Prison Break

Date: 10/03/2015 
The Bible is filled with encouraging stories of how God can radically transform a life from bondage to freedom, from misery to joy and darkness to light.
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Tonight's message is dealing with prison break or From the Prison to the Palace - because the Bible is full of stories of how God liberates people. You know, the United States has a statistic that we shouldn't be very proud of. There are more people, per capita, in prison in the United States than any other country in the world. 2,220,000 people are in prison - federal prisons or jails - in the U.S. and its territories. Now when you think about that, China has 1.4 billion people and there are fewer people in prison in China than the United States. Matter of fact, in the U.S. today, we've got more prisoners than farmers. One out of a hundred people is in prison. And that's a whole other sermon about what might be happening to the morals of the country that would precipitate that, but I've done some prison ministry. Amazing Facts has a lot of people that we've reached out to in prison and their lives have been transformed by the power of the Gospel.

I'm not proud of it, but I have been incarcerated before. Not all of my prison experience was just visiting. (Laughter) So I can relate to what we're talking about today and I can testify that it is good to be set free. (Laughter) It's no fun when you are chained and bound. You know, there's an interesting verse in the Bible and I'll bet if I give out just the text there's probably not one in a thousand that can quote it to me. Ecclesiastes 4:14. Let me tell you what that says. It's written by Solomon, "One can indeed come out of prison to reign; even though born poor in the kingdom." Someone can come out of prison to reign even though born poor in the kingdom.

Now we've all heard about someone named Nelson Mandela. He was a very famous South African activist - served 27 years in prison because of his struggle against Apartheid but then he was released. In April 27, 1994, he was elected the president of the country that imprisoned him. Can you imagine what a radical change that would be - to look at prison walls all of those years and then be ushered into the highest apartment in the country and be surrounded with servants and opulence. Talk about a radical transformation. I also think of Lech Walesa, who was that shipyard electrician during the battle between Poland and Solidarity and communism. And - and even though he only had the education of an electrician, he led a movement - he was in prison - incarcerated - several times because of his trying to help liberate his country, and then, as soon as they broke free from communism and they had elections, who do you think they elected to be the president of the country where he was in prison?

Well, the Bible has these stories as well. Matter of fact, Pastor Ross and I were talking back stage when I read that verse: "One can indeed come out of prison to reign; though born poor in the kingdom." Solomon wrote that and he was very likely thinking of maybe Joseph. Now that, again, is an incredible story of someone who has gone through the transition - poor shepherd boy betrayed by his brothers down in Egypt becomes - he's sold as a slave and then he is falsely accused, imprisoned in Egypt, and he spent years in prison. But then one day, because of the Pharaoh's dreams, Joseph went from the prison to the palace. Though born poor in the kingdom, he ended up ruling, basically, the nation. Can you imagine that?

What it would be like to be wondering if you've been forsaken and forgotten by God and you're in prison - you have no plan for your life except the same dreary routine of eating and sleeping and pacing day after day - and then have someone rattle the keys in your cell and say, 'The king wants to see you.' And to go through that transformation of the prison garments - it says in Genesis 41:14, "Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they brought him quickly out of the dungeon; and he shaved, changed his clothing, and came to Pharaoh." That must have been a frightening experience. You know, Joseph had dreams as a young man, that someday - God had some great plan for his life. He probably had grown to doubt that when he was in jail. And then you read in Genesis 41:41, "And Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt.' Then Pharaoh took the signet ring off his hand and put it on Joseph's hand; and he clothed him in garments of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck. And he had him ride in the second chariot which he had; and they cried out before him, 'Bow the knee!' So he set him over all the land of Egypt."

One day - talk about a radical transformation. Indeed, the whole Bible story of the Exodus is the story of God taking a whole nation from prison and bringing them to the Promised Land - taking them from bondage and bringing them to a land flowing with milk and honey. What the Lord does in these stories all illustrates what He wants to do for you and me. He wants to take us from the slavery of Satan and He wants to bring us to being children in His Kingdom. He said, 'I've gone to prepare a mansion for you.' You know, there's some other experiences in the Bible. It says, speaking of Manasseh, in 2 Chronicles 33, verse 10, "And the Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they would not listen. Therefore the Lord brought upon them the captains of the army of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze fetters, and carried him off to Babylon. Now when he was in affliction, he implored the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed to Him; and He received his entreaty, heard his supplication, and brought him back to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God."

He brought him from the prison to the palace. You know, this is why Jesus came. You can read in Isaiah 61, verse 1, "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me," - this is the ministry of Jesus - "because the Lord has anointed Me" - he was anointed - the Messiah - "to preach good tidings to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;" So many cases in the Bible of the Lord taking people from the prison and seating them in heavenly places.

