- Sermon Notes
Do You Know Who’s Watching?
February 13, 2022
Over the year’s I have always enjoyed the teachings and exhortations of the Apostle Paul. This particular one in Acts 7 calls our attention to the first Christian Martyr, Stephen, for his testimony of Christ.
The text struck me as a powerful reminder to all of us about who’s watching our walk and the testimony of Christ in our lives. We, too, are His ambassadors and as such, we should be reminded about our influence for the Gospel.
The background here in Chapter 6 describes Stephen, a man chosen to provide ministry to the church, a man full of faith. The Bible says he was full of the Holy Spirit. He turns out be a bold courageous preacher and ultimately the first Christian martyr recorded in the scriptures. His testimony brought him be-fore the Jewish supreme court or counsel.
Similar to the day we live in, Stephen encountered leadership who attacked him when they couldn’t win him over with argument and debate. He was on the wrong side of the narrative regarding the Gospel, so he was labeled a blasphemer against Moses, God, the Temple and the law.
The conviction caused them to lose control. Stephen, with the face of an angel representing dignity. Contrast the panic and hatred against him. The difference be-tween heaven and hell. The contrast between the two is spelled out for us. The world vs. the soul of Stephen. Stephen confronted them boldly and gently and they killed him for it.
When the High Priest asked him in v7:1, are the things said about him true, Stephen answers in the verses leading up to our text. His answers reflect him as a be-liever, not a blasphemer. The conflict rages when he tells the court that they and their forefathers are the blasphemers and accuses them of being a den of thieves.
Acts 7:54 – 8:1
I. The Holy Spirit Enables You
v55 tells us Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit, his comforter and the same power in our lives. God was watching him and he remains calm. This should be a normal response from Christians.
• If you look at the history of the church, no martyr of the church died with rage and anger or called down fury on persecutors.
• If you struggle with anger, you might find that an amazing truth and it should produce conviction.
• But be encouraged, the Holy Spirit desires to equip and enable you with calm and divine strength.
1 Pet 4:14, If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory, and of God, rests upon you.
Luke 12:11, Now when they bring you before the synagogues and the officials and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say;
A. Even in death, people are watching
v56 – there are a number of commentators who spend time speculating about why Jesus is “standing” at the right hand of God instead of what the scriptures say throughout the New Testament; that he is “seated.”
It is an unusual sight described here, but perhaps acti-vated to welcome one of his own, Stephen. A saint seeing Him stand to welcome him.
v56 will remind you of those very words heard when Jesus Himself was asked in Mark 14:62,
Mark 14:62, And Jesus said, “I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
v57-58 – Rabbi Saul is indeed the same Apostle Paul we come to know later. In fact, Acts 22 says Saul ap-proved the blood of Stephen.
Acts 22:20, And when the blood of Your witness Stephen was being shed, I also was standing nearby and approving, and watching over the cloaks of those who were killing him.’
Contrast this between death and life; killing vs. entrance into glorious life, v58.
Stoning was the appropriate method of the day for blasphemy, even though in this case, based on the lies of their witnesses.
v59, Stephen became the first Christian martyr in his-tory for the Lord Jesus Christ. He says, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit, just like the Lord did. Sanhedrin has blood on their hands.
Note there’s no purgatory here. Stephen’s spirit goes immediately to the Lord, the body to the ground, awaiting the rapture upon Christ’s return.
v60, falling on his knees, he pleads for forgiveness for those who stoned them – a hero of the faith. Full of love and then he “fell asleep.”
B. Be an active tool for God to use
His death affected Saul. In Timothy, Paul says, “I thank Jesus our Lord.”
Paul later gives his personal testimony to the Jewish King of Agrippa and the Roman Governor, Festus of Judea. He tells them how Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus and he was kicked off his horse.
Acts 26:14-15, And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.’ And I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting.
• “It’s Hard” to kick against the “goads.”
• What does that mean?
• A goad is a long rod with a sharp end that is used to prick an animal to move. When an animal kicks against a goad it inflicts pain to the kicker. This is the word-picture that Jesus uses with Paul.
