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How We Can Defeat the Darkness

The Book of Acts  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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How can we defeat the darkness? 1. Put a priority on prayer (vs. 1-5). 2. Rely on our Redeemer (vs. 6-16). 3. Strive to stick together (vs. 12-16). 4. Live in loyalty to the Lord (vs. 17).

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How We Can Defeat the Darkness

Acts 12:1-17 (Reading vs. 1-5)

Sermon by Rick Crandall

Grayson Baptist Church

April 6, 2014 (Revised Sept. 18, 2016)

*Anybody paying any attention at all knows we are living in a time of growing darkness. A five-minute glance at the headlines is enough to prove that this is true.

*Yesterday, a pipe bomb explosion in New Jersey shut down the 5k "Semper Fi" charity race. Thank God, no one was injured, because the start of the race had been delayed by late sign-ins. Then, last night, a dumpster bomb went off in New York City, injuring 29 people.

*We are living in a time of growing darkness. It's evident in the corruption that has infected the highest levels of our government. And it's evident in the widespread promotion of evil in the entertainment world.

*The spiritual darkness also attacks us in our families, and in our own hearts. That's why Ephesians 6:12 tells Christians: "We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world. . ."

*We live in a time of growing spiritual darkness, but the good news is that we can do something about it! God's Word shows us what to do in this remarkable story about the early church.

1. First: We have to put a priority on prayer.

*We have to put a greater priority on prayer. That's what the early church did when this terrible crisis arose in vs. 1-5:

1. Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church.

2. Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword.

3. And because he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to seize Peter also. Now it was during the Days of Unleavened Bread.

4. So when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads of soldiers to keep him, intending to bring him before the people after Passover.

5. Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church.

*The church offered constant prayer to God for Peter. The early church was a praying church. When danger came, they prayed. When dissention came, they prayed. When they were desperate, they prayed. And when they didn't know what to do, they prayed. The early church was a praying church, and that's the kind of church God wants us to be: Calling on Him, our ever-present source of help.

*Rod Cooper made this point in a sermon he called, "God Is Just One Squeal Away." And Rod gave this testimony: "We raised pigs. -- We raised about a thousand pigs a year. In one field we had two or three hundred little oinkers running around. Every day, at four in the morning, as I'd walk into the field to feed those guys, they'd scatter.

*Once a little pig came up and began to chew on my foot, so I picked him up and began to pet him. Soon he wanted down. I said, 'No, I'll let you down when I'm ready.' At that moment, he let out a squeal such as I had never heard. In about two seconds, thirty mama pigs weighing five to six hundred pounds each were headed my way. I put him down, headed for the fence, and I barely made it over. All the mama pigs were walking back and forth, snorting, and daring me to come back over and bother one of their kids.

*I look back at that and realize that little rascal wasn't intimidated. He was out of control, but he wasn't intimidated. -- Why? Because he had resources one squeal away." And Church: So do we! (2)

2. We can defeat the darkness by putting a priority on prayer. But we also have to rely on our Redeemer.

*We must have faith in God. We must depend on His divine help. We must believe that our God is both able and willing to help us in any situation.

[1] And we can trust in His ability.

*Our God is always able! And we get a small taste of His ability in vs. 6-16:

6. And when Herod was about to bring him out, that night Peter was sleeping, bound with two chains between two soldiers; and the guards before the door were keeping the prison.

7. Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, "Arise quickly!'' And his chains fell off his hands.

8. Then the angel said to him, "Gird yourself and tie on your sandals''; and so he did. And he said to him, "Put on your garment and follow me.''

9. So he went out and followed him, and did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision.

10. When they were past the first and the second guard posts, they came to the iron gate that leads to the city, which opened to them of its own accord; and they went out and went down one street, and immediately the angel departed from him.

11. And when Peter had come to himself, he said, "Now I know for certain that the Lord has sent His angel, and has delivered me from the hand of Herod and from all the expectation of the Jewish people.''

12. So, when he had considered this, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying.

13. And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a girl named Rhoda came to answer.

14. When she recognized Peter's voice, because of her gladness she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter stood before the gate.

15. But they said to her, "You are beside yourself!'' Yet she kept insisting that it was so. So they said, "It is his angel.''

16. Now Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.

*This was an astonishing miracle. Peter couldn't believe what happened at first. He thought He was having a vision. The church couldn't believe it at first. They thought Rhoda had lost her mind.

