The Mindset of a Martyr: The Death of Stephen

we are going to be talking about Acts

chapter seven today in the sermon which

is about the first martyr in the

Christian Church so how perfect is that

song for what we're going to be talking

about today so some of you that have

been just starting to visit us recently

have heard sermons on God killing people

at church if you remember we talked to

Ananias and Sapphira and now we're going

to talk about people getting killed for

their faith in Jesus so welcome to Lion

of Judah so you're thinking what have I

gotten myself into this is important for

us to talk about though Acts chapter 7

and as we often say we we do not believe

in skipping the unpleasant parts of

Scripture right amen we believe the Word

of God is living and active sharper than

any double-edged sword that all

Scripture is god-breathed useful for

teaching correcting training and

righteousness and when we clip out the

sections that might make us

uncomfortable we only hurt ourselves and

impoverish our faith so we're going to

talk about martyrdom today now some of

your like what does martyrdom mean

martyrdom means making the ultimate

sacrifice for faith in Jesus Christ

dying explicitly for the gospel now

let's pray before we we dig into this

father in Jesus name God you know that

as we approach this topic in any topic

out of your word father I am overwhelmed

with a sense of the of the holiness of

your word God

of the value of what you have to say to

your people the preciousness of your

people's hearts Lord God and that they

are always to be treated with respect

God that we are on holy ground when we

meditate on your word together and

father I pray that your power would be

perfected in my weakness in our

weaknesses and that your word would

breathe through these scriptures and

speak to us today God let it be the

voice of the shepherd that speaks to us

as we meditate on this awesome and

difficult topic in jesus name amen amen

so yes so martyrdom martyrdom has been a

big topic in Christian history it's been

an important thing to talk about people

dying for their faith in Christ now we

can feel like while here in modern

America that can seem so distant to us

but it is not so distant no it is not so

distant it has been part of Christian

experience from the beginning I don't

remember the story at the beginning when

Jesus was talking to the Apostle Peter

after Peter had denied him three times

and then Jesus had risen from the dead

Peter was fishing and then he saw Jesus

and he swam to shore and then Jesus

asked him three times do you love me do

you love me deal of me giving him three

chances to reaffirm his faith in Jesus

remember that encounter it was an

awesome moment where they came a moment

where jesus said to Peter when you were

young you went wherever you wanted but

when you are old you will be led where

you don't want to go and you will

stretch out your hands like a child and

someone else will dress you the Bible

says that that was a prophecy Jesus was

predicting the kind of death Peter would

one day die that he would be led into a

situation he wouldn't want to be in he

would stretch out his hands and he would

be crucified just like Jesus was for his

faith and for his testimony now those of

you know church history know that

tradition has

the when they threatened to crucify the

Apostle Peter he said he wasn't worthy

to be crucified like his Lord and he was

crucified upside down because he wasn't

worthy to die like Jesus did the

prophecy came true that in his maturity

in his perfect love he became more like

a child and was led where God led him to

be to martyrdom and this has been part

of Christian history ever since the

letters of the New Testament only makes

sense if we realize they were written to

Christians under persecution no they are

words that are written saying don't lose

your confidence remember the earlier

days when you receive the light and you

endure great conflict and full of

suffering you were publicly exposed to

insult and persecution at other times

you stood side by side with those were

so treated you suffered with those in

prison and joyfully accepted the

confiscation of your property the

Apostle Paul I believe rights in the

book of Romans because you knew that you

yourselves had better and lasting

possessions so do not throw away your

confidence it will be richly rewarded

the letters of the New Testament all

written to Christians who are being

persecuted for their faith who had to

suffer legal ramifications for their

testimony in Christ again church history

has it that all of the Apostles except

for John were killed for their testimony

I saw Jesus alive that all of them died

for that which is really actually if you

think of it I've said this before but

it's worth saying again that's an

amazing thought isn't it would you die

for a lie now unfortunately there's a

lot of people in the world as we've

talked about who do die for lies but

they believe those lies right would you

die for something you knew to be a lie

now of course not well all the Apostles

died because they said I saw Jesus alive

again they said no you didn't and they

say yes I did and they died for that and

there's all kinds of stories about this

there's books written about the stories

of the martyrs the early

it in historically here in the United

States the early settlers here in the

19th century would have in there by in

their house they would have a Bible they

would have Paul Bunyan's Pilgrim's

Progress and they would have foxes Book

of Martyrs stories about the martyrs and

all the different ways that people died

for their faith in Jesus throughout

history not just hundreds not just

thousands hundreds of thousands of

people or more died for their faith in

Jesus and that is still going on today

this is all still very much with us some

of us are from countries that have lived

this the hard way right there are some

people here who this is not just a

theoretical topic you know people who've

been in jail because of what they

believe it's not that far away and today

right now there's things happening

around the world that that are just

horrifying to us know we see the clips

on the news of Isis of the beheadings

going on we hear stories of entire

villages of Christians being massacred

men women and children systematically

beheaded and that is not thousands of

years ago but that's today and it's for

their faith in Jesus martyrdom is still

with us martyrdom is not just a

historical thing but it's a present

thing for the Christian Church around

the world now why meditate on such

horror right I don't know you but I

don't even let I don't even let the kids

watch the news these days I don't even

it's the news is just off limits you

