Sermon Transcript



Many years ago when I was serving another church in another place, two men came up to me after a morning worship service and began to have a conversation with me.  They were very kind about the sermon that I preached that day.  They had some nice things to say.  Quickly they turned the conversation in a different direction.  They wanted me to know about a young couple that had recently gotten engaged in our church.  And I wasn’t aware of it, but they wanted me to be aware of it.  They also wanted me to be aware that he was a white guy, she was a black girl.  And it was clear from the way they told the story they did not approve.  And they wanted to know whether their pastor shared their disapproval.



Well, that’s when I felt this warm righteous anger boiling up inside of me.  Now, fortunately, I restrained myself, because what I really wanted to do is to take these two good ‘ol boys…and that’s the nicest thing I could say about them…grab them by the back of the neck and knock their heads together. But I didn’t do that.  I restrained myself because I was envisioning the headlines the next day.  “Pastor assaults two parishioners in the lobby of the church.”  And I didn’t go there.



We’re in Acts 10 this morning, and I’ve titled the message “Pride, Prejudice, and the Gospel.”  Because what we’re going to learn is, as we’ve been learning along the way, the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is for the world.  Jesus said in His great commission, “Go and make disciples of all nations,” just before He ascended to the Father.  In Acts 1:8 He reiterated the scope of this gospel plan.  He says, “You shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts.”  And for it to get from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth, which included the Gentile nations, the early followers of Jesus were going to have to shed some of the pride and the prejudice that was getting in the way of what God was doing.  There is a gospel train that left the station, and it’s a speedy train.  It’s moving from Jerusalem.  You know, it would have stayed in Jerusalem but for Acts 8 when the Lord turned up the heat.  Remember the persecution came?  And the early followers of Jesus scattered into Judea.  And, yes, the gospel even came to Samaria of all places.  Oh, the racial tensions between Jews and Samaritans was huge in the 1st century.  But it still hadn’t gotten to the Gentile nations.  And in order for that train to keep on moving, for that gospel to keep on spreading, pride and prejudice would have to be purged from the hearts of those early followers of Jesus.



And we’re going to learn about that in Acts 10 and all the way through the middle part of chapter 11.  William Barclay says the 10th chapter of Acts “tells a story that is one of the great turning points in the history of the church.”  He goes on to say, “We usually do not realize how near Christianity was to becoming only another kind of Judaism.  All the first Christians were Jews, and the whole tradition and outlook of Judaism would have moved them to keep this new wonder to themselves and to believe that God could not possibly have meant it for it for the Gentiles.  Luke sees this incident as a notable milestone on the road along which the church was groping its way to the conception of a world for Christ.”  And this is what we’ve come to in Acts 10.  I’ve been saying all along that since the day of Pentecost God has been doing a big thing.  It’s a transitional thing.  But here’s a big thing inside the big thing.  Now the gospel is blowing up all the way to the ends of the earth.  This gospel train is moving.  But pride and prejudice inside the church threatens the spread of the gospel.  And God has to deal with one of the leaders, a guy by the name of Peter.  And we’re going to read Peter’s story.



In fact, before we get to all that story in Acts 10 and 11, let’s just talk a little about prejudice.  Let me give you a definition and then a comment afterwards.  Prejudice is the belief that one person is superior to another by means of arbitrary comparisons.  Let me say that again.  Prejudice is that belief, perhaps inside of us, that one person is superior to another person based on arbitrary comparisons.  The sin of comparison.  And the common categories of comparison are race, the color of our skin, gender, economic status, religion, age, ancestry, disability, marital status…we could go on and on and on.  Examine your heart today.  Allow the search light of the Holy Spirit to go inside even those dark crevices of your heart and my heart and examine if we are engaged in the sin of what the Bible calls partiality, or the respecter of persons.  That you’ve somehow made distinctions, categorical distinctions, comparisons between yourself and another person, and in some small way, even a subtle way, thought yourself to be superior to them because you’re in this category and not this category.  Prejudice rears its ugly head in every generation.  It is that part of us deep in our soul that is broken and can only be redeemed by the Lord Jesus Christ and only be sanctified, cleaned up, made holy by the work of the Holy Spirit in us.



