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Like the Back of Your Hand

Stump the Schwab
Howie Schwab - ESPN’s first statistician - you ever wonder where the announcers on football and baseball games get all of the ridiculous stats?
It was from Howie
This guy was like a walking encyclopedia of sport’s knowledge
Like me and Liverpool
Some of you may consider yourselves experts in a certain topic
Gracee for example with Harry Potter

Stephen

All of that brings us to our passage tonight in , and we’ll be looking at Stephene
Now, hopefully, you’ve realized we totally skipped Acts chapter 6, but that is for a couple of reasons:
1. I preached on in big church a few months ago which many of you were at
2. I’m just going to highlight the key events in chapter 6:
Stephen is selected as a man of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom
He’s also described as a man full of faith
And he joins 6 other men in looking after the money that is being brought by the believers and ensuring it is distributed well
Stephen though, continues his primary calling of preaching the Gospel, and he is arrested and falsely accused of blasphemy before the council....which is where we pick up the story

Now, if I were to stand here and read all 60 verses of Acts chapter 7, a few things would happen. We’d go way past 7 o’clock, a few of you would probably fall asleep, and my voice would probably go.
And the high priest said, “Are these things so?” And Stephen said:
“Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, and said to him, ‘Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.’ Then he went out from the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran. And after his father died, God removed him from there into this land in which you are now living. Yet he gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot’s length, but promised to give it to him as a possession and to his offspring after him, though he had no child. And God spoke to this effect—that his offspring would be sojourners in a land belonging to others, who would enslave them and afflict them four hundred years. ‘But I will judge the nation that they serve,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.’ And he gave him the covenant of circumcision. And so Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day, and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs.
“And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him 10 and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household. 11 Now there came a famine throughout all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction, and our fathers could find no food. 12 But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent out our fathers on their first visit. 13 And on the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph’s family became known to Pharaoh. 14 And Joseph sent and summoned Jacob his father and all his kindred, seventy-five persons in all. 15 And Jacob went down into Egypt, and he died, he and our fathers, 16 and they were carried back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.
17 “But as the time of the promise drew near, which God had granted to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt 18 until there arose over Egypt another king who did not know Joseph. 19 He dealt shrewdly with our race and forced our fathers to expose their infants, so that they would not be kept alive. 20 At this time Moses was born; and he was beautiful in God’s sight. And he was brought up for three months in his father’s house, 21 and when he was exposed, Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. 22 And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.
23 “When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel. 24 And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. 25 He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand. 26 And on the following day he appeared to them as they were quarreling and tried to reconcile them, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers. Why do you wrong each other?’ 27 But the man who was wronging his neighbor thrust him aside, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ 29 At this retort Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons.
30 “Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight, and as he drew near to look, there came the voice of the Lord: 32 ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.’ And Moses trembled and did not dare to look. 33 Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt.’
35 “This Moses, whom they rejected, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’—this man God sent as both ruler and redeemer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 This man led them out, performing wonders and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years. 37 This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers.’ 38 This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us. 39 Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron, ‘Make for us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ 41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered a sacrifice to the idol and were rejoicing in the works of their hands. 42 But God turned away and gave them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets:
“ ‘Did you bring to me slain beasts and sacrifices,
Not that it isn’t important, and I’d encourage you to go home and read it tonight, but I’m going to highlight the key things happening in this text
during the forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel?
43  You took up the tent of Moloch
and the star of your god Rephan,
the images that you made to worship;
and I will send you into exile beyond Babylon.’
44 “Our fathers had the tent of witness in the wilderness, just as he who spoke to Moses directed him to make it, according to the pattern that he had seen. 45 Our fathers in turn brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out before our fathers. So it was until the days of David, 46 who found favor in the sight of God and asked to find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. 47 But it was Solomon who built a house for him. 48 Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says,
49  “ ‘Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
Stephen is before the council and they ask him, “Are these allegations of blasphemy true?”
What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord,
or what is the place of my rest?
50  Did not my hand make all these things?’
51 “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.”
And so Stephen starts to “answer”, and I say answer in quotes because he never really even addresses the question
The Stoning of Stephen
54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees
And starting with Abraham, Stephen goes through the history of the Israelites:
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2016). (Ac 7:1–60). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles.
God’s promise to Abraham
Touches on Jacob and Joseph and the whole family moving to Egypt
Talks about the Israelites multiplying in Egypt and Pharaoh killing all baby boys
Goes into Moses growing up in Pharaoh’s house, killing an Egyptian slave driver, and fleeing to Midian just to come back 40 years later after God appeared to him in the burning bush
And leading the Israelites out of Egypt across the Red Sea
Touches on the fact that Israel after that made a golden calf to worship
Jumps forward to David and Solomon finally building God a temple
Which ironically was in the city where Stephen is being accused of blasphemy
So Stephen brought them through a quite thorough history of where the Israelites stand to this day
Which was probably stunning to the council, because Stephen was most likely a Greek new convert.
The knowledge he had of the Jewish history would have been remarkable to the Jews

