could imagine. Here comes this sheet in the form of a vision, and it doesn't tell us, but perhaps angels are bearing the four corners and all the weight of those animals, and they're all intermingled, they're mixed, clean and unclean. And just for the sake of understanding for us, most of us Gentiles, you can imagine right in the middle of that sheet is a big, fat, pink pig right there. And the word comes, arise, Peter, kill and eat. And Peter said, verse 14, by no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.

Don't you love that response? Peter, I want you to set aside everything you've learned about eating, set aside the teachings of Moses which you have revered and which your nation follows. There's something new about the Christian experience, there's something new about the Christian life.

You can eat that. And Peter said, by no means, Lord, in our vernacular, it would mean no way, Lord, not me, never. Did you realize that Peter is using contradicting terminology? Notice verse 14 again, but Peter said, by no means, Lord, has it occurred to you that you cannot say no and Lord in the same sentence? Verse 15, and again, a voice came to him a second time. Peter, just in case you thought you heard wrong, what God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy. In other words, I happen to be God, Peter, and you're Peter.

I've said it's clean. You need to come to an understanding that I'm bigger than you are, I am God. What I have called holy, don't you call unholy. And I love the fact that Peter's a rather slow learner, verse 16, and it's happened three times. He gets the demonstration three times. Here it comes again, and I wish we could have the progression of his answer to the Lord because the first one we're given, no way, Lord, I've never eaten that stuff in my life. Here it comes again.

No. A third time, here it comes. Arise, Peter, kill and eat, maybe.

We're just like this, aren't we? Scene three unfolds in the living room of Simon the tanner, verse 17. Now while Peter was greatly perplexed in mind as to what the vision which he had seen might be, behold, the men who had been sent by Cornelius, having asked directions for Simon's house, appeared at the gate.

This is perfect timing, isn't it? You can just see this play unfolding, and calling out, they were asking whether Simon, who was also called Peter, was staying there, and while Peter was reflecting on the vision, the spirit said to him, behold, three men are looking for you, but arise, go downstairs, and accompany them without misgivings, for I've sent them myself. And Peter went down to the men and said, behold, I am the one you're looking for. What is the reason for which you've come? And they said, well, Cornelius, a centurion, a righteous and God-fearing man, well-spoken of by the entire nation of the Jews, was divinely directed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his house and hear a message from you.

That's the message of salvation. He wants you to come and explain how it all works. And so we invited them in, this tells us, and gave them lodging. And here's another step, by the way, in the right direction for Peter. He invites the Gentiles into his home, these unbelievers. So Peter sets aside the Jewish restriction of associating with a Gentile, and they sit at the table, they talk, perhaps they even eat, they recline maybe until late into the evening, and they talk. Now the final scene takes place in the estate of a Roman centurion, verse 23 of the latter part. And on the next day he arose and went away with him, and some of the brethren from Joppa accompanied him. And on the following day he entered Caesarea, and now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends. In other words, the house was packed. And when it came about that Peter entered, Cornelius met him and fell at his feet and worshipped him. But Peter raised him up saying, Stand up, I too am just a man. And as he talked with him he entered and found many people assembled. 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.

I love the way he starts his speech. I'm not supposed to be here. It's unlawful for a Jew to associate with a Gentile. And he may not even be comfortable. The critical word is yet or but. But God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. You see, it has really more to do with people than it does food.

It will involve food. But the application now in the mind of Peter, as he arrives at the correct application, is that God is talking about people. A Gentile is not unholy because he's a Gentile.

In fact, if he's a believer, he is as holy as a Jewish believer. That's the point that is now beginning to settle in into the mind of Peter as he's talking to them. Verse 29, That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for.

And so I asked, For what reason now you have sent for me? In other words, Peter still doesn't know why he's there. He's there on the basis of knowing that God would not have him show partiality to this race. But he doesn't know what Cornelius needs. And I love that about Peter because earlier he was saying, Lord, no, not me. And now he, without even understanding why, is in the home of Cornelius, the Gentile.

