Take your Bibles, please, and turn to the Book of Acts, chapter 6. We have been studying the grace of God. What does it mean to be alive in the grace of God? We've learned that grace helps us to forgive. It helps us to give. We've studied that last month. Today, as we conclude this series, I want to bring a message entitled, "Grace Speaks". We're going to learn that a man or woman growing in the grace of God will speak for Jesus Christ. So, we're going to study the life of a man named Stephen and see how God used him to speak the truth of the gospel. Would you stand with me, please, and turn to your passage of Acts 6?
Next week, we begin a brand-new series. Next Sunday morning, the message series will be entitled "New Life Today." Would you say that with me? "New Life Today." We're going to study how the resurrected power of Jesus Christ can be lived out every day in our lives, how every day can be new in Jesus Christ. If you want to kind of get ready for next Sunday, I'd like to ask you to read Romans 6. That's where I'll be preaching as we kick off the series next Sunday morning. Romans 6, the first five versus. I'm excited about the series and I hope that you'll be praying that God will bless in a great way.
Today we're going to look at Stephen in Acts 6. We find the church at Jerusalem. Let's read about that early church right now. "And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration." Sometimes, when churches grow, you have growing pains. The growing pain that they had were the widows' needs weren't being met. So, someone brought that to the attention of the apostles who were the pastors at Jerusalem. Verse 2, "Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples, unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables." The pastors were not above serving tables, but they had a calling to be in the word and in prayer.
So, verse 3 says, "Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report." I believe these were, likely, the first deacons of the church at Jerusalem. So, the pastor said, "Find seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word." By the way, I would give thanks this morning for the 35 deacons of Lancaster Baptist Church who help with the widows and the needs of the church and the counting of the offerings and benevolence and try to give me a little more time in the study. That's a great blessing to me. That's what is happening right here in this passage.
Now we come to Stephen. The Bible says in verse 5, "The saying pleased the whole multitude; and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and full of the Holy Ghost." Then it mentions several others; Prochorus, Philip, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas. Verse six, "And when they set before the apostles – whom they set before the apostles and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them. And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great number of the priests were obedient to the faith. And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people."
We're going to take the next 25 minutes or so and just survey the life of a man who really allowed the grace of God to help him speak for the Lord Jesus Christ. So, let's pray and jump right into this, this morning. Father, I ask that you would help me to speak your truth and help everyone listening today to receive it in the heart and, Lord, encourage us to grow in grace and to have grace to speak. I pray and ask this in Jesus' name, amen. You may be seated.
Well, there's a few assumptions I'm going to make this morning as I get started. The first assumption that I'm going to make is that everyone here believes that a Christian should tell other people about Jesus. I'm just going to assume that all of us who profess Christ as Savior believe that Christians are supposed to talk about Jesus to people that don't know Jesus. Sometimes I'll go out in our community knocking on doors and people will say to me, "That is so nice that your church does that." Sometimes they say, "I don't know why our church doesn't do that." I often want to say, "You should ask your pastor. That's a really good question." But I don't say that.
Sometimes they say to me, "You're the pastor and you do this?" They're a little surprised. But if they are Christians, they all agree that Christians should evangelize, that they should get the good news out. Jesus said, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel." So, I'm going to assume that most all of us here are onboard, that we would assume and believe together that Christians should tell, especially non-Christians, about Jesus. So, if we're already there, how about an amen to that.
So, we believe that. The second thing I'm going to assume this morning as we begin this message is that while we believe that, lots and lots of people in this room are, at times, afraid to talk about Jesus. Maybe to a boss, a CEO. Maybe to someone that you've thought about it before, but it's just never happened. There's a lot of people living in fear.
Now, we know Jesus said, "Herein is my Father glorified that you bear much fruit." Jesus also said, "If the world hated me, the world's going to hate you." By the way, when Jesus described the Christian life, he didn't say, "Hey let the good times roll. Just add me in. Just make me a part of your life." Jesus said, "I want to be your life and I want you to know, if I'm your life, the world that hated me might hate you." How many of you appreciate that Jesus laid it out there and kind of let us know what we could expect sometimes?