know along with anything else on TV

unless I really monitoring right but the

news is just the search horror being

shown before our eyes on a break why am

I here on Sunday meditating

on this with you what's the good of that

what's to be gained well at first of all

it's in the Word of God then that's a

big that's why we're not going to skip

it but in an ironic way I believe that

this is good for us thinking about

people who have made the ultimate

sacrifice for their faith in Jesus

focuses everything about what we believe

in who we are as Christians you know

there's a verse that says it's better to

be in the house of mourning than in the

house of feasting have you heard that

bad verse basically the idea being when

you come out of a funeral you know we're

brokenhearted for the loss especially if

it was a person that you knew you were

dear that was dear to you what that

experience does though is focuses us on

what is really important in life doesn't

it going to a funeral focuses you on

knowing that life is not for here and

now that we are all passing through and

only what is done for the kingdom of God

has eternal significance everything

comes into perspective and focus when we

meditate on certain things the

transience the of our existence here

well martyrdom is like that it focuses

our perspective and it refocuses on what

it means to be a disciple and I believe

that in the New Testament Christianity

is martyrdom Christianity amen jesus

said to the Apostles he said you are my

witnesses you know do not go but you

know wait here in Jerusalem you will

receive power from on high and you will

be my witnesses here in Jerusalem and in

Judea and to the ends of the world the

world the word witness in greek is

martyr the idea of making a sacrifice

for your testimony for witnessing to

Jesus the sacrifice was so intrinsically

connected to it that eventually the word

witness came to be the word for martyr

in other words the mentality of a martyr

is normal Christian discipleship that we

are all called to have a martyr mindset

we're all called to be martyrs who are

living now some actually live that out

fully but it real Christianity is meant

to be a sacrifice jesus said take up

your cross and follow me and that's what

this is about so meditating on martyrs

helps focus on that because as we think

about the martyrs we start to think like

a martyr and thinking like a martyr

we're really thinking like a Christian

we're not living for this life but we're

living for that one we're saying my life

must count because God has called me to

be a Christian and that is not an easy

thing that is to be embracing the life

of the cross and ironically martyrdom

was one of the main features of the

growth of the early church how about

that huh now I believe the churches grow

for many different reasons right we need

to make people feel welcome we need to

have enough chairs we need to have

enough parking we need to be nice to

people we want to have quality music

amen but you know what really made the

early church grow there's people dying

for their faith isn't that crazy

ironically it's having a high bar of

sacrifice and commitment is what sort of

boils the faith down to its authentic

nature and that authentic faith is what

people really want a need that's where

the power is we're not going to grow by

watering down the call of Jesus and

saying come to jesus and be comfortable

and entertained right we're not going to

do that although I do hope that you feel

comfortable in the house of God I hope

you have a good time I feel happy when

I'm in the house of that there's nothing

wrong with that but what's going to grow

is the calling take up your cross and

follow Jesus whoever you are wherever

you are God has a cross to offer you now

he also offers blessing he offers

healing he offers you a new beginning


kinds of good things that give you new

hope in life but all of that comes

through authentic discipleship which

means embracing the cross and following

Jesus the church grows and that's what

happened here we're going to see in the

book of Acts when Stephen was martyred

that became the catalyst for the growth

of the church in a way that almost as

big as the day of Pentecost the

spreading of the gospel and they look

back to that moment of what really

helped them grow and there's a saying

that says the blood of the martyrs is

the seed of the church and so that's why

we need to look at what happened to

Stephen so acts and we're going to look

at chapter 6 Acts chapter six actually

now if you remember Stephen last week we

talked about a church conflict remember

we talked about a daily food

distribution program for the widows who

didn't have anything and some of the

Greek Greek widows were being overlooked

in favour of some of the Hebrew speaking

widows and the apostles were feeling

overwhelmed were like I we can't take

care of this and so God guided them to

have people pick seven leaders to manage

the distribution of the food they were

all Greek speaking Christians right so

they weren't Jerusalem Christians they

were Greek speaking Christians there

were sort of immigrants to Jerusalem and

among them were two guys that end up

becoming really important one was named

Stephen that we're going to read about

and the other is Philip will talk about

him next but these two guys end up

serving a role that goes well beyond

their initial task and just again a

little review of last week as God guides

us as an English ministry to get

organized and to begin to form a

flexible infrastructure we're going to

find that some people who step up to the

plate to prepare sandwiches for the

lunches we give out or to help move

chairs are going to end up being called

to do other things maybe prophus I maybe

preach maybe go on mission trips but

often faithfulness and one thing leads

to faithfulness

thing else right amen so that's what

happens here two of the men end up

serving a broader evangelistic focus or

purpose and one of them is named Steven

and so if you would look with me in Acts

chapter six verse 8 will start his story

it says now Stephen a man full of God's

grace and power performed great wonders

and signs among the people wait a minute

wait a minute he's not one of the twelve

apostles is he no he was named to a task

to distribute food to widows but he is

moving in the power of the Spirit and

doing miracles amen so this is an

anointing of power that spreads from the

apostles to others which is part of why

I believe that spread continues today

amen I believe that that anointing that

miraculous power is available to God's

people even today but it was certainly

on Stephen in verse 8 so he was doing

these wonders and signs among the people

