Billy Graham tells of a time early in his ministry when he arrived at a small town to preach a sermon. Wanting to mail a letter, he asked a young boy where the Post Office was. When the boy had told him, Dr. Graham thanked him and said, “If you’ll come to the Baptist Church this evening, you can hear me telling everyone how to get to Heaven.”
“I don’t think I’ll be there,” the boy said. “You don’t even know your way to the Post Office.”
Do you have the assurance of having your sins forgiven or of going to heaven? We’re going to look at some practical things to get you started on your way.
1. You can’t get there by trying. You can’t walk there, climb there or fly there. Only God can take you there. Let’s look at a couple of verses that make this so plain. Turn to Ephesians 2:8-9. Let’s start at verse 9 and work our way backwards. Salvation is not of works – we can’t do anything to earn our salvation. Folks have a tough time with this, because it is hard to believe that salvation could be so simple. God made it simple for a reason – so that anyone could understand it and be saved.
Let me give you an illustration that I read about the futility of trying to attain salvation by their own efforts. A man was on a sailboat in the middle of the ocean when the wind died. After sitting there for a while he decided he needed to do something. He got up and put his shoulder to the mast of the sailboat and pushed. The boat rocked a bit so he thought he was making progress. In reality all he was doing was wearing himself out. The first thing you need to realize is that you can’t be saved by your own efforts. You try to climb there on a ladder of good works and many talk about “adding another rung”, but their ladder is leaning on the wrong wall! It’s leaning on Satan’s wall and he is content to have it there because he knows that no one will be saved in this way.
2. Only God can get you to heaven. Salvation is always God’s way and never man’s way. If we had anything to do with it, we would have something to boast about, but we don’t, so we can’t. God’s plan of salvation is so simple today, but it is man that tries to complicate it. Let’s look at two passages that will give us some insight into God’s plan of salvation for today.
First, let’s turn to Acts 16:16-32. Paul and Silas were in Philippi and were preaching the gospel of grace (which we’ll look at in a moment). There was an unsaved slave girl who practiced fortunetelling and was a good source of income for her masters. Although possessed by a demon, notice verse 17. She knew that they were telling people how to be saved. Here Paul did a miracle and removed the demon from her which did not sit well with her masters because their source of income was suddenly gone. The end result was that Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into prison. To keep them securely, the jailer put them in the innermost part of the prison. In verse 25, Paul and Silas are worshipping God at midnight and the other prisoners were listening to them. The Lord sent an earthquake and all of the prison doors were opened and all of their chains fell off. (By the way, isn’t this a picture of our salvation? When we trusted Christ, the prison door of sin was flung open and our chains of bondage to sin fell off.) Fearing the worst, the jailer was about to kill himself (the penalty for letting a prisoner escape) but Paul called to him and told him to do himself no harm, that they were all still there. I don’t know how many others were there with them, but it is remarkable that all of them were still there. The jailer called for a light and rushed in falling at the feet of Paul and Silas and asked what he needed to do to be saved. Notice Paul’s response in verse 31 “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” This doesn’t mean that the jailer’s family was saved because of his belief. Notice verse 32 – They were saved because Paul and Silas spoke the word of salvation to them.
What did the jailer believe in order to be saved? Turn to 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. These verses present the gospel for today in a very concise and easy to understand way. A person is saved today by believing that Christ died on the cross for their sins, died and rose again on the third day for them, personally. So, it is not by trying or crying or praying or paying or doing anything that heaven can be reached, it is only by believing the gospel for today.
3. Salvation is a gift of God. Let’s go back to Ephesians 2:8. Salvation is the gift of God. This gift is available for everyone, but there’s a catch. A gift is not possessed until it is accepted. The gift of salvation is on the table for all, but it is only given to those who will accept it. One of the reasons that salvation is a gift is that God is not going to have any self boasters in heaven – there are enough of them on earth and nobody likes them! Paul did not boast of himself. He had three things in which he boasted.
a. Galatians 6:14 – Paul boasted in the Cross because he knew that he had been saved by believing in the work that Christ did there for him.
b. 1 Timothy 1:15-16 – Although the word boast is not used in this passage, it is evident that this was something that Paul boasted it – that God saved him, vile as he was. Notice that Paul didn’t have to DO anything to be saved, only believe. God took him as he was and transformed his life into one that was pleasing to God.
c. 2 Corinthians 12:1-9 – Paul could have boasted that he had been caught up to heaven, but instead he boasted in his infirmities or weaknesses. He realized that in his weakness, the strength of God is perfected.
4. Even the best of us are not good enough for heaven. Romans 3:23 puts is very plainly, doesn’t it? All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. No one is excluded.
Dr. Harry Ironside had this conversation with a man after one of his gospel meetings.
“Are you saved, sir?”
“No, I really can’t say that I am, but I would like to be.” the man replied.
“Why would you? Do you realize you are a lost sinner?”
“Of course, we are all sinners.”
“Ah! but that often means little or nothing. Are you a sinner yourself?”
“Well, I suppose I am, but I’m not what you would call a bad sinner. I am, I think, a rather good one. I always try to do the best I know.”
Ironside replied, “Then, my friend, I fear there is little use in seeking to show you the way of salvation. Good sinners, together with honest liars, upright thieves and virtuous scoundrels are far from being ready to submit to the grace of God, which is only for poor, vile, hell-deserving sinners, who have no merits to build on, no goodness to plead, but who are read to be saved alone by the work of Another, and that One the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Ironside said that after talking with the man more that he was far from being ready to be saved and was willing to take “his chances” as he was. (Ironside P. 71)
Recognizing that you are a sinner and are lost is the first step toward salvation. If you don’t know that you are lost, you feel you have no need of a Savior. Believers who have trusted in Christ are “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:24)
5. Believers have peace with God. Turn with me to Romans 5:1. Within every person is the desire for peace. Every person who trusts Christ has peace with God. They know, in their hearts, that they are now right with God. There are many ways man tries to find this peace through the things of this world, but only God can give you true peace.
If you have any questions about how to be saved, or about what we believe, why not come and visit us on a Sunday morning, we’d love to see you (after we are able to start meeting again)! If you are looking for a church that preaches the Word of God, rightly divided (or if you want to find out what that means) why not come and check us out? We would welcome the opportunity to get to know you, fellowship with you around God’s Word and answer any questions you might have.
In His Saving and Abounding Grace,
Pastor Wes Barteck