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Belief in 3D

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Belief in 3D

18th century, George Whitfield, one of the preachers f the Great Awakening, from England, missionary to New colony "Georgia"
George Whitfield was preaching to coal miners in England. He asked one man, “What do you believe?”
George Whitfield was preaching to coal miners in England. He asked one man, “What do you believe?”
“Well, I believe the same as the church.”
“Well, I believe the same as the church.”
“And what does the church believe?” “Well, they believe the same as me.”
“And what does the church believe?” “Well, they believe the same as me.”
Seeing he was getting nowhere, Whitfield said, “And what is it that you both believe?”
Seeing he was getting nowhere, Whitfield said, “And what is it that you both believe?”
“Well, I suppose the same thing.”
“Well, I suppose the same thing.”
If the same question was asked of you - "What do you believe?"
If the same question was asked of you - "What do you believe?"
Would your response be similar?
Would your response be similar?
Would you know what to say?
Would you know what to say?
- but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence
1Peter 3:15 - but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence
1 Peter 3:15 ESV
but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,
Peter was right.
Peter was right.
To be an effective Christian, is to be a person who can go into their world with the gospel, who is able to share it and live it out, is the one who can give a reason to why he believes what he believes
The effective Christian, the Christian who really meets the world with the gospel and who is able to communicates and make an impression is the one who can give to every man who asks reasons for what he believes.
Unfortunately there are those who profess to believe in the gospel but haven't got the faintest idea why they believe in the gospel.
They may have a knowledge in their head but it never reaches their heart
Or they may have a knowledge but find themselves doubting what they believe from time to time.
And when this is the case, the good news of the gospel never gets proclaimed from their lips because while they say they believe, they have no idea what they believe
And while it's true that we all start out on the ground level, we're not meant to stay there
No one stays a baby forever
We all learn to crawl, walk and then run
Some quicker than others but we all grow
But for some reason, it has become acceptable to call yourself a follower of Christ and not know what it means to be a follower of Christ
We have multitudes of people who have made a profession of faith but they have never advanced beyond the initial new birth.
Just as we don't stay as babies in our physical lives we're not meant to stay as babies in our spiritual lives
We're meant to grow
We're called to believe
Belief is not belief unless it produces action
George Whitfield would travel the colonies of early America preaching the good news of the gospel and as a result thousands of people made professions of faith in Christ
Concerned about the amount of people who were responding to Whitfield's messages the question was asked to him
"How many of these conversions do you think are genuine?"
Whitfield responded with this answer
"We'll know in five years"
Whitefield's response reveals an important truth
Conversion is only conversion if it produces change
Belief is not belief unless it produces action
I want us to keep that in mind as we look at one of the heroes of our faith
A person you may be familiar with, especially if you’re following along in our daily readings through the New Testament or you may not be
Stephen, - one of the first deacons (servant) in the church but also known as the first Christian martyr
is where we first read of Him
Acts 6:1–6 ESV
Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them.
The church is young and a problem arises in the church
Hellenistic greeks - converts - not jewish complaining that they are being overlooked
The 12 in Godly wisdom address the issue - no division
The solution - delegate responsibility - deacons are born
7 men - full of Spirit and wisdom - so they can handle logistics - so they can serve the church
The first in the list is a man named Stephen
If you look at vs. 8 you begin to get a snapshot of who he is
Full of grace and power doing great wonders
A layman - a deacon - who has taken his faith beyond the beginning stages of belief
But the true test of Stephen's belief is about to come full circle
He is approached by a group of men, religious men who made accusations against his beliefs
But because they couldn't fathom his wisdom , because Stephen was filled with the Spirit of God
They couldn't find any charges against him so they made up their own and accused him of Blasphemy against the law of Moses and the temple of God
Which really meant the law of Moses and the temple of God
Two actions that were punishable by death
And thrown into this situation Stephen is given a brief moment to defend himself
His feet are to the fire, He's facing death
He can shrink back deny His faith and live or he can believe in what he knows
He can trust in what He's heard from the word of God
And he can speak with boldness the truth of the gospel
And he does
And he can do these things because he wasn't just a Believer in Jesus Christ in name only
He was living it out
He was putting action to his belief
And What Stephen does in chapter 7 is reveal his three dimensional (3-D) faith
And I say 3D because his faith isn’t just rhetoric (a title or figure of speech)
Just as when you go to a 3D movie and the images on the flat screen come to life and you can see all sides of an image
Stephen’s faith isn’t just on the surface
There is a depth to it.
And we see this in the message that he proclaims to the ones who weren’t used to being preached to.
Looking at his message we see:
That not only does he have a knowledge of the gospel(information), but he has a faith (trust) in it’s authority and authenticity (transforming) and because of that he preaches with boldness ( proclamation)the good news that all men, even these religious idiots, have the opportunity to receive God's grace.
So as we look at Stephen's sermon what I want us to see is that we too are called to give a response of the hope that we have to all men
That the Word of God is more than just for preachers and bible scholars
It's important to not just believe but to put that belief into action and let the Word of God affect every aspect of who we are.
To be a Christian means that we not only have the right information but that there has been a change (transformation) and then we are to share (proclaim) it with (to) others
So this morning when it comes to our belief I want us to see what it looks like to have this same kind of 3-D faith
What it looks like to have this 3-D faith
The first dimension that we need to our faith is...

