SERMON TITLE: Resisting Fullishness
TEXT: Acts 6:8-8:3 (ESV)
SPEAKER: Josh Hanson
It’s good to be with all of you this weekend at Gateway Church. And one thing I want you to know is that God loves you and I love you too.
And we’re in week four of our series in the book of Acts which we’re calling Resistance — as we’re seeing that for every gospel action there’s a reaction by the enemy. Now the enemy’s reaction isn’t an equal reaction to the power of God — but we’re in a conflict and we have an enemy who loves to disrupt us from accomplishing God’s work. And the resistance I’m wanting us to focus on — is our resistance to the enemy — our ability to resist because of God’s Word and Spirit.
And what we’re going to discover today — is how to resist against fullishness. Now I just said a made up word — I didn’t say foolishness — I said fullishness. So what do I mean by this ridiculous sounding word?
Well I just said that we’re able to resist our enemy — the devil — because of God’s Word and Spirit — but we must be full of both of them in order to resist. So here’s what the enemy does in response. He tries to get us to be full of anything other than God’s Word and Spirit because he knows if we fill ourselves with anything else — we’ll be powerless, we’ll be weak, we’ll be easy pickings for him because we are fullish.
I mean have you ever thought about the things we try to fill ourselves with? And I’m not talking about food and water — I’m talking about the things you feel you must have in order to have a full life.
For instance, many people believe that fulfillment comes from things like money or having certain possessions.
Some think they’ll find fulfillment if they have a particular title at work or certain recognition from their peers.
Others crave information in an effort to feel full — you try to keep up with our world of constant information through things like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or wherever you get your information from.
Now there’s nothing wrong with money or getting a promotion at work that gives you a new title — and there’s nothing wrong with staying up to date with what’s going on in the world. Yet — for the Christian — and even if you’re not sure what you believe about Jesus — we all instinctively know that these things — money, possessions, popularity, even information — they always leave us hungering for more — they never satisfy — they never leave us feeling full.
And the Christian faith responds to all of this — not by suggesting that money, job titles, information and so on — are bad — but instead it offers us something different to be filled with: God’s Word and Spirit. And that’s what we find in our story from the book of Acts.
So if you have your Bible, let’s turn to our passage for today.
ANNOUNCE THE TEXT
Please turn with me to Acts chapter 6. We’ll begin in verse 8 and read all the way through Acts chapter 8 verse 3 — so a lot of verses to get through — we’re setting a record for slides on the screen today.
And, if you’re a guest with us, something we like to do at Gateway is let you ask questions. So if you have a question, you can text it in to the number printed on the bottom of the sermon notes sheet or you can submit it on the Gateway app.
RE-ANNOUNCE AND READ THE TEXT
Here are the words found in Acts chapter 6. Beginning in verse 8.
“And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. 9 Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), and of the Cyrenians, and of the Alexandrians, and of those from Cilicia and Asia, rose up and disputed with Stephen. 10 But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he was speaking. 11 Then they secretly instigated men who said, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God." 12 And they stirred up the people and the elders and the scribes, and they came upon him and seized him and brought him before the council, 13 and they set up false witnesses who said, "This man never ceases to speak words against this holy place and the law, 14 for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us."
15 And gazing at him, all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel. 7:1 And the high priest said, "Are these things so?" 2 And Stephen said: "Brothers and fathers, hear me. The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran, 3 and said to him, 'Go out from your land and from your kindred and go into the land that I will show you.' 4 Then he went out from the land of the Chaldeans and lived in Haran. And after his father died, God removed him from there into this land in which you are now living. 5 Yet he gave him no inheritance in it, not even a foot's length, but promised to give it to him as a possession and to his offspring after him, though he had no child. 6 And God spoke to this effect—that his offspring would be sojourners in a land belonging to others, who would enslave them and afflict them four hundred years. 7 'But I will judge the nation that they serve,' said God, 'and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.' 8 And he gave him the covenant of circumcision. And so Abraham became the father of Isaac, and circumcised him on the eighth day, and Isaac became the father of Jacob, and Jacob of the twelve patriarchs.
