What Must I Do…

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In Acts 16, a man who thought he was in big trouble came to Paul and Silas with this question:

“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30  TLB)

That’s a good question to ask, especially when you think you are trouble.  In this case, the man asking the question was a jailer – the very jailer who was in charge of keeping Paul and Silas incarcerated.  When they were miraculously freed and the prison “shaken to its foundations” by supernatural forces, this poor fellow was sure his life would be forfeit.  His superiors, he was sure, would hold him personally accountable for both the damage to the prison as well as the escape of the prisoners under his watch.  Yes, it didn’t look good for this man.  Little wonder he wanted to know how to be saved!

We’re all in the same boat as the Philippian jailer was in, and that boat is gradually sinking.  Hebrews 9:27 presents us with an inescapable truth:

… it is destined that men die only once, and after that comes judgment…  (TLB)

There’s nothing you or anybody else can do to outrun the Grim Reaper!  He will catch up with you.  Death is absolutely certain.  Life, however, is anything but certain.  Who can predict what the future holds?  We make our plans with care and precision, but in a moment, everything can change.

Most people, even if they won’t admit it, are aware that there is something beyond death.  They may not be sure what it is, but they know death isn’t the end of their existence.  The story of Lazarus and the Rich Man, which Jesus told in Luke 16, teaches us that the soul of a man goes on forever, and will either be lost in Hell or escorted by the angels  into Heaven.

In Matthew 7, Jesus also taught about a wide gate and broad way that leads straight to destruction, and that there are  many traveling on that road.  Then He talked about a narrow road that few find that leads to life.  Startling contrasts, indeed.  Straight and narrow, broad and wide, life and destruction.  Your future; your destiny depends on the decision you make here and now.  Though Jesus told stories and parables, the truth behind them is real and awaits all men.  Are you saved?  Or are you lost?

I imagine most of you reading this have heard sermons based on that question, “What must I do to be saved?”  Those are good sermons, but I have a better question.  My question is, “What must I do to be lost?”

To begin with, let’s deal with Christians.

What must a Christian do to be lost?

It’s a theological pickle to be sure, but here’s what the Bible says:

…what makes us think that we can escape if we are indifferent to this great salvation announced by the Lord Jesus himself and passed on to us by those who heard him speak?  (Hebrews 2:3  TLB)

The writer of this letter to the Hebrews was writing to Christians; Jewish Christians, not to the sinner, when he asked that question.  Further along in the same letter, we read this:

Do not let this happy trust in the Lord die away, no matter what happens. Remember your reward!  (Hebrews 10:35  TLB)

That’s a telling verse.  It suggests that a Christian can indeed stop trusting in the Lord.  The same chapter concludes like this:

But we have never turned our backs on God and sealed our fate. No, our faith in him assures our souls’ salvation.  (Hebrews 10:39  TLB)

It’s clear that it is possible for a believer to turn his back on God and put his soul’s salvation in peril.  Peter writes about the danger of forgetting that your sins have been forgiven.  Regardless of how you feel about it, the Christian can be lost by his own neglect.

How does this happen?  Well, it certainly doesn’t happen quickly or overnight; it’s a gradual process, this turning away from God.  When a Christian neglects time spent in prayer, he has begun to turn away from God.  When he neglects the Word of God, he wanders even farther from the Lord.  And when a Christian neglects God’s House, the Church, he’s showing how far from God he truly is.  Hebrews 10:35 —

Let us not neglect our church meetings, as some people do, but encourage and warn each other, especially now that the day of his coming back again is drawing near.  (TLB)

When a Christian fails to listen to the “still, small voice” of the Holy Spirit, preferring to do his own thing, he is showing his contempt for God by ignoring one His most precious gifts, His Spirit.  Finally, when a Christian reaches the point of blatant, outright rebellion, his falling away is complete.

And when a person has escaped from the wicked ways of the world by learning about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and then gets tangled up with sin and becomes its slave again, he is worse off than he was before.  It would be better if he had never known about Christ at all than to learn of him and then afterwards turn his back on the holy commandments that were given to him.  (2 Peter 2:20, 21  TLB)

What must the ungodly do to be lost?

The answer here is “nothing,” because they are already lost.  But to flesh it out a bit, for the ungodly to remain in his lost state, he must:

  • Reject the love of God manifested in His Son;
  • Resist the drawing of the Holy Spirit; fighting the conviction of sin he may be experiencing.  Every time a sinner does this, his heart grows a little colder, and a little harder;
  • Reject the Word of the Lord he may have heard in Sunday School or at an evangelistic meeting or that a friend may have shared with him;
  • Procrastinate.  By putting off the decision to follow Christ, a sinner is saying “no” again.

In 2 Corinthians 6:2, the apostle Paul wrote:

Right now God is ready to welcome you. Today he is ready to save you.  (TLB)

There may not be a tomorrow; there may not be a second chance to make things right.  Remember what God told Noah:

My spirit shall not always strive with man…  (Genesis 6:3  AV)

There will come a time when God will stop calling.  The thing about it is this:  If a person is lost, it’s because they really wish to be that way.  Nobody needs to stay lost.  Being saved is as easy as making the right decision, as the Lord enables you.  But it’s all up to you.

In answer to the Philippian jailer’s question of what must be done to be saved, Paul gave him the simple instruction:

“Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, and your entire household.”  (Acts 16:31  TLB)

Only you can do that.  Nobody can believe for you.  You must do the choosing, while you can, before it’s too late.

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