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Stephen Dies For Christ

Stephen Part 3  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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The church was scattered but shared their faith everywhere they went

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Stephen Dies For Christ

Today we are going to recognize Stephen Pickering as a Deacon in our church. The title of today’s sermon is Stephen Dies for Christ – talking about the Stephen in Acts ch. 7 & 8 – the first martyr of the Christian faith.
Different Stephen. Same faith.
This is part 3 of our look at Stephen’s ministry and faith. The Bible tells us that he was a man full of wisdom and full of the Holy Spirit
This is a challenging bit of Scripture – or at least it should be if we let it.
George Verwer, the founder of Operation Mobilization said, “Acts is the most revolutionary, challenging book in the whole Bible.”
So sit tight, if you can get through our study of Acts without being convicted by the Holy Spirit, then you are probably safe from God meddling in your life and will be able to resist Him when He tells you things like “deny yourself and follow me.” If Acts doesn’t help you to focus and prioritize, then probably nothing else in the Scriptures will.
Now the two-part work Luke/Acts was written to Noble Theophilus. Could have been a man that new Luke and had requested a complete account of the early church. But the name Theophilus, literally means, “Lover of God” and it is very possible that Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and Acts to everyone who loves God – including us here in this room!
(READ -end)
Stephen gave not only his life, but he gave his death to Christ – so that even as he died he was able to direct people towards God. That had to have had a powerful impact on Paul. And years later as an elderly man, Paul said these words in “I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me--the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace.”
The New Living Translation puts it this way, “my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus--the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.”
Elsewhere, in , Paul writes, “I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”
This is significant to me – we often talk as if we would be more involved in God’s work when our lives settle down, when the kids get older, when we retire, when our finances get in order, when we get out of school, after we get married. But here the believers in God, in the middle of tragedy - job loss, upheaval, imprisonments, deaths of loved ones, they go everywhere sharing the message of J.C.
This is convicting. What keeps us from going all in for the Kingdom of God? Today, Yumi and I have been married 23 years. My Best Girl and I have such a good life together. Our church is growing spiritually and numerically. We have four wonderful children. Loving family and friends. Life is good. This week my clothes dryer broke, my kitchen ceiling leaked, and my water heater flooded my basement. On top of that we are busy all of the time and exhausted. I’ve had tennis elbow since last fall and a cough for months now. I don’t know what to do. These things could knock me off stride if I let them. And then were would the fruit of the Holy Spirit be: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control?
This text is a challenge to a kind of stale, second-hand, traditional faith. No one gives their all to Christ unless they A) Love Christ and B) Believe that this life is just a brief precursor to eternity with Christ. If you don’t love Jesus and believe Heaven is waiting for you – you won’t make Him and growing His family, bringing more people to faith in Christ, your number one priority.
And let’s take a step back and revisit that list of reasons we give for why we aren’t trying to win souls now. We say things like, “we will be more involved in God’s work when our lives settle down, when the kids get older, when we retire, when our finances get in order, when we get out of school, after we get married.” Think about it, does thinking we will serve God more after our lives change and settle down make any sense? Don’t you think there are people with children that need to see other people with children living for Christ? Don’t you think there are non-Christians at your work place that need to hear the message of salvation from you? Maybe there are other people struggling with their finances that need to see you walking with Jesus, with joy in your heart – THROUGH your difficulties. If you are in school – most of the people in your school are not going to heaven. They NEED you to boldly share your faith in God. And what about the other Christians at your school? They need encouragement. They need to see other young people who have put God way out in front of everything else in their lives. They need you!
“How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger who brings good news, the good news of peace and salvation, the news that the God of Israel reigns!”
Brothers and sisters, you have often heard me say that the book of Acts doesn’t have a proper ending. It is still being written. It has 28 chapters. Ever since then the Christian church since has been filling in the record of Acts chapter 29. This includes you and I if we want it too. If we put God first and obey Him If we are lovers of God like Noble Theophilus.
We can be a part of the miracle of the church. We can love people closer to Jesus. Regular, imperfect people, like you and I, when we awake to the understanding that God is real, and He really loves us, and Heaven is a real place, when we really grasp this reality, everything changes. The heavens rejoice and hell rages because another child of God has stepped on the field.
Richard Bewes an 83 year old Christian writer, Evangelist, warrior for the Kingdom of God, friend of Billy Graham, and who was awarded a OBE, Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, for his contributions to the Church of England, once gave this measure to help us understand the health of our churches. “How are your prayer meetings?” he asked. “How well are they attended? Do your workers attend? Are those who serve most also attending your prayer meetings?”
There are other metrics we can all use to measure where we are at spiritually.
Jesus said “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
So what things do we treasure? Our time? Our children and families? Our resources? And do we give these things freely and joyfully for the work of God? Are we faithful and purposefully using the gifts God has given us to advance His Kingdom, grow His church, win souls, and make disciples?
Another test for ourselves is do we meet together regularly with other Christians? The Jerusalem church was meeting together to pray, listen to sound doctrine, fellowship, and eat together DAILY! tells us, “And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” And Christ’s return is even nearer than when this was written!
Richard Bewes asked how healthy the prayer meetings at your church are, another question could be, “What percentage of the congregation is involved in a weekly Bible Study?”
One last thought. In , Jesus “He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
Here's something to think about. God had commanded them to share the gospel outside the city, in the surrounding countryside, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” For whatever reason they didn’t answer the call. They didn’t do what God had commanded them to do, UNTIL trouble came and they were forced out of Jerusalem. To their honor and credit – once they got the kick in the pants they didn’t shrink away from their Christian duty – DESPITE their sadness, fear, and hardships, they spread the word of God everywhere they went.
We too are called to serve and not just when it’s convenient or easy.
In a moment I will call Stephen up
READ - Hymn – Only one life
It matters so little How much you may own
The places you've been Or people that you’ve known
For it all comes to nothing When placed at His feet
It's nothing to Jesus Just memories to me
You can take all the treasures From far away lands
And take all the riches you can hold in your hands
And take all the pleasures Your riches can buy
But will it help? When it's your time to die?
Only one life So soon it will pass
Only what's done for Christ will last
Only one chance to do His will
So give to Jesus all you days It's the only life that pays
When you recall - You have but one life
The days pass so swiftly The months come and go
The years melt away Like new falling snow
Spring turns to summer Then summer to fall
Autumn brings winter Then death come to all
Only one life So soon it will pass
Only what's done for Christ will last
Only one chance to do His will
So give to Jesus all you days It's the only life that pays
When you recall You have but one life
Stephen is a man that wants to use his life to share the Gospel and make disciples. He has a heart for the Kingdom of God and for our church. I’m proud of him and know he will make a great deacon. God is raising up a humble servant.
Come up here buddy – and deacons Aaron and Jerry also
Aaron Reads
Jerry Reads
We will know ordain Stephen as our newest deacon!
Dad and the Leadership Team please come forward.
Stephen kneels – I Pray for God to bless his service and for protection from the enemy.
The deacons and Leadership Team pray
Stephen prays
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