Underground Manipulation - Acts 6:8-15 NIV
Continue the new Acts study - Sequel & Requel. Our 16th today. Why study this? Simply this - almost every example of leadership today is filled with underground manipulation. Political. Church. Work. School. Everywhere we look we see people defining the right thing in their own narrow, personal way and then willing to go underground to achieve it.
Why underground? Not above board. Justification?
Because in the end, it is the right thing - as defined by me. This is pervasive and if we are not careful, we can begin to think this normal and right. It is neither. It is the natural conclusion of a corrupt world without God.
#1 - The greatest wisdom we can have comes from ______________ .
Without God at the center of our lives, we have no moral ethical compass. What seems right to us may not be right at all if we are at the center of our own universe. Why having God within us is so important!
“But they could not stand up against the wisdom the Spirit gave [Stephen] as he spoke.” Acts 6:10 NIV
Since God is THE CREATOR and is by definition GOOD, having the Holy Spirit within us CENTERS us. We each need a TRUE NORTH in our moral compass. Not just for how we think, but also for how and what we say to others. When you follow the Holy Spirit's lead in your conversations and defense of yourself and your faith, no one can win by argument or debate.
“The Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you are to say.” Luke 12:12 NIV
Jesus gave his disciples (and indirectly us too) our marching orders. We don't have to wait for "talking points" from others within our individual groups. In fact following humans' lead in what to say will get us in trouble more often than not. Wait upon Holy Spirit and He will instruct (teach) you. That means that if we are to follow the Holy Spirit's lead then we must be teachable!
#2 - No matter how full of God's grace and power we are, we still face __________________ .
Here's where today's teaching is so challenging for us. We may think that if we are following God closely, doing what He tells us to do, and saying what He tells us to say, that we would win the day. Many who teach a health / wealth gospel would suggest this. But God's Word makes clear that often the powers of this world don't like to hear what God leads us...
“Now Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power, performed great wonders and signs among the people. Opposition arose, however....” Acts 6:8-9a NIV
Perhaps the most important lesson you could learn today is this one: Christianity is an opposition party to the way this world operates. When you say what God leads you to say - no matter how right (righteous) it may be, no matter how pure your heart may be towards God - you will NOT always be rewarded for it here on Planet Earth. Just the opposite.
Stephen was full of God's grace and power. He demonstrated that with great wonders and signs. And surely he was loved and adored by many. But not by all. Opposition arose! It happened to Jesus. Now to Stephen. Why should it be different for us today?
#3 - When the enemies of the light cannot win fair and square, they go __________________________ .
In a democratic republic - or any organization or society built upon a higher ideal of ethical, moral basis - there are rules for how we debate our differences. The Sanhedrin had them too. We have seen them operate within their own rules up through chapter 5. They brought Peter and John before them and debated what should be done. They listened to and were persuaded by Gamaliel to let them go.
But many were not satisfied with the result. Gospel still being preached. Men full of HS, like Stephen, were performing miraculous signs. More were being add to the church each day. So when they could not win by their own rules, they went underground... Multiple examples:
“Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, 'We have heard Stephen speak blasphemous words against Moses and against God.'” Acts 6:11 NIV
“So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law.
They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin.” Acts 6:12 NIV
“They produced false witnesses, who testified, 'This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place' and against the law.” Acts 6:13 NIV
(1)Do you think that the Sanhedrin leadership didn't know this was happening? Of course they did. But so long as they personally weren't involved they had no objection. Isn't not speaking up and out when you know something is wrong very close to approval?
(2)Look at these verbs and tell me that you don't see the exact same thing going on in our political leadership today at the highest levels. But do we object - especially if it achieves the results we think are right?
THE RIGHTEOUS REASON REVERSAL -
DO THE ___________ JUSTIFY THE ______________ ?
Is God only interested in the end results? Or is He equally concerned with how we get there? Isn't all of our Christian faith based upon not just the end result, but the day-in and day-out living out of the things that Jesus taught us? So what do we do when we find ourselves in this gap between fighting for the end result we believe to be righteous AGAINST doing everything righteously to get there? Remember Peter's admonition.
“But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.” 1 Peter 1:15 NIV
This is so much easier said than done. Especially the more convinced we are - and the more obvious it appears - that the end result appears to be wholly righteous or unrighteous. And especially when the righteousness involved appears to be greater rather than smaller.
In other words, the greater the END righteousness appears to be, and the more important the END righteousness appears to be, the more willing we are to sacrifice the righteous means to get there, that the ENDS justifies the MEANS.
But here is the problem with that. We don't know everything. We don't see things the way God sees them. We don't know what God knows. And so this is where trust comes in (another word for faith!)
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV
Our own understanding often gets us in trouble, because we don't know everything God knows and we don't see everything that God sees. We also have the tendency to paint everyone else who disagrees with our own righteous view as "unrighteous" & therefore the enemy. Does God?
#4 - When darkness attacks us, where is our _____________ ?
“All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and
they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.” Acts 6:15 NIV
One last consideration then is this - where is our focus? This is really the key. We can become so obsessed with the struggle against unrighteousness that we forget that we are not the principals in this struggle. We are the servants. God is and will be the ultimate victor. Our primary focus should be in obedience to Him each and every day, in each and every action, rather than in winning the victory. Example of Stephen. What about you this morning? Would your enemies even grant that your focus is Jesus?