Thursday, August 27, 2009

Two Men, One Mission

Two Men, One Mission
By Brenda Black

Batman & Robin. The Lone Ranger & Tonto. Abbott and Costello. George & Gracie. Dynamic duos composed of opposites. Here's another for the list: Cornelius and Peter. Maybe that doesn't ring quite as familiar as the fictitious characters and famous Hollywood performers, but I assure you, their meeting and subsequent friendship would make a great movie.

Meet Cornelius: He was devout, God fearing, generous and respected by the Jews. He prayed regularly. And he was a centurion in the Roman army.

A regiment very similar to his own mocked and scourged the Christ; they nailed him to a cross and crammed into his temples a torturous wreath of thorns. But Cornelius and all his family believed in God. He was known by God. Heard by God. Seen by God. And visited by God.

“One day at about three in the afternoon he 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 remembrance before God. Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter...

“When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and one of his soldiers who was a devout man. He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa.” (Acts 10:3-8)

Enter Peter: “About noon the following day as they were approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray...he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, 'Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.'

“'Surely not, Lord!' Peter replied. 'I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.'

“The voice spoke to him a second time, 'Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.'

“This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.

“While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, 'Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.'” (vs. 9-20)

Peter was a Jew. Cornelius a Roman centurion. Jews despised Gentiles. But this Gentile was different. He had authority over men and was under the authority of God Most High. Peter learned of Cornelius by way of the powerful man's servants, but it may have been a fragment of their message that captured Peter's heart and moved him to oblige their request. “A holy angel told [Cornelius] to have you come to his house so that he could hear what you have to say.” (vs. 22c)

The true reason for the reunion Peter would not comprehend until he entered Cornelius' door. Though the centurion received a clear message from God, Peter had to learn that revelation often follows resignation. While one received a clear answer and the other a mysterious vision, God pulled them together for a specific purpose – they each were to teach the other a God lesson.

Peter makes the connection between his dream and his mission. “God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean.” (vs. 28b) “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” (vs. 34)

The room full of circumcised Jews and searching Gentiles became brothers in Christ! “While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

“Then Peter said, 'Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.'” (vs. 44-47)

Two men of fervent prayer; two obedient followers from two separate worlds became one in the body of Christ because they listened and obeyed individual calls from God. Don't think such miraculous messages are reserved only for movie scripts and ancient history. God is counting on you at this moment in time and space! He has someone for you to reach. Someone for you to teach. And when you go in obedience to share the gospel, you'll learn a valuable lesson yourself. Don't miss the call to multiply the kingdom when you subtract doubt and confusion and add faith and acceptance.

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