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The Tragedy of a Godless Life

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Pet bird - died within a week - Tragedy! Mom, “We don’t cry over birds.” No sympathy for my broken heart. She understood that there were far bigger tragedies than a dead bird.
You’ve experienced tragedies in your life. Some small tragedies. Some larger tragedies. Reality, in most of our tragedies, even though we cannot see it at the time, it could always be worse.
The absolute worst tragedy is living a godless life . Tragedy of Herod Antipas, the man who beheaded John the Baptist, was a godless life.
The only story in the Gospel of Mark not focused on Jesus. You probably haven’t heard preached a lot! We’re committed to learning the Bible at Northwood, we’re going to study the passages that don’t get talked about a lot.
For unbeliever: A man who repeatedly heard good news. Close to responding to the message of the Kingdom, but chose instead godlessness. Maybe this is you!
For believer: you need the encouragement to continue in your pursuit of godliness.
Maybe a Christ follower - you need the encouragement to continue in your pursuit of godliness.
This morning, three ways to set your heart on a life of pursuing godliness - rather than the greatest tragedy of life: a godless life.


When Jesus was born, Herod the Great ruled Israel - appointed by the Roman government, not a full-blooded Jew, and the people of Israel were suspicious of him.
Herod the Great was crazy. He had ten wives. Because of his suspicion of his own family plotting against him, he had one of his wives and sons killed. He was in love with himself and in love with power.
Upon his death, Rome divided Palestine into three different regions, and three of his sons were made tetrarch or governor over each region. Southern region = Archelaus. Part of the northern region to Philip the Tetrarch. Herod Antipas - over the territory of Galilee and Perea.
, Jesus sent out the twelve. Everyone is hearing the news of the Kingdom of God. And, miracles are performed by Jesus and His apostles. Word about Jesus spreads to Herod A. Who is this man? Common question. Some thought He was Elijah who had come back from the dead (think Malachi). Some thought He was a great prophet who had risen up. () Herod A. had another guess: John the Baptist resurrected. Herod A. had beheaded John the Baptist. (vs. 16)
Herod A. paralyzed by guilt and shame. He had killed a holy prophet whose message he was close to believing. John the Baptist had come back from the dead for him!
Why did Herod A. killed John the B?
Herod Antipas - flawed character. He had an adulterous relationship with his brother Philip’s wife, and he eventually married her. Herodias was also the daughter of his half-brother, Aristobulus. Herod A. married his brother’s wife who was at the same time his niece. Not good.
John the B. began publically preaching against Herod A.’s immorality and incest. (vs. 18) “You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother’s wife; it is your brother’s nakedness.” .
16 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your brother’s wife; it is your brother’s nakedness.
Herodias, Herod’s wife, enraged. Herod had John locked up. She wanted John the B dead, but Herod feared John the B. Josephus - Herod imprisoned John the B. at Machaerus, a palace his father had built around the Dead Sea with lots of dungeons underneath the palace.
The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), .
Herod fascinated by John the B.’s holy life and unique message. Nightly went down to the dungeon to hear John - heard gladly - looked forward to conversations with John the B.
Perplexed by John the B. - “What do I do with his message?” The Good News was enticing - but so was his life of power and prestige. Knew John was holy. Knew there was something to the message, but...
Herod A. intrigued, Herodias not. She wanted John the B. dead.
Herod’s birthday party - men together - drinking - rowdy - the fraternity party of all fraternity parties. Parties would usually include prostitutes that would entertain the crowd.
Herodias sees opportunity. She sends her daughter in to dance. Herod pleased by what he sees. A vow: vs. 23 - “Mom, what do I ask for?” Herodias, “The head of John the Baptist.” Daughter, “Give me the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”
Herod sorrowful, but he’s the king. He has to be a man of his word. What would everyone think if he didn’t fulfill his vow? Immediately, John the B. beheaded. His head on a platter, and girl proudly takes it to her mother.
A story of absolute godlessness - a man of God mercilessly killed for speaking the truth. A godless king with no courage to act on conviction but swayed by people and his godless wife. A man who now, in Mark’s Gospel, paralyzed by guilt and fear because he thinks John the B. is back to get him. What is strange story saying to us? How do we avoid the tragedy of a godless life?

