Acts 12:7 – And, behold, the angel of the Lord came upon him, and a light shined in the prison: and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off from his hands.
Hey all, been a bit of a break from my blogs of late, but back today, and with a thought from Acts 12:7 (I would recommend reading Acts 12 – it’s a cool story!!). I do ask that you would read my blog all the way through before passing on it. I hope God speaks to your heart, I’m not offering anything of myself, I am nothing, truly I am nothing. It’s not false humility, the only thing I’ve got to offer is God’s word, which isn’t my own word, I don’t own it, it’s not mine, all I can do as a faithful Christian is hold forth the same Word that came to me and abides in me to others, the Word is with power, the Word does not return to God void… I hope the Spirit of truth bears witness and honors the Word of God in your heart today.
Peter had been imprisoned by Herod… the church was getting persecuted, James had been killed by Herod… and things were looking pretty dang bleak. The reality of Christian life is bleakness, adversity, struggle… there are mountaintop experiences, but we also spend a lot of time in the valleys as well (maybe more time than we need to!!). The church grew the most when it was being persecuted in Acts, the Hebrews flourished the more the Egyptian bondage worsened in Egypt. It’s the paradox of Christian life, we do a lot more growing in the tough times. Are they fun? No. But God breaks us before he builds us. Repentance first, that leads to salvation… repentance always point us to Jesus, the Holy Spirit always points us to Jesus… its all about the Lord Jesus Christ. And God doesn’t leave us hopeless, sure he breaks us, but he always provides the solution as well. It’s not just breaking for breaking’s sake, but breaking to build us. Sometimes God lets us and we need those thieves to smash us, to destroy our lives, before the Good Samaritan of our souls can rescue us and heal our wounds and pay our debts and bind us up. John the Baptist pointed people to Jesus Christ, and so true repentance leads us to the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance is what is missing today, it is not preached on, and the Holy Spirit doesn’t seem to do much moving upon the face of the deep of men and women’s hearts today. Like Elijah we can feel all alone, but God said to Elijah there were seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal. God knows what he’s doing. And Elijah had just met Obadiah, who was doing his little bit. Elijah did it tough, they all did it tough, and here is Peter doing it tough. He’s awaiting his death, he’s imprisoned, he’s in a seemingly hopeless situation. Some good all this following Jesus has done him! But God comes to his rescue, and so God comes to our rescue today.
The angel of the Lord came to Peter in the prison. And God comes and visits us in the prison today. We often think we have our own capacity to save ourselves. But we don’t. It took Jesus come down to earth to save us. It takes the Father drawing us, or else we will not come to Jesus. We have no capacity to will to or want to come to him ourselves. We can’t approach to him ourselves, but in Hebrews we read that we can approach boldly unto the throne of grace… all because of the Lord Jesus Christ! He is the way, the truth, the life, there is NO way to the Father apart from through him. He is our only lifeline, he is our light, our life. We have nothing, we are nothing… at all. Don’t fool yourself. It’s God that will come to you first, or you won’t be saved. Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation BELONGS to the Lord. He can rightfully send you to hell, because we have all sinned, we are all unclean, we all don’t do good, all our hearts are deceitful and desperately wicked ABOVE all things. But God loves you and he loves me, he will save you, he will save you if you want to be saved. God’s sovereignty does not negate the fact you have freewill and choice. Right now, you are living in and making your own choices. What’s to stop you right now praying to God, getting honest with him, asking for him to work in your hard heart? I’ve had a hard heart, I’ve been rebellious, I’ve sinned (a lot) and still sin (a lot) and still struggle with it all. Why not just get brutally honest and open and broken before God? How about we all just be honest with God about who we are, how we feel, where we are at… he honors a true humble, broken heart. He wants to set us free. When Jesus was walking through a large crowd a woman touched him, and he said who touched me? The disciples were amazed that he said who touched me, seeing as the multitudes were thronging Jesus… heaps were touching Jesus… but Jesus knew the one person, Jesus knows the individual that is truly seeking him. Jesus is after that one lost sheep! Jesus said ALL that come to him he would receive. Jesus said he wouldn’t and won’t and doesn’t cast out anyone that comes to him. And if you truly seek you will find, that is God’s promise. God is not a liar.
But the angel did something strange… he smote Peter! Wow! You’d think God would’ve come softly and tenderly to Peter and just patted him, but instead he smote him. And we shouldn’t miss the lesson here. We can feel sorry for ourselves, we want smooth words, we want to be eased and soothed… but BEFORE that we have to be smitten. But WOW we don’t want that do we? In fact, most people don’t. We don’t want a God that offends us. We don’t want the God that is TRUTH. We don’t want to get uncomfortable, we don’t want to be unsettled. And that’s why we reject Jesus. Many people believe he was a good man, many people believe he existed, many people circle the truth, but most do not TAKE the cup of salvation and call upon the name of the Lord. All because we don’t receive God’s smiting our hearts and souls. But that smiting is necessary, it is what precedes our freedom. God will smite us to get us back on track. He chastens and scourges us, because often what we need is a good kick up the rear, not someone stroking our egos, licking our wounded pride, feeling sorry for us. Because ultimately that doesn’t help us at all. It doesn’t help just getting told what we want to hear… even though it is a lot easier on our pride and intellect and independence. Hey, we humans are all the same, we are all wicked sinners, we need some salt and light, and we need to receive it and love it in our lives. It was Absalom, who is a picture of how the devil works, that did the whole sweet talking, stroking, hugging, making people feel loved (a false love, a false peace, a false comfort – Absalom didn’t give a rip about them, he was just trying to be king) to steal the hearts of the children of Israel in 2 Samuel 15. It is good to receive hard truth, truth is light, light exposes, it shines in on us. And truth brings comfort. The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of truth, and the Holy Spirit is also called the Comforter. Receiving truth is what will truly comfort you. And so the truth can smash us in pieces, but when we are smashed, that is when God will build us. Matthew 21:44 – And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. It was when the pitchers were broken that God brought the victory for Gideon’s army, the pitchers being broken, let the light that was in them shine forth, and put to flight the numberless host of Midian.
