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The Silent Killer

May 5, 2024

The Silent Killer

Passage: Acts 12:20-25, 1 Peter 5:5-8
Service Type:


The Silent Killer

Rodney Gehman – May 5, 2024


[ 001 ] Good morning! My name is Rodney and I’m happy to be here with you all today! If you’re a first time guest with us today, we just want to say welcome! We’re glad you are here! It’s been our prayer already this morning that you would sense the presence of the Holy Spirit here today, and that Jesus would be honored and glorified in all things. 

[ 002 ] I’m calling the message today, “the Silent Killer”, and If you were paying attention to the scripture reading a minute ago, you may have guessed that today our scripture points to something that none of us think we struggle with, but is very often deadly. [ 002 ] And the silent killer we’re [ 003 ] talking about is: Worms. 

No, I’m joking. [ 004 ] The silent killer we’re talking about today is one that none of us think we struggle with. Or at least very few of us. It’s pretty easy to see in everyone else, but when it comes to us – not so much. Over the past few weeks God has been opening my eyes to see this in myself, so pretty much the whole sermon is me preaching to me, and you all get to listen in.  PRAY. 

Last week, we met the regional King of Judea, named Herod Agrippa. [ 005 ] He was opposed to this upstart new group of Jesus people who were claiming the Messiah had come in the person and work of Jesus, and in verse 2, King Herod had attacked the church in Jerusalem, ended up beheading James, one of Jesus’ Twelve disciples, and then in verse 3 he also arrested Peter, another one of the Twelve, and planned to do the same to him. This is a big deal, and you’d have to read the gospel of Luke and the beginning 11 chapters of Acts to really understand why – James and Peter are not just part of the Twelve apostles; the inner circle of Jesus’ ministry, they are part of the top 3 within the Twelve. This would be like taking out the President and the VP at the same time. So Herod is feeling pretty good about himself.

Now, if you remember the text from last week, it ends up that God grants Peter a miraculous midnight escape, and Herod is not able to kill him – but Peter leaves prison and effectively disappears in the book of Acts. We don’t really know where he went. It’s been about 15 years since Jesus’ death and resurrection, his ascending to heaven and commissioning his apprentices to make more disciples and teach people how to follow Jesus… And now, we’ve lost two of the top 3 apostles. God should be furious about this, right? These guys were supposed to go and make disciples of all nations, but they are out of the story now. Certainly Herod will have to pay for this. Well, let’s see how things go:

Verse 19 says, after Herod killed all the guards he thought were responsible for Peter’s prison break, [ 006 ] he left town and moved to Caesarea, where a major crisis was waiting for him by virtue of two port cities to his north called Tyre and Sidon. Verse 20 says Herod had been very angry with them. We don’t really know why, but it appears that they wanted to make peace with Herod so that he wouldn’t stop supplying them with food. 

We learned at the end of chapter 11 that a severe famine is happening in the region around this time, so it's pretty important that they get this settled. So the city leaders came up with a brilliant plan to smooth things over with Herod. Apparently Herod was a hard pass on meeting with them, so they had to work over Herod’s personal assistant, convincing him to talk to Herod for them and get this set up.

So, apparently it worked, because they set up the day for them to get together and talk, [ 007 ] verse 21, and when Herod took his place on his throne dressed in his royal robes, the peace accords began. One ancient historian says Herod’s royal robes were made of silver and sparkled in the sun. But he’s angry with these people. He doesn’t want to be here. These cities had to kind of work their way to him through his personal assistant for this. He might even be upset with Blastus right now. He doesn't want to give a speech. He’s got a famine to worry about. And so, they gave him the floor and Herod started to give his opening statement. And while he was talking, the people gave him a standing ovation [ 008 ] and verse 22 The assembled people began to shout, “It’s the voice of a god and not of a man!” 

But the funny part is that they are completely blowing smoke. They just want to get on his good side so he will provide them with food. So the plan is to puff up his ego and take their chances. And the tragedy of the whole scene is that Herod takes the bait, hook, like and sinker. He soaks in the praise of the people, and agrees with their flattery. 

