SALVATION (LESSON 3)
Tonight's lesson could be called "What must I do to be saved?" We are going to read about a man who asked some Christians that very question.
For those of you who missed the other lessons, we've already talked about why you have to be saved. If you have ever lied, stolen, or broken any of God's commandments, you stand guilty before God. We went over several verses in the Bible that showed us that our sins separate us from God, who is holy. That's the bad news. But the good news is that God made a way for sinful people to enter into His presence.
So in this group tonight, we should have two kinds of people: You should be someone who is 100 percent sure that you are saved and that if you died tonight, you would be with God in heaven. Then as a Christian, you should be telling others what they must do to be saved. Or perhaps you are someone who is still unsure of your salvation, but you are concerned enough about your soul to ask the question, "What must I do to be saved?"
Well, let's now read an account in the Bible that tells of three men: two saved and one searching. We will pick up the story with the two Christian men, Paul and Silas, who are about to be imprisoned because of their faith. While in jail, they will meet the unsaved man.
Acts 16:16-18, "And it came to pass, as we went to prayer, a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her masters much gain by soothsaying (fortune-telling): the same followed Paul and us, and cried, saying, These men are the servants of the most high God, which show unto us the way of salvation. And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour"
This woman was mocking Paul and Silas. The devil in her made her follow them around and say things to bring negative attention to these men. It reminds me of how television shows and movies will often show Christians in a negative way. The so-called Christian is often shown as being crazy or uptight. The serial killer will be written as someone who is "killing because God told him to" or something bizarre. But Paul cast the spirit out of this woman, and she was once again a normal person. You would think that the people would have been happy that this woman was no longer devil possessed, but instead they were mad at Paul and Silas, as we will read below.
Acts 16:19-21, "And when her masters saw that the hope of their gains was gone, they caught Paul and Silas, and drew them into the market place unto the rulers, and brought them to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, and teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe being Romans.
Acts 16:22-24 "And the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailer to keep them safely: who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks."
Paul and Silas had done nothing wrong, yet they were thrown into solitary confinement and had their feet restrained. And the prisons of this time were awful. There were dirt floors, dark dungeon-like cells. You used the bathroom on the ground. There was severe stench, darkness. And even though Paul and Silas were innocent, they were severely beaten with rods against their flesh and wrongly imprisoned in this place. How would you feel if you were treated this way after doing God's work? Would you feel betrayed by God? Would your Christian light still shine in this darkness? Let's see how Paul and Silas reacted.
Acts 16:25, "And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them."
Even in this awful situation, being imprisoned on false charges and thrown into what was basically a dungeon, these Christians still praised God and sang. Can you imagine that? And their fellow prisoners were listening to them sing God's praises. It probably sounded like beautiful music to their ears. Some of the other prisoners were probably even curious to find out about Jesus from Paul and Silas because they saw how Paul and Silas still praised God even in this awful situation.
In times of darkness, if you still let your Christian light shine, people see Christ living in you. And who knows? Maybe God will even use that situation to show His power, like He is about to do in this case: Acts 16:26, And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed."
Acts 16:27-28 "And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here."
It was a Roman law that if a guard's prisoner escaped, the guard would be put to death. So this guard at first was going to end his own life because he figured that all of his prisoners were about to make a run for it. But Paul told him not to kill himself. This guard was probably cursing at Paul and Silas when they first got to the jail, and the man probably mistreated them. He might have even roughed them up some. But Paul still showed him compassion. Let's see how the guard was influenced after experiencing God's power through the earthquake and seeing how these Christian men, Paul and Silas, showed him kindness.
Acts 16:29-30 "Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, and brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
The jailer saw the power of God working in the presence of these men, and he knew there was something different about them. He could see that the Lord was on their side. He recognized his sinful condition. He went from being the man in charge to a man who came face to face with his own immortality. By his question he admitted that he was a sinner who could not save himself!
As a Christian, do people see the Lord working through you? Do people see that you don't repay evil with evil and that you praise the Lord in the good times and the bad? This guard may have never seen Jesus, but because of Paul and Silas, he wanted to know Jesus like they knew Him. Let's see how Paul and Silas answered the question the guard asked, "What must I do to be saved?"
Acts 16:31-34 "And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." And then they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, straightway. And when he had brought them into his house, he set meat before them, and rejoiced, believing in God with all his house."
This jailer went from being someone who was against Christians and who didn't know God to becoming someone who believed that Christ died for his sins. In one night, his life was changed forever.
And we know that he didn't just believe it in his head, but by his actions we can see that his heart was changed. He became a humble man who showed love to those whom he previously hated. He wanted to be baptized, not because baptism saves you, but because he wanted there to be an outward showing of his inward change. The jailer's heartfelt belief caused him to walk, talk, and act like a new man -- a born-again man!
What about you? Have you asked: "What must I do to be saved?" And then when you were told, did you put into action the knowledge you received? It's not enough to just believe in Jesus in your head. Even the demons believe and tremble. No, if you really believe something, that belief is going to show itself by what you say and do. If I told you that a bomb was going to go off at your house on Thursday night at 9 p.m., if you really believed me, you would make sure that you were no where near that house at the time I warned you about. Your belief would cause you to act.
In Romans 10:9 we read, "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." But that means more than just saying some meaningless words at an altar call at church. I can't say, "Jesus, come into my life. I know you died for me. Save me," and then keep on living any old way and fighting against the very one I say I believe in. Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments." So your belief in the Lord should show itself in how you live your life day to day before the Lord. That is true saving faith.
So what must you do to be saved? Recognize your sinful state, turn from your sins, and believe that Jesus is Lord and that He died and rose from the dead. It's that simple. Then read your Bible so that you grow in your faith and get day-to-day direction from God.
And if you are already saved, we want to challenge you to not be an undercover Christian, but be the type of person who can show and tell those around you what they must do to be saved, too. There are people that we encounter who are going to die in their sins and go to hell because we never took the time to share what the Bible says about what they must do to be saved. What if Paul and Silas had remained silent? Instead, we read how they showed the jailer what he needed to do, and then the jailer believed and then went home and shared his faith with his family. Then his whole family ended up believing!
I know a lot of you might think, "Well, I'm not a good example. People won't listen to me" Or "I wouldn't know what to say." But if you don't warn your loved ones, friends, or even the stranger on the corner of hell and point them to salvation, who will?
Ezekiel 33:7-8 tells us, "So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman...Therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from me. When I say unto the wicked,O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand."
If you warn people and they don't listen, there is nothing else you can do. But we are God's watchmen. We are supposed to at least care enough to try to share the gospel of Christ with others. Who knows? They just might listen. (Here is a great tract that illustrates the importance of sharing your faith with others. It is called The Letter.)