Stephen saw an open heaven and a glorified Man on the throne whose glory was mirrored in him to all who stood nearby. “But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, ‘Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!’” (Acts 7:55-56).
Stephen represents what a true Christian is supposed to be: one who is full of the Holy Spirit with eyes fixed on the Man in glory. One who mirrors that glory in such a way that all who see it will be amazed and filled with wonder.
Stephen was in a hopeless condition, surrounded by religious madness, superstition, prejudice, and jealousy. The angry crowds pressed in on him, wild-eyed and bloodthirsty, and death loomed just ahead of him. Such impossible circumstances! But looking up into heaven, Stephen beheld his Lord in glory and suddenly his rejection here on earth meant nothing to him. Now he was above it all.
One glimpse of the Lord’s glory, one vision of his holiness, and Stephen could no longer be hurt. The stones, the angry cursing, all was harmless to him because of the joy set before him. Likewise, a glimpse of Christ’s glory places you above all your circumstances. Keeping your eyes on Christ, consciously reaching out to him every waking hour, provides peace and serenity as nothing else can.
Stephen caught the rays of the glorified Man in heaven and reflected them to a Christ-rejecting society: “with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord … being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
It is so true that we become what we behold. Stephen became a living mirror in which men could see the glory of Jesus reflected. So, should we! When the enemy comes in like a flood, we need to both amaze and condemn the world around us by our sweet, calm repose in Christ. This is accomplished by keeping our minds on our Savior.
John the Baptist defined his ministry bluntly and simply when he said, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness” (John 1:23). This servant of the Most High who, according to the Scripture, was the greatest “among those born of women” (Matthew 11:11), was the finest, most blessed of all the prophets and a revered preacher of righteousness.
The crowds flocked to hear John’s scorching messages, and many were baptized and became his disciples. Some thought he was Christ and others considered him to be Elijah raised from the dead. But through all this, John refused to be exalted or promoted. He was emptied of self-serving and he continually withdrew from center stage.
In his own eyes, this greatest of all prophets was not worthy to be called a man of God — only a voice. A wilderness voice, in fact, modest, retiring and unconcerned about honor. He considered himself unworthy to even touch his Master’s shoes. His entire life was devoted to “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). What a powerful rebuke to us, in this age of promotion of personalities, influence-grabbing, ego-tripping, and honor seeking. John could have had it all, but he cried out, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
The secret of John’s happiness was that his joy was not in his ministry or his work, nor in his personal usefulness or widespread influence. His pure joy was to stand in the presence of the Bridegroom, rejoicing in his voice.
All around Christians are saying, “I want God to use me. I want my life to count for the Lord. I want to serve him in a full-time capacity.” While that is very commendable, it must come with a willingness to find joy and fulfillment in devoted communion with the Lord as well as in service.
Commit yourself to the high calling of God in Christ on your life, faithfully living for him and telling others about the Lamb of God. The greatest rewards will probably go to those who are hidden and unknown, glorifying the Lord by their simple witness to his faithfulness.
“He makes wars cease” (Psalm 46:9). What welcome news to the child of God who is shattered and torn by warfare. The battle in our soul is his battle, and he alone can end it. Our loving Father will not permit the flesh or the devil to bully us into defeat.
The Hebrew word for war used by David in Psalm 46:9 is milchamah, which means “to feed on, consume, devour, eat, overcome.” It is from a root word that suggests food or bread for a beast. It usage here is simply marvelous, a cause for great rejoicing. It means that God is going to stop the enemy from consuming us, from devouring us.
The good news of the gospel is that we serve a God of absolute love — a God of mercies who desires to bring his beloved ones into a place above all turmoil. God’s ultimate goal for all his children is abundant life. He never intended for us to go through life focused on our sins and failures. But we cannot take our place, seated with Christ in the heavenlies, until we are fully identified with his death and resurrection.
The Holy Spirit has put within us a knowledge that we can never truly live until we die. We have a date with death, a destiny relating to the cross of Christ. Take a look at where you are, with all your fears, emptiness, loneliness, failures, and compromising. You have come up far short of what you know an overcoming Christian should be. Yet you know God’s Word speaks clearly of victory, of rest and peace, of freedom from sin’s dominion.
After the Word tells us that it is God who makes wars to cease, we see this added: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). How thoroughly consistent is the Word of God! He makes wars to cease and until he finishes his work, we are to cease our own efforts and leave it in his hands.
How amazing to know that we can trust our future and restoration into the hands of Christ, our Lord and Savior. “Be still” today and let this truth bring peace to your soul.
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against … the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places … Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication” (Ephesians 6:10-12, 18).
In the first five chapters of his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul recognized the wonderful things the Holy Spirit had accomplished and rejoiced at the spiritual growth that had taken place in their lives. In this concluding chapter, he issues a word of caution to them about the opposition coming their way — and their need to be prepared.
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul very carefully instructed the Ephesians in spiritual warfare. First, he warned them that the powers of darkness would come against them to rob them of their inheritance — and he repeated the word against several times. It was not if the enemy would come against them, but when and how often and how hard. So, he told them to be strong in the Lord and depend on him because trying to fight in one’s own strength is never sufficient.
In Ephesians 6:14-17, Paul describes the whole armor of God that would fully equip them:
You need to understand that you are fighting against spiritual forces of evil. You are a citizen of heaven, a Christian who believes in the truth, and will fight for the truth. To live the life of an overcomer, put on “the whole armor of God” and prepare for conflict. Study God’s Word, pray in the Spirit, and you will be able to stand as the victor after the battle, giving all glory to the Most High God.
“Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).
It is a blessing to worship together with other believers. Singing songs to the Lord, hearing his precious Word expounded, lifting our voices in prayer with other Christians, loving and being loved — these are the means the Lord uses to strengthen our hearts.
In Paul’s day there were people who shunned public worship for one reason or another. Likewise, their modern counterparts have little desire to be in God’s house with his people. This is a bad thing, no matter what the rationalization. When a believer begins to attend church less frequently or only sporadically, it could be a sign of spiritual trouble. There are a lot of rationalizations; “I work so hard that I’m just too tired.” “We need more family time.” “I can worship God in my kitchen.” Or the ever-popular, “The church is filled with hypocrites.”
Do not let disappointment or church politics keep you from experiencing spiritual renewal. Folks who have little appetite to be with other believers have, in fact, little appetite for Christ. To be a healthy part of the church body always implies two things: a desire to stay connected and the humility to admit our need for other believers. If the apostle Paul asked for prayer and longed for fellowship with believers, we should, too. We all need the encouragement of brothers and sisters in Christ to help us along our way.
Attending church regularly is not a matter of legalism but spiritual logic, especially as we see “the Day” approaching. Soon Jesus will come again and all the cares of life that bog us down will disappear in a millisecond. What matters most is our faith in Christ, our growth in grace, the fruit we produce for his glory, and the fulfillment of his will for our lives. Much of our spiritual development happens as we interact with other members of the body of Christ on a regular basis, so be diligent in gathering together with fellow believers.
Jim Cymbala began the Brooklyn Tabernacle with less than twenty members in a small, rundown building in a difficult part of the city. A native of Brooklyn, he is a longtime friend of both David and Gary Wilkerson.