[ 009 ] Verse 23 is meant to be shocking. 23 At once an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give the glory to God, and he was eaten by worms and died. According to secular history, Herod Agrippa died suddenly in March of the year AD 44 after he suddenly developed debilitating abdominal pain, and after suffering 5 more days of excruciating agony, he died. Luke, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, records that it was worms (probably internal parasites), possibly something they would not have known until the autopsy. Not exactly a peaceful or pleasant way to go. Kind of repulsive and disgusting, actually. 

Have you noticed that most movies or stories are only satisfying if the villain dies in a worse manner than what he did to anyone else throughout the movie, right? So you might be tempted to think, this is a pretty grisly way for Herod to go, but that’s what he gets for getting rid of two of the top three apostles. But Luke is very careful to give us the reason for Herod’s death. Look at verse 23 – this is not God’s retribution for killing James or putting Peter in prison. This is not divine revenge or the consequences of killing 16 innocent guards who had no idea how Peter got out of the prison. There is a very clear reason why Herod was eaten by worms and died. What is it? [ 010 ] 

Because he did not give the glory to God. In other words, God took Herod out in a horrific and gruesome way because he allowed other people to put him in the place of God – something he obviously had already done for himself. And therein lies the silent killer that is easy to see in everyone else, but very few of us think we struggle with: Pride. Five points for you today, [ 011 ] number one: 


And I can almost guarantee that if I would have started this sermon out by saying today we’re talking about pride, most of us would have tuned out because it’s not me. Sure, I’ve got anxiety, depression, control issues, OCD tendencies, I’ve got a problem with my language around the guys, I probably drink too much, I have anger issues, I buy tons of things on Amazon that I really don’t need – but Pride? No. I never brag about myself, so… okay, sure, I’m proud to be an American, thank you Lee Greenwood, but other than that – not a proud person. But you could check the house down the street. 

He did not give the glory to God. He kept it for himself. That word “glory” in the Hebrew means significance, praise, honor, respect. Herod did not attribute those to Yahweh, but to himself. 

And maybe right about now you’re thinking I made a mistake with point #1. You might be thinking I meant to say God hates pride, not the people who are proud. God loves the sinner, hates the sin, right? Well, let’s take a look.

  • [ 012 ] Proverbs 16:5 – Everyone with a proud heart is detestable to the LORD; be assured, he will not go unpunished. Your translation might say “is an abomination” to the LORD - any “way, thing, or practice” that is repulsive. It’s disgusting. Detestable. Sort of like being eaten by worms. There’s a reason I’m not showing any pictures of this, right? It would be repulsive. No one would eat lunch today. But that’s the point. Everyone with a proud heart is detestable to the Lord, and he also adds, rest assured, they won’t get away with it. 
  • [ 013 ] Isaiah 13:11 – I will punish the world for its evil, and wicked people for their iniquities. I will put an end to the pride of the arrogant, and humiliate the insolence of tyrants
  • [ 014 ] It’s not just an Old Testament thing – In Matthew 23 Jesus speaks to people who love the places of honor at banquets, the noticeable seats in the church, the love the attention in public – Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted

[ 015 ] And lastly, here’s what the apostle Peter writes in 1 Peter 5. He says: All of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because “God resists (or opposes) the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 

John Piper, one of my favorite authors, points out here that the worst possible thing that can happen to you as a living human being is not that you get sick, or lose a child, or lose your job or never get married or have kids – as painful as all of those things are; the worst thing that can happen to you is that the all-powerful God of heaven and earth stands opposed to you, against you, not working for you, but actively resisting you. That is not where you want to be. But pride will have you there. God hates, resists, is opposed to the proud. But, there is good news. [ 016 ] 


Pride can be healed. There is an antidote [ 017 ]: 6 Humble yourselves, ( there is no one else you are responsible to humble. It’s not our job to humble others. Humble yourselves) therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you. 

Piper points out four important aspects about humility here that make it the antidote to pride. Take a look:  

