The Gospel Goes to the Gentiles (Part 1)


Series: Acts

Passage: Acts 10:1-23

Speaker: Jeff Thompson

God continues moving the Gospel outward toward the Gentiles, as He gives Peter a strange vision and commands him to go to the house of Cornelius, a Roman centurion.

Transcription (automatically-generated):

As we pick up our study in the Book of Acts, we find ourselves accompanying the Apostle Peter as he travels around Judea, the southern region of Israel. He's been traveling west toward the coast, visiting Christians who fled Jerusalem them due to the persecution led by Saul several years ago. Those scattered saints have started churches all over Israel, and Peter was visiting them to see how they were doing, to encourage them and to minister as the Holy Spirit directed him. Last week, we saw God move through Peter to heal a man who had been paralyzed for eight years and then raise a woman, Tabitha, from the dead. And we closed, with Peter staying in the coastal town of Joppa in the home of Simon the Tanner.

A couple of thousand years earlier, God had called a man named Abraham to be the starting point of a special nation, a people chosen by God to represent him to the world and invite the world to be part of the family of God. This special nation would become known as Israel and was called to be a nation of ambassadors and evangelists for the kingdom of God, showing the world what it looked like to follow God and be cared for by God. But human nature ensured that's not what happened. As soon as we're told that we are special in some way, something in us begins to look down on people who are not special in that same way, and it spirals very, very quickly into things like bigotry and even persecution of those who are not special like us. Indeed, before 99, 99% of people can mistreat and abuse other humans, psychology tells us they need a reason.

They need to be given a belief system to justify their prejudice. I'd watched a couple of documentaries recently about the elaborate lengths to which the Nazis went, because Hitler understood that the final piece of his final solution was to find a scientific basis for his theory that the Germans were descended from a superior race, the Aryans, and were ubermench supermen, essentially. And he came up with this whole mythology tracing their roots back towards the Norse regions of Europe, and he said, But I need scientific proof. And of course, the problem was that there was no scientific proof, because the entire thing was fabricated by Hitler's perverted imagination. But that didn't stop them from sending teams of scientists to conduct anthropological research as far as Tibet and different regions of Africa, cataloging different human physiological traits to try and come up with a unifying theory that would prove that the Aryans were superior.

Now, why was this so important to Hitler? Because he knew he had to give the German people a basis for their belief that they were superior if they were going to enact the Holocaust. In other words, you know, I'm not going to be able to get the German people on board with killing millions of people unless I can give them a basis to believe that they are special in some way and others are not special in that way. And therefore it is not unreasonable. It's actually logical for those who are special to treat those who are not as less.

It's not wrong for a human being to step on a bug because they are not the same species. And so Hitler came up with this entire fabricated scientific system because there were men who really liked being alive. And so they came up with research that supported what Hitler was looking for. And indeed, we've seen this phenomenon play out. This is why I was so nervous in the middle of COVID We're so close to this.

Nobody realized. When they did, CBC did a poll of Canadians and they found that in the middle of COVID 40% of Canadians were in favor of sending the Unvaccinated to quarantine camps forcibly 40%. The Prime Minister of Canada went on TV in Quebec, and I'm quoting here, referred to the Unvaccinated as often racist and misogynist extremists, as though there is a connection between the two. And he mused aloud whether their presence should be tolerated in a Canadian society. This is the same phenomenon again, that's how human nature works.

I'm part of this group. This group is special. This group is enlightened. This is the group that's going to create a glorious new future. Therefore, everyone who's not part of this group is not special.

And so treating them differently is okay. It's reasonable and logical, because they're not special. They're not special. This is the psychological phenomenon of othering, and it's behind all kinds of bigotry, from the Holocaust to racism, to religious persecution and to secular humanism's hatred of religion. And the same phenomenon was in play with the nation of Israel.

This nation of God's chosen people completely abdicated their calling to be a light to the nations and heralds of the kindness of God. Instead, they turned inward and reveled in their privilege status, concluding that everyone else must have been created simply to be kindling for the fires of hell. We see this mindset in the Old Testament prophet Jonah, who sent by God to preach the gospel to the nineveights in Assyria and call them to repent. And when they do, Jonah is furious at God. He's furious because he doesn't want them to repent.

He wants them to all die and go to hell, because that special status should be only for him and his people. When a Jew would return to Israel from any other country, he would shake the dust off his sandals to get rid of every trace of non Jewish Gentile impurity he could. This is the worldview into which the apostles and those who made up the Jerusalem Church were born. They were raised in this type of thinking, but through the ministry of Jesus and the gift of the Holy Spirit. God had been at work tearing down paradigms about the kingdom of God.

