Stephen Knew What to Stand For
“And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.…” Acts 6:8
Stephen, THE first Christian martyr, had earned great influence among the people (Acts 6:8). Fearing the loss of their own influence, Jewish religious leaders seize this leader and bring him before the council.
In his defense, Stephen displays an unwavering commitment to his convictions. In the face of authorities with the power to execute him, he stands and expresses what he knows to be true, both about Christ and the religious leaders’ stubborn hearts. This leads to his stoning (7:58-60). His straightforward manner leaves the religious leaders with no argument; they can only throw rocks. Yet even this doesn’t shake him. He dies, gazing into heaven, asking God to forgive his murderers.
Where did the commitment come from?
See the source of Stephen’s commitment by considering his words and sensing his attitude:
1. He had the presence of God in his life (6:8, 15).
2. He based his commitment on a biblical foundation (7:2-38).
3. He saw the error of past thinking (7:39-41).
4. He spotted the resistance of the religious leaders (7:51-53).
5. He kept his eyes on Jesus, the truth (7:55).
6. He maintained his perspective (7:60).
Commitment moves past the mind and emotions and goes straight to the will. The ancient Chinese said that the will of a man is like a cart pulled by two horses: the mind and the emotions. You must get both horses moving in the same direction to move the cart. Commitment results when your mind and emotions move forward, whatever the cost.
Commitment starts in the heart; is tested by action; opens the door for accomplishment; can be measured; enables a leader to make decisions; and flourishes with public accountability. Stephen was committed to Christ!
Sunday Lesson AM
“21” Crucial Qualities of Christians: #3 - COMMITMENT
I. The Quality Defined
a. Matt. 16:24
II. Ruth – The Great-Grandmother of King David
a. Ruth 1:3-22
III. Caleb & Joshua Will Enter the Promised Land
a. Numbers 14:1-24
b. Joshua 14:6-15
IV. Stephen Pays A Price for Commitment
a. Acts 7:1-4
b. Acts 7:8-10
c. Acts 7:17-25
d. Acts 7:29-39
e. Acts 7:44-60
a. Matt. 16:24
Sunday Lesson PM
Be Reconciled to God!
2 Cor. 5:12-20
I. The Text In Context: The Focus of Paul’s Role and Work
a. 2 Cor. 5:11-13
b. 2 Cor. 5:14-16
c. 2 Cor. 5:17-21
d. 2 Cor. 6:1-2
II. Pictures of Alienation & Reconciliation
a. Gen. 27:41-43
b. Gen. 31:38
c. Gen. 32:13-20
d. Gen. 32:20
e. Jer. 3:1; Deut. 24:1
f. Jer. 3:8
g. Jer. 3:12-14
III. Man’s Alienation from God, God’s Offer of Reconciliation
a. Eph. 2:1, 11-17
b. Col. 1:19-22
c. Rom. 5:8-11
d. 2 Cor. 5:17-21
e. Acts 2:36-38
IV. Learning the Spirit of Reconciliation
a. Prov. 6:19; 16:28
b. Prov. 10:12; 17:9
c. Matt. 5:9, 23-24
d. 1 Cor. 13:4-8
e. Eph. 4:31-32
f. 1 Cor. 7:10-11
g. Matt. 19:9
h. James 3:13-18
COMMITMENT: Jesus Christ vs. Simon Peter
Luke records a stark contrast between the commitment of two leaders, Jesus Christ and Simon Peter. While Jesus remained resolutely committed to His cause and His people in the face of betrayal and rejection, Simon Peter ran away. Although the big fisherman claimed he would never deny his Master, he did so three times before the night ended.
While Peter emphatically denied Christ around a little courtyard fire, that moment merely expressed the condition of his heart. His commitment level had already drained away in the Garden of Gethsemane. There he felt helpless, powerless to maintain the promise he had made (Matt. 26:35).
When our commitment drains away, we follow the same progression as Peter:
Stage 1: His Following Became Distant. “Peter followed at a distance” (Luke 22:54). This is not what Jesus had in mind in Matthew 16:24. Peter is still following Christ, but incognito. He’s no longer ready to die.
Stage 2: His Fellowship Became Divided. “Peter sat among them” (22:55). Now the guilty disciple is mixing with an uncommitted crowd. He’s a man without a country. He’s torn between the apathetic and the committed.
Stage 3: His Faith Became Deluded. “But he denied Him saying, ‘Woman, I do not know Him” (22:57). His words now reveal his weakness, even among men and women who pose no immediate threat to him.
Stage 4: His Fervor Became Denial. “But Peter said, ‘Man, I do not know what you are saying!” (22:60). Peter rejects any association with Jesus. His words no longer display apathy, but rejection.