As we continue our study of the basics of the Christian life, tonight we look at the role of living Christian life.
Many times, when we think of the Christian life we only think of Bible study and prayer and evangelism. But tonight we look at the life of Stephen, and how in Steven’s life, we have an example of total dependence on God.
So if you have your Bibles this evening turn to Acts 6:8-10
Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people. 9But one day some men from the Synagogue of Freed Slaves, as it was called, started to debate with him. They were Jews from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and the province of Asia. 10None of them was able to stand against the wisdom and Spirit by which Stephen spoke. (Acts 6:8-10, NLT)
Let us pray
Stephen was a man preaching the gospel to the Jews.
Christianity was new. And the Jewish leaders used that an excuse for persecuting Christians.
Here we find Stephen preaching to many Jews. And as they debated with him none was able to stand against the wisdom of Stephen.
So we see that Stephen preached boldly and was persecuted because of the truth.
Look at verse 10
10None of them was able to stand against the wisdom and Spirit by which Stephen spoke. (Acts 6:10, NLT)
These people persecuted Stephen not because the gospel was false. Nobody could refute the claims of the Gospel.
But they still did not like the words Stephen spoke. And that is a principal for us to remember—that people will persecute you for the truth. And we are seeing that today.
Nobody has ever been able to discredit the gospel.
However, Christians are regarded by the media, by television, by politicians, by educators, by scientists, and quickly the entire culture as being ignorant.
These people say there is no truth.
This is Satan’s tool and has been since Steven’s day. So we should not be surprised when it happens.
What follows persecution of the truth? False accusation.
Look at verse 6: 11-15
11So they persuaded some men to lie about Stephen, saying, “We heard him blaspheme Moses, and even God.” 12Naturally, this roused the crowds, the elders, and the teachers of religious law. So they arrested Stephen and brought him before the high council. 13The lying witnesses said, “This man is always speaking against the Temple and against the law of Moses. 14We have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy the Temple and change the customs Moses handed down to us.” 15At this point everyone in the council stared at Stephen because his face became as bright as an angel’s. (Acts 6:11-15, NLT)
We see through this passage that persecution of the truth results in false accusation. And we are to make no mistake this is to be expected.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:11-12
11“God blesses you when you are mocked and persecuted and lied about because you are my followers. 12Be happy about it! Be very glad! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, the ancient prophets were persecuted, too. (Matthew 5:11-12, NLT)
It is clear that that is what happens. When we speak the truth. When we are Christ’s followers we will be mocked, persecuted, and lied about.
And we are to be happy about it because the rewards await us in heaven. And we look at history and see the prophets were persecuted as well.
In the coming day, when we are more persecuted them now, false accusations will abound.
We must have a quality of character that is above reproach.
Many Christians nowadays add fuel the fire; they don’t make it difficult for Satan.
We find out that these false accusations are true. We must live our lives holy and blameless. We are to be totally dependent on God.
When we speak the truth we will be persecuted. The truth will not be false. But the accusations, whether they are true or false, is your decision right now. You can decide now whether or not they will find you blameless or not.
We must walk in the truth.
But be assured. That when we are speaking the truth. When we are living in the truth. People will make false accusations about you and your message.
The second principal we learn from Steven is the example of knowledge. Knowing our Bibles. Stephen knew his Bible. He knew the history of the people of Israel.
Stephen first spoke about Abraham and how God told Abraham, to ‘Leave your native land and your relatives, and come to the land that I will show you.’
And Abraham did. God promised Abraham children and land. He told Abraham that his descendants would be enslaved, but God would punish the nation that enslaved them.
God made a special covenant with Abraham
Stephen then told the people how Joseph rose to power. And how God fulfilled the promise to Abraham through Moses. And how God spoke to Moses through the burning bush and the led the people of Israel out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, and back and forth through the wilderness for forty years.
And Stephen then told how the ancestors rejected Moses and wanted to return to Egypt.
40They told Aaron, (Chapter 7, verse 40)’Make us some gods who can lead us, for we don’t know what has become of this Moses, who brought us out of Egypt.’ 41So they made an idol shaped like a calf, and they sacrificed to it and rejoiced in this thing they had made. 42Then God turned away from them and gave them up to serve the sun, moon, and stars as their gods! (Acts 7:40-42, NLT)
After this Stephen explained how God sent Joshua to lead the people as they occupied the promise land.
Stephen told them how the tabernacle was taken into the promise land and stayed there until Solomon built the temple.
Stephen knew all of this because he studied it. Many times we as Christian look ignorant because we are. We get so wrapped up in the things of earth and not the things of God that when the battle comes we have nothing to say, and we cower at the wisdom of a fool.
We need to spend time studying the word of God. We need to learn what we believe and why we believe it.
We need to all be confident in what we teach others. We need to grab hold to the promises of God and allow him to speak through us. But many of us don’t take the time to study and work to find the answers.
