The Death of Herod; Acts 12:20-25

Main Point: Glory and power will kill you.

One of my favorite children’s books is the book, Fool Moon Rising. Fool Moon Rising is worth a read no matter your age because we are all glory thieves. Herod is the fool moon and so am I. Let me show you. Read Acts 12:20-25

I. The way of power (Acts 12:20)

We know Herod is shrewd and cunning because we have already seen him arresting and killing Christians in order to win favor with the Jews. Herod is concerned with keeping and strengthening his place of power. Look at verse 20, “Now Herod was angry with the people of Tyre and Sidon, and they came to him with one accord, and having persuaded Blastus, the king’s chamberlain, they asked for peace, because their country depended on the king’s country for food.” We need to

  • Look at the world’s economy (Luke 22:24-25)

Tyre and Sidon are independent cities that rely on Judea for food. We are first introduced to Tyre and Sidon in the ancient days of king Solomon. When Solomon was building the temple, he traded food with Tyre and Sidon for lumber (1 Kings 5). In Isaiah’s day, Tyre and Sidon grew strong and wealthy (Isaiah 23). In Herod’s day, however, Tyre and Sidon had again become dependent on the benevolence of another nation for its food.

We experience this situation today. Worldatlas.com ranks Afghanistan as the most food dependent nation in the world meaning Afghanistan relies on other nations for food. In 2019 the US provided 20,725 metric tons of food to Afghanistan.[1] The US is in a position of power over Afghanistan. The US stands to gain access to natural resources and a military presence. Are we a benevolent nation or a self-seeking nation? I want you to understand that what we see in Acts 12 is alive and well today. We need to be asking if our policies are truly benevolent? Are we doing good with our power and influence or doing harm?

Now, we don’t know why Herod is mad at Tyre and Sidon; we are simply told that Herod is enraged. And it is a bad situation when the guy who provides your food doesn’t like you. Somehow, again we are not told, Tyre and Sidon win Herod’s chamberlain over to their side. Blastus was a high and trusted official in Herod’s service. Maybe Blastus has a cousin who lives in Tyre. Maybe Tyre and Sidon delivered a big bag of silver to Blastus’s home. How ever it happened, Tyre and Sidon won a favorable audience with Herod so they can talk about getting the food they need.

This is the world’s economy. The people with power use that power to get what they want from those who do not have power. The world’s economy is to use strength for personal gain. Herod’s economy is to use strength for the selfish advance of self. We must

  • Seek a better way (Luke 22:26-27)

Turn over to the Luke 22:24-27 (read it)

The disciples, ever so humble and selfless, are arguing about who is the greatest among them. Jesus addresses this sin by comparing the world’s economy with God’s economy. In the world’s economy, Luke 22:25, the powerful rule over the people and the people serve the powerful. Authority and power are used to put people into positions of dependence and service. In the world’s economy, those who have power are served by the powerless. In the case of Herod, Tyre and Sidon’s need for food is being exploited by Herod; you need my food, so you better serve my wishes. The end game is not the good of the needy but the gain of the greedy. From human trafficking to the unfair treatment of migrant workers, the world’s economy is alive and terribly well.

Here is where we Christians must live like a city on hill showing a better way. The world turns on selfish power, but Luke 22:26, not so among you. Followers of Christ must reject the economic model that says exploit the weak so that they serve your desires. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

We must think about Jesus. Jesus possesses omnipotent power. Power is not a bad thing. Power in the hands of the truly good is a good thing. Power in the hands of the truly good used for the good of all is a good thing. Consider with me that Jesus doesn’t divide his power among sinners in hopes that equal access to power will produce good results. No, Jesus uses his power to serve the weak. Jesus is the greatest among us, but he doesn’t exploit us. Being fully God, Jesus deserves to recline at the table and be served by us, but he wraps a slave’s towel around his waist and serves us.

So, what should you do if you possess power or wealth or influence? The world tells us to exploit the weak in order to gain more of what we want. Every economic system is guilty of exploiting the weak for selfish gain. An economic system cannot save but Christians can redeem an economic system. God tells us to use our strength to serve the weak in order to give them what they need.

So let’s be clear, why has God made you strong? God made you strong so you can serve others. If you are the firstborn, if you are taller or stronger, if you have wealth, if you have beauty, if you have intelligence or if you have ability these are God’s gifts for the good of others. Jesus is calling us away from following Herod who threatened and hurt others for his own selfishness. We are called to follow Jesus who was willingly crucified for the benefit of others. The gospel calls us to a better way. The better way is

II. The way of glory (Acts 12:21-25)

Let’s go back to Acts 12 and Herod. Acts 12:21, “On an appointed day Herod put on his royal robes, took his seat upon the throne, and delivered an oration to them.” Ok, what’s going on here?

  • The world seeks glory from one another (John 5:41-44)

According to Roman records, the date of Herod’s death is 44 AD. We can use that date to help date events happening before and events happening after Herod’s death. Herod Agrippa died in AD 44. Additionally, Josephus was a Jewish historian writing in Rome in the mid-nineties AD. He also records the story of Herod’s death.

Luke and Josephus record that Herod put on his fancy clothes and made a fancy speech. Josephus gives us the detail that Herod had a robe woven with silver so that when the morning sun hit that silver it made him shine. Now why would he do that? Why would Herod pay a high price for a splendid robe and sit in a seat at just the right time and just the right angle from the sun so that he was radiant? Herod wants to be affirmed and even treated like a god. Herod wants power and Herod wants glory. Herod is stealing glory, and Herod got what he wanted.

Look at Acts 12:22, “And the people were shouting, ‘The voice of a god, and not of a man!’” Why were they giving Herod the status of a god? One, they wanted food and so they knew they had to play the game. Two, Herod looked awesome. Three, Herod likely delivered a fine speech that included the commitment to give the people food. If your children were starving to death and some powerful man in rich clothes came and promised you food, you would be tempted to worship him as your messiah and deliverer.

We should grieve but not be surprised when we look around and see our neighbors worshipping the government as the means of safety, security, and flourishing. Every political party and nation is riddled with sin and in need of redemption. We must be a prophetic and redeeming people who refuse to put our faith in government because our faith is joyfully and fully in King Jesus.  

Consider that Romans 1 describes Herod, Blastus, the citizens of Tyre, the citizens of Sidon, and the citizens of the US. Our natural inclination is to take the worship and trust that belongs to God and give it to anyone or anything that is not god. Every human heart is hard-wired to worship and trust anything as long as it is not the true God.

Judgment should fall when worship and serve the creature rather than the Creator who is blessed forever more (Rom 1:25). Herod got exactly what Herod deserved for his sin. Look at Acts 12:23, ‘Immediately an angel of the Lord struck him down, because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and breathed his last.” Josephus agrees, at this speech when Herod received the people’s worship he was struck with abdominal pain and died five days later.

