Acts 6:15 And all who were sitting in the Sanhedrin looked intently at him and saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
My first inhalation was in a sinful world. My first exhalation was a scream. From day one, we are filled with that in which we’re submerged.
“He’s no angel.” Those were befitting words for me when I was young. Recently, I shared a bit of that past at a ministerial alliance meeting. It was in response to a presentation promoting the construction of a new juvenile detention center with a strong rehabilitative approach. As the presenter drew the picture of a recreation room and other pleasantries, I was taken back in time to my different experience of “juvee”. After he wrapped up, I commented, “When I was 15 and in detention, it wasn’t rehabilitation I needed. I was full of hell and I needed to be full of Jesus.”
I had stolen my dad’s gun and was on the run. Few have ever had as many loaded weapons pointed at them as I did the night those police caught up with me. I was handcuffed and transported to a solitary confinement cell at the county juvenile detention center. I said I was “full of hell,” but more literally, I was full of sin.
But without being full of the Spirit of Christ, aren’t we all? Like you, I was born into a fallen condition. My first inhalation was in a sinful world. My first exhalation was a scream. From day one, we are filled with that in which we’re submerged. We’re submerged in sin at birth and there’s only one way to empty ourselves of it; be filled with something else.
Yesterday, I was kayaking in the clearest water imaginable. I could make out details on the bottom of the river at several feet. Imagine dropping a glass to the bottom. It’s filled. It’s filled with whatever the make up of that water. Whether murky or clear, the environment around that cup determines its contents.
So it is with you and me. The problem is that until we’re in heaven, comparatively we’re submerged in black stench water. It’s what we live in. It’s what we’re filled with. Whatever our attempt to clean up on the inside is as Isaiah wrote, self-righteous filthy rags.
What do we do? Is there any way to be filled with something different than what we live in? Is there any way to empty a cup of river water when it’s at the bottom of a river?
There is. Displacement.
Consider the glass at the bottom of the river. If you filled it with gravel, there’s almost no water in it at all. It’s all displaced.
In the short 15 verses of chapter 6, we learn something about displacement. Stephen was born into a sinful world and a sinful nature just like the rest of us, but here in the middle of persecution before being stoned to death, he’s described as an angel. Why? Because he’s filled with something else.
In this short chapter, we learn he’s filled with faith, grace, wisdom, power, and the Holy Spirit. (vs. 5, 8, 10). There really wasn’t much room in him for fear, bitterness or vengeance. Those qualities filled his persecutors that day and most would have reciprocated with the same. Although Stephen was submerged in the same nasty world as the rest of them, he was filled with something else. Sin and hell were displaced by faith, grace, wisdom, power and ultimately, the Spirit.
We live in a fallen world that seems to spin more out of control everyday and we’re immersed in a relativistic culture that skews truth, encouraging us to be filled with everything around us.
But remember, like Stephen, you too can be filled with something else.