Philip had been used by God to spark a revival in Samaria, the central region in Israel, inhabited by an ethnic group of half Jews who were hated by the pure blooded Hebrews. Peter and John had been summoned to pray for those Sumerian converts, and they were shocked when they witnessed the same Holy Spirit being given to them that had been given to the pureblooded Hebrews in Jerusalem. Philip was then sent by God to preach the Gospel to a Jewish Ethiopian eunuch, a man who was a foreigner and perpetually ceremonially unclean under the old Covenant Law. As Peter journeyed across Judea last week, we saw him go through the semi Greek town of Luda, and then the fully Greek town, the fully Hellenistic town of Joppa, where he stayed with Simon the Tanner, a man whose occupation made him perpetually unclean under the law due to his constant exposure to dead animals and blood. We can see God moving through circumstances to bring the apostles into contact with Gentiles, that they might practice what Jesus had commanded and make disciples of all nations under the old covet.

In the days of the Old Testament, it was possible for a Gentile, for a nonJew, to become part of the nation of Israel. But they would need to commit to living like a Hebrew by following the law and worshiping Yahweh alone. And if they were men, they would need to undergo the right of circumcision. And some people complain about a members class. Unbelievable.

They would, they'll take you a second. They would, however, be second class citizens in Israel because they wouldn't have any ethnic ties to any of the twelve tribes, and they would always be viewed as somewhat of an outsider. I don't think that Peter and the apostles hated the Gentiles. I don't think the idea that God could save them was actually an insurmountable intellectual obstacle for them. I think they hadn't yet intentionally reached out to the Gentiles for two reasons.

Firstly, they were unbelievably busy in Jerusalem, leading the church there, and then checking up on all the saints who had scattered from there, took up every spare minute they had. Secondly, they couldn't figure out, though, how it would be possible for Jews and Gentiles to integrate into the same churches. In the Jewish mind, adherence to God's law, following God's law is what marked a man as one of God's people. And the apostles understood that the law couldn't save you, it couldn't make you right with God. They understood why Jesus had to die in our place.

But there was still some ambiguity as to whether the whole law was now done with, or whether certain aspects were still intended to be identifying marks for the people of God. The most prominent example was circumcision. It was the physical mark God gave to Abraham that indicated a man was a worshiper of Yahweh. And it seems clear from coming chapters in the book of Acts that the Jerusalem Church and the Apostles were under the impression that circumcision continued to be a distinguishing mark of those who followed Yahweh. There seems to be a similar mindset around the Old Covenant laws relating to food.

You've likely heard of kosher food. It's a term that means food has been prepared in accordance with the Old Covenant laws of Israel. Like circumcision, eating kosher food was considered a distinguishing lifestyle mark of the people of God. It's just what God's people do. They eat kosher food.

There were all kinds of other Hebrew ceremonial laws that related to one's lifestyle. And for this reason the Jews would not even enter the home of a Gentile, because they had no idea what manner of uncleanness they might be exposed to. The idea of sharing a meal with a Gentile was abhorrent to a Jew because the food would almost certainly not be kosher, and you weren't going to take a Gentile's word for it. So by eating with a Gentile, you would be choosing to sin against God and defile yourself. And these are the kinds of issues that were in the background of the Apostles minds.

Yes, the Gospel is for the Gentiles too, but how? How do they need to start their own churches? How can we minister to them without going into their homes and sharing fellowship that way? How do we explain to gentlemen that they need to be circumcised before joining the Church? Samaritans were circumcised.

How can we be in the same church if we can't even share meals together? I think it's fair to say that the Apostles were likely glad to be too busy in the early years of the Church to try and tackle those kinds of questions. So with all that background, let's jump in. In Acts, chapter ten, verse one, it says there was a man in Caesarea named Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian regiment. Caesaria was about 30 miles, or 50 km north up the coast from Joppa, where Peter was staying.

A centurion oversaw a hundred soldiers. The Roman historian Polybius described centurions as not so much venturesome daredevils as natural leaders of a steady and sedate spirit. Not so much men who will initiate attacks and open the battle, as men who will hold their ground when worsted and hard pressed and be ready to die at their posts. His position tells us Cornelius was a strong, responsible and reliable man. It's interesting to me that when we last saw Philip the Evangelist, he was ending home to Caesaria.

And so all indications are that he was in the city at this time. And yet the Lord chose to work through Peter, because, as we shall see, the Lord wanted to establish a connection between the Gentiles and the Jerusalem Church, of whom Peter was a representative. Verse is he? Cornelius was a devout man and feared God along with his whole household. He did many charitable deeds for the jewish people and always prayed to God.

