Acts Series #20
Back to the Beginning:
When Church was Church
When the Prison Door Opens
Open your copy of God's Word with me to Acts chapter 11 and follow with me as we read about the early church
PICK UP AT 11:26b
What can we do … in response to Hurricane Katrina? It is important for you to know what Southern Baptists are already doing and be thankful for the hearts, hands, backs, work of Southern Baptists already. As of Friday Southern Baptists had already sent $800,000 to disaster through the North American Mission Board
On the Paper we passed out to you today you can see on both sides tangible physical things that you can do in response to this tragedy through the mechanism of the Southern Baptist Convention who is working directly with the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and the United States Government.
Let's continue reading in Acts
Read Acts 12:1-18 -
Considering all that has happened this week in the South Central Part of our country it is difficult to prepare this week. But the Lord was already preparing my heart from this passage
I would say that most of us have never faced anything like what these people are facing this week
But many of you have faced your own difficulties. Perhaps some of you are here today and feel like a storm has roared through your life.
Perhaps you are in the winds of change right now
Perhaps the hot breath of persecution is hard on the back of your neck
What do we do?
How do we move on
I titled my message today, "When the Prison Door Opens" …
<Hold up your WATER>
What is the state of this GLASS …
Well … Standing before an Open Prison Door …
1. What Do You See?
We need an accurate perception of the situation
We need an understanding of who is in Control
Is the Door Open to Let you IN the Prison or to Let You OUT?
Is the Door open to a Dead End or A New Beginning
Is the Door open to destroy all or your wisdom and belief system or
Is the Door open to a new Experience and Understanding of God
I think if you are going to accurately assess the Prison door that is open, you need to accurately access the circumstances
Sometimes we cry "woah is Me" over things that WE created, or things that WE could have prevented
A. Why did the door open for Peter into the Prison?
Was he a bad citizen?
Was he a bad guy?
NO … he was a obedient follower of Jesus
Was Peter Fretting?
Was Peter even Sleepless?
He was Sleeping like a baby
Bound between 2 with guards on the door …
Peter is Sleeping
Why? How? Perhaps he remembered the Words of Jesus from the beginning of his public ministry
Mt 5:10-12 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven 11 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you
You think maybe he remembered that?
"How do you know?" Well I'm glad you asked because
1 Peter 4 says ?12? Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. ?13? But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. ?14? If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. ?15? If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. ?16? However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.
B. We Live in a Fallen World
1. Bad things happen to good people
2. Bad things happen to bad people
C. Why do you stand before the Prison Door?
1. is it a result of your own choices?
2. is it a result of our sinful nature?
3. is it a result of obedience to God?
4. is it a result of disobedience to God?
5. is it a result of the world we live in?
Answering that questions will determine how you move ahead.
If the Prison door before you is the result of your decisions, your choices, your actions, then you may be left to deal with some consequences
Step one then would be to confess any sin / error, and repent go in the other direction, turn to the Lord
Even if you face a real Prison for your sin and mistakes, you can face that prison cell in the freedom of forgiveness, mercy, and grace
2. Believe The Word of God
A. Believe his Messenger
1. God sent an Angel to Peter and told him to Get up, get dressed, put on your sandals, and follow me
2. Believe the Messenger
3. Believe it or NOT, I am an ANGEL, if you don't believe me, go to the book of Revelation. Will be studying on Wednesday nights and you will find that Jesus himself refers to the Pastors of those 7 churches as the ANGELS of those churches.
4. An angel is a Messenger of God and that is all I am. AM I PERFECT? NO
5. Do I seek to bring you a Message from God every week YES
6. If you do NOT think I'm a messenger of God, you probably need a different Pastor
7. Believe the Messenger - as long as he brings the Message of God
But I am imperfect for sure but more than the Messenger
B. Believe the Message/the Word of God
1. the story goes that a guy falls off a cliff and clings for his life from a little branch sticking out. He calls out "Help! Is anybody up there? Is anybody up there? Finally a voice says "I am here" "who is it the man asks? Please help" The voice responds, "it is The Lord Almighty." "Do you trust me my child" "Yes Lord, help me please" … "Let Go!" "Trust me and Let Go" There's a Long pause and then the man says "IS THERE ANYBODY ELSE UP THERE"
2. We must trust the Lord, Trust the Word of the Lord
C. Obey Him
1. Sometimes the Door OUT of Prison Frightens us As MUCH as the Door IN to Prison
2. If he has told you to walk through the door, walk through
3. Prison was no fun, but at least he was alive, but what if they catch him trying to escape then he's dead for sure
4. If you are standing in the open doorway of the Prison move through if the Lord says "go", whether in or out, it's evidence of trust and faithfulness
That's what you should do if YOU are in the doorway … but
What about us?
What about those of us on the outside of the Prison?
What about those of us completely out of any control over the situation
3. Seek God's Intervention
Prayer is not our LAST Hope, it is our ONLY Hope
Prayer is standing on the Promises of God
Prayer is evidence of our Hope
Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen
Paul tells us in Ephesians to face the Spiritual battles of life armed with our Spiritual Armour that is the Helmet of Salvation, the Breastplate of Righteousness, the Belt of Truth, the Shoes that are the Preparation of the Gospel, the Shield of Faith and the Sword of the Spirit, but is says in verse 18 and pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints
A. Pray from Inside the Prison
1. I'm sure Peter was praying
2. I'm sure that people are praying
3. they say there are no atheists in foxholes
but what about us on the outside?
