Grace for Every Race- Acts 10

Sometimes we take it for granted that we have access to the gospel. We forget that there was a time when the Jews thought that Jesus was just for them. In fact, in Acts 10 we learn that some Jews were astounded that God would save Gentiles. Throughout Acts 10 we learn that the grace of God really is a grace for every race.

A Little Background

The Jewish people were a very proud people. They hated the Samaritans because they were not pure Jews. The called them ‘half-breed dogs.’ They could not fathom God wanting to save the Samaritans.

But the one thing they hated more than the Samaritans were the Gentiles.

Jews would have nothing to do with Gentiles. They would not stay in their homes as a guest. They would rather sleep on the streets than a Gentile’s house. Dirt from a Gentile country was considered defiled. If a Jew had been walking though a Gentile area he would shake the dust off his feet before entering Jewish territory. Jews would not eat food prepared by Gentile hands.

Before the gospel could be preached to all nations there was a cultural barrier that had to be broken down.

The Cultural Barrier

In verse 28 Peter clearly points to the cultural barrier that existed.

You know it’s forbidden for a Jewish man to associate with or visit a foreigner.  But God has shown me that I must not call any person common or unclean.

He again highlights this barrier in verse 34-35.

Then Peter began to speak: “Now I really understand that God doesn’t show favoritism, but in every nation the person who fears Him and does righteousness is acceptable to Him.

This is seen in the Jews’ response to Gentiles receiving the Holy Spirit in verse 45.

The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astounded because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also.

There was a clear cultural barrier that stood in the way of the gospel spreading to the Gentile people — a barrier that God tore down.

Grace for Every Race

The gospel message was not just for the Jews, but for all people. This truth is seen in a couple of verses in this passage starting in verse 35.

But in every nation the person who fears Him and does righteousness is acceptable to Him.

Again, it can be clearly seen in verse 43.

All the prophets testify about Him that through His name everyone who believes in Him will receive forgiveness of sins.

The message of Christ is not a secret to be protected, it is hope to be spread. As believers we must embrace the truth that the gospel of Jesus Christ — the grace of God — is available to all, and as such, it is to be communicated to all. This responsibility falls on those of us who have, in God’s grace,  received the message of the gospel.

The Beginning of Paul’s Missionary Life

Paul is known as perhaps the greatest missionary to ever live. His various missionary journeys are chronicled in the book of Acts. The beginning of his missionary life began in Acts 9. In this chapter we read of one of the greatest life transformations that could ever take place. The drastic change that took place in Paul’s life set the stage for his missionary life to be used by God in incredible ways. To grasp the impact of his life, we need to understand several points about how it began.

1- Paul was God’s chosen instrument.- vs. 15

Being used to accomplish great things for Christ was God’s plan for Paul’s life, not Paul’s. In essence, this was the call of God on Paul’s life. It was not something Paul orchestrated, it was not a pathway to an easy life, and it was not just a way to earn a living. This is what God wanted Paul to do, called Paul to do, and gifted Paul to do.

2- Paul wanted other people to know Jesus.- vs. 20

Immediately after his conversion, Paul proclaimed Jesus. Why? He wanted other people to know that Jesus is the Son of God. His proclamation of Jesus did not begin on his missionary journeys, it was a characteristic of his new life in Christ. He didn’t share Jesus because he was a missionary; he shared Jesus because he was a Christian.

3- Paul was not intimidated by opposition.- vs. 22-23

Paul faced people who, understandably, doubted his conversion. He also faced people who wanted him dead because of his conversion. In both cases, Paul did not allow the opinions of others to deter him from proclaiming the message he knew they needed to hear.

4- Paul had boldness.- vs. 28

Building on the previous point, Paul spoke with boldness in the face of opposition. He was willing to go into a potentially hostile environment (the Jewish Synagogue), and proclaim that Jesus is the true Son of God. The boldness that we see throughout Paul’s missionary life was present immediately after his conversion.

Sometimes we look at the life of Paul and are amazed at his focus and his determination to spread the Gospel. What we sometimes miss is that his effectiveness as a missionary is directly connected to his focus as a Christian.

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4th Quarter Living- 2 Timothy 4:7

In 2 Timothy 4:7 Paul states, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” This is a verse that is very familiar but its meaning is not often applied to the lives of American Christians. Christians are tempted to think that simply attending church occasionally, being a generally good person, and not breaking any major laws means that they have lived a faithful Christian life. I want to relate this verse to the fourth quarter of a football game to help us understand its significance.

I enjoy watching football. I went to my first game when I was 2, and have been to at least one game almost every year since. I have noticed that when any team is losing entering the fourth quarter, there are changes in how they play. They become more focused, more determined, more urgent, more intense, and more passionate.

I have recently heard multiple people say that they have determined to make their lives count. Their motivation for doing this was the reality that they were entering the 4th quarter of their lives. They implied that they did not do all they could during the first three quarters, and now they wanted to make up for lost time. It is interesting that I have only heard people in the 4th quarter of their lives make this statement. There is something about coming to the end of a ‘game’ that causes people to change how they approach it.

The average life expectancy in the US is 78 years. The 1st quarter ends between ages 19 and 20. The 2nd quarter ends at age 39. The 3rd quarter ends between ages 58 and 59. The 4th quarter goes through age 78+. Where are you?

Obviously, none of us are guaranteed another day, but what would happen if all believers lived as though it was the 4th quarter? What would happen if we didn’t wait until the 4th quarter to live as though it was the 4th quarter?

What is 4th Quarter Living?

1- Those living a 4th quarter Christianity care less about what everyone else thinks.

Fearing the opinions of others will severely limit your effectiveness.

2- Those living a 4th quarter Christianity are willing to sacrifice to make a difference.

When you realize you can’t take your ‘stuff’ to eternity, it makes it more important to use that ‘stuff’ to make an eternal difference while you can.

3- Those living a 4th quarter Christianity remain focused on the task at hand and are less distracted by things that really do not matter.

It is so easy to become distracted by things that don’t really matter. This happens in churches all the time. We must keep the main thing in clear view.

4-Those living a 4th quarter Christianity are passionate about Christ and His work.

When you realize that  eternity is real and near, those things that will last become the priority.

5- Those living a 4th quarter Christianity want others to live the same way.

They are contagious. They have a way of influencing others for Christ and they take advantage of that influence.

6- Those living a 4th quarter Christianity realize that time is short.

As a result, they need to do as much as possible in the time they have. They make every moment, activity, relationship, encounter, and circumstance count.

Let’s be committed to 4th quarter living. The reality is that we may be in the 4th quarter and just not know it.