Looking at this, my question is not so much why Herod died for his sins. Instead, why did the citizens of Tyre and Sidon not die for their sins? Herod died because he didn’t say anything. Herod died because he let the people worship him as a god. Why did the people not die because they worshipped Herod as a god?

The biblical response is that God is free and sovereign with his delivery of justice and mercy. God sees and knows all things and is therefore capable of delivering perfect justice. Peter tells us, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient towards you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Why did God strike down Herod for his sin and yet I remain? Am I any better than Herod? Is Herod a worse offender than me or you? No. Jesus warns us, “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5). Here’s what we must do

  • Seek a better way (Acts 12:24-25)

I got ahead of myself with John 5. Let’s go there now. In John 5 Jesus is addressing the religious people’s refusal to believe in Jesus. John 5:43, “I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?”

We are so worried about getting a good review at work, getting a thumbs up on Facebook, a like on YouTube, or a heart on Instagram that we can’t believe in Jesus. We would rather be seen as a success by our neighbors than gaze upon the glory and splendor of the eternal God. So, what is the better way? How should Christians, who are repenting and believing, respond to the praise of others?

First, give glory to God. This is exactly what Herod refused to do. Herod took the people’s worship, but worship does not belong to us. Herod is seeking glory from the people, refusing to give God the glory, and this sin led to judgment. We were made to be pipelines channeling the glory of God up to its proper destination. The temptation is to become a bucket that steals that glory. Herod should have done what Paul and Barnabas did in Acts 14. When the people tried to worship Paul and Barnabas they said, “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them” (Acts 14:15). Worshipping the creature instead of the Creator is the easiest and worst thing we can possibly do. We steal God’s glory by taking the credit. We worship God by giving God the credit. So first, seek a better way by stopping false worship and consciously, and when necessary, verbally giving God the credit.

The next aspect of this better way is to seek the glory that comes from God. Seek the glory that comes from God is exactly what Jesus commands us to do in John 5. Seeking the glory that comes from God is, in John 5, what it means to be a Christian. You can’t seek the approval of your friends and seek the approval of God. You can’t draw life from the well of what people think of you while trying to draw life from the well of what God thinks of you. You can’t serve God and Instagram. You can’t serve God and your annual review.

Seeking the glory that comes from God means asking either, “What does God think of me? What does God think about what I am doing? What does God think about my work? What does God think about what I wear?” Seeking the glory that comes from God is consciously pursuing the good that God desires while depending on the strength that God supplies. Seeking glory from God is the same as seeking the reward that God gives. Seeking glory from God means telling ourselves “no” so that we can say “yes” to God and life his way. Acts 12:24-25 gives us some help on this point. 

We seek the glory that comes from God when we go and make disciples. Acts 12:24 says, “But the word of God increased and multiplied.” James is dead, Peter is on the run, and Herod is eaten by worms, but the word of God is advancing and multiplying; the people are making disciples. The word of God multiplies as more and more people turn from the empty worship of self to the satisfying worship of God. A disciple is a follower of Christ who loves God. A disciple is a follower of Christ who worships God. A disciple is a woman or a man who gives God the glory and seeks to help others learn to give God the glory.

In verse 25 we learn that Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark are returning from Jerusalem after delivering the financial aid to Jerusalem from Antioch. Later, when the church in Corinth does the same thing, Paul writes, “By their approval of this service, they will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others” (2 Corinthians 9:13). The giver sought to glorify God with the gift. The receiver gave thanks to God for the gift. All this giving and receiving was based upon the life-changing reality of Jesus giving us eternal life and us receiving eternal life by faith.

As we gather around the Lord’s Table we do so as givers and as receivers. The question is if we will give and receive for the glory of God or if we will give and receive in order to take glory for ourselves. Everyone who receives the bread and the cup does so because he/she is in need of the grace only Jesus can provide. We must receive forgiveness and righteousness from Another. Give glory to God because he gives you mercy in Christ Jesus. We are all receivers and we are all givers. Every Christian has been given a gift. Every Christian has some expression of the power, glory, and goodness of God. Every Christian has some expression of the strength and beauty of God. Are you a giver? Are you giving in order to increase our joy in God?

Prepare yourself to take the Lord’s Supper by asking

  1. Am I giving God the glory for the good in my life? Then pause and give God praise.
  2. Am I seeking the glory that comes from God or am I trying to be liked by my friends and neighbors? Repent and believe in Jesus when you see your sin.
  3. Am I actively seeking to glorify God by making disciples, by making worshippers? Pray for love, boldness, and opportunities to share the gospel with those around you.

[1] https://www.usaid.gov/afghanistan/food-assistance

Discuss Acts 12:20-24

  1. In what way did God comfort, challenge, or correct you today?
  2. How does the world use power? How should Christians use power?
  3. Have you ever been a victim of the misuse of power? How can you ensure, when you have power, that you will not misuse it?
  4. Jesus possesses all power. How did Jesus us his power and influence?
  5. Why did Herod die for receiving worship but the people did not die for giving their worship to Herod?
  6. Read John 5:43-44. What is it about seeking the glory, praise, or affirmation of others that keeps us from believing in Jesus? Consider that believing in Jesus is more than acknowledging Jesus is the Son of God who died and rose again to save us from our sin.
  7. In what specific ways can you give God the glory as you go through each day?
  8. How can you seek the glory that comes from God at your school, at your work, and in your home?
  9. Why is making disciples a way of glorifying God?
  10. Read 2 Corinthians 9:13. How can you glorify God with your giving? How can you glorify God with your receiving?

The God Who Rescues; Acts 12:6-9

Main Point: The sovereign God always does what is right

Last week, in Acts 12:1-5, we looked at the witness of our Christian brothers and sisters. The reason for the witness is explained in Philippians 3. We talk about Jesus because of the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus our Lord. It is our knowledge and experience of the worth of Jesus Christ that fuels our witness. Jesus is better!

Back in the day, Christians like you and me were being arrested and beaten because they shared the gospel with their neighbors and urged them to repent of their sins and worship Jesus. Still today, many of our brothers and sisters are being arrested and beaten because of their witness. Some witnesses were arrested and beaten; others, like the apostle James, were arrested and executed. Continuing in Acts 12, we will see that some like Peter were arrested and then miraculously delivered from death.

How should James’s family respond to his execution? How should James’s family respond to Peter’s escape? How should the church think about the execution of one leader and the escape of another? Why is that one beaten and released, that one executed, and that one freed? Why does this person get Covid-19 but is asymptomatic? Why does that person get Covid-19, suffer for 10 days, and then recover? Why does yet another person get Covid-19 and die? I want you to see that Acts 12 raises questions about God’s sovereignty.

Maybe you have asked the “Why me?” question. Imagine James is your husband, brother, parent, or child. You are reeling over his execution just a week ago. Now you are gathered with your brothers and sisters praying for Peter and he miraculously appears with a wonderful story of God’s supernatural rescue. Why does James die and Peter go free? Is this fair? Why me?

