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YOU ARE BORN TO SHINE

2 Corithians Chapter 4 verse 6

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Friday, December 30 2011

Introduction

Last week, we gained insight into an impending distraction which was wisely avoided by the Apostles through prioritising their functions. We also learnt how this distraction (complaints by the Hellenistic Jews on overlooking their widows in the daily distribution of foods) resulted in the selection of seven (7) Deacons and the astounding works of one of them - Stephen. This week, we will be looking at the trial of Deacon Stephen in the light of the knocking down the foundations of the first century Judaism and also focusing on the man himself and lessons that can be learnt from this encounter in the portion of Acts 7 that will be the focus of our study today.

 

Background Leading To the Trial of Stephen

 

Acts 6: 8-15 reveals the person of Stephen. He was not your usual ordinary Christian. He knew what he had been called to do (Daniel 11:32). Although ordained a Deacon, Stephen operated in "gifting" and "unction" that far outweighed his title. Acts 6: 10 confirmed the words of Jesus Christ;

"Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist."

(Luke 21:14-15)

The accusations levied against Stephen were;

 

1) Speaking of Blasphemous words against Moses and God. (Acts 6:11)

2) Blasphemous words against The Holy Place (Temple) and The Law.

Although far from the truth, (as men were induced to testified against him), Stephen will go on to seize the opportunity to knock down the three

3) Main Pillars of Judaism which are;

 

a) The Land                         b) The Law                          c) The Temple

This summarises the preaching of Stephen in Acts 7. For today however, we shall be looking at how Stephen, through the anointing of the Holy Spirit, was set to ask the Jewish leaders to re-think who God is, looking at Him differently from the way they have been used to. In a nutshell, for them to change their views and perspectives concerning God.

The Land

The Jews held the pillars of The Land so dear. This is very important to the Jews because (to them), it is an evidence of God's faithfulness to His promises. Remember that the book of Joshua chronicles the division of lands (inheritances) to the different tribes. The tribes were looking forward to their respective Promised Land inheritances. Even the prophets of old will always threaten that if the children of Israel mess up, God will throw them out of the land. They held the pillar of land so dearly to their hearts.

 

What Does The Land Mean to The Jews?

Stephen had been waiting for this opportunity, little wonder that he did not hesitate to start his message at the question of "Are these things so?" by the High Priest. (Acts 7:1). Please note that Stephen was not defending himself, we will look at some lessons that we can learn from the attitude of Stephen later on in the study.

...........The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Haran, and said to him.......... (Vs 2)

The first century Jews believed that the Glory of God can only be seen in the Promised Land. The verse above counters this belief. That God would have appeared to Abraham outside of the Promised Land is unimaginable. The Pillar of Land makes the Jews believe that they are special to God and that He will only meet with them at a special place. They serve a Geographical God!

As if this was not enough,

.................. "And the patriarchs, becoming envious, sold Joseph into Egypt. But God was with him and delivered him out of all his troubles, and gave him favour and wisdom in the presence of Pharaoh, king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house.

God was also with Joseph in Egypt? Blasphemy!!!

 

Lessons to Learn

 

The Promised Land to some believers (even as believed by the first century Jews) represents a place of Stability, Comfort, and Security. In other words, we restrict God's presence to places where we are more comfortable or put in another way, in our own perfect state of being. We have indirectly cultivated the attitude of God can only work when I have put my acts together. Quite a number of us suffer from Separation Anxiety. The feeling that God has left us simply because we don't feel His presence or because we have not been in our perfect state lately. We can not escape His presence. He doesn't leave us; we are the ones that leave Him!

 

The law requires that we only get God's favour or presence only when we have done things right. Grace (The New Testament) requires that we can only be perfect or upright by accepting God's love first, even in our fallen state!

Please God = Win God's Acceptance & Love (The Law)

Accept God's Love = Effortlessly Please Him [Mention examples]

 

Deacon Stephen - Lessons To Learn

Have you heard the saying; "If you don't live for something, you will die for nothing"?

In the book of Acts 13: 48, every one of us, like Stephen have been appointed to eternal life. Stephen knew he had a reason for living and like Esther in Esther 4:16, he was ready to die for his beliefs. He was also armed with the truth and was, by the help of the Holy Spirit, able to speak with all boldness before the Highest Jewish Authority - Sanhedrin. We must learn to search the truth always on our own. This is very important. Quite a number of us live on what we have been taught only. This is not enough, we need to search ourselves.

"Now these [Jews] were better disposed and more noble than those in Thessalonica, for they were entirely ready and accepted and welcomed the message [concerning the attainment through Christ of eternal salvation in the kingdom of God] with inclination of mind and eagerness, searching and examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so". [Acts 17:11 - Amp]

1) In Acts 17: 2, Stephen addressed the gathering with a relational tone, Brethren and Fathers....... One, he was not rude in his tone and conduct and Secondly, he was able to identity with them as fellow citizens of Israel and not castaways. We owe the people we are closed to the Truth, always! A lot of us feel more comfortable telling people we are not too close to the truth than the ones we are closed to for fear of favour being taken away from us. This is not godly! We should always endeavour to tell the truth and not Trade with it!

2) Stephen, like Jesus Christ lived a very short life. He must have been a young man compared to Deacon Philip who had four Daughters (Acts 21:8-9). However, he lived a purposeful life like Jesus. His life was impactful! In fact, when he was to be selected, he had a testimony of a man of good reputation!  We need to seek (with everything in us) to live a life of purpose, that will impact our generation for good. This is what the Lord desires from us and it is pleasing to Him. Let us strive to Impact this community and transform lives. Let us desist from playing church and the participating in her politics.

Conclusion

There are still some mindsets and doctrines in some churches (and also being unconsciously practised) by this generation of believers that we need to stand up to and correct like Deacon Stephen did in his days. The church is the ground and pillar of all truth (1 Tim 3:15).

We should also seek to live a consistently impactful lives full of God's determined and already established purpose.

"Known to God from eternity are all His works". [Acts 15:18]

 

Contributor: Leye Olayiwola

Posted by: Isekhua Evborokhai AT 03:43 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
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