So, we wouldn't mind the idea of witnessing if everybody we witnessed to would love us right back and give us praise for it. But we know that's not always the case. Sometimes our society even intimidates us a little bit. They talk a lot about tolerance, but how many of you have noticed it doesn't seem they're very tolerant of the name of Jesus Christ, sometimes? They talk a lot about being very tolerant with everyone, but we know that, many times, it's different. Isabella Chow, a 20-year-old young lady who's a student at Cal Berkeley, is a member of the Student Congress. Just a few months ago I read the story how that in the Student Congress she chose to abstain from a vote supporting the idea of transgender causes. She just felt that as a student and a member of Student Congress, she could not vote for that.
Immediately, students began to stand up and curse at her, call her every name, a bigot, a mental imbecile, a horrible person. Throughout the three-hour meeting, she was subjected to ridicule. Then, beyond that, on the internet, for weeks and weeks afterwards. In the midst of it, this young lady stood and said, "As a Christian, I believe that certain acts and lifestyles conflict with what is good, right, and true. I believe that God created male and female from the beginning of time and that God ordained a man and a woman to be married. This is what I believe." All she did was say what she believed. Immediately, she was cursed and, immediately, she was pushed upon. So, it is in our society. If you believe that Jesus is the way, or you have a Biblical belief, sometimes the culture can intimidate.
Back in 2013, there was a group on Florida called the Christian Service Center of Lake City, Florida. They were told that they could no longer receive food supplies from the USDA, a federal program, unless they remove the picture of Jesus, the Ten Commandments, and the phrase in their lobby that said, "Jesus is Lord." So, it was that they lost their connection to help the needy citizens in their city because they couldn't take down what represented their personal faith.
I'm saying that our society has a way of saying, "You can be a Christian. Just go to that Lancaster Baptist Church, sit in that church, learn what you want to learn, and when you leave, you just zip your mouth and keep your mouth shut because we don't really want to hear about it out here in the marketplace." But when I read the Bible, I find that real Christians actually took the gospel out into the marketplace and talked to people about Jesus Christ. The more they walked in grace, the more they spoke the truth. The more they grew in grace, the more they witnessed for Christ. The Bible says in Acts 4:33, "And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all." This is our prayer, that great grace would be upon Lancaster Baptist Church and that great grace would be upon us all, that we would all be growing in the grace of God.
Now, when we look at Stephen's life, there are some characteristics. We're just going to survey his life briefly this morning. But there are some characteristics that just pop up. I want you to see them with me. First of all, I do see in his life a work of grace. This man was not a self-made man. This man was not the power of positive thinking. This was a man that had something happening inside.
Now sometimes, in our churches that are more fundamental and Baptist, we put in emphasis on the external. I believe that's okay if it's coming from the inside-out. We're going to learn next week the Christian life is transformational. Sometimes new Christians make the mistake of thinking, "If I look a certain way, if I walk a certain way, if I have my hair cut, if I get the right Bible, if I do all these things, then I'm good." But the fact is you can be good outwardly but not growing inwardly. If you're with me, say amen, this morning.
So, the Christian life is to be lived from the inside-out. What made Stephen great was not the clothes he wore, but it was the work of God that was going on in his life. It was a work of grace. I want you to see in verse 3, the Bible says, "Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost." Verse 5, "And the saying pleased the whole multitude: and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Ghost."
Now, every Christian, a truly born-again Christian is born again by the Holy Spirit or the Holy Ghost, the third person of the Trinity. The Bible says, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh. That which is born of the spirit is spirit." Now, some of the Pentecostal churches teach that you receive Jesus Christ as your Savior on one occasion and then, later on, you will receive the Holy Spirit. Of course, they always say it's going to be accompanied with some experience of some kind. We believe, very firmly, that you receive the Holy Spirit when you accept Jesus Christ as your Savior.
In fact, notice in your notes, Romans 8, in verse 9, it says, "But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now, if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his." So, in other words, you either have the Holy Spirit and you're saved, the Spirit of Christ and you're of him, or you don't have the Holy Spirit and you not of him. So, if you are saved, then you possess the Holy Spirit.
Now, here's the issue today. You may possess the Holy Spirit, but does the Holy Spirit possess you? You may have the Holy Spirit, but does the Holy Spirit have you? We sometimes refer to this as being filled with the Spirit, Ephesians 5:18. So, this work of grace in Stephen's life is directly attributed to the fact that he was full of the Holy Ghost. He wasn't full of Stephen. He was full of God. When you're full of God, you're going to talk about Jesus Christ. So, it was that this was produced by the Holy Spirit, this witness of Stephen. So, it was produced by the Spirit. It was evidenced in real faith. Verse 5, the Bible says, "He was a man full of faith."