Application Point:

Which brings me to my first point. What is evident in Stephen’s life from this historical recounting he laid out before the council of the religious leaders?
He knew his stuff
He knew God’s Word like the back of his hand, and he drew upon that in his time of need
In fact I’d say he maybe, just maybe, knew it better than Gracee Davies knows her Harry Potter!!!
So let me ask you this, how well do you know this book?
And I’m not picking on Gracee here, but how much of our lives are filled with worthless knowledge when we have the very words of God in front of us, accessible, every minute of every day
Here we have Stephen, who maybe had access to them uninhibited, maybe not, but he knew them, like the back of his hand. He longed to know the truth of God’s Word and it’s evident that he did.
My friends, I fear we’ve lost focus of what’s important in our lives, and we don’t have any desire to know what’s inside of this book!
Have you read it in it’s entirety?
Do you read it daily?
Can you even name all 66 books and know where they are?
It’s no wonder people scoff at Christianity today. Here we are saying God is important, and yet we can’t even recount the most basic of information!
But yet we know absolute worthless (no offense Gracee) knowledge of a variety of things!
Do you know this book, and do you long to know it?
Savannah does

No Doubt

Let’s make clear to you what Stephen was facing.
He had been charged with blasphemy. Do any of you know what the punishment for blasphemy is according to Levitical law?
Death......by.....stoning
So imagine you’re Stephen. You know the OT pretty well, as we’ve already talked about
So it’s pretty likely that he also knew what the punishment for blasphemy was
Now, if you are Stephen, standing there charged with blasphemy, don’t you think your first response would be to try and clear your name?
We do this with even the littlest ordeals in our lives today…like, I see it with my kids each and every day
Example needed
Stephen had zero doubt, which is something else we should examine our lives with?
Are you completely convinced that God’s Word is true, and that He is faithful, and that to lose your life on this earth would mean you get to experience the greatest joy?
I’m not convinced we believe that, otherwise we’d long to read about it!
Now, today, you’re not going to be charged with being stoned to death, you most likely won’t stand before a council of religious leaders and defend a charge of blasphemy against you.
But, every single day, you are faced with decision after decision after decision of who you are going to place your trust in, right?
Think of it like this, you live your days on “trial”, sort of
People are watching you, wondering if this claim of Christianity (hopefully they know at least that much), has any credence, has any credibility
Do you give them zero doubt that your hope and trust rests in God?
If someone was standing there waiting to convict you, would you stand, doubtless in the grace of Jesus Christ?

Speak Out

Not only was Stephen knowledgable of God’s Word, but he was also convinced, he also had zero doubt that it was true. But it didn’t stop there for Stephen, and it can’t stop there for us!
Let’s read verses 51-53 together
Woah.
This is some extremely strong language that Stephen uses against the very people that hold his earthly life in their hands
And here’s what I want you to see and to realize tonight:
There is zero point in just knowing what this book says, there is zero point in just being convinced that it is true, if we don’t then take that knowledge, take that confidence, and declare it to those who are lost....even if they are our enemies
Secondly, we, as believers, can’t be scared of offending people. This is a massive problem in Christian’s lives today.
We act like it’s our job to completely fit in, and to witness without offending. Well, the truth is, Christ is offensive.
He was offensive when He was on earth, and His message is just as offensive today as it was then
So, we must be willing to speak out regardless of what may come.
So if you see someone acting in total defiance to God, you say something, in hopes that they might turn to Him.

The First Martyr

And you guys know how the story ends.
Verses 54-60
They ground their teeth at him
Klopp
Stephen ultimately pays the price for his knowledge, conviction, and boldness to speak out.
And in verse 60, as if to set in stone the truth that Stephen was indeed a “little Christ”, he uses the same words Jesus used on the cross, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.”
And he dies by being stoned to death
What a beautiful picture, not the stoning, but of a believer, who being full of the Spirit as we know Stephen was, being willing to die on behalf of Christ.
Remember Gamaliel last week, “If this isn’t of God it won’t last, but if it is, it won’t fail”
Well Stephen is proving his point to be oh so true. Christ is real, and the early believers were fully convinced, they had no doubt, that He was totally worth it, that they were willing to die for Him.

Closing

You most likely won’t be threatened with death as of today for your belief in Christ, but you will be abused, and mocked, and put to shame.
Are you here tonight, are you convinced that God’s Word is true and do you know it?
Are you full of confidence, do you have zero doubt that He is worth it?
And if so, are you willing to speak out and stand for Him regardless of what may come?
Only you can answer that
If you want help in learning how to read your Bible, come talk to me
If you need to be sure your total confidence is in Him, come talk to me
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