A Pillar of Mission: The Apostle Peter

Scripture: Acts 4:13, Acts 3:1-26, Galatians 2:11-14
Date: 08/30/2008 
Lesson: 9
After Pentecost, Peter became a central figure in the early church, even though he still had important lessons to learn from God.
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Good morning, Happy Sabbath. We're so glad that you are joining us for another "central study hour," coming to you from Sacramento central Seventh-day Adventist Church. I hope you've had a wonderful week and that you're ready to sing along with us this morning, 'cause we have some favorites that we're going to be singing with you. The first one you will find 236 in your hymnals, 236. So pull those out at home.

Those of you who are watching, if you're listening on the radio, watching live on the website this morning at saccentral.org or watching weeks delayed on the various television networks, this is an opportunity for you to sing along with us. And so 236, "I love thee," is a request from owen in england; frank in china; joanne in New York; and sammy and tecla in florida. , Verses 1, 2, and 4. [Music] Was that a new one for some of you? Did you like it? Good. Okay, they said they liked it.

So thank you for sending in that song request. Our next song is, "a child of the King." You'll find that on 468, 468. And we are going to sing verses 1, 2, and 4. This is a favorite. And it's from Christina in Canada; Christa in england; glen in thailand; nelsia and deon in granada; shana in saint lucia; lloyd in malawi; newton in jamaica; Timothy in saint lucia; vivian and cagel in norway; clarese in Georgia; bertrise in Georgia; antwon in Alaska; darvin in Maryland; russell in florida; John in Virginia; cindy in Connecticut; utie in Pennsylvania; and katia in California.

So 468, 1, 2, and 4. [Music] If you have a favorite song that you would like to sing with us on an upcoming Sabbath, go to our website at saccentral.org, click on the "contact us" link, and you'll see right there where you can send in your song requests. And we would love to hear from you. At this time, let's bow our heads for prayer. Father in Heaven, we are truly children of the King this morning.

You are our Heavenly Father, and we are your children. And we thank you for the privilege that we have to call you our father. And we thank you for your love, your protection, for bringing us here this morning to worship you with other brothers and sisters. And we thank you so much for just blessing us so abundantly. Sometimes we think we don't have much, but when we look around us at what it's like in other places around the world, we realize that we have more than enough.

And I pray that you will help us to have willing spirits that we will share with others the things that you have blessed us with. And we look forward to that day when we will be in heaven with you to spend eternity. In Jesus' Name, amen. At this time, our lesson study is going to be brought to us by pastor white. He is our administrative pastor here at central church.

Thank you, debbie. Good morning. Thank you very much. Happy Sabbath to you. Do we pay attention to The Songs we sing? As I was singing that song, listening to the words, it said, "a tent or a cottage, why should I care?" Do we care? Would you live in a tent if God asked you to? Well, we have to be careful what we sing I guess sometimes.

But we need to be ready to go where Jesus tells us to go, right? And that's why we're here this morning. God told us to come here I believe and come together to fellowship and worship him. We want to welcome you who are here in Sacramento. All of you who are joining us by radio, live streaming, television broadcasts, we are glad you are joining us this morning. It is a wonderful lesson this morning, lesson number 9, "a pillar of mission: the apostle Peter.

" It's the second lesson that we've had on Peter now. And we'll get into it. We have a free offer to share with you, free offer number 710, "a love that transforms," number 710. Go to www.amazingfacts.org or 1-866-788-3966. Well, let's take our lesson quarterlies.

And if you would join me, let's read the memory text together. It's found in acts 4:13, "when they saw the courage of Peter and John, and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished. And they took note that these men had been with Jesus." And then the key thought I think really sums up the lesson. It says, "Peter, the transformed Peter, became one of the greatest missionaries the world has ever seen, even despite some lessons he still needed to learn. As I was thinking about the concept of transformation in the life of Peter, the thought struck me how interesting it would have been if Peter would have had access to a high-class, digital camera.

He would have made a good p-r man, a public relations man. Don't you think? He was bold, aggressive. He would have got out there and got the story. But quite often the story would have featured him. He would have been in all the pictures, because everything was about, you know, him before his total transformation, as was with the other disciples.

