Ministry of Love

The intention of this blog is to share Biblical messages at least on a weekly basis. Any response is appreciated. I do not expect everyone to agree with my interpretation of Biblical passages. I will try to respond with love and thoughtfulness.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

What Did He Say? by John.

Acts 7:54-59

1. New Testament times were filled with trouble and persecution for Christians, and for poor people.
2. People were never really sure what a day might bring.
(1) Times of political unrest always seem to engender violence.
(2) Jesus Himself died at the hands of men who claimed to be doing Rome a service.
(3) In actuality, they served their own selfish, religious desires.
3. In the text we just read, people threw stones at Stephen and killed him!
4. Saul of Tarsus approved of what they were doing. He held the outer garments of those who did the stoning. (That kept them from getting spattered with Stephen’s blood.)
5. We know it happened, but what did Stephen say that caused them to treat him like that?
6. Was he to blame for their treatment?
7. Well, let’s pause for a few minutes and look at what he said. Vv. 51-53 (read) How didd he come to say these things? Let’s find out.

I. In Acts 6:8ff, Stephen proved to be an able man of God!

1. He was one of the 7 chosen to be deacons.
2. He was gifted by God’s Holy Spirit.
(1) V 8 says he was “full of God’s grace and power, and he did great wonders and miraculous signs.”
(2) V 9 says the Jews argued with him, and v 10 says they could not stand up against his wisdom, or the Holy Spirit.
3. That shows his ability, doesn’t it?
(1) It’s obvious that he was focused on Jesus.
(2) And our text makes it also obvious that he was willing to die for Jesus!
4. Most Christians, at least in this country, have lost that love for Jesus that makes them willing to die for Him!
5. In Iraq, Iran, India, China, Pakistan, Africa, and many other places Christians are proving that they are willing to die for Jesus! They’ve done it! And they are doing it now!
6. It’s not their choice to die, but it is their choice to die rather than give place to the devil and his worshipers.
7. Stephen was just such a man.
(1) We don’t know much about Stephen’s life before this.
a. Was he married?
b. Did he have children?
c. How old was he?
(2) We can make some assumptions, but history does not give us the details.
a. He must have been old enough to have proven both his loyalty and reliability.
b. It would seem likely that he was married, but no mention is made of any family. If there was one, it would seem natural to mention it.
(3) Whatever his situation, whatever his life expectancy may have been, he did not consider death a price too high to pay to serve God with love and devotion.
8. He was an able man of God!

II. I’m sure he thought his death was possible.

1. In Mark 13:9-11 Jesus said, “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.”
2. Stephen may have heard Jesus say that. He could have been in the crowds that thronged about Him, or he may have heard it from the apostles.
3. When I used to read this, I would think, “Wow! What a preacher Stephen was! I wish I could preach like that! Now, I realize it was the Holy Spirit’s words, and Stephen delivered them faithfully!
4. A minister today must faithfully deliver the Holy Spirit’s words without flinching or worrying about the outcome!
5. Stephen should have been aware that death was a possibility because he knew Israel’s history.
6. Jesus summed up Israel’s history when He said, (Mt 23:37) “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”
(1) Israel gained fame by refusing to hear the prophets sent from God, and by killing them.
(2) Stephen knew Israelite history! He is bound to have known that his own death was more than just a possibility.
7. Still, he did and he said exactly what God wanted him to do and say!
8. He had the quality everyone of us should have! Obedience!
(1) The world has a saying, “Let the chips fall where they may.” (That’s unchristian.)
(2) That was not Stephen’s attitude. His attitude was to do what God told him to do regardless of personal cost!
(3) I’d still like to be like Stephen, wouldn’t you?
Rae Helm sent me some Irish jokes. One went like this: A priest in Ireland went into a pub and walked up to a man at the bar and said, “Would you like to go to heaven?” The man answered, “Yes! Sure, I would, Father!” “Then go over and stand next to that wall.” He approached a second man and asked the same question. Just as quickly the second man acknowledged that he would, and the priest told him to go stand against the wall. He approached a third man and asked him the same question. The man said, “No! I wouldn’t, Father!” The priest was astounded! “You mean to tell me you don’t want to go to heaven when you die?” “Oh! Well sure I do, Father! I thought you were getting up a group to go right now!”
9. The possibility of facing death is something we can accept easily, but to expect it to happen immediately is another thing entirely, isn’t it?
10. I feel sure that Stephen was sure’s that God would bless him alive on earth, or in heaven with Him.

III. Stephen’s death made history!

1. Stephen enjoyed success as a Christian.
(1) He served meals to the widows in the church, and that was quite a responsibility.
(2) He was elected and ordained a deacon of God!
2. Stephen’s life was good, but it was at the time of his death that he really stood out in everyone’s minds and still does.
3. He preached a powerful sermon in the best sense of prophecy.
(1) People today think prophecy only concerns the future, but that’s a narrow and small part of prophecy.
(2) The major part of prophecy is telling people what they are doing to displease God!
(3) Prophets may prophesy about something a 1000 years, a 100 years, or just 10 years down the road, but people don’t get worked up enough to kill them for it!
(4) What can get a prophet killed today is exactly what got Stephen killed. He told them what they had done, and he told them what they were doing right then that was wrong!
4. He let the chips fall where God wanted them to fall! And he paid for it with his life!
IV. Even Stephen’s death was prophecy.

1. It fulfilled the prophesies of very religious people killing Christians. That is still happening all over the world today!
2. Look at Acts 7:57, These men were so religious, and they believed they were so right, that they covered their ears to keep from hearing the truth!
3. In the name of God, they rushed on Stephen, dragged him out of the city, and stoned him!
4. They thought they were serving God!
(1) If you had been there and asked them, why are you doing this? I’m sure they would have told you they did it for God!
(2) If you had asked them at any time after that, they would have told you that they were doing God’s work!
(3) There are still people Satan has tricked into believing they are doing God’s work when they kill Christians!
5. One of the great things about Stephen’s death is, it opened a tiny crack into the hereafter that mankind had not seen before.
(1) Stephen was at the point of death, in great pain and actually agony. In v 56 he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
(2) That is the only real glimpse of heaven God has given to us.
a. John saw into the heavens while he was in a trance induced by the Holy Spirit.
b. But here, Stephen is in this world surrounded by enemies, and God opened heaven for him to see his Savior standing to receive him!
6. Stephen’s death made history at that moment!

Conclusion:

1. I was given to understand in elementary school that as soon as a person stopped growing, he started dying. That has stayed with me all these years.
2. My goal in life became being the person God wanted me to be when I put my trust in Jesus as my Lord and Savior.
3. I’m glad I haven’t been called on to die physically for Jesus the way Stephen was. I probably would not do well.
4. Spiritually, we should all die to self and selfish desires when we trust Jesus. That is selfish desires should certainly be second in our lives.
5. We should pray to stand true for Jesus regardless of the price required by Satan and the world!
6. We should seek God’s will and follow it to the end.
7. Death at an early age may be a requirement. It could be a requirement at an advanced age.
8. But death to selfishness is always a requirement! Otherwise it would be untrue for the Bible to say, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” and “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of men. Brothers, each man, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation God called him to.” I Cor 6:19,20; 7:23,24.
9. We may not make the late news on TV, but that’s not important.
10. It is important to please God, to inherit the eternal life He offers us through His Son Jesus, and that we live in harmony with His will.
11. The place to start is by putting your trust in Jesus and committing your life to Him.
12. If you’ve done that, it may be time to ask yourself, “Am I willing to go all the way to heaven with Jesus even if it means doing it now?

Emmanuel 15, 2006

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