Jesus Christ Prison Ministry

Book of Acts

with Commentary

The Conversion

Part 5

As the followers of Christ abandoned their church, separating from the ungodly systems, traditions, services, rituals, feast days and holidays, they found themselves living in obedience to Jesus by scattering farther and farther away from their church. Removing themselves from the church influences that had been detrimental to their spiritual growth, they found themselves producing fruit for Jesus.

Like Philip, traveling around the country and regions of the pagans, they were filled with joy in the freedom of living for Jesus and Jesus only. Their joy overflowed, and they could not keep from proclaiming the good news to all around them. Everyone could see their commitment to Jesus.

However, the joy and freedom the followers of Jesus experienced was in stark contrast to those who remained in the church system. The church system could not allow such joy and freedom to continue. If they did, all their members would want the same. How could the church keep discipline, order and control over their members if each were to realize that they were to be individually responsible to God and not a church. The leaders were not willing to accept that. Their money, wealth, prestige and power were threatened by these independent ministries. They had to be stopped. Independence from the church could not be allowed. For the church, it was impossible to imagine God working outside of “His” church. Therefore, the church had to take upon itself the “right” and responsibility to persecute and destroy all who refused to bow to the authority of “God’s” church.

Yet, the more the church tried to rein in its members, the greater the desire to leave. Converts to Jesus were separating from their church by the thousands and finding their joy in the freedom of Jesus. What the organized church could not understand, the original concept of God’s “church”, or the “assembly” of God’s people, was to serve, not to be served. But instead of following the example and commands of Jesus, the organized church system became a tyrant, as it is today, and no longer serves in the example of Jesus.

“Salvation is not to be baptized, not to have our names upon the church books, not to preach the truth. But it is a living union with Jesus Christ, to be renewed in heart, doing the works of Christ in faith and labor of love, in patience, meekness, and hope.” 2 SM 381.

Acts 8:40 - Acts 10:48

But Philip found himself at Azotus. As he was passing through that region, he kept proclaiming the good news in all the towns until he came to Caesarea. 

How wonderful it would be if each one of us, those who claim to be “Christian”, proclaimed the good news in every place we passed through. I wonder if we have truly sat down and counted the cost? Do we really appreciate the sacrifice Jesus suffered for us? Looking at our “fruit”, I’m not so sure we do.

Meanwhile, still spewing death threats against the Lord’s disciples, Saul went to the high priest. He asked him for letters to take with him to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any men or women belonging to the Way, he might bring them in chains to Jerusalem. 

Saul was a good, solid churchman. He was sure his church was of God and it was his duty to defend God and “His” church. He would prove himself “loyal” to God by protecting His church against all those deceived, independent ministries that had splintered from the “true” church. He would go to the church leadership and get their “divine” approval to “force” the independents to return to the church, or they must suffer the consequences.

As Saul traveled along and was approaching Damascus, a light from heaven suddenly flashed around him. He dropped to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 

Throughout history it has always been the church that persecuted Jesus and His children. The “good” church members just can’t stand having their sinful lives exposed to the “light from heaven” that flashes from God’s children. Those who live for Jesus and let His light shine out from them will flash around the world revealing to the wicked their wickedness. The question is, What will you do with that light? Will you surrender, convert to it and leave your church, pride and ego, or fight against it as a good church loyalist? Sitting in church is not the same as living for Jesus. Only Catholics sit in church. Disciples of Jesus are out living for Jesus.

He asked, “Who are you, Lord?” The voice said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 

As we do unto others, we do it unto Jesus. The next time you are ready to condemn someone for actually “thinking” outside the “church-box”, think, “Whose example am I following; meek and lowly Jesus or the prideful and haughty church leaders?” Many persecute this little ministry because it lives in obedience to Jesus. They send letters of rebuke. They withdraw their funding. They request to be removed from our mailing list. Why? Because they do not know Jesus. They love the praise of church, men, their own opinions, pride and ego more than the praise of God.

God did not tell Saul to get up and go back to church. He didn’t tell him how proud He was of Saul’s church activities. Jesus sent Saul into the city to be instructed by an “independent” into the will of God for him. How humiliating. Would he comply? Or would he go back to get further instructions from his church? Think of it, my dear family. Here was Paul who had his “Ph.D.” in theology. He was a church leader. He was very educated. I have not had any of those types of people come to learn from this ministry. They are way too proud to let the Spirit of God teach them. But Paul was persuaded to be willing. What will it take to persuade you?