Now, maybe you felt like you've been enslaved or imprisoned by the devil and he's making you serve and it's a dreary existence serving the enemy. The Lord wants you to know that He can completely transform your life when you might think things are hopeless and you've been in your dungeon so long there's no hope. You know, one of the great stories - Jeremiah chapter 52 - if you've got your Bibles here. It's one of the last things it says in the book of Jeremiah. Jeremiah is one of the longest of the major Old Testament prophets and it ends with an interesting footnote - Jeremiah chapter 52 and you can read in verse 31, "Now it came to pass in the thirty-seventh year of the captivity of Jehoiachin king of Judah," - He'd been in prison for 37 years. For those of you that know your Bible history, one of the last good kings of Judah was King Josiah. After Josiah died, his son Jehoiakim, he reigned for a while but he was taken off to Egypt. Then Jehoiachin - sounds similar but they're different - he became king for a short time, but Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon then began to rule the area, carried him off, put him in prison, made his uncle Zedekiah king and after Judah fell the kingdom was conquered. Many of them were led away captive - that's how Daniel ended up in Babylon. Jehoiachin was left in prison 37 years.

Now the Babylonian prisons are probably not like some prisons, where they've got TV and ping pong and regular meals and air conditioning and heat in the winter. It must have been pretty bleak being in a Babylonian dungeon 37 years. He was locked up as a young man. But you know, after Nebuchadnezzar died, we believe Daniel the prophet, he went to his son Evil-Merodach and he said, 'Can you have mercy on our king that is still in your prison after all of these years?' And it says that "Evil-Merodach king of Babylon, in the first year of his reign, lifted up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah and brought him out of prison. And he spoke kindly to him" - Now what this king did for Jehoiachin, Jesus will do for you. Listen to what happens: "And he spoke kindly to him" - had mercy on him - "and gave him a more prominent seat than those of the kings who were with him in Babylon." - When a king would sit down he would sit with the other kings that ruled in his empire with him and Evil-Merodach, you might say, was a king of kings, so other kings sat with him.

Jesus is our king of kings. Does He show mercy to us? And he says, 'I'm going to have you sit with the kings, but I'm going to give you one of the best seats of the kings, right beside me.' Do you think about it? Jesus says that we get to live and reign with Him, the Creator of the universe. What an honor that will be. - "So Jehoiachin changed from his prison garments," - does the Lord give us new garments? He takes away - what do you wear in prison? In a Babylonian prison, probably rags. And the jailer comes down and he says, 'Jehoiachin' - he didn't know what was going to go - you know, the new king might say, 'I'm going to execute everybody that was disloyal before.' This could be the executioner coming and when that key goes in the lock you don't know what's happening. He says, 'Come with me.' He says, 'What's going on?' 'I'll tell you later, just follow me.' And he leads you up into the light and you're led into the palace and they say, 'Take off your clothes.' 'Ah, what's going to happen?' 'You can't wear those rags anymore. We've got to get you cleaned up. You can't go into the palace like that.' And they give you royal robes. And he says, 'You're not going to eat the musty moldy bread of the dungeon anymore, you're going to eat from the king's table. It says they took away his prison garments "and he ate bread regularly before the king" - that means with the king - "all the days of his life." How long? For the rest of his life.

What is the Lord offering us? Everlasting life. "And as for his provisions, there was a regular ration given him." Not only did he get new clothes and not only did he get new bread - we get the robe of Christ's righteousness and we get the living bread - but it says that he gave him an allowance. He gave him a credit card - a Babylonian credit card. He said, 'You also need spending money.' He gave him a ration "for each day until the day of his death, all the days of his life." He said, 'You don't have to worry about your future forever.


>>I will take care of you as long as you live. Wouldn't that be a radical transformation for Jehoiachin? To go from the dungeon to the palace of the biggest kingdom in the world? It's interesting that the story of Jeremiah ends with this little scenario, because it illustrates what salvation is all about. Jesus wants to set us free from our prisons.

You know the story of David - he's another example. David went from hiding from King Saul and living in caves and he was a fugitive and then he became the king. Born poor in the kingdom - shepherd boy - and then he became one of the greatest kings. Daniel - Daniel was a captive in Babylon, but he interpreted the king's dreams and he went from the - the status of being a captive, to being prime minister. And it not only happened to Daniel once, it happened to Daniel twice, because then, when the Medo-Persians took control of Babylon, Daniel was put in a Lion's Den. But God shut the lion's mouth and in one day he went from the Lion's Den, which was kind of like a dungeon, back to the palace of Persia.

Look at the radical change that God makes in the lives of all these Bible characters. What do you think He's trying to tell us? What he wants to do for you? The difference between serving the devil and being in prison and serving the king of kings - the rags and the royal robes - the moldy bread and the rich provision - this is what the Lord wants to do for us. Esther, what a wonderful story. Here you've got this girl who is - she's not only a captive in the land of Persia, she's an orphan. She seems forsaken other than her uncle, Mordecai, who cares for her. But then they decree there's going to be a royal beauty pageant and she's taken off to the palace and she's wondering what's going on and, through all of that - you know the story - she's chosen. And the Bible says, 'The king loved Esther above all the women and she obtained grace' - what does the Lord do for us? The king loves us and we obtain grace - 'and favor in his sight, more than all the virgins. So he set the royal crown upon her head' - are we going to get crowns? Yeah, that's what it says - 'and made her queen.'

