Discover His heart: He gives us the grace we need to reach the most hateful of men
Rising high in the center of beautiful Vienna is the extraordinary St. Stephen’s Cathedral, built in 1160. It honors the deacon from the early church in Jerusalem, Stephen, who was the first Christian martyr and stoned by the Temple leaders because he believed that Jesus was the Messiah. The Church is magnificent in its architecture and Gothic style, but its beauty could never be compared to the radiant face of Stephen as he saw the Lord and prayed as they stoned him, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ He fell to his knees, shouting, ‘Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!’ And with that, he died.” (7:59-60)
@ Acts 8
Stephen preached a great sermon on the day he was killed and gave a historical account of the rejection of God and His Son by Israel’s religious leaders. Little did he know that the message of Jesus would one day greatly impact one of the bystanders, “Saul was one of the witnesses, and he agreed completely with the killing of Stephen.” (1) Saul was one of the haters.
When we step out in obedience to share the love of God in the marketplace, we may be surprised at who is listening to our message and at how it is impacting them. I think of the story of Nicky Cruz and David Wilkerson. In the late 1950’s, bold street evangelist David Wilkerson witnessed to the hardened gang members of New York City, and there in the gang was the hardest of them all, Nicky Cruz. Even though Nicky beat him and threatened his life, David expressed God’s great love for Nicky with the heart of one like Stephen, “Lord, don’t charge them with this sin!”
Nicky had a radical conversion, not unlike the Apostle Paul who earlier had approved of Stephen’s stoning. Nicky went on to preach the Good News around the world drawing many gang members and lost souls to the Lord, and he still is preaching today about the transformation in his life. As we know, Paul shook the world with his conversion and the Church of the Lord Jesus has never been the same.
We just can’t imagine the impact our witness will have in the lives of complete strangers when we are simply obedient to the Great Commission and present the Good News. No one is too bad, too lost or too hateful to be touched by God’s love through the work of the Holy Spirit. Never shortchange Him! It was Paul who said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.” (l Timothy 1:15-16)
Moving Forward: I won’t let the hateful words or deeds of sinful men stop me from presenting the Good News to them. I may be reaching the next great evangelist!
Tomorrow @ James 1-3