Acts 6-7, It Is Your Turn To Be A Witness To Jesus
1. Prepare Yourself Now To Serve God Later (6:1-5)
2. Serve God Empowered By The Spirit (6:6-10)
3. Work Hard To Know The Scriptures (6:11-7:53)
4. Finish Well For A Standing Ovation Into Heaven (7:54-60)
Acts 6-7, It Is Your Turn To Be A Witness To Jesus
Acts 6-7, It Is Your Turn To Be A Witness To Jesus
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This morning I want to encourage you here as we look at acts Chapter 6 and seven, that it is your turn to be a witness to Jesus. It's your turn. The time has come and the baton has been passed. To you, we. See this begin here in the example of Steven. As we look at acts Chapter 6 and this call to service that Steven is a part of and is nominated for to fill this role that is needed there within the early church. Well, Stephen goes on in the rest of Chapter 6 and then on into Chapter 7 to have a greater ministry than what was initially described in this need for providing for the widows. And Stephen becomes what we call the first martyr of the church. He ends up dying, being put to death, being executed as a result of his witness. On behalf of Jesus Christ and his declaration of who Jesus is and calling people to trust in Jesus causes him to be the first one who is put to death for his faith in Jesus Christ. Now we refer to him as the first martyr, but I think it's noteworthy and important to consider this morning the word martyr. It comes from a Greek word which literally means witness and and it would speak of one who is giving test. Themoney, even in a court of law, someone who would take the stand and give testimony of what they had seen to provide their eyewitness account. That is the idea behind this word martyr, now in the English language. We've taken that to kind of a more narrow viewpoint, and that is, you know, those who. Are a witness and specifically to the extent that they die as a result of that witness that they are executed for the witness that they declared that they present to the world around them. And so Steven is the first martyr, but it's not just that he died for his faith, he. Is a witness to Jesus the very thing that the Lord called them to do and said that they would be empowered to do by the Holy Spirit in acts chapter one, verse eight, he said. You'll be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, in Judea and Samaria. And then to the other most parts of the Earth. And so you could look at Stephen as the first martyr in the sense that he has. The one guy who's the first one to die for the name of Christ. But also you can look at Steven and understand that he has one witness. In a long history of witnesses. And this morning, I would encourage you to consider that as we look at these things today, we have an incredible heritage of those who have gone before us, men and women who have lived their lives completely given over to God. We have a rich heritage of men and women. Who were witnesses to Jesus, who declared what they had experienced, what they had encountered, what they knew as a result of their relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ? We have such an incredible heritage. It goes well beyond Stephen. Then you can go back to Abraham. You can go back to Isaac and Jacob. You can go back to Joseph. You can go back to Moses, you can go back to Joshua and down the line. We can go of all of. These men and women who believed God at his word and stood on his promises and walked with him. As a testimony, as a witness to all the world, and even to us today of the reality of God and the importance of loving him and serving him. As Jesus walked to the earth, of course he had his disciples, who were then immediately his witnesses, and they took on this mantle of presenting the gospel, declaring Jesus Christ, sharing about the resurrection, the Ascension, the return of Jesus Christ. But now. The apostles, in a sense, have passed that baton to men like Stephen, and so now Stephen takes the baton and he is being a witness and. Stephen as he dies for his faith in Jesus Christ, passes the baton on to a new generation and generation after generation. Since Stephen, we have been handed down this privilege, this responsibility, this opportunity to be a witness to Jesus. And so as we stand. Today, looking at this passage, it is now been handed to us. It is our opportunity. It is our responsibility. The charge now comes to us. To be a witness to Jesus, it's your turn. And you have such a rich heritage of those who have gone before you. This is the idea that is being expressed by the author of Hebrews and Hebrews, chapter 12. When he says, therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up and let us run with endurance. The race God has set before us. They're the author of Hebrews. Looking back at the hull of faith in Hebrews, Chapter 11 reflects on some of that rich heritage that we have men and women who lived for God, who believed God by faith, trusted him and lived their lives according to his word. The author of Hebrews says looking back at this heritage that we have. Which now you could include men like Steven. Who believed God and stood for the truth of who God is and who he declared himself to be? We have this rich heritage and since we do. A huge crowd of witnesses who've gone before us. Now it's our turn. Let's strip off all the things that slow us down. Let's turn from the sin that so easily trips us up and let us run with endurance. The race that is God, that God has set before us, and so it stirs up in my mind that picture of the baton in a relay race being handed and and consider Stephen is handing it off at his death. To the next. And they walked as a witness to Jesus and then handed it off to the next person, and then to the next generation, and then to the next generation. And now down to you, the Lord Jesus