9 "And the patriarchs, jealous of Joseph, sold him into Egypt; but God was with him 10 and rescued him out of all his afflictions and gave him favor and wisdom before Pharaoh, king of Egypt, who made him ruler over Egypt and over all his household. 11 Now there came a famine throughout all Egypt and Canaan, and great affliction, and our fathers could find no food. 12 But when Jacob heard that there was grain in Egypt, he sent out our fathers on their first visit. 13 And on the second visit Joseph made himself known to his brothers, and Joseph's family became known to Pharaoh. 14 And Joseph sent and summoned Jacob his father and all his kindred, seventy-five persons in all. 15 And Jacob went down into Egypt, and he died, he and our fathers, 16 and they were carried back to Shechem and laid in the tomb that Abraham had bought for a sum of silver from the sons of Hamor in Shechem.
17 "But as the time of the promise drew near, which God had granted to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt 18 until there arose over Egypt another king who did not know Joseph. 19 He dealt shrewdly with our race and forced our fathers to expose their infants, so that they would not be kept alive. 20 At this time Moses was born; and he was beautiful in God's sight. And he was brought up for three months in his father's house, 21 and when he was exposed, Pharaoh's daughter adopted him and brought him up as her own son. 22 And Moses was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians, and he was mighty in his words and deeds.
23 "When he was forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brothers, the children of Israel. 24 And seeing one of them being wronged, he defended the oppressed man and avenged him by striking down the Egyptian. 25 He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand. 26 And on the following day he appeared to them as they were quarreling and tried to reconcile them, saying, 'Men, you are brothers. Why do you wrong each other?' 27 But the man who was wronging his neighbor thrust him aside, saying, 'Who made you a ruler and a judge over us? 28 Do you want to kill me as you killed the Egyptian yesterday?' 29 At this retort Moses fled and became an exile in the land of Midian, where he became the father of two sons.
30 "Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight, and as he drew near to look, there came the voice of the Lord: 32 'I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.' And Moses trembled and did not dare to look. 33 Then the Lord said to him, 'Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy ground. 34 I have surely seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their groaning, and I have come down to deliver them. And now come, I will send you to Egypt.'
35 "This Moses, whom they rejected, saying, 'Who made you a ruler and a judge?' — this man God sent as both ruler and redeemer by the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the bush. 36 This man led them out, performing wonders and signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea and in the wilderness for forty years. 37 This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, 'God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers.' 38 This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us. 39 Our fathers refused to obey him, but thrust him aside, and in their hearts they turned to Egypt, 40 saying to Aaron, 'Make for us gods who will go before us. As for this Moses who led us out from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.' 41 And they made a calf in those days, and offered a sacrifice to the idol and were rejoicing in the works of their hands. 42 But God turned away and gave them over to worship the host of heaven, as it is written in the book of the prophets: "'Did you bring to me slain beasts and sacrifices, during the forty years in the wilderness, O house of Israel? 43 You took up the tent of Moloch and the star of your god Rephan, the images that you made to worship; and I will send you into exile beyond Babylon.'
44 "Our fathers had the tent of witness in the wilderness, just as he who spoke to Moses directed him to make it, according to the pattern that he had seen. 45 Our fathers in turn brought it in with Joshua when they dispossessed the nations that God drove out before our fathers. So it was until the days of David, 46 who found favor in the sight of God and asked to find a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. 47 But it was Solomon who built a house for him. 48 Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says, 49 "'Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord, or what is the place of my rest? 50 Did not my hand make all these things?'
51"You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it." 54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." And when he had said this, he fell asleep. 8:1 And Saul approved of his execution.
And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. 2 Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him. 3 But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.” (Acts 6:8-8:3 ESV)
OK. So that was a lot. Hopefully you remember me saying — about an hour ago — that the Christian faith responds to all of these unsatisfying ways we try to fill ourselves — by suggesting — not that money, and job titles, and information — are bad — but instead it offers us something different to be filled with: God’s Word and Spirit.
So instead of examining everything happening in this story — I want us to consider how Stephen was able to do what we see here. How was he able to remember so much of the Bible? How was he able to use God’s Word to show the religious leaders how Jesus fits into God’s story? How was he able to stand so courageously in the face of death? What was Stephen full of?