We Know God's Word ()

Acts 7:2–16 ESV
2 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, 3 and said to him, ‘Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.’ 4 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. 5 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. 6 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. 7 ‘But I will judge the nation that they serve,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.’ 8 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. 9 “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.
If I were to ask you to quote Scripture from memory, how much could you quote?
What about the story of the Bible?
Could you walk me through the Bible, book by book and give me a synopsis ( overview ) of what the Bible is about?
Scripture memory is important but do you know the big picture of the Bible
Knowing the big picture of the Bible helps us see our world through God's eyes
Knowing who God is, and why He sent His Son , to pay a debt that we owed, transforms how we see not only ourselves but also others around us
Knowing the truth of God's Word should affect every aspect of our lives
Not just knowing it to know it but knowing it to live it out
Stephen is doing just that with the beginning of his sermon
Beginning with Abraham , Isaac and Jacob, Stephen gave a summary of the whole Old Testament
He explained the history of the Israelites, Joseph's slavery in Egypt, and the Israelite's exodus to the promised land
Stephen knew the law, the torah, frontwards and backwards
And this shows us an important truth about God's Word
IN order to live out our faith we have to know why we believe what we believe
We need to not only know the big picture of the bible as a whole but we have to know how it pertains to us
When we experience times of difficulty , knowing God's word not only encourages us but it reminds of God's faithfulness
When we are put to the test, and our integrity is on the line, knowing God's Word helps us Know what He expects
How can we face tragedy and sorrow if we don't know the hope that God's Word provides
How can we know how to do what is expected of us as Christ followers if we don't know God's Word
How can we give a response of hope to others if we ourselves don't know what we believe
To be true believers, followers of Christ we must demonstrate to others, but more importantly to ourselves that we have a knowledge of God's Word
J.I. Packer once said that "Christianity in America is three thousand miles wide and 1 inch deep"
Could that be true of you?
Most of us know the popular Bible verses (coffee cup) but do we know God's word?
Do you set aside time for God's Word?
Do have a time when it's just you and God and His Word and you let him speak to you?
Scripture memory is good but for living as Christ has called us to live we have to know God's word.
We need to be able to, like Stephen, demonstrate a knowledge of God's Word
The second dimension that we demonstrated from our faith is...

