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(Acts 6:8–15) Grace Under Fire

(Acts 6:8–15) Grace Under Fire

by Stephen Davey
Series: Sermons in Acts
Ref: Acts 6:8–15

The Apostle Stephen was the first Christian martyr.  With no time to say goodbye to friends or put things in order; he was put to death on the spot. But Stephen was ready. Are you?

In Acts 6:8–15, Stephen is one of seven men appointed by the apostles to serve the needs of the early church. Stephen is a man full of faith and the Holy Spirit, and he is a powerful witness to the truth of Jesus Christ. However, Stephen's preaching also leads to his persecution and martyrdom. Stephen's story is a reminder of the cost of following Jesus, but it is also a story of hope and victory. Stephen's death does not stop the spread of the gospel, and his witness continues to inspire people to follow Jesus today.




(Acts 6:8-15)

In our last discussion, we discovered several ageless principles concerning the New Testament church, as we observed them struggling with the sense of unfairness that had developed in the caring of widows.  One of the things we discovered, that there is no such thing as a perfect church.  Even vibrant, effective, growing churches are not immune to problems and divisive issues.  And we studied, in the sixth chapter, how they grumbled and complained over this apparent lack of fairness, and the Hellenistic widows were being overlooked in favor of the Hebrew widows.  In the process of discovering their solution, we discovered that, indeed, there is no place for prejudice of any sort in the church.  Whether it is an issue of social standing, or race, or education, or financial status, or whatever it may be, it is never right for a saint to act like a snob.  As one author put it, “The ground at the foot of the cross is level.” 

Another thing we learned from the way the church handled that divisive, potentially explosive issue is that leadership in the church is not based upon experience, it is based upon character.  And that principle, sort of, introduced us, at least, to the name of the man that arrests out attention over these next few sessions together.  He will occupy the center stage in the history of this early church.  He will be known as the man who preached only one sermon only one time.

In Acts, chapter 6, we actually discovered his name identified along with six other men.  Verse 5 identifies his name as “Stephanos” or, translated, Stephen.  The Greek word “stephanos” means “crown.”  One of my Greek lexicons, translated by a man named Thayer, identifies “stephanos” as “that crown that was of royal or exalted rank.”  Or it could have been a word referring to that wreath placed upon the head of the victorious athlete as he stepped forward to the bema seat, where he was met by the judges of those athletic contests.  Another lexicon added that “stephanos” could have been something that was given to someone for distinguished service in the community.  I think it’s ironic that Stephen will live up to his name, here, he will distinguish himself as a servant of the church and he will also distinguish himself as one who will, literally, wear the martyr’s crown.  He will be the first martyr of the New Testament church. 

The lens of scripture now, sort of, focuses on this man and, over the course of the next 68 verses, he will occupy our attention.  I want to spend a couple of sessions on his brief life and even briefer ministry.  We discover just what kind of man he is, though. 

I want to caution you, if you have notes, I want to give you a couple of things to consider, as we begin a study of a biblical character.  We can come to the conclusion, as we study Stephen’s life, that he was some unusual saint who had it made with God, that he was some rather incredible character who had some extra help from the Lord, he, maybe, had a better start.  You might come to the conclusion that he had some special privileges from the Lord or, maybe even, that God just made him a little better than the rest of us. 

Well that kind of thinking can result in you ending up in one of two erroneous mindsets.  The first mindset, that would be wrong when you consider a biblical character, is the mindset of complacency.  That is, Stephen is such a special class Christian that God would never expect me to live like him, which certainly isn’t the truth.  The Bible, and all of its characters, have been given to us, not to put them on a pedestal but, to emulate them.  Even the apostle Paul wrote to the believers in the Corinthian church, in chapter 11, verse 1, he said to them, he exhorted them, “Be imitators of me” – rather interesting words.  Whenever you study, in the Bible, the lives of men like Joseph, and Abraham, and James, and Paul, and Stephen, and, ultimately, when you study the God-man, Jesus Christ, you should hear, coming from the pages of their biographies, the words, “Be imitators of me” – at least that which is in their life of good character and of good repute. 

The second mindset though, that would be discouraging to the spiritual walk of a believer, would be that of discouragement.  Stephen is such a special kind of Christian, you might erroneously conclude, with special advantages and benefits that I could never measure up to his lifestyle.  Don’t ever forget that Stephen is, ultimately, imitating Jesus Christ, who seeks all of us to become more and more like him.  Godliness is not the privilege of a few select believers, it is the privilege of submissive believers.  It isn’t a matter of special privilege or special standing, it isn’t a special class of Christian that has this kind of life, it isn’t some kind of special standing with God but it does have everything to do with a special submission to the Lord.  You and I can enjoy the consequences of godliness, if we will, like he evidently did, pursue the character of godliness. 

