In the Old Testament we're told that God chose Israel to be his special people. They were to obey God and faithfully serve him, and in turn God would bless Israel. Israel would then be a witness to the world and people of all nations would come to Israel to worship God. But Israel was not obedient and had not been faithful. Jesus came to earth and died on the cross to pay the penalty for sin. People who put their faith in Jesus would now become his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8).
As we follow the story of "ACTS: The Church Alive!" the church in Jerusalem has grown and spread to Judea and Samaria. But the growth of the church hasn't crossed the boundary of appealing directly to Gentiles and accepting Gentiles as equal partners in the church. In the first century the walls of division between Jews and Gentiles were high and strong. It was going to require something amazing for Jewish Christians to welcome Gentiles in - and something amazing is exactly what God had in mind.
God knew a high profile leader of the church would have to be the first to welcome Gentiles. He chose Peter, the rock upon whom Jesus would build his church. But Peter had the same prejudices against Gentiles any Jew had. So to break down the walls God gave Peter a vision - a vision that changed the world (see Acts 10). It was a vision in which God made clear to Peter that the cultural and religious differences between Jews and Gentiles no longer matter. The vision convinced Peter to accept the invitation to go to Cornelius' home, where many Gentiles believed in Jesus and were saved. Peter then went back to the leaders of the church in Jerusalem to tell them what God had done.
Jesus calls all of us to be world-changers. He wants to give us a vision for how we can be witnesses to the people in our world: our family, friends, neighbors, and the people we meet at work, school or in the community. Everyone who experiences the love of God from us, each person who hears us tell about our experience with Jesus, when someone puts their trust in Christ because of our witness, we've changed the world. If you are a follower of Jesus you have been given a high calling. You are Christ's ambassador. When you represent Jesus you are making a difference in the world and in people's lives.
In this Sunday's sermon I'll portray Peter as he seeks to understand the vision God has given him and accepts the invitation to go to Cornelius' house. We'll discover that God has a vision for us and an invitation to be his witnesses to others - and in the process we can change the world. I hope you'll come worship with us and find out more about "A Vision that Changed the World" in Traditional Worship at 9:00 a.m. or in Contemporary Worship at 10:45 a.m.