Goes from that status - now something I want you to notice as we proceed: in virtually all of these cases where God takes people from their status as a prisoner, and He brings them to the royal position, He does it so He can use them to save others. What did God do through Joseph? And Joseph's brothers, they thought, 'Now you're going to get even with us.' He said, 'No, God did this so that much life could be saved.' Why did God do it with Esther? So that she could save her people. Mordecai said, 'Who knows whether you've come to the kingdom for such a time as this that you might save others?' Why'd He do it for Daniel? So he could be an advocate for his people and a witness - I mean, the whole world has heard about the miracles because Daniel was in that position.

Then you go to the New Testament - it's from cover to cover in the Bible - the apostles were put in prison several times. You can read in Acts chapter 5 - the religious leaders were infuriated that they were preaching about Jesus everywhere and they laid hands on them - Acts 5:18 - "and laid their hands on the apostles" - they had their guards arrest them - "and put them in the common prison. But" - you know, everything changes with that three-letter word. They put them in prison to stop the progress of the gospel - "But at night an angel of the Lord opened the prison doors" - at the darkest hour - "and brought them out," - what does the angel say? - "'Go, stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this life.'" They went from the prison to the palace. They went to God's temple. Why? Tell people - tell people the message of salvation.

Why does God bring us out of prison? So that He can use us. Now, if you just want to be out of prison so that you can live it up, but if you want God to save you from your prison, He's going to give you work to do. He wants you to be working to save others. Isn't that what a good king is supposed to do? Be concerned about their people? You can read about it also in Psalm 142 - the Bible's full of these stories - "Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise Your name;" - Why does God bring us out of prison? - "Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise Your name;" - when he saves you - you know, if you've been addicted to alcohol for years and God sets you free, you're going to praise His name. You've been addicted to drugs - you've been addicted - you pick your addiction.

I've got this theory that everybody is a sinaholic - that we all have a vacuum in our hearts and until Jesus fills that vacuum, you're going to seek to fill it with something else - and it varies from person to person. Some of us have more respectable addictions. Some people are workaholics - they might even get praised. Some people are shopaholics. Some people it's food. It could be sex or pornography. It could be drugs or alcohol or cigarettes - there's all kinds of - there's a lot that I didn't even mention. You can fill in the blank. But the devil wants to enslave people and Jesus wants to set us free so that He can use us to proclaim this life to others. Jesus came "to open blind eyes, to bring the prisoners" - Isaiah 42:7 - "to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house."

The Bible is filled with this message of Jesus coming to set the captives free. You can even jump from Acts chapter 5 to Acts chapter 16 and you can read about Paul and Silas in jail there at midnight. Paul and Silas had been cruelly treated - unjustly accused - in prison - they could have complained - whipped - they're in pain - they're in the stocks and do they gripe and moan? They pray and sing. And at midnight - God often does it during the darkest hour - 'at midnight they were praying and singing hymns to God and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake so the foundations of the prison were shaken and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were loosed.' Because of their prayers and their witness, everybody's chains were loosed. And you know what happened? They ended up baptizing the jailer who had whipped them before the day was over. He washed their wounds - the one who had whipped them. He set them free - the jailer was ready to kill himself - they said, 'Don't hurt yourself, we're all still here.' He was about to commit suicide because he thought the prisoners had escaped. And then they preached to him. They forgave him. They were kind. God set them free to reach others. And if you're willing to be used by God to reach others, He can set you free too.

Now it talked about a number of cases of people being set free from prison, but our real hero we're going to focus on tonight is in Acts chapter 12, it's dealing with Peter. Matter of fact, one of our panels here - the one right behind me - is Peter coming out of prison. And if you look in Acts 12, we're going to study that together and dedicate most of our remaining time to this particular story. Acts 12 - and I'll start with the first verse, "Now about that time Herod the king stretched out his hand to harass some from the church. Then he killed James the brother of John with the sword." You know, one time James and John came to Jesus and they said, 'Lord, when you go into your kingdom can we sit on your right and your left hand?' The Lord said, 'You don't know what you're asking.' 'Oh yes, Lord, we can do it.' He said, 'Well, are you able to drink the cup I must drink and be baptized with My baptism?' 'Oh yes, sure Lord, we can do it.' He said, 'You will. You'll drink My cup and you will be baptized with My baptism.' And it's interesting that James was the first of the apostles to suffer a martyr's death. John was the last one to die. They were the center of the church.

