Our Joy

Holy Bible on black wooden bench
54 Now when they (the Jewish leaders) heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at (Stephen). 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
(Acts 7:54-60)
Stephen preached the Word of God, explained its truths and offered the message of salvation.  The response of the audience was to cry out, shove their fingers into their ears and rush him.  All Stephen wanted to do was share the message of salvation with people who had waited years to hear it.  Jesus was the fulfillment of every Old Testament prophesy they studied.  He was the hope for which they yearned and the freedom for which they longed.  And now they want to hear nothing about Him.  Instead, they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 
Amazing, isn’t it?  They should have known better.  They studied the Scriptures.  They were waiting.  So, what went wrong?  Was it Stephens’ delivery?  Did Stephen approach his listeners in an inappropriate manner and offend them?
The people Stephen addressed had the same problem every sinner encounters.  They had an “I” problem.  We have an “I” problem.  Our sinful natures move us to believe we need no help when it comes to salvation.  We don’t want to hear that we are sinful and unclean.  We don’t want to hear that we really don’t deserve the love of God. 
In my first parish a young lady visited our worship a number of times.  She concluded that she couldn’t join our family of faith because we were too negative.  She explained that we began each worship service by confessing our sins.  She wanted a more joyful experience.  I explained that we confess our sins and then hear the wonderful word of forgiveness that comes through the gracious sacrifice of Jesus.  This, I said, is our joy.
When it comes to hearing the truth, we often stick our fingers in our ears.  We need to listen to the truths of the Lord’s Word and in them find forgiveness.  Forgiveness brings new life and points us to eternal life.  The truth is not always easy to hear when we are being convicted of our sin.  But the truth of forgiveness is so sweet.  Scripture tells us that faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17).  Let us keep our fingers out of our ears and hear His powerful Word.
Prayer: O Holy Spirit, I thank You that You speak Your truths to me through Your Word.  I can only rightly hear those truths by Your working in my heart.  Bring me to listen and respond with a heart of thankfulness.  I pray this in the name of the resurrected Jesus.  Amen.

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