opposition arose however from the

members of the synagogue of the freedmen

as it was called in other words these

were people who used to be slaves but

had become free they were Jews of Cyrene

and Alexandria that's in there in Syria

there in from Africa from Syria as well

as the provinces of Silesia and Asia who

began to argue with Stephen but wait a

minute wait am I going to stop right

there again Stephen was a Grecian jus

there was F Nick conflict between the

Hebraic speaking Jews and the

greek-speaking Jews the guys who were

giving him the most problems here are

not Hebrew speaking Jews but his own

ethnic people greek-speaking Jews okay

so i just want to point that out this is

not an estimate conflict here this is a

religious persecution that's beginning

to happen to him so they began to argue

with stephen verse 10 but they could not

stand up against the wisdom the spirit

gave him as he spoke verse 11 then they

secretly persuaded some men to say we

have heard stephen speak blasphemous

words against moses and against God so

they stirred up the people and the

elders and the teachers of the law they


Stephen and brought him before the

Sanhedrin they produced false witnesses

who testified this fellow never stopped

speaking against this holy place and

against the law for we have heard him

say that this Jesus of Nazareth will

destroy this place and change the

customs Moses handed down to us and all

who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked

intently at Stephen and they saw that

his face was like the face of an angel

so I want to stop right there and then

we'll pick it up again so he gets in

trouble for preaching the gospel again

we've talked about this sometimes you

can get in trouble not for doing the

wrong things but doing the right things

sometimes following Jesus radically will

not earn you favor with the people

around you but sometimes conflict

sometimes rejection from the people

around you now it's very interesting to

see that up to now the people as a whole

revered the Apostles and so the

authorities even though they wanted to

punish the Apostles they couldn't do it

because the people were on the Apostle

side but now public opinion was shifting

against the Christians and the people

were beginning to be easily stirred up

against them I want to stop right there

and point out that we need to be very

careful how much trust we put in

popularity and public opinion yeah amen

for instance this church I understand a

month ago had a little visitor named

governor Baker right who came and had

his inauguration service over there that

Cardinal O'Malley was here His Eminence

the Metropolitan of Boston the Greek

Orthodox Patriarch with you all these

important people the globe we're we're

we're the center of the universe for a

day where Wow Lion of Judah the

governor's here the next day there's an

article that talks about some of the

things we actually believe right but are

not so politically correct suddenly were

the bad guys again suddenly everyone

hates us then the next day the mayor's

calling pastor Sam and asking him to be

on a search committee for the new

superintendent and Ike

hey Wow look at you know what public

opinion one day you're going to be a

star the next day you're the devil you

can't get all you can't if we try to be

politically correct and popular and

light by the people around us we are

going to fail the gospel amen we need to

keep our eyes on Jesus and what he calls

us to do and sometimes society is going

to applaud amen amen sometimes society

is going to applaud us and say good go

for it you guys are great education

immigration other days they're gonna say

we hate your guts you know we can't be

looking at public opinions they keep our

eyes on the prize and that's what

Stephen did people are now suddenly

everyone's eating him and they're saying

that he's speaking against the temple

and against the law of Moses okay now

isn't it ironic that then they look at

him and his face is glowing like the

face of an angel anyone remember anyone

else in the Bible whose face glowed

right when Moses came down from the

mountain after being in the Shekinah

glory of God his face was glowing and so

the very guy that they're saying is

against Moses is glowing like Moses and

they also have a hard time with it okay

so they're saying he's preaching against

these things what he was doing was

talking about how under the New Covenant

under Jesus there is going to be a new

conception of the temple of God that the

temple of God is no longer going to be a

building but a people the gods Shekinah

glory is it going to dwell in a

structure but in a community of people

Pentecost when the glory rested on them

that the law of Moses the all the kosher

laws about eating certain foods and not

others cleansing the whole sacrificial

system of sacrificing animals in the

temple all of that is fulfilled in Jesus

and they suddenly start seeing the

implications wait a minute you saying

that we shouldn't keep kosher anymore

maybe you saying that maybe we shouldn't

go to the temple and sacrifice you know

are the animals and he's implying at

that now that eventually becomes much

more explicit but it was very

threatening it was politically incorrect

is not the word

this was threatening their deepest hell

values and and they were accusing him

and you could see it's beginning to

provoke the anger now Stephen is no limp

as we read I would encourage you at some

point to take time and read his whole

sermon that he preaches them he preaches

a sermon that starts in chapter 7 verse

1 and it doesn't end till chapter 7

verse 53 okay 53 verses of preaching you

think I go on long forget about of it he

really wet and wet and red he he goes

over with them the whole Bible story and

explains to them from the beginning how

God is bigger than any single place God

doesn't live in Jerusalem God is the god

of glory he called our Abraham when he

called our father Abraham when he was in

another country in the end that he's too

big to live in a house of human hands

that god is awesome God is big he also

talks about some other things and he

starts as a sermon that's very peaceful

and people are just listening right and

he starts talking about characters in

the Old Testament that God would send to

save his people and how his people the

Jewish people the time would reject

those people he tells the story of

Joseph there's this amazing story at the

end of the book of Genesis if you want

to read something that reads better than

a than a soap opera better than an

adventure so read the end of the book of

Genesis Joseph and his brothers the sons

of Jacob they hated him they were

jealous of him they threw him in a pit

they were going to kill him then they

