By Hedieh Mirahmadi
I had the great pleasure of seeing this sermon live at Ballantyne during the eFam Christmas party weekend and the year end offering. In preparing for the sermon, Pastor Furtick said the pages literally fell out of his Bible so he knew this was the perfect topic for the theme of giving.
It was Acts 10:21, which reads:
Peter went down and said to the men I’m the one you’re looking for. Why have you come?
Peter was often bold and brash. He was the one who gave the first confession that Christ was the Son of God but also had the audacity to tell Jesus he should NOT go to the cross. He was wildly obstinate and yet profoundly obedient. In this passage, Peter doesn’t know what God is calling him to do but he knows he is the one to do it.
Peter had just performed a resurrection miracle and he was in Joppa. Afterwards, he went on the roof to pray but he was hungry. He had a vision of a white sheet with animals on it and then he heard a voice say “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.” [ Acts 10:13-15]
Peter was arguing with the Lord because he didn’t understand the meaning of the vision but God was aligning opportunity with obedience.
God is teaching us not to call anything unclean, which He has created. Cornelius prayed and gave to the poor even though he wasn’t Jewish. Cornelius lived in Caesarea, a town known for hating the Jews, but God was going to use him and Peter to break the barriers. Though not a believer and therefore “unclean” by Jewish law, Cornelius gave generously to those in need and prayed regularly. When the angel came to him with instructions to find Peter, it terrified him but he was obedient and sent the guards to get Peter. This meeting will mark the beginning of how the gospel spreads to Gentiles. Without hesitation, Peter says he’s the one they are looking for but then says why have you come? When obedience meets opportunity, miracles happen.
Obedience is letting God to lead even if you don’t know the details. Its letting God take you turn by turn just like the trust we put in our GPS. We will drive using GPS without knowing where we are going but we don’t trust God like that.
Obedience is walking as God instructs without knowing why. When God calls you to a task, it will scare the heck out of you. You may feel ill equipped or unable to perform the task, but God wants our obedience. The only way you find out why, is if you respond. God doesn’t give you the why until you do it. It’s what you do with what God tells you that the direction is revealed.
Often, we think the blessing is for ourselves, but we realize it’s really about the Kingdom and God’s will for his people. We need to stop trying to control what God wants to do through us. He wants to break barriers so don’t limit Him.
Giving to God is not supposed to be out of obligation but out of obedience. The Holy Spirit gives us direction but not the details. If you tap into the voice of God it’s transformative. We give to learn to obey His voice, which is usually way beyond our own understanding. When we listen to the Lord, that’s when we get revelation.
When Peter first sees the Centurion there’s people gathered and he had no idea what God was going to do. The law prohibited Jews from eating with gentiles, but Peter tells them the vision Jesus sent for him not to be limited anymore by that. God is teaching all of us not to judge other people. No one or no thing that God created is “unclean”. We must do what He calls us to do.
What’s also fascinating about the story of Cornelius is he did not convert to Judaism when he encountered all those other believers. The Lord had appointed a time for him to accept Christ through Peter because it would open the way for Peter to evangelize to the Gentiles throughout the area. There was a lesson in it for Peter too. Obedience makes miracles happen!
I love this story because, as Pastor Furtick also points out, participating in Elevation church “online” is breaking so many barriers of what people think is normal as a follower of Christ. My first introduction to a relationship with Jesus Christ was through a YouTube video of Pastor Furtick. After traveling to Ballantyne to be baptized, everyone told me I needed to find a “local church”. People have a hard time accepting that the definition of church and how we gather as a community is evolving. Technology is changing the world and the Kingdom must capitalize on all it has to offer to spread the Gospel. I believe it is a vital part of the great commission.
“Then Jesus came to them and said, ”All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age’” (Matthew 28:18-20).
I had to trust God was calling me to be a part of this community and what it was doing to make the salvation of Christ available to people everywhere. God has shown me that my “local church” can be made up of people who live nearby and who I meet regularly online.
It can be hard to accept what God’s calling us to do, especially if we listen to the voices of other people. Yet, when you listen to where God is calling you, He will order your steps and take you where he wants you to go. We just need the courage to trust Him.