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Focus Verses: Acts 7:59 - 8:3
7:59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. 8:1 And
Saul approved of their killing him. On that day a great persecution
broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles
were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 2 Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off both men and women and put them in prison.
Stephen was martyred for his faith in Christ Jesus, a man named Saul
was in the crowd giving his full approval. The event sparked the
beginning of an intense campaign of persecution against Christians, and
Saul became a zealous champion of a crusade to destroy the heretical
movement he believed Christianity to be.
shocking beginning to the story of the Apostle Paul! He began as a
passionate antagonist intent on obliterating Christianity from the
earth, but he became the passionate missionary devoted to taking the
gospel to the ends of the earth. He began as an angry man who approved
of killing those who believed in Jesus, but he became a gracious man
willing to lay down his life for Christ.
Saul was a
self-righteous Pharisee, but Paul became a humble pastor who saw himself
as “chief of sinners.” The enemy of the church, Saul, doesn't speak a
word in Acts 8, but he became the great Apostle who wrote much of the
New Testament—committing his life to establishing, expanding, and
edifying the church. Saul, who stopped and silenced Stephen, would
become Paul who mentored and inspired young men like Timothy and Titus
to become Christian leaders.
Response and Action:
change is possible with Jesus. Passionate opponents of Christianity can
become enthusiastic advocates of Jesus. I need to remember that Jesus
and transformation go hand in hand.
It is impossible
for me to know just how God may be using what seems to be loss and
defeat in order to accomplish gain and victory. Stephen's faith and
boldness in the face of death may have been the very thing that inspired
the Apostle Paul to later write: "Whether by life or by death, may
Christ be exalted in my body."
I will ask God to use
and change me as I follow Christ. I will pray for those who oppose
Christ, believing that they could by God's grace become wholehearted
ambassadors for Christ.
God, help me to live for you and through you in thought, word, and
deed. Help me to turn away from what is wrong and to do what is right.
Help me to turn away from what is false and to love what is true. Help
me to turn away from confidence in self and, instead, turn to you with a
humble recognition of my need and my sin. By the power of your Holy
Spirit, lead, teach, transform, shape, and strengthen me, that I might
delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your Name.
Through Christ, I pray. Amen.
Spiritual Formation Verses: 2 Corinthians 5:16-17
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
Coming Home to Your True Self: Leaving the Emptiness of False Attractions
by Albert Haase