Hello #teamawakening family!
Welcome to the update from week 2 of our “What If?” Series. Our worship time was really encouraging as many of the students worshiped with their eyes closed and hands raised without being asked to do so!
The message was, “What If We Got Over Ourselves and Ignored Social Cliques?” A clique can be defined as— a narrow, exclusive circle or group of persons; a small group of people, with shared interests or other features in common, who spend time together and do not readily allow others to join them. Unfortunately, cliques are everywhere. While there is nothing wrong with having a group of people that you share common interests with and hang out with, it is important to remember that we are called to show God’s love to everyone and not just those in our group. The hard thing is this— talking to someone outside of our group of friends can many times mean risking our own standing with our circle of friends/clique.
We looked at the story of Peter and Cornelius in Acts 10-11 to see how God opened Peter’s eyes to view others in a whole new way. Peter was a Jew, and Jews viewed Gentiles (anyone who did not follow Jewish customs) as unclean and unworthy. We picked the message up with God sending an angel to speak to Cornelius (a Gentile). Acts 10:1-8NIV says,
At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. 2 He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. 3 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!”
4 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 memorial offering before God. 5 Now send men to Joppa to bring back a man named Simon who is called Peter. 6 He is staying with Simon the tanner, whose house is by the sea.”
7 When the angel who spoke to him had gone, Cornelius called two of his servants and a devout soldier who was one of his attendants. 8 He told them everything that had happened and sent them to Joppa.
This Scripture shows us the first point we discussed last night…
1. God Doesn’t Pay Attention to Social Labels
The truth? God died for the sins of the WORLD and not just a select few people or group of people. Anyone who desires and commits to surrender their life to Jesus has eternal life in and through him! Sending his men to Peter was a social risk for Cornelius as he knew what Peter and the Jews thought about Gentiles. Cornelius disregarded the social risks that this situation presented because he was hungry to gain a better understanding of Christ. God also sent an angel to Peter. Acts 10:9-16 says,
9 About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. 10 He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance.11 He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. 13 Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
14 “Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”
15 The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”
16 This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.
Peter’s first response was, ABSOLUTELY NOT! God quickly shows him that nobody is unclean or beyond God’s love because we are all created by a God who loves us all unconditionally, and Peter realizes the second point we talked about last night:
2. God Loves the Outsiders Just as Much as the Insiders.
The first things out of Peter’s mouth when he met Cornelius was, “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. 29 So when I was sent for, I came without raising any objection. May I ask why you sent for me?” (Acts 10:28)
Once he met Cornelius and heard his story, Peter realized that Cornelius wasn’t all that different from him. The same is true with us. It’s easy to believe that we have nothing in common with people who aren’t in our group of friends, but in reality, we’re pretty similar. We all have a desire to belong, feel self-worth, and be accepted. The main difference between us and the people we are trying to reach is that we have a relationship with Jesus and they don’t. However, that can all change when we get over ourselves, ignore social cliques, and love people like Jesus.
As Peter is talking with Cornelius, the presence of God falls on Cornelius and his entire household! (Acts 10:34-48) Peter then realizes the last point we talked about during the message:
3. God Has a Plan For the Outsiders Too
Peter realized that God loved the Gentiles (outsiders) just as much as the Jews, and that he had a plan and purpose for their lives! What would happen if we went beyond the social cliques and reached out to the outcasts like Peter did? We could see those that we thought were lost causes in our churches worshiping God and thanking him for bringing us into their lives to help them realize that they were loved by him. What would happen if you could no longer tell what all of the different cliques were at school because God’s love tore down those boundaries? What if we went beyond our normal social boundaries like Peter and Cornelius did? I think it would look something like this…