By Elizabeth Yeamans Simrell (Guest Blogger)
Scripture Readings: Acts 9-10
Key Scripture Verse: Acts 10:15 (NIV, Life Application Bible)
“The voice spoke to him a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’”
These two chapters of Acts are filled with drama—drama created by God to change lives. He changes hearts, minds, bodies, and souls and through unusual, supernatural ways. If we ever wonder whether God cares about us individually or would seek us out to show us the way, these chapters demonstrate how he will go to great lengths to get our attention when it suits his purposes.
In chapter 9 a voice calls and stops a person in his tracks to get his attention. Saul saw a flash of light from heaven and a voice called him by name as he travelled and asked “why do you persecute me?”—it was the voice of Jesus who told him to go into the city at Damascus and he would be directed what to do. Saul’s travelling companions were stunned and speechless. Saul was struck blind by the event and would stay blind for three days until Jesus called upon his disciple Ananias in a vision, calling him by name to restore Saul’s sight. And this Saul became the greatest defender of the Christian faith, a complete turnaround from persecuting, arresting, and sanctioning the killing of followers of Jesus—this was the Apostle who became known as Paul.
And then one day Peter was going up on a roof to find a quiet place to pray and he was really hungry and fell into a trance. He saw a vision and heard a voice call his name. The vision was of a large sheet that descended down from heaven before him with every imaginable animal and he was told to “kill and eat” but he protested because some of these animals were considered “impure” and Jews were not allowed to eat them. But, the voice responded, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” And if he wasn’t sure this was real or directed to him, this vision and voice appeared to him three times—God was trying to get his attention and was not going to stop until he paid attention.
And because of the vision, Peter had new understanding. He was directed to go see Cornelius and his family—the same voice told him to go to Cornelius, even though he was a Gentile and Jews were not supposed to visit or associate with Gentiles.
Cornelius, a Roman soldier, was praying to God and an angel sent by the Holy Spirit told him to send men out to find Peter and to ask him to come to his house. Peter had been directed by a voice to go with the men to Cornelius and went with them. Remembering the vision and that he was not to reject as impure what God had made pure, he realized that he was supposed to spread the gospel to the Gentiles, as well as the Jews. Cornelius and all of his family were converted to Christianity as a result of Peter’s visit.
And in the midst of all this supernatural drama, the message is the same for all of these people—God will seek us out to offer us grace, he can make pure what is considered impure. Saul who sanctioned killing Christians because of their belief in Jesus, became a Christian and the greatest Apostle of the faith. Peter has a change of heart and new understanding and is changed by his supernatural instruction to preach to the Gentiles, and Cornelius and his family were changed into new people in Christ because of it.
And it is a message for us, as well. Jesus Christ, the living God, can change hearts, minds, bodies, and souls from impure states to pure states. He can take a sinner who has done the most horrendous of acts and make him holy. He can wash away the sins and make him pure.
May we remember this when we are quick to judge another person. May we remember that God can change even a person with a poor reputation and make him the holiest of believers, as he did with Paul. May we remember that if we have done something for which we cannot forgive ourselves that God loves us and can and will forgive us, if we are sincere in receiving his grace.
May we allow ourselves to be found when the Holy Spirit seeks us for his purpose. May we know in our hearts and minds that we have a very personal God who will go to great lengths to make us see, to give us opportunity to receive his grace. May we realize just how much he loves us.