Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: A holy life lived to the glory of God attracts outsiders to ask, "What must I do to be saved?"

“What must I do to be saved?” [1]

I fear many vital, even essential words are disappearing from common usage today. Society as a whole is becoming linguistically impoverished. Some words have been misappropriated; they will never be returned to their proper place in English vocabulary. “Gay,” for instance, once meant joyful or happy. To say someone is gay today has an entirely different meaning; and those who wish to identify themselves as “gay,” are anything but joyous. Other words simply disappear. Increasingly, as I read correspondence and watch postings on on-line forums, I witness fewer and fewer people who appear able to distinguish between the contraction “you’re” (for “you are”) and the possessive pronoun “your.”

Because the Faith permits itself to be influenced by the culture in which it is immersed (instead of influencing culture), people of faith reflect this same deficit with even more alarming consequences. We seldom hear the pulpit speak of being saved, or speaking of redemption. Modern church goers are decidedly uncomfortable whenever the preacher speaks of being lost. “Hell” has become an explicative rather than a place of eternal punishment for those banished from the presence of the Living God. The consequence of our neglect is that those who are lost are not being warned of their peril; and the saved are unaware of their responsibility to turn those who are lost from their imminent danger. Moreover, the redeemed are woefully ignorant of the precious treasure that we possess in God’s salvation.

Two articles posted on CNSNews this week illustrate the danger facing the Faith. The first item, a report of census data released for England and Wales, reveals that fully one-quarter of the British population refer to themselves as either atheists or agnostics—they have no affiliation with any faith. Moreover, the fastest growing religion in Great Britain appears to be Islam. The number of self-identified Christians has dropped significantly during the last decade. Figures released in the United States reflect a similar trend. [2]

The Faith once delivered to the saints competes for the souls of family, friends and colleagues midst a cacophony of voices in the marketplace of ideas. When we speak the language of Zion, understanding what we are saying, we will not only have a hearing, but we will present the superior plea. When we no longer are convinced of the veracity of our argument and when we cease to employ the language of Zion, we become merely another voice within the din of competing shouts and cries within this dying world.

In another article discussing the reaction of unions to the passage of right-to-work legislation in Michigan, the head of the United Auto Workers is quoted as saying, “Labour, civil rights, faith community, LGBT. Environmentalists—all of us got to come together and stand up for an America that has prosperity for everybody.” [3] Why is the faith community lumped in with these groups? Such compromise would have been unthinkable even a few short years ago!

Let me say again with emphasis, I fear that we preachers don’t speak often enough of being saved. Consequently, the members who occupy the pews of our churches are mute concerning the salvation of the Lord, not having been taught by us who are the shepherds of the flock. They are silent in the face of their children turning from righteousness, quiet as their colleagues desecrate the Faith, unmoved by the plight of the lost about them.

Perhaps the use of such language appears trite, clichéd, out of date; or possibly we imagine we have grown too sophisticated to speak of people being lost. Whatever the reason, our generation is impoverished because of the paucity of preaching that calls lost people to be saved. We witness few people asking the question, “What must I do to be saved?” in our churches; and the reason may well be that we have ceased speaking of being saved, or even living as though we were saved.

The question before us was asked by a man who had observed the Faith in action. Paul and Silas were conducting a missionary trip that would lead them into Europe. It was the first penetration of the European continent by those who were following the Faith of Christ the Lord. The missionaries had been powerfully used to turn some to righteousness and even to set at liberty a young woman in thraldom to demonic powers. Because she was freed from demonic possession, her owners realised they were deprived of a source of considerable income. Enraged, they engineered imprisonment of the missionaries.

Listen as I read the account of all that happened as recorded for us by Doctor Luke. “As [the missionary band was] going to the place of prayer, we were met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling. She followed Paul and us, crying out, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.’ And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, ‘I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.’ And it came out that very hour.

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