They were all clamoring to be first in the Kingdom of Christ that they thought he was going to set up. But after the transformation, well, Jesus wasn't around, so he couldn't take anymore pictures of Jesus. But he'd have to go back to his photo shop, take him out of the picture and exalt Jesus. And isn't that what transformation is all about? Taking ourselves out of the picture and exalting Jesus. And that's what happened in Peter's life.

He became a transformed man. Now, was his transformation complete just like that? No, it wasn't. Even after the cross, he had some more rough edges to his character and personality that needed to be smoothed out. And I think sometimes we are reluctant to say we've been transformed because we still see some rough spots in our life. But the major heart of Peter was transformed.

And I hope that we can say that about ourselves. That doesn't mean we've arrived at perfection. Now I often think when you talk about this subject, you go back to the woman at the well where Jesus met. And he told her that if she would drink this living water, just once, she would never be thirsty again. We almost think that Jesus was telling her, you know, once you accept me, everything's gonna be perfect.

But we know that wasn't the case, as it is not the case with any of us. She would go back home and she'd have all kinds of problems. But she did drink of the living water. She had been transformed. And so whenever she fell, she felt bad and she repented immediately I'm sure of those sins.

That's the difference between a transformed heart and one that has not been transformed. The Christian, the genuine Christian, as soon as we fall short and we come up short and stumble into some kind of sin, we cannot hardly wait to repent, because we don't feel good. Before we come to Christ, we sin; it doesn't really matter that much. So I hope you can find yourself in this scenario this morning. And find something to help in our own transformation, because it does us no good to study about somebody's transformation in the Bible if it doesn't help in our own life, right? So we have to have practical application for our own day-to-day living down here in 2008.

Now before we go to Sunday's lesson, I want to share a delightful little story that kind of sums up some of Peter's life. This football coach had two quarterbacks. One was a real athletic young man, very capable. He was aggressive, a born leader. The second quarterback, the second string quarterback was athletic enough, but he lacked a mind for strategy.

And they were playing for the championship game. The score was tied. They were down to the final few seconds of the game. And one of the--this team has the ball, the home team which we're talking about, and one of the guys on the other team breaks through the line and just smashes the quarterback. He has to be carried off the field.

So the coach has nothing else to do but to put in the second-string quarterback. Few seconds remaining on the clock, he calls a huddle. They break from the huddle. They go to the line. And to everybody's surprise, the quarterback changes the play at the line of scrimmage.

And that's very shocking because they didn't think he would have the smarts to do such a thing as that. And the ball is hiked. He hands it off to the full back. The full back breaks through the middle and runs all the way for a touchdown. And there's pandemonium in the arena.

Everybody is so excited. And after it's all over and the coach is back with the young man in their locker room. He says, "wow, what a good play. How did you know to call that play?" Well, the young man says, "well, it weren't easy coach." He said, "I looked across the line and there was two of the biggest guys I had ever seen. And one of 'em was wearing the number seven.

And the other one was wearing the number six. And I added those Numbers up and got 14 and called play number 14. Coach thought for a second. And he said, "well son," he said, "seven and six don't equal fourteen." And unflapped by his being corrected, the young man says, "well coach," he said, "if I were as smart as you, I guess we would have lost the game." So in that you see Peter a little bit. He was a little bit slow in summing up or adding up the situations.

And before you know it, he had his foot in his mouth, engaging his tongue before he engaged his brain. Didn't he? Many times we kind of make fun of Peter in a sense. Now, I don't say that Peter was an uneducated man. I believe he was a very smart man. In fact, as you read his writings, you know he was an intelligent man because he was educated by Christ, wasn't he? So he was an intelligent being.

I'm not saying that about him. But he did make some situation. But the good thing about it was Christ seemed to always bring some kind of good thing out of it, didn't he? Even especially after the cross we see him bringing many good things out of some of the situations that Peter was notorious for getting himself into. In light of that, knowing about Peter's background and a little bit of his life, some of the mistakes he made, it's kind of amazing that some of the definitions or explanations of the text we're about ready to read. In fact, would somebody would look up Matthew 16:18? I think we have that handed out.

"And I say also unto thee that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church. And the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Of course we understand that the definition for the name Peter is kind of a pebble or little stone. Christ is the rock. And if we're going to build a house--some of you have built houses--you wouldn't want to build on a pebble or a little stone, would you? You'd want to have a good concrete cornerstone foundation for your house. Even a playhouse we'd want not to build on a little pebble.