Two more cautions, let me give them to you.  First of all, when imitating godly, biblical characters, do not expect perfection, neither from them nor from yourself, instead, look for progress.  One of my favorite professors used to say, often in class, “God isn’t necessarily looking for perfect Christians, He is looking for progressing Christians.”

Secondly, when studying biblical examples, don’t try to imitate their performance, instead, imitate their attitude.  We cannot repeat performances in different cultures and in different ages and dispensations, but we can imitate and emulate their attitude.  We won’t be hauled in, as Stephen will be in a few verses, before the Sanhedrin to give testimony to the deity of Jesus Christ.  We probably won’t take a stand before many.  We probably won’t be taken outside the city walls and stoned until we’re dead.  But, we can learn, from him, how to be placed in a high pressure situation where you need to know how to respond.  We can learn from him and we can imitate his control, his emotional stability, we can learn how to act like Christ. 

With that in mind, the question then comes, “What can we learn from and what can we imitate from the life of one man that God placed in scripture, not because he needed a filler for the book of Acts but, because He wanted to teach us some things?”  Well, let’s find out. 

If you’re not already there, Acts, chapter 6, verse 3, is where we pick up our study.  We learn, right away, that Stephen was a man who had a – “good reputation”.  Now, a reputation is what people say about you.  We know that character is what God says about you and they could be vastly different from each other.  But it’s interesting to me, it says that, Stephen, to those without, had a good reputation and, obviously, to the body within.  I think it would be interesting, if we subjected leadership in the church to perhaps some interviews of secular employers or co-workers, “Tell us what this person is like outside of this holy huddle.  Tell us what a person is like Monday through Saturday and we will determine whether or not he or she can be involved in leadership of the church.”  Well, evidently, this was part of the requirement for these men, because the apostle said, “We want to make sure you choose men” – “of good reputation” – “choose men with a good name.”  Solomon wrote that, “A good name is . . . to be chosen . . . rather than silver and gold.”  Find some individuals who are known for their purity and integrity in the community.  And so they sought out these men and they came up with, among them, this man, named Stephen.

Then the passage goes on to repeat the same phrase about Stephen five different times.  Whenever you see a phrase, or a grouping of words, repeated over and over and over again in the New Testament, it isn’t because God is stuttering but, because God wants to impress us with something.  So you ought to get your pencil and underline these five expressions. 

In verse 3, we read that, Stephen is – “full of the” – Holy – “Spirit and” – he is, secondly, full – “of wisdom”.  In verse 5, we’re told that, “Stephen . . .” – is – “full of faith and” – then, again, that he is full – “of the Holy Spirit”.  Then in verse 8, we read that, “Stephen” – was – “full of grace and”– then he was also full of – “power”.  Now, in each of these five references, the word “filled or full” is the word “pleres,” which could be translated “dominated by or controlled by.”  And you ought to get used to translating the word “filled” with that similar expression that, sort of, denotes a different idea.  We’re not gas tanks, who need to be filled up, and we get low and we need to get filled up, again, with the Holy Spirit.  It means “dominated by or controlled by.”  So the Bible tells us that he was dominated by five different things. 

Let’s take a closer look.  First of all, in verses 3 and 5, we’re told that, “Stephen” – was – “full . . . of the Holy Spirit”.  In other words, Stephen was dominated by, controlled by the Holy Spirit.  We’ve already studied what that means in other sessions, so I won’t repeat myself but, as I thought about Stephen, it struck me that it would take a man controlled by and dominated by the Holy Spirit to, not become either overwhelmed or enamored with what had happened to him over the last few months, in fact, less than a year’s time.  Well, think about it for a moment,   it had just been several months earlier that the Spirit of God had descended at Pentecost and Peter had delivered the first sermon, as it were, of the New Testament church.  Stephen was, evidently among those who received Christ as his own personal Savior, he had accepted the Lord into his life.  Shortly thereafter, this body of believers, that he is involved in, explodes to now more than 20,000 people.  The Bible tells us, earlier, that they have at least 5,000 men listed on their membership role.  An explosion is occurring and then, the Bible will inform us that, among these thousands of men, the apostles say, “select . . . seven”.  And, of those seven, the first of those seven is this man named Stephen.  And he hears that the body has confirmed that he is filled with wisdom and the Spirit, that he has, indeed, a reputation of integrity in the community and among those believers in the Christian community.  Before long, we’ll look at in a moment, he is performing – “wonders and signs”.  He is given that unique position, along with that apostolic body, to confirm the gospel as being from God with miraculous signs.  Here is a man who has had all this happen to him in less than a year.  Can you imagine that?  It would take a man dominated by the Holy Spirit to not be overwhelmed with it or to not be enamored with himself because of it. 

