Today’s Bible Reading: Acts 7
In Acts 7:2-53, Stephen defends himself against several false accusations (refer to Acts 6:11, 13-14). In his defense, Stephen laid out the truth that Jesus was the Messiah and accused his adversaries (the Jewish leaders) of deliberately disobeying God’s law. The Jewish leaders became even more angry. “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand” (v. 55). Stephen was grabbed, dragged out of the city, and stoned to death. During the stoning, Stephen shouted, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” (v. 60).
WOW – aligning Pastor Ben’s weekend message with Stephen’s message is powerful! (Refer to Ephesians 4:29 and Galatians 5:26.) Clearly, Stephen’s words provoked his audience. Stephen was speaking the truth of God’s word with boldness and conviction. Yet, his final words were full of love as he was stoned to death.
A few thoughts surface when applying Stephen’s message to myself. His message was not the first time a message offering repentance and forgiveness was given to his accusers, but the hardening of their hearts against God kept them from accepting God’s mercy and grace. Personal reflection causes me to consider the numerous times I heard the Gospel, yet failed to fully surrender to God. It is one thing to accept Jesus as savior but allowing him to become lord is another story. For me, that required learning and understanding that God allows unfair, difficult events to occur in our lives. These events are opportunities to surrender our will to him and often result in our spiritual growth.
Stephen spoke undeniable truth in his message. Speaking the truth of God’s word properly should be of greater concern than personal comfort and/or protection. Stephen is the first Christian martyr. Few of us will encounter similar circumstances. However, many opportunities arise to speak God’s truth clearly and concisely. We, like Stephen, need the fullness of the Holy Spirit to speak with boldness and conviction.
What results do I see when I speak rashly and defensively compared to when I share Scripture with someone who needs to hear truth? Do I take ownership for words I speak, or do I make excuses when my words have wounded another’s self-esteem and soul? Who is someone that I need to have a good, helpful, and gracious conversation with this week?
Father, empower me with your Holy Spirit. May words I speak be wrapped in your love and delivered as a gift of sincere concern and love for others. I recognize my need for spiritual growth in this challenging area of life. In your name. Amen.
This post was written by Karen Peck, a regular contributor to the LivingItOut Bible Study.
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