decide to sell him into slavery he goes

to Egypt in slavery ends up in jail

because he's falsely accused theta the

story goes on he ends up interpreting

the dreams of people in jail and gets

exalted to the right hand of feral

himself and organizes a food program to

save the entire known world at that time

during a famine and included in the

people who get saved or his own brothers

many years later and they come and they

bow down before Joseph they don't even

recognize him because it's been so long

so Stephen preaches

joseph was the brother that was sent to

save them and they rejected him and then

he goes on and he talks about another

man a young man named Moses who was

raised in the house of Pharaoh himself

and when he came at the age of 40 to

deliver his people and and he says why

are you guys fighting they say who made

you ruler and judge over us they're

talking to Moses right and they reject

Moses then Moses after 40 years away

comes back at the age of 80 leads the

great delivered the exodus they're saved

from slavery there in the desert and one

of the people do they grumble against

Moses and say you brought us out here to

kill us in the desert we were better off

at slaves we told you to leave us alone

we were happy in Egypt as slaves why did

you take us out here these people were

always rebelling against the person that

was sent to save them now they're

starting to see where Stephen is going

in his sermon they say hey wait a minute

wait are you saying are you saying we're

like them are you saying that God sends

a deliverer and we reject him well look

what Stephen says at the end he doesn't

leave it up to their imagination yeah

he's been a long sermon now he brings it

home in verse 48 after he talks about

the temple he says however the most high

does not live in houses made by human

hands as the Prophet says heaven is my

throne the earth is my footstool what

kind of house will you build for me says

the Lord where were my resting place be

has not my hand made all these things u

verse 51 now here's where it gets a

little personal alright gets little

personal you stiff-necked people that

doesn't seem very polite but that's the

word that God used to describe the

people of Israel stiff-necked you've had

a stiff neck I've had stiff necks a lot

less now because I'm working on it right

but I get stiff necks you can't turn

around real quick hey Greg it's about 10

minutes later I'm turning around right

people like that with God he's like hey

hey hey

you're like taking like an hour to turn

around and listen to God says the people

of Israel or like that in verse 51 of

Acts chapter seven you stiff-necked

people your hearts and ears are still

uncircumcised in other words you're

religious you circumcise your body but

your heart hasn't been touched you're

just like your ancestors you always

resist the Holy Spirit Stephens getting

in their face now right was there ever a

prophet your ancestors did not persecute

they even kill those who predicted the

coming of the righteous one and now you

have betrayed and murdered him you who

have received a law that was given

through angels but have not obeyed it

now how do you think that went over huh

it's not very seeker friendly at this

point right he's he's he's kind of

talking about confrontation he's really

he's going for it all right now let's

see how it goes over verse 54 when the

members of the Sanhedrin heard this they

were furious and gnashed their teeth at

him but Stephen full of the Holy Spirit

again the filling is ongoing god fills

him at this moment when he most needs it

full of the Holy Spirit looked up to

heaven and saw the glory of God and

Jesus standing at the right hand of God

look he said I see heaven open and the

Son of man standing at the right hand of

God at this they covered their ears and

yelling at the top of their voices they

all rushed at him 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 while

they were stoning him Stephen prayed

Lord Jesus receive my spirit and then he

fell on his knees and he cried out Lord

do not hold this sin against them and

when he had said this he fell asleep and

Saul approved of their killing him and

on that day a great persecution broke

out against the church in Jerusalem and

all except the apostles were scattered

throughout Judea and Samaria how about

huh how about that he died he died like

someone else we've seen die in the New

Testament right did a lot of

similarities aren't there receive my

spirit where have we heard those words

before but think about it Jesus when he

said received my spirit who was he

talking to he's talking to the father

father into your hands I commit my

spirit who is Stephen talking to when

he's praying Jesus he's saying Lord

Jesus receive my spirit in other words

he sees Jesus and sitting at the right

hand of the Father he sees heaven open

he has an experience and I don't think

it's a hallucination I think he's really

seeing it's like God unzips the veil

between this physical dimension and the

spiritual dimension we are moving

constantly in the spiritual world but we

don't see it well God unzipped the veil

between the two and let him see to the

other side at that moment and he saw the

glory of God he saw Jesus there he says

Lord Jesus receive my spirit and then

there's another prayer that should bring

back some memories right what did Jesus

pray when he was on the cross he said

the Lord forgive them they know not what

they do that's interesting because there

was a prophet in the Old Testament who

named Zechariah who was executed right

in the court of the temple because he

had spoken against a evil king and as he

was dying he said Lord hold them to

account for this sin God get them for

this well Stephen is like you know what

I'm going to pray to I'm going to turn

it around a little bit because I've got

a different model I've got a different

model now so and you know what we

imagine him whispering this as they're

shouting right Lord don't hold this sin

against them and maybe one person heard

of right that's what we that's the way I

always pictured it you know what it

really is in the Greek it says he called

out in a great voice he didn't whisper

this he shouted it da don't hold this

sin against them and he dies on his

knees how about that how about that how

can we forgive an enemy

someone who's killing as someone who's

heard us how can we do that I would

encourage you to meditate on this

because there is nothing more powerful

in this life for the power of God to

flow than to forgive a person who is

done you wrong it's up to God to deal

with them it's up to us to forgive it

unleashes life it unleashes power I I

preached I think it was last summer a

sermon based on 1st Corinthians 13 that

