15. What is the source of inspiration of martyrs?
Before Peter totally surrendered to God, his first obstacle was self-absorption (“Even if all these stumble because of You, I will never be made to stumble” Matt. 26:33). His second obstacle was self-reliance (Peter cut off a man’s ear trying to help the Son of Living God out). His third was self-protection (“I do not even know the Man” Matt. 26:74).
But when Pentecost came, what a wonderful change in his life has been wrought since Jesus came into his heart. The Holy Spirit of Jesus was baptized into Peter’s heart, and Peter experienced self-denial and total surrender. Before, he had been terrorized by a servant girl into denying Christ. Fifty days later, Peter denied Himself and risked it all by preaching the stars down and 3,000 were saved!
I don’t have this on Biblical authority, but it is very possible that the future deacon and future first martyr Stephen was in this group of converts. If so, as one of BELIEVE’s “Inspiration of Martyrs,” (see Believe, page 250) Stephen was influenced by Peter’s surrendered life and message. Stephen not only was filled with faith, power and the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:5, 8), he was willing to go from serving tables to debating scholars from abroad. Being totally surrendered to Christ means there is nothing to low and nothing too high in the ministry and calling of Christ.
Mordecai in the story of Esther did not obey the governmental authority and refused to bow down to Haman, as decreed by the king (see Esther 3:2-6). We see this again in the Book of Acts and with apostles (see Acts 5:28-29). We should always obey God, even if it is to the point of disobeying the law of the land. Stephen’s culminating argument before the Jewish authorities turned out to be a fatal insult. His blunt statement was that the religious leaders were the opposite of Total Surrender: “You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ear! You always resist the Holy Spirit…you have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.” (Acts 7:51-53, page 254 in BELIEVE). While the leaders refused, Stephen surrendered even to the point of death.
A.W. Tozer wrote “The solemn delight that those early disciples knew sprang straight from the conviction that there was One in the midst of them. They knew that the Majesty in the heavens was confronting them on earth: they were in the very Presence of God. And the power of that conviction to arrest attention and hold it for a lifetime, to elevate, to transform, to fill with uncontrollable moral happiness, to send men singing to prison and to death, has been one of the wonders of history and a marvel of the world.”
In other words, a totally surrendered life is only achieved when we are filled with the Holy Spirit. Tozer says such knowledge makes us “invulnerable to critical attack.” We can “ignore the objections of unbelieving men.” Being filled with God “overwhelms their doubts and confirms their assurance beyond the power of argument to destroy.”
How can we explain a totally surrendered life? When the hymn writer was asked “You ask me how I know He lives?” he simply responded the best way we can ever know that God is real.
“He lives within my heart.”