Had you met Stephen before? Had you heard his story before we got acquainted with him yesterday?
We will be getting better acquainted with him the next several weeks. Read ahead in Acts 7.
First, its like this man comes out of nowhere! He is chosen to serve as one of the first deacons in the early church. His faith in Jesus and humble service in the community qualified him to be a deacon, which was like a waiter in the church. He was especially focused on caring for the elderly and needy (Acts 6). This serving and giving reflects the saving life of Jesus among those who have been saved and made members of the church.
In Genesis 3, Adam and Eve are self-conscious and ashamed of themselves. As a result, they hide from each other and God. Unfortunately, the members of the church are tempted to allow guilt and shame keep them at a safe distance from others. In Christ, we are standing on the promise of hope and salvation, no longer stuck in the quicksand of shame and guilt. We have been covered by God, like Adam and Eve were covered by God.
The result is that we, like Stephen, emerge with “grace and power.” Our courage and humility to serve is used by God to call others out of the darkness of shame and into the light of Jesus. Stephen was an ordinary man filled with the Spirit of God and speaking the Word of God!
Instead of being covered with fig leaves and peeking out over a rock out of fear and panic, Stephen stands before his accusers full of faith and with his “face like the face of an angel,” (6:15). Having been found and cared for by God, we, too, stand confidently in God’s grace — no matter what!
To be sure, God’s people are ordinary people who have placed their faith in Jesus, the promise of God. We have received an unmerited gift in Jesus. We are people “full of grace and power,” who are able to withstand the enemy’s attempt to take us back to fig leaves. Now, like Stephen, we are able to stand in wisdom and speak with the Spirit of God.
What area of life does the enemy point to that takes you back to the fig leaves — hiding, shame, regret?
Instead of giving up on you, God comes looking for you, “Where are you?” The God who found you crouching in your sin and shame has filled you with his Holy Spirit. He deposits His Spirit in you and from there comes wisdom and power into every aspect of your life. As such, you are a child of the promise!
What passages of Scripture did you hear in this week’s sermon that lingers with you?
What prayers are you praying this week?
Do they sound like a person in possession of God’s promise or just a person who is panicked?