Cornelius was what scholars call a God fearer. A Gentile who followed the law of Israel as best he knew how, didn't worship pagan or foreign gods, worship yahweh alone, was a friend of the Jewish people, attended synagogue and studied the scriptures, but they weren't full proselytes because they had not yet been circumcised. For some reason, that was a bit of a stumbling block for some Gentiles. God fearers were ripe for conversion to Christianity, and Luke himself, who's writing the Book of Acts, was likely a God fearer. Technically, God gives every person some revelation.

He gives every person some light. And to those who embrace the revelation they receive, he gives more to those who reject it, he does not. Now, why does he stop giving revelation to those who reject it? Because the more revelation a person has, the more they will be accountable for when they stand before God one day. Therefore, it is a mercy that Jesus limits the amount of revelation he gives to those he knows will always reject Him.

Peter tells us in his letter to the Romans that every person, every person has received two glaring massive revelations of God. The first is creation. The world and the universe around us shout that there is a designer, there is a Creator, there is an intelligent crafter behind the universe who has to be overwhelmingly great and powerful and has to transcend the universe itself. Creation and science tell us that the universe had a beginning point and exploded from nothingness. And so whatever created everything that exists in our physical dimensions must be outside of those physical dimensions.

There was no time before the beginning of the universe, so whatever created the universe is outside of time and has the ability to create from nothing. And whether you're looking at your own hand or your eye in the mirror or the world around you, creation screams that there is a God, there is a Creator. In Romans 120, Paul writes about God. His invisible attributes, that is, his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen since the creation of the world being understood through what he has made. As a result, people are without excuse.

The second piece of evidence illumination, light, revelation that Paul says everyone gets, is our moral conscience. We know intrinsically in the depths of our souls that we have a moral obligation to do certain things and a moral obligation to not do certain things. This is why there's never been a culture in the history of the world where it was considered admirable to murder a man and steal his wife. Our conscience condemns us when we sin because we know that what we are doing is wrong, no matter what the culture tells us. In Romans chapter 214 16, paul writes about how God's moral standards, his laws, are written on every heart, whether they've read the Bible or not.

Paul says when gentiles who do not by nature have the law do what the law demands. They are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts. Their consciences confirm this. Their competing thoughts either accused or excuse them.

On the day when God judges what people have kept secret, every person either embraces or rejects these two revelations of God. Cornelius was a man who had embraced them. He found himself stationed in Judea, where he was exposed to more light, more revelation. He saw the culture of the Jewish people. He saw their laws and ethics in practice.

He heard their scriptures being recited and taught. And his conscience testified that he was witnessing truth. It was light. It was something he had not found in the gods of the Roman pantheon. This was a living God and Cornelius could sense it.

He didn't care if he was a second or third class follower of Yahweh in Israel. He was a man who just wanted the truth and followed the truth wherever it led. And that's why, as we meet him, we find him living up to the light that he's been given as best he knows how, fearing God, showing charitable kindness to the Jewish people and praying as part of his lifestyle. So devout and sincere a man was Cornelius that we are told his whole household has followed him in his devotion to Yahweh. He responded to the revelation he had received.

He lived up to the light he had received from living in Judea. He abandoned his Roman pagan gods, worshiped the gods of the Hebrews as best he knew how, but had not yet fully converted by getting circumcised. Something was holding him back. Something was telling him that he didn't need to do that. So would you write this down?

Cornelius embraced the revelation God had given him, so God gave him more. God gave him more.

Verse three, about three in the afternoon, he distinctly saw in a vision an angel of God who came in and said to him, cornelius, staring at him in awe, he said, what is it, Lord? Now, just to clarify, this angel is not Jesus. This is just Cornelius showing reverence by referring to his divine visitor as someone who is above him. And we'll see this kind of humility displayed by Cornelius again later when he meets Peter in verse 25. The angel told him, your prayers and your acts of charity have ascended as a memorial offering before God.

And so the picture is that Cornelius'prayers and acts of charity have been rising up to heaven like sweet smelling incense. And God has been blessed by his sincerity. God has been blessed by him responding to the revelation that he's been given. And so God was going to bless him by giving him more revelation and light. Now send men to Joppa and call for Simon, who was also named Peter.

He's lodging with Simon, a tanner whose house is by the sea. When the angel who spoke to him had gone, he called two of his household servants and a devout soldier who was one of those who attended him. After explaining everything to them, he sent them to Joppa. This is how a good soldier responds orders have been given and they must therefore be acted upon immediately. Now we switch from Cornelius back to Peter scene change, verse nine.