You know, whenever Jesus did anything, he took Peter, James, and John - so now James is dead; listen to what Herod does, "And because he saw that it pleased the Jews," - that he had killed James the apostle - "he proceeded further to seize (or arrest) Peter also." Now this was during the days of unleavened bread - or the Passover was coming - "So when he had arrested him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four squads" - if you've got the King James version it says, 'four quaternions - quaternion - it's like quatro - four - a squad of four soldiers times four - sixteen soldiers.

Now you're going to think 'This is overkill. I mean, he's a fisherman. He's not a Kung Fu expert.' Sixteen soldiers - Roman armed soldiers - intending to bring him before the people after the Passover - they didn't want to have the execution right during the Passover, but they'd bring him out and have him publically executed afterward. "Peter was therefore kept in prison," - you read about it and you're going to find out he wasn't just guarded by sixteen soldiers, he was put in the innermost top security maximum federal prison - this is a Roman prison. Why did Herod go to such lengths? Because we just read about what happened in Acts chapter 5. When they arrested Peter, the religious leaders went to Herod and they said, 'Now these apostles are slippery characters. We had arrested them and we don't know how all twelve of them managed to escape and get back to the temple. So unless you want to be embarrassed, you'd better keep a real eye - even somehow it seems like their leader escaped from the tomb with soldiers guarding. These are slippery characters.' Herod said, 'Don't worry. I've got the Roman guards. I've got a top-security cell - no windows - he's not going anywhere. No way of escape.' He boasted.

So Peter is put in prison. He's going to be executed after the Passover. So you read in verse 5, "Peter was therefore kept in prison, but constant prayer" - the Bible talks about praying without ceasing - "...constant prayer was offered to God for him by the church." So what is the church doing? Praying for who? How often?


>>Constantly. Now don't - I'm emphasizing that because it comes up later. I want you to understand. They said, 'look, we've lost - we've lost James. Peter's in prison. John is young. Peter, James, and John - Peter was a great preacher at the Pentecost - we can't lose this leader of the church.' Constant prayer is being offered by the church. By the way, are there people out there in the world that are imprisoned by the devil? Are they on death row? What should the church be doing for them?


>>How often?


>>Do we pray for the lost? We hear every day about people who are perishing in the world around us and the church, not only should be working for the lost, we ought to be praying for the lost, because the Lord - this is very important to Him and it should be very important to us. Constant prayer was offered to God for Peter, by the church. And this is where it gets really exciting - verse 6 - "And when Herod was about to bring him out," - the next day he was going to be brought out and publically executed - "that night Peter was sleeping, bound with two chains between two soldiers;" - he's chained to these soldiers; and the guards before the door were keeping the prison." - They're not taking any chances.

Not only is he in the top security cell - no windows - one door - latched - sleeping with a soldier on the right and on the left - I assume their names were Mario and Antonio - these are Roman soldiers - and he can't go anywhere and he's chained to them - two soldiers keeping the prison - the guard's at the door. "Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him," - how'd he get in there? Those angels are really amazing, aren't they? How'd he get past all the security systems and the laser beams and - " angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison;"

Now I've got to pause and ask you a question: If you were going to be executed tomorrow, how well would you sleep tonight? I mean, Peter must have had some real peace. I've got a couple of theories about that. One is, Jesus told Peter how he was going to die. He didn't say you're going to be beheaded, like Paul and James were, he said, 'You're going to be crucified.' Now Herod is going to kill him with the sword - it says James was killed with the sword - he was beheaded - and Peter was going to be killed the same way the next day and Peter said, 'This just isn't right. I don't know how God's going to get me out of this pickle, but Jesus still has a lot of work for me to do so I'm not going to worry about it. I'm going to sleep.' He had learned to trust the Lord - finally had learned that faith. God had gotten him out of prison before; he didn't know how He'd do it, but he figured, 'Lord, it's in Your - You know, if You want me to keep preaching - if You want me to die, I'm willing to die for you. Whatever You want, Lord, it's okay with me.' He had the - the peace of somebody who has surrendered their life to Jesus. The Bible calls it a peace that passes understanding.

Paul, just before his execution, he wrote to Timothy and he said, 'Timothy, I've fought a good fight. I've finished my course. I've kept the faith. Hereafter there is laid up for me a crown, which the righteous judge will give me that day, but not to me only, but to all those that love His appearing.' Here he's working to encourage Timothy. Paul wasn't afraid. Peter wasn't afraid. Jesus could sleep in a storm. Paul calls it a peace that passes understanding. Wouldn't you like to have that kind of peace - you don't have to be afraid of anything? Peter has that.

Now I look at these stories also spiritually. So Peter, the actual history of it, he's got faith. He says, 'You know, Lord, you said I'm going to be crucified. Something else must be happening. I don't know how you're going to get me out of this but I trust you.' So he's sleeping. Matter of fact, the soldiers are probably irritated. 'How can he sleep so peacefully? We can't sleep chained to somebody.' And - but Peter also represents how people are saved. There're stories about salvation from prison. There are people out there that are in prison. They are about to be destroyed.