says love does not keep a record of

wrongs where I talked about a man that I

met in Nicaragua I'm not going to go

over the whole story i encourage you to

check it out on the web i'm going to

send a link to everybody of the the menu

of options but it's love keeps no record

of wrongs and i talked in that sermon

about this friend i met in nicaragua who

lost his father during the war during

the the war there and this man went to

Honduras as a young man and vowed to

come back as a confidant to fight and to

get revenge into and took but then he

became a believer and he waited to come

back and he waited and waited and then

he decided okay when he came back I

won't get revenge right now but he was

still planning on it God kept working in

his heart people offered him we'll take

care of it for we know who killed your

father and we'll take care of it for you

and he's telling me i'll never forget

we're sitting down over a fajita talking

and and he's telling me this and he's

telling me my mother and i decided to

forgive those men and we know and it's

my dream to find them and to tell them

the gospel of Jesus Christ this man's

looking over a table at me with his eyes

with his face glowing like Stevens face

was and I thought God am I really

hearing this I can't believe Blessid of

the ears they hear what I hear blessed

the eyes that see what I see this man

had found the power of forgiveness he's

a pastor in Nicaragua and a great great

man of God and he's a secret hero hardly

anyone will know about him but he's

famous in heaven that's what Stephen did

he forgive the people who are killing

him and we're going to see the fruit and

the power of that in the future as we go

so I want to ask a question

here Stephen was a great man of God he

loved Jesus he followed Jesus God

protects us right God takes care of us

right what happened here he got stoned

to death to God not protect him you know

my buddy who spoke here again and and I

pray for his safety every day but my

buddy was a missionary in the Middle

East who spoke here just just a few

weeks ago pointed out that the Apostle

James also a couple chapters later was

martyred and Peter was miraculously

rescued and he said there no guarantees

he's the one telling me this and he's

doing missions right there right in the

in the in the teeth of the beast there

in terms of the dangerous part of the

world so what's the deal doesn't God

protect us just just Friday we we had an

amazing meditation on some 91 and it

says he that dwells in the secret place

of the Most High shall abide under the

shadow of the Almighty I will say of the

Lord he is my refuge in my fortress my

god in him will I trust surely he shall

deliver thee from the snare of the

Fowler and from the noisome pestilence

he shall cover thee with his feathers

under his wings thou shalt trust his

truth shall be thy shield and buckler

thou shalt not be afraid of the terror

by night nor the arrow that flies by day

nor the pestilence that walketh in

darkness toward the destruction that

wasteth at noonday a Thousand shall fall

at thy side and ten thousand at thy

right hand but it shall not come nigh

thee only with thine eyes shalt thou

behold and see the reward of the wicked

beautiful psalm huh I hope you memorize

it and meditate on it it's about God's

comfort and God's protection and

shielding us so did that some not come

true here was Stephen not in the shadow

of the Almighty you know Jesus talked

about this a little bit if you go with

me to Luke chapter 12 we're gonna look

at the words of Jesus because he talked

a lot about

out persecution and martyrdom he knew

that they were going to need to be

prepared for what they were going to

face Luke chapter 12 verse 1 jesus

warned them about the persecution they

would face and says meanwhile a crowd of

many thousands had gathered Luke 12 and

keep in mind Luke wrote the book of Acts

to write so this is all part of one book

early meanwhile when a crowd of many

thousands had gathered so that they were

trampling on one another Jesus began to

speak first to the disciples saying be

on your guard against the yeast of the

Pharisees which is hypocrisy there is

nothing concealed that will not be

disclosed or hidden that will not be

made known what you have said in the

dark will be heard in the daylight what

you have whispered in the ear and the

inner rooms will be proclaimed from the

roofs I tell you my friends do not be

afraid of those who kill the body and

after that can do no more but i will

tell you whom you should fear fear Him

who after your body has been killed has

authority to throw you into hell yes I

tell you fear Him are not five sparrows

sold for two pennies yet not one of them

is forgotten by God indeed the very

hairs of your head are all numbered

don't be afraid you are worth more than

many sparrows I tell you ever publicly

acknowledges me before others the Son of

Man will acknowledge him before the

angels of god and he goes on to talk

about how words will be given them at

the time you're worth more than many

sparrows not all your hairs on your head

or counted he under he knows you so

there seems to be promised that God will

protect you in the midst of it right so

don't be afraid well if God cares for us

like the sparrows if he knows us

intimately then why did this happen to

Stephen ok let's go forward a little

further Luke chapter 21 Jesus talks

again about persecution Luke 21 verse 12

Luke 21 verse 12 he says but before all

this they will seize you he's talking

about the last day

days they will seize you they will hand

you over to the synagogues and put you

in prison and you will be brought before

kings and governors and on account of my

name and so you will bear testimony to

them but make up your mind not to worry

beforehand how you will defend

yourselves for i will give you words and

wisdom that none of your adversaries

will be able to resist or contradict you

will be betrayed even by parents

brothers sisters relatives and friends

and they will put some of you to death

ok explicitly some of you will be put to

death everyone will hate you because of

me you still want to be a Christian come

everyone will hate you but not a hair of

your head will perish stand firm you win

life so he's told them some will be put

to death but not a hair of their head

will be perished God promises to care

for us the way friends of mine people I

know who live in harm's way for the sake

of the gospel they know that God is

their shield he is is the shadow that

covers them he's their protector he's a

great warrior that that a host of angels

and camp around them and they know they

cannot be harmed apart from the will of

God but that even if they are harmed

physically that spiritually they will be