The next day, as they were traveling and nearing the city, peter went up to pray on the roof about noon. At this time, being on the street level was the hustle and the bustle of every town and city. If you wanted a quieter spot, you would head upstairs on the outside of your house to your roof, which had a solid enough surface to walk on. You'd probably have some sort of basic structure with some sort of sheet to give you some shade, and that's where you would go to relax or have a conversation and just chill for a little bit. Or in Peter's case, go pray.

It says he became hungry and wanted to eat, but while they were preparing something, he fell into a trance. And I know you might be thinking, I know exactly what you're talking about. I've been this hungry. I saw burritos just like coming down from heaven, and I just really had to eat something. That's not what we're talking about here.

This is a genuinely supernatural trance that Peter is in. God is putting him in this dreamlike state where he's fully lucid, he has his wits about him, he's able to think clearly, but it's like he is seeing something as surely as I'm seeing you and you are seeing me. It says he saw heaven open than an object that resembled a large sheet coming down, being lowered by its four corners to the earth. In it were all the four footed animals and reptiles of the earth and the birds of the sky. So in this sheet are a mixture of animals, animals that are clean under the food laws of Israel, and animals that are not clean under the food laws of Israel.

And so this is already starting to freak Peter out a little bit, and we have to address this question at this time. Why? Why were certain animals considered clean under the laws that God gave to Israel and others considered unclean? Why did God say, you can eat this one but not this one? Why did God say, your food has to be prepared in a certain way?

In some cases, there are and were clear health benefits to the ceremonial laws God gave Israel. But there can't be the overarching reason for all the ceremonial laws, because some of them have nothing to do with health. For example, in Leviticus 1919, god tells Israel, do not put on a garment made of two kinds of material this has nothing to do with health. I don't know about you. I praise God for whoever figured out that you put a little spandex in your jeans with cotton.

You can stretch these bad boys. Thank God for that. I love my tribal and soft tshirts. The reason for God's ceremonial laws cannot be purely health related, because all those laws also passed away when they were fulfilled by Jesus. And we know that.

It's not like, unfortunately, the perfect life of Jesus suddenly removed all the downside of every food. It's not like because Jesus lived a perfect life, we can just eat whatever we want and we don't get fat and we don't clog our arteries because Jesus lived a perfect life. Well, that'd be awesome. But we know it's not true. We also know that it's not like God's attitude before the cross was, I care deeply about your physical health.

And then after the cross he's like, Eh, whatever, just do whatever you want. We know that didn't happen. So the overarching reason for the ceremonial laws that God gave Israel cannot be health. It cannot be some of the other explanations that I've heard suggested either. The overarching reason is given to us by God.

In Leviticus chapter 20, verses 25 through 26, god says to Israel, you are to distinguish the clean animal from the unclean one and the unclean bird from the clean one. Do not become contaminated by any land animal, bird, or whatever crawls on the ground. I have set these apart as unclean for you. You are to be holy to me, because I the Lord am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be mine. And so here's the idea.

When God created the nation of Israel, he created them to be a distinct, special people who would be set apart from the nations for Him. In Deuteronomy seven, Moses reminds the Israelites that they weren't chosen because they were special in any way. He tells them, The Lord had his heart set on you and chose you, not because you were more numerous than all peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. That's why the human nature side is so compelling with Israel, because God told them from the beginning, I didn't choose you because you're special. You were the least of all peoples, the most insignificant group of peoples.

God chose Israel because he wanted to. At the end of the day, that's all we can say with the knowledge we have right now. He wanted to. Likewise, the ceremonial laws that God gave Israel were not primarily about health. They were about this concept of being set apart.

God didn't want his people to behave and look like everybody else. He wanted them to be distinct. And so he knew that he had to drill into their minds that they were different from the other nations because they were set apart. For Him. Everybody else belonged to the world.

System. Everybody else belonged to the kingdom of Satan, but Israel belonged to God. And so God created these rules that affected every area of their life to condition his people, to get comfortable with the fact that they were to be different from everybody else. They were different in the way that they valued one another, they were different in the God that they worshiped, they were different in how they were to handle their agriculture. They placed a different value on the sanctity of human life to all the other cultures around them.

They placed a different value on marriage, they placed a different value on family, all these things. And so God said not only these things, but I need you to have differences in every area of your life because you're not going to be okay with the big stuff if you can't be okay with some little stuff. So from the time a child is born, I want to condition you to understand you are set apart. You are not like everybody else. And if you think this sounds like folly, if you think this sounds like random laws being passed down by God, ask yourself this today, 4000 years later, is there still a bigger problem that Christianity has than compromising with the world?

