Stephen has just recited a short summary of all the things God had brought the Israelis through and the miracles He had performed in bringing them to the Promised Land. Stephen also reminded them that God did this for them in spite of their unbelief and unfaithfulness. He did it as a fulfillment of His covenant with their ancestors. Even though God was faithful, the Israelis were not, refusing to listen to Moses and any of the prophets God sent to them with messages warning them to repent and be obedient to God. Instead they persecuted and murdered the prophets choosing to remain in their sinful ways and worship idols made by human hands. The people Stephen was addressing were still following in their ancestor’s paths, choosing to kill the Messiah rather than to give up their worldly ways and repent. If Stephen were here today, he could add the history of our country to his discourse and the accusation would still be true. After all the years of God blessing this country with His abundance, we are still a “stubborn people, heathen at heart and deaf to the truth”. More and more, as each day passes by, we become a more sinful nation. We refuse to believe that God will punish us just as He punished the Israelis. We must pray that God will have mercy on this nation of ours, that He will replace our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh and write His name upon our hearts.
1 Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. 2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. — 2 Cor. 4:1, 2 NIV
When we hear the word minister or ministry, we tend to think of pastors. evangelists, missionaries and offices of that sort. But, God has given each of us a ministry. Each one of us has been called to service by God. Our mission field is where we live, work or go to school. Our congregations are our families, neighbors, fellow workers and/or fellow students. Just as surely as a pastor is responsible to proclaim the message of Jesus Christ and His resurrection to his congregation, we are to do the same for those God has placed in our circle of influence. Just as surely as a pastor should pray for those in his congregation, we are responsible to pray for those around us. Just as surely as a church staff should minister to the needs of the congregation, we should minister to the needs of those God has put in our “congregations”. Whether those needs be spiritual, emotional, physical or financial, we have a responsibility to use the resources God has given us to comfort others. 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.– 2 Cor. 1:3, 4 NIV
Our lifestyles should reflect the truth that we are letters sent from Christ written on hearts of flesh by the Holy Spirit and read by everyone who knows us.
2 You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. 3 You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. — 2 Cor. 3:1, 2 NIV
We should use every ministry opportunity to contend for the faith that has been entrusted to us by God Himself.
“The Gospel has come to you because it’s on its way to someone else.” – Anonymous
21 All of King Solomon’s drinking cups were solid gold, as were all the utensils in the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon. They were not made of silver, for silver was considered worthless in Solomon’s day! — 1Kings 10:21 NLT
Can you imagine being blessed so abundantly that you would consider silver as being worthless? I don’t think my “imaginer” works that well. And we must remember that Solomon did not ask for wealth, he asked for wisdom. Since he recieved all the worldly goods he did not ask for, the wisdom that Solomon did ask for and receive would have been out of this world. Since it was divine wisdom from heaven, it certainly would have been from somewhere out of this world. The point is this; God wants to bless us with super-abundance, but God is not a wasteful God. He blesses each of us with what we need and as much more as we can handle. Each of us is blessed with a gift that is to be used for the growth of His Kingdom. There is one job that God has designed each of us to do and we can do that job better than anyon else can do it. Why? Because God provides us with the wisdom and the resources to do that job. Not all of us can be great leaders worthy of worldly fame, but each of us has a tremendous job to do in the work of the Kingdom. Not all of us can handle great wealth, we can see the proof of that when we read the sad stories of the people who win millions in the lotteries and a few years later they are broke. We see proof of it when great sports figures who received millions of dollars while playing have to file bankruptcy a few years after retirement. God has a plan and a purpose for each of us. When we discover that plan and we are content to fulfill His purpose, then we can truly see that “all things work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to HIS PURPOSE”.
Stephen has just recited a short summary of all the things God had brought the Israelites through and the miracles He had peformed in bringing them to the Promised Land. Stephen also reminded them that God did this for them in spite of their unbelief and unfaithfulness. He did it as a fulfillment of His covenant with their ancestors. Even though God was faithful, the Israelites were not, refusing to listen to Moses and any of the prophets God sent to them with messages warning them to repent and be obedient to God. Instead they persecuted and murdered the prophets choosing to remain in their sinful ways and worship idols made by human hands. The people Stephen was addressing were still following in their ancestor’s paths, choosing to kill the Messiah rather than to give up their worldly ways and repent. If Stephen were here today, he could add the history of our country to his discourse and the accusation would still be true. After all the years of God blessing this country with His abundance, we are still a “stubborn people, heathen at heart and deaf to the truth”. More and more, as each day passes by, we become a more sinful nation. We refuse to believe that God will punish us just as He punished the Israelites. We must pray that God will have mercy on this nation of ours, that He will replace our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh and write His name upon our hearts.
