Acts 7 – The Danger of Religious People

AUDIO [00:33:46]

Pastor Dan Borgelt – Transcription
“You know I would venture to say that most people in this room have probably either heard this phrase or maybe even said it yourself… and the phrase go something like this,

“You know…  I’m not a very religious person.”

I’m guessing most of you have probably either heard that before, or maybe even said it yourself, “You know I’m not a very religious person“.

As a pastor when I get into conversations with people that may ask me, “Well what do you do for a living?” and I tell them I’m a pastor, they often respond by saying something like, “I’m not a very religious person”.

And some people say it to me sort of ‘apologetically’, sort of ashamedly… you know.  They’ll say, “Well you know I’m not a very religious person”They’re assuming that I want them to be a more religious person. 

And other people though, they’re more defensive, they’re a little stronger in their conviction, and maybe even sort of attacking in an attacking way, they’ll say, “Well I’m not a very religious person.”  

I’ve heard that expression on many occasions, and after being in a church for about seventeen years, and particularly after studying this chapter that we’re going to look together this morning, I’ve decided that the next time someone tells me, “I’m not a very religious person,”

I’m going to say, “Well I’m so glad to hear that, because I’m not a very religious person either.” (LAUGHTER)

And maybe, perhaps, you might want to borrow that idea and conversation.  You might want to see where we go with our sermon… what do I mean by that?

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UntitledThis morning I want to talk to you about a few of the dangers of religious people… a few different ways that I find religious people to be dangerous; ways that come from our ACTS SERIES together this morning.

If you’re new with us, we are going through the Book of Acts, which is the fifth book in the New Testament. It’s the recording of the early church, and we’re studying through it, and walking through it, about one chapter per week.

Now last week we were in Acts chapter six, which means this week we should be in Acts … (he pauses intentionally for effect, and to stimulate their attention skills)… Acts, chapter seven… good you’re paying attention still.

And we should be an Acts seven, but I want to invite you to Acts Six actually, because we are looking at the story of a man named Stephen.  And the story of this man named Stephen actually begins with the end of chapter six.

Now if you were here with us last week the name Stephen is not an unfamiliar name to you, because last week,  Stephen in our section of Scripture, was sort of elected by the early church to be a leader in the early church.  But not one of those kinds of leaders who’s running around making decisions and things, but he was elected to be a leader that we often call today a deacon–someone who is called to serve and to care for people.

And particularly in this context, he was elected to go on to take care of some of the early widows of the church. 

Now you might be thinking, “How does doing something like that–caring for widows–get somebody in trouble?

Well let’s read the passage of Scripture, and let’s see. Alright, let’s look at verse eight.  Acts 6:8, the Scripture says this… Luke is writing this and he says.

Stephen Seized

Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.

As we pause there,  we realize that Stephen’s ministry is fruitful.  OK.  We can sum that up by saying, “It’s a fruitful ministry; it’s doing some amazing things”… and when someone is doing fruitful ministry, other people are going to take notice–both good and bad.

Scripture goes on in verse nine and says,

Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia—who began to argue with Stephen.

Let’s pause there because we’ve come to our first danger of religious people that I want to highlight for us this morning. And that is that,

1 – “Religious people oppose the mission of God” – Acts 6:8-9.

... that religious people oppose the mission of God. You see here we go, we have the early church, it is fruitful… the ministry is fruitful, and it’s abundant, and it’s growing, and opposition arises repeatedly.

One of the things we’ve been talking about here at Kirkmont, is if you as individuals, or we as a church, when we start doing the real work that God has called us to do as a people, there will always be opposition to that ministry. 

This is a repeated theme in the book of Acts so far.

Do you remember the early church… on one hand we’re getting all these positive recordings from Luke about all the amazing things that are happening in the church:

  • “there were only a hundred twenty people,
  • then there were three thousand;
  • then there were  five thousand.

We’re seeing the church boom and grow, and all kinds of amazing things are happening, but also escalating is the opposition as well. 