Have we ever got past that? Or is that not the number one thing doing damage to the church and to the lives of those who follow Jesus today? People who don't want to be set apart. I want to be part of the world and part of the family of God. And from the very beginning, God told his people, you have to get it through your heads, you can't.

If you follow me, you are set apart. Can't have 1ft here and 1ft here. You belong to me. And so he's teaching his people this through what they eat, through how they wash, through how they navigate all kinds of issues. You're not like everybody else, you're set apart for me.

And is anyone's thinking like, well, wasn't he setting them up to be arrogant and to other everybody else? Remember what he told them? He said I didn't choose you because you're special. You were the least of all peoples. And if they had remembered that, there would have been no room for arrogance.

But they couldn't remember that because they just had human nature. They just had human nature. For us who are Christians today, what is the protection supposed to be from us looking down on everyone else and uttering everyone else and saying oh, we're special, what's the protection? It's in the scriptures. The faith that we have to believe in God was a gift from God.

Why? Scripture tells us, so that no man may what boast. God designed even the gift of salvation to come to us in such a way that it's impossible, if we have right doctrine, to say well, I'm better than people, that's why I'm saved. I saw the light when other people could not perceive it. I'm just better.

God says, Listen, the faith that you even have to believe was a gift from me to you. You've got nothing to boast. It's all the work of God. It's the work of God. And if you remember that, it's impossible to look down on anybody else.

Impossible. So Peter sees in his vision the sheet of clean and unclean animals coming down. He's disturbed by the presence of all these unclean animals because he associates following God with being set apart in the area of food as well. But it gets even worse, because then a voice said to him, get up, Peter, kill and eat. And that command means kill and eat without distinction.

Whatever you want, go ahead and kill it. There's no limits. That's why Peter says in verse 14, no Lord, for I have never eaten anything impure and ritually unclean. So Peter recognizes that this is the voice of the Lord Jesus. And this also makes it clear that years after Pentecost in Acts chapter two, the disciples and the apostles in the Jerusalem church were still abiding by the old covenant food laws.

They were still eating kosher. Only verse 15, again a second time, the voice said to him now underline this in your Bibles what God has made clean, do not call impure. This happened three times, and suddenly the object was taken up into heaven. It happens three times because Peter's paradigms are so ingrained that he can't make sense of what Jesus is saying or why he's saying it. But if you've read Acts ten before then you have the benefit of hindsight.

Here's what we know Jesus is really saying to Peter. He's saying, Peter, the ultimate reason that something is clean or unclean is not because it appears in the law of Moses. It's because I have declared it to be clean or unclean. I'm the author of the law, and I'm the judge of all things. If I call something unclean, it's unclean.

It doesn't matter what anybody else thinks, they're not the judge. And if I call something clean, then it's clean. It doesn't matter what anybody else thinks. They're not the judge. And Peter, I have called all these animals clean.

This is possible because I fulfilled the law on behalf of all those who belong to me. And what will mark my people as distinct will no longer be food laws or circumcision. What marks my people as distinct now, Peter, is the presence of the Holy Spirit. For everybody who belongs to me has something within them that the world does not have the Holy Spirit. That is how my people are marked now.

That is how my people are set apart from the world. And Peter couldn't understand all that just yet. He soon would, though at this point, he's just confused as to why Jesus is telling him that all animals are now clean in the sight of. God. Turn with me if you would stick your bullets in where we are and acts and flip back a couple of books to Mark, chapter seven, the Gospel of Mark, chapter seven.

Matthew Mark, Luke, John Acts gospel of Mark chapter Seven I want us to read through this together, because in it we see Jesus tackling the very issue that was tripping up. Peter mark, chapter seven, verse one. It says the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him. They gathered around Jesus. They observed that some of his disciples were eating bread with unclean, that is, unwashed hands for the Pharisees.

And all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, keeping the tradition of the elders when they come from the marketplace, they do not eat unless they have washed, and there are many other customs they have received and keep, like the washing of cups, pitchers, kettles, and dining couches. All these laws that are mentioned, by the way, are not in the law that God gave to Israel. These are all additional laws that Amen had added to the Law of God, like bonus laws. Who doesn't love bonus laws? Nobody loves bonus laws.

Rabbis, scribes and scholars had expanded the Law of God and claimed that, well, what God meant would clearly include these things as well. Spoiler alert it didn't. Verse five. So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, why don't your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating bread with ceremonially unclean hands? The religious leaders, you see, had put the traditions of their elders on the same level as the word of God.

And that's why we read he answered them. Isaiah prophesied correctly about you hypocrites as it is written, this people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. They worship me in vain, teaching as doctrines, human commands, abandoning the command of God. You hold on to human tradition. He also said to them, you have a fine way of invalidating God's command in order to set up your tradition.