And if that's so of a house, it certainly is so of the church. Now if you take this verse and interpret it as some of our catholic friends have. And I was raised a catholic and kind of believed this. Some people in the church don't. But they interpret this as being the fact that Peter was the first pope.

That leaves us with some serious concerns. First of all, not everybody in the church has always believed this. Augustine defended with earnestness the fact that Christ was the rock. And one of the most famous popes in the middle ages, gregory vii in his famous inscription he sent with the crown to the emperor, rudolph, he also likened this rock to being Christ. So some people down through the years have had it right.

Other concerns raise themselves when we equate Peter to the rock. First of all--or him being the first pope. Actually, there was no roman catholic church in existence at that time. So it's hard to have a first pope without having a church that was really in place. Secondly, if popes are to be celibate, which they say they are to be, that leaves us with a little problem too because Jesus healed Peter's mother-in-law, right? In Mark 2, I believe it is.

And i, last time I checked, I don't think you can get a mother-in-law without being married. Is that right? That's what I think anyway. But those are secondary issues actually. The real significant point is that Christ would think to build his church on a sinful human being. That is the biggest problem.

If somebody would read for us Deuteronomy 32:4, does somebody have that one? "He is the rock, his work is perfect; for all his ways are judgment; a God of truth and without iniquity; just and right is he." Okay, thank you very much. For God, and further text we understand, Christ himself is the rock. His work is perfect. Now somebody with Revelation 12:1. We want to take a look at that and share that this with this morning.

"And there appeared a great wonder in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of 12 stars." Okay, so we have the false church described in Revelation as this woman decked out in scarlet and purple with all these jewelry and fancy things on her. And compared to the true church is pictured as pure, clothed with the sun. And how could a church built on faulty human beings ever possess the purity that the church needs? Well, it can't happen that way. The church has always been and will always be built upon Jesus the rock, right? Now one complaint the pastor often hears from those who don't desire to join a church, I've heard this many times, is that because they see corruptions or things that shouldn't exist within churches. And unfortunately that does happen.

It happens from time to time in God's remnant church, unfortunately. So there is that element to deal with. You know, back in the old testament, the children of Israel, they clamored for a king, even though it wasn't God's will. They got a king, but even though they had a king, they had prophets and prophetesses in place to help give guidance and direction to king. Proverbs 11:14 says, "in the multitude of counselors there is safety.

" And we might add that those multitude of counselors need to have their focus on the Word of God to be safe, right? So it is kind of ludicrous to think that God would entrust one man for the care of all his people. Just for a moment, though, let's consider this text in Matthew 16:18 that we just read. Suppose Jesus was indicating that Peter would be a strong leader in the church. Well, he could have been saying that, but he really doesn't say more than that if we try to interpret it that way. But if he was a strong leader in the church, and that's what it was saying, then he was also adding that he could expect God's presence to help that would keep the gates of hell from prevailing against the church and against Peter and the other people who would lead the church.

So I hope we can see the other side of the coin a little bit, even if it was tried to be explained that way. It wouldn't go to the point of explaining that this one man is in charge of all of God's people. That just wouldn't be the way God does things. Now let's move on to Monday's lesson. And this is an interesting part of the lesson, the shadow of Peter.

Did Peter step forward to be a real strong leader in the early church? He did, didn't he? He preached one sermon and ,000 people were converted. That's pretty--becomes a pretty powerful voice for the church. He was a spokesman for God and his people in many different situations. But other disciples also demonstrated leadership also. And when Paul came on the scene, it's almost as if Peter took a step backwards and kind of let Paul become a leader.

Didn't it? It seems that way in many respects. But Peter was filled with zeal and faith. Now somebody has the text acts 3:1-8. "Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the 9th hour. And a certain man lame from his mother's womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple; who, seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple, asked an alms.

And Peter fascinating his eyes upon him, with John, said, 'look on us.' And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them. Then Peter said, 'silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee: in the name of Jesus Christ of nazareth, rise up and walk.' And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he, leaping up, stood and walked and entered with them into the temple, walking and leaping and praising God." Okay. Thank you, richard. First of all, consider how much confidence God was really placing in Peter, to be able to perform this miracle through him that Peter would not become proud and puffed up.

