Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Believe and You'll Be Saved

This blog is expounding upon a recent When We Understand the Text video, which you can view by clicking here. Some brief church news and tonight's fellowship meal menu are below.

Paul and Silas went to Philippi to preach the gospel. Luke, the author of Acts (and also of the gospel of the same name), was among the missionary brethren that accompanied them. One of the first persons they converted was a woman named Lydia who was then baptized along with her whole household. Some scholars believe it was in Lydia's home that the Philippian church began. When Paul wrote Philippians, that letter would have been read aloud to the gathering of believers meeting in Lydia's house.

As they continued preaching in Philippi, they were followed by a slave-girl who had an evil spirit that gave her the ability to tell fortunes. She followed them for many days, warning others that Paul and his team were attempting to convert people to Christ. Finally Paul got annoyed by this and rebuked her so that the evil spirit came out. When her masters realized they couldn't profit from her anymore, Paul and Silas were arrested and tried, then beaten and thrown in prison, their feet fastened into stocks.

That night, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns, and all the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly, an earthquake shook the prison so that all the doors flew open and everyone's bonds came undone. When the jailer woke and saw all of the prison doors open, he drew his sword to kill himself. It was a shameful thing for a prisoner to ever escape under a Roman jailer's watch, punishable even by death, so the jailer was going to go ahead and take his own life to spare his family from being shamed.

But before he could do himself in, Paul cried out, "Do not harm yourself! We are all here!" The jailer called for lights and went rushing in. Trembling with fear, he fell before Paul and Silas. Then after bringing them out of their cells, he asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" And they replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."

Then they shared the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. The jailer washed their wounds, and then Paul and Silas baptized him and his whole household, just as it was in Lydia's home. John Chrysostom, 4th century Archbishop of Constantinople, wrote, "He washed and was washed; he washed them from their stripes, and was himself washed from his sins." Then the jailer and his family rejoiced in their salvation, and Paul and Silas got to attend the party.

The jailer asked, "What must I do to be saved?" and Paul and Silas replied, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved." That verse is often repeated as if to suggest, "All you have to do is believe in Jesus, and you will be saved! That's it! It's that simple!" It is, huh? Just – believe?

Believe what? That he was a real person? I know some atheists and agnostics that believe at least that much. That he was the Son of God? Even the demons believe that and shudder (James 2:19). Believe that Jesus died and came back from the dead? Pretty sure the devil is aware of that one, too, and he isn't saved. So what does it mean to believe?

I could go into a long explanation of this, but for the sake of summarizing the argument, belief and faith are the same thing, the difference being that "faith" is the substance while "belief" is the action. Belief is an active response to the truth. It's not merely rolling over and on this side of the bed I believe while on that side of the bed I don't. To believe requires a repentant heart. If a person is not repentant, they do not believe they're sinners in the eyes of a holy God, and only the atonement for sins made by Christ's death on the cross can save them.

Note that Paul and Silas didn't just tell the jailer to believe and leave it at that. What did they do next? They spoke the word of the Lord to him, and then to his household. Remember, faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ (Romans 10:17). And as we've mentioned in sermons several times before, faith is a gift given to us by God (Ephesians 2:8) as is repentance (Acts 11:18). The jailer wasn't merely told to "believe" and he simply did. He believed because the Spirit of God enabled him to.

In Lydia's conversion story within the same chapter of Acts, it says, "The Lord opened her heart to pay attention what was said by Paul" (v.14). She came to faith in Christ not because she worked it out on her own, but because the Lord worked in her to receive it.

And there's yet another story from Acts that will help us to understand this concept better. In Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas went into the synagogue in Antioch and shared the gospel with the Jews there. Word about their testimony spread and a week later, the whole city gathered to hear them share the gospel. The Jews became threatened by the large crowds and began to contradict what was spoken by Paul, speaking abusively about him as well.

Paul said, "It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, 'I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'"

When the Gentiles heard Paul say this, "they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed" (v.48). Did you get that? They didn't first believe and were then appointed to eternal life because of their belief. They believed because they were appointed to eternal life!

We should take the examples given by Paul, Barnabas, and Silas and preach the gospel, even if it means being ridiculed (as in Acts 13) or abused and detained (as in Acts 16). But we know that those who come to faith don't do so by our work or by their own will. They are saved by the work and will of God.

Wednesday Night Meal
As I type this out, the smells from downstairs are wafting into my office. This evening for our fellowship meal, we will be enjoying ham and beans, cornbread, and pineapple dump cake. The cost is $2 per child, $4 per adult, and $8 will feed the whole family. The meal starts at 5:00, with AWANA and adult Bible study to follow at 6:00.

Deacons Meeting and Members Meeting
This coming Tuesday is the deacons meeting for the month of March, and then the following Sunday, March 8, will be our first members meeting for the year. All those who are members of First Southern Baptist Church are encouraged to attend. We will be presenting a new candidate for the position of deacon, and also presenting our first two nominees for the position of elder.

Phil Stacey on March 20
Don't forget about our Christian concert with Phil Stacey, Friday evening, March 20 at 7:00! Tickets are free. They're located in the foyer. Only take one if you're planning on attending. Next week, we'll be opening up an invitation to the public for anyone to get a ticket. Seating is limited.

Closing Thoughts
This coming Sunday, we'll start a short series on Jesus's ministry leading up to Easter as we look at his death and resurrection. Tonight is "Stump the Pastor" night at AWANA. If anyone needs me, I'll be memorizing the entire Bible before 6:00 this evening. Consider yourselves blessed in all things, and I'm looking forward to worshiping with you again!