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What Must I Do To Be Saved?

Acts 16:25-34

What an incredible day this is in the life of this great church!

Today we have witnessed the spirit-inspired spectacle of 78 young men and women professing their faith in Jesus Christ, committing their lives to Him, receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and uniting themselves to the Church, the Body of Christ. I tell you frankly, it overwhelms me with gratitude to God. For it would be impossible for me to describe how much I love these young people, how much I admire them for their belief in Jesus Christ, and how much I pray that God will use them in glorious ways for His work on earth. That is why today, for them and for us all, I want to take us to this wonderful story found in Acts 16.

Paul and Silas were busy proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the city of Philippi—and, as is always the case when the Gospel is proclaimed, peoples’ lives were being changed and they were being drawn to faith in Jesus Christ. However, also as is always the case when the Gospel is proclaimed, there were some who opposed Christianity, and they had Paul and Silas thrown into prison. The two men were chained by both arms and legs. But while you may shackle the bodies of those who love the Lord, you can never shackle their spirits. So the Bible says: “At midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns.” Suddenly, 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 woke with a start and quickly surveyed the scene. Then, supposing that his prisoners had escaped and fearing the expected wrath of his superiors, he prepared to kill himself. Out of the darkness, Paul cried: “Don’t do it! We are still here.” The jailer then recognized that he was in the presence of a power far beyond himself. He said to Paul: “Sir, what must I do to be saved?” Paul replied: “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.” But what does it mean to believe in the Lord Jesus?

John G. Peyton was a great missionary to the new Hebrides Islands in the Pacific. 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 couldn’t find a word in their language which was the equal to our word “belief” or “to believe.” So he set aside his efforts, 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, sat down on a chair, put his feet up on another chair, and said to Dr. Peyton: “I am resting my entire weight upon these two chairs.” The statement hit John Payton like a bolt out of the blue. That was the solution to his problem. You see, in the language of those people, the phrase, “I am resting my entire weight upon” is one word, and that is the word which John Peyton used to translate our word “believe.” So John 3:16 in his translation 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.” What is being said, you see, is that believing is not just an intellectual matter—it is not something exclusively of the mind, and it is not just an emotional commitment—it is not simply a warm, fuzzy feeling in the heart. It is, instead, a profound dependence . It is a deep and earnest trust. It is resting one’s entire weight upon Jesus. Our text then would read: “Rest your entire weight upon Jesus and you will be saved.” But what does it mean to rest one’s entire weight upon Jesus?

First of all, belief in the Lord Jesus means resting the entire weight of your life upon the fact that Jesus was who He said He was.

Now I don’t think that there are any scholars today who would dispute the historical fact of Jesus. No one questions that He 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 and hungry and 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 the acceptance of these historical facts. Believing is trusting that Jesus was speaking to us the absolute truth when He said who He was—and what He said about Himself was this: “I am the Son of God.”

There are many ways to illustrate this claim of His. Let me advance this one. Jesus, like any other Jew of His day, was very anxious that no one be worshipped but God. You may remember that on one occasion He said: “Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God and Him only shalt thou serve.” Jesus was committed to the idea that only God could be worshipped. Yet, when you look at the Gospels, you see again and again that Jesus Himself accepted worship. Take just the Gospel of Matthew for example. In Matthew 8, He accepts worship from a leper. In Matthew 9, He accepts worship from a leader of the Jews. In Matthew 14, He accepts worship from the disciples. In Matthew 15, He accepts worship from a Canaanite woman. In Matthew 28, He accepts worship from those who were there on the first Easter morning and discovered that He had been raised from the dead. So Jesus said: “No one is to be worshipped but God”—and Jesus Himself accepted worship. He was, you see, both human and divine.

That is the reason that in Scripture you always see the humanity of Jesus and the deity of Jesus placed side by side. It says that He was born—that is a human thing. But it also says the angels sang at His birth—that is a divine thing. It says that once He was thirsty and stopped to get a drink of water at a well—that is a human thing. But then He said to the woman He met there at the well: “I will give you water which will carry you to eternal life”—that is 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 stilled the storm. That is a divine thing. He wept at the tomb of His friend Lazarus—that is a human thing. But a few minutes later He cried: “Lazarus, come forth!” and Lazarus came forth—that is a divine thing. My friends, if you study the Bible honestly, you cannot miss the message—Jesus was both fully God and fully human.

