This week we resume our journey in the book of Acts to recapture God's original vision of the church and what it means to be His community on the earth. Our devos this week are intended to get you to consider a few of the mega-themes contained within Acts chapter 7. We recommend you read the whole chapter to gain a sense of the context of the devos. Invite others to read the devotionals and use them in your conversations. Enjoy the read.
The Veneer of Holiness
You stiff-necked people with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like fathers! You always resist the Holy Spirit! Acts 7:51
In biblical times farmers plowed their fields using oxen harnessed to a yoke. Sometimes an ox stiffened its neck, stubbornly refusing to accept the yoke. Thus, originated the term stiff-necked. Old Testament writers repeatedly labeled the Israelites as such. From generation to generation, God’s people refused to yield to the “yoke” of the law and they remained unwilling to bend to His will.
When Stephen called his accusers “stiff-necked,” they knew exactly what he meant. They were furious! “Who are you to accuse us? You’re the one on trial here! We trace our lineage back to Abraham. And you? You follow that blasphemer, Jesus!” But through eyes opened by the Holy Spirit, Stephen saw that the Sanhedrin’s veneer of holiness covered hearts hardened by pride, self-righteousness and arrogance.
More than 2,000 years later little has changed. We define God in our own terms, obstinately unwilling to submit to Him. But we don’t use an ugly phrase like stiff-necked. No, we’ve traded the Sanhedrin’s harsh legalism for easy rationalizations – we’re independent, in control, self-sufficient, self-made or just comfortable. When challenged by fellow believers, sermons and even scripture, we get our backs up. Who are you to challenge me? To question how I spend my time or money? To expect me to go on a mission trip, attend a Bible study, tithe or pray out loud?
In what area of your life are you refusing to yield to the Lord? Where are you resisting the leading of the Holy Spirit?