Game Changer-sermon text version

What do all these things have in common?

the Boston Massacre the Model T Ford
the Boston Tea Party the stock market crash of 1929
the Declaration of Independence the Pearl Harbor attack
the discovery of electricity the dropping of the first atomic bomb
the Battle of Gettysburg invention of the semiconductor transistor
the Gold Rush Jackie Robinson playing baseball
the Battle of the Alamo Martin Luther King’s assassination
Lewis and Clark’s expedition Neil Armstrong landing on the moon
the Dred Scott decision the invention of the Internet
the invention of the telephone the fall of the Berlin Wall
the Emancipation Proclamation 9/11
the Wright brothers The burst of the dot-com bubble
the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand Cell Phones
the Industrial Revolution

They’re not all firsts. They’re not all bad. They’re not all good. Did you guess it?

The one thing they all are…would be game changers. People, places, and things that once they happened, the world was not the same anymore. The world was changed!

Arguably, the greatest game changer of all human history following our creation, would be the birth and death of Jesus Christ.

It’s why BC and AD used to be the denotations of time “Before Christ, Anno Domini”…before the secularists got a bee in their bonnet and wanted to call it Before Common Era and After Common Era. Which, what do they have in common? Hello? A rose by any other name…is still the same point as the birth of Christ. No one is being fooled here.

Game changers. Jesus Christ, undoubtedly the greatest of them.

But today’s passage shows another game changing moment also brought about by Jesus.

Remember last week, I told you that in the Acts of the Holy Spirit and the Apostles, the apostle Peter saw that sheet descending from the sky with all kinds of animals in it and was told not to call anything unclean that God had made clean? Peter understood it to mean that God was applying that concept to people.

To bring us up to speed, let’s back up a bit before our present passage. Peter is preaching to the whole household of Cornelius (a Gentile):

Acts 10:44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. 45 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. 46 For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, 47 “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” 48 So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked Peter to stay with them for a few days.

heart-earth-cropThe Holy Spirit being poured out even on the Gentiles. It’s sometimes called the Gentile Pentecost. The circumcised believers (that is the Jewish Christians with Peter) and Peter himself were all astonished that Gentiles received the Holy Spirit. Remember all the way back when the Church first began with the coming of the Holy Spirit back in Acts 2? That same deal has just happened to those unworthy Gentiles.

But here’s the deal: With the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ and with the proof of His sacrifice being accepted by the Father in the coming of the Holy Spirit, suddenly we have a game changer. The whole world is now the mission field. Anyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved.

Yup. Even the Gentiles.

That news didn’t go over so well with people who liked things the way they’d always been, the little club and exclusive community of faith they’d been all their lives. They were born into it! They didn’t want God doing a new thing, bringing in new people, changing things up, mixing them among people they considered beneath them or undesirable, or worse, changing things to suit those newcomers. No! Things have always been this way for a reason! The Jewish people are the covenant people and Jesus is OUR Messiah, not theirs.

People who like things the way they like them and don’t really give a hoot about others…are putting themselves first…and placing themselves on the judgment seat. They find themselves being critical of others, especially those doing things differently. It was no different 2000 years ago than it is today:

Acts 11:1 The apostles and the brothers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. 2 So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him 3 and said, “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.”

They waited until Peter showed up and then they jumped all over him. What on earth are you thinking, Peter? Don’t give what is OURS… to THEM! Have you forgotten that we’ve been doing things THIS way for thousands of years…since Abraham was first given the covenant of circumcision! You’re going to throw away thousands of years of history and tradition to bring in…GENTILES??? They pounced. Our Scriptures say they criticized him.

They didn’t realize the game had changed while they were so busy congratulating themselves on their superior Judaism.

The game had changed because Jesus didn’t die just for the Jews.

For God so loved….the world.

They had a fundamental misunderstanding of what salvation was supposed to be.

candle1Isaiah 42:6 “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, 7 to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness

Isaiah 49:6 [God] says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”

Peter got it. He understood. He followed through. And he was criticized by fellow believers. All who are change agents in the plan of God will face criticism. Their ideas will be rejected. Their plans are blocked. They aren’t popular. They have to develop thick skin and the ability not to care what other people are saying behind their backs. Change agents in the plan of God have the one game-changing advantage that other change agents don’t have.

God is the One bringing about the change. They’re just the messengers.

God is the One being opposed in our passage today. What the circumcised believers in Jerusalem didn’t realize is that what they thought was an insult “You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them” was actually affirmation that Peter was right on track.

