Thursday, October 20, 2011

Seeking Balance

On Sunday nights our church is going through the book of Acts.  I thoroughly enjoy the verse-by-verse study and the informal q&a.  Last Sunday evening we worked our way through most of Stephen's "defense" before the Sanhedrin in Acts 7.  This a wonderful overview of how God moved to accomplish His purposes from Abraham on.  That red thread of redemption is found woven throughout the history of Israel.

I was just reviewing some of what we discussed and what I personally gleaned from this passage:

  • The high priest here probably was still Caiaphas.  It's difficult to imagine a religious leader could be so hardened to the truth.
  • Abraham grew in his faith and obedience as he did not fully obey God's commands to him.  He was also close to God in spite of not having a temple to worship in.  
  • God's presence was with Joseph, but he did not have a temple to worship in. 
  • The ruler and leader Israel rejected was the man God had selected to lead them:  Moses.  This pattern continues when they reject God's Chosen One:  Jesus.
  • Stephen condemned them for the way they worshiped the temple instead of the God of the temple.  This became an idol to them just as their forefathers had worshiped the golden calf in the wilderness. 
  • God is not confined to a temple made with hands.  Yet is He absent from our lives other than when we step into a church building?  Are we seeking His presence at home, work, on the road? 
The greatness of Stephen’s sermon is not only in its content, but in its courage. “He takes the sharp knife of the Word and rips up the sins of the people, laying open the inward parts of their hearts, and the secrets of their souls . . . He could not have delivered that searching address with greater fearlessness had he been assured that they would thank him for the operation; the fact that his death was certain had no other effect upon him than to make him yet more zealous.” -Spurgeon
This sermon ends with Stephen pointedly telling the religious leaders they are betrayers and murderers.  Ouch.  This hurt so much that they again killed someone more righteous than themselves. 

I mentioned to pastor that Stephen's words are quite bold and I struggle with finding the balance between being too gentle or too confrontational.  Okay,  I admit I typically error on the side of gentleness as I want to be perceived as being "nice."  Pastor responded by pointing out that Jesus was harshest with the religious Pharisees and Sadducees and was most compassionate to sinners who recognized their need for a Savior.  I know this is a pattern I need to follow. 

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