All of this makes Cornelius a fully self-sufficient and a well-to-do man who was not likely to look for help from God. Nor was he the type of person that a Christian missionary might seek out.
But clearly, something was missing in Cornelius’ life because he was completely countercultural in his pursuit after God. Not just his pursuit of God, but his quick understanding of exactly who Jesus was.
Luke the historian describes Cornelius as:
All of this got God’s attention (see Psalm 141:2; Revelation 5:8; Proverbs 19:17), and He sent an angel to direct Cornelius to Peter.
When Peter came to Cornelius’ house, twice he said “as you know” (vv. 36, 37), showing us that Cornelius was aware that there was not only one true God, but that a relationship with Jesus was the only way to be in right relationship with God. As Peter spoke with Cornelius, his family, his relatives, his close friends, and even his fellow soldiers, the Holy Spirit baptized them just as He had done with the disciples of Jesus on the day of Pentecost.
So here are 3 vital lessons for all men to learn from the life of Cornelius the centurion—
Dads, be devoted to God. Desire all He has for you, and all He has for those around you. Pursue Him no matter how many “strikes” there may be against you.
Be sure to check out the other messages in our series We Are: Pentecostal.
Many years ago, as I struggled with some of the either-or challenges of Christianity, I read C.S. Lewis’ wisdom that the safest course between two either-or extremes was a course straight between them. Jen Pollock Michel embraces this profound wisdom in her thoughtful book Surprised By Paradox—The Promise of And in an Either-Or World.
Jen wrestled with many of the same either-or struggles I wrestled with, which I actually found encouraging. The reason I find this encouraging is that it tells me that I’m not alone in my wrestling, and you aren’t either! So embracing the same C.S. Lewis wisdom that helped guide me, Jen opens up her heart to us in an intimate journey of discovery.
Surprised By Paradox felt like I was getting a glimpse at Jen’s personal diary. Every chapter seemed like it could start out “Dear Diary…” with Jen sharing what prompted her wrestling thoughts, the alternatives she considered, and then the AND solution that God revealed to her. I could feel her growing in insight and confidence as I turned to each successive chapter.
This book will cause you to question and ponder and wrestle as well. And that’s a good thing! To help you along the way, there are some very helpful discussion questions sprinkled throughout the book. Although these would be fine questions for you to answer on your own, I encourage to invite someone else alongside you on your journey. Surprised By Paradox will help you and your friends grow in your spiritual maturity.
I am an IVP book reviewer.
“Relinquish your demand to understand; accept the fact that many things are simply beyond your comprehension. Because I am infinite and you are finite, the limitations of your mind make it impossible for you to understand much of what happens in your life—and in the world. So it’s vital to make room for mystery in your worldview.
“You are privileged to know many things that were formally mysteries—things that had been kept hidden for ages and generations. The New Testament is full of revelations that came through My incarnation, life, death, and resurrection. You are immeasurably blessed to have this priceless knowledge!
“Nonetheless, the ways I work in your world are often mysterious to you—beyond tracing out. This presents you with a choice: to resent My ways or to bow before Me and wonder and worship.” —Jesus (in Sarah Young’s Jesus Always)
I hope you will choose wonder and worship—that’s what I’m trying to choose.
Jesus called satan the father of lies, that means every word he speaks is false. He uses his falsehoods to constantly slander God’s children, “For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth—the one who accuses them before our God day and night” (Revelation 12:10).
But we’re not helpless victims against the devil’s slander. The Holy Spirit reminds us of what the Word of God says, and what the God of the Word has done (John 14:26). That Word becomes our sword and shield against the slanderer, “They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony” (Revelation 12:10-11).
This passage from Psalm 139 is a great weapon to use against the devil whenever he slanderously calls into question your worth in God’s sight. Silence his lies and strike him down with the Truth that your value to God is immeasurable!
The fourth stanza of Charles Wesley’s classic Christmas carol Hark! The Herald Angels Sing is a wonderful between-the-Advents look at what happened at the First Advent, and what we have to look forward to in the Second Advent. The key thing to note in this stanza is the verbs: come, fix, rise, bruise, efface, stamp, and reinstate.
COME, Desire of nations—What is the “desire of nations”? It’s the restoration of God’s glory on earth, so it’s not really a what but a Who. The prophet Haggai informs us that our Desire is realized in the Advent of Jesus (2:1-9).
FIX in us Thy humble home—At His First Advent, Jesus came and humbly made His home among us, even dying to pay the penalty for our sins (Hebrews 2:14, 17; Philippians 2:7-8).
RISE, the woman’s conquering seed—Although Jesus was obedient to death—even death on a Cross, He didn’t stay dead but was resurrected (Philippians 2:8-9; Revelation 1:18)!
BRUISE in us the serpent’s head—With His death and resurrection, Jesus took away the sting of death from satan, fulfilling one of God’s first prophesies (Genesis 3:15; 1 Corinthians 15:19-26, 54-57).
Adam’s likeness now EFFACE—That means to wipe out, do away with, expunge. That’s exactly what God does with our forgiven sins (Psalm 103:1-4, 10-12)!
STAMP Thine image in its place—Although our sin has been effaced, God doesn’t leave us as blank slates, but instead He allows the image of His Son Jesus to be stamped onto our lives (2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 2 Corinthians 3:18).
REINSTATE us in Thy love—The relationship we longed for is now reborn in us (1 Corinthians 15:49)!
The Desire of Nations HAS come, and yet He WILL come again! We’re living between the Advents now, so a good question for Christians to ask is: “How are we to live?” I think there are three key things—
Nowhere else do we see such a concentration of angels as during Christ’s time on earth, and especially at His birth. In the Old Testament prior to Christ’s birth, and in the New Testament following Christ’s ascension, we don’t see as many angels clustered together on Earth—
Charles Wesley wrote a Christmas carol called Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. In the first stanza, we’re invited to “join the triumph in the skies.” But how can someone sing a song grand enough, majestic enough, or worthy enough to honor Almighty God?! That would be like me being asked to compose a song or play something on the piano to honor Mozart—how could I play anything worthy of his musical talent?
In a similar way, when the Israelites thought about coming into God’s presence, they were gripped with knee-knocking, gut-churning fear (Exodus 19:16-19; 20:18-19)!
But notice that the angels didn’t sing, “God is born in Bethlehem.” They sang, “Christ is born in Bethlehem.” Christ: the Messiah; the One who sets things right. No wonder this is such good news of great joy that brings peace and God’s favor (Luke 2:10, 14).
The simple fact is that we couldn’t approach God and join in their angelic song. Instead, Jesus approached us as our Messiah, our Deliverer. How could this happen? Wesley’s carol reminds us that Jesus came so that God and sinners are reconciled!
The First Advent is God approaching us. If we allow Jesus to reconcile us to our Holy Heavenly Father, then we have no fear of Christ’s Second Advent. His Second Advent will be attended to by angels just like His First Advent (Matthew 25:31-32; Mark 8:38; Jude 1:14-15). Those who haven’t had their sins forgiven will hear a song that is soul-crushing to them, while those who have accepted the reconciling work of Jesus will join with the angelic host in a victorious song bringing glory to God forever and ever (Revelation 14:9-11; 15:1-4).
We don’t have to wait until we get to Heaven to join the triumph of the skies. We can join the angelic choir right now in singing our praise to God today. And every day!
Join me this Sunday as we continue to look at the fantastic messages in our Christmas carols.