The Acts of the Apostles

Act 7

In reading Acts 7 it is easy to understand how western readers could get lost in Stephen speech to his aggressors, especially if you are unfamiliar with the Old Testament. He takes them on a journey of their own history, demonstrating that their forefathers had done exactly to the prophets who foretold of the coming Messiah as they had done to the Jesus; the actual Messiah who is spoken of throughout the Old Testament and is revealed in the New Testament.

It was a speech that would ultimately lead to his death. Stephen wasn’t afraid to so say what need to be said, the men who had him arrested were not willing to listen, and he calls them “stiff-necked” and tells them that they are resisting the Holy Spirit. Their hearts were hard and they were not going to listen to Stephen let alone God! They were enraged by what Stephen had said to them and they stoned him to death. What an agonising and horrible way to die. Yet as he was being stoned, captivated by an open heaven and a vision of Jesus this is what he says…

“Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.  (Acts 7:58-60 ESV)

What can we learn from Stephen? He was a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit (6:5), he was full of grace and power (6:8). Here was a man so completely captivated by Jesus that he had no fear of death. Hear his final request “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”, wow! Now unless those men repented and left their pious, self-righteous and sin filled rage behind, by putting their faith in Jesus alone for forgiveness, right standing with God and eternal life, then they were indeed to stand to give an account for their sinful actions.

One of them did, his name was Saul. He encountered Jesus, had his named changed to Paul and was used mightily by Jesus in the advancing of the gospel across known world (read it his story here). A dramatic turnaround if ever there was one. No one is to far from the salvation Jesus offers

We must never underestimate what God is able to to with people who are willing to speak out for the Jesus, even when it feels like you may be speaking to a “stiff-necked”, “hard-hearted”, “self-righteous” people who are not listening to the message. I’m not sure Stephen would have been able to do what he did if he has not been full of the Holy Spirit and connected with Jesus. If we are to be effective in being obedient to the mission Jesus has called us to the it has to come out of an authentic relationship with God – Father, Son & Spirit.

How do we develop this kind of unstoppable inward rest fellowship with God? We look to and follow Jesus, whom the Holy Spirit reveals to us and we look to him. Here are some questions that you may find helpful to ask yourself as you grow in your “REST” with God.

  1. Time – how much time do you give yourself to read the Bible and listen to what God the Holy Spirit is saying through it?
  2. Remove – things can get in the way of developing intimacy with Jesus. How much TV do you watch? How much time does facebook/twitter take up of your day? Is there any persistent, un-confessed sin in your life that needs to be confessed?
  3. Plan – get a plan. What is the best time of day for you to get time with your bible so that God can speak through word & Spirit? Do you need a devotional tool/reading plan? Get into a rhythm. Learn to rest in into it, Jesus knows you and knows what he wants to do in you and through you.
  4. Persevere – you are going to need to persevere and develop discipline. You’ll get distracted, but don’t give up; it will be worth it in the end.

Want further help? Then get in touch by leaving a comment and asking your question.


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