Dividing Line

A few chapters ago the early Apostles were told, “You can’t talk about Jesus anymore.” …   There’s some opposition, but it’s not that big.  And then later, they were thrown in prison… overnight, for talking about Jesus — the opposition’s increased, but still very doable.

Then they were flogged, and beaten, and mocked for talking about Jesus.

And now let’s just let the cat out of the bag in case you’re not going to stay with me for the next twenty five minutes….

Stephen is eventually put to death…

So the opposition is growing.  There’s opposition to the church as the church is moving–religious people oppose the mission of God, or the mission of the church–they’re one in the same.

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This past weekend I was at a Presbytery Meeting, which is a meeting of our denomination; and one of the things we did was break into some groups and we started praying together.

I was in a small group of people, we were sharing prayer requests, and this person spoke up and said, “Well I’d like you to pray for our church.” And I said, “Why is that?” and they said,  “Well I think that our church is to outward focused.

Some of you think that’s really silly; and some of you are like, “Amen.” (LAUGHTER)

And I’m sitting there as a pastor who tends to be outward focused, and I’m like, “OK Sure I’d love to pray for that.” …you know.

So any ways, what I’ve discovered, and I think God used that as sort of a divine appointment to help me have a more pastoral heart in all of this… here at Kirkmont, we’re talking about but being missional and reaching our community and evangelical and reaching people and all those types of things.

And I just want to let you know this morning that if you can empathize with the religious people who tend to be concerned or worried about the mission of the church… if all this talk about, of “being missional” somehow threatens some of your understanding of the church, I want to just let you know that I believe Christ is inviting us this morning to take all that worry and concern about all that type of talk, and to put it at the Foot of the Cross.  And to begin to see “missional” in a different lens.  To not be worried or to be concerned about it.  But to consider the idea that God drawing people to himself is a beautiful thing. 

And even more beautiful and profound and mysterious is the fact that there is a God out there who does not need you and I to do that… but he invites us to allow him to work through us to be a part of that.

And it’s a  glorious thing… and it’s a wonderful thing.  It ought not to be something that we need to be opposed to, or worried about, or concerned.

When we get together and we focus on the mission of the church, and God starts to work through us, it’s a wonderful thing.

So if you can relate at all to these early religious leaders here, I want to invite you to take that worry and to put it at the Foot of the Cross, and not accidentally be like the religious people who oppose the mission of God–that is the mission_of the church.

Gold Dividing Line

Well, let’s keep going through our passage, the Scripture then says, These men (the same religious leaders, 

began to argue with Stephen. But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave him as he spoke.

11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, “We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.”

Hmmm….

This brings us to our second danger of religious people, and that is,

2 – Religious people favor falsehood over truth – Acts 6:10-11

Religious people favor falsehood over truth.

You see one of the things that we find in this passage, is that these religious people have entered into an argument with Stephen.

Now let’s just say that you and I entered into some sort of theological argument, but one of us, at the end of that argument, convinced the other that their argument was stronger.

What would we expect to have happen?  What should happen is that the other person should say, “Thank you for bringing this argument before me, and all of this information, I’m now going to change my view in light of our discussion together.”

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But religious people are so focused on opposing the mission of God, that instead of being persuaded by Stephen, Luke records, “They acknowledge the fact that they were in the wrong... that Stephen outwitted them, that Stephen was full of the power of God, that they’ve been defeated through their debate.

But instead of conceding to that reality, they’re so focused on opposing the mission of God they raise up false witnesses, and spread rumors and lies to try to oppose the whole thing.

You see, all across churches in America today, including not only people in the pews, but pastors as well, there are people out there who are trying to manipulate, and lie to get their church to have the outcome that they want it to.

And oftentimes it’s with good intentions–they care about their church, they’re invested in their church, they want it to be a certain place somewhere, but they are so invested in it that they break character and they’re willing to lie and to spread falsehood and gossip to ensure that the outcome of the church is what they want it to be.