Let’s look to the text and try for some help with these questions. Read Acts 12:1-19

I. An unexpected deliverance (6-11)

Peter is sleeping, on the night before his execution, chained to two soldiers. But he’s not just sleeping; this is a good deep restful sleep and it requires some effort to rouse him. What’s going on and how do we learn to sleep like this?

  • Remember the storm

Luke wrote the Book of Acts and the Gospel of Luke. In Luke 8, he tells the story of Jesus calming a storm. Read Luke 8:22-25. Jesus’ trust in his Father’s loving sovereignty gave him the ability to sleep in the storm.

In Acts 12, Peter looks a lot more like Jesus than he did his old self. Instead of the panic, Peter is enjoying sleep. The situations are equally terrifying. What has changed? What has changed is Peter now has faith in Jesus so that Peter looks and acts like Jesus. Peter has the Holy Spirit and the Spirit is working peace and giving comfort. Peter knows and trusts his loving sovereign Father. The angel doesn’t show up and ask a frantic Peter in the jail cell, “Where is your faith?” Peter has learned to rest in Christ by studying the history of God’s faithfulness. Peter has learned to rest in Christ by daily trusting Christ with the small things. History and experience come together to put Peter to sleep.

If you are frantic today worried about so many things, remember your history. Think of Jesus sleeping in the storm. Think of Peter sleeping in the cell. Their God is your God and God hasn’t changed. God is loving. God is sovereign. Remember the storm and

  • Remember the promise

Remembering the promise makes Peter’s deep sleep even more glorious. After Jesus’ resurrection he promised Peter, “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will dress you and carry you were you do not want to go.” Then we get the explanation, “This Jesus said to show by what kind of death Peter was to glorify God” (John 21:18-19).

Remember the promise, means remember that Jesus told Peter he will be taken where he does not want to go; he will lose the freedom to care for himself, and ultimately he will be killed. Jesus essentially told Peter, “You will be arrested and men will kill you.”

Fast forward to Acts 12 and Peter is preparing for death. It is highly likely that Peter is thinking to himself, “This is it. This is how I go out following Jesus.” So, what does Peter do on the night before his death? Peter gets a good night’s sleep. How? Tasting the surpassing worth of Jesus Christ, Peter counted his own life as rubbish. This is Paul saying, “the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and afflictions await me. But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:23-24).

When we say, “We exist to make disciples of Jesus Christ who love God and love others,” we need to understand that we are seeking to transform one another into a woman or man who treasures Jesus Christ and seeks to make him known. We don’t want decisions for Jesus. We want disciples who are daily dying in the pursuit to know Jesus and make him known. Remember the storms, remember the promises, and

  • Celebrate the grace

Put your good eye on Acts 12:6 and we’ll work through verse 11 celebrating God’s grace. This is a wonderful story. Verse 6, it’s the night before Herod plans to kill Peter and Peter is sleeping. Peter is chained to two soldiers and likely the other two are guarding his cell door. Between Peter and freedom are two more guard posts and a heavy iron gate. This does not look good, until the angel of the Lord shows up.

Verse 7, “And behold, an angel of the Lord stood next to him, and a light shone in the cell.” This is like what happened at Jesus’ birth except when Jesus was born it was the angel of the Lord plus thousands of thousands of angels. Thinking about the angel of the Lord and the light in the cell, it looks like the light is the glory of God shining forth (Lk 2:9). There is an angel and glorious light and still Peter sleeps! The angel strikes or smotes Peter on the side. This is the word used to describe how Moses killed the Egyptian (Acts 7:24). It’s the same word used to describe how the angel of the Lord kills king Herod in Acts 12:23. This is a strong blow delivered to Peter’s ribs. Get up!

The chains fall off Peter and it’s like he’s in some sleepy fog. The angel has to tell him to get dressed, tie his shoes, wrap up in his cloak, and let’s get going. Verse 9, Peter went out and followed the angel, but Peter thinks it is all a vision. Peter is not looking for or expecting a jail break! This is not a perfectly timed well-orchestrated escape; this is a miraculous deliverance. This is God to the rescue.  

They pass the first and second guard posts. When they come to the heavy gate between the prison and the city, the gate supernaturally opens for them of its own accord. After Peter and the angel get enough distance from the gate the angel leaves him. It’s at this point, verse 11, that Peter finally comes to his senses and realizes what is happening is real; this is no dream! James is dead and Peter is free.

The Lord has done this. The sovereign Lord has overruled Herod and the people. This is an unexpected release. Now,

II. An unexpected answer (12-17)

We are told in verse 5 that while Peter was in prison the church was praying

  • The church was praying for Peter

Now, if Peter wasn’t lying awake expecting to be released and if this prayer group doesn’t believe it when Peter shows up at their door, what exactly are they praying for?

The church’s instinct was to pray Psalm 2 after Peter and John were released from prison in Acts 4. The heart of Psalm 2 is the affirmation of the sovereignty of God over the Gentile’s rage and the people’s plots. Just as God’s sovereign hand and predestined plan had ruled over the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus, so God’s sovereign hand and predestined plan ruled over the church in Acts 4. So also, I think this group of believers in Acts 12 is resting in the sovereign hand and predestined plan of God. They continue praying for God to grant his servants boldness to preach the word. They pray for signs and wonders to be done in Jesus’ name. The church was praying for Peter.

Look back at Acts 12:12-17 with me and let’s

  • Celebrate the grace

Peter apparently knows the house of Mary is a regular place for Christians to gather to break bread and praise God (Acts 2:46-47). Peter is not disappointed because many are gathered together and are praying. He begins to knock and a servant girl, a slave girl named Rhoda, came to answer the door. Verse 14, Rhoda, who had spent a great deal of time listening to Peter preach and teach, recognizes Peter’s voice and in her joy runs to tell the others. The problem is she leaves Peter standing outside exposed to rearrest. When Rhoda brings the report that Peter is standing outside, she is accused of being crazy. But she won’t give in and keeps insisting that Peter is really standing outside knocking on the door. Their best explanation, verse 15, is it must be Peter’s angel.

Now a quick word about angels. What are angels? A good definition is found in Hebrews 1:14. Angels are ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation. Angels are created beings meaning they have not always existed; the eternal Triune God created angels at a point in time. Angels are created and they are spirits meaning they don’t have physical bodies. We need to understand that angels and humans are different. Angels can look like humans and act like humans, but angels do not become humans. It is also true that humans do not become angels. When you or your grandma die, heaven does not gain an angel; heaven gains a human.

Angels are ministering spirits sent out by God to serve those who will be saved. Psalm 34:7 says, “The angel of the Lord encamps round those who fear him, and delivers them.” Psalm 91:11 says, “God will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” Psalm 103:20 commands the angels to bless the Lord. Angels are his mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word.” Angels are commanded by God to accomplish God’s will and angels have the strength to follow through.

