Wednesday, April 13, 2016, 12:30 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Songs in the Night.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 16:16-34 (Select vv. ESV).
Summary (vv. 16-24)
A young girl, who was a fortune teller, followed Paul and his companions for many days. She kept shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” This troubled Paul so greatly that he commanded the spirit in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her, and so she was delivered from the spirit. Yet, the owners of the slave girl did not rejoice over her deliverance, for they had made a great deal of money off of her fortune-telling. So, they apprehended Paul and Silas and lugged them into the marketplace to face the authorities. Before the magistrates, they accused the apostles of promoting customs unlawful for Romans to accept or practice. Then they were stripped and beaten and thrown into prison. The jailer, having been commanded to guard the prisoners carefully, “put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks” (v. 24).
About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God. (vv. 25-34)
They Were Listening
People are watching us all the time, observing how we respond to our circumstances, how we speak, act, believe, and how we practice what we say we believe or not. Words are important, but our actions speak louder than our words many times. It is essential, thus, that our lifestyles reflect what we profess to believe, not only because of our love for our Lord and our desire to please him in all that we do, but because people will make judgments about Jesus Christ based on the lives of his servants. So, we should not merely talk the walk, but we should walk the talk. In other words, we need to live what we say we believe.
Now, I will say here that not everyone will see our lifestyles in the same light. For instance, the owners of the slave girl did not perceive that Paul and Silas were living godly lives, and that it was something to rejoice over that the girl had been delivered from a demon. They only saw that their means of making money had been taken away from them. So, even if we do walk the talk, it does not naturally translate that everyone observing us will rejoice with us in our walks of faith and obedience to Jesus Christ. Many will hate and persecute us, just as they hated and persecuted Jesus Christ, and some of those persecutors may be leaders within our church fellowships, too.
No matter the responses we receive from those observing our lifestyles, though, we should always love and serve our Lord, and we should let our lights shine before all human beings in the hope that they will see Jesus in us and that they will desire to know him, too. Yet, we should not follow the practice that says our lives are enough to speak Christ to the world, and that it is not necessary for us to tell people about Jesus, too. We also need to tell people about Jesus, and share his gospel message of salvation from sin, so that people will know the way of salvation, and so they will turn from their sin and will turn to follow Jesus Christ with their lives.
So Was the Jailer
Although the jailer apparently slept through the singing, praising and praying, and perhaps through the earthquake, too, he must have heard enough to know to ask Paul and Silas what he must do to be saved. Although the jailer may have been moved emotionally at the thought that the prisoners had not escaped when they had the opportunity to do so, and thus his life had been spared, this in itself was not enough to bring him to such a question, I don’t believe. He had to have heard something about Jesus and concerning his salvation from these men, and he must have observed how these men reacted to their mistreatment, and that must have made an impression on him. He must have listened, too, at least to something that would tell him that these men knew the way of salvation, and that they could show him the way.
I have heard Christians claim that all they have to do is just be “nice” to people and that will be enough to be their testimony for Jesus Christ. Yet, there are people of all religions who are “nice” to others. I am sure that there are even atheists who do “good deeds” to others. So, it is not enough just to smile and be friendly with people. Anyone can do that. Our lives need to reflect Jesus Christ, i.e. we need to live the kind of life Jesus did when he walked the face of this earth. This includes being passionate about what he was passionate about, and emulating how he addressed sin in sinful human beings, and it includes imitating his words and his teaching and his preaching of the gospel of our salvation. For, how can people “believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And, how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And, how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” (See: Ro. 10:14-15).
What must I do?
When the jailer asked what he must do to be saved, the apostles replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.” Then the apostles spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. So, the jailer and his whole family came to believe in God, and he was filled with joy.
We don’t know exactly what words of the Lord the apostles spoke to the jailer and to his family, but we can probably surmise that they presented the message of the gospel of our salvation more thoroughly so that the jailer and his family would understand what it meant to “believe” in Jesus. I believe this is needed today, because so many preachers have reduced the word “believe” to a mere emotional decision or to an intellectual assent as to what Jesus did for us in dying on the cross for our sins. Yet, James said that even the demons believe and they shudder, so it is not enough just to have knowledge of Christ, but we must trust in him to be Lord (owner/master) and Savior of our lives, i.e. as one who has freed us not only from the curse of sin, but from the control of sin and Satan over our lives.
So, what does it mean to believe in Jesus? Scripture teaches us that it means we are crucified with Christ in death to sin, and we are resurrected with Christ to newness of life, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). It means that, by the Spirit, we put to death our old lives of living for sin and self, and we put on our new lives in Christ Jesus, and that we no longer walk according to our sinful flesh, but that we now conduct our lives according to the Spirit, empowered by the Spirit now living within us. It means that we accept into our lives that Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; that he died that we might no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave his life up for us. Believing in Jesus is not merely acknowledging what he did for us or just accepting his forgiveness for our sins, but it is applying to our lives what we say we believe.
If Noah had merely expressed belief in what God told him regarding the building of the ark and the salvation of all whom he was to take into the ark with him, but he did not build the ark, and he did not take his family and the animals into the ark, when the floods came, where would his faith be? If Moses had not gone to Pharaoh, and if he had not pleaded with him to let God’s people go, and if he had not followed the Lord in obedience regarding what to instruct the people with regard to placing the blood on their doors so that their oldest sons would not die when God passed over, and if he had not led the people of Israel out of Egypt, where would his faith be?
James said that faith without works is dead. If we believe Jesus died to save us from sin, then our lifestyles should reflect this. True faith puts action to the acknowledgement of such professed faith. If we say we believe in Jesus and in what he did for us in dying for our sins, and yet we continue living in sin without regard for what he went through so that we could be free, then where is our faith? Jesus said that his sheep know his voice, they listen to him (they pay attention to what he says), and they follow (obey) him. He said that if we want to come after him, we must deny self and take up our cross daily (die daily to sin and self), and follow (obey) him. He said if we hold on to our old lives (of living for sin and self), we will lose them for eternity, but if we lose our lives (die with him to sin), we will gain eternal life. Paul reiterated this when he said that if we walk according to the flesh, we will die, but if by the Spirit we are putting to death the deeds of the flesh, we will live.
So, believe in Jesus, but understand that true belief is followed by action which shows that true faith actually exists. Also, when we truly believe in Jesus, the Holy Spirit of God puts our old lives of sin to death and he gives us new lives to be lived in Christ’s righteousness. A saved life is a transformed life of the Spirit in death to sin and in resurrection to new life in Christ Jesus, our Lord. We must be born again of the Spirit if we want to have eternal life with God in glory. It is not enough just to say we believe. We must walk the talk, too.
Songs in the Night / An Original Work / December 18, 2013
“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God,
And the other prisoners were listening to them.” Acts 16:25 NIV ‘84
Lord, I praise You forevermore.
You, my Savior, I now adore.
Hope in heaven awaiting me,
Because You died at Calvary.
I have been forgiven,
And I’m bound for heaven.
Jesus set me free from
All my sin, I say.
I will praise Him always!
Lord, I love You for all You’ve done:
Overcame death, my vict’ry won!
Jesus saved me, and now I’m free!
I rejoice in His love for me.
I will walk in vict’ry!
My sin is but hist’ry!
I am free to please Him
With my life today.
I will love Him always!
Lord, I thank You for giving me
A new life bought at Calvary.
Loving Jesus, I meet with Him.
Tender mercies now flow within.
Lord, I am so thankful;
Through my Lord, I’m able
To sit at His table;
Fellowship with Him.
I will thank Him always!