Cornelius was a very interesting person. The Bible actually says he was so convincingly devout that his family followed in his steps. He also gave generously (much) to charitable needs, he feared God and he prayed constantly. He was trusted and had influence with many people.
The least you could say about Cornelius is he was sincere. It was in response to his sincerity that God spoke to him in a vision and on the basis of that fact alone we conclude that sincerity is important.
- The quality of every relationship is measured by the sincerity of those involved.
- Sincere people are honest and trustworthy. The opposite is duplicity, i.e., operating with ulterior motives and hidden agendas.
- Sincere people never say one thing while intentionally meaning another. When they disagree with others they are honest about it without being disagreeable.
- Sincere people are forthright. They say exactly what they mean and mean exactly what they say.
- Sincere people look for truth, they don’t try to reshape it.
- A sincere person can never knowingly be compromised.
- Insincere people are complacent about error and glib toward truth. They aren’t so easily led by God.
- God responds to sincerity.
But being sincere does not automatically make you Christian and Cornelius’ experience proves it. You can read his story in Acts 10.
Cornelius is just one example among many of someone who was very sincere long before becoming Christian. Nicodemus, Lydia and Apollos are a few more. These are people whose sincerity wasn’t contaminated by self serving opinions. A stubborn person who is sincerely wrong may never find the truth or accept it when found. These examples were neither self serving nor stubborn.
And that brings up an important observation. Sincere people are not always right. They can be mistaken. Their sincerity, which usually moderates their pride, helps them admit their error when revealed. This is important because salvation is based on the admission of facts that are not complimentary.
We are sinners. Salvation is the solution. We are being saved from our sinfulness not saved by our worthiness. Sincerity enables us to see our need it doesn’t resolve it. The salvation we seek is the answer to a problem, which only a sincere person would admit to.
Obviously, you could hardly expect salvation to be well applied if the recipient is not honest about the problem. Hesitation at this point is anything but sincere. Sincere sinners respond to salvation’s truth readily, almost greedily, with a completely sold out frame of mind according to Jesus.
The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field; the which when a man has found, he hides it, and for joy thereof goes and sells all that he has, and buys that field. 45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: 46 Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it. Matthew 13:44-46
A sincere person can occasionally be uncertain but they are never happy to stay that way. Sincerity continually strives to be in the right place and never gives up searching. Sincere people are always on a journey.
And that is interesting because salvation is often described as the end point of a personal journey.
- I am the bread of life. He that comes to me shall never hunger (John 6:35).
- I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes unto the Father but by me (John 14:6).
- You will not come to me that you might have life (John 5:40).
- Many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 8:11).
- Narrow is the gate that leads to eternal life (Matthew 7:13).
And so on.
The bottom line is this. Sincerity is good but it isn’t sufficient. Alone it will not make you or your commitment right. It can make you more laudable than others but it can’t get you into heaven. In fact, it has no part in salvation at all. Salvation isn’t sincerity plus faith, it is faith in the the Savior alone.
But, to every sincere person Jesus said,
Come unto me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest, Matthew 11:28.
Heaven Is For Real is a bio of Colton Burpo’s “near death experience” (NDE) but without all the “weird” and “sketchy” images that usually accompany such stories.
It doesn’t focus on “long tunnels with lights at the end” or the sensation of watching medical personnel feverishly operate from a hovering out-of-body perspective. The details aren’t blurred and unanswered questions don’t abound. It is a matter of fact story shared from the perspective of an almost four-year-old child who had no preconceived ideas beforehand and explains everything casually. To him it wasn’t strange. To read more go here.