Summary: God’s most basic purpose - bringing people into a loving relationship with Him - will prevail in our lives if we say YES to Him.
The Prevailing Purpose of God
Intro: One might imagine after Stephen was unjustly put to death by the Sanhedrin, that Stephen’s friends were disappointed, discouraged, and depressed as they mourned the loss of their godly friend. Maybe some of them were asking, “God, what are you doing? Why did You let them kill Stephen? He was doing so much good for You. Now what are we going to do?”
-We might find ourselves asking the same kinds of questions at various times in life. What are you doing, Lord? What is Your purpose for the people of this world? What are You trying to accomplish? Well, let me try to give a few thoughts on this in preparation for the rest of today’s message.
-God’s most basic purpose on this earth is to bring people into a loving relationship with Himself. He created mankind for His pleasure, but a loving relationship is not possible between a holy God and unholy people who have been infected by sin. So, God has a plan to take care of the sin problem, make His people holy, and then enjoy close relationship with them. His plan is accessed by connecting with the life and death of Jesus. God was using Stephen to help people connect with Jesus. Stephen was very effective doing that, but God’s purpose is always bigger than just one man. Stephen’s death resulted in a widespread revival that reached far beyond Jerusalem.
-Now, God does not take pleasure out of forcing someone to love Him, so He does give us a free will. He allows us to choose between darkness and light, wrong and right, selfishness and love. When we choose to respond to His love, we get as far away from sin as we can and ask Him to forgive us for all the wrong things we’ve ever said or done. God creates a new spirit within us that is energized by His HS. We are then able to live in right relationship with God, enjoying His love and favor. When we make mistakes and sin, we confess what we’ve done, God cleans us up, and we go on.
-Now, why have I said all this? Today I want to talk about God’s Prevailing Purpose. Since His purpose is to have a loving relationship with every human being, we need to learn more about that process. God wants to use His church (those who are already in right relationship with Him) to carry out His purpose of reaching others. Here is the main thought we will examine:
Prop: God’s purpose will prevail in our lives, if we will continually say, “Yes” to Him.
Interrogative: How can we learn to always say, “Yes” to the Lord?
TS: Let’s look at 4 principles that will give us better perspective on what God is up to. First, it is helpful for us to know this:
I. God’s Purpose Is Always Under Attack (8:1, 3)
1And Saul was there, giving approval to his death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. 3 But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison.”
-This must have seemed like a terrible time to the believers in Jerusalem. Imagine what it must have been like. Christians met together frequently in their houses for fellowship, prayer, and to talk about the Lord and His word. Whether Saul and his associates infiltrated these home meetings secretly, or asked the neighbors, we don’t know. Regardless, he found out where followers of Jesus lived and with the authority of the Sanhedrin behind him, he hunted them down and arrested them.
-Up until the time of Stephen’s arrest, it had been mostly the Sadducees who were opposing the followers of Jesus. However, Saul was a Pharisee; so, it appears that even some of the Pharisees began to actively oppose believers in Jesus. Back in Acts 6:7, we read that a large number of priests believed and received Jesus. This may have had an effect on some of the Pharisees (who were usually good guys). They may have come to believe that their way of worship was under attack. They had known nothing else all of their lives, and now many of their own priests were turning to Jesus, whom they believed to have been a false messiah.
-Whatever the reason, the heat was turned up in opposition to the purpose of God. This is really nothing new. God’s purpose has always been and will always be under attack, as long as our enemy, Satan, is around. He has a better sense of God’s purpose and what He is up to than many Christians do. He will do all he can to hinder God’s work and keep people from receiving Jesus and living for Him.