Friday, June 7, 2019
‘You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? They killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.’
When a scientist named Galileo publically espoused Copernicus’ theory that the earth revolves around the sun, opposing Aristotle’s long held theory that the sun revolves around the earth, he got in big trouble.
In 1624 he was summoned to Rome by the Inquisition to stand trial for “grave suspicion of heresy.” He was found guilty at the trial and sentenced to life in prison, though that sentence was later softened to house arrest. Universities and scientists were then commanded to burn all of his books.
It wasn’t unit 1992 that the pope publically acknowledged the Vatican’s horrible error. Unfortunately for Galileo that apology came 300 years too late!
Can you imagine standing in Galileo’s shoes as he bravely condemned a great philosopher, centuries of tradition, religious creeds, and scientific theories that were all built on the same shoddy foundation? He was a man of conviction though, and he believed the truth was worth fighting for.
In Acts chapter 7 we are introduced to another man named Stephen who stands boldly in the face of national corruption, and he will effectively become the Church’s first martyr. Look at the strong adjectives he uses to describe these religious leaders in verse 51: “stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart! Murderers! Law breakers!”
These are the feared political and religious leaders in Israel, and Stephen cuts right through their facades to expose the vileness of their hypocrisy. He doesn’t fear opposition. He demonstrates true conviction, and true conviction understands that God’s Truth is higher than religious systems, traditions, and governments.
Look at our culture today. In America, it is acceptable to murder unborn babies. It is acceptable for two members of the same sex to get married. It is acceptable to believe that humans evolved from monkeys and the world exploded into existence on its own. It is acceptable to divorce your husband or wife if times get tough. It is acceptable to believe that every religion is equal and good.
Are you responding to this society with conviction? Are you keeping God’s Truth as your barometer for life even as the world becomes more and more offended by it? Jesus promised that “all who desire to live godly in the world will suffer persecution.” That truth played out on the stage of Stephen’s life graphically. But while it cost Stephen everything, pleasing God was a far greater prize to him than pleasing the fickle mob.
Is it to you?
Prayer Point: Have you been tempted to compromise your faith, love and purity this week? Pray for God to fill you with a sense of awe and love for Him, as you remember that your identity is found in what He did for you . . . not in what others think of you.
Extra Refreshment: Read Stephen’s entire speech in Acts chapter 7 and notice the last words he says before he is killed. Like Christ before him, he prays for God to forgive his murderers and demonstrates that speaking Truth to a fallen world should be done with grace and compassion.