Second, we’re told in verse 3, that Stephen was controlled, or dominated by, “wisdom.”  Now that’s a study all of itself, several studies, “What is wisdom?”  I like the way one person put it, he said, “Wisdom is that intelligence that keeps you out of situations that require wisdom.”  That’s good!

I like the wise example of that old gentleman, who just celebrated, with his wife, his fiftieth anniversary.  Somebody asked the gentlemen, “What did he attribute their marital bliss to?”  And he said, “Well, here it is, when my wife and I first got married, we had this agreement.  It went kind of like this, when she was mad at me and bothered with me, she would just tell me everything and just get it off her mind, and she would just lay it all out.  And when I was mad at her and bothered with something about her, I just took a long walk.  So he said, “I guess you could attribute our happy marriage to the fact that, for the most part, I’ve led an outdoor life!”  That’s wisdom! 

Now you need to understand that when you come to the Word to define “wisdom” in the Bible, wisdom NEVER refers to how much a person knows, wisdom ALWAYS refers to how quickly a person obeys.  It isn’t what you know or what you’ve learned, it’s how you live what you say you’ve learned.  To say you know and not do is really not to know at all, according to the Bible.  And a wise person is that person who obeys the truth, in spite of outward pressure.  When you’re living one way and your entire world around you is saying, “You really ought to be living this way.”  When you’re saying, “This is right.”  And everybody else is saying, “No, that’s wrong.  This is right.”  It takes a wise person to be guided through that domination of godly wisdom through this maze of pressure and opinions so that you arrive at what God would consider the truth to be, even though no one else is telling you that’s the truth. 

I found it interesting, and I pulled from my encyclopedia, something you may not have known about Galileo, but I thought you might find fascinating.  Let me read this to you.  For centuries, people believed that Aristotle was right when he said that the heavier an object, the faster it would fall to earth.  Aristotle was regarded as the greatest thinker of all times and surely he could not be wrong.  All it would have taken is for one brave person to take two objects, one heavy and one lighter, and drop them from a great height to see whether or not the heavier object landed first.  But no one stepped forward, until nearly 2,000 years after Aristotle’s death.  In 1589, Galileo, who was a professor of mathematics at the University of Pisa, summoned learned professors to the base of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. He went to the top and pushed off a ten pound and a one pound weight at the same time.  Both landed at the same time.  But the power of belief in the conventional wisdom was so strong, that the professors denied what they had seen with their own eyes.  They continued to say Aristotle was right.  Galileo’s contract with the university was not renewed the following year.  Galileo also preferred the Copernican theory that the earth revolves around the sun, to the theory of Aristotle, that planets circle a fixed earth.  In 1609, he built a telescope of 20 times magnification and he was able to discover the mountains and craters on the moon.  He also saw that the Milky Way was composed of stars.  He published these findings in March, 1610.  His new fame gained him another appointment as court mathematician in Florence.  And, as a result, he now had the time and resources for research and writing.  In 1613, he published a work on sunspots and predicted victory for the Copernican theory over the theory of Aristotle.  The trouble began again.  In 1614, a priest denounced Galileo from the pulpit.  Then a Jesuit cardinal instructed Galileo that he must no longer hold to or defend the concept that the earth moves.  Galileo would remain silent on the subject for ten years.  Then, in 1624, Galileo began a book on the tides.  Galileo was summoned to Rome by the Inquisition to stand trial for, quote, “Grave suspicion of heresy.”  Galileo was found guilty and was sentenced to life imprisonment, which was commuted to permanent house arrest.  The sentence against him was to be read publicly in every university and his works were ordered to be burned.  Galileo did write another book, entitled, Discourses Concerning New Sciences, and that book would later be published.  It would be that book that would open a road that would, years later, lead Newton to the Law of Universal Gravitation.  Galileo would die before that book would be published, near Florence, on January, 8, 1642, before the world would discover that his views were, not heresy but, the truth.  In October of 1992, a papal commission acknowledged the Vatican’s error. 