For Moses said, honor your father and your mother, and whoever speaks evil, a father or mother must be put to death. But you say, if anyone tells his father or mother, whatever benefit you might have received from me is corbyn. That is an offering devoted to God. You no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. Let me explain.

The Law of God commanded men and women to care for their parents and honor their parents, including in their old age. But over the years, these religious leaders who didn't really want to do that had come up with and codified a concept called Corbin. Essentially, you could tag anything you owned furniture, money, property. As corbyn, you could give it this tag, and that would mean it had been dedicated to God and therefore couldn't be used for anything else, you didn't actually have to give it to the temple. You could just say, oh, this item is basically a memorial to God.

I've dedicated it to God. And so here's why they would do this because mothers and fathers would come to their kids in their old age and say, hey, I can't work, I've got no income, can you help? And these Jewish men were saying, I'd love to, but all my spare money and all my investments are corbin. They've all been dedicated to God. They would say, Well, I noticed you're still spending it.

Yes, for the Lord, it's corbin. And Jesus is turning the table on these Pharisees and scribes by saying, you're so concerned about my disciples not keeping your madeup laws, but you're not even keeping the laws that actually come from God. In fact, you invent new laws to help you avoid keeping the laws that God gave you and teach others to do the same. You're so worried about my disciples not washing their hands, but you're letting your own parents live in poverty. He says you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you've handed down, and you do many similar things.

Summoning the crowd again. He told them, listen to me, all of you, and understand nothing goes into a person from outside that can defile him. But the things that come out of a person are what defile him. So remember, the food laws God gave to Israel were for the purpose of making them distinct, reminding them and the nations around them that they were set apart for God. They were not to live like everyone else.

But somewhere along the line, the Israelites began to believe that the food laws were actually making them righteous. That by eating kosher food, I'm actually being made righteous. And Jesus says, don't be stupid. Sin doesn't come from what you eat. Although we should talk about fried Twinkies.

Sin is not a food. Jesus is saying, sin comes from evil desires within the heart of a person. Sin comes from within and makes its way, finds its expression in your actions, in your speech and your thoughts. Jesus point was that the Pharisees and scribes were keeping all the food laws religiously, but their treatment of their own parents showed that their heart was wicked. So if following food laws could have made their hearts righteous, then their hearts would have been righteous.

But they obviously weren't. That's because what they needed was the same thing every person needs. They need a new heart. They need a new nature that desires to do what is right. And only Jesus can give that new heart.

And that's exactly what he does when we turn and give our lives to Him. He gives us a new heart with new desires. It says when he went into the house, away from the crowd, his disciples asked him about the parable. He said to them, are you also as lacking in understanding. Don't you realize that nothing going into a person from the outside can defile him, for it doesn't go into his heart, but into the stomach and is eliminated.

And then underlined this thus he declared all foods clean. Food doesn't defile a person. Jesus says food comes in and food goes out, but the heart remains. And the problem is that we're born with a heart that wants to sin. We're born with a heart that gravitates toward temporary pleasure at any cost, including harm and destruction to us and those around us.

That's our default condition. I want what's going to bring me pleasure right now or very, very soon. I don't care if it damages me in the long run. I don't care if it hurts other people in the long run. That's our default condition.

That's why we need a new heart. It's interesting that the Gospel of Mark was a collaboration between a disciple named John Mark and Peter. Peter provided the information and John Mark wrote it down and then edited it for a Roman audience. And by the time years later, peter's looking back on this event with Cornelius, he had realized that when Jesus was teaching this, Peter looks back and he goes, oh. That was the moment Jesus said, all foods are clean.

It took Peter years to understand what Jesus was saying all the way back then, because when Jesus was among his disciples, ceremonial laws were not the distinguishing mark of the people of God. The fact that they were following Jesus was the distinguishing mark of the people of God. That they recognized Jesus as the Messiah was the distinguishing mark. And on the day of Pentecost, in Acts chapter two, the Holy Spirit dwelling within every believer became the distinguishing mark of the people of God. Believers are marked by a new heart with new desires they're made distinct from the world around them by the presence of God within them.

Make a note of this. The distinguishing mark of the nation of Israel was their adherence to the law of God. Their adherence to the law of God. That means they followed the law of God. The distinguishing mark of the church is the presence of the Holy Spirit.