1. Be freed by Jesus rather than blinded by guilt.

Story filled with grace. A personal audience with John the B. - that’s grace. Now, an even greater act of grace, the One who John the B. foretold is present! Not to condemn, but to forgive! This could be another opportunity for repentance!
But, Herod A. will not see Jesus for who he is because he is blinded by the guilt of his sin - “I missed my opportunity, now I’m doomed.”
Some of you are blinded and paralyzed by guilt as well. You look at your life and see:
People you’ve hurt.
Mistakes you’ve made.
Damage you’ve done in your life and lives of others because of poor choice.
Like Herod, you feel like you’ve missed your opportunity:
I can’t be loved.
I can’t be forgiven.
My life can never change.
So, you stay the same. You don’t pursue change because you don’t think change is possible for you. Herod never embraced Christ, but became even more hardened toward Christ.
Grace: Jesus will be before Herod. - When Jesus stood before Pilate, Pilate tried to decide what to do with Jesus. Sent him to Herod A. Herod was “very glad.” (vs. 8) But, Jesus just someone to entertain him. “Do tricks.” Treated him with contempt, mocked him, etc. Guilt led Herod further into sin and hardness towards Christ.
This man who was close to believing the Good News ultimately hardened his heart. Couldn’t recognize Jesus as Messiah when he was two feet from His face.
Guilt will blind you to the truth and cause you to say, “I’ve missed my chance.”
Some of us believers have embraced the message of grace but we still stay paralyzed. “I’m not good enough to serve, to grow, etc.” I’ve missed my chance.
See clearly: Jesus is the answer to your guilt. At the cross, your guilt was placed on Him so that you can know that God will never hold your past failures, sins, and mistakes against you. You are free to pursue Him. In Christ, there is no condemnation. () (Ill. Staci loves me in spite of my dorky past… God loves you in spite for your sinful past. Treats you as if He’s forgotten it.)
See clearly: Jesus is the answer to your guilt. At the cross, your guilt was placed on Him so that you can know that God will never hold your past failures, sins, and mistakes against you. You are free to pursue Him. In Christ, there is no condemnation. () (Ill. Staci loves me in spite of my dorky past… God loves you in spite for your sinful past. Treats you as if He’s forgotten it.)

2. Be shaped by conviction rather than driven by your desires.

What led to guilt was Herod’s failure to live by conviction. Conviction = familiar word. “I feel convicted.” “I was under conviction.” Conviction = to be convinced of the truth. We have convictions about God - convinced are truth. We also have conviction about ourselves - that we are sinners and need a Savior. You’ve felt conviction of sin. (Role of Holy Spirit - )
Herod A. experienced conviction but didn’t act. He was perplexed. (Idea of indecisiveness. What do I do?) What will you do with conviction? This morning, some of you are feeling conviction. You’re convinced of who God is. You’re convinced of your sin. What will you do?
Some of you indecisive. Pleasures of this world so compelling. And, so is Jesus, but like Herod, you embrace the temporary pleasures instead of what matters for eternity. Two words: Stop it. It’s not worth it! The desire to have power, please people, pleasures not worth it because it will ultimately create regret. You’ll never regret living by conviction. You’ll always regret living for your desires.
Why puzzled? Competing desires. Please people, hold on to power, etc. Ultimately, Herod chose a life driven by his desires than one shaped by conviction. His own power and pleasing people was ultimately more important than responding to what he knew was true. Differences between desire driven and a life shaped by conviction:
Indecisiveness = I hear the truth but so many other options. Driven by desire - What’s good in the moment vs. what’s sure and true.
Desire driven:
What’s best for me right now?
What feels right in this moment?
What is going to give me the greatest pleasure now?
What is going to win me approval with people?
Desire driven is about here and now.
Shaped by conviction:
Based on what I know to be true, how should I live?
What’s best for the Kingdom of God?
What’s best for others?
What has eternal value?
Ill- Luke and baseball - when I’m shaped by conviction, the answer becomes easy.

3. Be receptive to God’s warnings rather than opposed to His will.

Herod had opportunity to respond to the truth of the Good News. Every day truth was before Him. It was grace. Instead of choosing repentance, he ultimately chose to oppose God’s will.
How do we avoid the tragedy of godlessness?
Ask for warnings! “God, show me the barriers! Show me your desires!” - You need the Word!
See God’s grace in the warnings. If God loves you enough to give you His Son, you can trust that in His love, His warnings are for your good.
Respond to the warnings in obedience. (Since I know you know best, I surrender.)
Warnings today? Stay awy
Herod A.’s refusal to heed God’s warnings led him to kill John the Baptist and openly mock Jesus, the Son of God!
Interesting how Mark places the story. Disciples go out, story of John Baptist’s death, disciples return.
Mark saying to early followers of Jesus - expect to be treated like John the Baptist. For those live in the center of God’s will, you’re not promised an easy life, but you are promised eternal life. A godly life may cost your earthly life, but a godless life will cost you eternal life.
Unbeliever: Look to the cross. Heed the warning. Heed the message of John the Baptist that Herod failed to heed: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” Be convinced and respond to conviction you feel right now. Turn from your sins and turn to the One who is the Son of God who lived, died, and rose again for you. Do not fail like Herod to see Jesus for who He is - the resurrected Lord.
Believer: Look to the cross. Let the death and resurrection of Jesus remind you of God’s love that compels you to heed His warnings, that compels you to respond to conviction, that compels you to embrace His forgiveness instead of dwelling on guilt.
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