Summary: How can we be sure of our salvation?
Several years ago, my father and I went on a fishing trip to South Carolina. As was our custom, we went to our favorite fishing pier at Myrtle Beach. Usually, we had pretty good luck, but this particular time, we just were not catching anything. I even blessed the fishing poles and Dad even spat on his bait, which I never believed was very helpful anyway but it was just one of those nasty things old fishermen do. And we still didn’t catch anything.
So there I was, standing there on the fishing pier, and not catching anything! So I did something that I’ve always wanted to do...I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this, but when it became evident that there were no fish to catch, I pulled out my pocket knife and began to inscribe my name on the soft wood railing on the pier.
It took a long time
I mean I do have a rather long name. But finally, after one hour and 25 minutes, there it was --- W. MAYNARD PITTENDREIGH , JR.
It was the longest name on the pier, and there must be over a hundred names carved into that pier.
But as I surveyed my finished work, I noticed that the first letter was a nice tall deep letter "W". But the final letter in Jr. was a short letter "R" barely scratched into the surface.
And looking at the work as a whole, I noticed that the name got smaller and smaller....less and less deep.
But my hand was tired and I just couldn’t do a better job that that at carving my name.
I am a bit embarrassed about admitting that. After all, I don’t usually go around
writing grafitti on fishing piers.
But a lot of people do write their names in public places.
A while back I went hiking in the mountains and along the trail there were rocks that had been inscribed with graffiti. Some of it was very interesting!
There were phrases like – “Betty Lou was here, 1955.”
Or “Bob loves Ann, 1909”
And “Alice loves Robert.”
But along that trail there was one particular bit of graffiti that stood out among the rest. On a rock higher than the others, so high that you know whoever carved it went to a great deal of trouble to make then visible to anyone on the trail, words carved so deep that you can put your fingers into the letters...all the way up to your knuckles. Words that, unlike my feeble attempt on the fishing pier at Garden City, had letters that began and ended with the same size.
They are the words... “Jesus Saves.”
This bit of graffiti captured my imagination, and of many others who have hiked that trail. It is easy to imagine someone bundled up and making his way up the trail at night, taking out a hammer and chisel and beating out the letters, night after flight for weeks, until the work was finished.
And it is also easy to wonder ... Why?
Why would someone go to all that trouble to carve the words JESUS SAVES into the side of a mountain.
Let your imagination run wild and it is possible to conceive of a sinner who had
led such an immoral life who thought that a carving out the words JESUS SAVES on the
face of a granite rock was the only way on their knees in repentance.
In my imagination, I have often wondered who this man was trying to convince.
And I finally decided that it possible that he was simply trying to convince himself.
Perhaps it was not with the commitment of Faith that this man carved the words
Perhaps instead it was with the HOPE that Jesus Saves. And maybe he carved those words to convince himself, as well as others, that those words were true.
Subconsciously, there is within many of us, a stirring of doubt, a twinge of fear – “Jesus Saves, doesn’t he? Or does He? What if he doesn’t? What if?”
A recent article in a Presbyterian magazine some findings about a church growth program in a metropolitan area church. Part of the program was to interview and survey those who were already members.
Only half of those interviewed were sure of their salvation. The rest were trying to convince themselves that there was truth in the words...JESUS SAVES.
At the conclusion of our worship service today, we will sing a stanza from the familiar hymn, BLESSED ASSURANCE, JESUS IS MINE. But for far too many of us; that statement becomes a haunting question....BLESSED ASSURANCE??? IS JESUS MINE?
Behind those doubts and fears is a question....what must I do to be saved?
The jailer in our New Testament lesson faced that question when he found himself in a bind.