From passages like Acts 12:15 and Matthew 18:10 we get the idea of guardian angels. Jesus said, “See to it that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.” Looking at what the Bible says about the angels of churches (Rev 2-3), and maybe the angels of kingdoms (Dan 10:20), we need to understand that our Father is keeping close watch on each of us his children and he always delivers what we need. Oftentimes, God uses angels to help us. Do each of us have an individual angel assigned to us? I’m willing to say maybe. Does each Christian have the constant and careful watch of our heavenly Father? Beyond the shadow of a doubt.

Back to Acts 12. These brothers and sisters doubt Rhoda and claim its Peter’s angel outside. Peter keeps knocking, the people stop arguing, and they open up and let him in. Verse 16, the people are amazed. Peter calms them and quiets them so he can tell them all that happened. Notice verse 17; it is the Lord who brought Peter out of the prison. We should take our clues from Peter; Peter is far more concerned about God than he is the angel.

Peter’s final instructions are to tell James and the brothers all that has happened; that is James the brother of Jesus. Peter then departs and goes to another place. We don’t know where he goes exactly. Possibly he goes to Antioch. Possibly he goes to Corinth. We know in Acts 15 that Peter is back in Jerusalem. Peter takes flight in Acts 12 like Saul took flight in Acts 9 like many Christians did in Acts 8.

So, Peter receives an unexpected deliverance from jail and the church receives an unexpected answer to their prayers. How do we make sense of this?

III. God does more than we can ask or think

Ephesians 3:14-21 record a powerful prayer and a powerful truth. Turn to Ephesians 3:14 with me. (Read Ephesians 3:14-21).

We pray for one another to be filled with the fullness of God. When the Spirit of God and the Son of God fill a person then that person experiences the depths of the love of Christ. The love of Christ is bigger, better, and stronger than we can imagine. We need the Holy Spirit so that we can understand and handle the power of Jesus’ love. That’s a big prayer request, cause us to be filled with the knowledge of Jesus’ love, but there’s more. God is able to not just fill a person with powerful love; God is able to do more than we can ask or think. The all-loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful God is not limited by our asking. So grab onto this

  • God is not bound to our plans

If you were God, what would you do to the soldiers who were guarding Peter? Verses 18 and 19 tell us the soldiers were interrogated and executed because of Peter’s escape.

If you were God, what would you do to James the brother of John? Would you secure his miraculous deliverance like you did for Peter? Would you do better than god the fool and make sure that everything is fair and right according to you?

Church, before we suffer, before our hands are bound and our heads are severed from our bodies, we need to wrestle with and submit to the sovereignty of God. God is not bound to our plans or to our prayers.

Listen to Psalm 115:1-3, “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! Why should the nations say, ‘Where is their God?’ Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.”

Ajith Fernando tells the story of John G. Patton, a Scottish missionary to the New Hebrides Islands in the South Pacific. One night hostile tribesmen surrounded his mission headquarters, intent on burning it and killing Paton and his wife. The two of them prayed all through that terror-filled night, asking God to deliver them. When daylight came they were surprised to see the attackers leave. A year later, the chief of the tribe was converted to Christ, and Paton had an opportunity to ask him what kept them from burning the house and killing them. The chief replied, “Who were all those men who were there with you?” Paton said, “There were no men there; only my wife and I.” But the chief said that they had seen hundreds of big men in shining garments with drawn swords in their hands. They seemed to circle the mission station, so the tribesmen were afraid to attack. Paton realized that God had sent his angels to protect them.

But John Paton did not always experience God’s provision in that way. His first wife died as a result of problems during childbirth. Seventeen days later the child also died. That happened early in his missionary career, and he had no one to comfort him. He even had to dig the graves for his wife and child. But he writes about that difficult time: “I was never altogether forsaken. The ever merciful God sustained me to lay the precious dust of my loved ones in the same quiet grave. But for Jesus, and the fellowship he [gave] me there, I must have gone mad and died beside that lonely grave. Jesus was there and he gave sufficient grace—grace enough for him to stay on working among those people and reap a great harvest for the kingdom (NIVAC, 370).

Think about it, Peter, these Christians, and James were all faithful. Sometimes we are like Peter and we receive a miraculous gift of help. Sometimes we are like these Christians in Jerusalem and we receive a beating. Sometimes we are like James and we die for the sake of others hearing the gospel. In every situation we are called to trust the God who rescues and praise the God who does all that he pleases.

In your dark night, in your suffering and loss, may you fight the desire to turn away from God. I pray you fight because your brothers and sisters are with you and we help bear the burden. I pray you fight because you experience the loving powerful presence of Christ in your difficulty. God is glorious. Whatever God does is right. God does whatever pleases him. Let us set our hope on God.

Discuss Acts 12:6-19

  1. In what way did God comfort, challenge, or correct you today?
  2. Define God’s sovereignty and why is it that God treats one person different from another?
  3. Peter knows God’s faithfulness by studying God’s Word and Peter knows God’s faithfulness in the small things of everyday life. The Holy Spirit takes this knowledge and gives Peter peace. How can you grow in peace in stressful times?
  4. Having tasted the surpassing worthy of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord, Peter was able to face death with peace. Think of your own dying day. How do you want your faith to work on that day?
  5. In what ways can you celebrate God’s sovereign grace in your situation?
  6. How do prayer, God’s sovereignty, and God’s predetermined plan work together?
  7. What are angels and what is their purpose?
  8. Why is the prayer of Ephesians 3:14-21 essential to our trust in the sovereign God?

Faithful Unto Death; Acts 12:1-5

Main Point: Knowing Jesus and making him known are worth dying for.

W. S. Armstrong served this church as a deacon in the 1890’s. The words on his gravestone are words of faith, “God calls away when He thinks best.” It is true that some die young and some die old. It is also true that God is in control. God calls away when He thinks best.

Another tombstone near W. S.’s marks the grave of Gertrude Perry Armstrong. Her epithet reads, “She died as she lived – a Christian.” I imagine that Mrs. Armstrong modeled the truth that to live is Christ and to die is gain. Whether we live or die we are the Lord’s; he is the greatest treasure and the trustworthy King.

The deaths of these saints, like the death of James in Acts 12, call us to consider the worthiness of Christ. Is Jesus worth dying for? If Jesus is worth dying for then isn’t he worth living for? If Jesus is worth living and dying for shouldn’t we be telling our friends and family? Seeing the glory of Christ makes witnesses out of us.

The witness, arrest, and execution of Christians in Acts 12 makes us pause to consider the worthiness of Christ. Is Jesus worthy dying for? Is Jesus worth living for? Let’s find out. Read Acts 12:1-5

Looking at these Christians, we understand that

I. Jesus is the disciple’s treasure (Philippians 3:8-11)

I want to be clear that my goal here is more than showing you the words and explaining the words so that you understand the words. My goal here is to press into the realities that empower the words. Digging into the depths and riches of Christ will reveal to us a Jesus who is worth living and dying for. Let’s take the words of Philippians 3:8-11 and dig into the riches. Let’s connect some dots. The reality of Philippians 3:8-11 is fueling the witness of Acts 12:1-5. Read Philippians 3:8-11.

