Friday, June 2, 2017


(by Pastor Joe)
The Word for Today: Acts 8:5-25
Before we delve into the world of an unsung hero of mine, Philip the Evangelist, and the rest of Acts, I wanted to put in a final thought to conclude the whole matter of Stephen. For the past two days, Franklyn has highlighted the bigger picture of Stephen- that stretches all the way back to Genesis and leads us right to the cross. For today, I wanted to see what exactly got him in such hot water to begin with.
mark this: Acts 7:35
"This is the same Moses whom they had rejected with the words, `Who made you ruler and judge?' He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush.
For the first dozen or so times I read through this message given by Stephen, I always thought it was strange how he spent the first 50 verses giving a history lesson, and then suddenly and without warning, he seems to switch a flip in verses 51-53, where he goes ballistic on his hearers.
I attributed this outburst to all sorts of things, spiritual and not so spiritual. Where did this sudden rebuke come from? Why give an account of all the patriarchs to those who already knew the story?
And then upon reading it one more time, the brilliance of Stephen began to dawn on me. (It's about time!) As Stephen describes Abraham, Joseph, and Moses in detail, it becomes very apparent of the theme that links these men: rejection. Abraham was called by God to leave all that he knew, that included a rejection of his old life and family. Joseph, being the favored child, was rejected by his own brothers and sold as a slave. All this, despite the fact that he would one day be the very vessel of provision for all of his family.
In the same way, Moses too was a very special child (v. 20), who had a special upbringing (v. 21), and a special meeting with and calling from God (v. 32-34). But just like Joseph before him, Moses too was rejected by his own people. Even after all the amazing miracles that God did through him (the plagues in Egypt, the Crossing of the Red Sea, Receiving the Law on Mount Sinai), the Israelites "rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt." (1)
Suddenly, this cry of "you stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears" (2) ceases to be an insult or personal attack, and instead is the main message of Stephen's sermon. It sounds basically like this: Your forefathers rejected Joseph and they rejected Moses. You have rejected Jesus. Some things never change.
It is the main message for all mankind. We reject what is best.
We've heard story after story of even our "great ones" being rejected:
- Michael Jordan being cut by his high school basketball coach
- Walt Disney being fired for"a lack if imagination"
- Abraham Lincoln & Winston Churchill frequently and repeatedly losing elections
- Colonel Sanders's chicken recipe being rejected over 1000 times
But the examples above were rejected in ignorance.
Our rejection of God is far more insidious.
More so than anything else, what unites all of humanity is our rejecting God, His ways, His truth, His judgments, and His authority. That rejection looks different from culture to culture, just as it is different from person to person. But human history started with mankind leaving a garden, walking away from God, and we've collectively maintained that estrangement. Our autopilot always takes us further from Him.
So please stop deluding yourself in thinking that somehow you are immune to that natural pull.  Every person tends to reject God. The question becomes, what am I going to do about it? This is an issue that everyone has to deal with everyday- do I receive God's words, or do I reject them? Because, even as a follower of Christ, I still feel the temptation to reject the very one who has rescued me. 
That is why the call to "Repent!" is just as fresh and necessary today as it was the day I trusted in Jesus Christ for forgiveness. The only way to keep this wandering heart of mine from walking away from God is to turn to him again and again and again.
(1) Acts 7:39
(2) Acts 7:51

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