Now get up, go into the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” Meanwhile, the men who were traveling with Saul were standing speechless, for they heard the voice but didn’t see anyone. 

How many stand around those whom God is talking to, but they see and hear nothing. They may hear “rumblings”, but few are willing to listen to the voice of God. They prefer the voice of their church. It gives them pride and satisfaction to be working for the church. So egotistical! But Saul complied with the voice. The voice of God is speaking through this ministry. Will you listen?

When Saul got up off the ground, he couldn’t see anything, even though his eyes were open. So his companions took him by the hand and led him into Damascus. For three days he couldn’t see, and he didn’t eat or drink anything. 

We need to spend more time on the ground, on our knees, listening to the voice of God. We need to get out of our churches and the world, voluntarily, before God has to drive us to our knees. He had to drive me to prison. What will it take for you to learn from the experiences of others and not wait for God to drive you. And when you have taken back your heart from the church and the world and have given it to Jesus, arise and go forth in the name of Jesus, not a church. Saul had to be “blind” to the church and the world around him. He had become way too involved in church. You need to follow the example God gave Saul and turn your eyes off the church and the world and listen to the voice of God alone.

Now in Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord told him in a vision, “Ananias!” He answered, “Here I am, Lord.”

The Lord is calling each one of us. But few are listening. Samuel was young and had an excuse for not recognizing the voice of God. But after he was instructed how to listen, he listened. For Saul, it took a bright light from heaven for him to listen. For Ananias, an “independent” who had come out of the church and was following Jesus, all it took was a vision from the Lord to communicate with him. Ananias was a willing follower of Jesus. His heart was not in the church but in Jesus. When the Lord called him, like Samuel, he humbly answered, “Here I am, Lord.”

God is calling you through our monthly newsletters, the book “Change Your Life Biblically” and the videos on the ministry’s website. Will you listen and find out what the Lord wants for you?

The Lord told him, “Get up, go to the street called Straight, and in the home of Judas look for a man from Tarsus named Saul. At this very moment he is praying. He has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so he would see again.” But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard many people tell how much evil this man has done to your saints in Jerusalem. He is here with authority from the high priests to put in chains all who call on your name.” 

Have you met people who have done “much evil”? Are you willing to forgive? Your eternal life depends on your actions, not your beliefs. Going to church is a “belief” but it does not produce the actions God requires for your eternal life. Even though Saul did “much evil”, God chose him. Today, many would not allow Saul to work in their churches after his conversion. But God called Saul as His special worker. Who are you listening to?

God has no problem with people questioning Him. Unlike the church that wants people to bow down to it, God is humble and willing to answer our questions. After all, He did tell us to “come now and let us reason together”. You can’t reason with someone if you can’t ask questions. The church wants your conformity, Jesus wants your heart.

Ananias was not against working for the Lord, he was simply wanting to make sure he understood the Lord correctly. After explaining about Saul, he listened for God to reply. After giving his “reasons” he humbly submitted to God’s will. Self, pride, ego and safety were not his concern. Only obedience to the Word of Jesus.

But the Lord told him, “Go, since he is my chosen instrument to carry my name to the gentiles, to their kings, and to the descendants of Israel. For I am going to show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.” 

“How much he must suffer for My name’s sake.” Jesus didn’t tell Saul how much glory, praise, honor and blessings he was going to have. He didn’t ask Saul to follow Him for the rewards. Jesus told him how much he would suffer for His name’s sake. And yet, our pastors, churches and denominations are all about getting people baptized with promises of wealth, blessings and material goods if they belong to “our” church. No wonder the churches are filled with followers. But how few are willing to follow Jesus. Church members are not told the truth. To follow Jesus is to be “blessed” with persecutions, poverty, hatred and rejection from the church organizations. Why? Because those experiences drive us to our knees in dependence on Jesus. That is a true “blessing”. Are you ready for the “blessings” of Jesus?

Interesting to note, Jesus sent Saul not only to the pagan gentiles and their kings, that we would have expected, but He sent him to “His church”. If the church was of God, Jesus would not have had to send him to the church. But like today, the church system had completely apostatized. God is sending independent ministries, like this one, to the church organizations to bring them back to God. However, they are not interested. They are very satisfied in their self-righteous churches, patting themselves on their backs and claiming to be of God. How pridefully they claim, “The church may appear as about to fall, but it does not fall. It remains, while the sinners in Zion will be sifted out—the chaff separated from the precious wheat.” But that “church” is not any denomination or church sanctioned by man or government. It is not the church you belong to. There may be a member or two in your church who does belong to “God’s church”, but they will come out of your church. The chaff is falling away from the true “church of God” and joining your church. They don’t want to live the perfect, sinless and commandment keeping life.

