Devotional 119: No Man Common or Unclean

Acts 10:24-33

Peter Meets Cornelius

24 And the following day they entered Caesarea. Now Cornelius was waiting for them, and had called together his relatives and close friends. 25 As Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him.26 But Peter lifted him up, saying, “Stand up; I myself am also a man.” 27 And as he talked with him, he went in and found many who had come together. 28 Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. 29 Therefore I came without objection as soon as I was sent for. I ask, then, for what reason have you sent for me?”

30 So Cornelius said, “Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, 31 and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard, and your alms are remembered in the sight of God. 32 Send therefore to Joppa and call Simon here, whose surname is Peter. He is lodging in the house of Simon, a tanner, by the sea. When he comes, he will speak to you.’ 33 So I sent to you immediately, and you have done well to come. Now therefore, we are all present before God, to hear all the things commanded you by God.”

When we understand that G-d means to graft us in through the covenant of grace, the act of holding onto our own salvation without sharing the good news takes on a different kind of disobedience.

We understand the Jews were chosen, as Moses said:

Deuteronomy 7:7-9

The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples.

But under the New Covenant, Christ tells us: (John 10:14-16)

14 I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

Paul affirms this again (Romans 9:22-26)

22 What if God, wanting to show His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 and that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had prepared beforehand for glory, 24 even us whom He called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?

25 As He says also in Hosea:

“I will call them My people, who were not My people,
And her beloved, who was not beloved.”
26 “And it shall come to pass in the place where it was said to them,
‘You are not My people,’
There they shall be called sons of the living God.”

We should be joyful that we who believe are no longer under the wrath of G-d, but we are not to keep silent. We are to tell the Good News, and it is up to Holy Spirit to open the ears and hearts of those who would listen.

Cornelius thought to gather his relatives and close friends ahead of Peter’s arrival. They were expecting something great to happen in the presence of the most volatile disciple who had finally come to a more steadfast faith, to the point where he was standing up in the midst of assemblies to proclaim the divine glory of someone he once vehemently denied to the point of cursing.

And he says to them:

Acts 10:34-35

Preaching to Cornelius’ Household

34 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.

If the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, and all who dwell on it, how then, in His presence, can anyone be unclean? Through faithlessness,  doubt, denial,  unbelief, backsliding,  compromise, and willful and presumptuous sin without repentance.

We cannot find the Narrow Way without faith, the guidance of the Holy Spirit, prayer, and works.

In the current times when xenophobia and racism are at a fever pitch, not just here, but all across the world (as Christ foretold, ‘brother against brother, and nation against nation’) we are not to consider the ‘other’ as an unclean thing unworthy of salvation.

As Paul told the Corinthians,

 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

So while there is no partiality, it is not a license to continue sinning, for without repentance and faith in Christ there is no remission of sin, and the wrath of the Father remains.

We are not called to judge, but tell, and let the Spirit do His work. He may be content to leave the seed for the moment, and water it another time, but we must remember always that it is G-d who brings the increase.

In the meantime, we work out our own salvation, and take the planks from our eyes, living righteous lives and worshiping the Lord in spirit and truth, loving G-d with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving one another as Christ loved the Church.

In these times, it’s a daunting task, but we have the words of our Savior: (Matthew 19:26)

26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, 

You have invited us to the wedding feast, ragged and unworthy to stand before G-d, worthy of judgement and the outer darkness. Thank You for giving us a way to be reconciled to our Creator without sin, and that is through faith in the atoning work you did for us, that we might escape the tribulation of the days to come, and inherit the kingdom along with You.

We thank you, Good Shepherd, for the grace you’ve given us, for sustaining us in the valleys of trials and temptations, for bringing us out, for healing us by Your stripes, for granting us Your peace, and for showing us the Father.

We thank You for providing us a Comforter who guides us into all truth, and convicts us of sin. He is the seal and approval of our salvation, when You’ll call us forth from the grave with a great shout.

We thank You for interceding for us, the unchosen, before Heaven’s throne, and not condemning us as we continue to strive for Your example, growing in favor with G-d and man. Continue to speak to us while we’re enduring the scorn of Your enemies as proof we are indeed the sons and daughters of the living G-d, as we contend in the gates with those who would silence us. Fill our mouths with Truth no one can speak against, and give us what we should say.

Help us to speak truth to power, and truth in love, proclaiming You before men that we might also be proclaimed by You to the Father.

