Another Sermon from our friend Simon J. Oriedo. If you would like to share your sermon please email me. Samuel
A Sermon Preached at the ACK St. James Church Buruburu during the First Service of Holy Communion on Sunday 14th May, 2017
- Acts 7:55-60
- John 14:1-14
- Psalm 31:1-16
“Let Go Before You Go” is the challenge and the struggle each one of us go through when we are hurting, or have been hurt. It is our human tendency to hold on to the pain or the scar as a permanent reminder of those who caused them. It is a fact that we live with; even though we rarely think of it, that either we are on our way out or we will move on one day, yet we hold on tightly to those pains. Every day as I drive to and from work, I pass near the Nairobi Cemetery. As I throw a glance at the graveyard, I am reminded that there are men and women lying on those graves, who might have never “let go before they left” this life. Inside those graves, they are sleeping or lying there with those whom they never released from their pains; they are lying there with the pains which they never “let go before they left.”
Acts 7 and Stephen:
We first meet Stephen in the context of a conflict in Acts 6, when there was need for seven men to be chosen as deacons to distribute relief to the widows:
Acts 6:5a “This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit…”
Then from Acts 6:8 through to Acts 8:3 are dedicated to Stephen.
Acts 6:8-10 “8Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia. These men began to argue with Stephen, 10 but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke.”
When Stephen was arrested and brought before the high priest and given an opportunity to defend himself, Stephen took the opportunity to witness for Christ. At the end of his defence, full of the Holy Spirit, boldly rebuked the religious leaders who had instigated his arrest:
Acts 7:51-53 “51 “You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! 52 Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him — 53 you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it.”
The response of Stephen’s audience was not pleasant at all. They were not going to celebrate him for telling them the truth and rebuking them; they were not going to promote him for challenging their faith and their action of crucifying Christ. Instead Luke tells us that:
Acts 7:54-58 “54When they heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.”
In order to “Let God Before You Go” there are three crucial things that we must apprehend before we can let go:
- Looking Up to Christ to Let Go of the Earthly
In order to “Let Go Before You Go”, you must be willing and ready to look up to Christ; when you look up to Christ, it is easy to let go the earthly. There is some supernatural and unique fulfilment when you look up to Christ. There is satisfaction and healing that goes beyond our pains when we focus on Christ. Oh sometimes the pains are so strong; the hurt is so deep; and the wound so unbearable that they cloud our focus on Christ.
Stephen made a REFOCUS of his faith and his vision; from those hurting him to the ONE who is STANDING UP at the right hand of God for him!! Sometimes, friends, in order to “Let God Before You God”, you need to refocus your faith and vision from the hurting you are going through to Jesus Christ who is your strength and hope of all glory:
Hebrews 12:2 “2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
When Stephen looked up to Christ, he had a reason to “Let Go Before he Left”
Sometimes we focus too much on the storms which overwhelm us yet the relief is so simple; refocusing our faith!!
Friends, you cannot shout for joy and victory like Stephen: “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56) and yet refuse to let go. We must be willing to “Let Go Before We Go” in order to get hold of the heavenly.
In John 14, Jesus encouraged His disciples to refocus their faith by letting go their worries or troubles to trust in God.
After the Psalmist has recounted what his enemies are up to or are doing to him (Psalm 31:11-13), he changes his tone and refocuses his faith on God’s doing:
Psalm 31:14-16 “14 But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God.” 15 My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me. 16 Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love.”
- Letting Go Into Christ
It depends where you let go to. When the stoning was too much to bear and probably Stephen knew that his death was eminent, he made a plea to Christ:
Acts 7:59 “While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
For Stephen, he was not going to let go of his spirit into the hands of his tormentors; yes, they could torment is physical body but his spirit was safe with Jesus Christ! Even if he was going to lose his life, the physical body – being destroyed by ‘stones’, he mortgaged his spirit to Christ Jesus.
Friends, sometimes we have a double tragedy – by not letting go before we go, we lose both the physical and the spiritual. Stephen was not going to lose both.
John 10:10 “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
Luke 12:4-5 “4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.”
Friends, when your spirit is surrendered and mortgaged with Christ, you can be able to “Let God Before You Go”.
The Psalmist captures this well when he prayed:
Psalm 31:1-5 “1 In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. 2 Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me. 3 Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me. 4 Free me from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge. 5 Into your hands I commit my spirit; redeem me, O LORD, the God of truth.”
- Releasing Others from Eternal Condemnation
“Let Go Before You Go”, also means releasing those who have caused you the pain. Knowing that you may not see them again, also implies relieving yourself of their pain. Stephen prayed to his tormentors:
Acts 7:60 “Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.”
Before Stephen left, he had to release from his heart those who were stoning him. It is not easy but he purposed not to carry them with him to the grave.
“Let God Before You God”, as much as it is difficult to practice but could also be the healing we need for ourselves and the salvation of our tormentors.
Looking up to Christ in faith despite the competing pains that cloud our focus is a deliberate effort through faith. May; the Holy Spirit so fill us that we will rise above the pains and refocus our faith and vision in Christ. Looking up to Christ despite the competing interests is a challenge but its worth.
Mortgage your spirit with Christ. Losing your spirit and body is a double tragedy:
Mark 8:35-38 “35For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? 37 Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Yes, as I pass nearby the Nairobi Cemetery and see those graves, I am also reminded that there are many who are walking around but someone in that grave is holding them down there simply because they never “Let Go Before he/she Left”.
5th Sunday of Easter – 2017
Rev. Simon J. Oriedo; (BSc, BD (Hons), PGD (Eccum,), MABS, MEd)
P.O. Box 14814 – 00100, GPO – Nairobi, Kenya
Mobile: +254 722 838 023 / 735 62 11 72 / 772 838 023 / 752 66 06 20