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

      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

    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

      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

    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

    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

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

    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

  3. Next week: What Have They Seen in Your House?