The true “church of God” is the Spiritual church of God, the family of God, in all denominations and churches who are obedient to Jesus to the fullest of their understanding. It will appear that God’s true, spiritual church will fall and be eradicated by the churches of man, but it is the only one that will survive. God’s church is of no human church or denomination. It belongs to Jesus and Jesus only. Soon, those who are claiming to belong to God’s spiritual church, but who refuse to live in obedience to the teachings of Jesus to be perfect, stop sinning and to keep the Ten Commandments to get their eternal life, will be sifted out of God’s true remnant church. Those sifted out will continue sitting in their churches patting themselves on their backs thinking they belong to God’s church.

So Ananias left and went to that house. He laid his hands on Saul and said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were traveling, has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 

Oh, I see, Ananias did not go in and lambast Saul. He didn’t go in with a wagging, pointing finger. He didn’t go in to humiliate Saul by bringing up all his past evil activities against the independent ministries. Nope, if Jesus could forgive, so could he. What are you doing to those who hate you, persecute you and revile you? Have you forgiven those who have wronged you? Do you associate with those who have left your church? Those of us who have been to prison understand how hateful the church system is. We are never accepted or forgiven. In order to “see”, Saul had to be filled with the Holy Spirit, not church. Can you see?

All at once something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after eating some food, he felt strong again. For several days he stayed with the disciples in Damascus. 

How interesting. He didn’t go to church. He didn’t meet with the Pharisees and leaders of the church. He didn’t try to become a “big shot”. He stayed with the humble disciples of Jesus. He learned from them how to serve Jesus outside of the church organization. They opened up Scripture to him, not church.

He immediately started to preach about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “This is the Son of God.” Everyone who heard him was astonished and said, “This is the man who harassed those who were calling on Jesus’ name in Jerusalem, isn’t it? Didn’t he come here to bring them in chains to the high priests?” 

Yes he did. But that is what happens when Jesus comes into the heart. Church sends men to harass, condemn and drag off in chains. Jesus sends men to love and instruct in the ways of God. Jesus sends His disciples to seek and save the lost. The church sends its members to hate, point fingers and condemn. Are you hurting those who are around you? We need to find what is hurting those around us and offer them an arm of love and comfort, not condemnation and finger pointing.

But Saul grew more and more persuasive, and continued to confound the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that this man was the Messiah. 

He wasn’t upholding their church. He wasn’t praising their church. Saul wasn’t there to make converts for their church. He didn’t uplift the pharisees or church leaders. He uplifted Jesus. Jesus and Jesus only is to be our message. No church, no denomination, no church leaders are ever to be included. Only Jesus.

After several days had gone by, the Jews plotted to murder Saul, . . . 

And yes, if you uphold Jesus and Jesus only, your church and family will also plot to “murder” you. They will reject you and think evil of you since you are not “playing ball” with their church. But you are in good company. Jesus and Jesus only.

. . . but their plot became known to him. They were even watching the gates day and night to murder him, but his disciples took him one night and let him down through the city wall by lowering him in a basket. 

You too may have to leave your family, friends, church and all you love for Jesus. But Jesus left all for us. He too was “lowered in a basket” to save us. Jesus was placed in a “basket” as a baby, helpless and vulnerable to all the evil the world could throw at Him. He did not trust the church for the church tried to kill Him. He trusted in His Father. Let us trust in Jesus only.

When Saul arrived in Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they all were afraid of him because they wouldn’t believe he was a disciple. 

Interesting that Saul did not try to join the church. He did not try to get in good with the Pharisees, of which he belonged. He did not try to have a “sit down” with the high priest and the Sanhedrin. No, he wanted to join the independents who had come out of the church that was trying to kill them.

Barnabas, however, introduced Saul to the apostles, telling them how on the road Saul had seen the Lord, who had spoken to him, and how courageously he had spoken in the name of Jesus in Damascus. 

How I wish there was a “Barnabas” to bring my children back to me in love. It has been about 30 years since I have seen my children. I am not sure there are any “Barnabases” left in the world today.

So he freely circulated among them in Jerusalem, speaking courageously in the name of the Lord. 