*But how hard was it for God to unlock some chains and open an iron gate? When we look into His Word, we see that Jesus can walk on water, calm storms, feed thousands, heal any disease and even raise the dead. Jesus did all of that with ease. And in this story, it's not like God's angel was pulling on those chains or straining against that gate.

*Have you ever had trouble opening a jar? God doesn't have that problem. Have you ever had trouble getting a lug nut off a wheel? God doesn't have that problem either. All good things are possible with Him. And we should learn to trust Him more, because God has astonishing ability. Setting Peter free was easy for the Lord God Almighty, and nothing is too hard for Him!

*But the greatest thing God ever did for us was hard, because the greatest thing He ever did for us was become a man and die on the cross for our sins. And even if God never did another thing for us, we can trust Him, because He died for our sins. We can trust in Jesus Christ, because He rose from the dead. We can trust Him to forgive all our sins, and give us an everlasting home in Heaven.

*Years ago, Anne Graham Lotz visited a woman on death row. This woman was convicted of multiple murders, and during her time in prison, the woman had become a Christian. But as her execution date drew near, she began to fear that maybe her sins were too big to be forgiven. Maybe God's grace wasn't meant for someone like her.

*Anne asked the woman if she had ever been to the beach. Had she ever seen holes in the sand? For instance, ghost crabs make tiny pinholes in the sand, little children digging out forts make slightly bigger holes, and giant, earth-moving equipment will dig much deeper holes.

*"Well," Anne asked, "when the tide comes in, doesn't the water cover everything? In the same way," Anne said, "God's grace is sufficient to cover over any sin, no matter how large that sin may be." (3)

[2] Our God is able! -- So we can trust in His ability, but we can also trust in His reliability.

*Our God is always reliable! We can always trust Him to do the right thing, even when we don't understand what He's doing. We can always trust God to do the right thing, even when we have to wait on the Lord. And sometimes we will have to wait on the Lord.

*Back up in vs. 5, Peter was "kept in prison, but constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church." "Constant prayer." "Prayer without ceasing" the KJV says. -- The word picture is something stretched out, so their prayers were not answered right away. They had to wait on the Lord.

*These early Christians had been badly hurt by the murder of James and the arrest of Peter, but they were waiting on the Lord. They were worried about Peter, but they were waiting on the Lord. They did not understand what was going on, but they were waiting on the Lord.

*When God's angel came to the rescue for Peter, even he didn't understand at first. Verse 9 tells us that Peter "went out and followed him, and did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision."

*They did not understand what was going on. And part of the mystery remains, because this story had a very different ending for Peter and James. Often we don't understand why things happen the way they do. But if God was small enough for us to always understand, there would be no way He could run the universe or save our souls!

*This story has oddly different outcomes for James and Peter, and we will face the same kind of situations in life. "Our Daily Bread" once told the story of how God helped a Christian escape death on a cross-country trip.

*On May 25, 1979, Flight 191 crashed moments after takeoff from Chicago. All 271 people on board were killed, along with 2 people on the ground. Until the 9/11 attacks, it was the most devastating air disaster in U.S. history.

*The article told how an unexpected delay in New York spared a Christian from catching this deadly flight. But after the article was published, one of the readers sent a letter to the author.

*That letter began with these words: "I just had to let you know about one of God's great saints who ran to make Flight 191, -- and made it!" His name was Edward E. Elliott, the beloved pastor of the Garden Grove Orthodox Presbyterian Church in California.

*Edward's plane from Pennsylvania had also been late, and a friend who flew with him as far as Chicago said he last saw him 'dashing forward' in the terminal to make his connection.

*That note raised a question in the author's heart: Was God at work in New York that day, but not in Pennsylvania? The answer came in the rest of the note that said: "At the time, Rev. Elliott didn't know that he was indeed running to Heaven. Mrs. Elliott and her four married children comforted the entire church. Their Christian faith and testimony in sorrow was most extraordinary." (4)

*Church: We will not always understand why things happen the way they do. But we can and we must keep trusting in the Lord. We can and we must keep waiting on the Lord. As Isaiah 40:28-31 says:

28. Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. There is no searching of His understanding.

29. He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.

30. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall,

31. But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.

*We can and we must keep trusting in the Lord.

3. We can defeat the darkness by relying on our Redeemer. But we also must strive to stick together.

*In the middle of this crisis, the early church was striving to stick together. And it's not always easy. Please look vs. 12-16. By this time, Peter realized that he really had been miraculously set free:

12. So, when he had considered this, he came to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying.

13. And as Peter knocked at the door of the gate, a girl named Rhoda came to answer.

14. When she recognized Peter's voice, because of her gladness she did not open the gate, but ran in and announced that Peter stood before the gate.

