We pick up the story of Stephen in Acts 7 as he had just been falsely accused and now he was about to reply to the accusations. Instead of defending himself, he defends the truth of God’s Word. He tells the history of Abraham, including the miraculous birth of Isaac. He reminded them of the story of Jacob and Joseph and then rehearsed the story of Moses being born and being protected from Pharaoh. He then proceeded to tell them about how God spoke to Moses from a burning bush and then used Moses to deliver them out of Egyptian bondage. He preached how they rebelled against Jehovah God in the wilderness.
Now we pick up the story in verse44: 44 Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen. 45 Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drove out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David; 46 Who found favour before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob. 47 But Solomon built him an house. 48 Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet, 49 Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest? 50 Hath not my hand made all these things? Stephen began to preach about how the presence of the Lord once lived in a house made with hands (tabernacle of Solomon). In the wilderness, the presence of the Lord lived in a portable tabernacle but Stephen told them that now the Spirit of the Lord lived inside of us. One of the greatest benefits of the New Testament is the truth that the indwelling presence of the Lord lives in us. No longer do we wait for the Day of Atonement (once a year) where the high priest would enter into God’s Presence representing us but we can now come boldly before the throne of God made worthy by the blood of Jesus. Yes, we are now presence carriers, we carry the presence of the Lord inside us, we are in Christ and Christ is in us!
Now we read about the boldness of Stephen as he called out the religious: 51 Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. 52 Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers: 53 Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it. This made the religious rulers fighting mad to the point we read this in verse 54: 54 When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. Can you imagine grown religious leaders getting so mad that they actually began to bite Stephen? Talking about an ugly religious scene in front of everyone but once again God gets Glory out of the Story!
55 But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, Notice the key once again to Stephen’s ability to walk out his faith, he was still full of the
Holy Ghost not self. Key 2: Stephen kept looking up because he knew that was where his help would come from. Friend, when you catch a glimpse of God’s glory and Jesus standing in your corner, then you are able to endure whatever you need to endure.
56 And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Stephen began to testify to what he was seeing and it made them even angrier, even to the point of murder. 57 Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, 58 And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. Religious people never like hearing about the supernatural because only those in relationship with God see into the supernatural.
These next two verses are powerful: 59 And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. 60 And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. Picture the scene, an angry religious mob stoning a man of God. This is not a pleasant get together. They are killing him violently but he cries out, Jesus don’t hold this sin against them and falls asleep. Imagine them explaining their day to their spouse when they got home that night…oh we stoned a man who prayed for our salvation! Friends, that is real Christianity and being full of God’s Presence!
1. Father fill me so full of the Holy Spirit like Stephen that even when I’m being falsely accused and persecuted that only Christ is seen in me! Less of me, Jesus More of you!
Picking up from last week we read this in Acts 6:8 And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people.
Stephen, one of the seven men chosen to serve the early church as a leader which allowed the apostles/pastors to continue in prayer and in the word, was FULL of FAITH and POWER. Not only should the ministry gifts to the church (pastors, apostles, teachers, prophets, evangelists Eph. 4:11) be full of faith and power but everyone in the body of Christ should be full of faith and power and personally seeing signs, miracles and wonders in their own lives. Because of the New Covenant, every child of God has the right to be empowered and endued with supernatural power. (Mark 16:17-18) The blood of Jesus qualifies you for ministry under the New Covenant and where the blood of Jesus is applied, the anointing follows.
Let’s take a moment and read what happened to Stephen: 9 Then there arose certain of the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia, disputing with Stephen. 10 And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake.
Stephen had not graduated from a Christian University but he was full of wisdom because of the Holy Spirit inside of him and also his devotion to God’s Word in personal and corporate study. Now we find he is about to be falsely accused.
11 Then they suborned men, which said, we have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses, and against God. The Message Bible reads like this: 11 So in secret they bribed men to lie: "We heard him cursing Moses and God."
True children of God will always have false accusations to come against them but you can always distinguish those with the fruits of the Spirit by how they respond to the accusations. Those who respond wrongly it does not mean they are not saved but many times they just need to grow in the fruits of the Spirit. When you are falsely accused it is a hard test that we all must learn to pass. Our flesh is always quick to defend ourselves but faith allows God to defend you. Flesh is always our number one enemy we all have to fight and it’s a daily fight. Jesus, Joseph, Paul, Peter, Job, David and you have all been falsely accused but allow God to defend you.
