I awoke this morning thinking about the story of Cornelius as recorded in Acts 10 for those who might not be familiar with Who Cornelius is John describes him this way in Acts 10:1-2,
"1 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion of what was known as the Italian Cohort, 2 a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God." (ESV)
As a Roman centurion he was a man of power and influence that could easily have anything he desired. We know he was a man of wisdom because John tells us, "he feared God." Jewish tradition and history tells us that there were many people who while not born Jews; were allowed to come to the temple to worship, because they understood and feared the God of Israeli. Cornelius would have been one of those men by definition as well as practice. Today it strikes me that there are no less than 22 recognized major religions in the world that maintain membership over 500,000. There are numerously more than that but to keep it simple we will set that as the basis for what I am about to say. All of those groups believe in a god or gods in most cases they live their lives trying to attain or maintain a relationship with their god or gods. They are like Cornelius they pray, give to the poor and read sacred writings all in hopes of meeting some requirement in order to find favor with the god the believe in. In Cornelius situation though he did find favor in God's sight and he was sent a message by an angel to seek out Peter.
There is a lot more to this story that you will want to read for yourself but Peter comes to Cornelius house and this is what John records:
34 So Peter opened his mouth and said: "Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ ( he is Lord of all), 37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name." Acts 10:34-43 (ESV)
As Peter is sharing the gospel with Cornelius and his whole household the Holy Spirit comes upon them and they begin to speak in tongues and praising God. Cornelius and his whole household were baptized that very day and went from being God-fearing to true-believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Today I want you to know that churches are full of god-fearing people and some that are reading this if they examine themselves will recognize that to be the case in their own lives. You go to church services, you pray every day three or five times a day. You read the Holy Scriptures and you listen to godly music. However there is one thing missing in your religion. Cornelius was missing the power and strength found in a relationship with Jesus Christ through the out pouring of the Holy Spirit. You see without that power in our lives we are no more than God-fearing individuals unable to do what He has called us too. I can say that from my own life experience as a pew warmer and even in some realms of ministry when I was trying to do what I wanted and not what God wanted me too. I have to ask you today in your walk with God are you walking under His power and authority or are you trying to make it on your own. While Cornelius was a God-fearing man He still needed Jesus to become a true believer in God. So who is Jesus in the walk you have with God? If he is not the center of it and His Holy Spirit is not working in your life maybe today is the day that salvation has come to your household will you accept it and move from God-fearing to true believer. I pray God blesses you today as you walk in the light of His Word.
Rev. Brian H. Mathis CSC
Ordained Minister Church of God, Cleveland TN
Currently serving as the Associate Pastor of Discipleship at Westminster Baptist Church
Graduate of Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary MDiv in Chaplain Studies