“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. And he said, ‘Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” (Acts 7:55-56, ESV).
These are some of the last words our brother Stephen cried out before he surrendered his very life in sacrifice for the Lord.
The first thing I notice about this passage is that Jesus was in a standing position. Usually He is sitting on His throne. Apparently, in that moment, He was so wrapped up in what was transpiring that He had gotten up off His throne. Stephen beheld his Lord and King receiving his ultimate act of worship, pouring out his own life’s blood for the One he loved. I believe he saw inexpressible depths of overwhelmed love, gratitude, and devotion burning in Jesus’ eyes.
The second thing that is impressed on me is that the heavens were opened over Stephen’s willing, extravagant gift of his own life. His testimony stands out as a living example of the principle God set forth in Deuteronomy 28. That is, obedience brings an open heaven. “…If you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God… The Lord will open to you His good treasure, the heavens, to… bless all the work of your hand” (Deut. 28:1b; 12a,c, NKJV).
According to Ezekiel 36:27, the work of the Holy Spirit is to produce obedience in our hearts. We are utterly dependent on Him to empower us to walk in God’s ways. However, He will never force Himself on us. He deeply respects the faculty of free will that He gave to us at creation. If we are not willing, He will wait and continually woo us. He will produce obedience in us only when we surrender to His transformational process in our lives.
All God needs is our willingness, and He will do the rest. This is why David cried out, “Grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me!” (Ps. 51:12b, NIV).
For those of His beloved children who haven’t quite yet gotten to the place of a willing spirit, this same chapter of Deuteronomy describes the inverse principle at play. As a direct result of disobedience, “…your heavens which are over your head shall be bronze…” (v. 23a).
As you meditate on this truth, it may be time to allow God to search you. Is there an area of your life where it feels like the heavens are closed over you? Is it possible that Holy Spirit has been gently nudging you in a certain direction, and you have not yet been willing to surrender?
Dear, precious child, there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus! Not now, not ever. However, take a moment and just imagine what life might look like post-surrender… Doesn’t an open heaven, with God’s rich blessing over all the work of your hands, sound pretty amazing?
Will you freely offer to Jesus the gift of your life today?
“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom. 12:1, ESV).