Service Video Message Video Message Audio The service video is unavailable at this time. The sermon video is unavailable at this time. The sermon audio is unavailable at this time. Scripture Verses Acts 6:1-11, Acts 7:1-58, Romans 8:5-8, Romans 8:12-14, Galatians 5:16-26 Downloads & Resources Revolutionary Message Dr. Jon Morrissette - 5/9/2004 In Acts 6 a great need in the Church arose. Certain widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. So the apostles gathered the church together. In Acts 6:3-4 (NIV) they say, "Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word." One of the men chosen by the early Church was Stephen. Acts 6:5 (NIV) describes him as a, "man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit." Acts 6:8 (NIV) says he was, "full of God’s grace and power" and that he, "did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people." Later on in Acts 6:10 (NIV) we are told how people, "could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke." It isn’t by accident that we find such descriptive statements about Stephen in the Bible. They are there as a reminder of what all of us should seek to become in Christ. It’s what mothers should strive to become. It’s what fathers should strive to become. It’s what teenagers and young adults should strive to become. Stephen exuded qualities that are virtually extinct today. The qualities that are badly needed and that stand in complete contrast to those qualities our culture esteems most. Our culture values appearances. We are told to lose weight, buy perfume, style our hair, wear makeup, tone our muscles, make our teeth sparkle, and wear name-brand clothing. But here in Acts 6 we find an individual who has inspired millions of Christians down through the ages for demonstrating Christian character and virtue. This Mother’s Day and really every day are some of those times when we can reflect on our lives and ask, "Who am I known as? What will I be remembered by?" Stephen was known and is remembered as a remarkable person for a number of reasons. Stephen was a man full of faith. In Acts 6:9-11 Stephen finds himself at odds with his Jewish brothers over Jesus Christ. Unable to oppose him, they secretly persuade some men to falsely accuse Stephen of blasphemy against Moses and against God. Blasphemy was an offense punishable by death. Stephen is seized and put on trial before the same Jewish authorities that sought Christ’s crucifixion. They produce a number of false witnesses who accuse Stephen of speaking against the temple, the law, and the customs of Moses. They build what seems like a convincing case,at least until Stephen is allowed to speak in his own defense. In Acts 7 Stephen starts in the book of Genesis with Abraham and marches through our entire Old Testament, explaining how God has worked through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Solomon, the prophets and most recently, Jesus Christ. He demonstrated that God had always been faithful in keeping his promises to his people and that Jesus Christ lay at the heart of all God was doing in their world, right up into the present time. They were dumbfounded! Unlike so many Christians today, Stephen was well acquainted with his spiritual heritage. Today many people will say, "I’m Lutheran. I’m Catholic. I’m Baptist. I’m Methodist. I’m Presbyterian." Or more generically, "I’m a Christian." But do you really know what you believe? And, do you know why you believe? Stephen’s Jewish brethren didn’t believe in Jesus Christ, but they didn’t know why. They were adept at saying things like, "We believe in Abraham. We believe in the customs of Moses. We believe in the law. We believe in the prophets. We believe in the temple and in David. We believe in the ancient words." This became a way for them to avoid making a commitment to Jesus Christ. They hid behind their traditions and religiosity and false piety. And this is the very same thing that many of us do. Dead faith cannot change us. We cannot live on the faith of our forefathers or on our traditions. Our faith needs to be born anew, of the Holy Spirit. Our faith has to be real, fresh, and life-giving. It has to be ours! Well, Stephen challenged the dead faith of his Jewish brethren. "You believe in Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, the prophets. Great! What specifically do you believe? Why do you believe what you believe? What do you know about the faith of these ancient men? What do you know about the God they served? What do you know about God’s purpose and plan? What do you know about the temple, law, prophets, Moses, Abraham? How are you encountering the living God in new and fresh ways, just as they did? Not only did Stephen tell them what he believed about Christ, but he told them why he believed. Stephen believed in Christ because of what God said to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph. And Stephen believed in what Christ did to fulfill his promise in their lives. Stephen believed in Christ because Moses foretold the coming of Christ, because the law pointed to Christ, and because David and the prophets testified of Christ. Stephen believed in Christ because he dug deeply into God’s word and behind his own traditions to understand how God had fulfilled every single promise he’d ever made in Christ from the first day until now. The truth is that our faith will never change us or anyone around us until it is centered on Christ in the way Stephen’s faith was centered on Christ. The Jews were unprepared to oppose Stephen because his faith was real, alive, and thoughtful. In contrast, their faith was dead and artificial. They were living by the dead traditions of their ancestors. Their hearts were calloused and stubborn. They’d lost connection with God’s word and his Spirit. They didn’t know what or even why. Acts 7:54 (NIV) says that their response to Stephen’s defense was that, "they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him." And in Acts 7:57-58 (NIV) it says, "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." But Stephen put his faith in Jesus Christ. In death, Stephen looked into heaven and saw the glory of God and he saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God. He died on his knees, forgiving his enemies, praying for God to receive his spirit, glorifying the name of Christ. Stephen was remarkable for another reason. Stephen was a man full of the