Image courtesy of the Carnegie Museum of Art
I think this passage really brings out how continually and deeply desperate our hearts are, for being filled with meaning, and beauty, and companionship, and comfort, and adventure. In fact, it's excruciatingly painful when our hearts have nothing inside them to feed on. Just like a stomach that feels pangs when it has nothing in it.
And I think that it's actually the person who is really seeking and working hard everyday to not find our satisfaction in the things of this world, though they are so beautiful and glorious and promising, who truly is seeking to be satisfied only on Jesus most, feels the most schizophrenic and depressed, actually on a regular basis. I remember hearing stories about how Luther (and other church history heroes) was depressed to the point of being bedridden, which he would feel regularly. Well I now think that this is not some psychosis or physical malady, I now think it's a natural result of a heart that seeks to be satisfied on Christ and yet is fallen and naturally keeps needing a fresh portion and supply of manna everyday, every hour, and the reality is that we're just not yet that good at maintaining this because we're not yet arrived at our final condition, of having resurrected bodies and souls on a new Earth with a sinless heart.
Therefore, the Christian life is not easy. It's a matter of fighting our souls to let go of the temporal things that are so promising, things we long to latch on to that seem satisfying and beautiful which this world is offering you. The Christian life is a fight to let go of those promising things and instead fight ourselves to go to what can feel like a boring, empty endeavor of forcing ourselves to turn once again to the means of Grace of prayer and Scripture, on a regular basis, to get our hearts satisfied with the only thing that can truly satisfy our hearts, which is the power and the beauty and the affection and the tenderness and the adventure of the person of Christ, who is for us and living in us through his Spirit. This activity is spiritual food for us and our spirits quickly and continually get hungry again.
Let us keep being honest, like this Psalm, about our deep longing. We deeply long for satisfaction....and comfort.....and beauty. ...like a deer, dehydrating...to death.
Go to prayer. Go to his Word. Drink. Eat.
Acts 10:34-35 So Peter opened his mouth and said: “Truly I understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him."
What does the word ‘fear’ mean in this verse? The Bible often uses this word to mean wanting someone’s approval. Like when the Bible challenges us not to give in to the “fear of man”(Proverbs 29:25). This doesn’t mean being afraid of people. It means being “awe inspired” by their approval. It means wanting someone’s approval and the Bible is challenging us not to care too much about our reputation and appearance. That's what the phrase “fear of man” means in the Bible.So then, for us to have a “fear” of God, would mean, instead, to have the feeling of wanting to be approved by God and wanting his affection and his love, his fatherly delight in us. This is what Galatians 4:4-7 and Romans 8:15 means when the Holy Spirit brings us to spiritual life and causes us to cry out, “Abba!” This is what the “fear of God” is referring to.
In this passage, Luke records Peter, as Peter is reflecting on all of the implications of God bringing salvation to this Gentile named, Cornelius. Peter is thinking of all the potential future believers in far away places. And Peter is realizing in this moment, that anyone, in any non-Jewish country or foreign culture, no matter where or when, can still be just as close to God as any Old Testament Jew ever was, as long as he or she simply LOVES God. That’s what Peter is saying in these words.But he uses the word ‘fears’ God. Why does he use ‘fear’ when he essentially means ‘love’? How does ‘fear’ mean ‘love,’ while also meaning something slightly more specific?He uses it because the word ‘Love,’ by itself, can mean something possibly too casual or light for Peter’s meaning; while ‘fear’ clarifies that he means something far deeper, more deeply needed, and more life giving for a person.
The word ‘fear’ means love, but it also carries all of this other meaning of deep dependency as well.So Peter is saying to us in this verse that anyone who wants God’s affection, as your ultimate desire of life, can know that you are in a right and legitimate relationship with God.However, we also know, because of the supporting teaching of the rest of the Bible, that Grace is the only way to truly have this.
The Bible also teaches us that without an understanding of Grace, our naturally sinful, “orphan” spirits will always operate in a self-reliant way, to secure happiness in this life. And the human soul has no ability to escape this self-reliant tendency. That is, it doesn’t until God, from the outside, breaks in with this concept of Grace.Every human conscience innately has no way for the human soul to securely trust in God’s approval and affection. We all have a conscience. And, deep down, that conscience knows what our true standing is before a holy God.We simply can’t, naturally, achieve a security strong enough to trust that we have God’s approval. That is, not until we come to see the basis of God’s offer of a free gift, without any achievement or deserving on our part, from the Bible itself.
Naturally speaking, the human soul has no way to be secure enough to be certain of God’s love.The only basis than can achieve this, is the the basis of a free gift on God’s own initiative. This he achieved by becoming one of us in order to die the death we should have and live the life we should have. When this basis, of Grace, finally comes clear and dawns on us, it resolves this natural, human fear of God and sets us free in our psyche to finally relax, securely, and know with certainty that God delights in us and cherishes us.This...and this alone...is what enables us to enjoy God’s affection, without any fear, at the deepest level, which finally satisfies the soul as it was intended.Until Grace brakes in to our psyche and changes our natural orientation, no true ‘fear’ of God, in the sense that Peter is referring to, is possible. Hence, the desperate need for humble, local, ordinary people to act as missionaries and share these concepts with the rest of us.
The world needs quiet, normal, humble people to share this unlooked-for liberation of the human spirit with others who have not yet found it.This is what Peter had in view as he reassured these Gentile believers of God’s acceptance and his desire for others to know God’s fatherly approval and this wonderful ‘fear’ of God.