Saturday, November 17, 2012

November 17, 2012 … Going All the Way for Jesus

Chronological Bible Reading Plan - Day 322

Passage of the Day: Reference of Today’s Chronological Bible Study: Acts, Chapters 7-8 To study these chapters, go to this link

Highlight Passages: Acts 7: 51-53; 57-60 : [NLT] … {After presenting a brilliant apologetic defense of the faith from a Jewish point of view, this Greek. showing a vast knowledge of Hebrew history and the faith of the fathers of these religious leaders from whom Stephen was defending himself, the leaders couldn’t stomach his stance of truth and justice; and they ordered Stephen stoned; and the ring-leader of this band of injustice was one Saul of Tarsus, who would, of course become the Apostle Paul. This incident no doubt had a deep impact on this young Pharisee and leader in the Sanhedrin.}
  51 “You stubborn people! You are heathen at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? But your ancestors did, and so do you! 52 Name one prophet your ancestors didn’t persecute! They even killed the ones who predicted the coming of the Righteous One—the Messiah whom you betrayed and murdered. 53 You deliberately disobeyed God’s law, though you received it from the hands of angels.” … 
57 Then they put their hands over their ears, and drowning out his voice with their shouts, they rushed at him. 58 They dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. The official witnesses took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul. {This, of course, was Saul of Tarsus} 59 And as they stoned him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And he fell to his knees, shouting, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!” And with that, he died.
Highlight Passages: Acts 8: 1-4 : [NLT] … {Saul, who would become Paul, was one of the great character illustrations of just how God can change and transform a person; because here in Acts 8 we see him as a “hit-man” for the Sanhedrin, persecuting and jailing Christians, … even having them killed, as he was likely the supervisor of Stephen’s martyrdom. }  
1 Saul was one of the official witnesses at the killing of Stephen. … A great wave of persecution began that day, sweeping over the church in Jerusalem, and all the believers except the apostles fled into Judea and Samaria. 2 (Some godly men came and buried Stephen with loud weeping.) 3 Saul was going everywhere to devastate the church. He went from house to house, dragging out both men and women to throw them into jail. 4 But the believers who had fled Jerusalem went everywhere preaching the Good News about Jesus.

Reference Passage: Romans 12: 1 : [NLT] … { It is interesting to me that later, after God’s transformation of Saul of Tarsus to Paul, the Apostle, God would write this truth through the pen of Paul. Note how this passage characterizes Stephen, who had become Christianities first martyred “living sacrifice.”}  
1 And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? 2 Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is. 

My Journal for Today: Yesterday, in my chronological reading segment in Acts 6, we were introduced to the first Christian faith martyr, Stephen, a brilliant Greek, who had become totally surrendered as a “living sacrifice” in his faith to/for Christ. And here today, in my reading of Acts, Chapters 7-8, we see just how far Stephen was willing to go in standing up for Christ in a hostile Jewish world. And as I said above in bold in my introduction of Acts 7, we read of Stephen, standing against the Sanhedrin and giving a brilliant defense of the truth, using Jewish history to show the religious Council the injustice they had committed in crucifying The Christ.

But the Sanhedrin would have none of Stephen’s claims; and just as they had done with Jesus, the Council convicted Stephen and ordered him put to death, this time by stoning. And in this first Christian martyrdom, we see a man who had become completely surrendered in his faith to Christ, even to the point of praying mercy for those who were killing him, just as Christ had done on the cross.

And I find it incredible irony that the one who likely supervised the “hit” on Stephen was Saul of Tarsus, who would later become the Apostle Paul and pen the wondrous truth, in Romans 12: 1-2, quoted above, about how Christians becoming “living sacrifices” when they are transformed by the power of God’s Spirit. Here was Saul, observing a Greek who had TOTALLY become a living sacrifice for His Lord; and later, after we read of Saul becoming Paul, this hitman for the Sanhedrin would also become that living sacrifice, transformed by his faith, as Paul also wrote about in 2nd Corinthians 5: 17.

And my study loudly (at least to me) declares the question, asking if we, as Christians, have become enough of a “living sacrifice,” as was Stephen, to give our all, surrendering to and for our Lord, and Savior, Jesus.

My Prayer Today: … Oh, how I pray, Lord, that I am one those like Stephen and Paul who have been transformed into a “living sacrifice” for You. Amen

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