A Faith Like Stephen's
in the first part of Acts chapter 6 what we saw was that they were Distributing food to the widows, but they were being kind of racist and how they did it because the greek-speaking widows we're being overlooked and they weren't receiving their allotment of food and the Hebrew speaking with us we're receiving there's also the solution that the church comes up with is to a point some Deacon to appoint some Servants of the church who would meet those needs and make sure that things were carried out properly Steven is one of those servants that they selected and reduced to a man verse 5 is a man who's full of faith and the Holy Spirit the day we're going to see The results of that Faith this man who was full of Faith. What kind of Faith was it? Look at versus 8 hours look at six 8 with me and will continue and Steve full of grace and power was doing great wonders and signs among the people then some of those who belong to the synagogue of the freedmen as it was called and of this Iranians and of the alexandrians and of those from celestion Asia rose up and disputed with Steven, but they could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he was speaking then they secretly instigated men who said we have heard him speak Blasphemous words against Moses and God and they stirred up the people in the elders in the scribes and they came up on him and sees him and brought him before the council and they set up false Witnesses who said this man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law for we have heard him say that Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and we'll change the Customs that Moses delivered. To us. What kind of face did Stephen have in it was a face that was readily apparent his his not just the church recognize this but the the world is seeing this the effects of this Faith but keep in mind it Stevens working in Jerusalem. A place where you can swing a cat and not scratched somebody who is faithful somebody who had face right don't swing a cat by the way kids. That's a bad idea. That's not nice. Right, you couldn't you couldn't do that it drusen with a Place full of face, right? You can see the whole life of that City revolves around face. But it was a different kind of faith and that's why they got mad at Steven because Steven was preaching Jesus resurrected from the grave and they didn't like that. Why? Because their faith was not built on Jesus their face was built on their religious rituals Stevens Faith had the audacity to be one that was not built on ritual so much so that they could accuse him. Of doing away with their rituals doing away with the law of Moses and we'll see in just a bit that that was not Stevens intent. His intent was not to be anti something his intent was to be very much for Christ as king. But the ritual face of his City student stark contrast to his own so they have these false witness is going to destroy the temple and destroy the law of Moses in the ritual system of worship that we have developed. That was Stephen said, but he did say the law wasn't enough. He did say that the rituals weren't enough now some of you going to laugh at me. So you're going to be with me? But sports are good. Amen, right so long as they don't become Idols Sports can be good and we can enjoy sports what's funny is how seriously people start taking their sports right. Now. I know that this year has been a little different than and it is kind of interrupted some of the seasons for different people so much so that I heard some of you were watching that, you know the darts championship for the cornhole Championship just desperate for some sort of fix right? You got a problem. All right. That's when you know, you have a problem. But I was looking at talking about rituals and and you look at people who play professional sports even amateur sports and and you see people have these rituals right there little pre-game rituals in the baseball players and they do their little walk up routine and it's the same every time like tap the left shoe twice all back and forth, you know it and all of that stuff right hockey hockey is this is the worst for for rituals and some of you are golden knights fan. I know you are but he has some really weird rituals like the hole in the playoffs don't shave thing. Don't touch the conference Championship Cup right different things that people do and they have all these rituals but here's what's crazy crazier than the rituals. What's crazy is that statistics? Tell us the rituals work know that they literally work sports psychologist have statistically proven that those with pre game rituals performed at a higher level than those without them. Why why do they work? Well because they're just convincing themselves that they work they invest the power of belief in the ritual and all of a sudden it does what it's supposed to do. That's not the Christian faith. The Christian faith is not faith that we invest our power of belief and the better. We believe it the more we believe it the more likely it is to work. That's not how the Christian Life Is But that's very much how the faith of Stephen's day was the faith of Stephen's day was all about that. It didn't matter what you believed. It. Didn't matter your heart behind what you believe you'd rather just better that you did the thing right half the less you twice that was basically the space that he was coming against they were saying what hey, we got the temple we got these sacrifices. We got all these things. And so that's why our faith works. And Steven stands up and says no. What matters is not your belief in the ritual? What matters is whether or not you believe in? The one that God sent to save you from your sins? What matters is not that you can say the right words in the right order what matters is not that you can do the right things. What matters is that? It's Jesus is King and that's reality in your life in your decision making process in the day today. Walk that you have it's not a ritual and I say that this morning because here on the on the first Sunday, you know, we're going to participate in a ritual. And it's not though the ritual like the sport Superstition. It's not a ritual like the sacrifices that were offered in the temple. At least it ought not to be we're going to take a symbolic meal together where to take the Lord's supper together, but I want you to understand this morning. the Lord's Supper is not some mystical thing where if you just do it in the right order funny story about that. Sorry funny story about doing it in the right order. My first time taking the Lord's Supper here at Red Hills. I was all set. We are getting ready. Here we go. And I proceeded to do the elements backwards. CBS remember this or is this just me?
