Overcoming a Sinful Cycle
12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, “This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law.”
1 Then the high priest asked Stephen, “Are these charges true?”
2 To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham…
He went on to tell them in great detail the story from Abraham all the way to Solomon concluding this way:
Being questioned is a chance to preach the gospel.
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.”
You are just like your ancestors
1. Evil always repeats itself.
Application: Identify evil by patterns from the past.
Example: Addictions always lead to isolation.
The flesh masquerades as something unusual or “new”.
Example: There is now something called 3 parent family adoption. The article was littered with one phrase over and over, “He wanted to have a family ‘on his own terms’.
The flesh is always after the same thing. Submit to no one. I am god. I do things ON MY OWN TERMS.
Steven said, “You are just like your ancestors”
You always resist the Holy Spirit!
…BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE !!!
Application: Hang with people who are going in the right direction even if that means breaking away from normal routines and people.
2. Jesus can break sinful cycles.
If we want him to…
One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”
He gave Jesus an excuse. “I have no one to help me into the pool…”
Application: Choose to be well, verbalize it, act on it.
Unfortunately, these guys heard the FULL GOSPEL but wanted nothing to do with it.
54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
There is joy in seeing God.
3. There is joy in being persecuted for righteousness.
“Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
There may be more chance than ever to ‘suffer disgrace’ for the name of Jesus.
Example: Amy Coney Barrett is being criticized for being a part of a church that encourages the NT model of marriage and the laying on of hands for healing.
Application: Don’t be ashamed to speak against popular opinion, but actions speak louder than words.
57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
Maybe if they covered their ears, they wouldn’t hear what he was saying.
Maybe they would’t be responsible…
Even from birth the wicked go astray;
from the womb they are wayward, spreading lies.
Their venom is like the venom of a snake,
like that of a cobra that has stopped its ears…
4. Deliberate ignorance is no excuse for sin.
Example: I hear about a person suffering who I could help, but don’t want to know. I cover my ears.
Application: God is speaking. Are you listening?
59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.
He knew that holding this sin against them was no condition to meet Jesus in.
5. There is no fear in death for those in Christ.
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
What’s the opposite of fear? Courage.
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
What are you afraid of?
Application: What decision would you make if you didn’t have any fear?