Can you imagine going up against the organized religion of your day, the organized church of your country, the public opinion of all of the scientists that you worked around?  Well, you need to understand, as you come to this passage, that Stephen, who was filled with the wisdom of the Word, that is far different, at times, than the wisdom of the world, is about to go up against the establishment.  He’s going to take on Judaism.  He’s going to say that, in effect, Judaism is to be set aside and there’s something new now, and it’s called “Christianity,” and it follows a person, not a ritual, and that person’s name is the One you killed, Jesus Christ.  That’s going against the grain.  That’s going against the current of public opinion and the current of thought for that day.  And Stephen, who was dominated by wisdom, would be able to get up and carry through with his conviction that Christ was the truth.

Now, third, in verse 5, the Bible also tells us that, “Stephen” – was – “a man full of faith”.  Now you can write, into the margin of your text, the word “conviction,” it could be rendered that way.  It could also be translated “faithfulness.”  This is being filled with conviction about the truth of Jesus Christ.  And it will take, by the way, conviction to live out the life of wisdom because what you discover to be the truth in the Word is not easily lived out.  It will take conviction.  It will take faith.  It will take faithfulness for you to be able to say to the world, “You’re wrong, this book is right.”  What are some of the public opinions of today that are acceptable?  It is the pubic opinion of today that abortion is all right, that that is not a living child.  It is the public opinion today that divorcing your spouse is acceptable.  You go to the Word and you hear a different message.  It will take conviction in you to be able to follow through with certain things that the world says is all right but the Word of God would never condone. 

I think it’s interesting, in the 4th century, a leader in the church, by the name of Athanasius, would be exiled five times for his preaching.  On one occasion, the Roman emperor exiled him because he found Athanasius’ teaching distasteful.  And, as he was about to embark on his journey by sea, his congregation came down to the dock to bid him farewell, and they were weeping.  Athanasius turned to them, and said, “Weep not for me, weep for the emperor for he is but a passing cloud.”  Imagine that kind of courage.  During one of his imprisonments, people came to him, and said, “Athanasius, everybody is following Arianism.”  Basically, that was the view that Jesus was not indeed fully God.  It would be this one man, by the way, at that juncture of history, that would defend the deity of Jesus Christ.  Athanasius was also the first man to defend, in writing, the inspiration of the 27 books you hold in your New Testament hands.  It’s kind of interesting how God used him.  They came to his imprisonment, on one occasion, and they said, “Athanasius, it’s no use.  Give up and live.”  And he said, “I cannot.”  One of his followers was reported to have said, “But, Athanasius, the whole world is against you.”  To which he replied, those immortal words, “Then Athanasius is against the whole world.”  That’s kind of rare courage for today, isn’t it? 

I was listening on the radio, some time ago, to a teenager, who was being interviewed on “Focus on the Family.”  I may have shared this with you.  I apologize, if I have.  He was being questioned, he had started, sort of, a movement in his school that was spreading.  Somewhere in the conversation, one of the men, Dobson or the other man, I can’t remember his name, said, “You’re a teenager and you’re involved in a place where, we all agree, is an area where there is a lot of peer pressure.  How do you handle the peer pressure on your campus?”  And I’ll never forget this guy’s response over the radio.  He said, “Dr. Dobson, you need to understand, on my campus, I am the peer pressure.”  Isn’t that great!  Well, at IBM, YOU be the peer pressure.  On your campus, YOU be the peer pressure.  In the shop, YOU be the peer pressure.

I was talking to a gentleman in our church, this past week, and he said, “They moved me to the floor at work.  It’s interesting how, now, over the course of a few days, in fact, some of the language is now changing and some apologies are being made.  And, when I arrive, some of the jokes are stopped in mid-air.  I imagine they’ve noticed that I read my New Testament during my lunch break.  They are now coming and asking me certain questions.”  And I say, “Hallelujah!”  That is taking wisdom, learning from the Word, and having conviction to live it out in the world.  And may his tribe increase.  Amen?  Amen.  I knew you wanted to say that, so I thought I’d let you! 

Stephen was filled with conviction and it would cost him his life, by the way.  It wouldn’t make his life easier.  I think our problem is that we believe that if we have conviction, with God, things will get easier, God will smooth it out.  Maybe not.

