STIFF-NECKED PEOPLE

Scripture Reading:  Acts 7:1-53

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit.  As your fathers did, so do you.  Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute?  And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it.” (Acts 7:51-53)

Certain religious people brought false charges against Stephen:  “We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God” (6:11).  They stirred up the people and eventually the elders and scribes seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin.  Stephen, full of the Spirit and wisdom, made his defense.  He began with Abraham and traced the history of the Jewish people throughout the entire Old Testament.  And he did it from memory!  It was clear that Stephen knew God’s dealings with the Jewish people and he clearly understood the law of Moses.

Stephen’s main point was that it was not Stephen who neglected the law; it was his accusers who were the ultimate rejecters of the law.  Stephen accused the religious leaders of doing the very same things their fathers had done.  In rejecting their God sent deliverers, they rejected God.  Now the people in Stephen’s time had rejected God’s Son whom He sent to save His people.

Those religious people in Stephen’s day were like many religious people today.  They became entrenched in religious traditions and were filled with religious pride.  They became self-righteous and even resisted the Holy Spirit.  Stephen called them “stiff-necked people.”  Stiffed-neck people were found throughout the Old Testament.  Almost all of God’s prophets confronted people who resisted God’s work by relying on their self-righteous acts.

Religion is the great enemy of the gospel.  It produces proud, stiff-necked people who fail to appreciate God’s grace.  They become proud rather than humble and love their traditions more than they love others.  Perhaps unknowingly they resist the work of the Holy Spirit.  God has called us to be a humble and gracious people, a people who are sensitive to the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  When we resist the work of the Spirit, we become stiff-necked people!

Lord Jesus, forgive me when I am stiff-necked and resist the work of Your Spirit in my life.  Forgive me when I become more concerned with traditions in our church that I am comfortable with rather than being sensitive to the leadings of the Spirit that always bring change.  Grant me grace to live my life with gospel humility and in dependence upon You alone.  Give me a sensitivity to the the inward work of Your Spirit in my life.

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