Faithlife Sermons

Set Free

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The Life of a Christian

Ecclesiastes 3:1–8 ESV
1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6 a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 7 a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8 a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.
It may come as a shock to you that this wasn’t written by the Limeliters, Pete Seeger, or even the Byrds. Solomon wrote these words. He wrote them in a biblical book that focuses on the vanity of this life. This life we live on earth is fleeting, often unfair, and broken beyond repair. These cycles come and go and they do not seem to care who they impact. The wealthy, the poor, the religious or the irreligious. We face all of these things but as Christians we have something that wipes away the uselessness of it all. In Jesus we have eternal life that began the day we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior. With that life comes the assurance of a relationship with God, a place in heaven, hope in this life, peace in this life, and joy in this life.
Today’s passage takes a look at the life of a Christian.
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Acts 12:1–19 ESV
1 About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church. 2 He killed James the brother of John with the sword, 3 and when he saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread. 4 And when he had seized him, he put him in prison, delivering him over to four squads of soldiers to guard him, intending after the Passover to bring him out to the people. 5 So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church. 6 Now when Herod was about to bring him out, on that very night, Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and sentries before the door were guarding the prison. 7 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell. He struck Peter on the side and woke him, saying, “Get up quickly.” And the chains fell off his hands. 8 And the angel said to him, “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” And he did so. And he said to him, “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.” 9 And he went out and followed him. He did not know that what was being done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision. 10 When they had passed the first and the second guard, they came to the iron gate leading into the city. It opened for them of its own accord, and they went out and went along one street, and immediately the angel left him. 11 When Peter came to himself, he said, “Now I am sure that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from the hand of Herod and from all that the Jewish people were expecting.” 12 When he realized this, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John whose other name was Mark, where many were gathered together and were praying. 13 And when he knocked at the door of the gateway, a servant girl named Rhoda came to answer. 14 Recognizing Peter’s voice, in her joy she did not open the gate but ran in and reported that Peter was standing at the gate. 15 They said to her, “You are out of your mind.” But she kept insisting that it was so, and they kept saying, “It is his angel!” 16 But Peter continued knocking, and when they opened, they saw him and were amazed. 17 But motioning to them with his hand to be silent, he described to them how the Lord had brought him out of the prison. And he said, “Tell these things to James and to the brothers.” Then he departed and went to another place. 18 Now when day came, there was no little disturbance among the soldiers over what had become of Peter. 19 And after Herod searched for him and did not find him, he examined the sentries and ordered that they should be put to death. Then he went down from Judea to Caesarea and spent time there.

James Zebedee is martyred

Jesus teaching on the night before his murder is profound. This teaching would have been a comfort for the church as they lost one of their leaders.
In John chapters 15-16:
Jesus explains that the world will hate his followers because it hated him first.
The Holy Spirit will bear witness and so will the disciples.
John 16:1–4 ESV
1 “I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. 3 And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me. 4 But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.
Although killed for his faith in this life, the apostle James is set free!

Peter is set free

Don’t forget that this is the second time Peter has escaped Jail. Back in Acts chapter 5, the apostles are arrested but an angel of the Lord frees them and tells them to go back to the temple to preach.
What is remarkable about this event:
Peter is arrested but the church prays
Four squads of four soldiers
Peter is asleep
An angel shows up
Peter wakes up in the street
Believers are still praying
Rhoda forgets how doors work
Peter has to keep knocking on the door

Why does God let James die and Peter live?

We are so captured by the story of Peter’s release that we forget about James. But imagine the hearts of John his brother, their mother . . . there is still grief over his death. This is an important contrast for us to consider. No where is it promised to followers of Jesus, that things will be easy for us. In fact, the opposite is promised.
Paul writes to Timothy:
2 Timothy 3:12 ESV
12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted,
Jesus said, as we read earlier:
John 15:18 ESV
18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.
Why are Christians persecuted?
We have an enemy that actively seeks to trip us up and trap us in our sin.
1 Peter 5:8 ESV
8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
We don’t belong to the world and will never fit in.
John 15:19 ESV
19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
1 John 5:19 ESV
19 We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.
How would God have you respond to persecution?
Luke 6:22 ESV
22 “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!
Matthew 5:44 ESV
44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
Matthew 16:24–26 ESV
24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?
What do we look forward to?
John 14:1–3 ESV
1 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.
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