Emulating Jesus {Acts 7}

1:10 AM

By Lisa Moore

These days it seems you can't listen to the news without hearing stories of Christians being persecuted or killed, with little public outcry. Not surprising from a world that rejects Jesus.  As times become more perilous, we as followers need to be prepared to suffer and possibly lay down our lives for our Savior.  And just like Stephen, the Church's first martyr, we can become powerful witnesses whose testimony can change lives.

Stephen was a deacon in the early Church and was, "full of grace and power", who was "performing great wonders and signs among the people", (Acts 6:8).  Members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen, opposed Stephen on theological grounds, "But they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.", (Acts 6:10).  In response they hired false witnesses who accused Stephen of speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God.  As a result, Stephen was taken into custody and questioned before the council of the synagogue.  But instead of answering the charges against him, Stephen recounted the history of Israel beginning with Abraham and ending with the fulfillment of God's promises through Jesus.  He finished with charging the council with the murder and betrayal of the Messiah.  Enraged, members of the council and others dragged Stephen into the streets where he was to be stoned to his death.  Now you'd think that fearing for his life Stephen would have been crying out for mercy, proclaiming his innocence.  Instead, he gave such a beautiful and powerful testimony, that it forever changed the life of a young man observing nearby.  A young man named Saul.

The word martyr comes from the Greek word "martys", and means witness or testimony.  The Gospel is based on the testimony of those who saw Jesus crucified, buried, raised to life, and ascended to the right hand of the Father.  As Christians, there is no greater calling than to give testimony to what the Lord has done in our lives. We are to be living witnesses ready at a moments notice to, "make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.", (1 Pet. 3:15).

We may not all be called to physically die for Jesus as Stephen was, but we are all called to die to self; putting the will of God before our own and allowing Him to work through us.  But working for God's Kingdom is not an easy task.  The moment we begin spreading the Gospel to others, we put ourselves in the line of fire from the enemy.  Jesus made it very clear that loving Him brings out the hate for God in the human heart, making us a target for the ungodly.  Paul warns us that, "Indeed all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus, will be persecuted.", (2 Tim. 3:12).  But although we may face trials and tribulations as Christians, we can find hope in the words of Jesus.  "Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.", (Matt. 5:11-12)

God wants us all to have the courage, faith, and boldness of Stephen.  As the mob closed in around him, his focus was only on Jesus.  He was so full of grace and the Spirit, that when looked into the sky he saw his Savior.  "Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God" (v.56). Think of that.  Jesus was so eager to receive the spirit of this man who gave everything, that instead of sitting, He stood at the right hand of God to welcome Stephen home. 

I want to be a Stephen.  I want to be so full of Jesus, that when I give my testimony, those who look upon me see the glory of God.  I want to be surrendered to the Lord trusting completely in His faithfulness.  And most of all, even in the most violent and hateful circumstances, I too want to be able to emulate our Savior.  Like Jesus, the greatest martyr, Stephen used his dying breath to call out to God, "Lord do not hold this sin against them!", (v.60).  Only through the grace of God was Stephen able to perform this act of Christlike love.  What remarkable things will you do when the grace of God flows through you!?

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