Everyone Means Everyone

1 Then the high priest asked Stephen, “Are these charges true?” 2 To this he replied: “Brothers and fathers, listen to me!” ... 54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 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. (Acts 7:1-2&54-60)
 
In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.  (2 Timothy 3:12)
Yesterday we spent time looking at the life of Stephen. What an amazing guy! Who wouldn’t want to be friends with somebody who spent his days feeding the poor and needy, ministering to widows, healing the sick and proclaiming the Good News that Jesus has come to save us?

Well, it turns out in Acts 7, that quite a few people didn’t want to be friends with him at all. Some of the religious leaders in Jerusalem felt very threatened by him. They tried to explain away his message but found that he had a good answer for all of their objections. They tried to silence his message by threatening him with violence but discovered that Stephen was as courageous as he was wise. Eventually they dragged him in front of the Sanhedrin, the supreme Jewish law court in Jerusalem, and put him on trial for offending the Jewish Law. Stephen defends himself with a long speech – the longest speech recorded in the book of Acts – but he never gets to finish it. Before the court can pass its verdict over Stephen, he is dragged outside the courtroom and lynched by an angry mob.

This can seem pretty foreign to us. Nobody has ever tried to stone us to death for sharing the Gospel with them. Following Jesus in North London feels a whole lot different from following Jesus in North Korea, but Acts 7 and 2 Timothy 3:12 make it clear to us that the difference is merely one of scale. The issue for us in London is not that we live in a culture in which proclaiming the Gospel is met with rapturous applause. Although some people accept it gladly, many others laugh at us, insult us and try to threaten us into silence – either in person or online. Stephen could have avoided being lynched by the mob by keeping his head down and making his Christianity a purely private affair, but he didn’t. He was willing to suffer for proclaiming the Word of Jesus. The question is: Are we? The Apostle Paul warns us that “Everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” If you are not experiencing any kick-back from the people around you for your faith in Jesus, could it be because you are not taking the same path as Stephen. Have you made your Christianity a deeply private matter?

These verses encourage us that the Lord loves it whenever his people are willing to blow their cover as Christians and suffer with him. Acts 7:55 is one of those verses in the Bible where all three Persons of the Trinity are mentioned. The Lord is so delighted with Stephen’s decision to side with him against the world for the sake of the world that the Father, Son and Spirit all get involved. Again and again throughout the New Testament, we are told that Jesus is seated on the throne of heaven, but Acts 7:55 and 7:56 are the only two occasions in the whole of the New Testament where Jesus is said to be standing up off his throne in celebration, like an England fan watching their team score an important goal. Jesus is so delighted that Stephen has blown his cover as a Christian that he gets up off his throne to celebrate. That’s also how he feels about your and my courageous witness for him today.
1)   Re-read 2 Timothy 3:12. Is that your own experience of what it means to follow Jesus?

2)   How much do you feel you live as ‘an undercover Christian’?

3)   What would it mean for you to blow your cover as a Christian today, for the glory and delight of Jesus?
Lord Jesus, I want to follow you in your sufferings too. I thank you for the many ways in which you make my life better, but I also want to commit myself to follow you when doing so makes my life more difficult. Lord Jesus, I confess that I sometimes live my Christian life undercover. I want to do that no longer. Please help me to blow my cover as a Christian today by wearing my faith on my sleeve for all to see. I ask this in your precious name, Amen.
Today’s Everyday Devotions were brought to you by Phil Moore, who leads our team of whole-church elders.

If you have time, consider carrying on your conversation with God using one of our helpful Prayer Pathways.

Today’s Everyday Devotions have also inspired a devotional video that you can watch on our YouTube channel.