We read about this with so many men. The Bible says in Acts 11:24 of a man named Simon of Antioch, "For he was a good man and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith, and much people was added unto the Lord." So, someone that is full of the Holy Ghost is someone that will have much faith in the Lord. Thirty-three years ago, I moved to Lancaster, California. We began preaching to 12 people and then 20 and then 25. I would preach to the front row. All the other rows were roped off. Every week, we'd move the rope back a little bit. We'd rejoice. That was a great victory. There was no salary and there was no program and Sunday School and choir. But there was faith and there was the presence of the Holy Spirit of God. God began to work in the church.
So, we see very clearly in Stephen's life, a work of grace produced by the Holy Spirit, evidence in real faith. Then it was seen in power. You could see in his life that there was a power at work. This is what we need in our lives. Notice in verse 8, the Bible says, "And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and miracles among the people."
Now, I'm not challenging you, this morning, to go out and try to perform miracles. In fact, I don't believe that that's the role of the church today. I believe God performs miracles. I believe in the first century and the apostolic presence that they had miracles and they have various sign gifts such as tongues and healings. Yet, what I want you to focus on, at this moment, is not so much the miracle, but the power, because I do believe that God wants all of us to have the power of God in our witness. He wants to bless our witness.
I had a pastor friend text me early this morning from the East Coast. He said, "Brother Chappell, I am praying for you." He said, "I believe there's an anointing on your life and I pray that God will further anoint you this morning." When I read that, I stopped, and I prayed, and I said, "Lord, I pray that there is an anointing on my life and I pray for an anointing." What does that mean? I'm saying, "Spirit of God, work in me. Work through me. I don't want it to be me. I want your power to be demonstrated."
Sometimes we can be a little fearful of witnessing. But may I say that the Spirit of God will give us the power to witness. Acts 1:8, "But you shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost has come upon you: and you shall be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth."
Let's never be the kind of church that sends money to the missionaries to salve our conscience that they're soul-winning and they're witnessing for us. God says no. We've got to do our part in our Jerusalem while they're doing their part in El Salvador or wherever they might be.
So, here, we see that this life of Stephen, it was evidence of a work of grace in his heart. God was empowering him and strengthening him. But not only was it a work of grace. I want you to see secondly. It was a witness of grace. This man didn't just have something going on in his heart, but he was witnessing for the Lord.
The Bible says in verse 7 something I want you to see. It says, "And the word of God increased." Now, a spirit-filled group like these early deacons are going to have a message that is Biblically based. In other words, they're going to talk about the Bible. They're going to talk about the death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God.
Let me show you something about Stephen. He was so well-versed in the Bible. We're all on different parts of our journey, here. Thank the Lord for that. Some people, this morning, had to look a little hard to find the Book of Acts. How many of you are glad there's people like that at our church? Now, if you're here five years from now still looking, come and see me. We've got to work on that. Okay? But there's people here at different levels.
But look at Stephen's ability with the scripture and power of the Spirit in verse 10. The Bible says, "And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which he spake." He went into a synagogue called the synagogue of the Libertines. It was the synagogue where Jews from the dispersion would come and worship in Jerusalem. He was speaking to them about the oracles of God. When he spoke, they were not able to resist what he said. How many of you would like to be able to handle the word and have the power of God so that when you witness someone says, "I can't argue that"? My friend, that was a great testimony in Stephen's life. He was a Biblically-based teacher.
Please, remember something. The power is not in you or in me. The power is from the Holy Spirit and the power is from the Bible. I cannot win a soul. I cannot seize – I cannot save someone, but I can share the word with someone and I can tell them what I know from the word. The Bible says – and I want you to see it in your notes – in Hebrews 4:12 it says this, "For the word of God is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit and of the joints and marrow. It's a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
Sometimes you might say, "I try to talk about God to that person and I just blew it." But if all you do is give them a little brochure like we saw this morning, which has scripture in it, if all you do is share the truth of the death, burial, and resurrection, the scriptures will do their work because they are powerful. It's not like you have to have the power of yourself. It's from the Lord. It's from his word. The Bible says, "You will know the truth and the truth shall make you free."
That's why we're challenging you in the next 21 days to share a gospel track and just to say to a friend, "Hey, let me just tell you something. Great things have happened in my life as I've grown to understand the ramifications of the resurrection. We have a day just set aside for it at Easter Sunday. I just want to invite you and your family or your friend to come." Just take that moment and look for that moment. We'll talk about that later. But just be willing to let God use you to give the Bible-based message.
