by Pastor Tim Burt
Rome was in power in Jesus' day. The Roman soldiers were hated. They were considered by the Jews as brutal powermongering animals. There was a man named Cornelius that was as contrary in character to the rest of the Roman soldiers as we as Christians should be to the rest of the world. He wasn't ashamed of it. He owned it! We read about him in Acts 10:1-2. “At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.”
Years ago, one of my sons—Peter, spoke up during our morning devotional time together. He wanted to share the verses of scripture with me that He has been mediating on. He was reading about Cornelius, a military commander that really didn’t know God intimately, but wanted to. He was trying to live life righteously, the best he could figure out. He did wonderful and kind things for people and the Jews. God honored this man's prayers. Not because He was in covenant with God, but because of the purity of the man's heart, his reverence for the Lord, and his actions to do what was right! My son Peter was commenting on how even though this man did not have a two-way relationship with God—God saw and honored Cornelius' heart. I was so touched by the insight the Holy Spirit had given him.
It’s likely that many of us reading Fresh Manna today were like Cornelius at some point in our life. Before receiving Jesus into our hearts, we may have thought about God, wanted to know God and even tried to find ways to live for God. But we did so from our imagination or from the religious upbringing we had. We tried to figure out God and how to live for Him even though the mind and imagination is no capable of doing so without the help of the Holy Spirit.
We may remember having a hunger to truly know God, but didn’t know how to make that happen. We probably prayed, pleaded, or bargained with God the best we could figure out having no scriptural instruction about prayer. Our efforts may have felt pretty one way—us speaking to God without sensing the reciprocation of God speaking back to us. But, maybe, like Cornelius, we didn’t give up. In some way we kept seeking God. It is because of the grace of God and our continuing desire to know the truth that like Cornelius, God was able to get through to our hearts so we could meet Jesus and receive Him.
Cornelius’ pursuit of seeking to know God thorough prayer from a pure heart and living righteously has taught me a foundational truth. God is always there. If we pursue Him and live for Him despite what we see or feel, God will answer our prayers. He will always manifest Himself in our life at some point. We can count on it. Regardless of whether we can see or feel God doing anything, He is there working in our midst and on our behalf if we prayerfully pursue Him in faith. He knew of Cornelius. He knew of his pure and generous heart and of his good works. Nothing escapes God's sight—especially when someone seeks that which is good and right! We can count on that! God looks at and honors the sincere heart. He did so for Cornelius. It was powerful. God sent an angel to comfort him and then to bring his answer—the Apostle Peter to be the one to help him receive Jesus as Savior and be saved.
Someone living from a pure heart for God, even when they don’t know His will from the scriptures, is more important to God then all the religious actions and mindless prayers that go before Him from people doing their own things while trying to appease God.
Let me put the statement "you are my friends IF YOU DO WHAT I COMMAND" in a light that might make it easier for you to see yourself fulfilling. Jesus is saying, you are my friends if you will be accountable to walk out what I have shown you through my word. Cornelius didn't know all the commands of God at this point in His life, but he did do what He knew to do and he did it with a pure heart. That is why Proverbs 4:23 (NLT) says, "Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life."
Have confidence today that if your heart is pure before God in your attempt to live before Him, He will honor that with great promise and answer to prayer. Learning and growing is a continuing process, but a pure heart moves God. Isn't it awesome that we can talk with and pray to the Almighty God of the universe on a personal level and then know He calls us His friend? Praise God forever more! I am in awe at the thought of it!
Psalm 51:10 (NIV) "Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me."
In His Love,
Pastor Tim Burt
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Published by Pastor Tim Burt
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