And that is the other problem. Churches will not allow you to “circulated among them . . ., speaking courageously in the name of the Lord.” It is all about church or the world or both. But they don’t want to hear about Jesus and their responsibility to Him.

He kept talking and arguing with the Hellenistic Jews, but they were bent on murdering him.

Be assured, if you keep on talking about Jesus and the responsibility we have to Him, those around you will not like you either. They love their church, their sins and this world far too much to stop sinning and live in obedience to Jesus.

When the brothers found out about the plot, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus. So the ekklēsia throughout Judea, Galilee, and Samaria enjoyed peace. As it continued to be built up and to live in the fear of the Lord, it kept increasing in numbers through the encouragement of the Holy Spirit. 

The true church of God is continuing to increase in numbers through the encouragement of the Holy Spirit. It is not increasing through church media, church convocations, church gatherings and services. No, through the Holy Spirit they were “built up and to live in the fear of the Lord”. We are not to be built up in the fear of our worldly churches. They are all “antichrist”. Not one church is living “in the fear of the Lord”. Not one is living in obedience to the teachings of Jesus to live the perfect, sinless and commandment keeping life.

Now when Peter was going around among all of the disciples, he also visited the saints living in Lydda. There he found a man named Aeneas who was paralyzed and had been bedridden for eight years. Peter told him, “Aeneas, Jesus the Messiah is healing you. Get up and put away your mat!” At once he got up, and all the people who lived in Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord. 

Peter wasn’t going around talking about the church. He wasn’t going around praising the church. He wasn’t going around baptizing people into a church. He went around talking about Jesus and how to live in obedience to Him. Because he lived in obedience to Jesus, Jesus could work through him to heal the sick. By doing this, the praise did not go to a church or denomination. The praise didn’t go to food or a special diet. The praise didn’t go to a doctor or medical center. The praise didn’t go to Peter. The praise went to Jesus and the people “turned to the Lord” and not to a church, denomination, special food, medical center or person. They learned how to live the perfect, sinless and commandment keeping life. They did not learn how to become a church member.

When was the last time your pastor healed the sick? How about the president of your denomination, has he? Maybe your church and denomination don’t have the Spirit of God because they don’t believe in the teachings of Jesus to stop sinning, be perfect and to keep the Ten Commandments to get eternal life. No, it is all about belonging to their church. When was the last time you asked them?

In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was known for her good actions and acts of charity that she was always doing. 

How interesting. Here was a lady who was a “disciple” of Jesus. She didn’t belong to any church. She wasn’t known for her church attendance. She wasn’t praised for her musical talent or reading ability. She probably wasn’t any good at participating in Sabbath School lessons. No, “She was known for her good actions and acts of charity that she was always doing”. What does your church praise you for?

At that time she got sick and died. After they had washed her, they laid her in an upstairs room. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples heard that Peter was there and sent two men to him and begged him, “Come here quickly!” So Peter got up and went with them. When he arrived, they took him upstairs. All the widows gathered around Peter, crying and showing him all the shirts and coats Dorcas had made while she was still with them. 

Oh yes, they didn’t tell him what a great Sabbath School teacher she was. They didn’t share with him how great a vocalist or musician she was. They didn’t show him paintings she had painted. She probably had no time to be a “greeter” at the door. No, she was busy feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and comforting the sick. Everything Jesus commanded to do, she did. And that would include the “stop sinning” part. She was probably too busy working for Jesus to sin.

Peter made them all go outside. After kneeling down, he prayed, turned to the body, and said, “Tabitha, get up!” She opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter, she sat up. He extended his hand and helped her get up. Then he called the saints, including the widows, and gave her back to them alive. What happened became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. 

The devil really tries hard to stop the work of God. I know. Since 1997 the devil has been working to stop this ministry. But every time he tries to “kill” this ministry off, God is there to “raise” it up and keep it going. As long as I am fulfilling my duty in this ministry, God will keep me alive, healthy and well. God doesn’t need people sitting in church. He needs people feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and visiting the sick. But to “visit the sick” is to actually take care of them, not just drop off a card and say, “God bless you”.

And why was it known throughout Joppa? Because the work Dorcas did was known throughout Joppa. When she died, her absence was noted. God allowed her to die so people could appreciate the work this “disciple” of Jesus was doing. If you died, would people miss you for the work of God you had been doing? Or are you just sitting in church?

