Saturday, November 13, 2010

Acts 7

Acts 6:8 Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)--Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia. These men began to argue with Stephen, 10 but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke. 11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, "We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God." 12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, "This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us." 15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.Acts 7: 1 Then the high priest asked him, "Are these charges true?"

To this he replied: "Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran... (accurate history of the Jews)
... 51 "You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him-- 53 you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it."
 54 When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 "Look," he said, "I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." 57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he fell asleep.

Acts 6:14:  the charge was that "this Jesus of Nazareth will come and destroy this place".  I thought they thought He was dead and gone.  Curious how they would choose to have this accusation brought as a credible charge against Stephen.  Just speaks to me that there is power in the Name of Jesus...even the disbelievers and haters recognized that.

They ask if the charges are true.  Yes or no.  But Stephen, a man full of the Holy Spirit, faith and wisdom, looking like an angel (what does that mean?) answers them with a tremendous discourse on the history of God and the Jews. As he spoke, I bet some were nodding in agreement.  Stephen concludes with an indictment of their past and a question...but basically, more truth.   Now the elite gathered there had a rather visceral response to his words.  Instead of defending themselves, ruling him out of order for his comments or even continuing their hearing, they "were furious and gnashed their teeth at him...they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him."  What in the world? From the formal Sanhedrin.  Imagine someone who was not in on the order of the day, just a visitor to the area.  What a display!

Truth can do that.  The Truth Project (amazing small group study from Focus on the Family) reminds us of the "cosmic battle" between Truth and deception/lies. The challenge for me is am I ready to encounter a blast of hell when I speak Truth?  Am I prepared...
full of the Holy Spirit, faith and wisdom, looking like an wield the Truth and receive the counter-assault?  Or to counter an attack of deception with the Truth.  I can ask for a filling of the precious Holy Spirit & wisdom (James 1, how cool that that is next!),faith from the Word of God (Romans 10).  Maybe looking like an angel refers to having been in the presence of God (or letting His presence shine forth from my countenance).  But, am I equipping myself daily for such situations?  We are foolish to think the world has become more accepting of this Jesus of Nazareth.  Praise be to God that the Name is not ever diminished by time, neglect, use or abuse.  He is glorious in power and might and strength and majesty and presence as He ever was or will be.  But the blast of hell still has us in its sights. And am I able to forgive those the enemy uses as graciously and immediately as Stephen did?  Am I able to in the face of personal loss, pain and suffering, discomfort, illness, bad mood, busyness, whatever to see the lie that I shouldn't or can't forgive such actions.  Cosmic battles are held in our homes and lives everyday.

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