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A Provocative Church: Saved By Grace

Acts 16:25-34

The Bible is a treasure chest of great stories. One of them is found in Acts 16.

Paul and Silas were busy proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the City of Philippi. As is always the case when the gospel is truly preached, people’s lives were being changed, and they were being drawn to faith in Jesus Christ. However, also, as is always the case whenever the gospel is truly preached, there were some who opposed Christianity and they had Paul and Silas thrown into prison. There the two men were chained by both arms and legs, but let me tell you that while you may shackle the bodies of those who love the Lord, you can never shackle their spirits. So, the Bible says, “About midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God.” Suddenly, we are told, there was a great rumbling earthquake, not at all uncommon in that part of the world. The walls of the prison quivered, the cell doors flew open, the shackles were shaken loose, the prisoners were free. The Roman jailer awoke with a start and quickly surveyed the scene. Supposing that his prisoners had escaped and fearing the expected wrath of his superiors, in his despair, he prepared to kill himself. Out of the darkness, Paul cried, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” At that point, this Roman jailer realized that he was in the presence of a power far beyond himself. He then said to Paul, “Sir, what must I do to be saved?” The answer was immediately forthcoming, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” But, what does it really mean to believe in the Lord Jesus?

John G. Peyton was a great missionary to the New Hebrides Islands in the Pacific Ocean. He was attempting to translate the Gospel of John into the language of the people who lived in those islands, but he encountered a significant roadblock. He could not find a word in their language which corresponded to our word “belief’ or “believe.” So, he set aside his translation project, waiting until the right word would come. A few months later, it happened. One day, a native workman, taking a break from his labor, walked into Peyton’s office, flopped down in a chair, put his feet on another chair, and, in his native tongue, said to Dr. Peyton, “I am resting my entire weight upon these two chairs.” The statement hit John Peyton like a bolt out of the blue. Here was the solution to his translation problem. You see, in the language of those people, the phrase “I am resting my entire weight upon” is actually one word, and that is the word John Peyton then used to translate our word “believe.” For example, in Peyton’s translation, John 3:16 reads, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever rests his entire weight upon Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John Peyton understood that believing is not just an intellectual matter; it is not something exclusively of the mind. And, it is not just an emotional matter; it is not simply a warm, fuzzy feeling in the heart. It is, instead, a profound sense of dependence. It is a deep, earnest trust. It is quite literally resting the entire weight of your life upon Jesus. I think that is what Paul was saying to this Roman jailer, “If you rest the entire weight of your life upon Jesus, then you will be saved.” Permit me, please, to try to spell that out a bit more precisely…

To rest the entire weight of your life upon Jesus is to trust completely that Jesus was who He said He was.

I don’t think there are any reputable scholars in the world today who would dispute the historical fact of Jesus. In fact, the recent well-publicized discovery of a burial ossuary inscribed with the words, “James, the brother of Jesus” only adds more support to the almost universally held position that Jesus lived; that He was born in a Middle Eastern village; that He was educated in a synagogue school; that He was a carpenter by trade; that He knew what it was to be tired, hungry, happy, and sad; and that, in the end, He died a terrible death. These historical details of the life of Jesus are really quite beyond debate. However, believing in Jesus, resting the entire weight of your life upon Jesus, is more than an acceptance of some historical facts. Believing in Jesus is trusting completely that Jesus was speaking the absolute truth when He said who He was. He said, “I am the Son of God.”

In other words, Jesus was declaring Himself to be both human and divine. That’s the reason why, in the Bible, you always see the humanity of Jesus and the divinity of Jesus placed side-by-side. For example, the Bible says that He was born in Bethlehem—that’s a human thing. But, it also says that the angels sang at His birth—that’s a divine thing. It says that one day He was thirsty and He stopped to get a drink of water at a well—that’s a human thing. But then, He said to the woman who happened to be at the well, “I will give you water which will carry you to eternal life”—that’s a divine thing. He was so exhausted on one occasion that He fell asleep in the back of a boat—that is a human thing. But, a few minutes later, He stood up in that boat and commanded a storm to be still—that’s a divine thing. He wept in sorrow at the tomb of His friend, Lazaros—that’s a human thing. But then suddenly He wiped away His tears and cried out, “Lazaros, come forth,” and the Bible says “the dead man came out”—that’s a divine thing. Dear friends, if you study the Bible honestly, you cannot miss the message. Jesus was both fully God and fully human. Therefore, to believe in Jesus Christ, to rest the entire weight of your life upon Jesus, is to trust that He was who He said He was, and what He said was this, “I and the Father are One. He who has seen Me has seen the Father.”