When we talk about Jesus our treasure, we are talking about

  • Knowing Christ

What it means to be a Christian, to be a son or daughter of God, is profoundly simple. To believe in Jesus for life is simple but the all-encompassing reality of our union with Christ is wonderfully profound. We have simple commands like repent and believe and follow Jesus; a child can understand these commands. We also have complex metaphors like becoming light in Christ, He is the vine and we are the branches, Jesus is the head and we are his body, and our relationship to Jesus is like marriage.

I think the body and marriage help us grasp what Paul is after when he holds out the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord. In Ephesians 5, Paul uses the body and marriage to grow our experience of the knowledge of Christ.

Do you know someone who takes care of himself? I’m not talking about someone who is worldly or vain but someone who knows the value and needs of his/her body? This person likely nourishes and cherishes her body. The way an athlete nourishes and cherishes his body is the way a husband is to tend to his wife. The way an athlete tends to his body is the way a husband tends to his wife, is the way Christ tends to the Christian. Jesus nourishes and cherishes the believer.

When Paul writes about the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus his Lord, Paul is writing about his experience of being nourished and cherished by Christ. Jesus is the trustworthy and glorious king! By studying the Word of Jesus and by investing in the church of Jesus, Paul grew in his appreciation for Jesus (Col 2:1-3). The surpassing worth of knowing Jesus is the experience of loving the Jesus who nourishes and cherishes us.

So, how do we know this Jesus? Philippians 3:8-11 show us a dedication and devotion to focus our hearts and lives on Jesus. Colossians 2:1-3 show us a dedication and devotion to help others focus their hearts and lives on Jesus. You will not experience the surpassing worth of Jesus while chasing after the world. We will grow in our experience and knowledge of the riches of Christ as we focus on him and as we struggle to help others focus on him. Christ is most often found by those devoted to the Word, prayer, and witness.

These Christians in Acts 12 lived lives in pursuit of satisfaction in Christ. Nothing compares to knowing Jesus and making him known. Jesus is the disciple’s treasure.

From Philippians 3, now in quick succession, are the Christian’s priorities. We want to

  • Gain Christ

The Christ we know is the Christ we want more of. Athletes make great sacrifices in order to gain the prize. Christians make great sacrifices in order to gain Christ. Christian, what are you giving up or laying aside in order to make more room in your heart and schedule for Christ? Through the Word and witness we find the Jesus worth living and dying for. We want to gain Christ, so we are ruled by

  • Faith in Christ

According to Philippians 3:9, Christians reject the idea of making themselves righteous before God. We reject our own righteousness in order to focus on the righteousness of Christ. The primary way Jesus nourishes and cherishes us is by washing us and giving us his record of righteousness. Jesus takes our sin and gives us his righteousness. Jesus’ goal is to present us to himself without sin. Is your goal, upon your death, to be presented to Christ without sin? Do you hope in the holiness that only Jesus can provide?

You know Jesus is your treasure when you despise the sin that will keep you from him. You know you treasure Jesus when you rejoice over the righteousness he gives you. It is the very righteousness of Christ that makes us acceptable to Christ. We want to gain Christ, so we put our faith in the work of Christ. We treasure his righteousness and this means

  • Sharing in Christ’s sufferings

I think it is common knowledge that you find an animal by following it’s tracks. If you want to get to the animal, you have to follow the path the animal is on. Here is a profoundly simple question: how do we get to where Christ is? How do we get to Jesus? We get to Jesus by following his tracks. We get to where Jesus is by walking the path Jesus walked and Jesus walked a path of suffering. Jesus picked up his cross, the very means of his death, and Jesus commands us to pick up our crosses daily. We are called to daily pick up the means of our deaths in order that we may gain Christ. Jesus nourishes and cherishes us so that we are able to carry the cross.

So let’s be clear that following Christ will be costly. Let’s be equally clear that in light of the fullness of the presence of Christ, every cost will be finally and fully felt as the tossing away of garbage. Where are you sharing in Christ’s suffering? Where are you paying the cost? Where are you laying down your life? Remind yourself this is Jesus’ path, and in the end, when you see Jesus face to face, the costs will all be worth it and finally no cost at all.

The disciple’s treasure is not found in old age, abundant wealth, or great accomplishments. The disciple’s treasure is Christ and Christ is found through resurrection. Our desire is to be

  • Resurrected with Christ

Maybe you’re like me and you forget that these are cross-carrying days. Our path moves towards death so that ultimately we will rise again unto eternal life with Jesus. These days are supposed to hurt and be hard, but these days are supposed to be marked by the nourishing and cherishing knowledge of Christ. Knowing the all-surpassing worth of Christ, according to the Word and in the everyday realities of life, we press on toward death in order that we might attain the resurrection from the dead. The path to ultimate joy is through dependence, death, and resurrection. It is profoundly simple that those who protect their lives will lose them but those who lose their lives will find them.

Jesus is the disciple’s treasure and Jesus is worth dying for. In fact, gaining Jesus requires death. So, why do Christians not commit suicide? Why not end the suffering and go straight to glory? What the life of Christ and the book of Acts show us is that the way to knowing Christ is by sacrificing so that others know Christ. My joy in Jesus is directly tied to your joy in Jesus. Building your joy in Jesus builds my joy in Jesus. Ignoring your joy in Jesus decreases my joy in Jesus. We live in pursuit of greater joy in Jesus. We don’t commit suicide precisely because we are truly and really after joy. We want others to rejoice with us.

Underneath the threats, arrests, beatings, and executions in the book of Acts is this truth

II. Our neighbors meeting Jesus is worth dying for

It is crucial for us to understand that our brothers and sisters were not suffering because of their private devotion to Jesus or because of their commitment to excellence at work. These did not suffer because of their morality or ethics.

  • Christians were persecuted because of their witness

Look again at Acts 12:1, “About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church.” Herod Agrippa was dedicated to inflicting physical pain on Christians because they were telling people about Christ the treasure and calling people to repent, believe, and worship Jesus. A faithful church is gathers, worships, and goes out to witness so others will join in the gathering and the worshipping and go out to witness. Disciples make disciples. Christians make Christians, Worshippers make worshippers. Herod targeted these people.

Who was this Herod? This is the grandson of Herod the Great who was king when Jesus was born. It was Herod the Great who had all the three year old boys killed. It was Herod Antipas, the son of Herod the Great, who had John the Baptist executed and who conspired with Pilate to have Jesus executed. The nut has not fallen far from the tree now when we see Herod Agrippa, the grandson of Herod the Great and nephew of Herod Antipas, persecuting Christians. Violent hands refer to arrest and beating.