Indwelling every believer and then turn back with me to Acts 1017. It says while Peter was deeply perplexed about what the vision he had seen might mean, right away the men who had been sent by Cornelius, having asked directions to Simon's house, stood at the gate. They called out asking if Simon, who was also Amen Peter, was lodging there. As Peter's vision ends, the mercy seat by Cornelius arrived looking for him. While Peter was thinking about the vision, the Spirit told him, three men are here looking for you.

Get up, go downstairs and go with them. With no doubts at all, because I have sent them. Then Peter went down to the Amen and said, here I am, the one you're looking for? What's the reason you're here? They said, Cornelius, a centurion, an upright and godfearing man who has a good reputation with the whole Jewish nation, was divinely directed by a holy angel to call you to his house and hear a message from you.

Peter then invited them in and gave them lodging. Peter knows God is doing something. He just can't put the pieces together quite yet. Peter is actually following the old Covenant law by showing hospitality and inviting these men to stay with him even though they're Gentiles. Because they were coming to stay with him, he would be able to control the environment and the food and all of those sorts of things and ensure that all the appropriate laws were followed.

It would be an entirely different thing for Peter to go into the home of a Gentile, where he would have no control over how anything was prepared, anything was served, or what cleanliness standards were followed. This is why the Holy Spirit had to tell him, go with them with no doubts at all, because I have sent them. And again we see that Peter didn't seem to have any animosity toward the Gentiles. He just wasn't sure how he could go into one of their homes without sinning against God. But that immediate concern had been laid to rest by the Lord Jesus himself, who had given Peter a direct command to go to the house of Cornelius.

The next day he got up and set out with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went with him. Acts eleven two will tell us that Peter took six of the brothers from Joppa with him. They were circumcised Hebrew Jews, and the Spirit gave Peter the wisdom to have these men join him on this trip. And I say that because, as we shall see in our next study, these men will serve as important witnesses to the amazing events that will transpire in the house of Cornelius. I'll share a couple of thoughts in closing today, the Church has been grafted in like a branch being grafted into a tree, the tree of Israel.

In this sense, we're the chosen people of God too. Israel was initially called to be a light to the nations, but that task has now been given to the Church, and the Church will fulfill that calling until she's taken to be with Jesus. But like Israel, as I said, we too are called to be set apart. We're called to live lives that are distinct from the world around us. We're called to be different.

Peter wrote to believers, you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his possession, so that you may proclaim the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people. You had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. We have the Holy Spirit. The world is not.

We are following Jesus. The world is not. We are going this way. The world is going that way. In the Sermon on the Mount, jesus told the crowd, enter through the narrow gate.

This is so heavy. I don't think we understand how heavy what Jesus is saying here is. For the gate is wide and the road broad. That leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it. How narrow is the gate and difficult the road that leads to life and few find it.

Jesus said, the road that leads to destruction is easy. It's broad. It's a pleasant stroll for most of your life. He said, the road that leads to eternal life is narrow, it's difficult, and there's not many who find it because not many want it. As a pastor, it pains me when I see believers who are trying to figure out how to follow Jesus and simultaneously fit in with the world.

It pains me because it's impossible. I heard someone put it well too. They said, You've got too much of Jesus to enjoy the world and too much of the world to enjoy Jesus, and you just end up miserable. And I just want to share with you an honesty. This is not just a message for teenagers.

We never outgrow this. We never outgrow a desire to fit in. Do you know that? It's one of the strongest innate human needs. It affects our psychology tremendously.

We just want to fit in. And one of the easiest ways to fit in is by adopting the beliefs of the majority in the culture. It doesn't even matter what they are. I've shared this before. They've shown that the way social engineering works is that in our culture today, all those who want to influence society have to do is convince society that the majority of people hold this belief.

So, in other words, let's take a belief, whatever belief you want to take, let's do something ludicrous. We should all chop a leg off every cat, okay? No, I don't have something against cats. I'm realizing now, this is the second time in 48 hours that I've gone up against cats. But something ludicrous.

Let's chop a leg off every cat. And people go, that's preposterous. That's ridiculous. And here's what you do, is you begin to post on Facebook, on Twitter, TikTok, every social influencing channel. These videos about people saying, people need to open up their minds and understand that chopping a leg off a cat is really good for a cat.

It makes them lighter, makes them more aerodynamic. And scientists are all saying this is a necessary evolution of the species. And then the next version of cats are going to be amazing, but we have to go through this. This is what all the experts are saying right now. And then they go on there and they use bots to give these videos millions of likes, tons of fake comments and people go, wow, this thing is really blowing up.

And it looks like everyone pretty much seems to agree we should be chopping a leg off cats. We should do this. And everybody who doesn't have an anchor, who doesn't have a moral or intellectual tether to the truth will follow completely the winds of what they believe the culture are doing. So if you don't have some kind of anchor to a system of truth that is unchanging, you don't have some kind of moral tether to something, you are a kite who will blow wherever the winds of the culture go. And wherever you think even those winds are blowing, that's where you'll go.