through the apostles, through men and women of God, like Stephen, throughout all generations since then. Have handed down the baton to you. And now it's your turn. Take the baton. It's your turn to be a witness. To Jesus. And you might think, well, Stephen was put to death for his faith, and I'm not sure that I want that. Whatever the cause. Of Christ requires. It's worth it. And sometimes we need to reset our mind. And as I was reading through. Acts this week thinking about Steven. I was not initially thinking that we would be spending time looking at the example of Stephen, but something the Lord stirred up on my heart was. He deserves the honor to be recognized for what he did for Christ. And we ought to take some time to honor. Stephen and his service, his sacrifice. To be a witness to Jesus, to to remember that we are called to be witnesses to Jesus, and even if that costs us everything, it is worth it. And that is the call that we are called. Too, it's a big challenge for us because we not probably facing death for our witness to Jesus in our society in our lifetime. We're not faced with the same situation exactly, and so it can cause us to be quite comfortable and relax, and we take the baton from the previous generation and we're just walking around the track. Billy Dalian. Just kind of cruising without really seriously running to win the race. And so it's appropriate for us to remember the sacrifice of Stephen to honor the life that he lived, as short as it was he. Ran his race. To win, he passed the baton unto you, and to me, and ohh man. Lord, please forgive us if we take that baton. And do not honor the Lord in the way that those who've. Gone before us have. Lord, please help us not to drop the baton. To fail to fumble, to to give up in the race. But help us to use Stevens example. To put our running shoes on. To lease them up tight. And to get ready. To give it all. It's your turn. The tons handed to you. It's your turn to be a witness to Jesus. And so we're going to look at four ways that we can grab that baton and run our leg of the race this morning. Four points, four ways to grab the baton and be witnesses to Jesus. And the way that he's called us to point number one, we're going to. Camp out here in verses one through 5 for a tiny bit, actually really just focusing in on verse 3. Point number one is prepare yourself now to serve God. Later verse three says. And so brothers select seven men who are well respected and are full of the spirit and wisdom we will give them this responsibility. Here is the situation unfolds. We spent a lot of time on this passage on Wednesday and so I'm not going to. Dive in deep here. If you'd like to dig into what's going on here, I encourage you to go back and check out what the Lord spoke on Wednesday, but there's a situation where there is some neglect happening and widows. Are not being distributed to evenly and so there's a problem now in the church there is some hurt feelings. There's some upset people. There's some tension between different groups within the church. And so the apostles call a meeting. They gather everyone together and they give some direction. This is. What we need to do, we need to. Select seven men. To take on this responsibility to fill this role in the body of Christ so that the widows can be taken care of well, and that we could provide good stewardship for the resources we've been given, and so select seven men and we'll give them this responsibility. But with that. Select seven men. They also give the qualities that are required for the people who fill this role. The qualifications or the qualities that will be found in these people, number one is they need to be well respected, they need to have a good reputation. Number two, they need to be full of the spirit. They need to be empowered by the Holy Spirit so they don't attempt to do the work of this ministry and fulfill this responsibility in their own strength or in their own intellect or efforts, but that they would be empowered and enabled and led by the Holy Spirit. In this ministry that they are called to. And then thirdly, they are to be full of wisdom to be full of wisdom, that is, they are to have. Have lots of wisdom to be overflowing with wisdom, not to be rash and just running around and just making quick judgements off the top of their head. But but they are to be. Established. Thoughtful. And able to work through the difficulties that they will face. So the instruction the disciples give selects 7 men who have these qualities. And then it tells us in. Verse 5. They chose the following Stephen, a man full of faith. And the Holy Spirit. So we find that in this situation where there is this need, that Steven is selected, what can we conclude? The disciples say pick seven men. They need to have these three qualities, and then Steven is selected. What can we conclude? We can conclude Steven had these three qualities. Steven was well respected. Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit and Stephen was full of wisdom. Now what I want to ask you. To consider is. Understanding Stephen had these qualities. How did Stephen obtain these qualities? As this meeting was going on and as the instruction went out, select seven men. Steven volunteered right there and then instantly, he had all of these qualities all at once, in just a moment of time. Now, that's not what happened. Stephen had all of these qualities because for weeks, days, months, maybe years prior to this occasion. Stephen had been actively pursuing God. He'd been deliberately going forward and growing in maturity. He he was taking steps of faith and serving where he could and learning the scriptures and understanding what it was that God was saying. Stephen was not just. In the back of the pack, complacent. Not caring about the things of God, putting no effort into