PRAYER OF CONSECRATION
Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.
Jesus, I belong to you.
I lift up my heart to you.
I set my mind on you.
I fix my eyes on you.
I offer my body to you as a living sacrifice.
Jesus, we belong to you.
Praying in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, amen.
Acts 7:23–38 (NIV)
When Moses was forty years old, he decided to visit his own people, the Israelites. He saw one of them being mistreated by an Egyptian, so he went to his defense and avenged him by killing the Egyptian. Moses thought that his own people would realize that God was using him to rescue them, but they did not. The next day Moses came upon two Israelites who were fighting. He tried to reconcile them by saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why do you want to hurt each other?’
“But the man who was mistreating the other pushed Moses aside and said, ‘Who made you ruler and judge over us? Are you thinking of killing me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?’ When Moses heard this, he fled to Midian, where he settled as a foreigner and had two sons.
“After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush in the desert near Mount Sinai. When he saw this, he was amazed at the sight. As he went over to get a closer look, he heard the Lord say: ‘I am the God of your fathers,the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.’ Moses trembled with fear and did not dare to look.
“Then the Lord said to him, ‘Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free. Now come, I will send you back to Egypt.’
“This is the same Moses they had rejected with the words, ‘Who made you ruler and judge?’ He was sent to be their ruler and deliverer by God himself, through the angel who appeared to him in the bush. He led them out of Egypt and performed wonders and signs in Egypt, at the Red Sea and for forty years in the wilderness.
“This is the Moses who told the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your own people.’ He was in the assembly in the wilderness, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors; and he received living words to pass on to us.
Previously on Acts . . . one of the appointed caretakers of Jerusalem’s widows—Stephen—had extra curricular activities of performing miracles and preaching the gospel, which drew the ire of the religious authorities. With trumped up charges they brought Stephen before the Sanhedrin to stand trial. In response to the charges, rather than defending himself, Stephen made a counterintuitive move. He begins telling them their own story.
But there’s more going on here than that. Anytime anyone tells the story of God there’s a lot more going on than is visible to the naked eye. First and foremost, let’s remember something about Stephen. Here is a person who by all accounts is “full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom.” What does a person like that do in a situation like this?
Stephen tells the story as an act of public worship. This is not some obligatory liturgical act (as our public storytelling in church so often feels like). No, Stephen, rises up as nothing more or less than a worship leader, bearing witness to the mighty works of God in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stephen shows us what it looks like when a worship leader publicly engages in spiritual warfare.
While Stephen’s accusers stare him down with vilified hatred, he looks past them to see the real enemy: the powers, principalities, rulers, and authorities of the present evil age. In the presence of the Sanhedrin, Stephen preaches the gospel to the invisible powers who source their sinister plot.
The worship of God is always public. It can take place at any time in any place. It always involves a bigger picture than what can be seen with the naked eye. Worship always takes on the powers of darkness. Jesus always wins. And yes, on occasion it will get you killed. The good news is you won’t stay dead.
Looking ahead just a bit, remember who Stephen sees standing in the heavens as this episode comes to a close? Yes, that would be the Lord Jesus Christ at the right hand of God. Look back now to the last verse of the previous chapter—remember what the Sanhedrin witnessed in Stephen? I’ll reprint the text here for effect:
All who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at Stephen, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel (Acts 6:15).
Yes, there’s far more going on here than is visible to the naked eye. There always is.
THE PRAYER OF TRANSFORMATION
Lord Jesus, I am your witness.
I receive your righteousness and release my sinfulness.
I receive your wholeness and release my brokenness.
I receive your fullness and release my emptiness.
I receive your peace and release my anxiety.
I receive your joy and release my despair.
I receive your healing and release my sickness.
I receive your love and release my selfishness.
Come Holy Spirit transform my heart, mind, soul, and strength so that my consecration becomes your demonstration; that our lives become your sanctuary. For the glory of God our Father, amen.
Have you ever thought of biblical storytelling as an act of spiritual warfare? Ever tried it?
We are calling audibles this week for the hymns. Stay tuned.
For the Awakening,
J. D. Walt