12 And they stirred up the people, and the elders, and the scribes, and came upon him, and caught him, and brought him to the council, 13 And set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law: 14 For we have heard him say, that this Jesus of Nazareth shall destroy this place, and shall change the customs which Moses delivered us.
Notice what the false accusations did, it stirred up the people. One negative report can stir up fleshly people because fleshly people are like vultures, eager to eat dead things (negative things). The children of Israel missed their promised land because they believed a negative report instead of believing the two spies who said we are well able to possess the land. Friend, guard the conversations you have: first what comes out of you and secondly what goes into you (ears and eyes). For over twenty years as a pastor, I’ve seen people form opinions about someone based on non-truths or partial truths and even when confronted with total truth, damage was done and God’s Kingdom is what suffered the most. True mature children of God are peacemakers not authors of confusion according to God’s Word. (Matthew 5:9, 1 Cor. 14:33) Truth is, we are commanded to even love our enemies…that’s true love.
15 And all that sat in the council, looking stedfastly on him, saw his face as it had been the face of an angel.
What a statement! I only hope I can arrive to this point in my personal Christian walk. As Stephen sat there hearing all the lies told about him, those who had arranged him to be falsely accused couldn’t help but see God’s glow on his face. Too many today, would have had a glow but it would have been a glow of anger because of the lies we were hearing told on us but Stephen because he was FULL of God glowed with God’s Presence. Road rage, anger, jealously, murder, resentment, and hatred fill too many who claim Jesus as Lord but we must become more like Jesus and less like us. Jesus prayed for those who had just drove nails in His hands, prayed for those who had just spit in His face, cursed His name saying, Father forgive them, for they know not what they do. We need to ask ourselves, are we able to pray that prayer, do we really love others as we love ourselves?
How do you respond when falsely accused? I’ve said it often, I want to be a servant in God’s kingdom but how do I respond when I’m treated like a servant (true test of servant hood).
1. Lord help me to decrease so you can increase
2. Lord remove all bitterness, hatred, jealously or anything that does not look like you in my life.
3. Father Fill me FULL of Your Presence!
Acts 6:1 And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.
Picture this setting; revival has broken out, people were being saved daily and miracles happening constantly with persecutions. The persecution couldn’t stop the revival; in fact it only promoted and furthered the effects of this supernatural move of God. When the devil saw he couldn’t stop the revival from the outside in, he tried to destroy the revival from the inside out.
The truth is, no marriage, no ministry, no corporation is destroyed from the outside in, it’s always from the inside out. Even personally, people are destroyed from the inside out. Friends, the problem will never destroy you as long as you keep the problem from getting inside of you.
1 Cor. 14:33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. KJV
Since we are children of God (it’s our new nature), then we are never the authors or participators of confusion but we are called to promote peace in all churches. We are even commanded to love our enemies, to pray for those who despitefully use us. Friend, this is how the world truly knows we are His disciples. It’s never easy on the flesh but it is rewarding in the Spirit.
So the early church was having some confusion and division, but it was a scheme of the devil trying to stop revival. Always ask the Holy Spirit to remove anything in us that would stop the move of God in our region. I want to promote revival by my lifestyle.
2 Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables.
The Holy Spirit gave the apostles the insight to see beyond the natural. They saw it was a distraction from the main attraction (the presence of the Lord) and they said we are not going to be distracted from what we are called to do, so the Holy Spirit gave them direction.
3 Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.
Notice the qualifications of the ones appointed: 1. Honest Report
2. Full of the Holy Ghost 3. Full of Wisdom. That’s the type of leaders that the 21st Century church needs today, not popular people but powerful people of God full of wisdom and the Holy Ghost. They said pick out seven men who live a lifestyle of honesty which means well respected and trustworthy. If you are in leadership, your reputation since you have become a Christian is very important because we represent God’s Kingdom to this people planet.