You know, if you don't have the Son, you're under a death penalty, and they're asleep on their way to destruction. You know people like that, don't you? They're lost - they don't even know they're lost. They're perishing - they don't even know. They're asleep with a death sentence hanging over them and they're oblivious. And the Lord wants to save them. So what does God do? He sends an angel. He sends a messenger. What did the angel do? It says, 'light shone in the prison.' Isn't that good that God didn't say, 'If you come out of prison I'll give you some light'? God brings the light to us while we are still in our addictions - while we're still in our prison - while we're still captive. He sends the light to us in that condition. Jesus came into this world where the lost people are and the light shined in the darkness. He sends light to the dungeon. An angel of the Lord stood by him and light shone in the prison. God sends a message. He sends an angel. And he struck Peter on the side.

Now, when I first read that - you've got King James, it says 'he smote him' - that doesn't mean - Karen's real gentle, you know, if I'm taking a nap and she's got to wake me up because I'm going to be late or something, she'll come and she'll grab my toe and say, 'Doug.' She doesn't want to scare me, but you ever wake someone up and they go 'Uh!' (Laughter) And even if you're gentle, it depends on where they are in the dream, right? (Laughter) I won't go into it, but I locked Karen out of our hotel room at a Christian retreat a few weeks ago. (Laughter) And she was - she stayed up too late playing and talking with her friends - and I went to sleep and she left her key in the room and she came and tapped on the door. Well, it was like midnight and she didn't want to wake everyone up so she tapped - I didn't hear - big, loud air-conditioner in this room - I didn't hear her and I had the pillow over my head - and she's tapping and she's knocking. She's thinking, 'Man, I don't want to wake everybody up.' So there was a couch in the lobby and she went and laid down in the lobby.

>>It was like 12:30 - 1:00 - 1:30.

>>She kept knocking - there was weeping and gnashing of teeth (Laughter) because the door was shut. And so I wake up about 4:00 and I roll over and I go - even though there were double beds in the room we sleep together so I - I'm - and then I look and thought, 'Maybe she went to the other bed.' She's not there I said, 'Ah! She left her key and I didn't hear her.' I felt so bad I locked my wife out.' (Laughter) And so I went and I opened up the lobby and as soon as I opened the door I heard this melodious snoring (Laughter) and, sure enough, I could hear her from the lobby. (Laughter) But I went to wake her up and she had had such a fitful sleep I went to touch her and she went 'Agh!' Well, the angel, when he woke up Peter, he smote him and it means he struck him, because sometimes God has got to wake you up. You ever try to wake up somebody, like a teenager? And everybody in the house hears the alarm ringing except the person who has it right by their ear because they've got that - that peaceful sleep of adolescence - it's very deep - and you've got to shake them. And the angel struck Peter. Sometimes God has to strike us to wake us up. And he said, 'Arise.' God calls us to wake up. He struck him on the side and said, 'Arise quickly! You're on death row. You're sleeping. You're going to be condemned. Get up! I provided a way of escape, why do you tarry?' When the Lord calls us to save us, He says, 'Arise quickly!'

You know, whenever Jesus called people he said, 'Come now.' He called Zaccheus, 'Make haste!' Salvation is an urgent business. It is life and death. And people lollygag and take their time and they don't realize they're gambling with eternity. When the Lord calls you, you need to come. He's trying to get you out of prison and save you from execution. God sends an angel. If you - someone comes to your prison cell and says 'We're about to break out of the Roman's top security federal prison. Follow me!' You better move fast.


>>The angel - he's not even fooling around - 'Arise quickly!' Now Peter could have argued. He could have said to the angel - we don't know which angel, he could have been Gabriel - it says 'the angel of the Lord'. He could have said, 'Look, Gabriel, I'd love to get up but I can't. I'm chained. And here you see on my right I've got Mario and then I've got Antonio and - how am I ever going to get out? Thanks so much for trying, but there's no way! And what about the guards at the door?' And Peter could have told them all the reasons he couldn't go. And, you know, if you want to, when God calls you to follow Him, if you want to find excuses not to follow Him, there's lots of excuses the devil will provide. You will see chains on the right and you will see chains on the left, but when God tells you to get up and to follow Him, don't doubt. What happened when Peter made an effort to obey? It says, 'his chains fell off of his hands.' As soon as he made an effort to get up, the chains broke.