FULL OF GOD’S WORD
First, Stephen was full of God’s Word. To resist fullishness, we must fill ourselves with God’s Word. We see this in Stephen’s sermon — which we find in verses 2 through 50 of Acts chapter 7. It’s obvious that Stephen knows God’s Word. He knows it so well that — while in this intense — pressure filled situation — he’s able to give an amazing overview of the Bible. From the stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Joseph — to a much more detailed history of Moses’ life — Stephen knows God’s Word — he’s full of God’s Word — meaning he so knows God’s Word that he sees how all of the stories find their fulfillment in Jesus. That’s the point of his sermon.
He’s desperate for this angry mob of people to see how the stories they believe — stories of men — like Abraham and Moses — how they ultimately point to Jesus. Stephen wants them to understand that — in rejecting Jesus — they were both fulfilling the Word of God and rejecting the Word of God at the same time.
And because he is full of God’s Word — Stephen stands confidently — he proclaims boldly — he resists the fear of the situation he’s in — and he speaks about Jesus to those who are about to kill him.
OK. Some bad news for those of us who live in this fast paced — instant access — world we live in. Being full of God’s Word takes time. It takes effort. And it only happens if you make God’s Word a priority.
Let’s be real — this is a pretty thick book. It contains names that are hard to pronounce, locations of places you may never visit, cultures that seem foreign because — they are foreign — and it all takes place thousands of years ago — except for the parts that will happen in the future. And it’s a book like no other — because people — in reading this book — have been changed.
Not in a “I learned a new habit” kind of change.
Not in a “I learned something new about financial investments” kind of change.
But in a “It’s — well — the only way I know how to describe it — is that while reading this book I died. Whoever I was died and I came out on the other side alive in a way that makes me wonder if I was ever even living before I read this book.”
I think I’ve shared this illustration before — it’s not original to me ( Rick Warren is who I heard use this illustration.) — but here’s a great way to think about what it means to fill ourselves with God’s Word.
Let’s begin with listening to good preaching — this is a great way to be filled with God’s Word. But if that’s all you do — just listen to sermons — it’s kind of like trying to hold on to your Bible using only your thumb. It’s pretty easy for the enemy to react to your sermon listening and knock God’s Word away from you when that’s all you do — listen to sermons — you’re trying to hold on to God’s Word with just your thumb and the enemy comes and knocks it out of your hand. You have no power to resist.
Some of you realized this and began reading God’s Word — that’s like adding your first finger to your grip on the Bible — sermon listening and Bible reading — that’s better than just your thumb — it’s not a very secure grip — but it’s an improvement for sure. Now you can resist — but it’s a fairly weak resistance.
So we add Bible study — another finger grabs our Bible. We’ve got a better grip — but notice that we’re adding more and more commitment and time on our part. Listening to a sermon is fairly passive — it costs about 40 minutes of your time. Reading your Bible can add another 5-10 minutes to your day. But studying — really studying the Bible — now you’re talking about a time commitment.
But we want to be full of God’s Word, right? We want to resist our enemy, right? So we study the Bible. And — next — we meditate on what we’ve studied. We dwell on God’s Word. We think about what we’re studying and how it relates to what we see and experience in our world. We add another finger to our grip of God’s Word. Our resistance strengthens.
But we haven’t reached fullness yet. So — and this may sound scary — but we memorize God’s Word. You want to be full of God’s Word — well you can’t skip this step — you’ve got to memorize the Bible. Memorize individual verses, memorize a section of Scripture — like the Lord’s prayer — memorize longer sections — like Psalm 23 — or — and this may seem impossible — but you can do it — memorize entire books of the Bible. Bible memorization is adding another finger to your grip on God’s Word — it strengthens your resistance.
Now I want to pause here — with Bible memory — because often I hear people talk as if it’s impossible. So let’s tear down some of our excuses.
Excuse number 1: My memory isn’t that great — I hear this all the time. So I’ve got a couple of questions for you — the questions won’t be related — because I’ve got to ask a few different questions to prove my point.