And here’s these early leaders… they see the church is moving in different directions … that the history of Judaism, in their eyes, is being threatened by this movement of this church by these followers of Christ.  And they’re so intent on putting that to the end, they’re willing to spread falsehood and lies instead of embracing the truth.

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And if you are here this morning, and in any way at all you can relate to them, you feel at times tempted to break character, and to follow suit along the lines of these religious people, let me just say this morning,

“We serve a good God.  And we are not responsible for dictating the outcome. God calls us to walk in the light… and to live according to The Spirit of Truth.”

That’s our job. 

And to trust that he’s a good Sovereign God…that he knows where Kirkmont’s been… that he knows where Kirkmont is right now; and he knows where Kirkmont’s  going to be, and we ought to have all the confidence in the world that his plans for us are good.

He’s a good God.

Now we don’t ever have to break character to try to ensure our own outcome.

Gold Dividing Line

Alright…  then moving on in the passage of Scripture, this third point I want to bring to you is this idea that religious people worship something other than God.

3 – Religious people worship something other than God – Acts 6:12-7:50

So religious people:
1 – oppose the mission of God;
2 – favor falsehood over truth, and
3 – Religious people worship something other than God.

 …specifically, the LAW and the TEMPLE.

Let’s look in verse twelve,

12-14 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against (now here’s the two-part accusation), he never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.”

So, all of the sudden, Stephen is brought with these two charges–that he seems to have not a high enough view of the law and of the temple.

They value the law and the temple to a great degree, and they’re accusing Stephen as being someone who has sort of rejected those things because he doesn’t value them high enough.

But they don’t recognize that, because of their lack of a real personal relationship with God.  They have begun to worship the law and to worship the temple, holding it up to a place that it was never meant to be held up to in the first place.

And the thing is, the high priest, the high priest who is hearing these accusations, he could have said, “These are silly accusations, that’s not what it’s all about; that’s not what being a faithful Jew is about.”

But instead he seems to be one of these religious people who have also bought into this lie and he instead, looks at Stephen he says, “Are these charges true?”

7:1 Then the high priest asked Stephen, “Are these charges true?”

This isn’t a part of my outline, in verse fifteen, before the High Priest says this, the Scripture says this beautiful verse.

15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

What a wonderful verse.

You see what Luke is saying is that this is a man who’s filled with the presence of God.  And I think we’re supposed to see the contrast between these religious people bringing these accusations, and the face of Stephen.

And if we’re honest, sometimes we allow our disposition and our demeanor to be more like that of the religious people–face filled with anger and hatred and frustration…. instead of a face filled with the presence of God.

What do you want out of your life?… I mean do you want to continue to be a religious person who’s walking around with all of your bitterness and anger and frustration.  Or do you not long to be described as Stephen is here… as someone who’s very confident–exudes the presence of Christ?

I think we’re suppose to see the contrast of the of the awfulness and the ugliness of being a religious person… and the beauty of walking with Christ.

Are these charges true?

And now Stephen gives us this long response.  And listen… this response must be understood in light of the point we’re making now, and that is religious people worship something other than God particularly the fact that he’s charged for not having a high enough view of the law and the temple.

Gold Dividing Line

This is a long section of Scripture… those of you with, what is it, ADD?…  I mean.  I don’t know…  I don’t know what to say (LAUGHTER)… we’re praying for you… OK?  This is a long passage of Scripture (Laughter continues… he’s so funny, in a cute little boy way)much longer than I’ve ever read at one time

But here’s how I’m going to motivate you to stay focused… all right? … this one page or page and a half in my Bible of Scripture is… it’s a summary…  it’s a beautiful summary of the thirty nine books of the Old Testament.

So you can listen to this page and a half, or go home and read the thirty nine books of the Old Testament (LAUGHTER)–it’s kind of like our Children’s Message… OK?  So stay with me, and then you’ll get the Cl… who likes the Cliff Notes? (LAUGHTER).  Here they are…

Stephen’s Speech to the Sanhedrin

7:1 Then the high priest asked Stephen, “Are these charges true?”