his relationship with God, Stephen developed these qualities as he pursued the heart of God, and in doing so he made himself available for this opportunity. That often. Quoted saying God is not looking for your ability. He's looking for your availability. Is a true saying, and one that is valuable to hold on to and remind ourselves of. But also to consider in that that availability does not just mean volunteering at the moment. Availability also means preparing beforehand so that the qualities that are necessary for the opportunities that arise are being developed now will never be fully prepared or and will never feel fully prepared for any opportunity that the Lord presents before us. It's always going to require faith and steps of faith, and we're always going to be fearful and timid and stepping into new opportunities that. God opens up. But at the same time, that doesn't mean that we just don't do anything and relax and don't prepare ourselves. No, we need to prepare now. In order to have the opportunity to serve God leader, there's going to be some opportunities in your life. That you will not be able to participate in. Because you did not take time to prepare. That's just part of the work of the Kingdom of God that we have to by faith. Prepare now for those future opportunities. God always prepares his servants for. The task that he's calling them to. Of course we can look at the example of Moses. Called to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt. But he had 80 years of preparation before that would actually be there. That opportunity would open up. He called David to be the King of Israel. But he had many years of tending the sheep, of being neglected, of being thought less of. He had many years of running in the wilderness, from Saul, fleeing for his life, taking care of a band of, you know, bandits and rogue guys who joined his cause and and. Developing them into an army and working and establishing them as a functioning military command that this was part of David's training and preparation for. His opportunity to take the the throne. Saul of Tarsus, who later on becomes the apostle Paul after he is converted. We'll see this as we continue on in acts this week. He takes some time alone in the wilderness, three years to reset all of his previous religious thinking and come to a new understanding of Jesus Christ as the Messiah. He has some serious preparation time and then even after that, he has a long time of of obscurity just serving at a local church. Before he is participating in the work that God calls him to do on the mission field. There is preparation that is required. Prepare yourself now to serve God. There are some opportunities that are available right now that you are not available for. Because you haven't prepared. But the baton is passed to you and there's going to be more opportunities. There's going to be future occasions for you to serve the Lord and be involved in something significant. And you need to prepare. Now prepare yourself to serve God, become well respected. Develop a good reputation. A good reputation is not something that is established overnight. It's not something that just happens accidentally. It's not something that, you know, happens in absence. A good reputation is developed by lots of time and opportunities and. Conversations and discussions with the people around you, the people in the body of Christ. Regular presence is a part of being well respected. Proving yourself for a long time consistently is part of developing a good reputation, being filled with the Holy Spirit. This is something you need to prepare yourself in to learn how to rely upon the Holy Spirit to learn how to be led by the Holy Spirit. And to have a reputation of being full of the spirit again, it requires that lots of interaction and those lots of times where the working of the Holy Spirit is evident and people can observe and understand. There is a ministry that is happening as a result. Of the spirit. As you prepare yourself to serve God. Being full of wisdom. As you relate to others as you give counsel. As you respond to difficult situations. And develop that reputation for wisdom for. Hearing what God has to say and responding to it. The baton is now passed to you. And you might not quite be where you need to be, but all is not lost. The race is not over. There's still time for you to prepare yourself. So that you will be equipped and prepared to grab the baton. That the Lord is seeking to hand to you. But again, there needs to be preparation. There needs to be some development and growth on your part. There also needs to be. Some purity. Think about what Paul said to Timothy in second Timothy, Chapter 2. He gives an illustration here in a wealthy home, some utensils are made of gold and silver, and some are made of wood and clay. The expensive utensils are used for special occasions, and the cheap ones are for everyday use. If you keep yourself. You will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean and you will be ready for the work or ready for the master to use you for every good work. Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts instead pursue righteous living faithfulness, love and peace and joy. The companionship of those who call on the Lord with Pure Hearts. This is part of our preparation. Not only developing and growing in our relationship with the Lord and and the things of the Lord, learning how to serve the Lord but but also in what we abstain from keeping ourselves pure. And sometimes you are not prepared for the opportunities that are there. You're not available to serve because you are not keeping yourself. Your life is not clean. You're not ready for the master to use you for any good work. And there is a need for us to run. From things that stimulate youthful lusts to turn away, to repent of sin. Stephen, we can safely assume we can safely say he prepared himself. He fled from youthful lusts. And of course, there were temptations that were available to him. There was opportunities for him to sideline his relationship with the Lord and his preparation for service. But he was diligent to prepare himself. Ahead of time so that as the event unfolded in acts chapter six, he was ready. He was prepared and he was able to grab the baton. And begin to serve those widows. With all that God had provided for him. Make yourself available to God. The hard thing about future opportunity is you might be wondering well. But what if I don't like that opportunity? What if I don't want that opportunity? What if that's not something I desire? It's a mistake to wait and see what the opportunity is before you decide to. Get ready for it. Trust God. He has a good plan for you. He has a real and significant role for you in his Kingdom and in his work. Don't wait. To try to decide later based on the opportunity that you. Think is there. Begin to prepare yourself now. Looking back to a few years ago now, the COVID lockdowns took many people by surprise. And one of the things about that that I I think is interesting and good for you to contemplate and consider is that during that time, there were so many people who really struggled because they did not know how to have relationship with. God all by themselves. If your relationship with God consists of Sunday church service. And that's the only way that you know how to walk with God. That's the only way you know how to relate to God. That's the only time you know how to worship God, that's. The only time you know. How to get into the word of God, if that's the extent of your relationship with God. You are not prepared. There is a need for us to develop and not that we don't need the church and the gathering of the believers. That's clear in the scriptures. But at the same time, if all of that is stripped away. And it's just us in the Lord that we know how to maintain and enjoy a thriving, abundant, vibrant relationship with God. No matter. The circumstances that we face. Let me help it again. Prepare now. There's going to be opportunities to serve. The baton is being handed to you. Prepare yourself now so that you are available and ready to serve God later. Moving on to point #2, the 2nd way that we can grab the baton and move forward as a witness to Jesus is to serve God empowered by the spirit. Serve God empowered by the Holy Spirit. Let's read verses 6 through 10. It says these seven were presented to the apostles who prayed for them as they lead their hands on them. So God's message continued to spread the number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem, and many of the Jewish priests were converted to Stephen a man full of God's grace and power performed many amazing miracles and signs among the people. But one day, some men found sorry from the synagogue of freed slaves, as it was called, started to debate with him. They were Jews from Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and the Providence of Egypt. None of them could stand against the wisdom and the spirit with which Stephen spoke. Here, as we continue on in acts chapter six, we see that Stephen filled this role. He begins the ministry to the widows, but that was not the extent of his ministry. It wasn't limited to just that capacity. He's also out in the marketplace maybe as a part of his responsibilities. In the ministry to the widows. But whatever the case is, he's out in the marketplace. He is sharing the gospel. He's being a witness to Jesus. There's miracles that are taking place as he is ministering to people and then there is some debate that gets fired up amongst some of the Jews in the community as they come against the teaching and and the witness that he is bringing forth. We can see here, though, a faithfulness that is evident in the role of these guys who were appointed to this ministry because in verse seven it tells us God's message continued to spread. The number of believers greatly increased in Jerusalem and many of the Jewish priests were converted to. So the instruction the disciples gave appointing 7 men over this responsibility had the intended result as the Apostles were continuing on in their ministry, concentrated on what God had called them to do. Now these seven are concentrated on what God called them to do, and the result is as each one is doing. Their part in fulfilling the role that God has given to them. There is growth that develops the number of believers increased. Even the Jewish priests were being converted. The message of God continue. Renewed to spread, there was an ongoing work of. God that took place. As each one was fulfilling their role, Paul talks about this in Ephesians Chapter 4. Talking about the body of Christ in verse 16, he says he makes the whole body fit together perfectly as each part does its own special work. It helps the other parts to grow. So that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. This is one of the impacts of us receiving the baton from the previous generation and then going forward with it and being a witness to Jesus as we fulfill our parts and do our role. There is an impact on the whole body as each part does its own special work. It helps all the other parts grow. It's why it's so important. The idea of you preparing for that opportunity that will come is not just for you. The rest of us are relying upon you and depending upon you, would you please prepare? Because we want to grow and develop and experience what God has for us and we cannot. If you're not preparing yourself as a member of the body of. Christ, you contribute. To my growth and my experience. In a relationship with the Lord. And everybody else. Is dependent upon everybody else within the body of Christ. That