  1. [ 018 ] Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God. Pride doesn’t want to be under anything or submit to anyone else’s might. Pride wants to be the one with the mighty hand. I don’t want to be wrong, or at the mercy of someone else. I want to be the one in the position of power and wisdom and authority. But God hates pride because it doesn’t allow him to be powerful for you. It doesn’t allow him to be mighty. God hates the proud because they fight against him. Humility willingly submits to the mighty hand of God. 
  2. [ 019 ] …so that he may exalt you at the proper time. Pride says skip the waiting and get straight to the part where I’m the good guy here. Where I am thanked, praised, honored, and respected like I deserve. I want others to notice that I’m not the tail, I’m the head. Humility says I will joyfully serve at the bottom of the pile until God changes my role. If we wait for God to exalt us, it’ll always be perfect timing. He’ll see to it that we are mature enough to handle it. When we hijack God’s timing, and try to get glory now, it destroys us because he hasn’t worked the character into us yet. You see it all the time. So God hates pride, because it destroys people by exalting them before the timing is right. Humility waits for the Lord to exalt us in his timing not our own. 
  3. [ 020 ] …casting all your cares on him, or as some translations say, casting all your anxieties on him – What are your anxieties; All the “what if’s” of life? What if the kids get hurt? What if my spouse dies? What if I never get married or have children? What if I’m just $18/hour my whole life? What if I never own my own home? What if people found out about that sin I’m trying to hide? What if war comes to the US?
    1. Humility is taking all of our “what if’s” to the Lord and saying, "Here, God, I can’t carry the weight of this life on my own. I can’t be all things to all people. I don’t have the strength to mentally prepare for all the what if’s. So I’m casting those what if’s on you.” Pride, on the other hand, says I just have to be stronger. No, I'm not asking my community group to help us move. We can do it. No, I’m not going to the marriage conference, we are fine; no I’m not going to apply for counseling or ask for prayer, I’ll figure it out this week. 
    2. No I won’t trust my kids to the Lord – I will keep them in that closet under the stairway where nothing bad can ever get to them. We’ll have the best smoke detectors, alarms on the doors and windows, drive the safest cars, and we will make sure they have the life I never had. 
    3. When life gets overwhelming, Pride says I can figure this out, I need a few more hours in the day. I don’t need a hand out, I just need to get up earlier or do a little more. Are you seeing why God hates that? God hates pride because it ruins our peace. Those anxieties will drive us into our own little mental spiral, they keep us up at night, and we never get the rest God has designed for those he loves. God hates pride because of what it robs from you and me. Humility lets go of control, and trusts that God will give the grace we need for any and all circumstances, no matter what they are. 
  4. And here’s the last part of verse 7. Why does God want me to submit to his mighty hand, to wait for him patiently even if I feel like no one on the planet sees me, giving my troubles to him instead of trying to be brave and appear capable… why? Because he cares about me. He doesn’t want me to be all things to all people – that’s his job! You know why God hates pride? Because it robs him of the joy of carrying his children close to his heart, and it robs us of the joy and delight of being cared for by our heavenly Father. What do you miss if you just plow through life with your head down, filling your schedule with everything you possibly can fit, pretending you are powerful enough to do it all? You miss the joy and delight of being known and cared for by the God who loves you. God is opposed to the proud because they hijack his glory.  [ 022 ]


And that’s exactly where Satan wants you to be. Peter goes on to give this picture [ 023 ] : 8 Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour. 

If you grew up in church, I know you’ve heard that verse used to talk about spiritual warfare and you should put on the armor of God and all that – but on the heels of what we just read in verses 6 and 7, how does the devil devour people in verse 8? By talking them into being proud! What are you supposed to be sober-minded and alert to? The temptation to be proud! The temptation to be strong, don’t let anyone know you’re weak! The temptation to be self-sufficient! The temptation to one up every other person’s story with a better one. The temptation to say you all did it wrong, but I did it right. The temptation to say God should be happy to have someone as wise and gifted and knowledgeable as me on his team.

Why does Satan want you proud? Because God opposes the proud. If Satan can get you to focus on yourself in the ordinary stuff of life, he knows God will be opposed to you. 

To be honest, it’s probably one of Satan’s most successful tactics of them all because it works on literally everyone! Wealthy or barely scraping by, man or woman, child or adult, introvert or extrovert, married or single, boss or employee, intelligent or below average – we all fall for it!  

It’s so subtle. If you had met me in high school, you would not have said I was proud. You’d have said I was a good kid. Fairly quiet. Just trying to fit in. But I was so arrogant. I thought I was so much better than anyone else; better Christian, better work ethic, better family, you name it. 

My family traveled to various churches to do concerts, and almost every time we would come home after singing, my dad would gather my mom and brothers up before we went to bed and would pray, “Lord, tonight people gave us compliments and spoke highly of us. But that glory isn’t for us – it belongs to you. So we give it all back to you.” Maybe he read this story of Herod and he just didn’t want worms. 

