When I was in my mid-twenties, I was the passenger in an auto accident that resulted in my neck and back being broke. I still have days of my back and neck hurting. Recently I discovered I had two herniated discs in my neck for which I have had a series of shots for. But this is not what the Bible is talking about when it refers to a person being stiff necked.
At the end of Acts 6, we find that Stephen is accused of blasphemy even though the wonders and signs he did pointed to the work of God. In Acts 7 we find Stephen’s address to the high priest in which he emphasizes Israel’s disobedience throughout the Old Testament. He told of how God had been at work from the beginning of time and made Israel His chosen people with the calling of Abraham. He then went through the time they spent in Egypt, Moses delivering them through the miracles of God, and the years of Israel’s rebellion against God. He sums up his sermon by saying, “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you.”
Stephen made four observations about his audience: they were stiff-necked, had uncircumcised hearts, uncircumcised ears, and they always resist the Holy Spirit.
- To say they were stiff-necked was saying they were stubborn, hard-headed, and unyielding. Israel’s history proved this to be true. They were so stubborn and unyielding that finally God said, “Enough!” and the nation of Israel was conquered and the people were carried off to spend then next 70 years in captivity.
- An uncircumcised heart is one that is closed and impervious to God’s attempts to affect it. In Deuteronomy 30:6, it says, “The Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the hearts of your descendants, and you will love Him with all your heart and all your soul that you will live.” Circumcision of the heart, then, goes clear down to a person’s soul, the very essence of who he or she is and is expressed through his or her attitudes and relationship with God. An uncircumcised heart does not love God with all its soul and does not have a relationship with God. For many in Israel (and in our world today), they had a head-knowledge of who they thought God was but they never had the heart-experience of who God is.
- To have uncircumcised ears means they heard what they wanted to in regards to God’s Word or that they had such a strong prejudice to how they interpreted it that it was impossible for them to ever change their way of thinking even when the truth was right in front of them with the signs and wonders that Stephen had been doing.
- Resisting the Holy Spirit was to ignore what the Spirit was saying. Throughout Israel’s history, God would sent a prophet with a message and the prophet would be rejected. Now that Jesus had returned to heaven and the Holy Spirit has come to indwell the believer, when we ignore what the Spirit is saying to us, we are resisting Him. As Stephen spoke to the crowd, the Holy Spirit was speaking to them through Stephen. It was if the Holy Spirit had a personal message for them and they rejected it. We know they rejected the Holy Spirit because in verses 54-47 we find the people were so furious that they gnashed their teeth at Stephen, covered their ears, and yelled at the top of their voice. They rushed at Stephen, dragged him out of the city and stoned him to death. Any time we reject what the Holy Spirit is saying to us, we are resisting Him and the work He is trying to do in our lives. It is as if we stand guard at the door to our heart and refuse to surrender our will to God.
Any time we reject what the Holy Spirit is saying to us, we are resisting Him and the work He is trying to do in our lives. It is as if we stand guard at the door of our heart and refuse to surrender our will to God. — click to tweet
What about you? Would God say you are stiff-necked, stubborn and unyielding person? Are you closed and impervious to God’s attempts to change your heart? Do you hear what you want to hear from God’s Word and ignore the rest or twist it to mean what you want it to mean? Do you resist the Holy Spirit when He is trying teach you something or correct something in your life? Do you resist Him when he prompts you to witness to someone? Its really all about control. Are you willing to surrender and give total control of your life to the God who created you and loves you?
Israel had a problem in that they could not learn from the mistakes of their ancestors. Stephen told them that just as their fathers had been stiff-necked, uncircumcised in heart and ears, and resisted the Holy Spirit, they were doing so now too. But we can learn what they did not and yield ourselves to God and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
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Julia is CEO of Wellspring Christian Ministries, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people and couples develop a passionate relationship with God. A public speaker, conference trainer, event planner, and blog writer, Julia is a two-time graduate from Grand Canyon University with a bachelor in Psychology and a masters in Professional Counseling. Saved as a child and raised in church and in a Christian home and private Christian School as a Pastor’s kid, Julia has taught Sunday school, led music, played the piano, served as Children’s Director, and engaged her gifts in many other areas of church life. Previously employed with the Florida Baptist Convention, Julia organized events and led conferences for church ministry assistants.
Julia enjoys sharing her journey as a growing Christian with others looking for a deeper connection with God. Through Bible study and her own life experiences, God has given Julia a passion to help couples understand God’s design for marriage while they learn to place God first in their marriage, cultivate meaningful relationships, build intimacy, and address the tougher issues that come in every marriage so that they can experience a marriage that honors and glorifies God. Julia also loves mentoring, teaching, and working with women to help them learn to live as Godly women.
With her history and experience growing up in both small and large churches, Julia enjoys bringing top level quality events to churches of all sizes. Her father largely pastored small churches and therefore she understands that these vital parts of the believing community need to be good stewards of the resources God provides them with. This knowledge inspires her passion for being available with a fresh perspective for those who want to provide their congregations with meaningful spiritual growth opportunities.