Google+ 12/17/12 Stoned and Spirit-Filled!

Acts 7:54-59

 

The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen’s accusation, and they shook their fists at him in rage.

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven

And saw the glory of God, and he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand.

And he told them, “Look, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man

Standing in the place of honor at God’s right hand!”

Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting.

They rushed at him and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him.

His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul.

As they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

 He fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died. 

 

Today's Scripture is full of information and lessons to be learned.  If you don't know much about Stephen, don't feel bad.  He is only mentioned in Acts, and as you can see by the above Scripture, doesn't live very long.  Stephen is one of the seven chosen to assist the apostles in the administrative affairs of the early Jerusalem church.  Stephen was very well thought of and revered by his fellow Christians and God.  Stephen is greatly detested by the Sanhedrin.  Stephen performs many miracles in the name of Jesus for which he is eventually arrested and dragged before Caiaphas.  It is here that Stephen makes quite a name for himself.  Best of our knowledge, his one and only sermon is preached in front of Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin.  I encourage all of you to read it in Acts 7:1-53.  It is amazing!  Upon completion of this sermon, the reaction of the Sanhedrin was swift.  As our Scripture tells us, the Jewish leaders shook their fists at Stephen in rage.  Through it all, Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit.  Lesson number one.  When confronted with rage, be filled with the Holy Spirit.  This is how God helps you defeat anger.  Next, Stephen looks in the face of his false accusers and tells them that he sees God and Jesus in their rightful places.  Lesson number two.  Be bold in the Spirit!  Stephen has been arrested for teaching about God and Jesus.  What does he do?  He testifies to the Sanhedrin!  Way to go Stephen.  Next, they take Stephen out and stone him to death.  In the process of being stoned, Stephen commends his spirit to Jesus.  Lesson number three.  When our enemies close in around us, give your spirit and your fate to Jesus.  Christ will overcome. Finally, as Stephen is dying, he pleads with God not to hold his accusers liable for his death. Lesson number four.  Plead for mercy for our "executioners."  Jesus did.  Remember, "Father forgive them for they know not what they do?"  If this wasn't enough to learn from today's Scripture, in verse 58 we learn that the evil one standing in the shadows is none other than Saul!  Everyone knows him as the "Christian Killer."  Our Scripture tells us that the witnesses laid their coats at Saul's feet during the execution.  Fifth and final lesson.  Even if you are not doing the "stoning," don't hang around.  Stay away.  Saul hears all of Stephen's testimony and we are left to believe that Paul ponders this in his heart.  Remember, Saul is converted to Paul in Acts 9 on the Damascus road.  When faced with "stoning," be spirit-filled, give your spirit to Jesus, and pray for your accusers.  It isn't easy, but it worked for Stephen and Jesus.  It will work for you!