Herod Agrippa was courting favor from Jewish leaders in order to solidify his rule. The way to win favor with the Jews was attacking the enemy of the Jews. Who did the Jews despise? The Jews were after those people who were witnesses to the righteous life, atoning death, and victorious resurrection of Jesus. Christians were not being persecuted for what they did in the privacy of their own homes. Christians were being persecuted because they were urging their neighbors to repent and worship Jesus. In Acts 12, James is next.  

  • James was martyred because of his witness

Look with me at Acts 12:2, “Herod killed James the brother of John with the sword.” Luke is painfully succinct on this point. It is a fair assumption that as Herod Antipas beheaded John the Baptist with the sword so also Herod Agrippa beheaded James with the sword.

Who is this James? This is James the brother of John. So, this isn’t James the brother of John the Baptist. This is James the brother of John, the sons of Zebedee. These are the same James and John who ask to have the two seats of honor at Jesus’ right and left (Mt 20:21). Jesus doesn’t promise those seats because it belongs to the Father to assign those seats. What Jesus does promise, however, is that James and John will drink Jesus’ cup of suffering and death for the salvation of others.

Now, James and John do not die to atone for anyone’s sins. James and John die as witnesses to Jesus who atones for the sins of the world. You and I may do the same.

Connect the dots. James found the treasure of life with Jesus and James rested in the promise of resurrection with Jesus. Therefore, James was devoted to increasing his own joy by introducing others to joy in Jesus. It was this joy, it was this witness, that got James killed. James followed in Jesus’ steps. James shared in Jesus’ suffering becoming like Jesus in his death. James’ soul is now with Jesus in paradise and someday soon his body will be resurrected and then body and soul James will enjoy the fullness of the presence of God.

Christians were persecuted because they were witnesses. James was killed because he was a witness. And,

  • Peter was arrested because of his witness

Acts 12:3, “and when Herod saw that it pleased the Jews, he proceeded to arrest Peter also. This was during the days of Unleavened Bread.”

It was Passover that started the week-long Feast of Unleavened Bread. Like Jesus who had to be executed before the feast, so now Peter must wait to be executed after the feast. Herod and the Jewish leaders had enough awareness to not commit their grievous sins on holy days.

Herod also must have known the story of Peter’s previous miraculous escape from the temple prison in Acts 5. Therefore, Acts 12:4, “when Herod had seized Peter, 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.” Peter is being guarded by four sets of four soldiers spending his hours chained in between two soldiers. The soldiers would rotate to stay fresh and alert. Herod wants to prove his power and keep Peter for death. As we will see next week, God has other plans for Peter.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Why was Peter arrested? Peter was arrested because he was a witness to Jesus. Here now is our inescapable point and trouble for our consciences

  • Christians are witnesses

In Acts 1:8, Jesus promised his disciples the power of the Holy Spirit. But what is Jesus’ purpose in giving Christians the Holy Spirit? Is Jesus merely after hard workers who do excellent work? Is Jesus merely after moral people who do what is right? The way we work, and the product of our work, are important to Jesus but not everything. Jesus gives his Holy Spirit to Christians in order to empower our witness. By work and words we witness to Jesus. Jesus said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.

Friend, why are you dejected or depressed? It may be that you have been drawn away to love and serve another master. Your joy in Jesus has grown cold, your witness has stopped, and so you’re in a downward spiral. It may be that you have given yourself to work, but you have left off the witness. Jesus is saying to us, “I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first” (Rev 2:4-5). Love and works are distinct but inseparable. Love must have works and works must have love. The key is not to give up the work or the witness. The key is to fan love into a flame for work and witness. Knowing Jesus fuels our love. Sharing that love increases our joy.

One final thought from Acts 12 before we launch from this gathering out into the world for witness.

III. God is in control

Imagine, your friends are being arrested. Your elders and teachers are being executed. What should you do?

  • Earnestly pray to the God who is in control

Acts 12:5, “So Peter was kept in prison, but earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church.”

This should not imply that earnest prayer wasn’t made for James to God by the church. The church’s consistent devotion to prayer defeats this idea. Look again at verse 5. What did the church do? The church prayed for Peter. Who did the church pray to? The church prayed to God. How did the church pray to God? The church prayed earnestly. The church labored in unceasing prayer.

The church who knew the Ephesians 5 all surpassing worth of Christ also knew the Ephesians 6 call to unceasing prayer. Ephesians 6:18, “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.” Keep at prayer.

The world, the Romans, and the Jews attacked the church with arrest, persecution, and execution. The church responded with worship gatherings, joyful witness, and unceasing prayer. This is a call to be less of a keyboard warrior and more of a prayer warrior. This is a call to consider that our ministries may be weak and fruitless because that is all our own strength can provide. It is God who controls kings (he will strike down Herod). It is God who controls jails (he will set Peter free). It is God who resurrects the dead (the gates of hell will not prevail against James or us). Cry out to the God who rules over all.

We are going to respond to God’s Word with the commitment to follow Jesus through life and death. The commitment to follow Jesus is the commitment to seek our joy in him. The commitment to follow Jesus is the commitment to be a witness to him. The commitment to follow Jesus is the commitment to be faithful unto death. May our joy in Jesus surpass our sorrow in this world. Let’s commit together to follow Jesus.  

Discuss Acts 12:1-5

  1. In what way did God comfort, challenge, or correct you today?
  2. W. S. Armstrong’s tombstone says, “God calls away when He thinks best.” Gertrude Armstrong’s epithet reads, “She died as she lived–a Christian.” What do you want your tombstone to say about you?
  3. How would you explain the worthiness of Christ and the suffering of his witnesses to a child?
  4. What is simple about being a Christian? What is profound?
  5. The apostle Paul uses the metaphors of body and marriage to explain Jesus’ care for his people. What images would you choose to describe the way Jesus cares for you?
  6. Christian, what are you giving up or laying aside in order to make more room in your heart and schedule for Christ?
  7. Jesus’ goal is to present us to himself without sin. Is your goal, upon your death, to be presented to Christ without sin? How do you know?
  8. Christians weren’t arrested, beaten, and executed because of what they did in the privacy of their own homes. Why were Christians arrested, beaten, and executed?
  9. Why should a church pray fervently to God? What should a church pray fervently to God about?
  10. What can you do to help others around you feast daily on Jesus through Bible reading and dependent prayer?
  11. What can you do to help others around you become clear and joyful witnesses to Jesus?

A Charge to Fathers and Families

Text: Psalm 78:1-8

Main Point: Fathers need to be encouraged and equipped.