Let me help you understand something. We live in a day when people so desperately need the Lord. Many of you have been in Lancaster, as I have, for decades. Folks, nothing stays the same. Nothing's static in that way. Our community's changing. There's many people here that need the Lord that are new in our community. We've got to see the need to reach them with the gospel.
Only five percent of Christians ever accept Christ at something like a concert. There's so many emphasis today on music and many churches that are different stylistically and, if they're getting the gospel out, praise the Lord. But it's all about music. It's the attraction today with so many. Yet, statistics tell us that only about five percent of people get saved at a concert. Then, statistics tell us that about 30 percent of people that get saved get saved during a church service. By the way, how many of you would be happy, like me, to see these aisles filled with people coming to trust Christ on Easter Sunday? Wouldn't that be a blessing? But the reality is that 50 percent of people that get saved, get saved because a friend tells them something about Jesus Christ, because somebody just takes the time to talk to them about the Lord.
This is what Stephen did. He spoke the word of God and the word of God increased. Also, we see in Stephen's life, that his witness was not only Biblically based but he was faithful when he was opposed. If you would, notice there in verse 9 of chapter 6, it says, "Then there were those that arose of the synagogue which is called the synagogue of the Libertines," and notice it says, "They were disputing with Stephen." Sometimes, there will be those that will argue. There will be those that dispute. But Stephen would not let that stop him. He continued faithfully getting the word of God out.
In fact, in Acts 5:29, the Bible says, "We ought to obey God rather than men." Folks, I want to tell you something, that we should not right during our work hours be witnessing and preaching, but it's completely legal before work and during your lunch, and after work to talk to somebody about the Lord. It's very important that all during your work that your life is testifying for the Lord so that when you talk about the Lord, it all comes together in their life. Don't be so fearful over the opposition. God said it will come, but he still said, "Go, and lo, I will be with you until the end of the world." God is there, even when the opposition comes. It was.
In fact, notice in verse 13, it says they "set up false witnesses, which said, This man ceaseth not to speak blasphemous words against this holy place, and the law." In other words, Stephen is telling them about the Lord and they're saying, "This guy's a troublemaker." They said of the Apostle Paul in 1 Thessalonians, "He's a pestilent fellow." There are people in America that think that Bible-believing Christians are the problem. Right? I can't help them with that other than to keep loving them and keep sharing the gospel with them, because we know that the gospel is not the problem. It's the solution to man's need today.
So, we see here, he was Biblically based, and he was faithful when he was opposed. He just kept focusing on Christ. He would not get sidetracked. Some people say, "Well, I believe in evolution. I believe in this or that." But Stephen just kept bringing it back to, "What are you going to do about Jesus, the only one that ever conquered the grave? What are you going to do about that?"
Notice in chapter 7, in verse 52. Here, Peter is preaching to the Sanhedrin, that's the 70 religious leaders of the Jewish faith. In verse 52, he says, "Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? And they have slain them which showed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye now are the betrayers and murderers". The Just One speaks of Jesus Christ. He's saying, "You've slayed the prophets and now you've rejected Jesus, the Just One." Verse 56, as they were stoning Stephen, we'll see in a moment, he was the first martyr of the Christian faith. Verse 56, he looked up into the heavens and he said – he saw the Son of Man standing at the right hand of the God.
You see, a Spirit-filled Christian will not be fundamentally known for their radical music or their awesome worship or the extemporaneous things that are seen. A Spirit-filled Christian will be fundamentally known for the fact that they talk much about Jesus Christ. Now, look in your notes there at John 16:13. It says, "Howbeit when the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come." This is Jesus speaking. He says, "He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine and shall show it unto you." So, Jesus says, "The Holy Spirit in you is going to glorify me." In other words, when we're full of the Holy Spirit, we're going to talk and focus on Jesus Christ. If you follow that principle, say amen, this morning. Someone that's full of God's Spirit if going to talk more about Jesus Christ. Now let me tell you something about witnessing.
You don't have to get this idea that you have to have degrees and that you have to have this certain slick approach. In fact, the best council I can give to you is just to be yourself. Just talk to your friends. Just talk to them about the Lord. If you one day want to take a college class or a discipleship, all these things are great. But any saved person can tell another person how to get saved.
