To obey Our Creator confronts the very core of our nature.
We want to define the rules, make our own exceptions and do things our own way. When we are honest with ourselves we know this is true in our own hearts. And we know that this describes mankind.
Give us a rule and tell us to obey and we will begin to formulate ways around it. At other times we will blatantly violate the rule and come up with excuses for why we had to disregard it.
Bottom line: we want to make up our own rules and devise our own exceptions so we can do what we want to do, the way we want to do it, whenever we please.
OBEDIENCE AND GOD’S PEOPLE
At least three accusations led to Stephen’s appearance before the highest court in the Jewish nation, the Sanhedrin. Briefly summarized, they accused him of being against God, Moses, the Law and the temple. In their minds, these were capital crimes.
In Stephen’s sermon to the Sanhedrin (Acts 7:1-53) he makes it clear that this sin problem characterized the relationship between the Jewish people and their God. Beginning with “the God of Glory” and His promise to Abraham, obedience to God was a continuing problem for Abraham’s descendants. No one in this ruling body of the Jewish nation disagreed with his analysis.
His speech to the Sanhedrin amply illustrates that Stephen was not against God, Moses or the Law. When it came to the temple, however, Stephen simply made the point that God is much bigger than a building. This was something that Solomon himself had declared when he dedicated the first temple (1 Kings 8:27; 2 Chronicles 6:18) and that God, Himself had told the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 66:1-2), which Stephen quotes:
48 “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says:
9 “‘Heaven is my throne,Acts 7:48-50
and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me?
says the Lord.
Or where will my resting place be?
50 Has not my hand made all these things?’[a
TURNING TABLES ON OBEY
Concluding his speech, Stephen finally drives home the conclusion that will lead to his execution. In short he makes it clear that it is the Jewish people who have disregarded God, Moses, and the Law. They, themselves, compounded their resistance against all three when they betrayed and murdered Jesus Christ, their “Righteous One.” He says:
51 “You stiff-necked people! Your hearts and ears are still uncircumcised. You are just like your ancestors: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him— 53 you who have received the law that was given through angels but have not obeyed it.”Acts 7:51-53
For believers in Jesus Christ, we never want to be accused of being against God, His word, or His commands. A way to prevent this from happening, I believe, is embodied in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-11). Paraphrased, we might state them as follows:
•We Celebrate Our Dependence upon God.
•WeConfess Our Own Sinfulness
•We Obey By Surrendering To His Will Over Our Own.
•We Hunger To Be Like God So We Choose To Obey Him.
•Like God, We Are Merciful To Others, Not Selfish Over Stuff
•Like God, We Live Transparently Without Hidden Agendas
•We Engage Conflict With Love, Unafraid. Not Intimidated.
•We Welcome Sharing in Christ’s Sufferings.
Sunday, December 16, 2018
Key Text: Acts 7:1-8:4
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