And here I went to let the cat out of the bag. Oh my goodness.
thankfully thankfully Bryant was one of those who is serving with me and he said the other one goes first the Bryant at least knew anyways, right, but what matters is not the order what matters is not the magic formula that we whisper over the cup none of that matters. What matters is did Christ really live? Did Christ really die did Christ really rise from the dead and is he really coming again? Yes. The Tower of the reminder the power of the ritual of taking the bread and taking the cup is found not in whether or not we believe it. It's found in whether or not it really happens. If Christ is risen Christ is King. We're pointing to something very important when we take this meal. And so if you're if you're a Christ follower who's participating with us this morning, I'd encourage you to grab those elements that you got earlier.
We ran out. I am so sorry. If if you do not have them join with us in spirits. because as we take this what we're trying to do is not somehow through the power of our belief bring some sort of spiritual benefit down on ourselves all we're doing when we take this together is we are recognizing three things. We're recognizing the unity of Christ's followers. We're recognizing that apart from Christ. We would not be unified apart from Christ. We would not be together. We're recognizing that we are his body. We're also celebrating his death. I think the strange thing to celebrate. Until you realize when we celebrate his death we can't stop there we go on to celebrate his resurrection we celebrate his resurrection and when we take this weird, joyfully proclaiming to everyone that he's coming back one day we Proclaim this until he returns he is coming back these statements this ritual moves Beyond just a mere I hope I do it right. I hope I say it in the right order which I think I'm going to get it right. We'll see. into God thank you for your son Church. The body of Christ was broken for you do this in remembrance of him?
And as his body was broken. His blood was shed. Do this in remembrance of him?
Because church when we do that. It's not just a ritual. It's all reality. It's our Proclamation. to the world To ourselves to one another Jesus is King.
Steven was opposed by those of his day because he had a face that wasn't dependent on ritual May our faith not be dependent on ritual May there be aspects of discipline aspects of habit that reinforce our face. But may our faith never rest in those things the next part of this that we see here is it Stephen is brought up on these charges, right? They've charged and they got these false Witnesses who are saying this man never ceases to speak against the holy place this man never ceases to speak against the law of Moses.
But we'll see that Stephen doesn't care. Because Stevens face Not only was it not dependent on ritual but it was not dependent on any man. Or any Human Institution or anything else other than Christ his faith did not depend on that his faith rested somewhere else and I want to read it longer chunk of scripture now kids. I know you can focus this long, but can you please help your parents stay focused as we read this longer section of scripture. I want to start in verse 15 of chapter 6 and then pick up chapter 7 as well. And gazing at him all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an Angel Steven in care. About them his faith wasn't in them. He was focused elsewhere. First one of chapter 7 in 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 her on and said to him go out from your land in 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 her run after his father died. God removed him from there into this land in which you are now living Getty gave him no inheritance in it not even a foot length, but promise to give it to him as a possession and to his offspring after him though. We had no child and God spoke to this affect. His offspring would be sojourners in a land belonging to others who would enslave them and a flick them for 400 years, but I will judge the nation that they serve said God and after that they should come out and worship me in this place and he gave him the Covenant of circumcision. So Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcise him on the 8th day and Isaac became the father of Jacob and Jacob of The Twelve Patriarchs. What's Stevens doing is he's just given us a replay right? He's he's given us this replay of God's work through history and he points to this great hero of the faith Abraham. But he doesn't stop there. That's not where the space stop somewhere the story stops. He keeps going and the Patriarchs jealous of Joseph sold him into Egypt, but God was with him 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 overall his household. Now there came a famine throughout all Egypt and Canaan and great Affliction and our fathers could find no food. But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt be sent out our fathers on their first visit and on the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers and Joseph Family became known to Faroe and Joseph Stanton some and Jacob his father and all his Kindred 75 persons and all Jacob went down into Egypt and he died he and our fathers 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. Now we're moving on. What what about Jacob or what about Joseph Wright? I look at Joseph. We don't put our faith in Joseph cuz he died everybody else died. We keep going but as the time of the Promised You near which God had granted to Abraham the people increased and multiplied in Egypt until there arose over Egypt another king who did not know Joseph. He dwelt shrewdly with our race and forced our fathers to expose their infant so they would not be kept alive 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. And when he was exposed Pharaoh's daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son and Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and he was mighty in his words and deeds. Here's another hero of the face. Moses Jesus mighty person should we put our faith in Moses? When he was 40 years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers the children of Israel and seeing one of them being wrong. She defended the oppressed man and Avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. He suppose that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand and on the following day. He appeared to them as they were quarreling and tried to reconcile them think me and you are brothers. Why do you wrong each other but the man who is wrong and his neighbor threatened with side saying who made you a ruler in a judge over us. Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday at this retort Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian where he became the father of two sons. Maybe we shouldn't put our faith in Moses. You just killed the dude. His own people reject him and he runs into exile.