And to know that he was not proud and puffed up, we need to add another verse to that. Somebody has acts 4:10-11. Right back here. Acts 4:10-11. I think these go very well along with the text we just read.

"Let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by him this man stands here before you whole. This is the 'stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.'" Okay, thank you very much. It's very clear in this text that Peter gives all the credit to God for these miracles that are taking place. It also refers us back to Sunday's lesson, making very clear that the rock is Jesus Christ himself. And we ask the question, or we think about the question today, what if God would do something today like that in the church.

If God would use a pastor, let's say, to perform such a magnificent miracle that took place. And then he turns around and he does it like three or four times in the next few weeks through the same minister. What would begin to happen? Well, sometimes, this is kind of what would happen, I think, the church would kind of try to make a hero out of that person. He'd be in all the newsletters and all the e-mails and it would go across America that all these fantastic miracles are happening. And then the next thing would happen.

Congregations from all over the--probably the world--would be clamoring for this pastor to come to their church so that they could witness some of these miracles also. So just think about the confidence that God was putting in Peter by allowing these miracles to be performed in his ministry. It's very risky business to become successful for God. You ever think about that? It's risky because it is so easy to begin to take the credit to ourselves. We have a couple texts I wanted to share now.

Somebody has acts 5:14-15. "And believers were increasingly added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they brought the sick out into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that at least the shadow of Peter passing by might fall on some of them." Okay, thank you so much. And now we'll turn to acts 10. And we wanted to read verses 25 and 26. "And as Peter was coming in, cornelius met him and fell at his feet and worshipped him.

But Peter took him up, saying, 'stand up; for I myself am a man.'" Thank you very much. Again, Peter shows his humility and gives the credit to God. He's not going to accept such honor and praise. The lesson brings out the point that at this time Peter filled with this power from on high would probably face his greatest spiritual challenges. Now there may be some truth to that I'm sure as he probably had to resist pride.

But I also think that pride didn't really have too much a part in Peter's life after the cross. Let me just share a little excerpt from "Desire of Ages," page 415. It says, "while the degrading oaths were fresh upon Peter's lip, and the shrill crowing of the cock was still ringing in his ears, the Savior turned from the frowning Judges and looked full upon his poor disciple. At the same time, Peter's eyes were drawn to his master. In that gentle countenance, he read deep pity and sorrow.

But there was no anger there. The sight of that pale, suffering face, those quivering lips, that look of compassion and forgiveness pierced his heart like an arrow." And the Bible says, "he went out and he wept bitterly." It's one of the most touching scenes in all of God's Word. It humbled him to the point that Peter, when with--stood face-to-face by the apostle Paul, submitted in humility. That when he was facing his own death, he would not even be willing to be crucified the way Christ was, but he wanted to be crucified upside down. That's how humble and lack of pride filled Peter's life.

Peter wouldn't forget those events and others that he had when he was walking with Jesus, like the time he was walking on the water. And he was very proud and arrogant, I suppose, as he was walking on the water, just like Christ was doing. But then we know he sank. You know, the pebble, or little rock as his name infers, wasn't evidently a smooth pebble that could skip across the top of the water. He still had some rough edges to him.

And those kind of rocks don't skip very well, do they? They sink. I don't believe pride had much of a foothold with Peter for the rest of his life. Otherwise it would have been dangerous, a bit dangerous in a sense for God to perform these kind of miracles through Peter. Now it's the same kind of principle I've seen God use with the concept of money. I have seen God bless some people with a great deal of money, people that can be trusted with a great deal of money, because they turn around and put that money back into the Lord's work.

And God just keeps pouring out more money on them. A lot of us cannot be trusted with money, because a lot of people get more money and it leads them farther away from Christ if they're not with Christ too close now, or away from Christ all together. So some people can be trusted with some blessings, where other people can't be trusted with some blessings. And Peter could be trusted with the power of God working through him to bring about some of these miracles. Now there's a lesson in all of this for us, because if you think back to some of the humiliating experience Peter had, when he sank in the water after walking on the water, he sank in front of Jesus in front of his peers, the disciples, but it didn't humble him the way the cross did.

