What Must I Do To Be Saved?

Acts 16:30, 31

"What must I do to be saved?"
That question was asked by a startled jailer.
He was experiencing some strange and perplexing happenings.
He was being shaken by unfamiliar terrors.
He sought relief from these terrors, and so he asked: "What must I do to be saved?"

But this jailer is not the only man that has ever asked that question.
He is not the first man that asked it.
This is a universal question.

Men of all times and of all nations have asked and sought an answer to this question.
The cultured Greeks tried to answer it by building altars to many gods.
Then, realizing that they had missed it, they sought further help by building an altar to
"the Unknown God."
It was in an effort to answer this question that children were once sacrificed to the fire god, Moloch.
And it is the struggle to answer the same question that causes the Indian mother to-day to cast
her baby into the Ganges and to come home with empty arms and with an empty heart.

This was a dramatic moment in this jailer's life.
It was an important question with a big blessing.

Look at the scene.
Two strange preachers (Paul and Silas) came to the Roman city of Philippi.
Their preaching has brought them into conflict with the authorities.
They are arrested and brought before the magistrates.
Their clothing is torn from them, and they are severely beaten.

You would think that they had endured enough shame and enough pain.
But then, they were turned over to a callous and cruel Roman jailer with the order
that he should keep them in chains for if they escaped, it would cost him his life.
So, he threw them into the inner dungeon and put their feet in chains.
The place was foul and cold and dark.
Their backs were lacerated and bleeding.
And this was their reward for seeking to bring to people the unsearchable riches of Christ.

Now it was bad enough for these two.
But they did not lose heart.
First, they prayed.

I can imagine they prayed privately, and that they also prayed aloud.
And others in the prison probably heard prayer for the first time in their lives.
Real earnest prayer always makes things different.
It brings to us a consciousness of God.
And as these men prayed their hearts grew warm and joyous until their prayers erupted into praise,
and they begin to sing.

Of course we don't know what they sang that night.
It might have been the Twenty-third Psalm.
Or they might have sung, "I will bless the Lord at all times.
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul shall make her boast in the Lord. The humble shall hear thereof and be glad
."

Or it could have been Thirty-seventh Psalm: "Fret not thyself because of evil doers,
neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.
For they shall soon be cut down like the grass and wither as the green herb
."

And it also could have been the Forty-sixth Psalm: "God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore will we not fear though the earth be removed and though the mountains be carried
into the midst of the sea
."

Whatever they sang, it was moving and powerful.
I believe that it made the heart of our Lord glad.
This had to be a real blessing to those in that gloomy old prison.
They had heard the walls ring with groans and shrieks.
They had heard bitter cursing in the night, but they had never heard anything like this with
such irrepressible joy.

Now as this inspiring singing sounded through the gloomy cells something else happened.
The old building seemed to be shaking with the very power of the music.
An earthquake shook this jail.
God took this terrible prison in His hand and shook it, and all its doors were thrown open
and the chains were shaken loose from the feet of those that were bound.
And the jailer is shaken out of his complacency and out of his bed, and a great fear grips him.

He picks himself up, and looks all about him in dismay.
The doors are open.
He is sure that the prisoners are gone.
He knows that this will cost him his life.
He is determined that he will not endure the shame of this.
He determines to exact his own justice.
So, he draws his sword and prepares to thrust it through himself, but Paul's eyes were upon him,
and knowing his purpose he shouts at him, "We are all here, Jailer.
Do thyself no harm
."

There is love in that cry, a tenderness in it, a longing in it that the jailer could not understand.
Neither could he fail to realize the power of it.
It touches him deeply.
He is gripped by another terror -- the terror that has come through the presence of these strange men
who have brought the things of eternity to seem real to him.
And urged on by that new fear he rushes to these men with their bleeding backs
and their tattered garments and throws himself at their feet with his great question:
"Sirs, what must I to do be saved?"

We are aware that this jailer was a heathen.
We do not know how learned he was.
We do not know whether he could read or write.
We do not know whether he was widely traveled or not.
He may have never been beyond the precincts of his own city.

But we do know is this -- he asked the biggest and most important question that could ever be asked.
There can be no greater question.
It was the greatest for him.
It is the greatest for you.
It is the greatest for me.

"What must I do to be saved?"
There is no question as vital and urgent as that question.

I would ask each one of you to consider how important is that question to you?
This question is not: "What must I do to be decent?"
It is not: "What must I do to be respectable?"
These are significant questions, but they are not the supreme question.