So Peter fills them in:

4 Peter began and explained everything to them precisely as it had happened: 5 “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to where I was. 6 I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles, and birds of the air. 7 Then I heard a voice telling me, ‘Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.’ 8 “I replied, ‘Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ 9 “The voice spoke from heaven a second time, ‘Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.’ 10 This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again. 11 “Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. 12 The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them. These six brothers also went with me, and we entered the man’s house. 13 He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, ‘Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. 14 He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.’ 15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning.

This is the third time Luke, the writer of Acts, tells this story.

It’s that important.

Luke tells it when it happens. He tells it when Peter tells it to Cornelius. And then he tells it again when Peter tells it to those who like things the way they’ve always been. Those “circumcised believers.”  Those who were treating the faith as being just longstanding Judaism with a little Jesus tacked on.

holy spirit 1Luke and Peter go to great lengths to point out that that chapter of salvation is closed. It’s not for Jews only anymore. It’s for the whole world. It’s in His hands.

That’s just how much of a game changer that Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension were!

Peter points to Christ’s own words:

16 Then I remembered what the Lord had said: ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?”

Did you catch it? If God is bringing about the change, opposing the change is opposing God.

Jesus is and was the game changer! His Holy Spirit coming was proof of it! Opposing God is always a really bad idea. So,

18 When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life.”

Even the Gentiles…not exactly a ringing endorsement. But you know what? It doesn’t always go so well. In a few weeks we’ll hear about how the members of the circumcision group don’t like that things have changed and will fight to hold onto everything that once was dear to them. They’ll oppose and intimidate Peter, Paul, and Titus because they don’t like that things have changed because the times have changed and they refuse to accept that God changed them.

In the movie Moneyball, which I quote often because there’s a lot going on there that ties into the Bible and Jesus’ teachings, the Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane forms a team of players that the longstanding scouts chronically overlooked because they were seen as undesirable. Even the team manager, Art Howe, didn’t like the team Beane assembled. So he was playing people in the way he felt like they should be played. When Beane gets frustrated that Pena is being started by Howe at first base instead of Hatteburg, he makes the decision to trade Pena. To shake things up. He also trades Jeremy Giambi whose influence in the locker-room is unhelpful and is reinforcing the pattern of being okay with being a chronically losing team. It was a tough decision for Beane because Pena was an All-Star type of player…but decisions for the benefit of the team required it.

The radio announcer, as the Oakland A’s are in their record-breaking winning streak, says,

The Oakland A’s are completely out of hand at the moment. They are an AL best seventeen in for this month, they also took back to back series at Boston and at New York. Remember when they traded Jeremy Giambi to Philly back in June, everyone thought they’d just given up. Actually not so much.

Billy Beane, reflecting on the winning streak, tells Peter Brand—his right hand guy—that he’s been in baseball for a long time and has seen it all:

Any other team wins the World Series, good for them. They’re drinking champagne, they’ll get a ring. But if we win, on our budget with this team, we’ll change the game. And that’s what I want, I want it to mean something.

Of course, they lose the AL Championship in the end and their efforts were dismissed. One of the scouts pronounced their 20-game winning streak and their whole season a failure. The disgruntled scout proclaims,

Nobody reinvents this game.”

But the owner of the Boston Red Socks, John Henry felt differently. He tells Beane:

For forty one million, you built a playoff team. You lost Damon, Giambi, Isringhausen, Pena and you won more games without them than you did with them. You won the exact same number of games that the Yankees won, but the Yankees spent one point four million per win and you paid two hundred and sixty thousand. I know you’ve taken it in the teeth out there, but the first guy through the wall. It always gets bloody, always. It’s the threat and not just the way of doing business, but in their minds it’s threatening the game. But really what it’s threatening is their livelihoods, it’s threatening their jobs, it’s threatening the way that they do things. And every time that happens, whether it’s the government or a way of doing business or whatever it is, the people are holding the reins, have their hands on the switch. They will bet you’re crazy.

He goes on to tell Beane that the old way has gone. They’re dinosaurs, he says. The game has been changed. Some people just refuse to accept it.

In our Scriptures today, Luke wants people to pay attention to what is happening. Just like in Stephen’s speech, he pointed out that the land and the law and the temple of the Jews aren’t what it’s about anymore. The customs, the way things have always been done, and the longstanding traditions of Jews only. Gone! Those days and those ways are gone!

Three times in this story of Peter, Luke states that the game has been changed. The Holy Spirit has come upon Gentiles. Jesus’ sacrifice was for them too.

How will these circumcised believers respond to change?

They can believe it, deny it, rebel against it, and decry it, but God wants all of us to know—no matter what day or age in which we live—that Jesus Christ isn’t just an add-on… He’s a real game changer.

Categories Chapel Worship/News | Tags: | Posted on May 27, 2015

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