I wish I could say I followed in his footsteps, but by the time I was in my twenties, I was like, our church would be so much better if people would just ask me and then do what I say. I’m sitting on all the answers over here. They just don’t ask. I had no clue what I was talking about, but my confidence level was off the charts. But here’s the good news for me and any of you who would admit to this – [ 024 ] Jesus came to earth to die for proud people. 


God actively works against people who are proud, but He also has made a way for proud people like me to be rescued. He gives grace to those who will humble themselves under his mighty hand, and stop trying to rule their lives. 

Jesus showed up on the planet with the mightiest hands the world had ever seen. Colossians tells us that everything in heaven and on earth was made by him. It was all made for him and through him. If anyone deserved to be praised, exalted, celebrated, championed it was him. These were the hands that deserved to be kissed everywhere he went. [ 025-1 ] But as Philippians 2 says, Jesus showed us the way he wanted us to go when he humbled himself and became a servant, obedient to his Father even when obedience led him through the cross. 

Then check this in [ 025-2 ] Philippians 2:9, for this reason – because he humbled himself – for this reason God highly exalted him. If Jesus would have looked to exalt himself, it would have been too soon, it would have been pride, and we would have no hope. But Jesus waited on his Father to do the exalting in the proper time – after his suffering – God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, [ 025-3 ] so that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to what? To the glory of God the Father. King Jesus did what King Herod refused to do. King Jesus humbled himself, and even when every knee bows and every voice praises him, adores him, and celebrates him, the glory still goes to the Father, not to himself. We needed a better King than Herod, and we got one in Jesus. 

And this Jesus offers us another gift. Anyone who repents of their sin, that is turns away from pride and humbles themselves, calling out to Jesus to save them, forgive them, heal them, can and will be saved from God’s wrath! Jesus came to reconcile people to God! No more opposition from God, no more resistance from God – only grace and mercy and not treating us the way our sins deserve. He fills us with his Holy Spirit, and equips us for every good work on earth with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places!

And one day, we who are saved will join with people from every tribe, every language, every nation around the throne, joining the scene in Revelation 5, throwing all of our best accomplishments down at Jesus’ feet and saying “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, Worthy are you Jesus to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength! It’s all yours, because you were slaughtered, and with your blood you purchased us for yourself.” 

That’s the good news of Jesus. And let me give you a little more good news. 


I don’t mean that from the side of it being a warning, I mean this as good news. God will one day destroy the proud. 

  • I’m talking about the child and sex traffickers who think they can get away with anything, treating people like commodities. 
  • I’m talking about terrorists and abortion doctors who brag about taking innocent lives, almost nonchalantly. 
  • I’m talking about medical or mental health “experts” who know their advice is intentionally bringing confusion and death to children. 
  • I’m talking about governments who fill their own pockets and take care of themselves instead of taking care of their people. 

When you start to get wound up about the state of our country, or the state of the world, or you wonder if God sees the corruption that’s happening around you, or you wonder why bad people seem to succeed while good people end up with cancer, read Psalm 73 again and again until you get it. The same way God will exalt the humble in the proper time, God will also humiliate evil, proud people at the proper time. 

And they will either repent under the weight of his eternal grace in Christ Jesus, or they will enter eternal punishment under the weight of his wrath. But let that be a comfort to you today – God sees all the evil that is happening in our world, and one day, he will expose it and punish it all. And with them, Satan and his angels will be thrown into a lake of fire where they will be tormented day and night forever. 

So this morning, the call of response is really pretty simple. The worship team can make their way up here to lead us out in a song. Normally I just invite you to pray silently at your seat, and you’re welcome to still do that, but the invitation is to use your whole body to respond. I’m going to pray a very simple prayer, one that I’ve been praying for a couple of weeks now, and if you’re able to do this, I invite you to kneel with me. Let’s put ourselves in a posture of humility, agreeing with this prayer to rid us of our pride, and fill us with humility. 

Let’s pray – Gracious heavenly Father, In your goodness and kindness, would you please remove any and all kinds and forms of pride in us, whether it’s pride that is the temptation of evil spirits or just our own sin nature, and awaken in us the kind and depth of humility that make me able to receive your Holy Spirit. Through Christ I pray, Amen