Fourth, another ingredient in his life, that I found unusual, verse 8 tells us that, “Stephen” – was – “full of grace”.  This is more a characteristic of his personality than it is a theological description of the grace of God that had been put to work in his life.  Stephen was dominated by this character of “charis,” “gentleness, winsomeness, grace.”  People would say of him, “He is a gracious man.” which is kind of surprising to me.  In fact, F. F. Bruce makes the statement that, if you translated the word in today’s vernacular, you could easily translate the word, “charming.”  The reason I found that surprising is, we’ve just talked about this man who had great conviction, faith, you know, me against the world.  That’s not the kind of guy you’d think would have a lot of fun in life.  You wouldn’t expect to see an Athanasius slapping his knee in laughter, would you?  You know, people who are deeply committed, people who are deeply convicted about biblical truth are, you know, kind of different.  You don’t picture them having a good belly laugh, at least not in public.  Maybe you’d give them the Mona Lisa smile, you know, “That’s funny but I’m spiritual.”  That’s a misconception of our day that the more spiritual you are, the less you laugh.  And so, I thought it interesting that this man, who was deeply moved with conviction to the point where he will say some astounding things to the establishment of his day, you would characterize him as, “He’s winsome.  He smiles a lot.  He’s gracious.” 

One of the things that struck me about Dr. John Walvoord, who is nearing the goal line, chancellor of Dallas Seminary, where I attended, he has been in leadership now for fifty-some years.  When we had him here to preach at our church, it was my first opportunity to be up close with him.  Before then, it was in a classroom and he was up front and, you know, you don’t go up to guys like that and talk about the weather, you, kind of, leave them alone.  One of the things that really struck me was, when he came to our home, how much he laughed, how much he joked.  In fact, I was kind of shocked at times.  Dr. Walvoord told a joke!  I made sure I laughed, too, by the way! 

We had a Christian artist in our church and, before he sang in concert, he asked to have my office.  I thought, “That’s great, he wants to go in there and pray and be alone.  That’s good.”  I would kind of expect that.  I went in, later, to get him and discovered that he had rolled my office!  There was toilet paper everywhere – around my chair, the lamp, the curtains, from bookshelf to bookshelf!  I thought he was praying!  Man, I cut his honorarium in half!  I thought that was a great lesson to learn.                                                                             

I remember, as a college student, mopping floors in a florist shop, at night, to earn some money for tuition.  I worked a few hours each night.  And when I was there, early on, I turned the radio on, that they had high up on a shelf, and tried to find something that I could listen to as I worked.  I just happened to dial by this guy that was preaching.  I was fascinated with his preaching and so I tuned in each night at the same time.  One of the things that really  surprised me, not having come from a similar world, was the fact that he laughed in the pulpit, of all places.  I would learn, later, his name was Swindoll. 

I think we need to re-write, in our minds, this attitude that the deeper you go with God, the gloomier you look.  That wasn’t the case, at least, with this man that we are to emulate.  He was filled with courage, he was filled with the Holy Spirit, he was filled with conviction, he was a man of faith, and yet, people liked to be around him because of the way he laughed and talked. 

Fifth thing, one more, verse 8 tells us that, “Stephen” – was – “full of . . . power”.  That word “dunamis,” or “dynamic.”  He was filled with a dynamic and – “performing great wonders and signs among the people.”  It’s interesting that he is given that special apostolic power to confirm his message with signs and wonders.  Prior to the completion of this Word, we know that apostolic community was able to verify what they said with wonderful signs and miracles.  He, evidently, was able to do the same thing. 

And, as a result, Stephen would become the next target of the Sanhedrin.  They had been focusing on Peter, John, they were having trouble with the church, but now, this new man, “What’s his name?  We’ve never heard of him.  Who is he?”  “Well, his name is Stephen.”  They would go after him.  Verse 9, “But some men from what was called the Synagogue of the Freedmen, including both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, and some from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and argued with Stephen.”  Evidently, in the Synagogue of the Freedmen, there were about 480 synagogues in Jerusalem at this time, this particular one was made up of those children of freed Jewish slaves, and since it was filled with Greek Jews, as it were, Stephen, being a Greek Jew, had, evidently, found his way to this particular synagogue and he was declaring the truth of Christ.  And that, sort of, started this debate.  And there were a number of men from other areas there.  Some were from Cilicia and Asia.  It’s interesting to consider that, one of the men from Cilicia, that will eventually begin persecuting the church, is a man who may have debated Stephen on that day.  His name was Saul.  Verse 10, “And yet they were unable to cope with the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking.” 