A Trust in the Truth of God's Word ( )

Acts 7:44–51 ESV
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. 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.
Acts 7:44–51 ESV
“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. 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, who found favor in the sight of God and asked to find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. But it was Solomon who built a house for him. Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says, “ ‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? Did not my hand make all these things?’ “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you.
Here in Acts 51 Stephen calls the religious leaders uncircumcised and stiffnecked people
And as we would say: “Them’s fighting words!”
And as we would say: “Them’s fighting words!”
This phrase is a phrase that the Lord (Yahweh) used in the Old Testament to refer to Israel’s unfaithfulness to His covenant
It is meant to be a derogatory term equating them with those pagan nations nations who worshiped other gods and often oppressed them.
And while Stephen not only relates them to a bunch of pagans he also accuses them of resisting the Holy Spirit
In Jesus compares the Holy Spirit to the wind
In Jesus compares the Holy Spirit to the wind
John 3:8 ESV
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
John 3:8 ESV
The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
"The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going ; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit."
This Spirit that Jesus spoke of was the same Spirit that hovered over the waters in
The same Spirit that breathed life into Adam's lungs
This same Spirit that has throughout the course of time been actively present working and moving in the lives of men and women
This same Spirit that inspired men to write God's Word
Make no mistake, God's Word is from the mouth of God but He choose men to write His words
Theologians call it "inspiration" - God divinely inspired - God breathed - His words to men
And if you look at Stephen's sermon , you can see that He accepted God's word as true
If you look at his sermon you see that as it begins with Abraham and builds from there
Joseph, Moses, Joshua to Solomon his sermon is built on the authority of Scripture
Which is inspired by God
As believers in Christ, we submit to God's Word as the Holy Spirit speaks to us through God's Word
Everything that God tells us in his word is true
If one thing in all of this book was incorrect then we would have cause to mistrust it
But We believe that God is perfect and Holy and so is His Word
Paul tells us in
2 Timothy 3:16 ESV
All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
It's God breathed.
It's God breathed.
And if God breathes something into existence whether it's a word or a world , in its original form, it will be perfect
And we have confidence of that through His Spirit living in and through us
And we know through His Word and through his Spirit that we can trust Him
Stephen banked his life on God being true to His word and so can we.
So we need to demonstrate a knowledge of God's Word but also need to trust in the truth of His Word

We Proclaim His Word with Boldness ()

Acts 7:51–60 ESV
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.” 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 he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Put yourself in Stephen's sandals for a moment
Your standing before a council of high ranking officials who have the earthly authority to make you or break you
You've been accused of blasphemy that is punishable by death
You have only a brief moment to answer the charges
And after a short sermon on the history of your faith you end with a statement like vs. 51
You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears
To us that sounds like an insult
But in fact these are words that God used in Exodus, Deuteronomy, Leviticus and Jeremiah to describe individuals who had continually rejected God's will for their lives
Remember Stephen is speaking, full of the Holy Spirit, and God is using him to relay His message to these unregenerate leaders
They recognized it as a judgment against them
As a result it enraged them - VS. 54 & 57- 58
DO you think Stephen was aware of the consequences?
He'd be foolish not to.
But Stephen knew what he believed, He trusted that it was true, that it was the very word of God and He was willing to stake His life on it
We are so far removed from this type of persecution
We are so far removed from having to make a decision like Stephen
For Stephen it was a matter of life and death in sharing what He believed
For us it's a matter of acceptance
If we hold close to the bible in our beliefs we will be rejected by the popularity of society
If we're nominal (in name only) in our belief then we're not a threat
But it's not enough to be a believer in name only
We're called to be his witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the Earth ()
And the only way we can be faithful to that requirement is to boldly proclaim what we know
Always giving account for the hope that we have in us
And when we do, we may not know what the outcome will be but God does
God's plans are bigger than we can even imagine
God will take your faithfulness and use it for His glory
That's what he did with Stephen
Proclaiming the truth of God's Word, his belief cost him his life but look what God did through it
VS. 58
A young man named Saul who was known for persecuting Christians and whom God met on the Road to Damascas and changed his course of life.
Changed his name from Saul to Paul and he became one of the greatest missionaries of our faith
No doubt Stephen's boldness and faith in what he believed had an impact on Saul/Paul's life
CONCLUSION
If you were asked this morning " What do you believe?"
What would be your response?
Would you have a few verses to support your belief (coffee cup verses)
Or could you give the big picture of God's Story for us
Let me encourage you to know what you believe
Spend time in his Word
Get to know Him through his word
And trust in it's truth
But don't neglect to share it with others
Because it's through His word that we find hope for living
It's how we come to know Him
May God grant us the grace this morning to give us this desire to know Him Fully.
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