Messages from Pastor Raddatz


May 15, 2022: Mount Olive Lutheran Church Houston TX


Texts for today: Acts 11:1-18, Revelation 21:1-7 and John 16:12-22


WHO AM I THAT I COULD STAND IN GOD’S WAY?


Acts 11:17, “If God gave the same gift to them as he gave to us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I that I could stand in God’s way?”


Grace, mercy and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,


CONTROVERSY: Are all people chosen by God?


            It doesn’t take long for a child to realize that all it takes to have an argument are two little people who want the same thing.  God to any playground filled with children and throw out a ball for them to play with and it suddenly becomes a display of “mine verses ours.”   Throw out another ball and it can become “ours verse yours.”  It takes someone or something from either outside the group, like an adult, to set the guidelines of taking turns and sharing or it takes someone from within the group to be the adult (mature one) to be the bigger person and set the guidelines that all will follow.


            What can happen with such a group is that it breaks into subgroups of participants and non-participants where some children choose to not participate or just be on their own.  It can also turn into a free for all where a person tries to bully their way and take over the group.  


            This is what the early church was facing on the ground of their area in Judea.   In the Old Testament the Jews who were chosen by God felt that God has given them the mercy to be “God’s people.”   They slipped into thinking that this special gift of God’s favor was just for them, but God did not intend it to be this way.  God intended the gift of his favor for all people, and it was to flow from the Jews and flow through the Jews for all people.  It’s kind of like most of today’s kitchens where water can be available through the kitchen faucet or at the refrigerator that has a spout and a hookup to a water line.   You can get water at both places, of course, if you want “filtered water” then some work has to be done and the filters have to be active at both the faucet and the fridge.  The Jews were the source of God’s grace filtering it for all.


MADE CLEAN THROUGH GOD: turning away from sin (Active) and turning toward Christ (Passive)


            When there is a discussion or argument or controversy between two people or between two parties, there has to be a filter.  The filter for the jews was how God worked through them.  For Peter, one of the leaders of the Apostles the controversy was what foods were clean and unclean?  Another way of saying which people are clean or acceptable and which people are not.


            Peter is associating with Gentiles so a number of the Jewish believers object.   Their guideline said that you should not associate with a Gentile because they are unclean.  This was not God’s guideline, but their distortion of God’s word.  Peter explains to them his experience in verses 5-16.  This is a summary of Acts 10:9-48. 


Peter says, “I was in the city of Joppa, praying and I was in a trance.  I saw a vision something like a large sheet coming down from heaven by its four corners.  I saw animals in the sheet, and I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter, kill and eat.’   I replied, surely not Lord, for there are animals there that are clean and unclean.  I heard a voice from heaven ‘Do not call anything unclean that I have made’”.   This happened three times to make an impression on Peter.  Peter had six others with him. (summary of his experience)


CHRIST HAS DIED FOR ALL PEOPLE, therefore all need to repent (get out of the way of God’s grace).


            The reason for this vision was not for his diet, but for the message that God accepts all people who come to him.  The kingdom of God was not just for the Jews, but also for the Gentiles. This is proclaimed in the Old Testament according to the prophet Isaiah.  Chapter forty-nine verse six reads, “… I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”


            Peter states that he cannot stand in God’s way, a true explanation of “repentance.”  Peter recognized the importance of sensing where God is going and heading that same direction, instead of trying to persuade God to go your direction – Guzik.


            Repentance is not always about what we do, but it is about recognizing what God has done.  In other words, Christ receives us not because we do something to earn his favor, but because we have his favor.         


            Cornelius is a gentile.  Peter is told to go to his house.  He takes other Jews with him.  When they get to the house they notice that an angel is already inside with the Gentiles.   In essence, Peter is saying, “If God’s messenger, an Angel is in the house of a Gentile, then I should go to!!!”   I like the fact that Peter does not explain his behavior, but he explains God’s behavior.


CLARIFICATION: God gives his Spirit to all people


            Have you ever been in a similar place?  You were taught human wisdom, but have you been taught wisdom from heaven?   


            On the playground of life aren’t all people welcome?  


            Remember, God told Peter that all people are welcome not just once, or twice, but three times.  


What should we do if God tells us something three times?   We should do it!!! It is significant that Acts 11:1-18 is the third version of the story of Peter's preaching to the Gentiles in Caesarea (twice in Acts 10, once briefly by Cornelius). Clearly the Holy Spirit wants the reader to grasp the great significance of the events in this section. James Montgomery Boice says it this way - "We know that this story was not only important to him (Luke) but to God also. If God tells us something once, we should listen. If he tells us something twice, we should pay extremely strict attention. How then if he tells us something three times over, as is the case here? In that case, we must give God's words the most intent, comprehensive, sympathetic, and obedient notice possible. (An Expositional Commentary – Acts)


A Pastor wrote:


A few years ago I participated in a theological dialogue with leaders of the Seventh Day-Adventist Church. For two wonderful days we worshiped, prayed and talked together about our respective expressions of the Christian faith.


However, we also ate together. Since Seventh Day Adventists are vegetarians, the meetings’ organizers had asked our hosts to prepare half vegetarian and half non-vegetarian meals. When the staff brought out the first lunch, we discovered that each individual plate was – you guessed it — half vegetarian and half non-vegetarian. So vegetarians and carnivores spent five minutes carefully sliding half our sandwiches onto each other’s plates.


Even as we chuckled about it, that experience deepened our longing for Christ’s return. After all, when we finally enjoy God’s full eternal hospitality and commensality, we won’t have to worry about our distinctives.  -Doug Bratt


            God welcomes all people for all are sinners and all are cleansed through the gift of Jesus Christ!


May this peace which passes all human understanding keep your heart and mind in Christ Jesus, to life everlasting, Amen.


Pastor John Raddatz


 




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