From Pastor Johnny

A Life That Looks Like Jesus Day 2

I Respond to Arguments with Christ’s Truth: 6.9-10

"Then there arose some from what is called the Synagogue of the Freedmen (Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and those from Cilicia and Asia), disputing with Stephen. And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke."

             Stephen’s response was truth. His response was truth in the synagogue. We’ll see later that his response was truly about God’s working in Israel’s history. His response to arguments against him was truth on the cusp of his death.

            In fact, truth is so critical for God’s people, that we can see it in Stephen’s life. Since some of his debate opponents in the synagogue were from Cilicia, and since the Apostle Paul was from Cilicia (Acts 21.39), and since Saul was the best Cilicia had (Galatians 1.13-14), one of Stephen’s defeated opponents in the synagogue was Saul.

            Not only that, but since Saul gained his revenge against his opponent by having him arrested then executed (Acts 7.57-58 & 8.1,3), it was Stephen’s truth that helped launch the believers out of Jerusalem. In fact, Philip ran from Jerusalem and carried the Gospel to an Ethiopian Eunuch who then carried the Gospel to North Africa (Acts 8.26-40). This all was instigated by Stephen’s speaking of truth.

            It could be said that Stephen’s speaking of truth was the original “rock in the pond” that set off the concentric circles that produced the greatest missions movement in the history of the church. It is critical, even when Christians are facing difficult times, to speak truth.

 I Remind my Adversaries of Christ’s Love: 6.11-15

 “Then they secretly induced men to say, We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God.’ And they stirred up the people, the elders, and the scribes; and they came upon him, seized him, and brought him to the council.  They also set up false witnesses who said, ‘This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the law;  for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us.’  And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at him, saw his face as the face of an angel.”

             The angelic look on Stephen was not an angel at all, but it was Jesus Christ. This kind of glory is not produced by a man-made effort, but it emerges from inside out when Christ is living through a believer’s life.

 I Return Attacks with Christ’s Forgiveness: 6.54-60

When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”  Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”  Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

             Stephen’s final moments on earth were violent and horrid. When the moments were the worst, Stephen looked like Jesus the most.  When Christ is living His life through you, your life will begin to replicate His. And, when the moments are the worst, Christ will be most evident in you.

 A Christian who is filled with the Holy Spirit will live a life that Looks like Jesus.

            Certain animals and organisms in nature can produce light.  It is usually certain proteins, oxygens and other particular chemical agents that, when dispelled by energy, create light.  Lightning bugs…or fireflies…do this. 

            Once my bride and I, in the Cayman Islands, took a bio luminescence kayaking tour. In a certain cove, just off of the Grand Cayman Island, there is a certain protein and bacterial mixture that causes the water to emit a bioluminescent glow.  When the oar goes in the water, light flashes.  If you swim in the water at night, light flashes around you.  If you splash your hand in the water, light flashes. 

            This light is not something that is reflecting another light source.  It is light being produced from the source within the water. 

            When I live in the power of Jesus Christ, I produce a light that is not a reflection from something else, but it is a light being produced from within by Jesus Christ through His Holy Spirit in me. Does your life look like Jesus?

A Life that Looks Like Jesus

Little Susie was riding home from church and asked her mother, “Mommy, our SS teacher said that, when we are saved, God forgives all of our sins.”

            “That’s right Susie.”

            Little Susie continued, “She also said that, when we get saved, God prepares us a place in heaven.”

            “That’s right Susie.”

            “She says that God is bigger and greater than heaven and earth.”

            “That’s right Susie.”

            “Well mommy, I don’t understand something.  Is it true that, when we are saved, Jesus comes to live in us?”

            “That’s what the Bible teaches Susie.”

            "Well, if God is that big, and he comes to live inside me, and I’m not very big…won’t he leak out…?”

            Our Christian lives are a lot like that.  If we are controlled by the H.S., then it will be obvious by our outward lives.  But, if we are doing things on our own that will be obvious to everyone too.  A Christian who is filled with the Holy Spirit will live a life that Looks like Jesus.

            In Acts 6.8-7.60, after the church has grown dramatically and seven men are placed in an administrative team to serve widows, one of those men stands out above the rest. His name was Stephen, and his remarkable ministry caused quite a disturbance. As a result, an entire group of religious leaders came out against Stephen. In the exchange we see between Stephen and these leaders, we also learn some signs of a life that looks like Jesus

I Reveal the Authority of Christ’s Life: 6.8

And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. 

 Too often, the characteristics we are noticing about servants of God are external, by the way they look, talk, or dress. Too often, when I hear someone speak of how much they like a preacher, they will then tell me it is because he is funny, moves around excitedly a lot when he preaches, or is entertaining. Too often, when we think about spiritual leaders to put in offices in the church, we think about people who are important in the business world or who have impressive images. And…these might be fine, but the revealing thing about Stephen was NOT his look, but the power of Christ on his life.

I once had a lady in my church named Claudell. She was maybe 5’ 1” and all of 100lbs. She was meek, a soft voice. She never raised her voice that I ever saw. And yet, when I had a real prayer need, I went to her. She prayed all of the time. And, I picture this meek, slight, small, unimpressive little lady slaying giant spiritual demons with her prayers. A Christian who looks like Jesus finds his or her authority, not in self, but in the power of Christ.

How to Choose Leaders in the Local Church Day 3

By Moving in Progress 6:5-7 

 When God’s leaders are selected to meet a clear purpose and moving toward a definite plan, then we will see definite and clear progress in the body of Christ.  When we select and place God’s leaders God’s way, then God’s plans are fulfilled.

There is no more amazing example of the antithesis to this than with Paul’s instructions to the Ephesians.  Consider Paul’s instructions to the leadership of Ephesus in Ephesians 4:11-16.

Paul says that the building of the body, the perfecting of the church and the progress of God’s Kingdom hinges, in a large part, on what the leadership is doing to equip and serve.  Paul gave these leadership instructions to the Ephesians in about A.D. 60-62.   This means that leadership instructions were coming straight from the Apostle Paul himself.  That means that the church in Ephesus, over the next several years and decades, must have been a strongly led, thriving church.   Yet....consider....something....

In about A.D. 90-92, thirty years after Paul taught the Ephesians on leadership, a man named John saw a great Revelation.  The original recipients of this amazing vision were seven churches.  Within these seven churches was a church named Ephesus.  Let’s consider what John wrote to them in Revelation 2:1-4. 

“To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:  These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands. I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.  Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.  Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. 6 But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

Only thirty years after the leadership training of the Apostle Paul, the Ephesian Church was stumbling and faltering.  Could it be that the generation of leaders who stood in Paul’s time did not adequately equip a new group? It is critical that local church leaders are God’s leaders, placed to accomplish God’s purposes and God’s plans.  It is in this light that we will see churches accomplish God’s progress.

 An organization, institution rises and falls on leadership.  The local church succeeds or fails by godly, God called, God purposed, God planned and God progressed leadership.

             

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