Because your thoughts and your actions and your views and your beliefs will be driven entirely by this deep rooted psychological need to fit in. And your subconscious is telling you, if you believe what everybody else believes, then you'll fit in. It doesn't matter how preposterous the belief is, you will believe it. If you have no tether to the truth, you will believe whatever the majority believes. And if you're any student of history at all, you will know that history is replete with examples of the majority being horribly, horribly wrong.

You will know that history has killed millions because of beliefs held by the majority. You will know that millions have suffered and died because of beliefs that were held by the majority. Hitler was democratically elected. Russians were in favor of Stalin. And on and on and on it goes.

Doctors were in favor of opioids. We could go on and on and on where there's no tether to the truth. You will blow wherever the winds of culture go. And what God says is, he says, if you're going to be my people, you're going to be set apart because you're going to be anchored to me. You're going to be anchored to the truth.

You will not be blown wherever the winds go, but all of culture might blow over there, but you're going to stay here because you are rooted in me. You are set apart from me. You don't go wherever the winds blow. You're rooted in the truth. And that is why, as Christians, we must come to terms with the truth that we are to be set apart for the Lord.

Because if you haven't noticed, the winds are blowing hard, really hard. And anyone who has not made peace with the truth that we need to be set apart for God will be blown away. And so I beg you, if you're a kid, if you're a teenager, if you're a young adult, if you're an old adult, know this the word of God says friendship with the world is enmity with God. In other words, if you want to be a friend of the world, you are making the decision to be an enemy of God. There is no way to play both sides.

There are no double agents in the kingdom of God. None. Make peace with it. Why? Because everything that seems so pressing right now is going to fade away into nothingness so much faster than you think.

We have no concept how long eternity is. Scripture says this life is a vapor. And the only tactic that Satan really has is to try and convince you that right now is everything. Do you know that's a doctrine from the pit of hell you only live once. Demonic doctrine.

Yolo, demonic doctrine. You don't only live once. You're going to live forever somewhere. Somewhere. And the only tactic that Satan has is to try and tell you that right now is the only thing that matters.

And it doesn't. It doesn't. The better things of God are not only waiting for you in eternity, they are available to you now, available to you now in this life. But they have a price. And I don't want to lie to you.

They have a price. And the price is you will be set apart for God. You do not belong to the world. You belong to him. You will not fit in.

The whole world will blow this way and you will stay here. And you won't be able to fly under the radar forever. People will begin to notice that you're not glowing with the wind like you're supposed to be. And you have to be comfortable being set apart for Jesus. You have to be.

The second thing I want to share with you in closing is just the glorious truth that if you belong to Jesus, he has made you clean. Hear me please. He has made you clean. He has robed you in the righteousness of Jesus. And if he has declared you clean and righteous, then you are clean and righteous.

It doesn't matter what anybody else says. The fact that the Spirit of God dwells within you is undeniable evidence that you are clean and righteous and holy through Jesus. Hear me on this. How you feel does not affect that. Truth has no bearing on it.

Jesus is the judge. What he says is clean is clean. And we have to choose to stand on that truth. We have to usher out every contradictory thought and feeling. This is what scripture is talking about when it says we have to take captive every thought that sets itself up against the word of God.

These thoughts that come in and say you're not righteous, you should be ashamed. He doesn't love you. You have to get those out of your head because they're in competition with the truth and they're not accurate. We have to submit our minds and our emotions to the truth of God. Paul said, the Father chose us in Him, in Jesus before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless, in love before Him, not because we can make ourselves holy and blameless.

He chose us because he knew he could. He knew he could. And BJ's going to come up in a moment and pray that all of us who belong to Jesus would feel in a real way and comprehend in our minds and our hearts that we've been made righteous by Jesus. But because we forget we have need of communion, it's a reminder. And when we take it, we should confess our sins to the Lord.

Don't take communion without confessing your sins to the Lord, if you're aware. And then we can be blessed by the tangible reminder that our sins have been paid for by the body and blood of Jesus. And as we take those elements, we can say, thank you, Lord, for dying for me. Thank you for forgiving me. Thank you for robing me in your righteousness.

I'm clean because you've made me clean. And we're going to pray in just a second for the gift of a clean conscience that only God can give. And he can only give it where sins have been repented for and forgiveness has been sought. And we have an opportunity. If you are troubled by your conscience, you can leave today with a clean conscience.

By the grace of God. If you repent and turn and follow Jesus.

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