preserved God's protection does not

preclude sacrifice and suffering some

Christians well and this comes down to

the idea that we as Christians are not

just part of the family of God we are

called to be soldiers in the army of God

and in an army everybody is called to

sacrifice everybody is called to serve

in a radical way and some members of an

army are called to make the ultimate

sacrifice and here's again

back around to why we think about

martyrdom as a church because we

remember that a mindset of a martyr is a

mindset of being a soldier of the Lord

Jesus of saying I'm in an army I am

committed this is not about me this is

about the mission and it's not in a

peaceful happy setting there is an evil

one there is an enemy not the people the

people we want to be saved the if we

pray God don't hold this in against them

no it's not about being against people

but there are powers and principalities

there is a devil there are demons and we

are called the fight and whether we know

it or not we're living in a war zone and

we're part of the Army of God and

soldiers some of them are called to make

the ultimate sacrifice now by being a

soldier of Jesus I want to talk about

this a little bit that does not mean we

ever inflict physical violence in the

name of Jesus amen and then right that's

not what we're talking about I think we

all know that but you know in this day

and age in the age of jihadism I think

it's worth saying that explicitly and

then we we are it's this is our are a

battle is not against flesh and blood

but against powers and principalities

and rulers in the heavenly dimension we

are warriors of love and forgiveness now

thinking about this martyr mindset

thinking about the heroes of the faith

who have given all for jesus should and

can inspire us because if we think if

they gave their life for Jesus well

maybe I can make myself uncomfortable

for Jesus to right and it's not to make

us feel guilty a while Jesus died for

you people are dying for their faith and

what you can't you know and make

ourselves feel guilty that's not that's

not what it's about I don't want us to

use this to beat each other up I don't

think that's the way to motivate but

what I'm talking about here is when I

think about that laser focus of a

soldier of Jesus I think I want to have

that eye of the tiger I want to be a

Christian that has signed

in the army of the Lord that is is

available for my commander-in-chief that

has that military mindset as I approach

discipleship there's a martyr not so

long ago during the second world war in

Germany named dietrich bonhoeffer he was

a German theologian young man who was a

great theologian he wrote beautiful

books you can get them in the library

Dietrich Bonhoeffer and he was died in a

Nazi concentration camp for actually

plotting to assassinate Hitler so that

was a case where he did in his own

ethics he felt called to to be part of

resisting Hitler in an explicit way but

he died in a Nazi concentration camp and

he wrote a book called the cost of

discipleship and at the beginning of

that book the first line of the

introduction is when Christ calls a man

he bids him come and die how about that

that is right out of the Bible though

jesus said if anyone would come after me

let him deny himself and take up his

cross daily and follow me what's the

cross mean the cross we use it as a

symbol that comforts us because it was

the source of our salvation amen but at

the time the cross is not a pleasant

image it's an image of horror it's the

kind of images that I don't want my kids

to see on the daily news going on it was

that kind of horrific and image and

Jesus is saying embrace that cross not

once but every day in other words we put

our faith in Jesus to be saved once and

you are saved I mean that you can renew

your faith but it's a once you made that

decision they meant but we need to take

up the cross how often every day it's a

decision the soldier gets up puts on his

uniform every day and remembers I am NOT

my own today I have a larger purpose we

need to every day

that cross when someone asked me when

did you decide to follow jesus i should

say this morning because yesterdays

isn't good enough amen I mean I need to

decide it again today again today cuz

yesterday praise God if I followed in

them but I gotta decide all over again

because every day is going to have its

own challenges you're gonna find this in

your life every season of life is going

to have a different circumstances you

know as you grow as you go from from

youth into young adulthood and then as

you if you get married if you have kids

if you when you get a job when you get

an apartment it's a new stage of life

and you get to decide again I'm gonna

follow Jesus sometimes people radical

Christians and then things start

clicking no get the job get the house

get the situation life is a little

better and this like Jesus suddenly

isn't in the picture as much we need to

decide to take up our cross every day

and say I want to serve Jesus today more

than yesterday no I want my best

following to be ahead of me not behind

to me take up my cross daily now what

does that look like what does the life

of a soldier look like I'd invite you to

turn with me to the book of 2nd

Corinthians chapter 11 second

Corinthians chapter 11 are we're going

to read about the Apostle Paul's ethic

of service okay second Corinthians

chapter 11 verse 22 second Corinthians

11 22 now the Apostle Paul here is

dealing with people who are criticizing

his ministry and he has to defend his

ministry because it's about the gospel

they're saying don't listen to Paul

anymore his gospel no no no they're

super apostles are saying follow me

instead the Apostle Paul knows for their

own good he needs to defend his ministry

okay it's not that he has a chip on his

shoulder he's got its it's for the good

of the church that he's writing now I

read this because very often we think

that becoming a Christian means God will

make me safe and comfortable and it is

true to become a Christian there's a

type of internal peace and safety that

you never had before and yes it is

that when you meet Jesus you're more

comfortable in your own skin than you

ever have been because suddenly you know

who you are you got nothing to prove you

got nothing to lose so there's there is

that Shalom that peace that sense of

well-being but in other ways God calls

us and complicates our lives a little

bit right verse 22 the Apostle Paul is

saying okay I'll start in verse the

second part of 21 he says whatever

anyone else dares to boast about then he

says I'm speaking like a fool here I

also dare to boast about are they

Hebrews so am I are they Israelites so

am I are they Abraham's descendants so