• Similar to the Holy Spirit prodding Paul towards faith, but Paul was resisting the Holy Spirit by mis-treating Christians; like he did Stephen.
Saul had been watching the brutal treatment of Stephen. In spite of that the Christians prayed for him and they forgave him. Little by little, the Holy Spirit used this to convict his heart until his heart was ready to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thus Saul became the Apostle Paul and went on to save and change the whole world for Jesus. Consider all those who watched and continue to watch Paul’s life. These people now watch you and see if you walk this talk because even in the weakness of the flesh, action matters more than words.
You never know who is watching!
II. Prepare Yourself to Influence Giants
Personal Testimony from watching others –
That person watching you might be the next giant of the faith, a Luis Palau or Franklin Graham or a young Pastor Rich feeling led to plant a new church.
God uses us by His grace to potentially impact thou-sands for Christ. Paul has impacted millions for the gospel.
• Did those who influence us for Christ know how God was going to use us?
• Do we know who’s watching us?
• Perhaps your children, your grandfather, your neighbor, a co-worker?
• You never know what God might do with that per-son you influence for Christ. You may encounter the next giant of the faith.
A. God will use you if you trust Him
Illustration – Macau China
B. Embrace life’s challenges to advance the Gospel
Your greatest testimony to those watching is when you are in duress, not success. Remember that important lesson when you are going through troubles or challenges and you wonder where God is.
How did Jesus handle all the abuse thrown at Him?
1 Peter 2:23, and while being abusively insulted, He did not insult in return; while suffering, He did not threaten, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;
He kept on entrusting Himself to God who He knew would judge righteously when God was ready.
A life lesson for us. Jesus let all the mistreatment and rotten behavior pass on to God. He just kept giving it to God. He didn’t deal with it because He knew God would judge behavior when He was ready.
Jesus was a tunnel not a wall. He let it pass right through because He trusted the Father to do what He said He would do.
What do we often do? We turn it over in our mind and our spirit hardens towards these folks leading to no good thoughts.
We lose all of the joy in our Christian experience when we walk around willing God to crush someone because we say so.
That’s a wall. God didn’t call us to be a wall. Ste-phen wasn’t a wall. He was a tunnel.
C. Christ needs more tunnels, not walls
The Bible says, never repay with vengeance. The Bi-ble says, leave room for the wrath of God, that venge-ance is His, “I will repay says the Lord.”
Romans 12:17-19, Never repay evil for evil to any-one. Respect what is right in the sight of all people. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all people. Never take your own revenge, be-loved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written: “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord.
• His timing is not ours.
• He’s not having lightning strike right now.
• He says, His way, not our way.
Testimony – Home Growth Group
God brought me through that life challenge. But while I was thankful for his provision in our life and His care for my family, professionally I was bitter.
It was some time later that Pastor Rich taught on this very topic and quoted from Romans 12.
I was watching him, listening to him. We all know that God and people are watching teachers and those in the pulpit.
James 3:1, Do not become teachers in large numbers, my brothers, since you know that we who are teachers will incur a stricter judgment.
The result was victory for me. And an opportunity to be a tunnel not a wall, passing it through to Jesus Himself. I was free and I couldn’t wait to tell Rich af-ter the service.
This is the promise of our savior as followers of Christ.
• We don’t have to tarnish our testimony or wrestle in the mud or take the low road.
• We can return good for their evil.
• God gives us the ability to forgive them for their misplaced deeds!
Take this truth home –
• God and other people are watching
• Be a tunnel – send it on down the road to Jesus
• Let God deal with it.
Maybe you too can say; “I” am just going to act like Stephen. I am just going to act like Jesus.
54 Now when they heard this, they were infuriated, and they began gnashing their teeth at him. 55 But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, looked intently 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 shouted with loud voices, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one [a]mind. 58 When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he [b]fell asleep.
1 Now Saul approved of putting [c]Stephen to death.
And on that day a great persecution [d]began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except for the apostles.