Summary: This sermon examinces how the jailer was brought to despair and back through the earthquake and testimony of Paul. It is Epiphany Sunday celebrating Jesus’ baptism.

January 12, 2006 Acts 16:25-34

25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, "Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!"

29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"

31 They replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved -- you and your household." 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God -- he and his whole family. (NIV)

Approximately nine years ago I was on my way to serve a congregation in McCook, about sixty seven miles to the northwest of Norton, just like on any other Tuesday. But as I kept on going, I noticed off in the distance two men in the middle of the road talking to each other. It was a police officer talking to a news person from KSN. Several seconds before I arrived on the scene, they stopped talking, and the police officer got back in his car, and waited for me to pass. Shortly thereafter, this police officer was right behind me, flashing his lights, and pulling me over. I was doing the speed limit, and I couldn’t figure out what he wanted with me. Come to find out, I was a criminal. Unbeknownst to me, I had been driving for a year and three months with an expired registration on my license plates. The Kansas Dept. of Transportation never sent me a renewal notice, so I had no idea. 279 dollars and 81 cents later, plus a 55 dollar fine, I was not a happy camper. I was not singing songs of praise.

Usually when we have “run ins” with the long arm of the law, we aren’t happy. Especially when we feel like we are not getting our fair shake. Paul and Silas were not in prison for a legitimate reason. They were in prison for preaching the gospel. Yet, as you look at their attitudes, you see that they had a different attitude. Here they were, in prison, singing songs of praise, and having a good old time. Jesus had set them free from the problems they were facing. Jesus gave them a new attitude toward life. And Jesus can do the same for you. As we study this prison story of Paul and Silas, we also will see that Jesus can set us free. So the theme for today is,

Jesus Can Set You Free

I. When you’re locked up with fear

You may be wondering, “what can Jesus set me free from? I’m not in jail. I’m not even in a bad mood.” But you don’t have to be in jail to be locked up. The devil has made this world into a prison of different proportions. He doesn’t make his prison out of cold cinder block with thin mattresses for beds. He makes his prison out of luxurious mansions with golden Select Comfort air mattresses. He makes prisons out of nice clothing and fancy cars. Every thing in this world has an invisible chain attached to it, and Satan wants to chain you to your possessions. You will see your neighbor chained to his house. He can’t take time out for God, because the devil has got him chained to his paint brush, his hammer, or his lawn mower. He can’t go to church on Sunday mornings, because the devil had him chained to the TV the night before, and then he chained him to his bed in the morning. The unbelievers can’t escape from their obsession for their possessions.

That’s where the jailer was living. As Paul and Silas were singing their songs, he was sleeping. He had his job security. As long as he kept his prisoners locked up, he would be safe. If they would escape, then the jailer would get the punishment that these men deserved. But he wasn’t worried about that. His prisoners were locked in the inner cell, with chains on their ankles and iron bars across their cells. There was no way that Paul and Silas or the other criminals would escape. He was sleeping soundly. His job was secure, and so was his life.

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