It is midnight, Paul and Silas are in prison at Philippi for preaching the Gospel. They are not discouraged but praying and joyfully singing praises to the Lord. The other prisoners are listening. God is also listening. Suddenly there is an earthquake. Could this be God shouting “Amen?” The prison guard is also listening. And when he sees the prison cell doors open, he is about to commit suicide. The law states that if a prisoner escapes, a Roman soldier has to be executed because of his negligence (Acts 12:10). Paul assures him that all are still in their cells.
So, this guard runs in and asks Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” He asks a positive question that many today are not willing to ask. Let us reverse this into a negative question: “What must I do to be lost?” “Those who believe in him won’t be condemned. But those who don’t believe are already condemned because they don’t believe in God’s only Son” (John 3;18 GW).
- The Commencing Act. Do nothing. Remain as we are. Don’t believe, trust, or follow Christ. No special effort or sin is required, yet it is one sin that cannot be forgiven until it is removed. All of us have inherited a sinful nature (Romans 3:13; 5:12) that results in sinful acts (Romans 3:23). Which sin makes a person lost? Which person is bad enough to be called a sinner? Not relevant. Sin is sin, and all are guilty. The only action necessary for the forgiveness of sin is faith in Christ. New life is only given to those who believe. When individuals reach an age where they sin willfully and knowingly, sin has already taken root in their lives, and they will refuse to be saved and instead produce the fruit of unrighteousness. They are sinners and condemned already. They are not condemned because they commit a certain kind of sin, or any number of sins. It is because they have not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. The truth is they are already lost, and even if they never commit another sin, they have already lived long enough to be sinners! Dear friend, the truth is clear. If people refuse to believe, they will also refuse to be saved.
- The Continuous Acts. The sin of unbelief is the condemning sin, but conviction and conversion can wipe away that sin and people can become believers as long as they keep the channel clear for God to speak to them. So, the question becomes. “What can people do to stay lost?” How can they be sure that they will not become believers? But how can they keep Christ out of their heart? The answer, of course, is unbelief. But how can they live so that faith will never come, and unbelief will be securely grounded in their lives?
A. Love the world. But I John 2:15 GW says: “Love not this world, neither the things that are in this world. If any man loves this world the love of the Father is not in him.” This does not mean simply following after fleshly lusts and immoral passions, although it includes these. It means putting material, physical, social, and personal4 desires above God and spiritual things. Love for prosperity, prestige, power, popularity, and pleasure allows the world to crowd out God. It is getting so busy making a living that you have no time to make a life. Let business come before God and you cannot possibly know the experience of salvation. The rich fool in Luke 10:16-21 is a classic example of this attitude.
B. Make excuses. To insure a lost and unsaved condition, people only need to keep finding “reasons” for not committing themselves, and these are not difficult to find: hypocritical church members, inconvenience of church attendance, business obligations, and difficulty understanding the Bible. A parable in Luke 11:16 -24 tells of a man who invited many to a banquet but when they all refused, giving excuses, he invited the poor, disabled and others to come. This is a perfect example.
C. Refuse to repent. Repentance in salvation is not optional, but essential. Jesus, in Luke 13:3, warned a group that unless they repented, they would all perish. Paul told the Athenians that God commands everyone to repent (Acts 17:30). Psalm 51:17 shows that God delights in a broken spirit and a contrite heart. As long as people say they are as good as a neighbor, or a church member, they will never become a Christian. Salvation involves renouncing our goodness and trusting in God’s goodness. Jesus made it clear in the Luke 18:8 parable of the two men who prayed, the man who prayed: “God be merciful a sinner” went home justified.
D. Put it off. Nothing gets done that is always postponed. Procrastination has caused more people to go out into eternity lost than any other thing. Nearly everyone plans to get right with God someday. They are like Felix in Acts 24:35 who told Paul to go away, and he would call him later, but he never did.
This message has been given from a negative standpoint to persuade people to realize that they are deliberately keeping themselves out of God’s grace and the peace of Jesus Christ. The very opposite of this article’s title is the positive one: What Must I Do to Be Saved? And the positive answer in Acts 10:31 is: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Have you done that yet? Contact me at [email protected] and I will gladly get in touch with you!