as we. Serve the Lord and walk with him. There is a benefit. To the whole community, to the whole body. Of Christ. So Steven here as one. Of these, seven is faithful. And so the body is growing. The work is happening, there's good things going on, but it's important to note that it's not happening in their own strength. Stephen is not serving with his own resources with his own experience with the things that he has learned or you know what he has. Been educated in Stephen. Is relying upon the Holy Spirit, Versey tells us Steven, a man full of God's grace and power performed many, I'm sorry, performed amazing miracles and signs among the people. We can see here in this passage Steven is empowered by the spirit #1 and #2. He is exercising the gifts of the spirit. He's empowered by the spirit baptized in the Holy Spirit, full of the Holy Spirit. That was one of the qualities that they looked for, right? The original requirement back in verse three, select seven men who are well respected and full of the spirit. So he's been baptized in the spirit. He's filled with the spirit. He's empowered by the spirit. And he's exercising the gifts of the spirit. This is so important because this is. How the work of God, really? Unfolds and takes place. When we try to operate apart from the Holy Spirit, we really limit the impact. We can have no eternal impact. Without the empowering and the working of. The Holy Spirit. And the hardest things in the world can be accomplished by faithful servants of God as they are filled with the Holy Spirit. And rely upon him for the work at hand. This was given to Zerubbabel by the prophet Zechariah. This is what the Lord says to Zerubbabel. It is not by force nor by strength, but by my spirit, says the Lord of Heavens armies. What? What is not by strength? What is not by force verse 7? Nothing, not even a mighty mountain, will stand in Zerubbabel's way. It will become a level playing before him and when Zerubbabel sets the final stone of the temple in place, the people will shout. May God bless it. May God. Bless it. Zerubbabel was a man of God, but in some ways he was also a construction worker, and what was before him was a huge pile of rubble to rebuild the temple. It was hard to rebuild the temple because there was all the rubble. There was a mountain of rubble in its place, and the mountain had to be moved. And the Lord told Zerubbabel. Mr. construction worker. You're going to be able to accomplish that, but not by strength, not by force, but by my spirit. It's not just hey, Zerubbabel make sure that when you talk to people about the scriptures that you're empowered by the spirit. But no. When you pick up a shovel to move rubble. Make sure that you are empowered. By the Holy Spirit. It's by the empowering of the Holy Spirit that the work of God. Is done and so can I please request to this if you would listen and hear this appeal when you are assigned to Children's Ministry on a particular Sunday, please never show up to do kids ministry with only your resources. Please never do that. Never show up with just what you have to offer. When it's your opportunity to clean and prepare the the building for service, please never show up to clean in the power of your own strength with your own efforts, with your force in your mind. Please never show up to lead worship with your technical skills with your talents musically. But make sure that you're filled with the Holy Spirit empowered by the Holy Spirit. Please never show up to teach with your. Own insights with your own calculations with your own information, please, never counsel or or give encouragement and exhortation to someone with your experience, or what cousin Joe had in their life that that we need to be filled with the Holy Spirit never show up even to fellowship. With just what you have to offer. As the body of Christ, we need to serve God empowered by the. Holy Spirit and along. With that comes the gifts of the spirit that we serve under the influence and the leading of the Holy Spirit, but also using the tools that he provides. And I could spend a long time talking about this, of course, but just to run through it briefly, there's three categories I would say of spiritual gifts. Number one, Jesus gives you leaders that's recorded for us in Ephesians Chapter 4. Those are positions of authority that he's appointed in the body of Christ. #2 the father gives you a role in the body of Christ. That's Romans chapter 12, verses 4 through 8. Those are the roles that we pray for every Sunday morning before service. I invite you to join us at 10:00 AM. And pray that you would be given a role within the body of Christ according to what he has established, and then three. The spirit gives you manifestations, or we often refer to them as gifts as well, so manifestations of the Holy Spirit found in First Corinthians chapter 12, verses 7 through 11. Now I'm not going to work through all of those because that would take too much time, but just to give you a quick run down here and 1st Corinthians Chapter 12, verse 11. It tells us it is 1. The one and only spirit who distinguishes all these gifts. He alone decides which gift each person should have, and that I say it's important to understand the categories of spiritual gifts because while understanding your spiritual leaders and authorities in the body of Christ is crucial and valuable for you. And you need to understand those that God has placed and in those roles. In over you and the body of Christ, understanding your role in the body of Christ, that can change from service to service, or is a general broad role that you have continually or consistently in the body of Christ helps you understand what it is that you're to be focusing on the path that you're be to be going down. But the manifestations of the spirit. Are different than the other two in