Summary: Without realizing it, we can try to contain the eternal God of the universe within the boundaries of our comfort and control.
Breaking Out of Religious Identity
Series: BREAKOUT – God on the Move through the Book of Acts
Brad Bailey – April 22, 2012
Today we are going to engage a problem that can quietly be at work in every life: the unconscious tendency to become attached to forms of religious identity… more than God Himself. Without realizing it, we can try to contain the eternal God of the universe within the boundaries of our comfort and control.
Today we are going to engage this disposition as we begin a series entitled: “BREAKOUT”
Breakout is defined as “a forceful escape or emergence from being confined, restrained, or trapped” (Encarta)
The Book of Acts captures God breaking out…an emergence from all that had been laid in the long history of relationship with Israel to the climatic sending of Christ the redeemer… and then pouring out of his Spirit.
The first part captures the initial pouring out of the Holy Spirit and the start of church… we focused on that portion in our series last Fall entitled “Roots.”
Beginning today… we will engage how the lives of those who follow are involved with that which is breaking out.
There is a geographical breaking out. (From Jerusalem to Judea to Rome.)
There is a cultural breaking out. (From Jews to Samaritans to Gentiles)
And in this process, there is a breaking out in how God leads his people. Jesus fulfilled all that God had set forth… but in a way that was outside the human religious expectations… and the Book of Acts captures how God continues this process of breaking out into the world.
Over the next ten weeks we are going to seek God to speak to us from ten of the events that take place in the Book of Acts… between chapters 6 and 28.
The last statement before the section we will begin with declared:
"And the word of God kept on spreading and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith." (Acts 6:7)
We can hear the breaking out but also the conflict that it raised… because when priest who were part of the established order began to recognize Christ…. It was sure to stir contention. So today… we begin with a rather intense confrontation between one of the early leaders and the religious rulers. The full text ranges from Acts 6:8 through all of chapter 7. The leader is Stephen. Stephen is mentioned in the first part of Acts 6. He was one of seven men chosen to minister to the widows and orphans in the new and growing church. and the majority of this section is a long message he presents. For the sake of time and focus I have chosen some central parts.
Acts 6:8-15; 7:1-5, 25, 35, 37-40, 44, 47-60 (NIV)
8 Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)--Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia. These men began to argue with Stephen, 10 but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke. 11 Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, "We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God." 12 So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. 13 They produced false witnesses, who testified, "This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. 14 For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us." 15 All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel. 1 Then the high priest asked him, "Are these charges true?" 2 To this he replied: "Brothers and fathers, listen to me! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran. 3 'Leave your country and your people,' God said, 'and go to the land I will show you.' 4 "So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran. After the death of his father, God sent him to this land where you are now living. 5 He gave him no inheritance here, not even a foot of ground. But God promised him that he and his descendants after him would possess the land, even though at that time Abraham had no child.
25 Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not… 35 "This is the same Moses whom they had rejected with the words, 'Who made you ruler and judge?'… 37 "This is that Moses who told the Israelites, 'God will send you a prophet like me from your own people.' 38 He was in the assembly in the desert, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he received living words to pass on to us. 39 "But our fathers refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. 40 They told Aaron, 'Make us gods who will go before us.