Summary: Many people have a wrong understanding of how to get to heaven. This message seeks to answer the question, "What must I do to get saved?"
There are many great questions that have been asked in Scripture. But, I would like to suggest that the greatest question ever asked is found in Acts 16:30. It is the question the Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas. After there had been a violent earthquake, the jailer thought that the prisoners had escaped. But when he realized that Paul and Silas had not escaped, and that something remarkable had taken place, he asked the following question in Acts 16:30:
“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30)
This is the Sunday before Advent, and I have completed my previous sermon series. So, I thought it might be interesting to do something different. This message is going to be a topical exposition rather than a consecutive textual exposition. And I want us to think about how we should answer the greatest question ever asked. Or, to put it differently, what is the gospel?
One of the responsibilities of the Session is to examine people for membership in the church. I am surprised at how many people answer the question wrong about salvation.
When I talk to people about the gospel I use the outline developed by D. James Kennedy and used in Evangelism Explosion. If you are family with EE, you will recognize the outline in today’s message.
The first question I ask people is, “Have you come to the place in your spiritual life where you know for certain that if you died today that you would go to heaven?” The Bible assures us that we can know for sure that we are going to heaven. John writes in 1 John 5:13, “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.”
My second question, however, is very significant, “Suppose you were to die today and stand before God, and he were to ask you, ‘Why should I let you into my heaven?” What would you say?” I want you to take a moment and think about your answer. What would you say? Would you say that God should let you into heaven because you are a good person? Or because you try to live by the Ten Commandments? Or because your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds? Or because you love him?
Well, keep your answer in mind. I would like to take the rest of our time and explain how any one of us can go to heaven.
The first thing I want you to know about is grace.
A. Eternal life Is a Free Gift
The Bible teaches us that eternal life is free gift.
Many people think that in order to receive eternal life and get into heaven they need to do something. They think that they need to perform certain works or they need to abstain from certain practices in order to receive eternal life and get into heaven. But the Bible says that “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
God’s gift of eternal life and of spending eternity in heaven with him is an absolutely free gift.
B. Eternal Life Is Not Earned or Deserved
Moreover, eternal life is not earned or deserved.
Eternal life—life in heaven with God for all eternity—is unearned, undeserved, and unmerited. It is absolutely free. There is nothing that anyone can do to receive it.
There is a saying, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” And that is usually true. However, thank God that the greatest gift that a person could ever receive—eternal life with God for all eternity—is absolutely free.
The Bible says, “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). No amount of personal effort, good works, or religious deeds can earn a place in heaven for you because eternal life, like any genuine gift, is completely free.
This past weekend I celebrated my birthday. Some of you gave me a gift. Suppose I came to you and said, “Thank you so much for your gift. I really appreciate it. Here are a few dollars to pay for the gift.” What would you think? Why, you would be insulted. You would want to scream at me, “It’s a gift, Freddy! You don’t pay for a gift!” And you would be entirely correct. In the same way, eternal life is a gift from God, and we can never pay to receive it.
One may ask these questions, “How does this work? Who gets the gift? Does everyone receive the gift of eternal life?” No. Everyone does not receive the gift of eternal life. In fact, Jesus said, “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).