Are You Saved?
Are You Saved?
Text: Acts 16:29-34
A month ago I preached a sermon on the most important question anyone could ever ask: What must I do to be saved? This is the question the Philippian jailer asked Paul & Silas in our scripture reading this A.M. The following Sunday, our guest speaker Walt Leaver gave an excellent lesson on “Blessed Assurance?” How we can know we are saved…Brother Walt went through six steps of conversion with the Ethiopian eunuch & then did the same in our Bible study using Saul of Tarsus as the example. Today I’d like to approach the subject of “Blessed Assurance” from a different angle. & I’m going to say from the outset that the front row ought to be full after we sing the invitation song. You may be thinking that’s pretty arrogant of me but I make that statement based on comments I’ve heard from Christians around the world. Remember when Walt asked everybody to raise their hands if they were married? There was no hesitation. But, if you ask how many are saved, there’ll be some wavering. Let me suggest that, if there is any doubt, you need to make some corrections in your life. Walt’s lesson emphasized doing what scripture commands to become a Christian – following the same steps found in NT conversions. From our reading this A.M., we learn that the jailer believed in God with all of his household & that is a summary statement including baptism in v.34. So when we ask the question this A.M. “Are you saved?”, it assumes you understand the usual steps of believing that Jesus is the Son of God, repenting of sins, confessing the name of Jesus & being immersed in order to have your sins remitted. The conclusion is that if you’ve never done all of these, you’re not saved. Those aren’t my words. Jesus said this Himself in Mk. 16:15-16 – “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” When we submit to the commands of our Lord as reiterated by Peter on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, the Lord adds us to His church (Acts 2:47). The same process that puts us in the church & cleanses our sins also makes us a disciple or follower of Christ – Matt. 28:19-20. & that allows us to wear the name “Christian” – Acts 11:26. At the close of the lesson, we’ll sing a song of encouragement to urge you to put on Christ in baptism. & we pray that you’ll take that vital step so you can rejoice like the Philippian jailer & go on your way rejoicing like the Ethiopian nobleman in Acts 8. But I know there are several in this audience today who are no longer rejoicing over their salvation. In fact, if the truth be known, you’re really not joyful about much of anything. One of the 1st campfire songs I remember was sung to the tune of “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain” & 1 of the verses simply repeated the question: “Isn’t it grand to be a Christian?” If you’re a Christian & you’re alive this A. M., you have something to be joyful about. That’s why the apostle Paul could write in Philippians 4:4 – “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” For the next few minutes, I’d like us to look at the short book of 1 John & see if we have anything to rejoice about.
A few years ago, Harold Jones took all 3 of his lessons on a 5th Sunday from this wonderful epistle. When I was in graduate school, one of my Greek readings courses was in 1 John & our textbook guide was this little book entitled The New Testament Is In Greek. It’s an epistle we all should read regularly. The beloved apostle John, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, explains over 10 times in this short letter why he is writing it. For example, the 1st explanation is found in 1 John 1:4 where we read: “And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.” Even the casual reader will not miss the similarities between this epistle & the gospel of John. In John 15:11, we read these words of Jesus, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full.” Jesus wants our joy to be full or complete. Jesus came to this earth so that we might have life & that we might have it more abundantly (Jn. 10:10). He never intended for us to live by the philosophy that the grass is always greener on the other side – that we’re to always be searching for fulfillment in the things of this world. In fact, our Lord spoke very plainly about this in Lk. 12:15 when He said, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” Paul summed it up very well when he wrote, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.” (1 Tim. 6:6-8) So, if John is writing his epistle so that our joy may be complete, we should keep reading so we can find the key. We know it can’t be in possessions so let’s keep reading – 1 Jn. 1:5-7 – “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” Let me put this in words I can understand – 1st comes the proclamation of God’s message. As a result of our response to this good news, we can be in fellowship with God & with our fellow Christians. & this is what brings complete joy to the child of God – redemption & fellowship. John 3:16 sets forth the basis of the message, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” However, some evidently mistakenly believe that once they are baptized, that’s all they have to do. But 1 Jn. 1:7 makes it clear that we must walk as Jesus walked if His blood is to continue to cleanse us from our sins. Let’s look at a 2nd reason John wrote – 1 Jn. 2:1 – “My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” The goal of a Christian is to not sin. But we also know Rom. 3:23 – “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” When Christians sin, we have the best attorney possible. That’s why we are able to come boldly to the throne of grace to obtain mercy & find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:16). John 9:31 expresses this blessing in a slightly different way – “Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him.” Communication with the Father requires not only that we worship Him but also that we do his will. & I submit to you that that is the same as walking in the light as He is in the light. John wrote this letter so that our joy might be complete & to advise us that we have an advocate with the Father when we sin. But notice a 3rd reason for this epistle – 1 Jn. 2:26 – “These things I have written to you concerning those who try to deceive you.” To better understand this statement, we need to read the 2 verses just before this – 1 Jn. 2:24-25 – “Therefore let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning. If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise that He has promised us – eternal life.” John warns his readers to stick to the original message. Remember Paul’s words in Gal. 1:6ff.? “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” Time & culture do not change the message. False teachers will come – from without & within – as Paul predicted in Acts 20:29-30 – but John warns & encourages them to stick to the apostolic message. That way they’ll remain in the Son. If we want to inherit eternal life, we must be in the Son & remain true to the message. Finally, we come to the 4th & final reason we are citing for John’s writing: It is found in 1John 5:13 – “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” Are you married? You either are or you’re not & there’s no question in your mind. “Are you saved?” is another question entirely. But John says he has written to those who believe in the name of the Son of God – that’s you & me – so that we may know that we have eternal life. Are you saved? If you were to die in the next 15 minutes, would you inherit eternal life? This is not a question for which you reply “Maybe” or “I hope so”. It’s a question that must be answered “yes” or “no”. Do you think the apostle Paul had any doubts as to where he was going to spend eternity? As Paul sat in a Roman prison awaiting his execution, listen to his inspired words from 2 Tim. 4:6-8 – “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” This confident Paul was the same apostle who knew how easy it would be to lose his inheritance – 1 Cor. 9:26-27 – “Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.” For the apostle Paul & all Christians, it is a daily struggle to do what’s right. Each of us is required to take up our cross daily & follow Jesus. Following in His footsteps is not always the easy thing to do. Sometimes it requires us to take some verbal abuse from employers or supervisors. Sometimes it requires us to avoid certain activities. It often makes us the scapegoat for crude jokes because we don’t bow to peer pressure. Sometimes it even makes us incur the wrath & insults of our family because we choose to put God before them. But, on the other hand, being a faithful Christian is not all negative. Listen to the words found in 1 Jn. 5:3 – “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.” Living the Christian life is a joy. Because we don’t lie, we don’t have a guilty conscience. Because we don’t steal, we don’t have to worry about the law chasing us. Because we believe in the sanctity of marriage, we don’t have to fear STDs. Because we choose to be sober, we don’t have to worry about hangovers, sobriety checkpoints or buying illegal drugs. Obeying God – our Creator & Savior – is a privilege! God wants us to be conformed to the image of His Son according to Rom. 8:29. Sometimes that requires us to take a beating in this life. Usually it is only figurative but there may come a time again when it will be literal. We need to be reminded from time to time of 1 Pet. 2:21-24 – For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed. Jesus died for our sins so that we might have a relationship with Him & His Father – &, as a result, spend eternity in heaven with them. & John says, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” I wish we had time to just read through the 5 chapters of this beautiful epistle. In it, John tells us how we can have complete joy, fellowship with our God & Savior, fellowship with other Christians & forgiveness of sins. He reminds us to keep God’s commandments, to love our brother, to not love the world, to be aware of false teachers, to practice righteousness, to love in deed & in truth & to love one another. You see John is writing about a lifestyle for Christians. &, when we live that lifestyle, we have the assurance of spending an eternity in heaven.
This A.M. we are asking the question: Are you saved? We have looked at 4 of the more than 10 reasons John gives for writing the letter of 1 John to Christians – that our joy might be full; that we have an Advocate if we sin; to warn us that some will try to deceive us; & for us to know that we have eternal life. In a few moments, we’re going to extend the Lord’s invitation where we’ll stand & sing a song to encourage you to respond. Remember we began by talking about how one becomes a Christian. Listen to this simple statement in 1 Jn. 5:11 – “And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.” If you desire eternal life, you must 1st be “in Christ.” If you’ve never put on Christ in baptism – Gal. 3:27 – or been baptized into Christ & His death – Rom. 6:3-4, we plead with you to change that this A.M. But, if you’re a baptized believer, & you’ve not been faithful to God in your lifestyle, there’s a remedy for you. 1 Jn. 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” If you respond for either reason, it is still the blood of Jesus that will cleanse you as we stand & sing.
(Walter Hill, Sunday A.M., 5/20/2007)