(Stephen says) “Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands. As the prophet says:
“Heaven is my throne and the earth My footstool.
What kind of house will you build for Me?” says the Lord,
“or what is the place of My rest? Did not My hand make all of these things?”
(Stephen continues) “You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered; you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” Acts 7:48-53
Stephen the deacon was having a pleasant conversation with a group of rulers and Pharisees, debating the essence of Christianity. Not!
I have to wonder how seriously I take myself.
Here is what I mean by that: Obviously my observation above is meant to be a joke of sorts. But after reading about Stephen, what do I model from the record of his speech and actions? Talking about the Gospel can be inflaming, controversial.
Just thinking about this (which is what we should do with the practice of journaling), I think there are two choices: 1) Kindly, gentle, and non-confrontational, or; 2) Fire and brimstone, in your face rhetoric. Really, the Stephen discourse can be focused on “You stiff. Necked. People!” by most. Satisfying. Full of self-righteousness. Feels good in a pompous sort of way. But that is not really reading what Stephen said. Stephen related the Gospel from a beginning to an obvious conclusion-as should we. The Gospel is just fact, not an argument, not a position. Fact.
Stephen starts with Abraham, runs through the history of his progeny, from Egypt and Moses, into David and Solomon. Stephen is careful to illustrate the Hand and Intention of God throughout. After building a pretty intense background for his audience, speaks a specific evaluation, firmly and courageously. The hearers were enraged (I can only guess their hearts were cut to the quick) and Stephen gave up his ghost under a storm of rocks.
Reading Stephen’s discourse, I wonder how good a grip I have on the Gospel? Could I really and deeply explain why Jesus had to die for my sin? Could I discourse about I am just not “lost” but I am already judged by God as a traitor and destined for a traitor’s judgement? Could I peel apart and talk about the amazing, miraculous, and wonderful myriad of facets of the Jewel that is the Gospel?
I can’t most days. Why is that? Because I forget.
CH Spurgeon was once asked: “Why do you preach the Gospel to your congregation every time you preach?” Chuck replied: “Because we forget.”
Preaching the Gospel to myself is not to prepare for a Stephen-moment. It is to keep my heart prepared for That Day when the skies split and the King of Glory descends. That’s cool. But…it is to also keep my heart prepared when affliction and trials come and I am required to keep my Hope firmly in front of me so that I persevere to the End, bringing honor and glory to Him who called me.
Lord God, You who are the Trinitarian God: Keep my heart and mind stayed on You. Allow me, help me to review and remember the Gospel every moment, every day, all of my days. I am powerless to surrender to You daily without the Gospel. I bow my heart; I bow my head to You O God, to You. AMEN.