The cross is the real humbling, isn't it? It's what we need to be humble before our God. And if we want a humble spirit, that's where we need to go is to the cross. Last week pastor mackintosh certainly covered the concept of how we must be right with God if we want miracles to happen in our lives. It's rather ludicrous of ourselves to think that we can be openly sinning and then ask God for some kind of miracle to take place. But what about some of these healings that takes place in circles where they openly omit one of God's commandments.

You know, it's sometimes hard to understand or be able to detect or discern what miracles are true and what miracles are not true, truly from God or not. There's all kinds of miracles happening in our world today. Which are correct and which are not? Let me introduce a little concept with you by this little story. A father had a little boy who had regularly awakened in the night, several times during the week. He'd have this recurring nightmares, which was provoked by his daily encounters with this overly affectionate big dog.

I don't know, in the neighborhood, maybe it was their own dog. But several nights a week he'd wake up, screaming and hollering with this nightmare. There were six dogs at the end of his bed, ready to nibble on his feet and toes. And so The Father would have to go in and this racing heartbeat of this little child. And he'd gather him up into his arms.

And he'd try to reassure him, "there's no dogs in here." You know, there's no dogs. And so he'd have to spend a great deal of time trying to finally get his son back to sleep. Well after so many nights of this, he was running down and he knew something had to change, because he wasn't his energetic, lively self, because he was losing too much sleep. So the next night the little boy has this nightmare. He goes calmly into the room.

And he starts shooing out these dogs. "Shh, get. Get out the door. Get out the door." And takes him about 10 seconds to get all the dogs out the door. And the little boy says, "oh, thank you, dad.

Thank you, daddy." And he goes back in bed, curls up and goes fast asleep. Well, the dad had to do this two more times and then the dogs never came back. He believed something that wasn't there. Sometimes people believe things and things change, whether there are--let me put it this way. Some people have people pray for them and they are healed.

And those people praying for them are not even sincere, consecrated Christians. If you doubt that, let me just share this quotation from letter 2, 1851. It says, "a case was held up before me of a minister miles away. He was sent for to pray for a sick sister who sent for him in compliance with the teachings found in James 5, 'call for the elders.' He went and prayed in earnest. And she prayed.

She believed the minister to be a man of God, a man of faith. Physicians had given her up to die of consumption. But she was healed immediately. She rose up and she prepared a supper, a thing that she had not done for 10 years. Now the minister," this quotation goes on to say, "now the minister was vile.

His life was corrupt. And yet, there was a great work. He took the glory all to himself. Again, the scene mentioned above passed before me. I saw that the woman was a true disciple of Christ.

Her faith was that she should be healed. I saw their prayers. One was misty, dark, fell downward. The other prayer was mixed with light or specks, which looked to me like diamonds and rose upward to Jesus. And he sent it to The Father like sweet incense.

And a beam of light was immediately sent to the afflicted one. And she revived and strengthened under its influence. Said the angel, 'God will gather every particle of true sincere faith, like diamonds shall they be gathered up and will surely bring a return or answer. And God will separate the precious from the vile. Although he bears long with the hypocrite and sinner, yet he will be searched out.

Though he may flourish with the honest a while like the green bay tree, yet the time will come when his folly will be made manifest." Healings do take place, even when unconsecrated people are among those who are praying. And those healings take place because of the faith of the one who is requesting the healing. But if you call for the elders--now first of all, it should be a no-brainer. If we are going to call for the elders to come and anoint us because we have a serious illness, we should try to call people we feel are men of God. That seems like a no-brainer.

But if we call for those elders, and they come and they have that anointing and prayer over us, and one of those happens to be a very unconsecrated, vile person, that will not short-circuit the prayers in faith that you share. Because it was faith in God's Word that moved you to call for the elders in the beginning. Now, other healings take place when the mind simply rerouted, you might say. We're talking about, you know, this concept of people wanting to be healed if they would just be able to touch the shadow or walk through the shadow of Peter. And I think that we have to be very careful with things like that, because there are all kinds of serious things going on in our world today that are just not adequately true.

So we have to be careful. But other people have healings take place, so called, by what we call the placebo effect. Have you heard of that? Placebos. Yeah, you have. Now here's just a couple.