2 To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Harran. ‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.’

“So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Harran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living.  He gave him no inheritance here, not even enough ground to set his foot on. But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child.  God spoke to him in this way: ‘For four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated.  But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves,’ God said, ‘and afterward they will come out of that country and worship me in this place.’  Then he gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision. And Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him eight days after his birth. Later Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs.

“Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God_was_with_him and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt. So Pharaoh made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace.

11 “Then a famine struck all Egypt and Canaan, bringing great suffering, and our ancestors could not find food.  When Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our forefathers on their first visit.  On their second visit, Joseph told his brothers who he was, and Pharaoh learned about Joseph’s family. After this, Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family, seventy-five in all. Then Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and our ancestors died. Their bodies were brought back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought from the sons of Hamor at Shechem for a certain sum of money.

17 “As the time drew near for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt had greatly increased. Then ‘a new king, to whom Joseph meant nothing, came to power in Egypt.’ He dealt treacherously with our people and oppressed our ancestors by forcing them to throw out their newborn babies so that they would die.

Little commercial here… “Why do we think that Stephen is going all the way back and telling this long detailed account?

For one reason, he’s been accused of not embracing the Temple, and the Law–two pinnacles of the Jewish faith, and I think one of the things he’s showing them, “Look… I know what I’m talking about, I know my history.

But I think the main reason he’s going back, is deeper than that… but let’s keep going on, verse 20,

20 “At that time Moses was born, and he was no ordinary child.  For three months he was cared for by his family.  When he was placed outside, Pharaoh’s daughter took him and brought him up as her own son.  Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and was powerful in speech and action.

23 “When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his own people, the Israelites.  He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not.

Now, does this parallel anyone?

So God sends someone to rescue his people but his people reject him.” (Jesus.. but they did not…

 26 The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?’

“But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us?  Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’  When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons.

“After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai.  When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight. As he went over to get a closer look, he heard the Lord say:  ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’[f] Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look.

“Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.  I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.’

“This is the same Moses they had rejected with the words, ‘Who made you ruler and judge?’ He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. He led them out of Egypt and performed wonders and signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the wilderness.

“This is the Moses who told the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your own people.’  He was in the assembly in the wilderness, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living words to pass on to us.

39 “But our ancestors refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt.  They told Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!’  That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and reveled in what their own hands had made. But God turned away from them and gave them over to the worship of the sun, moon and stars. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets:

Let me pause there.

So we are under point three, this idea that religious people worship something other than God.  They’ve accused Stephen, because they have too high of a view of the temple and of the law, they’ve accused him of not having a high enough view.

So he comes back and goes all the way back and now he gets to the law here.  He gets to Moses’s receiving and giving of the law and he tells them that while Moses was receiving the Law, “You are telling me I have rejected the law but while Moses was receiving the law people just like you were doing what? … building a golden calf to worship.  And you’re saying, I rejected that the law? 

Gold Dividing Line

But one of the tendencies of being a religious person is to have too high of a view of the law, and of legalism.  It’s a tendency, because it takes the place of a real relationship with God.

If you’re still measuring your standing in your relationship with God at the end of each day, or the end of the week, or the month, or the year, based on how good or how bad you’ve been, then it’s a good sign that perhaps you’re struggling with this idea of being a religious person, instead of depending upon having a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Some of you are struggling with that because you grew up in communities of churches filled with religious people.  You’ve had the burden of growing up in a religious based church peaked on you over the years and you haven’t come out from underneath that burden.

I’m inviting you to take that burden to hear God’s word and say, “That’s not what he’s calling us into–that’s what religious people do… they heap all the guilt and all the burden upon us because they value the law so highly.  But they don’t have a real relationship with the living God.”  

You don’t have to keep living under that !!!