that these are. I like to use the example of a toolbox. This is the Holy Spirit's toolbox, and as each one of us are fulfilling our role in the body of Christ, the Holy Spirit has the toolbox there and he hands you the appropriate tool for the job, which may change from day-to-day. It may change from hour to hour, it may change from year to year, but he hands you whatever tool is necessary. For the job, and if you spend some time in first. Corinthians chapter 12. You'll see. Here's a quick list of these manifestations of the spirit. I think it's important to note these things because it's not that someone has a word of Wisdom Ministry and that's their role in the body of Christ. They're the wisdom speaker. The idea here is that every believer in Jesus Christ can be given a word of wisdom. The Holy Spirit pulls the tool out of the toolbox for you as you fulfill your role exactly when you need it or the word of knowledge. Or faith or gifts of healing or working of miracles or prophecy, or discerning of spirits or kinds of tongues, or. Interpretation of tongues. That these are for you. According to the will of the Holy Spirit, he's the one who decides and chooses who to give the different gifts as they're needed. Whatever gift you need for the role that you have, the Holy Spirit is going to give you. And that's why in verse eight it tells us, Steven, a man full of God's grace and power performed amazing miracles and signs among the people. This wasn't because Steven was extra awesome. He was still ordinary. He was still like you and I. He had prepared himself. Yes, he was walking in a relationship with God and pursuing and developing that he was growing and and and seeking to serve the Lord he he was moving forward but. It wasn't that he is different. Than you or I. He was a regular guy who had opportunity to serve the food pantry that helped the widows of the day, and in that opportunity, as he continued to grow forward. The Holy Spirit was handing out some gifts that he needed. And so there. He is fulfilling his role, doing the thing that God had set before him, and there was the need for amazing miracles in science to take place. And So what does the Holy Spirit do? Pulls that tool out of the. Toolbox and says here you go. And if you don't have the gift. To do amazing miracles and signs. It's because you don't need that. The Holy Spirit hasn't chosen to give you that, because that's not part of the role that you've been given, or at least not at this moment. But don't count yourself out and think well, I need to have Roman pray for this guy because you know only Roman can perform miracles and and have gifts of healing. Any believer in Jesus Christ at any time can be gifted by the Holy Spirit whenever he chooses to do this work. And so these are gifts, manifestations, tools in the toolbox. That Steven is operating in these ones that. The Holy Spirit gives. To him in verse 9 and 10 it tells us. But one day, some of the men from the synagogue of freed slaves, as it was called, started to debate with him. They were Jews from Syrene, Alexandria, Cilicia, and the province of Asia. None of them could stand against the wisdom and the spirit with which Stephen spoke. Here Steven is given. Word of wisdom by the Holy Spirit. Holy Spirit pulls that tool different tool than previously, right. Pulls that tool out of the toolbox there in this exchange and this encounter with these. Jews from the specific synagogue. And the Holy Spirit says, you know what you need, Stephen, you need wisdom right now. Here's wisdom. That they will not be. Able to refute? Until the Holy Spirit pulled the right tool out of the toolbox as it was needed. This is a great model for us to follow. We all need. To serve God empowered by the spirit. Not with our own resources, not with our own strength or ideas. Led by the spirit filled with the spirit. And receiving from the. Holy Spirit, the exact right tool for the job. Steven did that. He died for his faith and he. Passed the baton. Of that opportunity onto the next generation, which went on to the next generation, which now comes down to you. Grab the baton. Run your leg of the race and serve God empowered by. The Holy Spirit. The Lord instructs us to ask and to keep on asking to keep on seeking and to keep on knocking, and the father will give the Holy Spirit. So never. Show up to serve, never show up to kids. Ministry, never show up to clean, never show up to fellowship. Without being filled with the Holy Spirit empowered by him to fill your role in the. Body of Christ. Moving on to the Third Point to consider this morning, as we think about the baton and our opportunity to be. A witness to Jesus. Point #3 is work hard to know the scriptures. Work hard to know the scriptures I want to read verses 11 of Chapter 6 through verse two of Chapter 7 to consider this point. It says so they persuaded some men to lie about Stephen saying we heard him. Blasphemy, Moses and even God. This roused the people, the elders and the teachers of religious law, so they arrested Stephen and brought him before the High Council, the lying witnesses said. This man is always speaking against the Holy temple and against the law of Moses. We have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy the temple and change the customs Moses handed down to us. At this point, everyone in the High Council stared at Stephen because his face became became as bright as an angel's. Then the high priest asked Stephen. Are these accusations true? This was Stephens reply. Brothers and fathers listened to me. Our glorious God appeared to our ancestor Abraham in Mesopotamia before he settled in Haran. Here is the account continues on Steven in this interaction with these unbelieving Jewish people from the synagogue of the Freedman. The dispute between them escalates. They cannot refute his wisdom. And