It is not: "What must I do to get rich?"
Millions of people are asking that question as if it were the one question of eternal importance.
But you know that it is not.

It is not: "What must I do to be beautiful?"
Some of us are asking that question. But that is not the big question.
The supreme question is: "What must I do to be saved?"

What is implied in this question when it is asked intelligently?
There is implied first of all that there is an absolute difference between being saved and lost.
There is implied in it that there are two classes of people, not the cultured and the uncultured,
not the learned and the unlearned.
They are the saved and the lost.
They are those that have life and those that do not have life.

Now we are aware that we of to-day do not like such dogmatic divisions.
But I should remember that they are the divisions that are made in the New Testament.
They are the divisions that Jesus made.

He puts people into two classes, and only two.
There were two gates, one was broad and the other narrow.
There were two foundations on which a man might build, one was of sand and the other of rock.

Notice, He did not divide men into the perfect and the imperfect,
but into those that had life and those that did not have it.
And it was He that said, "He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son
hath not life
."
So this question means that there is such a thing as being saved and there is such a thing as being lost.
That fact is recognized throughout the entire Bible.

This question implies, in the second place, a consciousness of being lost.
"What must I do to be saved?"

When this man asked that question there were many things of which he was uncertain.
He was uncertain as to how he was to get out of his darkness.
He was uncertain as to how he was to be saved, but of one thing he was sure - -he was dead sure
that he was lost.
He did not try to avoid that fact.
He did not shut his eyes to it.
He did not try in any way to deny it.

And, if you are here without God, I hope you will not deny it.
For if you have not taken Jesus Christ as your personal Savior you are lost.

Then the best thing you can do, the first step to be taken to be saved,
is to realize your lostness.
A man will not send for a doctor unless he believes that he is sick.
He will not try to learn unless he realizes that he is ignorant.
Neither will he turn to God for salvation unless he realizes that he is lost.

It is a good day for a man when he takes a honest look at himself.
It is a great day when he has a glimpse of himself as God sees him.
It is a great hour when, conscious of his guilt, he bows himself in the presence of God
who alone can save, and prays, "God, be merciful unto me a sinner."

In the third place this question implies, not only that the man is lost who asked it,
but that there is a possibility of his being saved.
"What must I do to be saved?"

This man is conscious of being lost, and conscious of being sin scarred and stained and guilty,
yet he believes, and he is right in believing, that salvation is possible for him.
He believes that even he can be saved to the uttermost.
There is such a thing as salvation, and it is possible for me, even me, to be saved.

And if you are here without Jesus as your Saviour, you must also realize that,
otherwise it will do you no good to realize the fact that you are a sinner.
It is not enough to know that you are lost.
You must also believe that you may be saved.

It is not enough to realize that you are weak: you must believe that is possible for you to be strong.
You must believe that even a fluctuating Simon can be made into a rock.
You must believe in the power of God to remake men, otherwise for you the question is
only a question of deep despair.

This question implies, in the fourth place, a willingness to be saved.
"What must I do to be saved?"

This man is not asking this question to gather material for a future argument.
He is not a speculator.
He is not a trifler.
He is not even asking it because he is intellectually curious.
He is not simply asking that he may know the conditions of salvation.
He is asking with the earnest purpose in his heart to meet those conditions.

In the fifth place, this question implies that while salvation is a possibility for you,
you must do something in order to obtain it.
"What must I do to be saved?"

What sort of an answer would you expect to a question like that?
What did the apostle say?
Did he say, "Do nothing. Let the matter alone. Forget it. Drift?"
That is what many are doing.
But he said nothing like that.
He told this man to do something.
And this man knew, as you and I know, that if we are ever saved, we have got to do something
in order to be saved.

I say every one of us knows that, and yet too few of us act as if it were really true.
Many seem to think that salvation is something that they are are going to stumble upon by accident.
Many seem to think it is something that hey are going to receive with absolutely no effort
on their part.
Many act as if they thought it might be slipped into their pockets while they sleep
or dropped into their coffins when they die.

Ask the question intelligently, "What must I do to be saved?"
Then, you will realize that you must do something.

This question implies that the conditions of salvation are not optional, that it is not up to you
and it is not up to me to decide just what we will do in order to be saved.
You can accept salvation or you can refuse it.
You can meet the conditions or you can refuse to meet them.
But one thing you cannot do.
You cannot decide upon the terms upon which you will surrender.
If you are saved at all you must surrender, unconditionally.

