If somebody says the word “saved,” what does that mean to you?
A hockey goalie may make 20 saves a game. A baseball relief pitcher might manage 20 or 30 saves a season. A crop is saved by good rain. A surgeon saves a patient’s life by the skill used in surgery. A police officer saves a child from drowning.
I read some time ago about a boat that got lost in the fog, and the people shouted “Save us! Save us!” until they were finally heard. And a man in Kentucky was trapped in his basement after a tornado destroyed his house. The first words rescuers heard were “Save me!”
The world needs to be saved. It needs saving because of the many terrible weapons that have been created to destroy it. World leaders are desperately searching for a formula for peace in the Middle East and all over the world where people are fighting.
In our great cities today, we need salvation from lawlessness–the murders, the muggings, the violent crimes that are being committed. We need salvation psychologically.
But in the religious realm many people do not understand what “saved” means. Paul and Silas said to the Philippian jailer, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household” (Acts 16:31, NIV). Paul was using “saved” in its spiritual sense.
We all need to be saved. The Bible teaches that we all have broken God’s Law. We all have sinned against God. We all are lawless. We all need salvation.
We have domestic problems; our homes are breaking up. We have business problems, health problems, family problems. Sometimes we want to scream at life. We want to escape. We try to escape the reality of everyday living by using drugs or alcohol, or even by trying suicide. We are like a man the Bible tells us about, a man who cried out, “What must I do to be saved?”
The Apostle Paul and Silas had been carrying the Gospel to Europe. In Macedonia they went to Philippi, a great city and a Roman colony, and they went and met by the riverside with some women who were meeting there to pray. On their way, they met a girl who was demon-possessed. Paul said to the demon in the girl, “Come out of her.” And the demon came out. The evil men who controlled the girl became angry, because she had been telling future events and they were making money on her fortune-telling. The men took Paul and Silas to the magistrates, who had them beaten and thrown into jail and put in bonds. Instead of moaning and groaning because their backs were cut and bleeding, and because they were in that rat-infested dungeon with a terrible stench, what did they do? Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners heard them.
All of a sudden, an earthquake shook the whole prison. The doors opened, and the prisoners’ bonds and chains were broken.
Under Roman law, if the keeper of the prison ever lost a prisoner, he had to die. So the jailer was on the job all the time. When the keeper of the prison saw the open doors, he thought he would be killed. He pulled out his sword and was ready to kill himself, when Paul said, “Don’t do yourself any harm. We’re still here.” The jailer fell trembling before them and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30, NIV). He had been listening to their singing and had heard about Christ.
Now, many people might say that the jailer was in no emotional condition to make a spiritual decision. Perhaps some would say to him, “Brother, you hold off a little bit. Try to think that through. You really don’t know what you’re doing. You’re emotionally disturbed.”
But Paul and Silas didn’t do that. They gave him a direct answer. They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household” (Acts 16:31, NIV).
I have seen people come to Christ with no emotion. I’ve seen them come with tears. I’ve seen them come with laughter. I’ve seen them come in every emotional condition possible. I’ve seen them come to Christ out of love for Him. I’ve seen them come to Christ out of fear of judgment and hell.
You say, “Billy, do you think this is a legitimate response, to come to Christ out of fear?” I’d rather see a person in heaven because he had been frightened, than not to see him there at all. Angelo Patri said something worth remembering: “Education consists of being afraid of the right things.”
The Bible says we’re to fear God: “Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him” (Psalm 33:8, NKJV). We forget that this God is from everlasting to everlasting, that He created the whole universe and that He holds us accountable for the life that we live on this planet. And He holds us accountable for what we do with His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We are to love God as a Father and to have a reverential fear toward Him; we also are to fear Him as a consuming fire, because the Scripture says, “For the Lord your God is a consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24, NIV).
There will be a day of judgment. If I did not know Christ, I would be trembling. In fact, I even tremble to tell you about it–afraid I won’t make it strong enough or clear enough or plain enough–because it is a tremendous responsibility to proclaim the Gospel.
And the Gospel–the Good News–is that, in spite of our sins, God loves us. He’s willing to save us. He’s willing to forgive us. He wants to take us to heaven.
Many people laugh when it comes to the matter of judgment and salvation. You see, we like to fashion God according to our own preferences. We like to give God the characteristics that we want Him to possess. So many of us have a false idea of God in our minds. The true and the living God is revealed in the Bible. The word “saved” or a variation of it is used more than 300 times in the Bible. And the Bible says that if we are to be saved, we must come by the Lord Jesus Christ.
Many of our religious leaders try to reconstruct God according to their own ideas. Don’t listen to people. Listen to Jesus. He said, “Men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken” (Matthew 12:36, NIV).
Once when I was preaching at a divinity school, a student asked me, “Can you tell me in plain language what I must do to be saved?” He was studying for the ministry, but he didn’t know Jesus Christ. I know of three students who accepted Christ that day.
After Peter preached his great sermon at Pentecost, the Bible says the people were pricked in their hearts and said to the apostles, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37, NIV).
The Bible tells us that we are to believe in Jesus Christ. But, oh, what a big word “believe” is. The word “believe” carries with it the idea of trust and faith. You believe to the point that you commit your life to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. You have no other lord, no other gods; you’re ready to change your whole lifestyle to make Him Lord and Master. That’s what “believe” means. Are you committed that way?
The blind man came as he was, and he believed. The leper came as he was, and he believed. Mary Magdalene with seven devils came, and she believed. The thief on the cross said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And in that moment Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:42-43, NIV).
Wouldn’t it be wonderful to walk into Paradise with Jesus? That thief had committed evil. He had no time to go and tell anybody he was sorry. He had no time to straighten anything out. He had no time to do anything. But he was saved that day. That’s how marvelous salvation is. “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12, NIV). “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV). “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1, NIV).
Do you believe with all your heart? Have you committed your life completely to Christ? Is He yours? Have you said, “I want Christ to be my Lord and my Master and my Savior”? Make your commitment to Christ right now.