B. Pray from the outside
1. v 5 says Peter was in prison but the church was earnestly praying to God for him
2. "earnestly" or "fervently" ektenos means intensely, earnestly, fervently, from the verb "to stretch out the hand" to it means to stretch out resolutely as for help
3. it also means continuously or without ceasing, with great emotion, it is the same word to describe the praying of Christ in the garden
Luke 22:44 being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground
4. Have you prayed like that? Have you anguished over those suffering in Louisiana and Mississippi, Alabama? Have you prayed for those going through personal hell on earth around you?
5. Have you prayed for those going to the storm of divorce?
6. Have you sought the Lord YOURSELF like that? For YOUR Storm?
7. Seek him continuously, earnestly, deeply, arms stretched out
2 Chr 7:13,14 when I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, 14 if my people who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and forgive their sin and will heal their land
We should give money if we can, we should meet personal needs if called upon and able, matter of fact,
1 John 3:17 says if you see your brother in need and have material possessions and do not meet that need, how can the love of God be in you and verse 18 says let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth
But if we fail to seek God's face, if we fail to lift them up in prayer we failing to come in line with the Lord of Heaven
Pray from the Outside but as you Pray make sure you
C. Expect God to Move
1. the problem often is not us failing to pray in some form but failing to believe in the movement of the God we are praying to
2. pray specifically
3. but "what if we pray for the wrong thing"
4. if you pray earnestly and specifically and truly seek God's face, if you are praying for the wrong thing, he will reveal it and you can bring your prayers in line
5. Do not forget that we have an Intercessor, the Holy Spirit, that is ever before the throne Interceding on our behalf with groans that the Father understands according to Romans 8
6. So, expect God to move - The funny part of this story is the RESPONSE of the church when God answers their prayers
a. Peter Knocks on the door in v13 and Rhoda says "who is it" "it's me Peter" she recognizes his voice and gets so excited she leaves him out there and runs back to the prayer meeting "Peter is HERE!"
b. do they say "praise the Lord, our prayers have been answered"? No - they say "You are NUTS". She insists and they say "it must be his ANGEL" I guess they figured he was already dead, or this was his guardian angel
7. Why don't we expect God to move?
a. ignorance about the plans and purposes of God
b. lack of experience
c. ignorance of the promises of God
D. Receive God's Answer
1. God said "Yes" in regards to Peter
2. God said "No" in regards to James the brother of John the son of Zebedee.
3. Was James less important than Peter? NO. Was James more sinful or have less faith than Peter? NO We must Trust God's Answer and receive it in faith.
4. 1993 Tornado that destroyed most of our neighborhood but not MY house why? I don't know but I trust God
5. Why New Orleans and not Houston? Why a Tsunami in Thailand and not Japan?
6. we can't become paralyzed by the things we cannot understand but move forward with what we know and what we can do
Those victims need, food, water, electricity, shelter, jobs, but many of them need Jesus. Worse than any thing else they need Jesus
Whatever the storm in your life, Jesus is the greatest need
When the door to the Prison Opens how will you see it?
Is it the door to a dead end and life sentence? Or is it the door to an opportunity to know Jesus in a new way.
Peter said "now I know …"
The open door, into the prison or out of the prison is always an opportunity to know God fresh, new, and more intimately and powerfully
Is a prison cell the end, or the door to a new understanding, experience, revelation of God
Placing their son in a little boat seemed like a hopeless move and the doorway to the crocodiles of the Nile for Moses' mother but for Moses it was a doorway to salvation and God's future
The Parted Red Sea looked like the doorway to death, but it was the pathway to life
What if Shadrach Meshach, and Abednego had never gone through the open door to the furnace but had taken the door of compromise and worshipped the King's Idol? They would have not gone into the fire and would not have met Jesus face to face and lived in his deliverance and been part of his revelation of himself to a pagan King
What if Daniel had never taken the open door to the Lion's Den and closed the window of prayer? He would never have known God as his banner and refuge
What if David had not walked through the door of certain defeat that led to the Valley and Goliath, he would never have known the Victory of God and the trust of a Nation to lead them
What if Jesus had not taken the open door that led from Heaven to Bethlehem's manger, and the doorway that led from popular preacher to the Crucified Lord … He would never have the open door to a borrowed Tomb and the Open door to an EMPTY tomb and we would have never been able to walk through the door to Salvation and God's Grace
When the Prison Door Opens
What do you See?
Believe the Word of God
Seek God's Intervention
Trust God and Walk through it
If it's the Result of Sin; Repent and walk with God in the Midst of It
Let us Seek God's Face
Let us Go Before the Lord on Behalf of those in this Great Time of Need
I want to ask you to come and voice prayers for the
Those who can … Join us here at the front or kneel at your seat,
Now, some of you are facing your own personal storms, trials, prison doors. Would you be willing to humble yourselves and admit a need?
If you are here today with a personal need or someone close to you is facing a personal sentence today, I'm going to ask you to come to the altar or at least to stand where you are, standing in the need of prayer … it's "not my mother, father, it's me oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer, not my brother or my sister but it's me oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer"
Would you come?
I'll wait for you now and we will seek God on your behalf now
Do you know the Lord?
Have you confessed and repented of your contribution?
Now lay yourself at Jesus' feet
Confess your trust in him
Be willing to walk through the open door
Ask God to Reveal himself to you fresh and new today