And this is not the kind of message to be looking around and pointing the finger at somebody else.  It’s the kind of message that where we examine ourselves.  We pray like the psalmist prayed in Psalm 139, “Search me, Oh God, and know my heart.  Try me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any wicked way in me,” even the wickedness of prejudice, even a smidgen of it, “and lead me in the way everlasting.”  Peter had to go through this.  The early apostles had to go through this.  And understanding that the sin of partiality and being a respecter of persons and prejudice rears its head in every generation.  Let’s learn from their story.



Now, before we get to the story, let me just give you some of the main characters and some of the main locations because we’re going to cover a lot of ground in chapter 10 through the middle of chapter 11.  And we’re going to move somewhat fast through that and learn some lessons along the way.  But here are the three main characters in the story, this big story and this big thing happened inside the bigger thing of the book of Acts.



The first is Cornelius the centurion.  We’re going to first meet a guy named Cornelius.  He is as Roman and as Gentile as you can get.  And he has achieved a certain status as a military officer within the Roman military.  He is a centurion, and he lives in a wonderful little coastal city called Caesarea.  You can go to Caesarea today.  If you go to Israel with us, it’s one of our first visits is to Caesarea right there on the beautiful, midnight blue Mediterranean Sea.  Caesarea was a wonderful place to live.  About 35 miles from Joppa, where we left Peter the apostle last time, and about 65 northwest of Jerusalem is Caesarea.  But Cornelius, a centurion, a Gentile, is one of the main characters.



Of course, Peter the apostle is as well.  Remember, Peter was making his way up the Mediterranean coast last time we were together.  And he stopped off at Lydda.  He healed a couple of people there, and then he made his way on to Joppa.  And he is staying at the home of Simon the tanner, who lives by the sea.  Now, God was already doing a work in Peter’s heart, melting away some of the pride and the prejudice.  We see this just by the fact that he is staying at Simon’s house.  Simon was a tanner, meaning that he dealt with the dead carcasses of animals.  And a pure Jew would never do that.  A pure Jew would never associate with a person like that because a dead carcass was considered unclean.  And a pure Jew would never stay at the home of a Gentile, let alone a Gentile who was also a tanner.  God was beginning to work on Peter’s heart and separating and really blending over the distinctions between clean and unclean.  Something that Peter had learned as Jew from his early days that these things are clean and these things are unclean.  You stay away from these things, but you embrace these things.  Some people are unclean, but other people are not.  Peter grew up with those kinds of distinctions in Judaism.  And the Lord is slowly purging him of this, starting with his stay at the home of Simon the tanner.  And we’ll get more into that as time goes on.



Now, let’s get into the story and, again, some lessons to learn as we work our way through Acts 10 and 11.  The first lesson is this- religious devotion is not enough to save from eternal damnation.  Go with me to chapter 10 beginning in verse 1.  Let’s meet Cornelius.  “At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God.  About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God come in and say to him, ‘Cornelius.’  And he stared at him in terror and said, ‘What is it, Lord [or sir]?’  And he said to him, ‘Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God.  And now send men to Joppa and bring one Simon who is called Peter.  He is lodging with one Simon, a tanner, whose house is by the sea.’”  By the way, Simon’s house was by the sea because he was a Gentile, because he was a tanner, and they cast him outside the city, not because it was great to live by the sea.  Although it’s pretty nice on the Mediterranean coast there.  Simon the tanner was already an outcast.  Verse 7, “When the angel who spoke to him had departed, he called two of his servants and a devout soldier from among those who attended him, and having related everything to them, he sent them to Joppa.”



Now, again, Cornelius is a centurion.  He has achieved a certain rank within the military.  He’s been successful as a military officer, and he is a commander over people.  He is a Gentile.  And he is a God-fearing man.  He is a God-fearing man who is also generous with his possessions.  He gives alms to the poor.  He is a charitable man, and he is a man of prayer.  But mark it down, friends.  Cornelius is not a saved man.  He has not had a born again experience.  He is full of religious devotion, but he still needs Jesus.  And the gospel is going to come to Cornelius, and he is going to get gloriously saved along with his household.  And Cornelius is just a reminder to us that religious devotion, religious devotion alone is not enough to save from eternal damnation.  Hell is paved with good intentions and sincere religious devotion.  But the only way you’re made right with Jesus…and Peter is going to make this clear when we get to the end of chapter 10 and even chapter 11.  The only way you get right with God is through Jesus and through and cross of Jesus Christ, no matter how sincere your religious devotion is.  And Cornelius was a sincere man.



