Friday, July 22, 2011

Acts 7 – God’s Promises and Patience

Greetings Project Ezra! This week’s reading is Acts chapter 7. In this chapter Stephen is standing before the Jewish council, reminding them of their heritage and history. It is a history of promises fulfilled on God’s part, and promises broken again and again on Israel’s part. There couldn’t be a more perfect example of God’s patience and mercy! It’s also a good reminder that His timing is not our timing. God chose to fulfill His promises to Israel over thousands of years, and some of His promises, regarding the end times and the final judgment, are yet to be fulfilled. Yet this history still shows His faithfulness, and also shows the extent of His mercy, even to those who disobeyed him time and time again.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, many folks choose to look at God, particularly as He is described in the Old Testament, as an angry, vengeful God. There is actually some truth to that claims, though not in the way most people think, since their fundamental misunderstanding of God’s character leads them to carry these ideas to the wrong conclusion. Yes, the bible does say that God is angry at the wicked (Psalm 7:11) and who will bring vengeance on those who reject the sacrifice of the Son (Hebrews 10:30). Justice and judgment are more than appropriate reactions from God to our rebellion. But, while God did execute justice on many occasions, the occasions of His patience and mercy for those who cried out to Him are as or more numerous. The nation of Israel, being frequent and obvious recipients of both of these, and to whom God had given verbal revelation of both through His prophets again and again, had more than adequate evidence of God’s direct actions.

While the evidence we have been given is different than that given to Israel, we have still been clearly shown that God exists, and what He expects of us. Even without His written word, the evidences of creation and conscience are clear. So let’s use this passage, as Stephen did, to point out to people that God has made His existence and His will plain to them, and urge them to avoid the kind of foolish behavior and rebellion that the nation of Israel engaged in. Let’s plead with them to repent and believe the gospel.

All for His glory


In this passage, Stephen, an early follower of Jesus Christ, is giving his listeners, the Jewish council, a short reminder of their history and heritage.

Among other things, he is reminding them of God’s promises to them, and how God had revealed Himself.

The nation of Israel’s heritage is that of a people of God’s promise. Their position was unique, and very special.

Their history is a history of God redeeming His people, and eventually, through those people, redeeming all mankind, since God’s word said the Messiah would come through the Jews.

For thousands of years, starting with the creation, God has been revealing Himself to man. And since that time, since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden, when we chose to rebel and go our own way, there has been a promise of redemption.

Stephen was reminding the Jews of how patient God had been with them, as He has been patient with us.

God sent His messengers, to make His will clear to them.

God revealed Himself through many miraculous works.

Yet every time God acted, the Jews rebelled, often almost immediately, and more often then not, they attacked or even killed God’s messengers.

In fact, just after finishing his message, after reminding the Jews of their history of hypocrisy and rejecting God’s messengers, Stephen himself became the first
Christian believer to die for his faith, being stoned to death by those he was trying to call back to God

Yet God continued His testimony of faithfulness and patience through other messengers, the church fathers, and through His inspired word. And He still does so today.

As the Israelites did in the days of Christ and His disciples, many of you have
willingly chosen to turn away from God.

You may say that if you saw the kind of works the Jews did, you would choose to believe in God.

But Jesus Himself said “If you do not believe Moses and the prophets, you will not even believe if someone rises from the dead.”

Man’s problem is not one of evidence, but of morality. If you have not turned to Christ then you, like the nation of Israel and the rest of mankind, love your sin and hate God’s law.

But God’s law, given through Moses and the Jews, is not a burden, but a gift. It is another way that God has blessed us, another example of God patiently making His will know.

God’s law is meant to lead us to repentance.

Romans 7:7 says:
If it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, "You shall not covet."

You may think Christianity is just about following rules, and that all the law does is make people feel guilty. And you would be partially right. We should feel guilty. We feel guilty because we ARE guilty!

The bible says one day, every one of us will stand before God and give an account for everything we ever did, for every time we failed to act when we should have, and even for every careless word and thought.

One day you will stand before a God who says that lying lips are an abomination to Him, knowing you have lied.

You will stand before a God whose name is above all names, and you will know that you have used that name without proper respect, or even as a curse word, and thus are a blasphemer.

You will stand before a God who gave sex as a gift, and for pleasure, but which He gave only to be enjoyed within the context of biblical marriage. And you will know that you have committed adultery, in your imagination if not in physical fact.

You will see that the true God is not like the god you have created in your mind to suit yourself, and realize that you have committed idolatry.

You will stand before a God that is more just, and more holy, than you can imagine, and know that you are unholy, and deserving of that justice.

God says that those who are guilty will thrown into hell to suffer for eternity. Hell is a very real, very terrible place.

And the biblical dilemma is this: If God is good and just, He can not simply forgive you and still be consistent with His perfect, holy character. He must see that justice is satisfied.

God says in Proverbs 17:15
He who justifies the wicked and he who condemns the righteous are both alike an abomination to the LORD.

God’s word also tells us that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.

Someone had to die for sin! And God, in His mercy and love, sent His own son to die in our place.

Isaiah 53 says it pleased the Father to crush Him, to crush His only Son.

On the cross, 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ bore the wrath of God against sinful mankind.

Jesus Christ, God the Son, chose to lay down His own life, so that those who come to Him would be saved.

In John 10:18 Jesus said:
No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.

1 Thessalonians tells us that Jesus delivers us from the wrath to come

So how can you escape God’s wrath?

You must repent of your sins, or turn from them, and trust in Christ alone to save you.

The bible says God gave us eternal life, and that life is in His son (1 Jn. 5:11-12). It says He who has the Son has life, but he who does not have the Son does not have life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

Only Christ was God in the flesh. Only His infinite value could pay the infinite fine for our sins. Only He died for sins, so only through Him can you be saved.

So please, today, turn from you sins and trust in Christ alone to save you. Put your trust in Him only, and totally.

Please don’t be stubborn, and stiff-necked, resisting the Holy Spirit, as the Jewish leaders did.

Don’t be angry at the message or the messenger.

Don’t trust in your own goodness, and don’t turn to idols.

God’s patience will not last forever, so while He is patient, while you are still alive, turn from sin and trust in Christ.

It could be that the only reason you still draw breath is God’s patience with you, waiting for you to repent and trust in Him. So don’t presume on His patience.

God’s word says today is the appointed time, today is the day of salvation! So please, trust in Christ and be saved today.

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