Now when 40 years have passed an angel appeared to him in the wilderness is Mount Sinai in a flame of fire in a bush. When Moses thought he was amazed at the site Nancy Drew near to look there came the voice of the Lord. I am the god of your fathers the god of Abraham and of Isaac and Jacob and Moses trembled and did not dare to look then the Lord said to him take off the sandals from your feet for the place where you are standing is Holy Ground. I have surely seen the Affliction of my people and needs a diaper there groaning and I have come down to deliver them. Now, I will send you the Egypt this Moses whom they rejected saying who made you a ruler in the judge this man God sent as both ruler and Redeemer by the hand of the Angel who appeared to him in the bush this man let them out for forming wonders and signs in Egypt in at the Red Sea and in the wilderness for 40 years. This is the Moses who said to the Israelites God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brother's this is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to Mount Sinai and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us. And our fathers refuse to obey him but thrust him aside and in their hearts, they turn to Egypt saying to Aaron make for us God's will go before it's asked for this Moses who let us out in the land of Egypt. We do not know what has become of him. They made a cast in those days and offer the sacrifice to the idle and we're rejoicing in the works of their hands, but God turned away and gave them over to the worship of the host of Heaven as it is written in the book of The Prophet. Did you bring me slain beasts and sacrifices during the 40 years in the wilderness Zoe House of Israel know you took up the tent of moloch the star of your God ref on the images you made to worship. I will send you into Exile Beyond Babylon. All that history packed in right there. And if you want the rest of the story, so to speak you can go read about this in an accident, right Steven is simply recapping the events of Genesis in the events of Exodus for his audience saying you keep looking to these men you keep putting your faith in Moses your faith in Abraham. Jesus had to deal with the same thing, right? He looked at the Pharisees and he said look you think your big deal is that your sons of Abraham. God can raise sons of Abraham from the rocks. You think Moses and his laws what's going to save you Moses isn't going to save you. Steven is pointing us to to see if our faith should not be dependent on any man or any Human Institution and yet what do you see today? What do you see today? You see a world of Temptations to put your faith in a man or in a Human Institution. Politically if so-and-so doesn't win we're doomed.
Look at the scale of world history. Look at the scale of the history of the church. Look at some of the things the church has faced before and come through just fine because Jesus said I will build my church and the Gates of Hell will not succeed against
I don't think we need to idolize. A political person or a political party as the people of God. We don't need to idolize religious leaders this it seems to be a uniquely not uniquely. It's not unique. Let me let me take that back but I strongly American way of doing the faith. I remember it. So I listen to a lot of different like really eclectic music when I say eclectic. I mean just not Not the kind of music that you might expect the pastor to listen to We Go There way. Fair enough. All right, and I used to think like back in middle school has to have always loved music and I used to listen to some of these secular artists secular bands not be like man. If only they would become Christians what an impact they would have on the kingdom. What was I do and I was idolizing these people and thank God you can't work through me. You can't work through, you know my buddy in the youth group, but you could work through somebody famous like that. We have the temptation to idolize Bible teachers that we liked. This is this is it a particular Temptation for those of us who have been in the face a little longer. We kind of fall into these camps right this week. I was on the Bible project and I've showed videos from Bible project. I love Bible project videos and I realized that I've actually had when I was going to show today so but I realize that's like all I ever show. Like if I show a video in church, I show Bible project and I'm like no, It turned out great stuff, but I don't need to idolize them as the only source of good teaching on the internet, right we do this when we say, I don't know what the face will do without Ravi Zacharias. I don't know what the church will do. Now that Charles Stanley's retired once so and so is gone. I don't know how we'll ever survive. You're probably the same way that we've survived for 2,000 years with Christ is King. Not putting our faith in any man. We attempted to do this politically religiously were tempted to do this culturally. We look at the stars. We look at the the the pop culture icons and it's 20 20 has brought no greater blessing than this. It's that we realized we can survive without movies. We can survive without Sports going back to the earlier statement. If you can when you talk about that, we can survive without of these without all these things. We put our trust in that we idolize because our faith is not dependent on any man woman Human Institution. Our face is on something greater. Must be if we're going to have a faith like Steven Steven recounts the history of Israel pointing out all of these guys that you put your face in Abraham