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Lesson 11: Families of Faith *

Introduction: Two weeks ago, we discussed the difficulty of facing loss. One of the main problems with loss is that we face change, and most people want to avoid change. What if change comes from a needed improvement in our spiritual understanding? What if change comes from a failure to understand or remember God's will for us? Let's jump into our study of the Bible and learn more about how to make positive change and avoid negative change!

  1. Spiritual Growth

    1. Read Acts 10:1-2. What is Cornelius's job? (He is a Roman soldier, and the leader of a legion of soldiers. One commentary said that Cornelius was in charge of 600 soldiers.)

      1. Why would an Italian soldier be stationed in Caesarea? (This was a Roman capital, a military headquarters. They needed soldiers who were unquestionably loyal to Rome.)

        1. Who is the enemy here? (Restless Jews.)

      2. What do we know about Cornelius's religious beliefs? (He is a convert to Judaism!)

        1. What do we know about his family?

          1. What impact do you have on your family?

        2. How does the Bible prove his devotion to us? (It tells us that he helped the needy and prayed regularly.)

        3. How do you compare to Cornelius in your devotion?

    2. Read Acts 10:3-4. Compare Acts 3:1. What is significant about this time? (It is the hour of prayer for Jews. This suggests that Cornelius was praying when he had this vision.)

      1. Why has Cornelius been chosen for this message from God? (His prayers and gifts to the poor.)

    3. Read Acts 10:5-8. Does Cornelius immediately obey?

      1. Does Cornelius understand why he is sending men? (No. He just obeys.)

      2. What kind of soldier does Cornelius send? (Another religious man.)

      3. Why does Cornelius send three when just one could carry the message? Why include a soldier? (The greater number shows more honor to Peter. It demonstrates that this is not just one crazy man with an odd message. The soldier shows that this is official - and proves this comes from the military.)

    4. Read Acts 10:9-11. Which is your priority, eating or praying? Would you persist with praying, or go down and get ready to eat?

      1. If Peter had not persisted in praying, how would this story continue?

      2. Notice that God reached out to both Cornelius and Peter while they were praying. Do you regularly pray?

    5. Read Acts 10:12-15. If you have a prophet in your church, if someone says they have a message from God, what is your responsibility? (To test it against the scriptures.)

      1. Has Peter done that? (Yes.)

      2. At first, Peter rejects the voice because it conflicts with Scripture, particularly Deuteronomy 14:3-21. Should Peter stop his analysis at that point and reject the message?

    6. Read Acts 10:16-17. Has Peter simply rejected what he saw and heard? (No. He is trying to reconcile Scripture and what he has just experienced.)

      1. Do you think that the world just spins with God generally in control, but not involved in details? (The timing shows that God is in the details.)

    7. Read Acts 10:18-20. Peter is still trying to figure out the vision. Why does the Holy Spirit tell him that he should go without hesitation with the three strangers?

      1. Contemplate this for a minute. God wants to change Peter's mind about associating with Gentiles. The first thing God does is challenge his existing beliefs. The next thing He does is arrange circumstances to be a part of that challenge. God then directs what Peter is to do in those circumstance.)

    8. Read Acts 10:21-22. Do you think the visitors believe that Peter might not want to go with them? (Yes.)

      1. What do they say to convince him to come? (They say positive things about Cornelius's religious practice. They say they have a divine mandate.)

        1. Notice how God is working both sides of the problem?

    9. Read Acts 10:23. Has Peter begun to change his spiritual beliefs? (Read Acts 10:28 and Acts 11:2-3. Despite this, Peter invites Gentiles to be "his guests" and agrees to go with them.)

      1. Why do you think Peter has other believers travel with him? (Since Peter is treading on new ground, he probably wants witnesses to what will happen. They will help control false rumors.)

    10. Read Acts 10:24-26. What do you think about the actions of Cornelius? Consider that his job is to retain authority over restless Jews. He is to make sure they know that Rome is in charge. (I'm not sure that his actions are something he would want his supervisors to know about. But, Cornelius does this in front of others - including the soldier he sent to Peter.)

    11. Read Acts 10:27-29. Has Peter compromised his views about unclean meat? If not, what has he done? (He has not compromised. He has grown in his spiritual understanding. We can borrow an important principle from the law. When a judge decides whether two statutes are in conflict, his first task is to determine whether they can both be given meaning. Paul resolves the apparent clash between the Bible and the current messages from God by deciding that the message about unclean animals was not about animals, but rather about people. Paul did not throw away the old commands for the new, he found a way they could both be put into effect.)

    12. Cornelius tells Peter what the angel told him. Read Acts 10:33-35. Is Cornelius open to spiritual growth? Is Peter open to spiritual growth? (This is a "gold standard" story about change. In the context of hostility between Jews and Gentiles, two men are open to God changing their convictions to better advance the Kingdom of God.)

      1. Friend, do you have that kind of openness to the leading of God? Do you inspire that kind of understanding in your family?

  2. Forgetting the Growth

    1. Read Judges 2:6-7. What is the experience of these people? (They lived through the time that God used Joshua to lead them to victory.)

    2. Read Judges 2:8-10. How did spiritual change happen here?

      1. What can we do to be sure this does not happen to our family? How can we try to prevent this from happening to the next generation?

    3. Read Judges 2:11-13. Notice that the text refers to God bringing His people out of slavery in Egypt. Why do you think that reference is included? (This generation has forgotten history! Not only did they forget that God defeated the most powerful nation on earth, they forgot that God gave their parents the land in which they currently live.)

    4. Read Judges 2:14-15. How does this promote spiritual change? How does this promote learning the lessons of history?

      1. Is this what will happen to our family and our nation if we forget the lessons of history and God's blessings?

    5. Friend, do you see the three ways in which spiritual change takes place? First, God will direct those who are faithful to the changes that He thinks are helpful. These may jar our past ideas, but they make us better. Second, if we forget the lessons of the past, spiritual change takes place that takes us to the wrong place. Third, God brings spiritual change by allowing our enemies to harm us and create great distress. How would you like to change? Why not ask the Holy Spirit to change you like He changed Peter?

  3. Next week: What Have They Seen in Your House?
* Copr. 2019, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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