The disciples were called “saints” because that is what they were: Perfect, sinless and commandment keeping. The churches today need to revise their vocabulary. They misuse the word “saint” way too often, applying it to church members who do nothing for God. They just sit in church adding to the ego of the pastor. But their lives are filled with sin. Not very “saintly”. The Bible defines what a true saint is: “The saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.” Revelation 14:12. Their faith is in Jesus through obedience; not in their church.

Meanwhile, Peter stayed in Joppa for several days with Simon, a leatherworker. 

Oh, I see, he was humble enough to stay with a “leatherworker”. He didn’t stay at a hotel or with the president of the conference. He didn’t even stay at the pastor’s home. I truly believe our churches today have no understanding of what it means to be a “Christian”.

Now in Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He was a devout man who feared God, as did everyone in his home. He gave many gifts to the poor among the people and always prayed to God. One day about three in the afternoon he had a vision and clearly saw an angel of God coming to him and saying to him, “Cornelius!” He stared at the angel in terror and asked, “What is it, Lord?” The angel answered him, “Your prayers and your gifts to the poor have arisen as a reminder to God.

Church members today would never have accepted the testimony of “Cornelius”. After all, he was working for the “enemy”. He was a pagan soldier. He didn’t even belong to “our” church. God would not have sent a “vision” to him! Nope, God can only work through “our” church and church leaders.

Yet, even though Cornelius was a “pagan”, he was a “Christian” pagan. In his own pagan way, he feared God and was as devout as he could be, given his understanding. He lived up to everything He believed and understood to be “of God”. Paul was impressed with this story. He later wrote, “For whenever gentiles, who do not possess the Law, do instinctively what the Law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the Law.” Romans 2:14. And what was it that endeared Cornelius to God? His prayers and “gifts to the poor”. Our churches have it all backwards. Today, the poor people give to the church. Back then, the church gave to the worthy poor. Those who serve Jesus.

Send men now to Joppa and summon Simon, who is called Peter. He is a guest of Simon, a leatherworker, whose house is by the sea.” 

The angel did not tell Cornelius to go to Jerusalem. He didn’t tell him to join a church or an organization. He didn’t tell him to contact a priest or church leader. He asked him to send for a poor, independent preacher, one who was despised by “his church” and had to run for his life. I truly believe we are not listening to our Bibles. I think we are spending way too much time listening to our churches, pastors and denominations reinterpret Scriptures. It is time to follow the example of the disciples and get out of our churches. Then we can be used by God to bring the true gospel to the “pagans” whom God loves.

When the angel who had spoken to him had gone, Cornelius summoned two of his household servants and a devout soldier, one of those who served him regularly. He explained everything to them and sent them to Joppa. 

How totally different the reaction of Cornelius than that of the church leadership. God Himself walked among them and preformed miracle after miracle, and they refused to accept Him. Cornelius, a pagan Centurion, a man of wealth, prestige and influence had no problem sending for a humble man who had no credentials, no worldly titles and no wealth. Now you see why the churches of today are not flocking to this ministry. It is humble with no credentials, no worldly titles and no wealth. But the Corneliuses of the world are doing just that. They are listening to the Spirit of God impress their hearts to open wide their lives for the teachings of God through this ministry.

Around noon the next day, while they were on their way and coming close to the town, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became very hungry and wanted to eat, and while the food was being prepared, he fell into a trance and saw heaven open and something like a large linen sheet coming down, being lowered by its four corners to the ground. 

How God gives visions is a phenomenon we may never understand. The few that He has given me have been most interesting. All have come true. Some within a matter of minutes while others have taken days and some years. Most church members are so full of themselves they seldom listen to God. If Peter were on a 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. eating schedule, he probably would have missed out on a life-changing experience. We are never to tell God what or when He can or can’t do something. We are to be His servants, ready at any moment to be obedient to the promptings of the Spirit of God. In this case, becoming “very hungry”. How fortunate his host did not reprimand him for wanting to eat outside of “eating hours”.

In it were all kinds of four-footed animals, reptiles, and birds of the air. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter! Kill something and eat it.” But Peter said, “Absolutely not, Lord, for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean!” Again the voice came to him a second time, “You must stop calling unclean what God has made clean.” This happened three times. Then the sheet was quickly taken back into heaven. 

This would make any vegan throw up in disgust. Even though Peter was not a vegan or vegetarian, he was still a “kosher” man. He believed that his body was the temple for the indwelling of God’s spirit. He was not willing to pollute the “temple” of God. Therefore, knowing the requirements of God in the Old Testament and what was now being presented by God became a conundrum to Peter.