It kind of reminds me of Nicodemus and the exchange that Jesus had with a Pharisee, a religious leader in Judaism named Nicodemus.  John 3, Jesus said to Nicodemus, “You must be born again.  Your religious devotion is not enough.”  And my challenge to you and my encouragement to you today is if you are still trusting in your religious devotion—how many times you go to church, how kind you are to other people, how many charitable deeds you have done, maybe even comparing yourself to another person who is not as religiously devoted as you are—if that’s what you’re trusting in to have a right relationship with God, think again.  Because Cornelius needed Jesus.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no man comes to the Father but by Me.”  And the Lord was kind enough to send an angel to Cornelius to get his attention and to say, “Listen, Cornelius, I want you to send some men to Joppa and bring back a guy named Peter.”



Now, what’s amazing about this story is the Lord’s timing and the way the Lord sovereignly orchestrated some meetings here.  Caesarea and Joppa were about 35 miles apart, and by foot it took about two days to get there.  And so while these men are traveling from Caesarea, an envoy from Cornelius to go get Peter, the Lord is dealing with Peter.  And then they’ve got a two-day journey back, and we’ll catch up to all of that.  But don’t miss the Lord’s perfect timing in this and how He orchestrated various conversations and various interactions here.



The second lesson we learn as we move on is that God is no respecter of persons.  The idea of prejudice, depending upon your Bible translation, is mentioned in various ways.  God is not a respecter of persons.  He does not show favoritism, okay, is another way the translation says it.  I’m just using the one that says He is no respecter of persons.  Let’s read on in verse 9.  “The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray.”  Let me stop right there.  The Jews observed prayer at certain hours of the day, the third hour, the sixth hour, which was noon, the ninth hour, which was 3:00 in the afternoon.  And Cornelius was observing the ninth hour of prayer, another indication of his religious devotion.  Peter was probably observing the sixth hour of prayer and goes up to a rooftop to pray and also to have a little lunch.  It says in verse 10, “And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth.  In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air.  And there came a voice to him: ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’  But Peter said, ‘By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.’  And the voice came to him again a second time, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’  This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.”



Well, Peter is up there observing the hour of prayer.  He gets hungry, has a little lunch, perhaps, brought up to him.  But before he does, he is found to be in a trance, a vision.  And he sees this…call it a bed sheet or a linen coming down from heaven, filled with all of these animals that a pure Jew would consider to be unclean.  They were great at categorizing and comparing.  You’re either in this category or this category.  If you’re not in this category, but I’m in that category…and that’s how the comparisons and the prejudices began.  It was a bed sheet full of all kinds of animals that they considered unclean.  And the voice from heaven says, “Rise up.  Kill these animals.”  Right?  Every hunter loves that, right?  Just take out your bow, take out your gun, whatever, you know.  Shoot and fire.  Kill these animals and eat.  And Peter being a good Jew who had grown up with distinctions and lines drawn, he says, “I can’t do that.”  And the voice comes back and says, “What God has made clean do not call common.”  And again, the Lord is slowly beginning to purge Peter of these matters of distinction and separation.  This between what is clean and what is unclean.



It goes on to say in verse 17 that, “while Peter was inwardly perplexed as to what the vision that he had seen might mean.”  Yeah, he was inwardly perplexed because, again, he had grown up with these distinctions.  I had a conversation with a guy the other day.  And he told me…he says, “You know, where I grew up, I grew up a racist.  I just didn’t know it.  I grew up, you know, with this prejudice in me.  It was just a part of our family.  It was a part of the culture.  It was part of where I lived.  I didn’t know I was a racist until later in life and until I met Jesus.  And God had to purge me of my pride and my prejudice.”  Peter had grown up with some of this stuff.  That’s why there was this inward battle within him.  But (0:19:00.1) the Lord is going to say in so many ways to Peter, “Peter, the train has left the station.  This gospel train has left the station.  I told you.  Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, the uttermost parts.  The gospel is for the world.  Peter, you’re going to have to catch up here.  You’re going to have to board this gospel train because it’s already left the station.  Don’t stand in the way of what God is doing by your pride and your prejudice.”  And, thankfully, Peter learns that lesson.