Joseph Moses. They all send they all died. What happens to your face when your idol Falls? If that's what it's based in your faith fails. We need a faith. It's not depend on any ritual not dependent on any man and not dependent on any place not dependent on any place. Look at verse 44. Our fathers have the tent of witness in the wilderness. This is a tabernacle. Just to see who spoke to Moses directed him to make it according to the pattern that he had seen our fathers in turn brought it with Joshua when they dispossess the Nations that God drove out before our father. So it was until the days of David who have found favor in the sight of God and who asked to find a dwelling place for the god of Jacob, but it was Solomon who built a house for him. And right there you come to the hearts of the faith in Jerusalem. Why is Jerusalem great because we got the temple? Why is the temple great because that's where we worship God you have this whole interaction between Jesus and the Samaritan woman will our father said that you were out of worship in on this mountain or father said you are worse than is not what did Jesus say? Telling the day is coming when they will not worship on this mountain of that mountain, but those who worship my father will worship in spirit and in truth. We have a face that has been released from any dependents on any place this matters. Why because a tabernacle or a temple can be destroyed or you might find yourself far away from that place or Someone might just decide that you can't meet there anymore. If your face is bound up on something that is destructible something that is physical something that is at the whims of some politician somewhere. Your faith is misplaced. Steven says Look, we have a tabernacle had to take a look what he goes on to say 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 these things.
He's saying to the people of Israel know. Your face can't be in a place. It can't be dependent on a location.
And we say well that wouldn't be us. That wouldn't be us. And yet maybe it is.
So I made up a story yesterday. I want to tell you guys to illustrate this point I wanted to introduce this as I remember this story, but I know it's not your I made it up.
But here's what I want you to imagine with me. I want you to imagine a family getting ready to go to church and and they all pile into the car and they they walk into church. And and in one of it one of the kids little boy as he sitting down he accidentally stubbed his toe on the seat as he's trying to slide into his feet and he says a four-letter word. That wasn't amen. All right. Can you picture the dad hush don't you know, we don't talk like that in church. right That's got a point. but maybe we shouldn't talk like that elsewhere to Imagine this little boy then takes his dad listen to heart goes home for Sunday dinner and they've invited his uncle over in his uncle's coming over he's going to eat and then they're going to they're going to change the oil in his car and as they're sitting down to eat the uncle says, you know, I don't know why you guys bother was going to church. I mean God is everywhere. So like the whole world is my church. They finish their meal and they go out to the garage and has happens when you're working on a car the uncle's hand slips off. The wrench need buses Knuckles against the side of the engine and he says a four-letter word. That wasn't amen. Little boy looks at him and says hi don't you know you can't say words like that in church. Right if everywhere is church. Then we don't have one standard for Behavior inside a building and one side for outside. If everywhere is church. Guess what? That changes the nature of our faith because we can't just show up and put our smile on and avoid saying those words. mbok God says know my work is much bigger. I don't dwell in a place. Another song says where can I go from your presence? Oh God. If I Ascend to the highest peak if I go down to the deepest ocean yet you are there. And yet if our faith is just a ritual dependent on a man depending on the place. Where is limiting where God can work? We're saying I only hear God and I get the rest of it. Only hear God and I'll do what I want with the rest of it only him only her only denomination only building. But God is not limited like that. So our faith can't be limited like that. We don't want a phase that is dependent on ritual. We don't want to face its dependent on human beings. We don't want to Ritual or efface. It depend on any sort of place. So what kind of Faith do we want? I would submit to you that we want a face like Stevens. Let me read the last Parts here starting in verse 51. You stiff-necked people uncircumcised in heart and ears. You always resist the Holy Spirit as your father's did so to you which of the prophets did your father's not persecute and they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the righteous one whom you have now betrayed and murdered you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it now when they heard these things they were enraged and they ground their teeth at him but he's full of the Holy Spirit gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and he said behold. I see the heavens opened in the son of man standing at the right hand of God, but they cried out with a loud voice and stop their ears and Rush together at him then they cast him out of the city and Stones him and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul and as they were stoning Stephen. He called out Lord Jesus receive my spirits 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.