We need to be experts in the Bible. It is our lifeline. If we say we believe it, but don’t know it, that is crazy.
How do we know that we believe something that we have never read? We need to be students of the Bible.
We need to take the Bible and apply it to our daily lives.
And Stephen was able to look at Biblical history and apply it to the situation. He was able to stand on the truth.
Look at verse:51-53
51“You stubborn people! You are heathen at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? But your ancestors did, and so do you! 52Name one prophet your ancestors didn’t persecute! They even killed the ones who predicted the coming of the Righteous One—the Messiah whom you betrayed and murdered. 53You deliberately disobeyed God’s law, though you received it from the hands of angels.” (Acts 7:51-53, NLT)
Stephen was able to preach to these people about their sin. He had boldness and confidence that is not found today.
He was confident that what he said was true.
It in fact was, but in our world, we have been taught to question truth as really true.
We have been taught to question whether truth is really truth, maybe that’s my truth and not their truth.
We have a truth crisis.
A 16-year-old, at First Baptist Paris, TX, writes;
“What is truth? Is it always the same? I don’t think so!! Truth changes constantly with time. It always varies from person to person, and from the different circumstances. What is true today, will not be absolutely true tomorrow. What was truth yesterday is not absolute truth today; Therefore there is no absolute truth.”
“In George Barna’s 1991 survey of the American public, 67% agreed with the statement, ‘There is no such thing as absolute truth; two people could define truth in totally conflicting ways, but both could still be correct.’
In 1994, the same question received 72% agreement and those born between 1964 and 1983 gave 78% agreement.”
Then of the group labeled by Barna as ‘born-again Christians’, in 1991 52% and in 1994 62% agreed that there is no absolute truth.
Note that this 10% increase was greater than the increase for the American general public.”
The gospel is as true to today as it was then. It is as true as the fact that we came to church this morning.
It is as true as the fact that George Washington was president. It is true and we need to take a stand for the truth.
Let’s read on Verse 54:
54The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen’s accusation, and they shook their fists in rage.?
55But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily upward into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 56And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!”
57Then they put their hands over their ears, and drowning out his voice with their shouts, they rushed at him. 58They dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. The official witnesses took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul.?
59And as they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60And he fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died. (Acts 7:54-60, NLT)
Stephen stood to the death for what he believed.
And see we him as an example of a model Christian. He was persecuted for the truth, he stood for the truth, and he suffered for the truth.
We see in Stephen’s life that Suffering is our calling.
I Peter 2:21-25 says,
21This suffering is all part of what God has called you to. Christ, who suffered for you, is your example. Follow in his steps. 22He never sinned, and he never deceived anyone. 23He did not retaliate when he was insulted. When he suffered, he did not threaten to get even. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. 24He personally carried away our sins in his own body on the cross so we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. You have been healed by his wounds! 25Once you were wandering like lost sheep. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls. (I Peter 2:21-25, NLT)
Suffering is what we are called to do.
We are to follow Christ’s example in suffering. If we are consistently living and walking the Christian life suffering will occur.
Christ is our example. We are not to retaliate. We are not to threaten. We are to leave it all in God’s hands.
And Stephen followed Christ’s example.
Look at Acts 7:59
59And as they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60And he fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died. (Acts 7:59, NLT)
Does that ring any bells?
Look at Luke 23:34
34Jesus said, “Father, forgive these people, because they don’t know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34, NLT)
Then down to Luke 23: 46
46Then Jesus shouted, “Father, I entrust my spirit into your hands!”? And with those words he breathed his last. (Luke 23: 46, NLT)
Luke wrote both accounts and he saw the example explicitly. We need to look closely at it. Stephen took Christ’s example and so should we.
In our Christian life, we are to preach the truth, which will bring persecution. We are to know our Bible. And when we suffer, we are to follow Christ’s example.
Are you up to the challenge?
When you accepted Christ, you surrendered everything.
Are you prepared to live the Christian life?
Living the truth requires sacrifice, persistence, consistency, discipline, and yes, suffering.
But it is all for God’s glory. We do missions. We do evangelism. Because the people outside the walls of this church do not worship.
Do you know Christ today?
Have you surrendered to him fully?
You can do that tonight. You can ask Jesus to take over your life.
What about suffering here on earth for the sake of the gospel.
We forget what Christ did on the cross.
He was beaten.
He was whipped.
And he was hung on the cross.
He suffered for you.
He suffered so that you would not spend eternity in hell.
We take that as an example to live for him.
If you have not accepted Christ, you can do that tonight.
But if you have accepted him, what is your next step?
Is it to read your Bible daily?
Is it to begin a prayer time, daily?
Is it to come out on Tuesday night to visit and tell others about Christ?
Each of us has a decision to make. Will you make it tonight?
Let us Pray.
This sermon was preached at Padgett’s Creek Baptist Church in 2001.