This Sunday Churches around the country are preparing for one of the highest attended days of Church of the year. Many churches will host Easter Egg hunts, and special programming, and of course preach the message of Christ's resurrection!
Many Churches shy away from using the word Easter at all, instead calling the day Resurrection Sunday. This of course is because Easter really has nothing to do with Jesus, or why we celebrate. In fact, the Easter traditions are rooted in Paganism. But that is not what this post is about.
I have witnessed many Churches in the last few years putting on huge Easter celebrations. Churches have carnivals, Easter Egg hunts and even dare to use the dreaded EASTER title. Some churches, do nothing extra special.
Many people in our society view Easter as the one day you MUST go to church, as if going on that one day will sanctify you for the rest of the year. Many people will purchase new clothes, and get up extra early to make sure they look good to impress the churchfolk!
So if this is the case, wouldn't that make Easter one of the most important chances of the year to evangelize? I have heard stories of many unbelieveing families, who would have never entered a church, attending simply because of the fun activities planned for the children in the community. Families who may never have had an opportunity to hear the gospel message,are now believers because of a church using the nonsense of "easter" to bring in people.
So, something to think about for Sunday......
Today, we spotlight the man named Stephen. His story only spans two chapters in Acts, but his life served as an example of all we can and should be as Christians, and his death, a catalyst for the Gospel being spread throughout all of the world!
Luke described Stephen as a man "full of faith and the Holy Spirit" (Acts 6:5), "full of God's grace and power" , and said that he "did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people" (Acts 6:8). Even with all of these attributes, Stephen was a humble man. He is described almost on par with the descriptions of the Apostles, yet took the position of serving and ministering to the neglected widows.
The phrase, "full of the Holy Spirit", indicates that Stephen had given himself over completely to following Christ. Because of that surrender, the power of God manifest on him continuously. Being full of God’s favor (Grace) he and able to have the Holy Spirit work through him in the form of miracles and signs.
Now, we either operate in the Spirit (like Stephen exemplifies), or we operate in the flesh. because these two natures (spirit and Flesh) are both in constant contention (Galatians 5:17). We cannot operate in both simultaneously.
In these chapters Luke wonderfully encapsulates the very essence of what we as believers face in our lives. When we make a choice to surrender and follow Jesus troubles will inevitably arise. In Stephen’s case it was in the form of religious people conspiring and leveling false accusations against Stephen.
In our lives it is inevitable that people will come against us. Be it atheists arguing the existence of God, or even religious people in our churches who want to argue doctrine, or those jealous of our walk or calling who try to tear us down. When confronted by these types of people, if we are not operating in the Spirit, the flesh will gladly take over. When we operate in the flesh we tend to respond to the accusers in a state of pride, anger or self-righteousness. How many times have you witnessed those who “evangelize” or who are “apologists” argue with their accusers, not in an effort to win their souls, but to win the battle. Battling with the absence of the Holy Spirit and grace of God leads to our own faulty wisdom being put before the perfect wisdom of God. The end result is usually the accuser being pushed farther from God and more entrenched in their own delusional and wicked behaviors. Thus, we become a stumbling block at that point.
Stephen’s example shows us how operating in grace and surrender allows God to speak and accomplish his goals rather than our own agendas. During his speech to the Sanhedrin , his accusers looked “Intently at Stephen and saw that his face was like the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15). The conviction and power of the Holy Spirit fell so hard, that they became enraged and “gnashed their teeth at him” (Acts 7:54). The best thing about this is that even in the midst of leveling charges against the religious people, his operation in the Spirit was evident. Stephen was allowed to see and verbalize that God had allowed him to “look up to Heaven and see the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. (Acts 7:55).
Now think of the last time you were confronted, persecuted or falsely accused. How did you respond? Did you respond by being full of the Spirit and letting God fight the battle, or were you full of something else?
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