>>It's a miracle. "Then the angel said to him, 'Gird yourself and tie on your sandals." And he did so. You know when you're a Christian you begin a journey - you put your shoes on. When the Lord came to deliver the children of Israel from slavery He said, 'I want you to eat the lamb with your shoes on your feet because you're going to - you're going to begin a journey - and the Lord kept their shoes from wearing out for forty years. The Bible says, 'How beautiful on the mount are the feet of those that share the good news' - it's a journey - following Jesus is a pilgrimage. You don't stand still. In prison, you don't go anywhere. But when you begin to follow the Lord, you go places. He said, 'Gird yourself - put on your robe - put on your garment.' When you come out of prison - they gave them new garments - 'and follow me.' What was Peter's job? To follow. How do we get free? How did the children of Israel get out of Egypt? The Lord said, 'Follow Me.' 'But where's the bread?' 'Follow Me.' 'How are we going to get water?' 'Follow Me.' 'But there's an ocean in the way.' 'Follow Me.' A pillar of fire went out before them. They had to follow. You may not know what God's plan is for you, from day to day, or why you're going through some of what you're going through, but if you make up your mind to follow Jesus, He will get you out of jail.


>>How many of you played Monopoly? Were you happy when you got that card? (Laughter) A free Get Out of Jail card. Well that's what the Lord's offering us in the gospel. He's going to save us from jail and take us to the Promised Land. "'Put on your garment and follow me.' So he went out and followed him, and did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision." Now, if you know your Bible, you know in chapter 10 he has a vision - he dreams about this lunch that never actually happens - it's all in - the vision is different then. What was really happening now with the angel, this was a real deliverance. He thought, 'Wow, this seems so real.' And as he gets up the chains fall off and Mario and Antonio don't seem to hear the angel. They don't seem to hear the chains. And then he walks up to the door and he's going to say something to Gabriel and the door opens and he walks out of the first door and there's the guards - it says, 'the keepers were at the guard' - Roman soldiers stayed on watch - if they went to sleep, they were in trouble.

And Peter, he takes his eyes - he goes like this in front of the guard's face, he doesn't see anything. He says, 'Oh, this is a vision. What does he - he doesn't see anything.' And the angel says, 'Stop fooling around. Come with me.' (Laughter) And then they go by all the other guards and some might be resting and then they come to another gate and Peter's going, 'Wow, look at this. The doors just keep opening.' And he's bringing him out of prison. And "when they were past the first and the second guard posts, they came to the iron gate that leads to the city," - and now Peter says to Gabriel, 'Look, you've done pretty good work, but I don't want to make you do this all by yourself. Tell you what, I'll get the guard on the left, you get the two on the right because you're an angel - and we'll' - you notice Peter's doing nothing. God is doing it all.


>>Peter's job is to follow. Another reason this story is remarkable is because this is one of the only times in the Bible that you hear Peter mentioned in several verses and he doesn't speak. (Laughter) Really. Do a study yourself. Every other place in the Bible where you hear Peter's name within a verse, Peter is talking. He always had something to say. He was very - and that's why God used him, you know, he was very verbose and Peter's not saying anything. He's just watching all this. He's thinking things, but he's not saying anything. And it says he led him to the great iron gate and the angel pressed his garage door opener and silently, on its hinges, this big Roman gate opens of its own accord. It says, "When they were past the first and the second...they came to the iron gate" - You've got first, second - what's the iron gate? Third. There are some numbers here I want you to think about. I don't want to make too much of this, but I think about these things, how many chains were there? Right hand, left hand.

You know, there are two areas where we sin: One is called sins of commission and sins of omission. Sins of commission means you commit a sin. You do something wrong. Sins of omission are neglecting to do something right. You know the judgment in the Bible where it talks about Jesus separating the goats from the sheep and He says to the goats, He says, 'I was hungry and you didn't feed me. I was thirsty and you didn't give me drink. I was naked and you didn't clothe me. I was a stranger and in prison and you didn't come to me - sick or in prison or a stranger. He's not saying you stole, you lied, you killed, you committed adultery. He's saying, 'I had needs' - you didn't do anything bad but you didn't do anything good either. These are not sins of commission they're sins of omission. And He says, 'Depart from me you cursed into everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels.' They're lost, not because of the bad they did, but the good they neglected.

We've got a lot of people in church that are always making sure they're not doing anything wrong, but they're not doing anything right either. (Laughter) And then you've got the other category - sins of commission, which you all know too well. Lying and stealing and, you know, breaking any of the Ten Commandments and their subcategories. God broke those chains - two chains - three doors.

The Bible says there's really three categories of sin. How many areas was Jesus tempted in? How many temptations came to Christ? Same three areas where Adam and Even fell in the Garden. John refers to it this way in 1 John chapter 2, verse 15, "Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is sin the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever." Any sin that you can think of will fall under the category of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life. Those things are sort of handles that fit every other sin you can think of. Jesus was successful in resisting all of those temptations as an example that, through his power, we can be victorious in those areas. He can break the prison doors, he can bring us all the way out. He can break your chains. He can set you free.

