|According to some recent research it is estimated that less than |
3% of the non-Christian people in the world ever come to a
church building. But that doesn’t mean they won’t come to
you or me to find Him.
The following is the transcript from the August 28, 2016 service at the Little Brown Church, Nashua, Iowa.
Now, there were several significant differences between the Jews and Gentiles, but one of the major differences was that the Jews were circumcised and the Gentiles were not.
Part of this story has to do with the fact that Peter and 6 of his “circumcised” friends were on their way to preach to these Gentiles, circumcise them then baptize them. They were not going to baptize these Gentiles UNTIL they were circumcised.
But God didn’t want that to happen, so He interceded in this story in such a powerful way that Peter asks his friends:
"Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water?” Acts 10:47Why ask the question? Because that’s precisely what Peter’s friends intended. Until these folks were circumcised, the Jewish believers with Peter had no intention of letting them get wet.
That’s the background for the story we’ve just read. But, what I want to focus on this morning is this question: What can we learn from this story that will help us share our faith in Jesus with others?
Now, the first thing I want us to notice here is: Cornelius was a seeker.
He was looking for Jesus. He sends a delegation of 3 men to seek for Peter and ask him to come preach to his friends and family. So they came looking for Peter to learn about Jesus.
According to some recent research it is estimated that less than 3% of the non-Christian people in the world ever come to a church building. But that doesn’t mean they won’t come to you or me to find Him.
And if it happens to YOU - it would be a great opportunity. I mean, it doesn’t get any easier than this. To have people come to you looking for Jesus would be great. All you’d have to do is know what to say.
Do you think you’d know what to say?
Well, before we get to that question, let’s look closer at some of the circumstances that led up to this event.
We need to realize that Peter was NOT REALLY into this. He really didn’t want to do it. These were not people that Peter would have had over to his house for supper.
In fact, after Peter baptized Cornelius and his household he returned
“…to Jerusalem, (and) the circumcised believers criticized him and said, "You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them." Acts 11:2-3Uncircumcised Gentiles were not the kind of people that good Jewish Christians would eat with. And that poses a problem for us Christians once in a while.
You see, we don’t get to choose the kind of “seekers” that might approach us. Often times, if a person is looking for Jesus badly enough to risk the embarrassment of admitting that they have a problem and they need it fixed - they might not be someone you’re comfortable with.
The point here is this: Peter didn’t want to witness to these folks. He wasn’t comfortable with sharing Jesus with Cornelius and his household. And (you know) you don’t have to be prejudiced to have that problem.
I’m convinced there are some of you here that have difficulty sharing Jesus with anybody. Not because you don’t like the person who’d ask you but because you just don’t feel comfortable talking about your faith.
Now, if that’s true of you there are a couple of things in this story in Acts that might just change your thinking.
First – if someone comes to you and asks about your faith, it’s very likely that God sent them.
When Cornelius sent for Peter, that was not an accident. In fact, it wasn’t even HIS idea. It was God who set this whole thing up.
“One day at about three in the afternoon (Cornelius) had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, "Cornelius!"
Cornelius stared at him in fear. "What is it, Lord?" he asked. The angel answered, "Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter.” Acts 10:3-5Peter was given the special privilege – BY GOD – to share Jesus with someone. If God would do it with Peter… why wouldn’t he do it with you?
But you might say: “I’m not important enough to talk to someone about Jesus! I’m not a preacher. I’m not a Sunday School teacher." Really? Well, that’s ok. You’re just the kind of person God enjoys using.
I Corinthians 1:27-29 tells us that: ”God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no-one may boast before him.”If you insist on saying you’re not important enough to share Jesus with someone that makes you imminently qualified to do just that. God isn’t into bragging rights. He’s not into “who is more important” in the church. That’s why He uses the “unimportant” and the weak and the things that aren’t all that impressive to get the job done.
The point is – if God sends someone to you - your words (even your imperfect words) can make all the difference in whether or not that person accepts Christ.
MY words might not get the job done with that person. That person came to YOU because they trusted you. Your opinion matters to them. So, if someone comes to you and wants to talk about Jesus, DON’T TURN THEM AWAY!
Now, I’m going to say something else, and I want to be careful in how I say it. There’s a tendency to kind of cop out in a situation like this; to duck and cover and go for the easy score. To simply say “Why don’t you come to church with me Sunday?” That person is thinking “If I could just get them to come to church, then the preacher, or teacher or somebody more knowledgeable than I can tell them what they need to know.”
Now, that’s not a bad thing - to invite them to come to church with you.
But you need to understand – this person came to YOU. They may NEVER come to church. And thus, they may never become a Christian. You may have ONLY one chance to introduce them to Jesus. Right then. Right there. And your words may be the only ones that would make the difference in their lives.
Don’t pass it up.
First – if someone comes asking you about Jesus its very likely God sent them. And it’s ALSO very likely they came to you because they trusted you.
Second – if someone comes to you… it’s always a good idea to know what to tell them.
As Peter wrote in I Peter 3:15 “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”Sometimes, Christians don’t feel comfortable talking about Jesus because they don’t really know WHAT they believe. If someone asked them:
Why are you a Christian? Why do YOU believe? They would not know what to say!
BUT that’s not what your friend is looking for. He wasn’t looking for theology. He was looking for testimony. He wanted to know WHY I believed what I believed. He wanted to know the reason for the hope that I had.
When Peter talked to Cornelius and his household he said to him:
"We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem…” Acts 10:39He was not just telling Cornelius his theology. He was telling Cornelius:
I believe this! I saw this! I know this is true!
When God brings someone to you for you to witness to tell them WHY you believe what you believe. Tell them what Jesus means to YOU personally.
So, what is the answer to that question: Why do YOU believe what you believe? I’m not looking for you to say anything; I just want you to seriously ask yourself why YOU believe.
Because your story may be exactly the thing the person who approaches you needs to hear to change their lives. You need to figure out what your story is, and then be prepared to share it with a person who needs Jesus.
But you can’t have a story of any kind until you belong to Jesus.
God of hope, your spirit gives light and power to your people, empower us to witness to your name in all the nations, to struggle for your own justice against all principalities and powers and to persevere with faith and humor in the tasks that you have given us. In Jesus’ name, amen.