So the first thing it means to rest one’s entire weight on Jesus is to believe 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.”

Secondly, belief in the Lord Jesus means resting the entire weight of your life upon the fact that Jesus meant what He said He meant.

Years ago, when I was in grammar school, we were taught how to write by following 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 copied yourself, the results inevitably and invariably were poor. I am convinced that is why my penmanship today resembles Egyptian hieroglyphics! I missed the 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. They take a bit of Confucianism, an idea from Buddhism, a concept from the Presbyterians, mix in a notion from Shirley MacLaine, of all people, and they come out with a belief system made up entirely of their own desires and prejudices. Like the little boy in Sunday School who was drawing a picture, and the teacher asked: “What are you drawing?” He replied: “I am drawing a picture of God.” The teacher said: “But no one knows what God looks like.” The little boy said: “They will when I am finished!” You see when most people draw a picture of God, He ends up looking just like they look. Their belief is nothing more than a combination of their own tolerances and intolerances.

Not so for Christians. Christians are committed not to making up their own religion, but to accepting what Jesus taught. That means that Christians do not say they believe and then slam the bus door in someone else’s face. Christians cannot say they believe and then drive their cars like madwomen and madmen. Christians do not say they believe and then spend more on their clothes every year than they do on the service of God. Christians do not say they believe and then come to worship only when it is convenient. Christians do not say they believe and then call down the curses of God on other nations which have Christians living there just because the economic and political systems in those nations are not like ours. Christians do not say they believe and then refuse to forgive—to forgive those whom they love, to forgive those whom they hardly know, and yes to forgive even their enemies.

Christians are not perfect—far from it. But Christians understand that the model for the Christian life is not ourselves, but the Master. Imelda Marcos, the wife of the ex-dictator of the Philippines, is the one with 4,000 pairs of shoes—well, Imelda Marcos claims to believe. Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who pours herself out for the dying in Calcutta, is the one who, when the Pope gave her an automobile, sold it and gave the money to the poor—Mother Teresa claims to believe. Now what is the difference between the belief of Imelda Marcos and the belief of Mother Teresa? This: Mother Teresa believes that Jesus is the only pattern for her life. She believes Jesus meant what He said He meant.

Thirdly, belief in the Lord Jesus means resting the entire weight of your life upon the fact that Jesus did what He said He came to do.

Paul writes: “We are redeemed by the blood of Jesus 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 with the blood of Christ.” Peter says: “We are redeemed 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 He came to do, He did.

Arthur Tennes tells a story which came out of the Korean War. A young man who was a misfit was inducted into a platoon. Immediately, he became the butt of all the jokes, the object of all the ridicule. The drill sergeant in charge of the platoon tried for a while to help this young man, but he finally gave up, believing that this poor fellow just did not fit. One day the men in the platoon decided to play a particularly cruel joke on this fellow. The sergeant was in on the joke. He called the platoon together around him, and he took a dummy grenade but told the men circled around him that it was live. Only the 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 man 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 body. Seconds passed. No explosion. Suddenly, the man on the ground realized he had fallen for the joke. He was humiliated. He looked up in shame, but then he realized that the men around him were not laughing. When he clambered up to his feet, the sergeant walked over and embraced him. Never again did anyone laugh at that boy. Why? Because when the chips were down he demonstrated that he was willing to die for the other members of that platoon.

The Bible says: “Greater love hath no man than this that he lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus came to lay down his life in love for you and for me. He did what He came to do. In gratitude for what He has done for us, we embrace Him with our belief. We commit ourselves to Him. We rest the entire weight of our lives upon Him. not just for a year or two or ten, but for a lifetime.

So…

The Philippian jailer asked: “What must I do to be saved?” Paul replied: “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.”

Do you remember when “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not” appeared in all our newspapers? Well here are “The Believe It Or Nots” of the Christian Faith. The Christian believes that Jesus was who He said He was. If you do not believe that, then you are not a Christian. Believe it or not? The Christian believes that Jesus meant what He said He meant. If you do not believe that, then you are not a Christian. Believe it or not? The Christian believes that Jesus did what He said He came to do. If you do not believe that, then you are not a Christian. Believe it or not? I call you now to believe in the Lord Jesus.

Doubt sees the obstacles,
Faith sees the way.
Doubt sees the darkest night,
Faith sees the day.
Doubt dreads to take a step,
Faith soars on high.
Doubt questions “Who believes?”
Faith answers “It is I.”

Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved!

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