You know, there's a lot said these days about the grace of God and I appreciate that and I believe in the grace of God. But we often use the messages of grace as an excuse to continue being a slave. And sometimes we first come to Jesus and there's these sins in our lives and we're convicted by it, but we hear so many grace messages we figure God is going to come to save us in our sin and we forget that he's able to save us from our sin. He wants to break the chains and to bring us out of prison.


>>And to set us free. And the way that we get deliverance is one moment at a time, one step at a time, following where the angel is leading. Don't think about the obstacles or the devil will scare you so you'll never follow. Story in the Bible of ten lepers - they came to Jesus for healing. They couldn't come too close because they had leprosy, but from the brow of the hill they called to Jesus and they said, 'Son of David, have mercy on us.' He said, 'Okay, go show yourself to the priests and make the offering of thanksgiving for cleansing from leprosy.' Well, they could have argued with them and said, 'Lord, we'll be happy to make the offering for cleansing from leprosy, but while we still have our leprosy, that doesn't make any sense.' But they didn't argue and it says, in the gospel of Luke, 'In going they were cleansed.' Why don't you say that with me? Let me say it again, 'In going they were cleansed.' In other words, as they went a miracle happened.

When the Lord calls you to come out of prison, you take it one step at a time. And you'll find that as you follow the Lord, he will give you the strength you need. God'll not suffer you to be tempted above what you're able but will, with every temptation, provide a way of escape if you want it. The Bible says flee from temptation, but most of us crawl away and hope it catches us. (Laughter) It's true, right? But if you want it, God will provide a way of escape. And I believe in grace, but I also believe in victory.


>>Because sin is what makes us miserable. It enslaves us. So Peter followed. He didn't know what was happening was real and he gets - the angel leads him all the way out. It opens of its own accord. Led him down one street away from the prison, around the corner, and the angel departed. Now Peter's standing out there. It's still dark. God delivers from prison all from the darkest hour. And it says, 'When he came to himself' - kind of like the prodigal son - saved from prison - when he came to himself. He said, 'Now I know for certain the Lord has sent His angel and delivered me from the hand of Herod' - Herod's like the devil - 'and from all the expectation of the Jewish people' - the enemies - 'that were trying to destroy him.' And he could have thought, 'Wow, this is great to be out of prison. I just enjoy the fresh air. Those Italian soldiers ate so much garlic. It's nice now to be out here. (Laughter) And I'm just going to walk around a little bit and enjoy the sunrise.' Is that what he does?

When you're saved from prison, it's not safe to just wander around. He just escaped from top security Roman prison. They are eventually - I mean, God's miracles are great - He'll work a miracle for you, but you better cooperate and get out of sight. It says, 'When he considered this thing, he went to the house of Mary, the mother of John' - this is that upper room - 'whose surname was Mark, where many were gathered together praying.' Who were they praying for?


>>For him. You know what - in the New Testament they didn't have a lot of buildings and when you've got many believers gathered together praying, it's called the church. Do you all agree? Where did he go when he got out of prison? Church. I know people that say, 'I want to accept Jesus but I don't want to be part of any church.' 'I don't - you know, I don't believe in organized religion' - which means they believe in disorganized religion. (Laughter) And, you know, when somebody has been saved - you got a baby lamb and you leave it out in the woods, the wolves are going to get it. It needs to be with the shepherd in the fold, right?


>>And so when people say, 'You know, I don't want to go be part of a church. I'll just worship God in my own heart, thank you Jesus.' You won't last. Or you'll become eccentric in your beliefs. You need to bounce your experience off other people. 'Oh, but Pastor Doug, there's hypocrites in the church.' And there's always room for one more, that's why you need to go.' (Laughter) That's right, there are. And they'll say 'There's people there that they're not nice, they're not forgiving and they hurt my feelings last time I went.' You know why we go to church? Because we need to learn to love.


>>I had no problem learning to love when I lived in a cave. There was no one to argue with, no one to not get along with. You don't have to make any adjustments. God puts us in a church not just 'cause it's full of holy people, but there's some real characters there too and you've got to learn to love. Look at how the apostles fought among themselves and that was Jesus' church. You've got to go to church.

So Peter goes to the upper room. He came to the house and he knocked on the door. You know, it's - they're a little nervous now, they just killed James, they arrested Peter, and they're kind of outlaws - and he knocks on the door and a girl name Rhoda came to answer. And she recognized Peter's voice - because of her gladness she does not open the gate but she runs to announce that Peter is at the gate. Now you can picture this: she's saying - he's going - he can hear Roman soldiers starting to shout - the trumpets going off - you know, the alarm - and they're - the horses are coming out of the gate and they're going to start swarming the city looking for him - he's just escaped. There's going to be a, you know, mass of soldiers combing everywhere for this - he's now going to be the FBI number one prisoner - most wanted, yeah. She recognizes Peter's voice, but for gladness she doesn't open the door. But she runs in to say 'Peter's at the door.' And they said, 'Rhoda, we're praying.' 'Lord, please save your servant Peter. We believe that you can do something.' She said, 'Peter's at the gate!' Verse 15 - they said, 'You're beside yourself.' That means 'you're crazy.' Boy church really does have problems. Here they are praying for Peter and she says, 'He's at the door.' And Peter's knocking at the door and she's going, 'Who is this?' 'This is Peter.' 'Peter's not here.' 'No, I'm Peter. Open the door.' (Laughter) 'Sorry, can you come back later?' (Laughter) She said - Peter could have said, 'Look, if they don't want to let me in the church, I'm just going to stay out here and be lost.' If people mistreat you, you still go to church.


