Summary: This is for the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church.
[[A word about this sermon. This was a message for the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. This sermon was preached in four movements, or parts. We gathered. We read Psalm 23 responsively. We sang 2 songs. I then preached Part I. We sang 3 songs. I then preached Part II. We sang 3 songs and read 2 Corinthians 11:24-27. I then preached Part III. We sang 2 songs and read Matthew 5:3-23. I then preached Part IV. When then prayed for the persecuted church. We took the offering and sang 3 songs. There are a number of websites where you can find stories of persecution to use in Part III. Voice of the Martyrs, Christian Freedom International, the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church, International Christian Concern, and many other missions agencies including perhaps you denominational missions department will have resources. If you have any questions let me know.]]
PART I: A HOPELESS Situation
Read Acts 12:1-5
Background on the Herods: Herod the Great grandpa of this Herod (he was king when Jesus was born), Herod Antipas uncle of this Herod (killed John the Baptist, and king when Jesus died). This one is Agrippa I.
James is the 1st apostle to be killed. Read Matthew 20:20-23. James tasted the cup. His brother John was the last apostle to die.
Herod was not well liked by the Jewish leadership. When he saw that they were happy that James was taken care of, he started hot-dogging. He threw Peter in prison. During Passover feast. 16 guards watched Peter. 4 work a 3-hour shift twice a day. Peter was chained to two in the cell while two stood at the gate.
These were bleak times, a hopeless situation. James was dead. Peter was in prison. The next day he would be executed. The church was quietly gathered, praying.
PART II: A HOPEFUL Situation
Read Acts 12:6-19.
The bloodthirsty crowd was waiting for Peter’s execution. The church was praying. Peter is sleeping when an angel kicks him in the side and says get dressed. He was dazed thinking it was all a dream. With the angel, Peter slipped unnoticed through the prison gates and yard out into the street.
When they got a safe distance from the prison, the angel left Peter standing there. He then realized it wasn’t a dream. He headed for a friendly house.
This is a comic scene. Imagine it. Peter knocks on the door in the middle of the night. Rhoda, a servant-girl, recognizes the voice. It’s Peter! She is so excited, she forgets to open the door. The believers can’t believe it. They debate whether or not it could possibly be Peter. Finally, they go the door, and much excitement ensues. Peter calms the ruckus, and tells his story. Then he leaves.
There are no small repercussions. Bloodthirsty Herod gets his revenge on the guards.
PART III: The Facts of Modern Persecution
Persecution is as real today as it has ever been.
Relate some stories of persecution happening in our world today.