God is inviting you into a relationship with him to experience the full measure of his Grace and Mercy and Forgiveness.  And don’t be like the religious people who value the law and try to measure themselves according to it.

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Now that’s one accusation.

The other accusation was that he didn’t have a high enough view of the temple.  Now listen… he’s going to address that is well.  I’m going to go down to verse forty four he starts to say, “All right… you want to talk about the temple, let’s talk about the temple…

44 “Our ancestors had the tabernacle of the covenant law with them in the wilderness. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen. After receiving the tabernacle, our ancestors under Joshua brought it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before them. It remained in the land until the time of David, who enjoyed God’s favor and asked that he might provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. But it was Solomon who built a house for him.

David’s son, Solomon built the house for him. David’s son Solomon… well he didn’t really build the Temple, he had it built, right?

48 “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hand.

You know, in First Kings, Chapter eight verse twenty seven, when Solomon finishes the temple, you know what Solomon says… he says, “All right, are you really going to be confined God, to living here on Earth? I mean the heavens and earth cannot contain you.  How much less this temple that I’ve built for you?”

Even Solomon, while understanding the importance of it, recognized its limitations.

But over the years.  Due to an absence of a real relationship with God, these religious people had elevated the temple to a place it was never meant to be elevated to.

And you know what… that’s happening with religious people today all the time.

  • There are people in churches in America who are saying, “Look, the location that we’re at as a church is no longer appropriate for our mission–we need to move.”
  • And people are saying, “But if we moved… we’re called First Avenue Baptist Church and if we move to wouldn’t be able to call ourselves that anymore.”  I mean…
  • Or, “If we moved from the corner of Shakertown and Fairfield we’d have to go find somewhere else that had a hill because we’re called Kirkmont, Church on a hill. (LAUGHTER).
  • There are people who have elevated the building to a place that’s never meant to be elevated to.

But… there are people in churches all across America who are saying, “Look, this church was fitting and appropriate for the mission of the church a hundred years ago, fifty years ago, twenty years ago, but it needs to be changed in light of what we need to do today, in light of who we’re trying to reach today.”

And people are throwing up arms in opposition to that because over the years, they’ve elevated the place of worship to something that it was never meant to be.

Gold Dividing Line

I’ve thought to myself, “OK, pastor…  you know, here at Kirkmont… are there any… are there any such sacred cows?” 

So I thought let’s look, let’s stay just in our sanctuary (light laughter in background).

I would never suggest this, but let’s say we hired a consultant who suggested (laughter, then he laughs too)… let’s say we hired a consultant who suggested… and I’ve identified three things, that if a consultant suggested, we probably run them out.

1)  If a consultant said that we should move_that_Cross back there, in any way… I think we’d probably end up running him out.

And you say, “Well I don’t know… aren’t we supposed to do that? Isn’t the cross important? … The Cross is absolutely important.

But the cross was never meant to be the object of our worship–it’s a manmade item.  It’s a wonderful thing, but it’s man made.

That’s not the cross that Jesus was crucified on; and even if it was the cross that Jesus was crucified on, we shouldn’t worship it either.  The cross is a visible reminder of the one who we are supposed to worship.

And yet, in churches, that’s the type of thing that will divide entire congregations, because somehow they have elevated things to a place they were never meant to be elevated to.

If we took a Cross that look just like… I almost, I don’t have the technical savvy, but I wanted to take a picture of that cross and put it on the screen and say, “Is there a moral difference between the two?”  And the answer is “No”… neither of them should be the object of our worship–they’re just visible reminders of what Christ has done for us.

It’s a beautiful thing. Thanks be to God for the person who took the time to make it, who paid for it… all those kinds of things.  But let’s not elevate it to something that it ought not to be elevated to.

Are there other any other… by the way, so you know, this is not me… a consultant, right?… 🙂 a  consultant comes in and says all right fine…

Yes… yes, that’s right;  someone pointed to the stained glass window, that’s the next thing that I had in mind.  I’m thinking that,

2) Removing the stained glass windows would probably get a consultant fired.