>>The Bible says Peter continued knocking. And Rhoda's in there. She's insisting Peter's at the door. And they said , 'No, maybe it's his angel.' Friends, I don't even know what that means. (Laughter) I don't know if they thought maybe he had an angel that was impersonating him or something. Or maybe he'd been executed and this is some ghost of Peter? Their theology may not even have been square. And he continued knocking so they finally opened the door. You know, Jesus said, 'Knock and it will be opened’ - amen? Finally opened the door. They brought him and he motioned to them to be silent. He said, 'Shh, don't make a fuss. They're going to be looking for me.' And he shared his testimony of how the Lord brought him out of prison. After God saves you, what does he want you to do? Tell others what God has done for you. He saves you to reach others. And then he said, 'Go tell these things to James' - that was James, the brother of Jesus - 'and the others.' And he departed and went to another place. Now I can't help but - it says in Luke - Luke writes it so well, it says, 'Now there was no small stir among the soldiers, what had happened to Peter.' No small stir.

I was playing hide and seek once with my kids and in our convertible couch there's a pocket up in the top and I got an idea and I put my daughter in this hide-a-bed - I opened it up and - I know, it's not safe. Don't tell me later - and I tucked her in and I closed the bed and I kind of shoved her up in the back of the couch. And then her little brothers came in and were playing hide and seek and they're looking for me and they find me and they find the other brother and then the two boys are saying, 'Where's Rachel?' I said, 'She's in the room.' And they're looking all over, you know, behind the curtains, in the closet. 'Where is she?' I said, 'She's here.' And she's being real quiet - that or she suffocated - I don't know, she's - (Laughter) - she's like nine years old. And it was so funny to watch my boys - eventually, you know, they're like five and seven years old - they're looking for their nine-year-old sister - they walked around - I said, 'She's here.' I don't lie to my kids - I said, 'She's in the room.' They combed over the room. Pretty soon they went over to a book and pick up a book and they look under the book - (Laughter) - for their sister, you know? And they're, you know, like looking under the lamp and they're going.

Can you imagine those Roman soldiers when they woke up and they looked at their chains? And he shoved his friend and said, 'That's not funny! Where'd you put him?' And he wakes up and he says, 'Oh, they must have gotten us drunk. What'd they do?' And then they're knocking on the door and they said, 'No, we can't let you out until the execution.' 'He's not in here!' And they start combing through the straw in the prison cell. 'There was no small stir among the soldiers what had become of Peter.'

And I can tell you, friends, there was no small stir in Hell's headquarters. They thought they had the apostle. They thought there was no way out. And the demons were going crazy. 'We had him! He's gone!' And that's what the Lord wants to do for you. He can set you free. What the Lord did for Peter, He wants to do for each of us. He wants to take you from the prison to the palace. Now, you know, I saved the best for last. Jesus was in a prison and there was no way of escape. He was in that tomb and they had guards at the door. And they thought, 'He's dead.' The devil thought, 'Finally he's dead. I can now be number two in the Trinity. I'm going to be taking the Son of God's place.' And when the angel of the Lord came down and rolled away that stone, Jesus went from the prison to the palace. He ascended to the right hand of the father. (Soft piano music) And why does God save us from prison? So that He can use us to intercede for and to work to save others.


>>Is Jesus still there?


>>Is He still at the right hand of God?


>>Is He still there interceding so people can be saved from prison?


>>It says in Isaiah 53, He came from prison and judgment, but God did not leave Him in Hades, he brought Him to Heaven. He is at the right hand of the greatest palace in the cosmos. And Jesus said, 'I want to take you there.' Do you want to go?


>>Do you want to be in those places? The angel is coming to you and he's saying, 'Arise and follow me.' Don't argue. Make your mind up to follow Jesus and He will break the chains that bind you, friend. He can set you free and give you a new life and you can experience victory. Would you like that?


>>Shall we ask Him as we pray and you who are watching? Father in Heaven, we thank you and praise you for this message that is wall to wall in your Word. That you lead us out of darkness, you call us to live, and to reign with you. And to seat us in heavenly places, bringing us from the devil's dungeon, to your kingdom. Lord, do that now, for all who are here, all that are watching and help us to follow Jesus. We pray in His name, Amen.

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