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INTRO

ME: I watch some sports and follow some athletes that have great careers such as Micheal Jordan & Terry Bradshaw. Any good coach will tell you to that you need to end quarters and games well, because if you don’t than you usually end up losing. I want to end well because I want to leave a good impression.
WE: Im sure most of you are the same way. You want to end well in whatever you do whether its a job you have or how you live your life. There was a man in the bible named Stephen who we will talk about today, who kept his faith until the very end. We can say that he had a life lived well. What inspires someone to give it there all until the very end? What do we have to do to persevere like that and not lose hope? Let’s find out.
Read
Acts 7:54–60 NIV
When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
GOD:

The reaction of the Crowd(v.54,57,58)

inward-cut to the heart (v.54)
outward gnashed at him with their teeth (v.54b)
cried, wouldnt listen to him, and ran at him (v.55)
stoned him (v.56)
Now there are two reactions to the gospel. You can either accept it or reject it. In the book of Acts it uses this phrase of “cut to the heart” twice. One here in v.54 and another time in Acts chapter 2 at Pentecost after Peter gave his great sermon. There response here in was not a good one as they gritted there teeth, cried, wouldn’t listen to him and ran at him. Now this sounds something like what my two year old does when we say it’s bed time!
Now these people were deeply effected by what Stephen said to them. Now he describes them earlier in chapter 7 as...
stiff knecked people
your hearts and ears are still uncircumsized
you are like those who came before you
you resist the Holy Spirit
Now these were religious leaders but, they weren’t Christians because they couldn’t come to believe that Jesus Christ was their long awaited Messiah
They were stubborn, self-willed, wanted to do their own will and not the will of God. They were uncircumsized which meant they wouldn’t allow God to cut off the carnality of their heart which was the sin that so easily entangled them. They just repeated the failures of those who came before them and their ancestors who wandered in the wilderness. They resisted the Holy Spirit and denied the power that could make them live Godly lives.
Giving our lives to God isn’t a part time job. We aren’t like a build-a-bear where we can pick and choose what parts to give him. He wants all of our thoughts, words, actions,time, and possessions. Whenever he promts us to give Him an area of our lives we need to just do it & not resist the Holy Spirit because eventually he’s going to get it. We cant out wrestle God.

The reaction of the Christian (v.55,56,59,60)

saw God (v.55)
shared the vision of God (v.56)
Prayed as he was getting stoned (v.59)
Prayed for his murderers forgiveness (v.60)
Now we see the reaction of the Christian. More specifically Stephan, the first martyr of the Christian faith. I notice four things.
Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit
He was operating in the fullness of the Spirit. In the Church of the Nazarene we call this being entirely sanctified which is evident by the fruit of the spirit rather than doing works of the flesh. Remember our war isnt againt flesh and blood but against principalities, powers and rulers of darkness in this age. Without being full of the Spirit there will always be an inclination toward evil instead of righteousness.
Stephen saw God
One thing that helped Stephen not respond to anger with anger was that he say God in all his glory. “He looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God and he saw heaven open!
Now Jesus standing instead of sitting is important because in other visions we see Him sitting. So it was like like Jesus was saying now this kind of faith I have to stand up and see.
300 Quotations for Preachers “The Glory of God Is a Living Man”

[T]he glory of God is a living man; and the life of man consists in beholding God. For if the manifestation of God which is made by means of the creation affords life to all living in the earth, how much more does that revelation of the Father which comes through the Word give life to those who see God.

IRENAEUS OF LYONS

God wants us to see him in every situation and circumstance. Just think how differently we would respond to people if we seen them as Gods creation. As created in Gods image.
Stephen prayed during his pain(stoning)
Stephen prayed a prayer that echoed the one of our savior when Jesus on the cross He said “forgive them for they know not what they do”. Stephen prays “Lord, do not hold this sin against them”. It’s easy to pray when we are in the mountain top and everything is going well. But, what about when we are in the valley. When nothing is going right, When we don’t understand what God is doing.
Stephen showed forgiveness during his pain
Stephen lived out what Jesus said “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” How often do you pray for your enemies? Do you pray for your enemies? Theres nothing that can bring us more peace then doing so. By praying the father, letting go of our hurt and pain. There is healing in praying for those who harmed us. Forgiveness is not letting people of the hook but it is simply putting justice into Gods hands. It is freeing us from the prison of anger we have put ourselves in. It is letting God and letting God. We forgive because we have been forgiven much.
WE:
How do we respond to our enemies and those who don’t approve of how we live and what we say? How are we extending Grace and forgiveness toward them?
YOU:
Ask the Lord to forgive you for something you did or said to someone. forgive yourself
Sticky Statement: If you don’t forgive well, you wont end well.
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