Summary: This sermon encourages us to let go of human tradtions and seek God only--just as Stephen said to the religious leaders.
April 21, 2001
A. [Seeing Yourself in a Sermon, Citation: From a cartoon by Lee Johnson, The Best Cartoons from Leadership Journal, Volume 1 (Broadman & Holman, 1999)]
Following the Sunday morning service, the pastor stood at the back of the church, shaking hands with the worshipers as they left.
As one man shook hands, he looked intently at the pastor and said, "Powerful sermons, Pastor. Thoughtful, well researched. I can always see myself in them…and I want you to knock it off."
B. Today, we are going to look at the only recorded sermon that we have from a man named Stephen.
1. In this sermon, God confronted some religious people with some things He wanted them to change.
2. Stephen’s sermon "plowed close to the corn" and they certainly saw themselves in it and they got so upset about it, they stoned the preacher to death.
3. Today that same sermon plows as close to the corn today as it did then.
4. I believe all of us will see ourselves in this sermon and we too will have a choice, we can stone the messenger or we can open our hearts and minds to what God wants us to hear.
C. [Prayer for open hearts and minds.]
I. Stephen’s Scriptural Support
A. God was with Abraham wherever he went.
Acts 7:2-8, 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. 6 God spoke to him in this way: ’Your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. 7 But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves,’ God said, ’and afterward they will come out of that country and worship me in this place.’ 8 Then he gave Abraham the covenant of circumcision. And Abraham became the father of Isaac and circumcised him eight days after his birth. Later Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob became the father of the twelve patriarchs.
1. God was with Abraham in Mesopotamia.
2. God was with Abraham in Haran.
3. God was with Abraham in Palestine.
4. God was with Abraham wherever he went, even though he had no building to worship God in.
5. God did give Abraham the custom of circumcision as a sign of His covenant with him in a foreign land.
B. God was with Joseph in Egypt.
Acts 7:9-19, "Because the patriarchs were jealous of Joseph, they sold him as a slave into Egypt. But God was with him 10 and rescued him from all his troubles. He gave Joseph wisdom and enabled him to gain the goodwill of Pharaoh king of Egypt; so he made him ruler over Egypt and all his palace. 11 "Then a famine struck all Egypt and Canaan, bringing great suffering, and our fathers could not find food. 12 When Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent our fathers on their first visit. 13 On their second visit, Joseph told his brothers who he was, and Pharaoh learned about Joseph’s family. 14 After this, Joseph sent for his father Jacob and his whole family, seventy-five in all. 15 Then Jacob went down to Egypt, where he and our fathers died. 16 Their bodies were brought back to Shechem and placed in the tomb that Abraham had bought from the sons of Hamor at Shechem for a certain sum of money. 17 "As the time drew near for God to fulfill his promise to Abraham, the number of our people in Egypt greatly increased. 18 Then another king, who knew nothing about Joseph, became ruler of Egypt. 19 He dealt treacherously with our people and oppressed our forefathers by forcing them to throw out their newborn babies so that they would die.