Fathers, Psalm 78 issues a charge to us to disciple our children. Church, Psalm 78 issues a charge to us to equip the family to do their ministry. We have serious, joyful, and eternal work to do. Let’s give our ear to the teaching; read Psalm 78:1-8

I. Fathers, teach your children (1-6)

It is important to understand that the verses we are covering this morning are a prologue or an introduction. We are looking at an eight-verse introduction to a Psalm that has seventy-two verses. Verses 1-8 tell fathers and families what they must be about in order to avoid the heartache and destruction described in verses 9-67. If you want to avoid these sixty verses of pain, then you need to pay attention to these eight verses of wisdom.

The central message is found in verse 5, “God established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach their children.” The glorious God has made himself and his good ways known to us.

So, what’s a father’s job? A father is commanded by God to teach his children. A father is commanded by God to teach his children who God is and what God commands. Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Deuteronomy 11:18-21; Ephesians 6:4; and the book of Proverbs clearly demonstrate the fact that a faithful father is a man who knows the Lord, obeys the Lord, and teaches his children to do the same. Men, we must pursue the Lord, obey the Lord, and lead the church to do the same. This is a high calling and we must be on guard because

  • It is easy to be a dumb dad

By dumb I mean two things: ignorant and mute. Ignorance is a lack of knowledge; you just don’t know. I have an amazing amount of ignorance about medicine, geology, computer programing, installing crown molding, and executing a French braid. I am woefully dumb about these things. Dumb can mean ignorance and dumb can mean you do not speak. I picked this up from the King James and the references to people being deaf and dumb (Ex 4:11; Ps 38:13; Mk 7:37; 9:25). To be dumb can mean a person who does not speak, a mute.

Picture some dads who refuse to know God and who refuse to think about what God commands. These dads are ignorant. Still other dads seek to know God and seek to obey God, but they do not teach their children to do the same. These dads are mute; they feed themselves and starve their children.

Being a dumb dad is as easy as falling off a log; any guy can do it! But being a dumb dad causes great pain because ignorance and silence are not what God has called us to give our families. Men, we were redeemed to know God, obey God, and teach others to do the same. So, while I’m being very pointed for fathers today, ladies, I want you to hear that these truths apply to our neighbors, our coworkers, and the children of the church. The generations around you, on your street and in this church, need you to love God and teach others to do the same.

William Plumer was a 19th century pastor in New England and he gets straight to the point, “It is awful to think how many parents, by their negligence and wickedness, become the murderers of the souls of their children” (Plumer, 758). Moms and dads, men and women of this church, it is our high calling to bring life to these children. But how?

  • God and his ways require our constant attention

We need to be all about God. But why is this the case? Why do God and his ways require constant attention? Is God nothing more than the Wizard of Oz, once appearing powerful but now proven to be a fake? As parents, must we always be spinning stories in order to defend poor old impotent God? Or are we Alice; having stared at ourselves for long enough we have become lost in the looking glass? I will claim the second; we are a people prone to ignore the eternally glorious for the sake of the now mundane.

Let’s work through Psalm 78 together. Verse 1 calls out to all who will hear. Asaph the choir leader is the writer and he is calling God’s people to pay attention. In verse 2 we learn that Asaph wants to take us into the deep end. Asaph is speaking in a parable; he is uttering ancient truths hard to hear. Matthew 13:35 quotes this verse about Jesus’s use of parables. The fact that this Psalm is a parable reminds us that Asaph’s purpose is to talk about Israel’s history in order to teach us an important lesson. Asaph is making a connection, men, look at what happened to families and God’s people back then so that you will not follow in their steps.

Now to verse 3, “things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us.” These are ancient truths passed down to previous generations, entrusted to this generation, and necessary for the life of the next generation. Our fathers taught us and now that we are fathers, we will teach our children.

Look at the commitment of a faithful father in verse 4, “We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.” Men, we must not hit the mute button when we enter our homes. We spend our day gaining knowledge and giving instruction so that we can get ahead. Then we come home and turn into a dumb dad who through ignorance, laziness, or hatred hides the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done from our children.” Our ignorance cuts off our children from Jesus who is light and life for each moment.

Instead of hiding who God is and what God has done from our children, we will give God our constant attention. We will ask, “How does God and my relationship to him affect the way I parent?” We will ask, “What does God command of me in my home?” We want to know and obey God. And we want to teach our children to do the same.

Psalm 78:5, “He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach their children.” The God of infinite worth and wisdom has made himself known. What God has made known about himself and what God commands is to be cherished and taught. God’s people want the next generation to know God’s testimony and law. We are looking to children yet unborn. We want these children and those children yet unborn to know the Lord, love the Lord, and teach their children to do the same. Because of the surpassing worth of God and the constant presence of God we are to give him our constant attention. We are to teach our children to do the same. So,

Fathers, get a good goal (7-8)

Just like it is easy to be a dumb dad,

  • It is easy to be a godless dad

Psalm 78:8 paints a painful picture of godless dads, “don’t be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation, a generation whose heart was not steadfast, whose spirit was not faithful to God.” These godless dads were Jews who had been circumcised as a sign of belonging to God by covenant, but the facts of their lives proved their circumcision to be worthless. They said they loved God but their lives proved they did not.

You see men, we can go to church, get baptized, and say we are Christians while living a stubborn and rebellious life. This going, getting, and saying are worthless. Christianity is a matter of the heart and the spirit. Is your heart steadfast in pursuit of God and his kingdom or is your heart steadfast in pursuit of money and your own kingdom? It does not matter what you do on Sunday morning if you spend the week ignoring God. What we need is a spirit that is faithful to God. What we need is God’s grace given to us through Jesus Christ. We need His help. We need to know God for who he is, we need to love God because he is glorious, and we need to follow God because his ways are right and good. A godless man sets his hope on himself or his business or his abilities. A godly man sets his hope in Jesus and teaches his children to do the same. Here is our good goal

  • Teach so that your children set their hope in God

Dads, God’s plan is to use your faith and your doctrine to teach your children to hope in God. Men, God’s plan is to use your faith and your doctrine to teach the children of this church to set their hope in God.

The world will teach our children to hope in the government. The world will teach our children to hope in money, race, power, or fame. The world will teach our children to hope in sexuality or pleasure. If we do nothing, if we sit there like a bump on a log, we can expect only greater evil and more heartache. Faithful parents teach their children why we can hope in God and how we are supposed to hope in God. Children need to know how to go to school hoping in God, how to repent hoping in God, and how to go to bed hoping in God. How do we shop with our hope set in God? How do we play sports with our hope set in God? How do we go on a date with our hope set in God? How do we struggle and suffer with our hope set in God? Our calling is to teach our children how to trust God as they go through all of life.

