Stephen the Deacon
The Apostles prayed and preached every day and signs and wonders followed. This attracted people and cut to the heart they shared their possessions. One of the greatest evidences of the Spirit is generosity. And as they gathered there was a need for faithful men to be appointed to serve them.
So simply speaking we are called to pray and preach with signs and wonders following and we are then called to serve the people who respond and gather. And Stephen was an incredible example of this. I want to look at two characteristics of Stephen this morning.
1.What it means to pray and preach every day
2. To invite us into the joy of service.
Stephen was an example of leadership- on the one hand he was appointed to serve the church with the distribution of food. In his death speech he reveals the depth of his knowledge of scripture which fueled his revelation of Christ and with this there were signs and wonders that followed his preaching. The elders and apostles needed help to distribute the food so that they could pray and preach. It is important to note that this was by no means exclusive to them only, the deacons like Stephen did both, they served the church but preached as well.
How do we preach the gospel every day?
1. Full of the word and Spirit being prepared to take the opportunity when it presents itself
Planning, Preparation, Processing and Production
2. Witness in our lifestyle
We can’t be sucking lemons, people must want what we have.
Jesus revelation gives abundant life. We are the head not the tail. Deuteronomy 28 speaks about the blessings of obedience. Heaven is open over us, God gives us a life that human beings have been designed for. This affects every area: we have great relationships – marriage, children, friendships, we experience grace in our work as we process life through the grid of scripture so we really do live all of life. We are set free from the temptations that ensnare us. The revelation of Christ sets us free. Revelation is the process whereby we are enlightened as to what life is really about as God fills us and frees us rather than Satan deceiving us with a false peace, false hope and false joy.
3. Incorporating into our day to day activities
We are called to be supernaturally natural. On the road to Emmaus Jesus was talking to the two disciples who didn’t know who they were talking later acknowledging their hearts that were on fire.
- Prayer during your exercise
- Upskilling yourself while you drive. Uber drivers learning while they have down time.
- Dining Room Christianity – Family Fridays – worship, breaking bread, bible quiz. Praying for people over our dining room table
4. Systematically through home group and the devotion to the apostles teaching
As a village raises a child so a disciple is formed in community. Part of this is the teaching of the word. The Acts church regularly gathered in smaller groups in one anthers homes, sharing their lives, their revelations and remembering Christ as they broke bread. It is this blessing that we invite others into.
5. Redemption of industry as we bring the kingdom into our work place
We are the head not the tail. We are a community of priests and prophets. We have access to heaven, to the throne room of grace, to the one who knows the beginning and the end. As we pursue God through prayer so He will give us solutions to problems. We are a kingdom of priests called to serve the world and one of the ways we do this is by solving problems. The biggest businesses in the world today are those that help people solve their problems.
As we walk in the Spirit in the place where God has called us, so we have the opportunity to bring heaven to earth and change and redeem. This is a witness to the world that God is with us.
6. The Citadel
The Citadel is an architectural solution to serving our community better. Architecture in its purest form is about enabling people and as we design our future building, so we do this with the wisdom of Solomon enabled through the baptism of the Spirit. We serve our community in ways that bring the Kingdom of Heaven to Earth.
Serving is a pathway to Joy
You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy."
Jesus was anointed above his brothers with joy- he was a servant. The oil of joy makes us slippery and hard to offend. Our joyful demeanor is not affected and dictated to by our circumstances and other people’s issues as we are resourced from heaven.
We will find joy when we begin serving people. The gospel is about loving people. We become depressed and despondent when we live for ourselves. We become full of joy when we love others through service and take the focus off ourselves, away from our selfishness and self preservation.
1. We honour Jesus when we do what he did, and he was a servant.
Luke 22: 24-30
A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. 25Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.26But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. 27For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves. 28You are those who have stood by me in my trials. 29And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, 30so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
We are not Christian’s just by what we say but the evidence of our belief is in what we do.
2. Serving connects us to one another
One of the graces of serving is that it connects us to one another. When we work together we connect in a very real way. God desires us to be part of a real family. Sharing our lives with one another is a blessing from heaven. We have been designed to live in community. People need to belong. There is no community that can compare to a church community that is fully alive under the grace of authentic revelation.
There are many communities you can be part of but what defines the church is the dynamic of the Holy Spirit living in each of us.
The Holy Spirit enables deep intimacy and as His government rests on us so we facilitate incredible kingdom life. This includes our words of life and our actions of love.
3. Serving is a pathway to revelation
Serving is a very real sacrifice that is noted in the heavenly realm. Our faith is demonstrated in what we do. As Peter stepped out the boat the water solidified under his feet. Power is released when we do something. When we serve others and when we serve the church we release heaven over ourselves. And one of the greatest gifts from heaven is revelation.
4. We find joy and increase in authority when we think about others
Serving will energize us. When we serve, we begin operating with the energy of the Spirit. More than this serving increases our authority. There is a natural authority that comes on us when we are doing our bit for the community, there is a spiritual authority that comes on us when we take Christ at his word and our obedience manifests in service. The fire falls on the sacrifice and likewise when we sacrifice our time, energy and skill for Christ so His fire falls on you.
5. Serving starts at home
The first place you serve is in your home. As a husband I am called to love Nici as Christ loved the church. Jesus laid his life down for us. He paid the ultimate sacrifice, he died for us. And I am likewise called to die to myself as I serve in my home. It is in my service to Nici and the children that I wash her with the word. Our actions in response to Christs word are the means with which we wash our wives. I will have most impact on Nici when I serve her rather than telling her what to do. AS we speak words of life so our household changes.