Thursday, August 19, 2010

invisible force

Jesus had died, resurrected and ascended to Heaven.  The book of Acts is taking us through the history of what happened next.  The fishermen of Galilee had progressed from passive listeners to fearful followers to ardent agents on behalf of the carpenter from Nazareth.  As we move from chapter to chapter we see that Jesus is still very much present as the miracles, acts of selfless courage and devotion to God that men display flow from His presence in their hearts.  In chapters 6 and 7 we meet a new hero of the faith named Stephen.  We are beginning to see the power and love of Jesus displayed just as mightily through others as it had been through Peter and the original disciples.  We also see the great and severe conflict that inevitably emerges when one lives and speaks wholeheartedly for the Lord.  In these early days, the church's greatest enemies came from the Jewish tradition.  There was anger and fear that the familiar beliefs and habits of the past were threatened by this new movement, which saw Jews becoming something new and different...passionately alive with faith in a living deity...not just participants in ritual, routine and religious rites.  Stephen's life and death, as a martyr, highlights an important principle of living: opposition defines conviction.  We can be grateful for the stark contrast that opponents of true faith display.  Even today, those who truly love and live for the Lord will encounter resistance because Satan still opposes the saving work of the Gospel.  Just as there is a great force within and behind those who have trusted Jesus as Savior to advance the there is an evil force within and behind those who resist acceptance of the greatest message ever given to man.  Stephen did not shy from this resistance.  Rather he used it as a platform to explain God's plan of redemption and the Lord gave Stephen a vision directly up to the Heavenly throne.  Sharing this vision cost Stephen his earthly life but demonstrated for all time that Heaven is real...God has revealed it...He awaits those who have overcome the opposition and surrendered to Him.  (and His enemies can become His children)
Rob Smith

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