Billy Graham went over to England in 1955 to preach his first crusade. Some of you may have heard about this. He met with the Queen on a few occasions and preached in different cities. When he went to Cambridge, he was rather intimidated. I've tried to put my mind into what would it be like to be in your early 30s, going to Cambridge to preach a revival meeting, one of the seats of intellectual knowledge and wisdom in the world. There he was, preaching to the student body at Cambridge. So, Billy Graham said for three nights he tried to make his preaching academic and enlightened. He tried to do everything he could to kind of relate at their level. It was to no effect.
So, he got alone with God and he realized that presenting the intellectual side of the faith was not his gift. So, he just began preaching the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus, that all men are sinners, and that Jesus died for their sin, and that whoever would call in the name of the Lord could be saved. As he preached those last few days in Cambridge, 400 Cambridge students accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. The Queen called him to Windsor Castle and said, "How is it that you're going across the nation and, with this simple message, so many lives are being changed?" He was able to share with the Queen, "There's nothing simple about the death, burial, and resurrection."
I want to tell you, friend, you say, "Pastor, I don't know a lot and I'm a little frightened about what to say or even to give out a track." You have to know a lot. Be yourself and let the power of God prompt you. When the Lord touches your heart, just obey him and speak for him and tell others about him. Stay focused on Christ. Stephen's life was a work of grace. It wasn't – the power was not from him. The power was from God in him. Stephen's life was a witness of grace because the power of God was in him, then he spoke about the Lord, Jesus Christ.
Then, I want you to notice, finally, Stephen's life was a wonder of grace. It was just a wonder of grace. It's wonderful that he was bold to speak the gospel. Notice, if you would, in Acts 7:51, it says, "Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye."
Now, I don't expect you to go to Lockheed tomorrow and quote that verse to the guy next to you in the cubicle, okay? But what I'm illustrating for you is that he was bold in his message. He knew that they had stones in their hands. He knew that his life was at risk. Still, he told them what they needed to know, that they were stubborn and rebellious sinners and they needed Christ as their Savior. Now, that was his calling. Do you think God could give us the courage just to speak up for Jesus, just to give an invitation for Jesus? Bold, to speak, to speak to our coworkers and friends.
You know, a recent Life Way study indicated that more than one in three un-churched people are willing to attend a service if someone would just invite them. One in three would come if someone would just invite them. You see, the devil wants us to believe that, across the board, nobody wants to come. Everybody is resistant. But I want to remind you that the guy who's the CEO at your work and the guy that drives the nicest car and the people that seem to have it all together normally don't. They have broken homes, broken lives, debt, drug addiction. They need something, and they know it. While we're afraid to speak, they wonder why we don't. Because they know that Christians are supposed to speak, and they wonder why we don't. Stephen was bold to speak because he was bold in his God.
I don't know that we've had a service ever quite like the home-going service for John Tanner, last week. I honestly wish – and I may do this – that every teenager in the church could just watch the video. To have the captain of the Highway Patrol stand here and, for 20 minutes, talk about the testimony of a 29-year-old man who lived for God without reservation, and to see that giant man weep when he described the boldness of John Tanner, who was smaller in stature.
To hear him say how that, John, did not know, at first, how to arrest drunk drivers or to detect drunk drivers, because he didn't know what alcohol smelled like, because having been raised in this church and having actually listened to the teaching and preaching, he'd never had tasted alcohol in his life. Some would say, "Well, I bet they made fun of him for that." No, the couple of hundred law enforcement that sat in that section, respected him for that. They wept as their captain spoke.
The captain said that John's training officer would tease John because he was so small. He said when they would get out of the car on a windy day – how many of you know we have one or two windy days a year here [laughter]? He said when he'd get out of a car on a windy day, he'd say, "John, put some rocks in your pockets so the wind doesn't carry you away." He said he was so small, but he was so big in his witness for God. Inviting all of to church, telling all of us that every blessing in his life was from God.
See, God can put big boldness into little bodies. The Bible says, "Don't you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, that God lives in you." There's a whole world of Christians who sing about the resurrection power. Boy, they just love it but never speak it outside of Church. We've got to get passed the idea of public displays of worship and into the idea of personally talking to people about Jesus Christ. I'm not against public displays. I think when the truth moves, it's wonderful. Someone might raise their hands or shout an amen. Those are fine things. But may I say to you that what we need is not just emotion. We need the truth to move our hearts into action.