What kind of Faith did Stephen have? What kind of faith? Did he have it wasn't dependent on some ritual. It wasn't depending on anybody. It wasn't dependent on a place. It was dependent on God's work when Steven looks back at the history of God's people. He said the same God that was moving and active and gave us Jesus and the same Jesus that he gave us saves us and he still at work today. His face was not in any of those things. His face was in God and his ability to work so much faith that he didn't even told back from calling out the religious leaders and their faith there phosphate. He didn't even hold back like these guys to me would have presented a pretty terrifying aspect. Right. Here's a bunch of guys. Who just got done beating the leaders of the church who throwing them in prison? And Stephen says you stiff-necked people. He doesn't pull back from the clearing the truth. Why because his faith wasn't in his words. His face wasn't in his ability to avoid the problem with to avoid the trouble. He says bring on the trouble if Christ is glorified bring on the hardship. Because I'm convinced that God can and will and does and always will be at work in his world. He spoke the truth depending on God Alone.
Whatever the consequences he had a face that was dependent on God alone. And he had a face that looked to Christ alone, right? So he speaks the truth knowing that God worked before and that God could work again. Without fear knowing the possible consequences and then he receives the consequences they were in raged and they gnashed their teeth at him. But he looked up and he saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. He said behold. I see the heavens opened and the son of man standing at the right hand of God. Stephen doesn't even see the chaos going on around him. He doesn't even see the Rage of these arrayed against him. He sees Christ. He's not looking around. He's not looking down. He's looking up and he's seeing the Risen Savior standing at the right hand of God. His faith is looking to Jesus alone. Church, that's the kind of life. That's the kind of face that we desperately need in our day. We have plenty of people who are looking around at the chaos who are bemoaning. The situation we find ourselves then let them. Look at Jesus. Keep your eyes fixed on your king. Alone a faith that is dependent on God's work of faith that looks to Jesus and a face that changes. hearts Steven Had a Heart Change
How do we know that? Because as the Rage of the crowd comes against them comes against him. He does not fight back. This is the most Supernatural evidence for the truth of the Gospel that I could ever. Hope to see. Because I know my heart somebody swings at me. Guess what? More than likely I'm swinging back. Stephen doesn't What Stephen do? As the stones are flying. He's forgiving the ones who were throwing them. And he's asking not just for him to forgive. He's asking God to forgive them. He's taking the example of Jesus on the cross said father forgive them. They do not know what they do and he's living that out quite literally father forgive them. They know not what they do. Lord do not hold this sin against him. His heart is changed by his faith. What kind of faith Forgive that. The stones are falling. Does that face live in your heart?
Or do you have the faith that says I'll take care of me and mine.
All right, any wrongs perpetrated against me? Do you have the boastful heart of lament from the Old Testament?
I'll take care of my own. Kill a man for striking me. Now we want to have a faith like Stevens it says. father forgive them We want to have a face like Stevens. But even as the blows of the enemy come we love them with a supernatural Holy Spirit inspired kind of love. Faith depend on God's work a face that looks to Jesus alone a faith that changes our heart and finally a faith like Stevens is the faith that will carry us through anything even death. Curious through note that I say through Stevens face did not fail at the moment his heart stops beating. Stevens Faith continued through that death. This is the great proclamation of the Christian faith. this life is but a Prelude to the real thing. That this life is just the beginning of this incredible story that God is writing it. He's invited us to be a part of If you've not read CS Lewis's the last battle, I would encourage you to do so after having read, you know, the six books that came before it.
But The Chronicles of Narnia CS Lewis in the last battle has this great depiction of what the death of the believer means. And I'm going to paraphrase it and get it horribly wrong. So you really should go read the original.
And they realize that everything to that point. Had merely been the introduction. And now they turned the page 2 chapter 1 of a story where every chapter is the better is better than the one that came before. Church our faith if it's a face like Stevens is a face that can carry us through anything death ceases to be the enemy because Christ has conquered the enemy. Now we have a hope that is undying unkillable Unstoppable on persecuted mobile.
Not dependents on freedom not dependent on success not dependent on Fame not dependent on rituals not dependent on any person not dependent on any place a face. They can sustain us no matter what comes I don't know about you church. I don't I don't want to Faith. Like what Stephen saw in his persecutors looking back at him as they threw their stones? I want a faith like Stevens. I want a faith. Descent because Jesus is King.
Everything Changes because Jesus is King.
He's all that matters now. Is that your face? Is that your heart?
May I ask you this? If it's not. Why not?
Why haven't you made that decision yet? Why haven't you given up? the choose-your-own-adventure faith Why haven't you given up trying to control your life? Look at the mess you've made of it this far.
Turn to Christ Alone depend on God alone. Let that kind of Faith change your heart and let that kind of Faith sustain you through anything. Let's pray.