Book of Acts Chapter 7 Part 5
Introduction: A key idea in the book of Acts is that believers should be witnesses for the Lord, everywhere they go. Today, we hope to continue our discussion of "The sermon of Stephen."
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Read Acts 7:44-53
2. The Sermon of Stephen (continued). In this section of the book of Acts Stephen continues to talk about the Tabernacle and the land that was taken by the Jews.
He talks about God being too big to fit into the houses build by people. He then makes a radical shift and talks about the hard heartedness of the people to whom he is talking. He declares that they are as hard hearted as their fore parents.
- Faith, works, wisdom, and energy. Notice in vs. 45 of the book of Acts that the people of God took the land of Canaan. On one hand, it is true that God often blesses us through our own efforts.
Faith without works is dead. But on the other hand, there are so many holy wars in the history of humanity. The victor declares that God gave them victory over the wicked and defeated.
Christian and Muslim history is filled with such stories. Let's seek the wisdom and energy to do God's will. Sometimes we have to fight or work for our blessing.
Sometimes we have to wait on our blessings. We need wisdom to know what to do and then the energy to do it.
- Sacred space and honoring God. Notice in vss. 46-50 of this section of the book of Acts that the houses built for God are too small for Him to live in.
On one hand, it is a great honor to build a house for the Lord. Such buildings should be treated as sacred space. But on the other hand, God is too big to fit into anything that humanity builds.
We should be careful about making the building more sacred than God Himself. Let's strive to honor God by not only treating space dedicated to Him as sacred, but most of us let's honor God by obeying Him.
God is more honored by filled seats than with high and marvelously decorated ceilings that costs tens of thousands of dollars to heat and cool. Ministry is more important to God than build maintenance.
- Lessons about our fore parents. Notice in vss. 51-53 of this section of the book of Acts that several applications should be made about the relation between Stephen's contemporaries and their fore parents.
First, the fore parents had some unignorable faults in their lives. They literally killed many of the prophets and disobeyed the law of God.
As proud as many of us may be of Black History, when we tell the whole truth, we discover that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, even our fore parents.
We should appreciate them but also guard against making sinless heroes and sheroes out of our fore parents. Second, just as our fore parents set an example for us, we are setting an example for those coming along behind us.
We should strive to set an example of loving God and others as we love ourselves, instead of an example that features resistance to progress.
Third, preaching is not designed to simply give people information. Preaching at its best is designed to persuade the listeners to obey God's word. Some people are drawn and others are driven.
In chapter two, people repented, after they were provoked by the word. But in chapter seven, people will become hostile, after hearing the word.
We should make sure we are like the first group. No matter what we do to the messenger, the word of God is still true. Let's work on having a proper perspective of our fore parents, being conscious of the example we set for others, and being conscious of how we respond to the message of God.
Read Acts 7:54-8:1
The Sermon of Stephen (continued). The host of religious leaders were furious at Stephen's preaching at them in this section of the book of Acts.
They covered their ears and screamed, so they could not hear anymore. They literally stoned the man to death, in spite of Stephen's focus on God.Saul is introduced as a young man who watched over the coats of those who stoned Stephen.
- The devil's use of religious people. Notice in vss. 54-58 of this section of the book of Acts that the religious leaders became angry, covered their ears to prevent any further listening, and sought to kill Stephen.
If the devil can do all of this with the religious leaders, we should guard ourselves from allowing the devil to use us in similar or worst ways.
To be clear, when we feel ourselves getting angry, not wanting to listen anymore, or wanting to cause harm, we should stop and make sure we know where God is and where the devil is, in all of this.
Let's keep the devil from using us in his wicked schemes. A good way to work on this application is to make sure that we prayerfully study and obey God's word with the support of others.
Doing God's will is a great way to keep from doing the devil's will.
- Godly focus in spite of pain. Notice in vss. 55-56, 59-60 that Stephen stays focus on God, in spite of the pain.
He is known for being full of (or controlled by) the Holy Spirit, seeing the glory of the Lord, asking for his spirit to be received, and asking that his persecutors' sins not be held against them. My hat is off to Stephen.
This is a marvelous example for modern believers. We must fight the temptation of allowing pain to make us bitter.This can be difficult, especially when the pain is intense and recent.Let's strive to stay God focused, in spite of our pain.
Again a focus on prayerful study and obedience with Christian support, before the pain, can help us get through the pain with a focus on God. We ought not wait until bad things happen to try to develop the God focus that we see in this text.
- Positive influence, instead of negative. Notice in vss. 58 - 8:1 of this section of the book of Acts that the actions of the religious leaders influenced others, specifically Saul.
On one hand, it is good to influence people to do God. Matthew 5:13-16 talks about shining before people, so people can see our good works and glorify God.
But on the other hand, it is dangerous to influence people to do wrong. Matthew 18:6 talks about the danger of offending God's people.
The longer we stay around the church and the more active we are in the leadership structure, the more influence we have over people in the church.
When I see how some help but others hinder the efforts to help ever member become a studying, serving, and giving disciple of Christ, it makes me wonder what will some of us have to say at the Judgment seat of Christ.
Let's work on being a positive influence, instead of a negative one.
Conclusion: Let's work on being witnesses for the Lord, everywhere we go. God has much for those who obey His will.
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