4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” — 1 Peter 2:4-6 NIV
Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, was rejected by His own people. He could do very few miracles in His own hometown because the people there thought of Him as just a carpenter, the son of Joseph and Mary. We can expect to be rejected as well, the created should not expect better treatment than the Creator received. Just as Jesus was ridiculed and rejected by those who knew Him only as a human, so can we expect to be treated the same way. This rejection did not keep Jesus from loving and ministering to those around Him who accepted the words that He spoke. Neither should ridicule or offensive remarks keep us from loving and witnessing to those around us. Jesus was chosen by God to give up everything, come to earth and live among humans who would not welcome Him as the Son of the Creator. We are chosen by God to give up nothing to receive everything and live among humans as holy priests. Our sacrifice is spiritual, we speak the words that the Holy Spirit gives us. This is acceptable to God. The ultimate end of the earthly ministry of Jesus was not shame but glory. If we trust in Him and remain faithful, our ultimate end will not be shame but an eternity in heaven praising Jesus because He was faithful and was chosen to rule the universe.
13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” — Rev 5:13 NIV
1 Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, 2 but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. 3 As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd. 4 “Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery.5 The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?” 6 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. 7 They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” 8 Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust. 9 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman.10 Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” 11 “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.”—John 8:1-11 (NLT)
The teachers of religious law and the Pharisees were still looking for some substantial charge they could bring against Jesus. If they could get Jesus to say anything against the law of Moses, then they could charge Him with blasphemy. But, as Jesus had done in the past, knowing what their thoughts and intentions were, He again avoided their trap. It would be fantastic to know what Jesus wrote in the dust, but whatever it was, it was sufficient to chase the accusers away. After they left, Jesus asks the woman, “does even one of them condemn you?” She says, “No, Lord”. Then she heard the most beautiful words a sinner can hear, “neither do I, go and sin no more.” Can you imagine the peace and joy she must have felt when she heard Jesus speak those words? We don’t have to imagine that feeling! Jesus has spoken the same words to each of us that has accepted Him as our Savior and Lord, The peace! the joy! the freedom! the liberty that flows over us at that moment is something the world could never give us. And it’s free because Jesus paid it all! 31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? —Romans 8:31 (NLT)
12 I write to you, dear children, because your sins are forgiven through Christ.
13 I write to you, fathers, because you know the One who existed from the beginning.
I write to you, young people, because you have defeated the Evil One.
14 I write to you, children, because you know the Father.
I write to you, fathers, because you know the One who existed from the beginning.
I write to you, young people, because you are strong;
the teaching of God lives in you, and you have defeated the Evil One.—1 John 2:11-14 (NCV)
John is reminding each group of people of who they were, who they are now, and how each of us got here. Now that we have been redeemed and cleansed by the blood of Jesus, we need to be walking in the Light and our lifestyle should reflect the example that Jesus set for us to follow. When we are tempted to think that we might be just a little better than our neighbors or when we start to wonder; “how could Jesus save a person like that?” ,we need to remember who we used to be and the kind of lifestyle we used to lead. Just as Isaiah told the children of Israel, remember that we were all cut from the same stone, we are all born sinners. The Lord says, “Listen to me,
those of you who try to live right and follow the Lord.
Look at the rock from which you were cut;
look at the stone quarry from which you were dug.–Isaiah 51:1 (NCV)
We have done nothing to desire God’s mercy and grace, it is a free gift that is available to all. Thus, the old saying: “Except for the grace of God, there goes you and me”
7 As the Holy Spirit says,
“If you hear God speak today, don’t be stubborn.
8 Don’t be stubborn like those who rebelled
and tested me in the desert.
9 That is where they tested me.
10 although they had seen what I had done for 40 years.
That is why I was angry with those people. So I said,
‘Their hearts continue to stray,
and they have not learned my ways.’
11 So I angrily took a solemn oath
that they would never enter my place of rest.”–Hebrews 3:7-11 (GW)
We should always be obedient and have a teachable spirit. If we become stubborn and rebellious, God will not be able to use us in His plan and He will remove us from the position He has allowed us to hold, just as He removed Saul from being king of Israel. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, He hath also rejected thee from being king.”–1 Samuel 15:23 (KJ21)
God sees an unteachable spirit as stubborn and rebellious and compares it to sin and idolatry. We must allow God to replace our stubborn, straying hearts of stone with hearts of teachable flesh and He will write His name upon those hearts of flesh. Then He will be our God and we will be His people.(Read Jeremiah 31:32-34). Then we will learn His ways and walk with Him into that land of rest.