God is the good Father. He is a good Father. He knows what he we need, how we need, why we need. He is God. It’s so easy to intellectually assent to everything, but when God works there is no substitute. When God moves, things happen, when God moves, then we know. It is no wonder Peter later on in this chapter (Acts 12:11) said this … And when Peter was come to himself, he said, Now I know of a surety, that the Lord hath sent his angel, and hath delivered me out of the hand of Herod, and from all the expectation of the people of the Jews. Peter had been completely disbelieving when the angel set him free… Acts 12:9 – And he went out, and followed him; and wist not that it was true which was done by the angel; but thought he saw a vision. He couldn’t believe it. Neither can I, neither can we. And when God works we can’t believe it. Because it is something else entirely. It is Jesus that comes and sets us free. He is the fulfillment of the Bible. He is the life of the Bible. In the beginning was the Word! We can read all about it. For years we can wait on God, for years nothing seems to happen, we can lie in the prison of our sin, in our captivity to whatever we are captive to, bound up fast, whatever Satan has bound us up with, whatever infirmity compasses us on every side. At the start of his ministry, Jesus opened the book of Isaiah in the synagogue in Luke 4:18 – The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. Jesus said, this day is scripture fulfilled in your ears.
Today, the scripture is fulfilled. To any reader, me included, Jesus can set us free, he wants to, he gives life and gives it abundantly. We can be sleeping like Peter was, fast bound up, in a hopeless position. When things are beyond us, is the place Jesus can work and get the most glory. In fact, God wants to take us beyond ourselves so that we then rely on him. The Christian life will test us, it will show us for who and what we truly are. Fakes, pretenders, posers will fall away, just like the many disciples who no longer followed Jesus when they got offended, just like Orpah in the book of Ruth who went so far, but no further, and turned back to the land of Moab. It’s the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ that has purchased our eternal forgiveness, life, freedom. Never get tired of the preaching of the cross. Jesus can be so meaningless to us, to me. In our carnal, fleshly, human minds… we can be just like Esau with his birthright… what profit has it? Esau saw no profit!!! In Job, the Bible says what profit does a man see in being cleansed from his sin? Ask God to show you the profit in his Son. Because his life, death, blood, can be so meaningless, but ultimately it’s the only thing worth anything in this existence. God bore witness of his Son, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. God is pleased with his Son. That’s why he that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son hath not life.
We need a good smiting today. We need repentance to come to town in our lives. The Holy Spirit will smash us, and then set us free. And it will be like a dream. Psalms 126:1 – When the LORD turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Peter thought he was in a dream. But God set him free, completely free. He just walked out the prison, it all opened before him, just like the Red Sea parting before Moses and the children of Israel. YOU WILL HAVE NOTHING TO DO. Salvation is of the Lord. There’s not some elaborate work required. The Jews asked Jesus in John 6:28 – Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered them in John 6:29 (the next verse!) – Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. Just believe. Is it that hard? Heart belief, RECEIVE Jesus Christ. Confess your sins, just get honest, be honest, love the truth, love the light. Ask God to change you, to rescue you from Satan, the world, the flesh… FROM YOURSELF. Hosea 13:9 – O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself; but in me is thine help. We are all in the same boat. We all destroy ourselves, we all oppose ourselves, we are our worst enemy. 2 Timothy 2:25,26 – In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will. In Acts, the gospel was going out into the world, starting with the Jews, but they rejected and resisted it, those hard hearted RELIGIOUS people. Are you a religious gamer? Stop messing around. It was the religious elite that nailed Jesus to the cross. Get honest. We are all sinners, we have all sinned, we all deserve hell. Period. Read what the Bible says in Acts 13:46 – Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. That’s why you are hearing the gospel today, because the Jews rejected it, they rejected salvation offered to them. They judged themselves unworthy of eternal life. Let that sink in. Don’t judge yourself unworthy of eternal life. Please don’t.
When the word of God comes to you, let it sink into your ears. Eliminate the distractions, don’t miss your day of visitation! Luke 9:44, Jesus said Let these sayings sink down into your ears. Let God’s word SINK in. In the parable of sower, some seed fell by the wayside, some into rocky ground, some got choked out… but some found good soil. What’s your heart like? Is there good soil? Good soil ploughed up by the Holy Spirit’s smiting of your pride, intellect, reasoning, wisdom, justifications, by the Holy Spirit’s smiting of everything you are and am? The angel of the Lord lighted Peter’s prison, God visits you today in your prison. Ephesians 5:14 – Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. The Bible says in 2 Corinthians 6:2 … I have heard thee (God hears the humble cry!)… behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. Today is the day. I hope and pray God works in your heart and mine today. There is no substitute for the true moving of the Holy Spirit. The Christian life and walk starts at being repentant, broken, humbled before God, with God, to God… and it is a constant part of life… and it points us to and exalts the Son of God in our lives – Matthew 5:3,4 – Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.
The fourth verse of the old hymn – And Can It Be
Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
Fast bound in sin and nature’s night;
Thine eye diffused a quick’ning ray—
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
My chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.