15. But they said to her, "You are beside yourself!'' (In other words: "You're out of your mind!") Yet she kept insisting that it was so. So they said, "It is his angel.''

16. Now Peter continued knocking; and when they opened the door and saw him, they were astonished.

*This was not a perfect church. How do we know? Well at first, they didn't really believe that God would answer their prayers. Or at least they didn't believe He would answer them in such a miraculous way. They were totally shocked when Peter actually showed up at their door.

*And these early Christians didn't always treat each other with the utmost respect. Has anybody in church ever told you that you were crazy? (So far, so good.) That's not the kind of thing we expect to hear in church, but that's what they said to Rhoda.

*They were not a perfect church. And neither are we! Listen to part of the poem Mavis Williams wrote about the Perfect Church:

"If you should find the perfect church

Without one fault or smear,

For goodness sake!

Don't join that church;

You'd spoil the atmosphere.

If you should find the perfect church

Where all anxieties cease

Then pass it by, lest joining it

You'd mar the masterpiece.

If you should find the perfect church

Then don't you ever dare,

To tread upon such holy ground;

You'd be a misfit there." (5)

*The early church was not a perfect church. And there has never been a perfect church, because there has never been a perfect person, except for one. And that is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. We are flawed people living in a very flawed world, trying to serve our flawless Savior.

*The early church was not a perfect church, but they were a praying church, a caring church, a loving church, a helping church, and by the grace of God, so are we. Church is a place where we can come together to find the courage, comfort, strength, wisdom, guidance and help we need.

4. We can defeat the darkness by striving to stick together. But we also must live in loyalty to the Lord.

*Peter helps us see the kind of loyalty we need in vs. 17. Here Peter motioned to them with his hand to keep silent. And then "he declared to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, 'Go, tell these things to James and to the brethren.' And he departed and went to another place."

*Where did Peter go? -- We see him one more time in the book of Acts. It was in Jerusalem in Acts 15, where Peter helped establish the bedrock truth that we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Then in Galatians 2, the Apostle Paul talked about Peter later coming to Antioch. In 1 Corinthians 9, Paul also mentioned Peter traveling for the Lord with his wife.

*We know that Peter suffered for the Lord and was crucified, because that's what Jesus said would happen. But what I really want you to notice here is that Peter kept following the Lord. He kept going where the Lord wanted him to go. Peter kept serving the Lord. And that's the kind of loyalty we need for the Lord today.

CONCLUSION:

*Yes, we are living in dark days, but so was the early church. They faced the same kind of darkness we are facing right now, but the darkness can be defeated!

-By putting a priority on prayer.

-By relying on our Redeemer.

-By striving to stick together.

-And by living in loyalty to the Lord Jesus Christ.

*That's the only way we can defeat the darkness working so hard in our world today. Let's get started right now, as we go to God in prayer.

(1) Sources:

"Pipe Bomb Explodes At Marine Charity Run In New Jersey" by Tyler Durden - Sep 17, 2016 - zerohedge.comnews2016-09-17

"Device Explodes at Marine Race on Jersey Shore" By Brian Thompson and Jonathan Dienst - nbcnewyork.com

"Dumpster bomb rocks Chelsea, injuring 29; second device found nearby" By Larry Celona, Tom Wilson and Shawn Cohen - September 17, 2016 - nypost.com

(2) "God Is Just One Squeal Away," Citation: Rod Cooper, "Worship or Worry?" Preaching Today, Tape No. 108 - Source: SermonCentral sermon contributed by A. Todd Coget

(3) Anne Graham Lotz. Just Give Me Jesus - Nashville: Word Publishing, 2000 - pp. 279-280 - Source: Dynamic Preaching Sermon "THE DIVINE BALANCE" by King Duncan - Reformation Day - Jeremiah 31:31-34; Romans 3:19-28; John 8:31-36 - 5th Sunday in October 2001)

(4) Sources:

D.J.D., "Our Daily Bread," June, 1980 - Source: SermonIllustrations.com - GOD, sovereignty of

American Airlines Flight 191 - Wikipedia

(5) "The Perfect Church" by Mavis Williams - Source: SermonCentral sermon "What Kind of Church Does Jesus Want" by Terry Blankenship - Acts 11:19-26

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