Acts 7:51 “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!”
Stephen was a mighty preacher and spoke the truth bluntly, but in the end it cost him his life. He was convinced in his heart that his own people needed to be challenged and convicted by the Holy Spirit before they could be changed. He wasn’t doing it out of malice or malcontent; he was doing it because he wanted the people to humbly come to Christ and be saved. The pity about his passionate preaching was this: the people refused to listen to what God called upon him to say.
Prophetic preaching is very rarely heard these days. People like us go to church to be lifted up, not sorted out. We are looking for words of encouragement and spiritual means of support to get us through each week. We need to know that God loves us and approves of who we are, what we are doing, and what we hope to achieve. We seek meritorious blessings from God and practical ways to fulfill our dreams. We come for something from God and feel empty when we get nothing from the service, the preacher, or the worship.
Stephen didn’t last long as a preacher. Acts chapter 7 contains most of what he passionately preached on that ill-fated day. The people were infuriated and turned into an ugly mob. They reacted that way because Stephen was meddling with their cherished beliefs, their own understanding, and spiritual feelings for God. To be told that they were doing it all wrong was just unthinkable, unacceptable, and blasphemous. So they did the very thing that he was preaching about: they killed another prophet. In their fury, they did not realize or refused to recognize that they were guilty of the very things that Stephen was pointing out. The preacher preached the truth in order to change their lives; all his hearers did was to deny his words, his message, and then take his life.
Stephen wouldn’t last long in our society either. He would upset our comfort zones and tread on our toes. He would meddle through his preaching and push us away from God. We wouldn’t stone him; we would just completely ignore him. That’s why prophetic preachers are so rarely found these days – they just don’t want to rock the boat or upset the church. Preachers and church people are alike because they suffer from the same condition: they just can’t handle the Truth.
Questions for personal reflection
Have I ever been ‘stung’ by a sermon? What did I honestly think about the preacher?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, Your Gospel is not easy to preach, teach, or even accept. We want to live our own lives peacefully and happily, freely and prosperously. We forget that our faith costs lives, even in today’s world. Speak to our spirits today and express to us what we need to change in our lives in order to truly follow You. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today’s message, please send him an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. John welcomes your comments and questions.
Today’s image is one of John’s latest Psalm drawings. It’s based on a verse from Psalm 134. If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8392/8574831320_492585350d_b.jpg