When God gives us a “teachable moment”, be very sure that God will not leave you “dangling”. He is a Master Teacher and knows you and your learning capabilities better than you do. All you have to do is keep His “teachable moment” in mind and wait for the answer to arrive. Don’t fight against God, listen and learn.

While Peter was still at a loss to know what the vision he had seen could mean, the men sent by Cornelius asked for Simon’s house and went to the gate. They called out and asked if Simon who was called Peter was staying there. Peter was still thinking about the vision when the Spirit told him, “Look! Three men are looking for you. Get up, go downstairs, and don’t hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.” 

Ok, the answer is becoming clearer. The vision was not a lesson on what foods to eat. God had already settled that in the Old Testament. The sheet was lowered three times and now the Spirit of God is telling him that “three men are looking for you”. This was to prepare Peter to accept a paradigm shift in his life. Peter had been brought up in the church. The church had taught him that pagans, gentiles and uncircumcised people were not accepted by God. That if people did not belong to their church organization, they were considered “dogs” and unclean. A “church member” could have no “contact” with a “dog” or the unclean.

So Peter went to the men and said, “I’m the man you’re looking for. Why are you here?” The men replied, “Cornelius, a centurion and an upright and God-fearing man who is respected by the whole Jewish nation, was instructed by a holy angel to send for you to come to his home to hear what you have to say.” So Peter welcomed them as his guests.

The stigma of associating or talking to an uncircumcised, non-church member was so firmly embedded in their religion, God had to use a very extraordinary method to get the attention of those who had been indoctrinated by their church. Peter is thinking,’ Ok, an angel contacted Cornelius, a vision was given to me and then the Spirit commanded me to accept these men.” The men did their part to help Peter. They told him that Cornelius was “respected by the whole Jewish nation”. After all, any church will “respect” even a whore if she donates to them. Peter went against everything he had been brought up to believe and “welcomed them as his guests”.

The next day he got up and went with them, and some of the brothers from Joppa went along with him. The next day they arrived in Caesarea. Cornelius was expecting them and had called his relatives and close friends together. 

Church people are the hardest people God has to work with. Very few church people will be in heaven. But those few willing to step out of the church “box” and look to Jesus, are the ones God can work with. Cornelius was truly a missionary. How many are willing to be as courageous as Cornelius and bring family and friends together and open to them the book, “Change Your Life Biblically” for Bible studies? It is no different than the Spirit of God sending Peter to Cornelius. The book was dictated and directed by the Spirit for you. But then again, you may be a church member and don’t need God.

When Peter was about to enter, Cornelius met him, bowed down at his feet, and began to worship him. But Peter made him get up, saying, “Stand up! I, too, am only a man.” 

A few years back I went to a church on Sabbath. After the service, everyone was waiting in line for the “potluck”. Everyone was hungry and the kids were way beyond containment. When the doors opened, there were the pastor and the elders finishing up their lunch. How “Christian”. How thoughtful of them. Churches are not of God. We praise our ministers and pastors and church leaders, we glorify them, place them on pedestals and honor them while we do nothing to honor and glorify Jesus through obedience to His Word. We are to be servants, not masters.

As Peter talked with him, he went in and found that many people had gathered. He told them, “You understand how wrong it is for a Jew to associate or visit with a gentile. But God has shown me that I should stop calling anyone common or unclean, and that is why I didn’t hesitate when I was sent for. Now may I ask why you sent for me?” 

Peter got it! There was a time, while walking with Jesus, that a pagan woman came up and asked that Jesus heal her daughter. At that time, Peter was not pleased with Jesus for honoring her request. But now, Peter got it. Salvation is not the prerogative of any church, denomination or religion. Jesus wants all to be saved. We need to stop looking down at anyone who does not belong to our church or denomination. How many church people hesitate to “associate” with those not of their church or denomination or religion. Are we to partake in their sins? No! But how will they learn about Jesus if we are not associating with them and loving them?

Cornelius replied, “Four days ago at this very hour, three o’clock in the afternoon, I was praying in my home. All at once a man in radiant clothes stood in front of me and said, ‘Cornelius, your prayer has been heard. God has remembered your gifts to the poor so send messengers to Joppa and summon Simon, who is called Peter, to come to you. He is a guest in the home of Simon, a leatherworker, by the sea.’ 