Stephen was a man who knew the risk, but he was bold in the Holy Spirit, even as Paul was bold at Corinth. Look, if you would, at Acts 18:9, "Then spake the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak". Now look right here for a moment. Paul, the apostle, had to hear from God, "Be not afraid." It's not wrong to be afraid sometimes. Many times, I have fear or apprehension. Often when I walk through that door, there's a spirit of nervousness and I feel like that's important. I don't want to just walk out here strutting my stuff like, "I got this." Because without God, I don't have anything. Sure, you're going to be afraid to witness and invite your friend to Easter on the shuttle bus or the train. There's no sin in having fear. The sin is when we don't trust God. Right?
The psalmist said this, "At what time I am afraid, I will trust in thee." What are you afraid of today? That's your opportunity to trust in God. Notice, there in Acts 18:9, "Don't be afraid, but speak, hold not they peace." God says, "I have much people in this city." Paul continued there three – through a year and six months. Be bold to speak.
But notice, also, with Stephen, he was graceful under pressure. Now sometimes when you speak for the Lord, there may be some of those, "Yeah, whatever." There might be someone that's rude. You've got to remember something. It's not about you. That's why the Bible says, "Be dead to self."
Most people are going to be polite. Most people I invite here in Lancaster are polite. Some of you might go to the workstation next to you and give a track and that person might say, "No, I'm not interested." But the person in the next cubicle, as you walk away, thinking you have failed, this person might say, "Can I have one of those?" Because God is going to bless according to his plan. He's just looking for somebody that'll move with him, somebody that will get in the way, somebody that will be that testimony.
Look at Stephen. The Bible says in 6:15, these guys have been yelling at him. They're saying that he was a false witness. In verse 15, the council, all that sat in this council, they looked steadfastly on him and they saw his face as it had been the face of – what does it say? Say it with me. A face of what? Angel.
Now, here we see the graceful life of Stephen. These guys are like, "You're a false teacher. You're a liar, man. You're a liar." Then they just kind of look at him to see what the reaction would be. I don't know about you. I don't know that my reaction would be the face of an angel. Right? You ever have somebody – maybe you're driving down the 14 and someone's honking their horn and showing sign language to you. Normally, my first response is not the face of an angel. My first response might be to want to pull up next to him and go, "Oh, yeah? Want a piece of this?" That's if it's a lady like five-two. That's what I say in those cases. [Laughter]
Most of us, when someone's in our face, we're not just like handling it with the face of an angel. Why was he that way? Because he was full of the Holy Spirit and he knew it wasn't him they were rejecting. It was God they were rejecting. See, some of us need to get ourselves off the throne of our life and stop worrying about what happens to us. You're probably not going to get fired from your job if, at your lunchtime, you talk about God. If – you have rights at your workplace, by the way. You should not waste the company's time, but I'm just saying, the idea that everyone else can talk about everything else and you can't talk about the Lord is absolutely wrong. Don't live in fear. Live in faith.
The wonder of Stephen, the witness of Stephen – I want you to see this as we close, chapter 7:54. Notice how Stephen dies. "And when they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth." Do you understand? This guy's preaching about Jesus and they begin to bite him with their teeth. Folks, I don't think that's going to happen to anyone here tomorrow. But that's what happened to Stephen.
"And he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up steadfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, and said, Behold, I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit."
Can I just tell you very quickly that whenever you're witnessing and serving the Lord, people watch you? Someone's watching you. In this case, there was someone watching whose name was Saul. I won't go all into it, but you can read later today, in Acts 9, this man, Saul, he's riding on a donkey up to a place that's called Damascus when, suddenly, a light shines down from heaven and the Lord says, "Saul, Saul, why persecutes thou me? It is hard for you to kick against the pricks."
The pricks were like the sticks that goad an animal. Paul was being goaded. He was being convicted. I believe what he was thinking about was a young man, named Stephen, who died with the face of an angel. He didn't get mad. He didn't fight back. He had something in his life that Saul, with all of his education, did not have. That's what people need to see in our lives. They need to see that there's something in us, someone in us that has made a great change. The Holy Spirit made the change in his life.
All of us believe we should witness. Most of us don't. What can we do about that? I believe God wants to use us this next few weeks to speak about the resurrection of his son. I mentioned earlier that I was preaching in El Salvador last week and it was just a blessing just to see our missionaries there, loving the El Salvadorian people, treating them with such dignity, giving them the gospel. I think I have a few pictures. This was the tenth anniversary of the church that we helped to start. They've expanded their auditorium. Just amazing to see people there.