God is no respecter of persons.  Romans 2:11 says it this way.  In the context of salvation it says, “For God chose no partiality.”  James 2:1, “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.”  Some of you know that we have a daily radio broadcast called Something Good.  And (0:20:00.1) at the front end of that broadcast there is what we call a teaser.  It’s kind of a production term.  It’s a one-minute attention grabber.  I write it.  I voice it.  And my producer puts all kinds of wonderful sound effects to it.  It’s meant to kind of grab your attention as a listener.  And from time to time we go back and broadcast a series that I did many years ago from the book of James.  And I went back this week and I looked at James 2 where James talks about the sin of partiality and favoritism.  And I looked at those teasers that we did.  And one of them says this.  Picture two families walking into the church.  One is dressed in fine clothing.  The other shops at the thrift store.  The ushers seat one man and his family near the front row, center right, and the other in the back far away from the pastors on stage.  Which family do you think received the preferential treatment?  Such favoritism usually manifests itself in more subtle ways than seating arrangements.  Think of the man who is asked to be a leader in the church because he is a wealthy pillar in the community, not because he exudes a passionate love for Jesus.  James warns, “My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, do not show favoritism.”  And in the context of James 2 it was favoritism over economic status.  James says don’t do that.



Another one of the teasers reads this.  Partial, bias, prejudice, favorable, discriminatory.  These are all words that inflame our emotions.  The sin of partiality is ugly, and it makes us angry.  But respecters of persons are easy to spot.  They appear as intellectual snobs, economic elites and “holier than thou” church goers.  They are parents that favor one child over another, neighbors that look down their noses at you, and, worse, pastors that give preferential treatment to rich people in their congregation.  It’s one thing to make fine distinctions between two restaurants or in how you choose to spend your leisure time.  But to show partiality to one person over another on the basis of age, gender, skin color or economic status is the axis of evil.  And many years ago when I stood in that church lobby with those two good ‘ol boys, I felt like I was standing on the axis of evil.



Prejudice is something that rears its head in every generation.  And certainly when it comes to the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ we should show now partiality, no respecter of persons, no favoritism, no, “Oh, you’re in this category and I’m in this category.”  And then that feeling of superiority rises up within us that just smells of evil in the nostrils of God.  God is no respecter of persons.  And Peter had to learn this.



Let me summarize the rest of chapter 10.  Peter was inwardly perplexed.  The next day it tells us that we rose and went away with this envoy from Caesarea.  And they went all the way to Joppa.  When he arrives, Cornelius has already gotten together his family and his friends.  There is a big crowd there.  They are anticipating what the Lord is going to say to them through Peter.  And when Peter walks in, it says that “Cornelius met him and fell down at his feet and worshiped him.  But Peter lifted him up, saying, ‘Stand up; I too am a man.’”  Three cheers for Peter there.  Cornelius goes on to say, “Four days ago…”  Remember, it took two days for them to travel from Caesarea to Joppa.  Now another two days for Peter and the envoy to go from Joppa back to Caesarea.  Isn’t it amazing how God is working both ends against the middle here?  This gospel train is moving.  He gives Peter little time to just wrestle with all this.  He is inwardly perplexed.  But as he is on the rooftop and inwardly perplexed, the Bible says that the envoy from Caesarea was standing at the door.  In other words, the Lord is not going to give Peter a whole lot of time to twist around his axle and say, “Well, you know, I didn’t grow up that way, and…”  All that kind of stuff.  No, Peter, this gospel train has left the station.  It’s about 10 years, by the way, after Pentecost, Acts 10 is.  It’s time.  It’s time to fulfill the breadth and the scope of the mission.  And the Lord has already turned up the heat on him in Acts 8 to get him out of Jerusalem into Judea and Samaria.  Now He is fast-forwarding matters in Peter’s heart so that Peter’s pride and prejudice doesn’t stand in the way of what God is doing.