Scientists tricked runners into thinking they were drinking oxygenated water, thus making them perform better when in reality the runners were drinking regular tap water. They ran better because they thought what they were drinking would enhance their performance. Asthmatic patients had dilation of the air waves occur by simply telling them they were inhaling bronchial dilator, even though they weren't. Fifty-two percent of colitis patients treated with placebo in eleven different trials reported feeling better. And 50% of the inflamed intestines actually looked better when appraised by a sigmoidoscope, 50% of them appeared to be even better just when they were told that they were given something which they really weren't.

Now of course there's the negative side. One scientist says this, he claims that patients have been led to believe that they are suffering from the imagined reactive hypoglycemic or that they're suffering from some nonexistent allergy or yeast infections or dental filling amalgam toxicity. Now some of you may have experienced some of those things. And maybe you have experienced them for real. But this scientist says there are many people that have been convinced that they have some of these things and they don't.

So we have to be careful on the negative side of the placebo effect, right? Now some of you hearing this may have had some of these experiences. Well what about all this? Some people don't yet understand all the truth when it comes to obedience to God, yet they pray in faith and miracles take place. There are genuine miracles of people getting healed, even though they don't understand all truth. Do you believe that? Yes. There are.

They sometimes submit themselves to unconsecrated ministers for prayer and healing takes place. But we should learn all we can as to what is right and wrong when it comes to praying for these kind of miracles. And we can learn a great deal. I'm sure I'll probably get some e-mails on some of this, but all I'm saying is that healings can become very complicated issues. And we can't judge in many cases where the healings came from, if they're true or genuine or not.

There are many that we can know for sure that come from God. And we can rejoice and be glad about those, right? Let's move on to Tuesday's very quickly, talking about organizing the early church. And I think sometimes we think about the early church as just a bunch of disciples going in this direction, that direction without any kind of organization. But that is not true. They became very organized.

They have meetings like we have meetings in our church today. They got organized with--in fact, they kind of made perfect the deaconship, getting deacons to do more things in the church and making sure that the work would go forward faster. I've often made the statement that organization is the key to success. And I think organization has a great deal to do with being successful in God's church. Let me give you a little trivia on the subject of organization.

A man by the name of abdul kassan ishmael was a scholarly man who lived in persia in the 10th century. This is a long time ago, th century. But he owned 117,000 volumes or 117,000 books. And he traveled a lot as a lawyer and a statesmen, but he never went anywhere without all of his volumes of books with him. Now what he had was a bunch of camels, 400 to be fact--in fact, camels.

And they were all trained to March in alphabetical order. In other words, a through b was in number one and so forth. And all these elephants always Marched in order so that the leader of the elephant terrain would be able to go right to the box and get the volume that the master wanted any time. Man, that's organization. And I believe the church needs to be as organized as possible, because it cannot accomplish the great commission given to us without organization.

If there's one thing I know, and know with a surety is the great commission will not be finished by stay-at-home Christians. We must be organized and active for the Lord. And the only way you can be active around the world is to be an organized church. Now, the Seventh-day Adventist Church really resisted organization in the beginning. After the great disappointment of 1844, they kept studying and uncovering all these wonderful truths that we hold so dear today.

But they didn't want to become an organized denomination. But it wasn't long until they soon realized that you cannot accomplish this work without being organized. And so they took upon the name Seventh-day Adventist Church. And I believe one of the reasons this Seventh-day Adventist Church is in more countries than any other protestant church is because we organize our organization upon the Word of God. And it starts with finances.

Bringing all the tithes in the storehouse does not mean you bring all the tithe for one big magnificent church into the pastor's storehouse. And he can go out and build multi-million dollar houses with his wife being able to buy pairs of shoes. You don't find that kind of thing in the Seventh-day Adventist ministry. In fact, you find the funds coming into the storehouse being as equally distributed as you can worldwide so that the work can keep going forward. And I really appreciate that about this church.

As you think about it, some people say, "well, does-- what you get, is that enough? Does the church pay you enough, pastor?" And I say, "yes, I get adequate pay." You know, you have to live very careful and watch what you spend. You can't live extravagant, overly extravagant. I often joke that the amount of money that the conference sends me is totally adequate. They just need to send it twice as often. That's not true.

They certainly take care of us. The early church is no different. It took means to run it. Organization it had to have. Another area it would be important for organization would be in the area of doctrines and teachings.

