We often throw around the term “to die for” as a way to describe to others an encounter, an experience that is worth repeating. How do you describe your encounter with God? This week we turn to Acts Chapter 6 and the encounter a man named Stephen has with God and what resulted after that encounter.
My encounter with God should produce life change. “Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks”.
Our encounter with God should produce life change. What life change makes your encounter with Jesus obvious?
Contrast Stephens actions with those who brought about his death.Stephen was self-controlled, wise, persevering.He spoke the truth courageously, yet respectfully.What we see in Stephens life is evidence of the transforming power of his Encounter with God.
In the same way, there should be something supernatural about our love, our patience, our kindness, our self-control, our choices, our words, our growth....
Jesus said in Luke 6:45 “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.” (Luke 6:45) (NIV) What are you storing in your heart?
Because we live in a time and place where we have relative freedom from violent persecution, we tend to forget that being a follower of Jesus Christ makes us enemies of Satan. The moment we begin to aggressively go after souls for Christ, or give sacrificially and radically to the cause of Christ, or speak out boldly against sin, we also move into the line of enemy fire. This was the case for Stephen.
And because of his example, we can be assured of God’s presence, just as He was with Stephen. I am assured of God’s faithful presence and support while I’m here, and acceptance into heaven.
Notice, here in this most difficult moment of Stephen’s short life, all three members of the Trinity are present. Father, Son & Holy Spirit. Chapter 7, verse 55:“Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God the Father.To His right hand, there stood the risen and ascended Jesus. Stephen was so awed by what he saw that he could not keep it to himself. He said, “Look, I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
David wrote: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me.” (Psalm 23:4)(NIV)
Stephen was stoned as the first Christian martyr. But he was never alone, He was never out of God's presence. He also saw heaven…
Colossians 3:2 tells us: “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.”
“Set your heart on things above…..” implies a deliberate action on our part. We choose how we respond to circumstances. We choose whether we dwell on the negative or focus on the eternal positive. And friends, there are times when we, like Stephen, catch a glimpse of heaven even in our very earthly situations if we look close enough.
And finally,To follow Jesus is to die for.
When I become a Christian God fills me with His Spirit. When you were baptized you may have felt a spiritual surge in your life. Whether you felt it or not, God promised His physical presence with you and in you. 1 Corinthians Chapter 12, verse 12 indicates that ALL believers receive his Spirit at salvation. We don’t request it, it isn’t a separate baptism, it isn’t a special experience reserved for only a few. His presence is given to all who are baptized into his death, burial and resurrection. We die to it.
2 Peter 1:3 says: His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness…" (2 Peter 1:3)(NIV) "everything we need for life and godliness...." That includes being empowered, as Stephen was, to follow God’s will, overcome temptation, understand Scripture, persevere, cope with suffering, and through all of that Witness Boldly.
Stephens encounter was with the Holy Spirit of God. Come and encounter Him this weekend. It’s an encounter to die for. I’ll see you Saturday at 5:30 and Sunday at 10:30am.