am I are they servants of Christ I am

out of my mind to talk like this I am

more I have worked much harder been in

prison more frequently been flogged more

severely been exposed to death again and

again five times I received from the

Jews the 40 lashes minus 13 times I was

beaten with rods once I was pelted with

stones three times I was shipwrecked I

spent a night and a day in the open sea

I have been constantly on the move if

you think we're called to safety look at

this verse 26 I have been constantly on

the move I've been in danger from rivers

in danger from bandits in danger from my

fellow Jews in danger from Gentiles in

danger in the city in danger in the

country in danger at sea and in danger

from false believers I think I hear a

word being repeated over and over again

I have labored and toiled and have often

gone without sleep I've known hunger and

thirst and have often gone without food

I've been cold and naked besides

everything else I face daily the

pressure of my concern for all the

churches who is weak and I do not feel

weak who is led into sin and I

do not in wordly burn so how's that for

a job description anyone want to be an

apostle he sign ups at the door oh it's

a great great package yeah great you

know this was Paul's Apostleship

suffering danger living on the edge

leaving as a soldier of the cross the

Apostle Paul knew that by embracing that

suffering life would be unleashed

through him you see it's not in vain

there's good things that come out of

this look at what he says look what

Jesus says just just remember what Jesus

said when jesus said unless a grain of

wheat falls to the ground and dies it

remains only one grain but if it falls

to the ground and dies it becomes a

great harvest so by dying life is

unleashed by sacrificing blessing is

unleashed in the people around us the

Apostle Paul says we always carry around

in our body the death of Jesus so that

the life of Jesus could also be manifest

in my mortal body so death is at work in

us he says and life is at work in you

know ministry can grow the kingdom

cannot come without sacrifice without

dying without saying I'm willing to lay

down my life and let Jesus flow through

me so that others might live and be

blessed and I know that in the process

that blessing does bounce back to us

amen so there's this death life

principle and the Apostle Paul knew that

sometimes the winners can look like the

losers there are times when it might

look like everything is against us like

we're losing and those are the times

when really you're winning more than you

ever have been the Apostle Paul says I

am following Jesus even to the point of

being chained like a criminal but he

says God's Word is not chained there's a

beautiful poem that Martin Luther King

used to quote often it's about how truth

can often be on the scaffold and that

God though

and brings change he said truth forever

on the scaffold wrong forever on the

throne yet that scaffold sways the

future and behind the dim unknown

standeth God within the shadow keeping

watch above his own we see dimly in the

present what is small and what is great

slow of faith how weak an arm may turn

the iron helm of fate truth on the

scaffold even though truth might be

persecuted and it might look like truth

is losing truth is never losing god is

winning God is winning God is in charge

God is doing something through us it's

not in vain there is something good that

will come out of the sacrifice being

made you know because Steven let himself

die God did something amazing through

that moment there was someone there

watching the codes oh thank you there

was someone there watching the coats of

the people that were stoning him and

remember who that is a man named Saul

there was a man named Saul there and he

after that this man who was a Pharisee

went around and started killing

Christians going from house to house

arresting men women and children now as

Stephen was dying and he prayed God do

not hold the sin against them and he

prayed for the people who were

persecuting him God heard that prayer

that wasn't a prayer to just inspire us

God actually did something through it

anyone know what happened to Saul a

couple of chapters later we're going to

read about this Saul with letters in

hand to go up to Damascus to arrest

Christians women men children drag them

to jail on the way a light shines and

knocks all over and says Saul Saul why

are you persecuting me you will be blind

for three days and then you will become

my voice to the Gentiles he ends up

becoming the Apostle Paul who

LED missions and trips that went out

around the Gentile world and spread the

gospel to non-jews that eventually has

reached us Saul became a Christian

because of Stephens praying for him as

he died amen we in a sense are here

because Stephen prayed for Saul as he

died sacrifice is not in vain but I want

to close with something else that helps

motivate us more than anything else and

it's the idea that we don't live just

for this life that there is something

more that waits for us that if God does

call us someday to make the ultimate

sacrifice that there is a reward waiting

for us now some of us don't like the

talk of rewards we feel like it's kind

of tacky we feel like it's kind of

mercenary we feel like I shouldn't serve

God to get a reward in heaven you ever

heard someone say that we shouldn't

serve for rewards we should just serve

God to serve God but the Bible talks

over and over again about being rewarded

in heaven how can that be I think it's

because we see our reward in heaven as

like God paying us or God glory us

getting glory or getting payment or

getting power and that's not what it's

about the reward is the blessing that is

produced by the sacrifice that is made

here here's an example some of you might

be learning Spanish right because the

line of Judah is a Spanish church you

were to do missions and so you might be

learning Spanish maybe you're married to

someone who speak Spanish you want to

learn Spanish what's the reward of

learning Spanish is it getting a good

grade in school the reward is being able

to speak Spanish with people and have a

relationship the reward of sacrificing

yourself for Jesus Christ is the

blessing that comes as a result

the kingdom of God coming in and through

you that there are something glorious

that waits for us on the other side and

my daughter I want to share a little

story and then we're going to we're

going to end with going back to Steve

the story over our most recent trip to

California to visit Katniss's family we

decided to do something crazy and try to

commit family suicide by going skiing

and I haven't skiied in 25 years and the

kids have never skied on a mountain

