Extreme Mercy & Forgiveness

Extreme Mercy & Forgiveness

And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.  (Ac 7:59-60)

Focus on the extreme mercy and forgiveness that Stephen displayed!  Here are people in the process of killing him, and he forgives them and asks the Lord to forgive them.  Then he dies. What mercy!  What forgiveness!  Stephen went to heaven as a martyr for the gospel.

According to Daniel 9:9, mercy and forgiveness belong to God.  The Bible says (see below) that mercy and unlimited forgiveness belong to God.

O Israel, put your hope in the Lord, because with the Lord there is mercy and with Him there is unlimited forgiveness.  (Ps 130:7 GW)

In the church of Jerusalem, Stephen was chosen along with six other men to serve as deacons.  As deacons, they would take charge of the gifts of the people, and give assistance to those who were in need, including widows.  The criteria for choosing these men was that they had to have the Spirit of God and to have wisdom. 

Stephen not only cared for the poor, but he began to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone—Jews and Gentiles both.  This conduct enraged some of Jews, who plotted against him.

Clearly, as Stephen shared the Good News, the Holy Spirit used Stephen as an instrument for the Kingdom of God.  History records that Stephen, as he ministered to the people, performed signs, wonders, and miracles among them.  Glory to God!

Stephen clearly loved and obeyed Jesus Christ, his Savior and example in all things.  Stephen emulated the Lord Jesus Christ in his life, work, and even in death. 

This is a good moment to reflect upon our own lives; and to determine whether we are allowing mercy and forgiveness to operate in our lives, our responses, and our actions.

Testing the Spirits

Testing the Spirits

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God.  (1 Joh 4:1-3a)

Do not despise prophecies. 21 Test all things; hold fast what is good.  (1 Thes 5:20-21)

Only the Bible (the Word of God) is inspired and incapable of being wrong (inerrant).  Therefore, the way to test any spirit is to see if what is being shared or taught is in agreement with the clear teachings of God’s Word. 

In Acts 17:10-11 the Berean Jews were praised because, after they heard the teachings of Paul and Silas, they “examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” The Bereans were called “noble” for their desire to search the Scriptures for truth.  Notice that they searched DAILY for the truth; this shows the level of their hunger for spiritual reality, as well as their desire to use the Bible as their measuring rod. 

The idea in these passages (about testing the spirits) is to establish several truths:

  • That whoever is speaking confesses that Jesus Christ is Lord and Savior;
  • That the person (or spirit) acknowledges that Jesus came to earth in the flesh;
  • That everything that is shared or taught is based upon and agrees with the inerrant Word of God—the Bible. 

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.  (2 Tim 2:15)

The reason for testing the spirits, for testing all religious teaching, is to see if it is truly from God or if it is a lie from Satan, the enemy of our souls.  The Word of God is to be “a lamp” and “a light” to our path (Ps 119:105). We must allow its light to shine on every teaching and doctrine to be sure that we remain on the path of righteousness.. 

The Bible alone is the standard by which all truth should be judged.  Be discerning and diligent about measuring what you hear (or read) against the Word of God.

You Are God’s Temple

You Are God’s Temple

Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?  If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.  (1 Cor 3:16-17)

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?  (1 Cor 6:19)

And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”  (2 Cor 6:16 – emphasis added)

The Word of God tells each and every believer, “You are the temple of the living God.”  That’s pretty mind-blowing, right?  Yes, we may accept it as fact that the Spirit of God indwells each one of us, but have we really thought deeply about it? 

The physical, earthly temple of the Israelites had three parts:

  • the exterior of the structure and outer court;
  • the holy place (which the priests, alone, could enter), and
  • the Holy of Holies within the veil that could only be entered once a year.

We also have three parts: 

  • Our body, the exterior part;
  • Our soul where our minds, emotions, and will reside; and
  • Our spirit, our inner heart—where the Spirit of God dwells and through which He works His works and sanctifies us wholly.

With respectful and joyful confidence, we need to ponder this mystery.  The Spirit of God will direct our thoughts, actions, and lives if we will lovingly yield to Him.  If we will obediently learn to be sensitive to the inner voice of the Spirit, He will unveil the mysteries of our faith to us.  He will commission us to serve Him, and to serve others in the name of Jesus.

The Holy Spirit is our guarantee of relationship—belonging.

. . . who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.  (2 Cor 1:22)

In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise . . . (Eph 1:13, see also Eph 4:30)

We are sealed with the Holy Spirit.  This seal identifies us to angels and demons as being children of God and anointed by God—set apart unto Him.  We belong to God; we are His prize and His possession.  Take some time to ponder this truth, and to revisit it from time to time.  You are blessed!