People are impacted and influenced by what we do and say. As it relates to reflecting Christ in our lives unfortunately some people will get their understanding and impressions about the Word of God and the Life of Christ by looking at how we live as Christians. In the bible we have an incredible example of a life that was committed to following Christ and even though God used this man to preach a message to a group of people that did not receive the message well, in the end the example of Stephen's faith and his example of Christ likeness in his actions is what I want us to see.
Let's look at the life of Stephen for just a minute. Actually, I want us to take a look at the end of Stephen's life. Acts chapter 7 contains one of the greatest sermons found in the Word of God. This sermon, preached by Stephen, is a great message in history of God dealing with stubborn people, His chosen nation Israel. As Stephen delivers his message to these people he comes near the end of his sermon and he lays down a final condemnation to those that are listening.
"You stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you." (Acts 7:51)
Those listening were so convicted, so irritated, so reactionary, that they stoned him. While this is certainly tragic, what I want us to see is how Stephen handles himself in the last few minutes of his life.
And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin." And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (Acts 7:59-60)
This sounds very familiar doesn't it? His Savior Jesus Christ said the very same thing as they were crucifying Him on the Cross. ("Father forgive them, they do not know what they're doing.") Stephen calls out to heaven for mercy on those people that are stoning him. Now think about the crowd of people that must be around as Stephen is being stoned. Some throwing stones and others most likely just watching. But not only are they watching, they are hearing, they are listening. Imagine how these words, "Lord, Do not charge them with this sin." might have impacted those that heard. For some, these words would harden their hearts even more, yet for others, their hearts might be broken under the weight of God's love expressed in those words of Stephen. Stephen was a true epistle of Christ.
You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men;
clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart.
Stephen reflected the Spirit, Mind, and Life of Christ. He had been so deeply touched by the Lord that during the most difficult time in his life (his death) he behaves as his own Lord Jesus Christ would, instead of how a normal human being would.
A man is not able to live or die this way without the Spirit's complete control over his life. I'm sure Stephen never expected this to happen so suddenly, but it did. His life was suddenly thrown into turmoil and in an instant took a terrifying turn for the worst. Yet because he was full of the Spirit and lead by the Spirit, the Spirit of God's love was able to respond, not the spirit of the flesh. I can only imagine the impact this had on others around at the time. We know that for Stephen to die was not in vain. those of us that belong to Christ have already been given victory over Satan and death. We also know that all things work to the Glory of God for those that love Him.
Stephen's death was horrendous, just as Christ crucifixtion was horrendous. Christ death and resurrection offers the world eternal life, if we'll believe that He died for us. Christ as He died calls to His Father, "Forgive them, they do not know what they are doing." and likewise Stephen being filled with Spirit and love of God, crys out to Jesus his Lord... "Lord, do not charge them with this sin." Again the Love of Christ being shown to the world.
I'm amazed at how the Spirit of God always understands the weakness of man, and even though we never deserve mercy, The Spirit is always asking for it on our behalf. Now that's love!
Final thought... Everyone of us that has given our life to Christ has His love written on our heart. Allow Christ to guide you, live for Him not yourself. We can not reflect the love of God on our own, Only God can reflect his love through us. We are nothing without Christ. For any of us to be able to shine the love of Jesus to others, we have to live in Christ. We have to be so deeply touched by our Lord that we live not for ourselves, but for Him. Then in that moment, when there is no time to think, you'll react with the same love for others that Stephen did. How do we do it?
Love the Lord God with all your heart, mind, and soul. He'll take care of the rest!
God's blessings upon you,