Obedience without understanding is one of the prerequisites for changing into the image of Christ. Well, Cornelius fills him in. Verse 30, Four days ago to this hour I was praying in my house during the ninth hour. Behold, a man stood before me in shining garments and he said, Cornelius, your prayer has been heard and your alms have been remembered before God. Send therefore to Joppa and invite Simon, who has also called Peter, to come to you.

He is staying at the house of Simon the tanner by the sea. So I sent to you immediately and you have 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. In other words, you've got the floor, Peter.

Take it away. And opening his mouth, Peter said, I most certainly understand now. Did you catch that? Now I know. I understand now that God is not one to show partiality. But in every nation, the man who fears him and does what is right is welcome to him. The word which he sent to the sons of Israel, the Jews, preaching peace through Jesus Christ. And I love this. He is Lord of all.

That's just sort of a parenthesis in the message. Peter is declaring to them something. This is a personal testimony. I couldn't say Lord earlier.

I was saying, no way. But now I'm here and I'm able to tell you, oh, he is Lord of all. Can you say that? He is my Lord.

What a liberating thing to be able to declare. You yourselves, he says in verse 37, know the thing which took place throughout all Judea, starting from Galilee after the baptism, which John proclaimed. You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all the things that he did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, and they also put him to death by hanging him on a cross. God raised him up on the third day and granted that he should become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is to us, that is the apostles, who ate and drank with him after he arose from the dead. And he ordered us to preach to the people and to solemnly testify that this is the one who has been appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead. Now, he says, you know all about all of that, or you may have heard about all of that.

But now here's the verdict. Here's the new message. Verse 43, here it is, to the representative of the Gentile nation, the message is formally introduced, the gospel. Of him all the prophets bear witness that through his name, everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sin.

That is astounding truth to them. Through his name, what does that mean? Everything that is associated with his words and his works, he gave him his name earlier in the text. Jesus Christ, the aces, Yeshua, it means savior. Christos, Christ, the anointed one, literally the Messiah, God come in the flesh. Why did he come?

Because mankind needed to be saved. And those who attest to the reality of his name, that is why he's come and who he is. And placed their faith in his name alone. Can have this peace that he's talking about here, forgiveness of sin.

Well, it doesn't tell us. But somewhere between verse 43 and verse 44, everybody in that home invited Christ to forgive their sin. They placed their faith in his name.

How do we know that? Well, verse 44. Well, Peter's still speaking these words. The Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message. And all the circumcised believers, that is the Jewish believers who had come with Peter were amazed. Because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the Gentiles also.

You see the significance? We've already studied the four manifestations of the Holy Spirit. When it talks about the Holy Spirit falling. It happened at Pentecost when the Spirit came. And then this manifestation to the Samaritans, the half-breeds, so that they knew by accepting Christ as their savior, they would also experience the sign gift to the rest of the world that something new was being established.

And now we have the same thing as Cornelius represents the Gentile peoples of the world. As they believe the Spirit falls as it were manifested to them. Representing the fact that they are no less a believer.

They have no less of the Holy Spirit than the Samaritans and the Jewish nation at Pentecost. Now Peter says in verse 47, Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did Kenny. And he ordered them to be baptized, baptizomai, to be immersed in the name of Jesus Christ. That was that public declaration of what had already happened inwardly. Then they asked him to stay on for a few days. Which is kind of nice for a preacher to be asked to stay after his first sermon for a few days. They must have had some wonderful fellowship as now this thing began to develop among the Gentiles. Let me give you some things quickly. A church movement, a movement of the Holy Spirit began among the Gentiles' accessories because of three things. Number one, Peter was willing to change something ancient. You need to understand the distinction in your own life.

I can't give you the answers, but I can just warn you. You need to know the distinction in your personal life between needed change and or versus fleshly compromise. Don't ever use as an excuse for carnality. Well, that's just the old way of living. I think Christians today lack distinction in our lifestyles.

And we use this perhaps as an illustration or an example or perhaps a defense. You need to think through the difference between a needed change and just something you want to do by means of your own flesh. Second, you need to understand the difference between tradition and traditionalism. Traditions are not bad things. In fact, Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, Stand firm and hold fast to the traditions which you have received from me.

But traditionalism is just hanging on to something because that's just the way we've always done it. How to kill a church, how to rob a people of joy. Well, in this chapter, Peter was willing to change something ancient for something new.

