Welcome to Tuesday’s podcast. Our Bible reading today is Acts Chapter 11 v1-18.
I wonder if you would describe yourself as a rule breaker, a risk taker, someone who likes to push the boundaries…….or are you a stickler for the rules, risk adverse and cautious about stepping over the line?
Wherever you fall on this continuum, there still comes a point where we have to be honest about the consequences or repercussions of our actions and, perhaps most challenging for all of us, we have to admit or own up to these to someone else.
A few years ago we had a pet guinea pig called Prickles. One day I noticed that a large growth had appeared around his neck. Having taken him to the vet to get some advice, we needed to make a decision about what to do next.
I felt that we should proceed with an operation, as the other options were that he would be starved to death or choked by the growth….and how would we explain our decision not to operate to the children! Alan had a somewhat different approach, and asked whether, at a time when money was tight, was it really an appropriate use of our money to run up a large vet’s bill on a £20 guinea pig whose natural life span was coming to an end anyway!?
It is fair to say that I persuaded Alan to follow my point of view on the issue. The vet had assured me that the risk was very low, and the cost would be approximately £80. I told Alan it would all be fine.
Later that day I collected a very poorly guinea pig from the vet. The operation had been a lot more complicated than expected, Prickles had to be hand fed from a syringe for several days, and the treatment cost more than my engagement ring!
Facing the consequences of my actions as I paid the bill was one thing, but I knew that once I got Prickles home, I would then have to tell Alan just how much the now gold-plated guinea pig had cost us!
In today’s Bible passage, we see Peter having to face up to the consequences of the risks he had taken, as he travels to Jerusalem to face a furious group of Jewish believers.
“Why did you do it?’ they asked. ‘Why did you go in to visit uncircumcised men and eat with them?”
Let’s just remind ourselves of the risks Peter has taken that have led to this situation……
Firstly, he went to Caesarea because of a dream or vision involving a sheet coming down from heaven containing reptiles, birds, four footed animals and wild beasts. I think it’s fair to say that the imagery was a bit unusual. In fact in Acts Chapter 10 v17 and 19, we see that Peter was still wondering and thinking about what this vision might actually mean when he set off with Cornelius’ servants.
Secondly, Peter was a Jew who had chosen to enter the house of a Gentile, accept his hospitality and eat with him. For us it is hard to understand the extent to which this was radical, risk taking in the extreme. This wasn’t pushing the boundaries; it was smashing them to pieces. This was not just risky because it was rule breaking; it was risky because Peter was putting his life on the line. Remember that in Acts Chapter 7, Stephen had been stoned to death because of speaking against the laws of Judaism, and seeking to change the customs handed down from Moses.
Peter’s final risk was in declaring that Cornelius, and other Gentiles, could be baptised with water – an outward sign that they were welcomed into the family of believers on equal terms with those who were converted Jews. There were no guarantees that others would agree with his actions.
I could just end the podcast here, and encourage us all to take more risks. However, that would be doing Peter a disservice, because his actions are not just about taking risks, they are about facing fears.
How often have we been in a situation where we don’t speak out or say anything because we are fearful of what others might say, or we are fearful of the consequences for ourselves afterwards?
Perhaps our fear is that God doesn’t, or wouldn’t ever, actually speak to us, or that he doesn’t really have a purpose for us. This fear saps our confidence, and so we never take that step of faith.
Or maybe we are fearful to obey God? In his podcast last Monday, Tom spoke about Ananias and the fact that he could have said no to Jesus. Do our fears stop us saying ‘Yes’ to Jesus and being obedient to His word?
I started this podcast with a story about our pet – Prickles. It’s a funny story…..but essentially, I took a risk, I had to face the consequences, and one small guinea pig went on to live for a good few years.
Chapters 10 and 11 of Acts are the story of Peter facing his fears of what others might think or say, quite literally taking a step of faith across someone’s doorstep, and obediently saying ‘Yes’ to Jesus.
And when he took this risk, he found that the consequences of his actions didn’t just change the life of this one Gentile, but paved the way for all people on earth to know that they can enjoy a relationship with Jesus, experience the power of the Holy Spirit, and have the certainty of eternal life with God.
If Peter had not faced his fears, and taken those risks, then he would have limited the kingdom impact that God intended for him to have.
“Who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?” When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God saying, ‘So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
Does our hesitancy to take risks mean that we are preventing others from hearing about the better life that Jesus offers, both now and into eternity? Do we allow our fears to limit the mission of God?
Allow God to challenge and speak to you about these questions today.
Heavenly Father, show us today where we need to take a risk, so that others may hear about you. Amen.
READING: Acts 11:1-18
The apostles and the believers throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. So when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticised him and said, ‘You went into the house of uncircumcised men and ate with them.’
Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story: ‘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. I looked into it and saw four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles and birds. Then I heard a voice telling me, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”
‘I replied, “Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.”
‘The voice spoke from heaven a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again.
‘Right then three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. 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. He told us how he had seen an angel appear in his house and say, “Send to Joppa for Simon who is called Peter. He will bring you a message through which you and all your household will be saved.”
‘As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning. Then I remembered what the Lord had said: “John baptised with water, but you will be baptised with the Holy Spirit.” So if God gave them the same gift he gave us who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could stand in God’s way?’
When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, ‘So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.’