Holy Spirit. The apostles had told the church to find men known to be full of the Holy Spirit. In other words, men who had a reputation for being filled with God’s Spirit. Stephenwas one of the men who quickly came to mind. Stephen is described as being full of faith and the Holy Spirit. He is described as being full of God’s grace and power, doing great wonders and miraculous signs. Here is yet another example of a quality that our culture does not value. Beyond appearances, our culture values a person’s talents and abilities in music, sports, athletics, humor, or art. We value a person’s strength and endurance, his educational achievements, his net worth, his accomplishments, his independence, his position, his associations, his business prowess, or his family. But again, the Bible lists a quality that doesn’t often make the cut, "full of the Holy Spirit." A lot of people don’t know what to make of this obscure phrase, "full of the Holy Spirit." Yet there are a number of passages in the New Testament that give clarification. How do we know when a person is full of the Holy Spirit? In Romans 8 the apostle Paul fleshes out what it means to be full of the Holy Spirit by contrasting what it also means to be live according to the sinful nature. Romans 8:5-8 (NIV) tells us what the mind of a Spirit-led person looks like. "Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of the sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God." These verses are refreshingly clear about what it means to be full of the Spirit. Look at your inner thought life. Do you have a greater desire to please God or to live in sin? Is there a desire to submit to God’s laws or a spirit of rebellion and hostility? Romans 8:12-14 (NIV) says, "Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God." A person whose mind is set on the sinful nature gets defensive and angry when his sin is exposed. A person full of the Holy Spirit confesses, seeks forgiveness, and obeys. He puts to death the misdeeds of the body. He is willingly led deeper into God’s purposes. What is your attitude toward sin? In Galatians 5:16-26 (NIV) Paul moves from the mind and talks about the fruit that is evident in the life of a person full of the Holy Spirit. Again, this life is contrasted with the sinful nature. "So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law." "The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other." As you look at your life, what sort of pattern emerges? Are you full of the Holy Spirit? If you are led by the Holy Spirit, there will be visible fruit. Your priorities will change. Your temperament will change. Your thoughts and desires will change. Your relationship with your children and spouse and associates will change. Your character, integrity, lifestyle, passions, values, behavior, entertainment, music choices, time, and reputation are evidence of the Spirit's work in you. Everything about you is impacted. Your life will stand in stark contrast to that of the world. You will not blend into culture. Stephen was known to be, "full of the Holy Spirit." What are you full of? As he defended himself before the Jewish authorities, Stephen managed to strike a nerve. He exposed the fact that despite having all the appearances of being religious, the Jewish authorities were really hostile to God. They were not submitting to God’s laws nor even to his Holy Spirit. They had crucified the Christ and now they were prepared to crucify his followers. Stephen concludes his defense in Acts 7:51-53 (NIV) by saying, "You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him—you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it." Sometimes those who have been most exposed to God’s word and his purposes are among the most stubborn and stiff-necked. May that not be true of us here today. Let me mention just one last quality about Stephen. Stephen was a Christian full of wisdom. In his defense against false charges, Stephen reveals an insight to the Jewish authorities. In Acts 7:48 he points out that the Most High does not live in houses made by men. Heaven is God’s throne. The earth is God’s footstool. Man can never build anything, not even a temple, great enough to contain God. Stephen reveals that from the time of Abraham right into the present, God has always gone with his people. In Matthew 28:20 (NIV) Jesus says, "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Being full of wisdom means acknowledging God’s continual presence in our lives. It is striving to please him in every moment of every day regardless of what we are doing. It's acknowledging that we are God’s temple, that Christ dwells within us, that our lives are to bring glory and honor to God and that God’s temple is a place of holiness. It's living with a constant awareness that God is near and that we will one day give a full account of all that we do and say in the temple of God. The writer of Proverbs in Proverbs 1:7 (NIV) declares that, "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and knowledge." James 1:5 (NIV) says, "If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him." Are you living with an awareness that you are the temple of the living God? Do you understand that God must be honored in your thoughts, desires, feelings, heart, and body? Stephen's revolutionary message is also intended for us in today's world. This was Stephen’s revolutionary message to the Jewish authorities and it is a revolutionary message for all of us on Mother’s Day. Are you full of faith? Are you living by the conviction that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, our Lord and Savior, and King of the universe? Are you trusting that God will keep every promise to us, even in death? Or are you just coasting on the faith of those who have gone before you? Are you full of the Holy Spirit? Are you living with a spirit of submission and obedience? Is there evidence of the Spirit’s fruit in your life? Are you living by the Spirit and crucifying your sinful nature? Or is the sinful nature gaining power in your life? Lastly, are you full of wisdom? Do you see your body as the temple of the Holy Spirit? Are you striving to glorify God in your temple, pleasing him in every way, by living a holy and upright life? What qualities do you want to be known for? Who are you? Who are you becoming? Are you full of faith, the Holy Spirit, and wisdom? Or are you full of something else?