All of the sudden you have ,000 new people in one day. And this happens over--day after day, new people coming in. And as you have new people coming in, you have all kinds of new ideas. And some of these are just wonderful ideas and supportive of the truth. And sometimes some ideas seem to be supportive, but you can just detect a little something off there.

So organization is important to keep the truth of God as pure and true as it should be, right? There is within the Seventh-day Adventist Church a church manual. In fact, I would encourage everybody to read the church manual through once at least. There's some interesting stuff in there. There's some things in the church manual about church discipline. We all should read that.

Some people say, "well, that's getting into like a manmade creed. You're gonna get this policy book, manmade creed." No, it has nothing to do with manmade creeds. It's simply organization. And every teaching we have comes directly from the word. That's different than a manmade creed.

Alright, let's go to Wednesday. Somebody has acts 8:1. "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, in all Judea, in samaria, unto the end of the earth." Okay, thank you very much. That should have been so clear to Peter, but he kept struggling with this concept that the Gospel message was intended for everybody. He just thought the jews--he'd been so steeped in the concept that the jews were the only people that could be saved.

Now God does something special for Peter by giving him this vision. And we know about the animals being let down in the sheet. And they were filled with all kinds of unclean animals. God told 'em to eat of them. And horrified Peter to think about eating these unclean animals, which he had never done in his life.

And of course we realize that many people don't read on and understand what the vision was for. The vision was intended to show Peter that he should call no man common or unclean. And I like the thought that the lesson brings out that if God were to use an illustration today, he might use an illustration of cigarettes and intoxicating beverages. But he would never realistically ask us to partake of them, because that would be going against other biblical truths that is very foundational to life and that we should treat our bodies as a temple of the Holy Spirit. The Bible does not contradict itself, even though once in a while you'll find a text that seems to look like it is.

Let's just take an example and say that it does in the teachings about hell. There are a couple verses that confuse people that make it sound like God's gonna be burning people forever and ever and ever. Then there's all these other texts that says hell is a consuming fire, the second death, gonna consume things. So you have to look at those texts very carefully. And you understand the truth about those difficult text.

And you understand it only teaches that hell is a place where people are totally destroyed. But if the Bible actually had teachings both ways about hell, then what would be the situation? One of those teachings would be a lie, right? One has to be false, because both can't be false. You either live for hell forever in this burning place or you are consumed in this fire. And if one place in the Bible is lie--lying--then that means God is a liar. Is God a liar? No.

So the same thing applies to this teaching on these animals let down in a sheet. God certainly wouldn't do that. And it took a while for Peter to get it, but he finally did. And vision is so important. His vision was expanded.

Without vision, what does the Bible say? A people will perish. Let me give you an interesting example of history. About 350 years ago, a shipload of travelers landed on the northeast coast of America. The first year, they built a town site. The second year, they elected a town government.

The third year, the town government planned to build a road 5 miles west out into the wilderness. And the fourth year, the people tried to impeach the town government people for coming up with such a ridiculous idea of building a road out into the wilderness. Who ever would go there in the first place? Here were a people that traveled ,000 miles to a new country that they didn't even know anything about and suffered all those hardships, but they get here. And in just a few years they cannot see far enough to go miles. It's so easy to lose our vision.

And that's why we must men and women of the word, because you get your vision from God sharing it to us. And it comes to us so often, in so many ways from His Word. When we keep an open vision to the future, God can and he will work to expand our efforts for him. Do you believe that? I do. I'll never forget giving a Bible study to a young man when I just started my ministry, a young couple in fact.

And they were an interest that somebody in the church had gotten friends with. And this young couple that were in the church, he not only--they were not only members, he was a theology major at union college in lincoln, Nebraska. So I would go every week to study with this couple. And they were just eating up the word. They were enjoying it.

And eventually they actually got baptized. One night we got onto the subject of being prejudiced, that as God's people we should not be prejudiced against any people. And this young couple, yeah, they agreed with that wholeheartedly. But this young man had been so steeped in being prejudiced against a certain nationality; he could not go along with that. In fact, he found himself in the minority in our little group there so quick that he quit the Bible study.