They get to Caesarea.  Cornelius says, “Four days ago about this hour I was praying.”  He relates the story of the vision from the angel.  And then it says, verse 33, “So I sent for you at once, and you have been kind enough to come.  Now therefore we are all here in the presence of God to hear all that you have been commanded by the Lord.”  Cornelius has all of his family and all of these friends.  And they’re all saying, “Peter, what’s the Lord been telling you?”  What a moment for Peter.  It wasn’t in Peter to say, “Well, let me go think about this a little bit.”  No, it was time, Peter.  You’re either going to be used of God to advance the gospel at this moment to the Gentiles, or you are going to stand in the way of a fast moving train.  And that train is going to run over you.  That’s the implication here.  And fortunately, Peter does the right thing.



It brings me to the third observation, and that is that faith comes by hearing the Word of God.  It says in verse 34, “So Peter opened his mouth and said: ‘Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.”  Hey, three cheers for Peter.  He may have grown up with all of these distinctions and this sense of pride, even national pride that produced a prejudice in some of the Jewish people.  You know, they were the chosen people of God, right?  Everybody was dirt, was some of the attitudes.  He might have grown up in that, but he’s learned the lesson well.  And he’s getting on board this gospel train.  And now he is beginning to proclaim.



Verse 36, “As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power.  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 that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.  They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.  And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead.  To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”



This is a great moment for Peter.  Peter says, “No, I’m not going to stand in the way of what God is doing here.  I’m boarding this gospel plane.”  He gets it now.  The gospel is for the whole world without respecting persons or nations or all that.  It’s for everybody, including, of all people, the Gentiles.  You’ve got to be kidding me, a pure Jew would say.  And he proclaimed Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and says to Cornelius, a devout man, “Everyone who believes in him [in this Jesus] receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”



You see, up to that point Cornelius had trusted in his own goodness, his own religious devotion.  I ask people all the time, if you were to die today and stand before God and He were to ask you, “Why should I let you into My heaven,” what would you say?  The most common response has to do with their personal religious devotion.  “I’ve been a pretty good person.  I’m a charitable person.  I go to church regularly.”  The road to hell is paved with such intentions and religious devotion.  Do you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ?  Forgiveness is through His name, not your name, not my name, not somebody else’s name.  It’s through the glorious name of Jesus Christ.  And Peter uses this opportunity to proclaim the gospel.  Three cheers for Peter here.



And then the Bible tells us in verses 44 through the end of the chapter that the Holy Spirit falls on the Gentiles, on Cornelius and his household, those who had received the Lord and believed in Him.  There is another Pentecostal experience here.  It’s Acts 2 all over again.  And the Lord delays the coming of the Holy Spirit for this moment to put an exclamation point right here.  To say now the plan is in full form.  It’s gone from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria, now to the uttermost parts.  Had Peter and the rest of them tried to stand in front of this fast moving gospel train, oh, the Lord would have found another way I’m sure.  But, you know, humanly speaking, you and I wouldn’t be here today as Gentile believers grafted into God’s plan here.



That’s why when we go to Israel and tell the story, our first place is Caesarea.  We tell the story of Cornelius.  And actually we start in Joppa the night before and then Caesarea the next morning, because it’s such a pivotal time.  What did William Barclay say?  The 10th chapter of Acts tells the story that is one of the greatest turning point in the history of the church, and it is.  The question is, will it be a turning point in your life and in my life?  Will the Lord purge any remnant of toxicity in us known as pride and prejudice?  The desire is to make categorical comparisons and distinctions between yourself and another person and to allow yourself every so subtly, every so quietly, every so quietly feel superior to another person.