Talk about God’s might and the wonders he has done. Around the dinner table, on the way to school, at school, on the way home, and during family worship celebrate God. The God who was faithful then is faithful now. No person, no child, naturally remembers or naturally moves toward Jesus. We must teach our children so that they do not forget the works of God. We must teach our children to keep God’s commandments. Let’s get practical

Some practical advice for parents

  • Trust Christ

God is the only perfect Father; the rest of us stumble and struggle. We trust Christ with our failures. We believe Jesus died on the cross to forgive and redeem ignorant and mute dads. Jesus gives us fresh starts. Dads, do you believe? Do you believe Jesus’ grace is sufficient for your past sins and your current responsibilities? Jesus is the vine and we are the branches; because of Him we can be faithful fathers. Jesus will forgive you. Jesus will help you. Repent of your sins and keep asking for his help. Trust Christ and

  • Be discipled

Men, we need help and we need encouragement. One of the means God has established to help his people is discipleship. Through discipleship we learn how to trust Jesus and how to obey all that Jesus commanded. Certainly this “learn to obey all that Jesus commanded” includes how to be a faithful dad. Dads, if you are struggling alone, you are sabotaging yourself and your family. Jesus redeemed you to be in a church relationship where you can be taught, encouraged, and corrected. Talk to an elder, deacon, or Sunday school teacher if you have questions about discipleship. Come to the men’s Bible study on Thursday mornings. Trust Christ, be discipled, and  

  • Read your Bible with your family

Of course, dads, we need to be reading our Bibles on our own so we can grow in the faith. Reading, thinking, and praying about the Bible is where strength, joy, and wisdom come from. But dads, we are meant to give our families strength, joy, and wisdom by reading the Bible and praying with our families.

         The best advice is start young. The second-best piece of advice is start today. Aim to read an age appropriate and your family appropriate Bible reading every day. I will admit, this does not happen every day in my family, but I wish it did and I aim for it to. Read a child’s Bible, do a slow read through one of the Gospels, or follow the church Bible reading plan. The aim here is content. We want to expose our children to the testimony and commands of God. We want our children to know who God is, the mighty acts he has done, and what he expects of us. Read the Bible together then

  • Listen so you can talk about God and stuff

The fancy way to say this is, “disciple your family.” Dads, it is our job to disciple our families. Daily Bible reading as individuals and families provides the starting point for these conversations. But pay attention, you are not going to know how to help your child follow Jesus if you don’t know what your child is facing. I struggle with this, instead of listening to my children, I act like the know-it-all lecturer.

But think about it, our heavenly Father knows everything about us. He knows what we have done, he knows what we are thinking, and he knows what we are going to do. God knows all this and yet he wants us to talk to him through prayer. Through prayer we know that we are known. Through Bible saturated prayer we are corrected and led. Too often we dads skip the listening to know part of parenting and go straight to correcting and leading. Stop it; listen so you can lead well.

It is true that many of our children are frustrated because we will not listen. It is also true that some of our children are frustrated because they will not talk. Dads, we need to listen and students, you need to talk. Dads, if you have a student in the youth ministry, have you taken him/her to Tree of Life Coffee to get a away and talk? Use that gift certificate Pastor Aaron gave you.

God has ordained the church to equip moms and dads to do the ministry of family. May God help us teach the next generation, may God give us a better goal, and may we see each of these children following Christ in baptism and joyful obedience. Let’s pray for it.

Help for parents

  • Don’t be a hypocrite

Our children know better than anyone that we are not perfect. Our children feel the effects of our weaknesses and sins more than anyone. It is wrong to seek to correct our children while we ignore the sins in our selves. This is no call to perfection. Only one man is perfect and it’s not me and it’s not you. This is a call to repentance and faith. This is a call to own our sin and trust Jesus to help us turn from our sin.

Let’s get really practical. Parents, when we sin against our children, we must look them in the eye, admit that sin without excuse, and ask for forgiveness. Don’t be a hypocrite; repent and believe in Jesus then

  • Teach your children

We’re going to build here. Teach your children. This church is trying to help you teach your children who God is, but Sunday school and AWANA are side dishes. Your everyday teaching of your children is the main course. Teach your child by reading and studying the Bible with him/her.

We don’t give away Bible because we have money to waste. We give away Bibles so that parents will read and study with their children. The best approach is to start young; start reading the Bible stories with your baby every night and build from there throughout the years. The second best approach is to start where you are. Start a slow read through one of the gospels as a family. Teach your children.

  • Teach your children to hope in God

Every sin is an attempt to get hope from something other than God. We need to talk to our children about this dangerous problem. Read the rest of Psalm 78 today; it does not end well for the rebellious.

So how do we do this? How do we teach our children to hope in God? We teach our children to hope in God by learning to set our hope in God. We then teach our children what we have learned to do. Men, you were meant to be discipled by a more mature man so you can go home and disciple that less mature man. It’s obvious right? We learn to teach our children about God by learning about God. We learn to teach our children to set their hope in Jesus by setting our hope in Jesus. God’s plan is for you to be taught so that you can teach the next generation. We aren’t supposed to figure life out on our own; God has given us the church to teach us and equip us. And finally,

  • Teach your children to obey God

Accidents will happen and children must learn through trial and error. We give grace and overlook the weaknesses and mistakes of children. Rebellion however must be corrected. From the “No” screamed in the highchair to the angry slamming door, we must teach our children to obey God. Is stubbornness and rebelliousness allowed in your home? How much stubbornness and rebelliousness does God allow in his children? How much evil does God allow? And how loving and tender and sacrificial and patient is God in correcting his children? We must correct our children the way our heavenly Father corrects us.

If your child had cancer and you laughed at it and called it cute, or shrugged it off, we would know you are crazy. Why do we laugh at our children’s sin and call it cute when we know it will kill them in the end? Correct them but correction is not enough, and harsh correction is evil. Our desire is to teach our children how to pray for, seek, and pursue their happiness in Jesus and his ways.

Fathers, the charge to us is to know God, love God, and teach our children to do the same. May God make us faithful. Let us pray and commend the work to God’s grace.

Discuss Psalm 78:1-8

  1. In what way did God comfort, challenge, or correct you today?
  2. What is a father’s job? What are his priorities? How does your view of fatherhood square with Psalm 78:1-8 and Ephesians 6:4?
  3. In what ways are children harmed by a dad who is ignorant about God and his ways?
  4. In what ways are children harmed by a dad who knows God and His ways but doesn’t teach his children?
  5. How can you teach your children or children in the church to know the Lord and obey the Lord?
  6. What does it look like for you to set your hope in God? Think about finances and relationships.
  7. How can you teach a young child to set his/her hope in God? How can you teach a teenager to set his/her hope in God?
  8. Where are you tempted to hypocrisy when it comes to knowing God and making God known?
  9. Do you regularly read the Bible with a friend, spouse, or child? How can you grow in this good and fruitful discipline?

One Mind. How?

To be of one mind biblically doesn’t mean that all have to share the same opinion. It means a warm fellowship based on communion with Christ in the midst of differences. It does not mean abandoning all attempts at refining our knowledge by enforcing an artificial unanimity. True maturity means learning how to disagree in an aggressive fashion, yet still maintaining a peaceful harmony in the church.

Greg Koukl, Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions, 2009, page 34