so they resort to other tactics and they pull in some lying witnesses to accuse him and they take him to court. They take him to the Sanhedrin, the same group that Jesus stood before. The same group that the apostle stood before previously. The same group that is opposed to Jesus Christ and they're throwing these false accusations against Stephen, that he's against the temple, he's against the law of Moses, and that Jesus is going to change the customs that Moses handed down to us. All of these would be considered punishable. Death in their culture, and so these accusations are flying. And then Stephen gives his response. And all of Chapter 7 pretty much is the response of Stephen. It's a long and lengthy chapter working through the history of Israel and the content of the scriptures. Paul tells Timothy and Second Timothy, Chapter 2, verse 15, work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed, and who correctly explains the word. Of truth. It's interesting that Paul saying this to Timothy Paul was there when Steven is being put to death and executed for his witness to Jesus. He was there as the defense is given by Stephen, all of Chapter 7. He was there, as Steven correctly explained, the word of truth to that religious council. He was there. He was impacted by it and now he encourages Timothy Timothy. The batons been handed to you. You work hard. So that you can present yourself to God the same way as one who can correctly explain the word of truth. This is what God calls us too now. I'm not going to go into the contents of Chapter 7 because it's lengthy. But it's interesting to consider. As lengthy as Chapter 7 is, I would suggest I would guess. Probably a lot of us have a hard time working our way through Chapter 7. Read through it in one sitting. No, even in the Bible in three years schedule, it's broken up into multiple portions, right? So that we can kind of handle it, cause otherwise. Ohh man, that's too long. 59 versus 60 verses. I can't handle that. And one chapter and and we jump ship because Oh well that's too much of an investment. And then I. Already know all these stories too. He talks about Abraham and Joseph and Moses and the ancestors and David and the temple and. I we already. Read through those in the Old Testament. We're in the New Testament. Now, let's skip all of this. Fast forward. Just kind of skim through. Chapter 7 would be our approach many times. Stephen did not get to the point where he could share this defense. By jumping ahead and skimming through. He worked hard. And as you go through these these verses, you can see he had a good grasp of the scriptures. He's making some interesting parallels how the first time around that God sends someone to the people of Israel. They don't receive that person, they don't receive that one who is sent by the Lord. But the second time around, then they receive them. He notes that in the example of Moses, he notes that in the example of Joseph. Parallels to Jesus, who was rejected by the people the first time around, but. Will be acknowledged and understood the second time around. There, there's some really incredible Nuggets as you work your way through Stevens defense here. It's not just let me recite to you a boring history lesson that I heard before. He is using this to defend against the accusations that have been brought to him and he is. Using this to. Call the Council that he is speaking to, to repentance. Jump down to verse 51, you stubborn people. You are heathen at the heart and death to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? That's what your ancestors did. And so did you all those quotations that he. Went through before, this was illustrating how their ancestors that they took so much pride in resisted the Holy Spirit. And as you follow their suit, you're resisting the work of God's name. One prophet of your ancestors that didn't. They didn't persecute. They even killed the ones who predicted the coming of the righteous 1 the Messiah whom you betrayed. And murdered. And so he's taking the word of God and he's applying it right to them. And he does an excellent job at it because it tells us. That they are cut to the heart. He knew the scriptures. He rightly divided the word of truth. And all of this that we even just have a hard time reading, he's able to bring forth and to deliver. Because he had invested much time much opportunity. In studying the word of God. We need to be men and women of God who know the scriptures. The baton has now been handed to us. Biblical illiteracy is the norm in churches across our nation. But that must not be so. Let's not drop the baton. Every one of us. Ought to be able to give a defense. Like Stephen gave. Having understood having studied having walked through the scriptures filled with the Holy Spirit. Jesus tells us in John Chapter 14 that the father will give the Holy Spirit. He will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I've told you. It's not that we have to have all this memorized all the time, but the Holy Spirit will bring up those portions that are relevant and the things that we need to know at the time that we need them. But you got to spend time in the word of God. In advance in preparation so that these things can be brought back to you and and you don't have to sit there completely mystified by what the word of God is saying, cause the Holy Spirit is there to teach you everything that you need to know. And so you can work your way through the scriptures. Having your own insights, don't just rely upon someone teaching a Bible study to deliver insights that impact your life. The Holy Spirit desires to share with you from the scriptures insights that impact and change your life. It's your turn to be a witness to Jesus. So work hard. So that you can present yourself to God and receive his approval be. A good worker. When it does not need to be ashamed, who correctly explains the. Word of truth. Well, finally point #4 finish well for a standing ovation. Into heaven. Verse 54 here in Chapter 7 says the Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stevens accusation, and they shook their fists at him in. Rage. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed steadily into heaven and saw the glory of God. And he saw Jesus standing in the place of honor at God's right hand, and he said to them, look. I see the heavens open and the son of man standing in the place of honor at God's right hand. As you see. Jesus, after his ascension in the scriptures, typically you see him. Seated at the right hand of the father. But here is Steven is entering into eternity. He sees Jesus standing. Standing to receive this faithful servant. Who has been a witness under him? To the very end, Stephen is faithful and he finishes well. You know, we have a lot of examples in the scriptures of men and women of God. And with so many examples, we have enough examples to understand that finishing well. Is not very common. Finishing well does not happen naturally, and finishing well does not happen easily. It doesn't happen accidentally and there needs to be an awareness on. Our part that. We must push and persist until the very end. To finish well in our pursuit of God. It is very. Easy for us to reach a certain level and we've had enough change. We've had enough transformation. We've done enough service where we feel comfortable and complacent and we relax. And we don't. Run the race to win. For scripting Chapter 9, Paul says run the race as. If you're the. Only one who's going to receive the prize? Take that baton that has been given to you and run it with all that you have with all that you can. Don't dishonor Steven with a life that has lived half hearted in spiritual things. But finish well run to win the race. Does a runner get partial reward if they run fast enough to break the world record and then quit before the finish line? Now they don't get partial reward for a very fast league of the race. They're disqualified if they quit. Does a runner get a reward for running a a world record speed and then cheating at the end to get across the finish line? No, they don't get a reward. It's something that we need to be considering and challenged by that we bomb out at the end, understand we're gonna miss out on the reward. That we would have if we would push. Forward if we would. Persist if we would run the race with endurance that has been set before us. Finish well for a standing ovation into heaven. It's not going to happen automatically. It's not going to happen easily. You're going to have to be deliberate. In your desire. To hear those words well done, good and faithful servant. We have a rich heritage. Men and women who've gone before us who have. Lived for God. Who have finished well. But they're done. They're gone. And now it's your turn. The baton has been handed. To you. It's interesting to consider that Stevens service unto the Lord's sparked. A an incredible work of God at the end of Chapter 7 as Stephen is put to death, it takes note that Saul was one of the witnesses as it heads into Chapter 8. A great wave of persecution breaks out and the believers are scattered from Jerusalem. And then what happens? The gospel is spread, the fulfillment of what the Lord said in acts, chapter one, verse 8. They're witnesses to Jesus beyond Jerusalem, now into Judea and Samaria, and then to the ends of the earth. We have the record of Philip ministering to the Samaritans in acts Chapter 8. Then we have the record of Saul's conversion in Chapter 9, and he's going to be the apostle to the Gentiles that God raises up chapter 10 we have. The ministry to the Gentile family of Cornelius, and so all of these things are triggered by this man Stephen, who is faithful to serve the Lord, who would have thought that an opportunity to serve widows? Would be the key to fulfill God's plan to spread. The gospel through the whole world. This would be the key for God's plan to fulfill acts chapter one, verse 8. For the witnesses to Jesus to be spread. To Judea and Samaria. And then to the uttermost parts of the earth. And now the baton has been handed to you. And you may think little of the opportunity. That is there. But you never know the role that God has given. You might be the key. We were praying for revival this morning before service. The role that God gives you in your faithfulness to that role, that seems completely unrelated. That might be the key. For some incredible new work that God wants to do. It's your turn. To be a witness to Jesus. It's your turn. Prepare yourself now. So that you can serve God later. Serve the Lord empowered by the Holy Spirit. Work hard to know the scriptures. And be faithful to finish well. You'll receive a standing ovation into heaven as the Lord says, well done, good and faithful servant. You ran your race well. Lord, I pray that you would help each and every one of us to take these words to heart, to take this baton that you have placed in our hands, this opportunity to be your witnesses to the world around us. God, we want to be diligent and faithful to you. We want to honor you and all those who've gone before us with the way that we live and the way that we serve you. Lord, I pray that you would empower us with your Holy Spirit. Fill us now as we call out to you as we pray to you, Lord, that we would have what we need from you. All of the resources necessary. Lord, the diligence, the faithfulness, Lord, the earnestness, the urgency. Lord, we need to be stirred up by you. Would you fill us flow through us? And encourage us. In the role that you've set before us. May we honor you. And be a strong witness for you. To anyone you set in our path. We pray this in Jesus name.