4 But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word.
Once again the apostles saw that the enemy was trying to get them distracted from their calling and duties as pastors or apostles. A minister’s calling is to stay in the Presence of the Lord (to hear His voice, to receive vision) and to study God’s Word (to feed and instruct others) and this is a struggle for many because so many ministers get caught up in the everyday busyness of church life. Many times the church body expects the pastor or apostle to do all the work in the church, but because the church is the body of Christ and each part of the body has a different assignment then the body ministers to the body. If the pastor did all the work of the church then someone would not be using the talents God has given them and they would not be fulfilled neither rewarded. It’s important that we all use our talents for God’s kingdom.
5 And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolas a proselyte of Antioch: 6 Whom they set before the apostles: and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. 7 And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith.
It’s always amazing to see what the devil meant for bad turn for good and that’s what God does. In this case many got to use their talents and the work of the ministry increased and people were saved.
1. Ask the Holy Spirit to show you any rebellion or seed of discord or confusion in your life.
2. Ask the Holy Spirit to use you even greater in these last days.
Let’s pick up from last week as we continue to study the book of Acts. Peter had been arrested for preaching and praying in the name of Jesus and placed in prison but an angel came and let him out. Now he begins to preach to those who have arrested him. This is incredible boldness but it’s not a natural boldness but rather a supernatural boldness because he is being filled with the Holy Spirit over and over. Friends, if we are to see what the early church saw in Acts, we must be continually filled with the Holy Spirit not just on Sundays or Wednesdays but daily in the presence of the Lord. Eph 5:18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit. As you study this verse you will find out it is referring to a continuous infilling of His Spirit, over and over again.
Let’s pick up his sermon in Acts 5:30 The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. 31 Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him. 33 When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them.
Put yourself in Peter’s shoes; it’s amazing that he didn’t back down from the truth. This is a hostile environment and tempers are flaring and Peter doesn’t back down but reminds them it was them (religious leaders) who crucified Jesus. It made them so mad that verse 33 says they were discussing how they could kill them. But the truth is this, man cannot stop what God has planned and let’s read what happened.
34 Then stood there up one in the council, a Pharisee, named Gamaliel, a doctor of the law, had in reputation among all the people, and commanded to put the apostles forth a little space; 35 And said unto them, Ye men of Israel, take heed to yourselves what ye intend to do as touching these men. 36 For before these days rose up Theudas, boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men, about four hundred, joined themselves: who was slain; and all, as many as obeyed him, were scattered, and brought to nought. 37 After this man rose up Judas of Galilee in the days of the taxing, and drew away much people after him: he also perished; and all, even as many as obeyed him, were dispersed. 38 And now I say unto you, Refrain from these men, and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: 39 But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.
What wisdom God had given Gamaliel and God made sure he was in that meeting to express this wisdom. I love verse 39! If it be of God we can’t stop it and we would be fighting against God. Friends, in the last days we must use wisdom because there is a spirit of deception that is running rampant in this world. We must stand for truth but at the same time make sure we are speaking the truth in love. Remember God always has a plan and nothing surprises Him, all we need to do is obey what His Word declares and what the Holy Spirit speaks to us.
40 And to him they agreed: and when they had called the apostles, and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name. 42 And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ. KJV
If we are to see the salvations, signs, miracles and wonders they saw in Acts, it comes at the expense of great opposition and persecution, so don’t be surprised when it comes from a source you never dreamed. It’s warfare, daily warfare!!!
I want to close this devotion today with some words the Holy Spirit has been speaking in some of our services (watch online at www.thebridge.ws). “The revival we have prayed for and sought after is coming but some things will be shaken. There is coming a flood and we must build an ark of safety for our family and friends. The ark will be built in the private times of prayer. Increase your time in my presence says the Lord, Increase your time in my Presence.” I’ve summed up some prophetic words that have been released recently to remind us that we are living in perilous times (2 Tim. 3:1-7) and the only way to overcome is our corporate worship meetings and our personal times in the secret place of prayer. (Matt. 6:6) Never in the history of mankind will we need the direction, power and presence of the Lord more than we do now and in the future so a daily, personal prayer life is vital to our spiritual well being. Start today!
1. Fill me again today afresh with the power of the Holy Spirit so I can have boldness to stand for you!
2. Help me desire more of your presence daily. Increase in me!