The question is, "What must I do to be saved?"
It is not, "What is the expedient thing or what is the respectable thing
or what is the popular thing to do in order to find salvation
?"

The conditions are not of your choosing, and they are not of mine.
God has made the conditions, and you and I cannot change them.
Therefore, if you are ever saved there is not something simply that you ought to do,
but there is something that you absolutely must do.

Lastly, this question implies that salvation is an individual matter.
"What must I do?"
It is not a question of what must God do.
God has made full provision for the salvation of the whole world.
It is not what the Church must do.
It is not what the preacher must do.
It is not what this person that is beside me must do, and the person behind me or in front of me must do.
The question comes to my own heart--"What must I do?"

"What must I do to be saved?"
You must do something, but there are many things that we are doing that will not save us.
If you expect to be saved, then you cannot depend on your own goodness.
"All your righteousness are but as filthy rags."

You cannot count on your own decency.
No one was ever saved that way.

Neither will you be saved trusting in the other person's badness.
I know why some give as a reason they will not be saved.
They tell themselves one of the oldest lies that was ever told.
They say, "I would be a Christian, but there are so many hypocrites in the Church."
Many men give that as a reason, but it is a ridiculous reason.
And I have known one person to be saved by it.
Believe me, the shortcomings and the sins of my friends are mighty poor excuses to depend on
for my own personal salvation.

And no one can be saved by seeking an easy way.
You will never win by catering to your own pride and cowardice.

An evangelist tells of a revival he was conducting a revival in a Texas city some years ago.
After one of the services had ended, a young lady came forward to shake hands with the preacher.
As she did so she said, "I am going to become a Christian."
He congratulated her upon her decision, but she answered,
"Oh, I do not mean right now. I mean I am going to be very soon."

Then, she continued to say, "You see it is like this: in a few days I am going to visit
some of my relatives that live way back in the country.
There is going to be a revival nearby.
It will be easy for me to make the decision there because nobody knows me.
But here it is different.
Everybody knows me here and I simply haven't the courage to come out and take an open stand
for Jesus Christ
."

She went into the country as she planned, but she was not saved.
Of course not.
Nobody ever found salvation by caving in to his own cowardice and pride and seeking an easy way.

"What must I do to be saved?"
There is an answer to this question.
It is an answer that is absolutely dependable.
There is nothing in all the world of which I am more sure than I am of the correctness
of the answer to this question.
I am as sure of it as I am of my own existence.
I am as sure of it as I am of the fact of God.

I pray that you are ready to know the answer.
Remember, that it is the answer to your supreme question.
It is the answer to the most important question that was ever asked.
It is the most important that you will ever be called to act upon in this world.

Does the prospect of an answer quicken your heartbeat?
Does it shake you out of your lethargy into an intense interest?
It ought to!

For the answer that I give is not the answer of a mere speculator or dreamer.
It is the answer of inspiration, and it is an answer whose truth has been tested
by the personal experience of countless millions.
"What must I do to be saved?"
The answer: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved."

What is it to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ?
It is to believe that Jesus Christ can do what He claims to do and what He has promised to do
and to depend on Him to do it.

Mr. Moody tells us how that he was in his cellar one day when he looked up and saw his little girl
making an effort to see him.
She could not because it was dark in the cellar.
"Jump," said Mr. Moody, "Daddy will catch you."

And instantly the little girl jumped.
Now, that was faith.
That was believing on her father.

So, the jailer believed on the Lord Jesus Christ.
He depended upon Him, then and there, for salvation.

And what happened?
He was saved.

That very moment Christ came into his heart he became a new creation.
He became possessed of a new joy.
He became possessed of a new tenderness.

Then, notice what he did?
He took water and washed the stripes of the preachers.
Paul and Silas were bleeding when they came to the prison, but the jailer did not care.
But now that he had found Christ, he has already begun to be a partaker of the divine nature.
A new love and a new life is his.
He has become tender whereas he was cruel.
The power of Jesus Christ makes people new.

Now, I ask you this question: "Do you want to be saved?"
If you do, you can be.
It's the surest thing in all the world.
It is as sure as the fact that night follows day.
It is more sure than the fact that you sow what you will reap.
It is without question that if you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, you shall be saved.

Trust Jesus now as your Saviour, and you will become a new creation in Christ.


Sermon adapted by Dr. Harold L. White