And the second thing and the reason we have this movement taking place in this Gentile world is because Peter was willing to embrace someone different. Can you hear the timidness in Peter's voice? I can hear it. I can see his knees knocking in verse 28. Look back there.

It is unlawful. As he begins his speech, they're surrounded by relatives and friends on the estate of this prominent leader, this Gentile. He's a Roman soldier.

There he is in the middle of all of them. And he starts it out by saying, It's unlawful for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him. In other words, I'm not supposed to be here. And if my friends could see me now, they would have a kosher conniption or something.

They would have trouble with what I'm doing. Why did he do it? What made him willing?

Because God was explaining to him as he began to understand the truth of that vision. And then what he would explain to them is that redemption in Jesus Christ should do away with those kinds of walls and prejudices. And if you have trouble with somebody because they're a different color or different educational background or different social standard, you need to live in Chapter 10 until God can change your heart. Somebody once put it this way, though, and I like this. The only thing that can destroy an old prejudice is a new love.

Isn't that good? Peter was infused with a love for Jesus Christ and somewhere back on that rooftop, he changed not so Lord to Lord in a fresh new way. And that gave him the love that he needed to have for people that he wasn't used to being around. Third, the reason there's a movement taking place here is because Peter was willing to defend something new.

And I've given those three points in the progression by which they appear. First, Peter is willing to change something ancient. And then Peter is willing to embrace someone different. Now, he is willing to defend something new. In fact, if you just skip ahead to the next chapter in verse 2, I promise not to read the whole chapter. Just verse 2. Look at that. Here it comes. You knew it was going to happen. When Peter came back to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised, that is, all his Jewish friends, believers, they took issue with him saying, you went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.

And you can just see them. What in the world got into you, Peter? We want an explanation. We'll study it later. But Peter takes time in that chapter to explain how the grace of God puts everyone on equal standing.

The ground at the foot of the cross is level. And this is what he was reading or teaching them that we read this morning. Well, Peter was changing by virtue of the submission to the Lord over the years until you find him now leading the most dramatic change known to his world.

No more difference between a Gentile and a Jew. How can you be ready? How do you get on the path to being prepared for changes like that in the future? By embracing changes now.

For some it may take 10 or 20 years to see some of those walls crumble. Some may come easier. But you think about putting off the old man and putting on the new man. Well, that's a change in lifestyle. Being transformed by the renewing of your minds, that's a change in thinking. Developing the fruit of the Spirit, love, joy, peace, gentleness, long-serving. Hey, that's a change in personality. Developing a life that seeks to worship and pursue God.

That's a new heart. So get involved in the drama of the Christian life. Who knows, ladies and gentlemen, maybe because you're willing to change and I'm willing to change, that God might start a movement in a household or maybe a business, a family.

Maybe, maybe an entire nation. Like Peter, you're called to embrace people you never would have before and to courageously step into the unknown. That's the drama of real change. Not the kind you see on a stage, but the kind that writes a new ending for your own life story. You're listening to Wisdom for the Heart with Stephen Davey. This series comes from Stephen's Vintage Wisdom Library.

It's a series through the book of Acts and Stephen called this lesson the Drama of Change. Between now and our next message, we'd enjoy hearing from you. If you'd like to send Stephen a card, letter, or note of encouragement, please address your correspondence to If you're trying to write that down, I'll give that to you one more time. It's Wisdom International, P.O.

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However you prefer to interact with us, we'd enjoy hearing from you. I want you to know that we have a companion study guide to this series, which is called The Gospel Spreads. This study guide takes you deeper into Stephen's teaching.

It provides the manuscript of this lesson, as well as some discussion and study questions to help you think more thoroughly about the lesson at hand. You'll find this study guide if you visit our online store, which is wisdomonline.org. That's wisdomonline.org. You're also able to get assistance over the phone if you call us today at 866-48-BIBLE. That's 866-48-BIBLE or 866-482-4253. Call and ask about the study guide to this series. And when you call, ask about receiving the next three issues of our monthly devotional guide. Please join us back here next time on Wisdom for the Heart. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-06-11 01:08:33 / 2024-06-11 01:19:42 / 11

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