This is a daughtered church, if you will, of Lancaster Baptist Church. We've had the privilege in helping them to start. The next picture shows a man that going through the continued discipleship in the Spanish language and just learning the basics of the Christian life. The next picture shows someone that was – came up and talked to my wife, a little girl that rode the bus to church, just a little poor girl from a broken home. My wife said, "I rode the bus to church." She held onto my wife's dress the rest of the day. She just wanted to be a friend with another bus kid. Hundreds of children like this and ladies like this that were saved and baptized. It really warmed my heart.
But probably the highlight of the trip was seeing a friend named Raul. I'd like to tell you how I met Raul. I think the next slide is Raul. When I was in El Salvador, maybe 10 or 12 years ago, the first time, we were driving up to a city near Guatemala. On the way, we'd been in the car a while. There was a little lake and there was a building or two on the side. I said, "Can we stop here and just stretch for a minute, maybe take a picture?" We got out and folks were refreshing and stretching. This man was there. I just shook his hand. I had an interpreter. I said my name and that I was from California. I said, "Let me ask you a question." I said, "If you were to die today, do you know that you'd spend eternity in heaven?"
Now I don't always ask that question within 30 seconds of meeting someone. But we likely were never going to see him again. So, I didn't have time to do a lot of other talking. I just asked him the question. "Do you know that you'd spend eternity in heaven?" He said, "I don't know that, but I would like to know that." I said, "You know, the Bible says you can know that. Can I show you that from the Bible?" One of the best ways to witness is to ask permission. "Can I speak to you for a moment? Could I show you something?" I asked him permission. He said, "Sure." About 15 minutes later, Raul prayed to accept Jesus Christ as his Savior. I didn't know he owned the restaurant that we had stopped to refresh in. I didn't know he was the mayor of his city. I knew none of that. I just knew he was someone that, when I saw him, the Holy Spirit said, "Ask him."
As I was walking in the Spirit – now I'm not saying I obey the Spirit every time. I'm not going to claim to be a perfect Christian. I'm just saying that when I obey the promptings of the Holy Spirit, great things happen. What thrilled my heart was that, 12 years later, he is attending church, Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night. He's now a deacon of the church. The missionary has left and they're helping the new pastor. He's asking me, "How do I help our young, new pastor?" What I'm saying is there's joy in simply listening to the Holy Spirit. You say, "That's you." No, that's any one of us can have God guide us and we can be used of God in this way.
Let me give you a few practical thoughts and we'll close this morning. I want to challenge you, if you want to live like Stephen, to do a couple of practical things. Number one, let me encourage you to carry gospel tracks with you. Take these off the tables. There's tables all around the building today. Get them in your purse. I have them in my car. I don't go to El Pollo Loco or Starbucks or any place without giving something. Just carry them with you. Just have the gospel with you and be ready. The Bible says to be ready always.
Then, secondly, let me encourage you, when you wake up tomorrow morning, to ask the Holy Spirit to give you power and to lead you, just to say, "Lord, would you give me what Pastor preached about yesterday? Would you lead me to someone today? Show me the one you want to be Raul in my life. Show me that person, Lord, and I will speak to them." Just ask the Lord. I find that when I ask him to lead me, he always does.
Number three, let me encourage you to build intentional relationships with people. Don't see them as just coworkers or fellow soccer players on your kid's team. You see, you're not an E4 in the Air Force. You're not a police officer. You're not a fireman. You're not an air traffic controller. You are a child of God. You're the servant of God and God put you wherever you are to be his witness. So, then look at the opportunity, not just to make a sale or to do your job, but an opportunity to witness for Jesus Christ.
Number four, look for ways to turn the conversation to the Lord. It might be talking about aerospace and space, and then to talk about the creation of God. It might be talking about family and people that have hurts. They'll say things to you and you can say, "You know, the Lord's helped me in these areas."
Then, finally, sow the seed. There's never going to be fruit unless we sow the seed. Just give someone the seed. Just give them the word that they so desperately need. What we need is great grace upon us. All of us, this morning, need to say, "He's right. We're all supposed to witness. We often don't. So, Lord, this week, guide me, fill me, show me who, tell me how, and I will. I want you to use me to tell others the good news that I know within my heart."
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