Acts 7:51 – You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! (NIV)
Stiff-necked…bull-headed…stubborn…headstrong…obstinate…when we use these kinds of words to describe someone’s mindset, it’s never a compliment.
For a brief moment, let’s put ourselves in the sandals of the Jewish leaders that Stephen is speaking to in Acts 7. They had the strongest of convictions. They truly believed that what they stood for, what they expected others to conform to, was to follow the Law given to Moses, rather than to submit to the teachings of Jesus.
As believers we are also called to hold fast. To stand firm. To believe and not doubt. So what’s the problem?
The Jewish leaders were putting their faith in a system, rather than the Spirit of God. They believed that by following all the rules set forth in the Law, that they would be saved. Stephen is trying to convince them that instead, they need to submit to the Holy Spirit in order to be saved.
Changing the way that you think about something, especially about a conviction you have, is not easy to do. But that’s exactly why we need to rely on God’s power instead of our own wills. The Holy Spirit is a gift given to us to soften our hearts; to transform our minds, to reveal truth. If we can be more committed to being sensitive to the messages God places in our inner beings, than we are dedicated to a system of rules and regulations, we can finally live the lives that God calls us to experience.
It’s time to put aside your own system of beliefs. The abundant life starts with seeking God with all your heart.
Questions for Reflection and Discussion
- How would you describe the difference between being stubborn and standing firm?
- Can you think of a time when your convictions made you stiff-necked, and you missed (or nearly missed) an opportunity to be led by the Holy Spirit? If you can’t think of a specific time, what might it look like?
- What do we learn about Stephen in Acts 7? What do we learn about God in Acts 7? How can what we read in this chapter change our mindset and actions this week?