Money back please… we don’t want that advice.  Because we value things over years and tradition, to the point where, while they’re important and they’re significant… friends, are you telling me that they’re more important than people?

I’m not saying we have to choose between the two, but I’m just saying, IF FORCED TO CHOOSE… if someone came in and convinced us that somehow making these changes would help us in our mission.  Would we be so opposed to the Mission, that we’d be willing to spread lies or do whatever to to make sure it didn’t happen?  

Gold Dividing Line

We must value our relationship with Christ more profound than anything else around us.

Someone mentioned pews is number three… and then since my sermons a little long today they said oh by the way we also worship the clock. 

(LAUGHTER)

Speaking of which, we need to move on.

Our last point we won’t be spending as much time on, but it’s actually the most important point–that seems kind of odd.. huh?

It’s just a shorter, more precise point, in verse fifty one… I think actually this is the real, beautiful reason why Stephen goes all the way back.  And that is…

4 – Religious people reject Jesus – Acts 7:51-53 

1 – Religious people oppose the mission of God.
2 – Religious people favor falsehood over truth.
3 – Religious people worship something other than God, and
4 – Religious people reject Jesus. 

Verse fifty one… I’m going down fifty one now.

51 “You_stiff-necked_people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just_like_your_ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 

Stephen probably wasn’t preaching this so that he could like, “land a job” and “get a call to the church” (LAUGHTER)

52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. (And here it is)… And now you have betrayed and murdered him— (that is the predicted one, the Righteous One–Jesus Christyou who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”

Friends… there’s incredible irony in the fact that they are accusing Stephen of rejecting the law, while THEY are rejecting the One who came and fulfilled the law. 

There’s incredible irony in the fact that they are rejecting the building that they thought was to contain God… while rejecting God Himself. 

They rejected Christ… and I want you to see this morning, that if you can at all relate or identify with this people… that this is not a message about making you feel bad or guilty.  This is an invitation from God to say, “Don’t settle for the religious behavior.”  

God wants to have a relationship with you. Do not reject Christ because of religion.

Gold Dividing Line

For our last part, I just want to invite you to stand. We’re not going to talk about this. Will you stand for the last section of the reading of God’s word.

I’m asking you to stand because, in the Bible, this is our first account of a brother or sister in Christ who was a follower of Christ, being put to death for their commitment to Christ.  And we ought to be moved and motivated by Stephen’s faithfulness.

I can’t even imagine how many brothers and sisters in Christ over the centuries, all faced with martyrdom, thought of Stephen’s faithfulness, as the as the motivation to continue to be faithful to Christ.

And so I invite you to hear this word.

The Stoning of Stephen

54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.  “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

57 At this 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. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.

59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

And Saul… was there giving approval to his death.

I invite our praise team to come forward at this time; I invite you to pray with me, as we prepare to sing our closing song together this morning.

Heavenly Father… we invite you to take this passage of Scripture and use it to shape and direct our lives in however you would to draw us closer to your Son Jesus Christ–to make us more like him. 

We thank you for this passage of Scripture… for Luke’s account of this early church… and for many of the struggles that they went through.  And if we’re honest.  All of us in this room, certainly myself… we can identify with some of this religious behavior.  We confess that to you…

…for all the times that we have just thought of other reasons, and other things we think are more important and we should be more focused on other than the mission of the church… we say we’re sorry. 

We ask you to help us in the process of laying those things down that we’ve placed above you, and to focus on our relationship with you.

By your grace and mercy will you help us to experience new heights of the joy of walking with you.

And we ask these things now, in Christ’s Name.

Amen.

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Kirkmont Closing Pic Combo

Kirkmont Composite Pic

  Link to Kirkmont Presbyterian Church Website
http://www.kirkmont.org/

Listen to recent sermons
http://www.kirkmont.org/listen-to-recent-sermons/

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