right in the snow in California there's

snow in California it's the if you go to

mountains you can go up to snow and

we're up there on this mountain and and

my little girl my five-year-old girl you

know takes a spill you know and she's

looking up at me in the cold and the

snow and there's ice covering her face

and a mask of tears and she's look at me

crying and I'm trying to help her up and

she says daddy hot chocolate and a fire

tonight hot chocolate enough and I like

oh just broke my heart and for kid were

torturing her out here let's not do this

again for another 10 years suffering in

the moment and she's thinking well at

the end of all this there's hot

chocolate of the fire with my

grandparents that's my reward coming

back to Stevens story as he's dying

heaven is opened up and Steven sees

Jesus at the right hand of God and that

fulfills all kinds of Old Testament

prophecies that the son of man will

ascend to heaven and will take his seat

at the right hand of God but in the

story as Stephen is looking at this

vision is Jesus sitting at the right

hand of God I don't know Acts chapter 7

if you want to look back at it Acts

chapter 7 is he is he sitting there he's

standing he said behold I see heaven

opened he says I see heaven opened and I

see geez

the son of man standing at the right

hand of god jesus never talked about his

being standing at the right hand of God

he's always sitting what's going on here

Jesus is getting up from his seat in

this vision now in the Old Testament

standing is a position of judgment the

Lord stands to execute his judgment on

earth but I think there's something else

going on here I think this is the kind

of situation the kind of person that

makes Jesus himself stand up and come

jesus said I go to prepare a place for

you and if I go and prepare a place for

you I will come back and take you to be

with me where I am I'm not sure that's

talking about the second coming I think

that's talking about each one of us when

we go to heaven that Jesus comes back

getting up from that throne and takes us

to be with him so that we can be with

him where he is seated with Christ in

heavenly places I believe Jesus came to

meet Stephen and came to bring him home

Jesus is the reward of suffering for the

gospel it's worth it because when we

sacrifice it pays off the church grew

through this like nothing else because

Stephen died the people were scattered

and they preached as they went the

gospel spread from Jerusalem to Judea

and Samaria and to the ends of the earth

because Stephen died it was worth it but

even more than it even more than it

being worth it he is worth it Jesus is

worth it he is the most beautiful being

in the universe he is the son of that he

is the fulfillment of your deepest

longings and dreams everything you have

ever wanted is found in Jesus every

restlessness every longing every desire

Jesus is the one that fills

the vacuum in our hearts jesus is our

answer the Apostle Paul longed for

martyrdom even when he was in jail you

know what he said he says I'm not afraid

worst they could do is kill me for me to

live is Christ to die is gain the

Apostle Paul said you know what I'm torn

guys cuz as nice as y'all are here I

love you philippians I'd like to help

you but you know what I would so love to

leave and be with Jesus which is way

better i figure i love you but it's

better to be with him that with you i

would have been with Jesus but I know

God's gonna make me live a little longer

and keep serving you bad really but that

was his heart that's why they couldn't

beat them they couldn't scare him that's

why when he was going to Rome God was

leading him prophets were warned him

don't go you're gonna get arrested he's

like yeah I don't I don't what matters

to me my life is worth nothing what

matters is fulfilling the race that God

has called me to do the task of

testifying to the gospel God's grace

that's the stuff of my life the Apostle

Paul was passionate he had a magnificent

obsession and I want to end with with

these verses that talk about in

Philippians chapter 3 he says whatever

was gained to me I count a loss for

Christ I count everything a loss for the

excellence of the knowledge of Christ

Jesus my Lord for whom I have suffered

the loss of all things in other words

the mission isn't even going to do it

for me as much as the person of Jesus

for Jesus I've soft lost everything for

him I count them rubbish that I may gain

Christ be found in him not having my own

righteousness which is from the law but

that which is through faith in Christ

the righteousness which is from God by

faith that I may know him and the power

of his resurrection and the Fellowship


intimacy of sharing in his sufferings

being conformed to his death if by any

means I might attain somehow to the

resurrection of the dead people who have

died a martyr's death no Jesus in a way

that no one else can they know Jesus on

the cross they know Jesus in an intimate

way that people who don't die that way

don't it's just it's part of the reward

a deeper intimacy with Jesus that is the

passion of our heart and I'm going to

invite the musicians to come up but as

we close this time i invite you to

embrace the mindset of a martyr to know

that Jesus is calling us to serve him

with that laser focus to take our cross

today and say Jesus my life is not my

own my life belongs to you and I want to

be a soldier in your army amen I ask

your sin with me and if I could ask the

musicians and I don't know if our

visiting singer might even be willing to

help in this but I'm going to want to

sing that song again please stand with

us together and let's let's pray dear

God we I thank you that you're with oh

you heard me can we do I have decided

yet dear God we come before you and lord

I thank you for Stephen I thank you

Jesus that

that you gave him grace under pressure

that even while there were throwing

stones he didn't see the angry faces he

didn't see the the hate in their eyes

all he saw was Jesus standing beside the

glory of God coming to take him home I

thank you Father Lord that instead of

responding with hate and with with with

anger that he responded with compassion

I thank you Father but because of that

Lord you saved a man named Saul and that

you say if people like us today god I

thank you for those around the world who

make the ultimate sacrifice and put

themselves in harm's way Lord even

though we may not be in that situation

right now we don't even know if we're

capable of it if we're honest god I pray

that you give us grace today to take up

our cross in whatever small way you put

before us and to follow Jesus God we

don't want to live

a comfortable Christian life they're

done want to live for the kingdom of God

in Jesus name