This week Pastor Chris preached on Following Jesus. In the book of Acts, we see Stephen full of faith, declaring truth to the Pharisee’s. As a result of Stephen’s obedience to follow Jesus till the end, he paid the cost of death to declare the truth. Stephen had every opportunity to hold offense against the Pharisee’s. However, he asked God to forgive them in full faith with his eyes fixed on eternity.
Luke 9:23 (ESV)
23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
Acts 1:8 (ESV)
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses (“martyrs”) in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Acts 6:1-7 (ESV)
1Now at this time while the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint arose on the part of the Hellenistic Jews against the native Hebrews, because their widows were being overlooked in the daily serving of food. 2So the twelve summoned the congregation of the disciples and said, “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables. 3“Therefore, brethren, select from among you seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may put in charge of this task. 4“But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” 5The statement found approval with the whole congregation; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, Prochorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas and Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch. 6And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them.
7The word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.
Acts 6:8 (ESV)
8 And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people.
- Motivated by the Love and Grace of Jesus
Romans 5:5 (ESV)
God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Acts 6:9 (ESV)
9 Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen.
2. Jesus Followers Will Pay a Cost
Matthew 23:3 (ESV)
3 so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice.
Matthew 23:27 (ESV)
27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness.
Identifying a Critical Spirit
- Find faults in others.
- Sit on sidelines cynically rejecting every effort that falls short of their unattainable ideal.
- Expect things to turn out bad.
- Often skip genuine inquisition into their own hearts.
- Claim they have exclusive corner on truth.
- Strong law with little grace.
- Expert at tearing down but novice at building up.
Mark 8:15 (ESV)
15 And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.”
Acts 17:10–12 (ESV)
10 The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. 12 Many of them therefore believed, with not a few Greek women of high standing as well as men.
- An attitude of hunger and hope.
- Cautious, but open.
- Loved the truth.
3. Jesus Followers Will Experience Injustice
Acts 6:10–14 (ESV)
10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. 11 Then they secretly instigated men who said, “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.” 12 And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, 13 and they set up false witnesses who said, “This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us.”
Genesis 50:20 (ESV)
20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.
4. Following Jesus Will Transform You
Acts 6:15 (ESV)
15 And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
Exodus 34:29 (ESV)
29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai, with the two tablets of the testimony in his hand as he came down from the mountain, Moses did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.
Luke 9:29 (ESV)
29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white.
2 Corinthians 3:18 (NIV84)
18 And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.
Acts 7:54–58 (ESV)
54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.
5. The Holy Spirit Empowers Us to Follow and Forgive Like Jesus
Acts 6:5 (ESV)
5 And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch.
Acts 7:59–60 (ESV)
59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
Luke 23:34,46 (ESV)
34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. 46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.
Signs of Unforgiveness:
- Nursing a grudge
- Desire for Revenge
- Gossip or Slander of Others
- Sarcastic Diminishing Humor
- Don’t Trust Others Easily
- Punchy, Edgy and/or Biting
What are some signs that you have totally forgiven someone?
- You genuinely desire the best for them.
- You can confidently and freely pray blessing over them.
- You desire to love them in increasing measure.
- You have no desire for vengeance or to expose them to shame.
- You do not hold their sin against them or keep bringing it up.
- Stephen would say that he was motivated by love and grace; what are you motivated by?
- When looking at the list Identifying a Critical Spirit, where have you been a Pharisee?
- Where do you need to be more Berean (attitude of hunger and hope, cautious and open, lover of the truth)?
- Read Acts 7:1-53. When reading verse 54, what thoughts do you have?
- True followers are one’s that forgive freely, are there areas in your life that need total forgiveness?
- Who are you following in your life? Are you following the things of this world or are you following Jesus?
- Be honest with yourself, what signs of unforgiveness show up in your life? Review the signs of unforgiveness above, is there anything that needs to be brought before God?
- What areas of your life have you had to deny in order to follow Jesus? What areas of your life still need to be laid down? What cost are you willing to pay to follow Jesus?