Not only did he quit coming to the Bible study, he dropped out of theology major and went back to his home state. And I thought, man, how terrible that is to be so steeped in being prejudiced against another people that you can't see that God wants to save them. And I thought about this young man many times through the years. I hope he got the victory as Peter got the victory. If he didn't, oh how sorrowful and how sad.

Peter finally got the victory. And that's good news for us, because we all have weaknesses. It may not be that one, but we all have weaknesses that we can get pretty discouraged about. But we need to take courage to know that if God can transform a man like Peter, he can transform us too. Do you believe that? I was looking through a book this past week actually.

I came across it was an older book that has pictures in it. I like books with pictures in 'em. They're easier to understand. Anyway, I had this picture of this man, well-dressed man bending over this kind of a-- I guess you'd say he probably was a homeless man, just really looked bad, and the whole mission of this little chapter was about Christian service to all mankind. And I thought, you know, with our world today with homelessness just seeming to rise all the time, we can become very calloused against those who are down and out.

And we need a broader vision in that one area, don't we? How we can reach that kind of an individual for Christ. And that doesn't mean we just go out and give money to them because we know sometimes they misuse it. But how can we reach them for Christ? What can we do to infiltrate their life? God help us. Give us a bigger vision to this picture in our world today. Let's go to Galatians 2:11-14.

Who has that one? "But when Peter came to antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. When he first arrived, he ate with the gentile Christians who were not circumcised; but afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn't eat with the gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. As a result, other Jewish Christians followed Peter's hypocrisy. And even barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.

When I saw that they were not following the truth of the Gospel message, I said to Peter in front of all the others, 'since you, a jew by birth have discarded the Jewish laws and are living like a gentile, why are you now trying to make these gentiles follow the Jewish traditions?'" Okay, thank you very much. Paul was feeling that Peter certainly had backslid on the understanding he'd had before. And he was. He had gotten together with the good old boys, the Jewish countrymen, his Jewish countrymen. And had been influenced again by them and so he wouldn't even eat with the gentiles.

And so Paul had to withstand him to his face. And Peter, evidently, got the victory. Praise the Lord. What does it mean to grow in grace? Well, I believe it means--it's part of that process we call sanctification. It means becoming more like Jesus, becoming holier as he is holy.

Would it mean bringing more answers to the tables than questions? What do I mean by that? Some people seem to think that Christian perfection is being able to answer all these hard and difficult questions. But I think it's just the opposite. It reminds me of how bernard trustain once won a newspaper competition by providing the best answer to this question. He said--the question was, "if a fire broke out in the lourvre--" that's some kind of place that houses paintings-- "and you could save only one painting, which would it be?" His reply was, "the one nearest the exit." I think that's a good reply, don't you? And I think that's what growing in grace is all about, that we come forth with the best answers, that the right answers. We are not to be afraid that there are right answers.

We need not be afraid that there is a truth to commit to. But I've seen some people get so worried about submitting to truth that they just keep putting it off and putting it off. And they allow themselves to have the enemy come up with more questions than they allow God to come up with the solutions or the answers. And so I think that's what growing in grace is all about. What was needed by Peter to have this final transformation about how to treat the gentiles? It was a willing heart, wasn't it? He needed to choose to do what was right.

God wasn't going to force him, but he finally got around to choosing that which is right. I came across a quotation this week that says, "we should not pray to have God humble us, because if God is the one humbling us, we might not like the results." So I've stopped singing that little song, "humble me, o Lord. Humble me." I get enough humblization as a pastor sometimes. And that's good because I don't think we ought to have an arrogant pastor, do you? It seems like an oxymoron: arrogant pastor. They seem not to go together.

Well, here it is, number-- free offer 710, "a love that transforms." Www.amazingfacs.org. Thank you everyone who are out there who joined us. We ran out of time this morning, but we appreciate you joining us each Sabbath. And thank you here in Sacramento for all of you who have come out on this beautiful Sabbath morning. We're glad you are here to worship with us today.

In a world surrounded by darkness, there is a voice that whispers to every young heart, calling them to seek, pressing them on, urging them to find the treasure of truth. Those who follow the path will discover eternal riches beyond their wildest dreams. Join us now for an "Amazing Adventure, a journey for life with Jesus," an Amazing Facts satellite series just for kids. Live from Dallas, Texas. Register now.

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