Give us the strength, in our trembling, to stand in the midst of the assembly, and by the power of Your Spirit preach the Gospel to all who cross our path, that they may see and know we are Christians, and glorify G-d as You claim them for the kingdom.

Open our hearts, our eyes, our spirits to rejoice with the angels when souls are redeemed from all nations, not just with those who look, act, and believe as we do.

From this day forth, help us to know that it is the Father’s will that all should come to repentance and faith in Christ, and no one should perish, but to also tell them that there will be a day of judgement, and in that day the Covenant of Grace is void.

May the grace, peace, and power of  the Lord Jesus Christ be with us all.

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 118: No More Questions

John 16:16-24

Sorrow Will Turn to Joy

16 “A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father.”

17 Then some of His disciples said among themselves, “What is this that He says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’; and, ‘because I go to the Father’?” 18 They said therefore, “What is this that He says, ‘A little while’? We do not know what He is saying.”

19 Now Jesus knew that they desired to ask Him, and He said to them, “Are you inquiring among yourselves about what I said, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’?20 Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. 21 A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.

23 “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

The Apostle Paul tells us it’s like looking at dark glass.

1 Corinthians 13:12

12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.

We are told by our Savior that our faith shall be rewarded, and our sorrow turned to joy. We are told by his most ardent disciple of the day that we are shrouded here on earth from heavenly matters.

We are very like the disciples who heard Jesus say these words: confused, scared, saddened, and doubtful.

We are prone to buffeting assaults of spiritual blindness, seeking to place ourselves in the Father’s position, not professing likeness, but professing self sufficiency.

There are variations of it, but all can be summed up this way: “We can do this without a moral compass full of contradictory dogma that tells us we need a ‘god’ to know right from wrong.”

It is because they read with no understanding of what separates us from the rest of world, they read it with the intent of disproving it, they read it with the intent of ridiculing it, and they read it with no faith that what they’re reading could be true.

They read as blind people who don’t know Braille: for them it’s not a system vital to their lives to understand, but a random scattering of dots and spaces that make no sense, and so dismissed as a nonsensical return to times of superstition and ignorance.

Also, they replace the motives of G-d with the motives of men: missionaries used it to control and enslave native populations so that the plundering of their land and resources wouldn’t meet resistance, in much the way the Pharisees plundered the wealth of Israel. Feminists tell us that men have used the Bible to control and enslave women, pointing to the submission verse Paul uses without reading the verse for what it tells husbands to do for their wives.  While this is true on both counts, the Father tells us He will deal with and repay such people, but do we really believe Him?

1 John 2:19

19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.

It will indeed be a joyous day when our questions are answered, our doubts erased, our fears lifted, and out tears dried.

In the meantime, in our lifetimes we have been called to serve in faith, worship in spirit and truth, finish the kingdom work we were given to do, and love G-d with all our hearts as we edify one another, running this race together as good and faithful servants until the day we have no more questions, and the fruit of our faith is harvested in the eternal worship of Almighty G-d.

Therefore I pray:

I rejoice here on earth in the words of my Savior, that my joy shall be made full in His presence on the day I escape the power of the grave to live eternally in the Father’s kingdom, should the Son judge me worthy of the honor, by the blood of His grace.

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for revealing the Father to me, and for sending me the Comforter as a seal of my salvation.

Thank You for shielding me from the Father’s wrath, soon to be visited on His enemies as He restores Heaven and Earth as sinless vessels of purity. Creation will cry out in full vigor as a testimony to His presence.

Thank You, for on that day You tell us all: You will ask me nothing.

I ask that until then You strengthen my faith, help my unbelief, and look for me when I go astray and off the narrow road.

Give me a clean heart, a bold spirit, and a guarded tongue. Purify my eyes, the lamps of my body, with good things, that they might behold the glory of G-d in Your presence, and not let me die.

You’ve given us the way, and finished the work that will see us reconciled and free from sin. You’ve shown us the Father. You’ve told us of His love for us. You’ve told us to believe, and not be afraid.

You tell us that we will be with You in paradise.

I would not lose such a salvation, Lord, for there is no other alternative but destruction.

Hold my hand, and lift me higher. May my faith please You, and release all the good that You have for me here in the land of the living. Thank You for delivering me from my trials, and opening my eyes to the suffering we must endure to be glorified with You in heavenly places.

My heart is grateful today.

My soul will be redeemed.

My flesh will be transformed.

My joy will be made full.

My sins will be forgiven.

And now I ask, may everything I do from here on be devoted to seeing that day where my questions will be answered.

Amen