Who’s the starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns? Baker Mayfield.
Now maybe you’re not a football fan — so — what actor has played Iron Man in the Marvel movies? Robert Downey Jr.
Maybe you’re not into superheroes movie — so what’s the name of Prince Harry’s son? Archie.
An easy one for any stragglers. Who’s the president of the United States? Donald Trump.
OK. So what did I just prove? That you have the ability to memorize things.
On to excuse number 2 — but — guess what? No one’s ever given me any other excuse. When it comes to Bible memory — the only excuse I ever hear is the “I can’t memorize” excuse. So it seems that if we can get past the fact that we can memorize — that we are filling our minds with things — and realize that our real problem is that we haven’t made Bible memory a priority — then this would be something more of us would do.
Now let me give you a personal example. Some say it’s bad form for a pastor to use himself as an example in a sermon — but if I used my wife as an example — and she’s got more of the Bible memorized than I do — or if I let it slip that she has a YouTube channel where you can watch her recite all of her Bible memory — well — I’d get in trouble — so I can’t use my wife as an example. So you’re stuck hearing me talk about me.
I’m currently working on what will be my 17th book of the Bible memorized — that’s in addition to a dozen psalms I have memorized. Seventeen books of the Bible memorized — it sounds crazy, right?
Do you want to know how I’ve memorized all of these books? You ready? Everyone wants the secret, right? How in the world have you memorized so many books of the Bible? Well here’s how I did it. One verse at a time.
Thrilling, right? So cutting edge. So innovative. None of you even had to write that down.
Is it a slow process? Yes.
Does it take time? Yes.
Is it hard? Often.
But I’ve only been doing this for 10 years or so and look at the results. I wish I’d started memorizing the Bible earlier — and for all of you teenagers and 20 somethings — start now. You’ll have way more memorized than me by the time you’re my age.
Just memorize something — because when God’s Word is in you — when you’ve memorized it — it becomes part of you.
And — finally — we need to apply what we’ve heard, read, studied, meditated on, and memorized. Now God’s Word is deep in the grip of your hand — not only are your fingers gripping it — but it’s deep in your palm — it’s secure — now you’re full of God’s Word. Now you’re equipped to resist the enemy.
Stephen was full of God’s Word. And — second — he was full of God’s Spirit. To resist fullishness, we must fill ourselves with God’s Spirit. Look with me in Acts 7 — beginning in verse 51.
FULL OF GOD’S SPIRIT
“"You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. 52 Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered, 53 you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it." 54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, "Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him.” (Acts 7:51-57 ESV)
So after reminding the crowd of God’s Word, Stephen tells them that they’re in line with all of the unfaithful people we read about in the Bible. He tells them they need to repent — he’s trying to point out to them that they’re not in line with the faithful people of God and that they need to turn from their ways because they’ve been resisting God’s Spirit — but before he gets any further the crowd reacts in violence.
So let’s talk about their resistance to the Holy Spirit and Stephen being full of the Holy Spirit.
Today, there are people who obey God and there are those who resist him. Stephen tells his listeners that they’re in the group who resist the Holy Spirit — they’re part of the line of people who’ve persecuted God’s prophets — God’s spokesmen — and murdered Jesus. Now this enrages the crowd — they’re insulted — they think they’re really following God — that Stephen is the one in the wrong — they’re blind to their resistance to God’s Spirit — so they murder him.
And many folks today think they’re pleasing God and yet they’re blind to their resistance to God’s Spirit. One indicator of this is how they respond to God’s Word — God’s Word and Spirit always go together. Some people reject the Bible — they reject its authority — they never fil themselves with God’s Word — their blind to their resistance to God’s Spirit that has Authored God’s Word. Another indicator of resistance is a person’s view of — and participation in — the church — for she is Jesus’ bride — and there are many folks who think they’re pleasing Jesus while they insult, mock, and reject his bride — and Jesus doesn’t take this kind of treatment of his church lightly.