One more lesson.  Number four, accept those whom God has accepted.  And this takes us to chapter 11 and through verse 18.  I won’t take the time to read it all.  Let me just summarize.  Peter now finds his way to Jerusalem.  Peter…this part of his soul has been redeemed and is in the process of being sanctified.  But he has some brothers, some apostles, some other church leaders in Jerusalem that aren’t quite there yet.  And when Peter arrives, they criticize Peter.  They criticize him because they heard that he had lunch with a Gentile, an uncircumcised person.  They’re still making the distinctions.  They’ve got categories.  “No, Peter, you can’t hang out with a person like that.”  And Peter gently tells them the story.  And he recalls everything that we just went through in chapter 10.  Interestingly enough, you know, Luke, as he pens the book of Acts, one of the reasons we know this is an important story is because of the editorial space that it takes up in the book of Acts.  It’s all of chapter 10 and half of chapter 11.  And understand that when Luke was writing this 2000 years ago he didn’t have word processing.  He couldn’t write something down, crumple up the piece of paper, toss it aside, and do it again.  They had papyrus, which was a precursor to paper.  And papyrus was very, very expensive.  The largest rolls, scholars tell us, were about 35 feet long.  About long enough for the book of Acts.  And as Luke is writing this under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he really didn’t have the opportunity to say, “Nah, I don’t like that,” crumple it up and throw it aside.  He had to get it right the first time.  When I write something, I write, I rewrite, I rewrite again, I pass it on to my editor, and he rewrites even some of that.  That’s just the way we do it today.  Back then, no, not with papyrus.



So his choice of this much editorial space in this roll of papyrus is significant because this is a significant story.  Not just for the overall plan of God, but also for how it forces us to examine our own hearts.  Right?  Are we respecters of persons?  And Peter goes to Jerusalem, and he finds some resistance to all this.  They haven’t bought into this.  They haven’t boarded the gospel train.  They’re still in Jerusalem for that matter.  And they resist him on this.  He tells the story.  He tells it well.  And in verse 17, Peter says, “If then God gave the same gift,” the gift of the Holy Spirit, that is, “to them,” the Gentiles, “as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”



Have you ever thought that maybe what you're doing and what you're resisting and what you’re holding onto is standing in the way of what God is doing?  Standing in the way of His gospel train?  Listen, you stand in the way of what God is doing, friends, that train will run you over.  It’ll run you over.  God may give you fair warning.  He may work with you as He did with Peter.  But you allow pride and prejudice to stand in the way of what God is doing, that train is going to run you right over.  Peter says, “I couldn’t imagine standing in God’s way.”



It says, “When they heard these things they fell silent.”  Truth always silences religious and other kinds of bigotry.  And it says, “They glorified God, saying, ‘Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.’”  Hip, hip, hooray for the church in Jerusalem.  Amen?  Praise God that this turning point happened and the gospel went to the ends of the earth and even to people like you and me.



Now, here is the reality, friends.  Pride and prejudice die a slow death in every one of us.  And it rears its ugly head in every generation.  It even threatened the early church, and it threatens us today because we have to relearn these lessons.  And my encouragement to you along with the challenge that I have felt in my own heart this week, is to pray this prayer.  Psalm 139:24, “Search me, Oh God, and know my heart.  Try me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  Don’t look to your left or to your right or the front of the back or think about somebody else.  This is subtle.  This is very deceitful.  Is there any categorical comparison you or I are making that allows an attitude of superiority to rise up in us?  Oh, you may never verbalize it.  You may just think it.  Ask God to purge that from you, and board His gospel train in a way and see the beauty of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  “For God so loved the world.”  The world.  And the world is made up of all kinds of different people.  Different from you and me.  Location, race, skin color, nationality, age, marital status, economic status.  You name the category.  But in the body of Christ, the beauty of it is unity in the midst of diversity.  That’s heaven.  Heaven will be an ethnically diverse place.  Heaven will be such a diverse place.  We’re coming from all kinds of experiences and all kinds of places.  You’ve got to get on that gospel train.  You’ve got to board God’s plan.  And when you do, man, it’s the ride of your life.  And there is beauty and there is experience in that.  I’m so glad that I’ve never had in this church the experience that I had in that church 15 or 20 years ago when I stood in the lobby and those two good ‘old boys…I still to this day want to grab them by the neck and go “wham!”  I’ve never had to do that here, and praise God for that.  Amen?



“Every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.”

Romans 8:28 MSG