And, to rest your entire life upon Jesus is to trust completely that Jesus meant what He said He meant.

Years ago, when I was in grammar school, we were taught how to write by a particular system. The teacher would give us a sheet of paper, across the top of which was a perfectly written sentence. We were to copy that sentence on the next line, and continue copying it all the way down the page. The problem was that the farther you got down the page, the greater was the temptation to copy the line you had just written instead of looking back to the top line where it was written perfectly. Of course, when you just copied yourself, the results were inevitably, invariably poor. I’m convinced that’s why my own penmanship today resembles Egyptian hieroglyphics. I missed the whole point of the system: you had to go back to the top line to see the way it was supposed to be.

For Christians, Jesus is the top line. Jesus is the pattern. When you want to know what your life is to be like, look at Jesus. Too many people today try to manufacture their own belief. In fact, it seems to me these days that people will believe almost anything. People believe in things like tarot cards and fortune tellers and witches and crystals and horoscopes and the power of the pyramid and on and on the list could go. People will pick up a thought or two from Hinduism, pull a concept from Buddhism, toss in a couple of Christian principles, mix it all together with a dollop of New Age ethereal fuzziness and declare that that is their belief system. How absurd. The fact is that it’s nothing more than a pool of muddled thinking reflecting their own desires and prejudices, their own likes and dislikes.

It’s all rather like the story of the little boy in Sunday School who was drawing a picture. The teacher asked him, “What are you drawing?” The little boy responded, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” The teacher said, “Well, no one knows what God looks like.” The little boy said, “Oh, but they will when I get finished.” You see, what happens when people try to paint their own picture of God is that God winds up looking just like they do. They build their faith on the flimsy foundation of their own personal experience, rather than on the solid rock of Jesus Christ as revealed in scripture. Christians, true Christians, know that we do not build faith on our human experience, but rather we build it on the teachings delivered to us by Jesus Himself. Yes, to believe in the Lord Jesus is to trust completely that Jesus meant what He said He meant.

And then to rest your entire life upon Jesus is to trust completely that Jesus did what He said He came to do.

Paul writes, “We are redeemed by the blood of Christ.” John writes in Revelation, “We are washed of our sins by His blood.” The writer to the Hebrews says, “We can enter into the holy places because we have been washed by the blood of Christ.” Peter declares, “We are saved not by silver or gold, but by the precious blood of Jesus Christ.” And, Jesus, Himself, said, “I am the Good Shepherd. I lay down my life for my sheep.” What Jesus came to do, He did.

Arthur Tennies tells a story which came out of the Korean War. A young man who was a misfit was inducted into the army, assigned to a platoon and immediately became the butt of all the jokes, the object of all the ridicule in that platoon. The drill sergeant in charge of that platoon tried, for a while, to help the young man, but he finally gave up, believing that this poor fellow would never make it. One day, the other soldiers in that platoon decided to play a particularly cruel joke on this fellow. The sergeant was in on the joke. He called the platoon to gather around him and he took a dummy grenade, but said that it was a live grenade. Only this misfit did not know the truth. The sergeant handed the grenade to one of the soldiers and said, “Pull the pin and throw it.” The soldier pulled the pin, pretended to fumble with the grenade, and then dropped it at the feet of this misfit. Instantly, the young man fell on the grenade, covering it with his own body. Seconds passed. No explosion. Suddenly, the young man on the ground realized that it was all a joke. He was humiliated. He looked up, in shame. But then he realized that the other soldiers were not laughing. When he clambered up to his feet, he was astonished when the sergeant walked over and embraced him. Never again did anyone laugh at that young man. Why? Because, when the chips were down, he demonstrated that he was willing to die for the other soldiers in his platoon.

Jesus says, “No one has greater love than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” Jesus came to lay down His life for you and for me. He did what He came to do. By His grace, we are saved. In gratitude, then, for what He has done for us, I call us to embrace Him with our belief. I call us to commit ourselves wholly and completely to Him. I call us to rest the entire weight of our lives upon Him. Not just for a year, or two, or ten, but for a whole lifetime.

Soli Deo Gloria.
To God alone be the glory.

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