So those are some examples of what it means to resist the Holy Spirit, but what about being full of the Spirit — what does that mean? Now we’re just going to cover the basics here — meaning there are all sorts of things we’re not going to get to. So consider this an introduction as to what it means to be filled with the Spirit. Ask yourself if these things are true for you?
First, to be filled with the Spirit means that you’ve heard and believed the gospel. This ties God’s Word and Spirit together. God’s message — the gospel — is proclaimed so that others hear it. And in hearing it people respond by either believing or rejecting it.
Second, to be filled with the Spirit means that you’ve received Jesus as your Savior and Lord. If you reject Jesus — as Savior and Lord — like the crowd in this story — you’re not full of the Spirit.
Third, to be filled with the Spirit means you’ve died to sin. Sin is no longer your master. Sin no longer must be obeyed. Sin and God’s Spirit have opposing desires and — being filled with God’s Spirit — demonstrates that you’ve died to sin with Christ and have been resurrected to a new life in him — a life lived not for the glory of sin, but for the glory of God.
What does that look like? Well — fourth — to be filled with the Spirit is to live a life that demonstrates the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is found in Galatians chapter 5 — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Together these are the fruit the Spirit produces in the lives of those he fills — of those who are resisting the enemy — this fruit is evidence of God’s Spirit at work in you.
Fifth, to be filled with the Spirit is to be given gifts by the Spirit that are to be used for God’s glory and the good of others. Earlier, Stephen was doing wonders and signs — that’s a way of describing him using different spiritual gifts. And though there’s a lot of debate about whether or not certain spiritual gifts are still for today — what’s not debated is that to be full of the Spirit is to be given at least one spiritual gift that’s to be used for the benefit of other Christians.
Sixth, to be filled with the Spirit is to be part of something that’s corporate in nature. Meaning — people filled with God’s Spirit — are described as being part of God’s family, are called the body of Christ, are part of the church, the Temple of God, and so on. God’s Spirit in us — unites us together — giving us a desire to be with others who are also filled with God’s Spirit.
And why is being full of the Spirit so important? Being filled with the Spirit gives us assurance that we’re part of God’s family — it gives us confidence that we’re his adopted children — being filled with God’s Spirit empowers us to do things we may feel anxious about doing — like sharing the gospel with others who are threatening to kill us — being filled with God’s Spirit is proof that we belong to God. Belonging is such a strong desire among people today. And no belonging is as important as is your belonging to Christ.
HOW FULLNESS BEGINS: GRACE AND POWER
How is this possible? How did Stephen find himself full of the Word and Spirit? “And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people.” (Acts 6:8 ESV)
We’re able to fill ourselves with God’s Word and Spirit because of what God has done for us — by his grace and power — as demonstrated in his Son. The gospel tells us that God so loves us that he sent his Son to come into our world — to live, die, and defeat death for us — so that — through faith in Jesus — by believing in him and all that he has done — we’re given the power to resist our enemy as we’re filled with God’s Word and Spirit.
What are you trying to fill yourself with? Whatever it is, does it leave you full or fullish? Though they may seem foolish to those who are resisting God — for those who believe — nothing fills — nothing gives purpose or an identity or a sense of belonging — like God’s Word and Spirit do. Nothing gives us the power to resist our enemy like God’s Word and Spirit. Be filled with God’s Word. Be filled with God’s Spirit. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, thank you for your Word and Spirit. For in them we are given the power to resist our enemy and are given the power to live for your glory. Give us a desire to know your Word. To be focused as we listen to sermons. To read and study the Bible. To remember and meditate on your Word throughout the day. To work at memorizing it so your Word is deep within us. All so that we apply your Word — growing in our obedience and holiness — all of our days.
Spirit fill us. Fill us with your presence. With your power. With your guidance. With your desires. Guide, lead, and direct each of us individually — and as a church. Unify us together — and glorify Jesus in and through us and all that we do. It’s in Jesus’ name that we pray. Amen.
BENEDICTION (PRAY FOR: Who have been filling themselves up on all kinds of things that have left them feeling empty. Who desire to be filled with God’s Word and Spirit.)
May you go full of God’s Word and full of God’s Spirit. Amen.
God loves you. I love you. You are sent.