God didn’t remember him for his associations with the church or church leaders. He wasn’t remembered for any gift to a church. He was remembered for his gifts to the poor. That is where Jesus is. Where are you?

So I sent for you immediately, and it was good of you to come. All of us are here now in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has ordered you to say.” 

Will you, as inmates, bring your friends to your cell, the dorm floor or an outside gathering place to read and study the book, “Change Your Life Biblically”? For you who are not inmates, will you bring your friends, family and neighbors to your home to read and study the book, “Change Your Life Biblically” in order to “listen to everything the Lord has . . . to say”? 

Then Peter began to speak: “Now I understand that God shows no partiality.  Indeed, whoever fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him in any nation. He has sent his word to the descendants of Israel and brought them the good news of peace through Jesus the Messiah. This man is the Lord of everyone

Yes He is! Every single person: Hindu, Jew, Muslim, Catholic, Christian and atheist - “whoever fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him in any (religion).” They are the true church of God. Paul tells us that everyone who lives up to all the good they know are accepted by God. Jesus sent “His word to the descendants of Israel and brought them the good news of peace through Jesus the Messiah”. That peace was not about joining a church or religious organization. Only by living in obedience to Jesus can you find eternal life.

You know what happened throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached. God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, and because God was with him, he went around doing good and healing everyone who was oppressed by the devil. 

God has blessed His people so much. Each of us are children of God and have been blessed with the sacrifice of His Son. Should we not show as much grace and mercy to those around us? People of the world are being “oppressed by the devil”. Should we not do all in our power to free them? Is your sitting in church accomplishing that task for those around you?

We are witnesses of everything Jesus did in the land of the Jews, including Jerusalem. “They hung him on a tree and killed him, but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear— not to all the people, but to us who were chosen by God to be witnesses and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He also ordered us to preach to the people and to testify solemnly that this is the one appointed by God to be the judge of the living and the dead. 

That is correct. Jesus has ordered every single person who claims to be a Christian “to preach to the people and to testify solemnly that this is the one appointed by God to be the judge of the living and the dead”. You cannot be a Christian sitting in church. It is not possible. Unless, of course, you are preaching to them that they must stop sinning, be perfect and to keep the Ten Commandments to get their eternal life. Otherwise, what is the sense of church? God is going to judge the living and the dead by the Ten Commandments. Have you broken them lately?

All the prophets testify to this: everyone who believes in Jesus receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” 

That is correct. Those who “believe” in Jesus will believe what He commands. They will believe Him when He commands them to stop sinning, be perfect and to keep the Ten Commandments to get their eternal life. They will believe Him when He says that He is going to judge them by those Ten Commandments. They will believe Him when they read where He commands them to go into their neighborhoods and teach the people to live in obedience to everything He has commanded. Matthew 28:20. He never commanded us to go to church.

While Peter was still making this statement, the Holy Spirit fell on all the people who were listening to his message. Then the circumcised believers who had come with Peter were amazed that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the gentiles, too. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Do you want to be filled with the Spirit of God? All you have to do is begin teaching people to live in obedience to Jesus. All you have to do is teach the teachings of Jesus to stop sinning, be perfect and to keep the Ten Commandments to get your eternal life. Then the Spirit of God will fill you. But you can’t do any of that sitting in a church.

Even though Cornelius was accepted by God, God did not allow Cornelius to be left in the knowledge that he had. We are to be ever growing in our knowledge of Christ. We are not to be growing in knowledge of our church or denomination. We are not to be growing in theology or our church catechisms or 28 fundamental beliefs. We are to be growing in OUR OWN personal knowledge and understanding of Jesus as our own personal Friend and Saviour. Jesus wants to know you personally.   He wants to give you visions and instructions, personally. Will you begin today giving Him that opportunity? If so, get out of your church, go home and do what Cornelius was doing, praying in his home. Then set up a home church, like Cornelius, invite your family and friends and be filled with the Spirit of God.

Then Peter said, No one can stop us from using water to baptize these people who have received the Holy Spirit in the same way that we did, can they?” So Peter ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus the Messiah. Then they asked him to stay there for several days. 

Baptism is not for making church members or members of your denomination. Baptism is for those who are filled with the Spirit of God and have committed themselves to live the perfect, sinless and commandment keeping life, as Jesus did. No one, not your church or denomination, can stop you from baptizing anyone who has given his life to obedience to the teachings of Jesus.

Continue to part 6