Well, if you can’t win publicly, try something nasty in private.  They did that.  “Then they secretly induced men to say, ‘We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.’  And they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and dragged him away, and brought him before the Council.  And they put forward false witnesses who said, ‘This man incessantly speaks against this holy place, and the Law; for we have heard him say that this Nazarene, Jesus, will destroy this place and alter the customs which Moses handed down to us.’”  Two problems, basically, they are saying that Stephen is teaching something that’s different than Judaism, the Mosaic tradition, that’s a theological problem.  And then, they toss in the highly explosive emotional problem, it says, “He’s going to alter our customs.  He’s going to change the way we live.”  They didn’t like change any more than we like change.  Boy, they had an explosion, here, with this argument, “and” – they – “fixing their gaze on him, all who were sitting in the council saw his face like the face of an angel.”  This is grace under fire and this struck me. 

If you look back to verse 12, where it reads, “And they stirred up the people, the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him” – that Greek verb means “to come suddenly and with violence.”  He’s in the midst of a debate where he is, with great wisdom and composure, declaring the truth, and they burst through the doors of that synagogue and they sweep him away.  Before he knows it, he is standing before the Sanhedrin.  This is the moment of greatest pressure in his life, undoubtedly, the most trying time, that will end with the signaled verdict, “Guilty, execute him.”  Was he married, single?  Did he have children?  We don’t know but he doesn’t have any time to say, “Goodbye.”  He was ripped from the synagogue, tried, and, in a matter of moments, stoned to death.  And he, undoubtedly, knew he was in trouble because Peter and John had been here before him.  And, at least, he would get a severe beating, and – “his face” – shone – ‘like the face of an angel”

God did something unusual for him, by the way.  We can’t repeat the performance but, I want you to see what’s happening here.  He was dominated by the Holy Spirit and God did for Stephen’s face what God did for Moses’ face.  Here’s Stephen, accused of blaspheming Moses, and he becomes like Moses, as another sign that he is telling the truth from God, “Listen to him.”  And yet, they would not listen.

Turn over in your Bibles, quickly, to chapter 7.  As the mob is stoning Stephen, you see Stephen modeling grace under fire again, modeling the grace of Christ, Himself.  Verse 59, “And they went on stoning Stephen as he called upon the Lord and said, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!’”  Where did he learn that from?  The Lord, Himself.  Verse 60, “And falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them!’”  Where did he learn that?  “And having said this, he fell asleep.”  Without time to say, “Goodbye,” to anybody.  Without time to set his affairs in order.  Without time, you would think, to prepare his heart.  And yet, we discover that, at that moment, he was ready.  Why?  Because, in his life, he was dominated by, controlled by, submissive to the Holy Spirit, which produced, in him, what we pursue – conviction, wisdom, dynamic, and grace.  May it be.  Let’s pray.

Father, we thank you for your Word that has given us, in a few verses, more than we can really uncover.  And when we look at a man like this, with a testimony like this, I am reminded of our earlier challenge that we cannot be driven to the two extremes of complacency, “Well, I’ll never be able to follow the life of a man who, evidently, had such special privilege.” or discouragement.  Thank you, Father, that your Holy Spirit, that resides in us, is the same Holy Spirit that resided in Stephen.  And You have promised Yourself to us, who submit to you to perfect that which you’ve begun in us until its completion at the day of Jesus Christ.  You have promised to give us that which will accomplish, in our hearts, the willingness and the doing of Your good pleasure.  Frankly, Lord, if anybody has special privileges, it’s us.  If anybody has every opportunity to live for You, it’s us.  Maybe the Spirit of God has pointed His finger in your heart at some of these attributes, some character quality, something, maybe even different than what you’ve been hearing.  As His child, having received Him, would you deal with that issue, whatever it may be, now?  If you’re here, this morning, by the way, without a relationship with Jesus Christ, you don’t know Him personally, you know about Him, you believe the things you’ve seen in the Word about Him, you’ve never, perhaps, denied any of this, but you’ve never personally met Jesus Christ as your Savior, you’ve never said, “Lord, forgive my sin.  Come into my life.  Give me the gift of salvation.”  I encourage you to do that now.  Father, we deeply need to be people of grace, which means that we are in deeper need of Your grace in our lives.  We are in deep need, today, for conviction.  May You have that work in our hearts as we willingly submit to the work of the Holy Spirit in us.  In Jesus name we pray, amen.              

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