It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.
Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:10,12)
Here was the apostle Peter defending his Christian faith soon after the first Easter. And what he says is this. “Salvation comes no other way; no other name has been or will be given to us by which we can be saved, only this one.” Being saved by through Jesus Christ.
The Bible talks a lot about salvation. We find the word salvation 127 time and the idea of being saved more than 300 times in the Bible. Jesus talked a lot about salvation. And the church talks a lot about salvation. Because “being saved” is at the heart of the Christian faith. But what is salvation? What does it mean to be “saved”?
A while ago we went to the historical dockyards at Chatham and visited an exhibition of lifeboats by the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. From the early simple sailing boats to recent lifeboats. Each boat showing how many times it had been launched and how many lives it had saved. Over the years many thousands of lives have been saved by lifeboats.
I don’t know if you have ever been rescued at sea. I never have. But if you are on a ship which is sinking I can imagine what a relief it must be to see a lifeboat arrive and climb aboard! Maybe you are already in the icy water, being battered by the wind and the waves, struggling to stay afloat – how wonderful to see a lifeboat! And that lifeboat is to me a picture of salvation. You are pulled on board – you have been saved from the sea which was about to swallow you up. You get out of wet clothes into a dry blanket and sip warm tea you are being saved. And when you arrive on dry land you will finally be saved! You have been saved, you are being saved and you will be saved. Here is a picture of what salvation means to Christians.
We have been saved. Not from the sea and the wind and the waves but from something even more deadly – one hundred percent fatal. Saved from ourselves. Saved from our own selfishness and self-centredness. Saved from pride and greed and self-sufficiency which drag us down to our doom just as much as any stormy sea!
All the bad things we do and say and think which the Bible calls sin. They drag us down and separate us from the God who made us and loves us.
Only Jesus can save us! That is what Easter is all about
They call it “Good” Friday because on that day Jesus Christ the Son of God laid down his life for us, so that we could be forgiven. Christ had no sin, but God made him to be sin for us so that in Him we could become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21) Then on Easter Day God raised Jesus to life again. Jesus is alive! So when we believe in Jesus our sins are forgiven – we share Jesus’s resurrection life!
We have been saved, and we are being saved. Just as a person rescued from drowning sitting on the lifeboat headed for shore enjoys simple blessings of being alive, warm clothes, food and a warm drink, so Christians enjoy God’s blessings. God’s presence, peace and joy. The privilege of prayer. The friendship of the church. God living inside us – the Holy Spirit! Jesus called all these things “life in all its fullness”. “I have come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly,” Jesus said. We have “eternal life”, a personal relationship with God and Jesus which not even death can take away.
Because we have been saved, we are being saved, but also we will be saved. The lifeboat has yet to reach the shore. When it does, the best is yet to come! Because being saved is not just for this life, but forever. When this earthly life is over, we have the happy certainty of being with God forever! We aren’t afraid of dying – our life will continue in heaven!
We have been saved. We are being saved. We will be saved. That is what Christians mean by salvation. That is why we are so happy to be saved!
I remember a poster of a beautiful butterfly with a Bible verse on it. It read,
When a person becomes a Christian he becomes a brand new person inside.
He is not the same any more. A new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
Just as a caterpillar changes into a butterfly, so when a person is saved a whole new life begins.
Amazing grace – how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now I’m found. Was blind, but now I see.
The starting point of course is for a person to realise they need saving. We all need saving – this world is a sinking ship – every one of us is doomed to ending up adrift in the ocean.
Nobody here is perfect! If I was to ask each of you to put your hands up if you agreed that there have been things in your life which you have done or said which you are ashamed of, I reckon about 90% would put your hands up and the other 10% would agree that you were lying. We have all done things we should not have done and said things we should not have said. We all need saving!
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, one played a joke on a dozen influential people, businessmen, politicians, even clergymen. He sent them all identical telegrams, “Flee at once all is discovered!” The story goes that within 24 hours all of them had left the country!
When I was Esther’s age – I didn’t think I needed saving! I didn’t grow up in a Christian family. We never went to church or Sunday school or talked about God. . By the time I was studying science in the sixth form I was convinced that science had proved that God didn’t exist.
Then some school friends invited me along to their church youth club. I started going along to their Bible Studies as well to show them that their ideas about Jesus were all wrong. I won all the arguments, but they never got angry with me. And then one night I realised that these friends were all nice people, kind people, friendly people, the kind of person I wished I could be, but I knew I wasn’t. So for the first time in my life I prayed to the God I didn’t really believe in. It was a very simple prayer: “God change me!” The next morning I woke up and the whole world was very different. I just knew that God existed and that God loved me, even me. And somehow I knew that God had forgiven me for all the things I do wrong and all my selfishness and pride. I had begun to discover all the great things which are wrapped up in the wonderful experience of salvation
That was 40 years ago. My life is still a “work in progress” but I know that God is still changing me.”
We all need saving. We can’t save ourselves. Only Jesus can save us. We need to send out a call for help. SOS – save our SOULS. I remember another poster with a picture of a rescue helicopter winching a sailor up from a boat sinking in a stormy sea.
The caption on the poster was from Hebrews 2:3. “How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?”
I watched a documentary on the sinking of the Titanic. As the unsinkable ship disappeared beneath the waves taking 1517 people to their deaths there were still empty seats on the lifeboats.
And there are lots of empty seats in the lifeboat of salvation. Some people swimming around in the water, realise they aren’t waving but drowning but STILL don’t get in the lifeboat. Other people still aboard their Titanic, thinking they are completely safe, eating their dinners, listening to the band, lounging in their deckchairs sipping their drinks not realising that the ship is sinking and that unless they get aboard the lifeboat they are doomed!
“How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?”
The Lifeboat of Salvation has room for everybody. But each person has to choose to get aboard. Let me finish with a story – the parable of the two drowning men.
Two men fell into a river. One man could swim – the other one couldn’t. The current was strong and carried them towards a dangerous waterfall. One of the men drowned, the other one was saved. Which man do you think it was who survived?
The man who could not swim survived. When onlookers on the bank threw a lifebuoy to the man who could not swim, he took firm hold of it. The onlookers pulled on the rope and pulled the man who could not swim to safety on dry land.
But when the onlookers threw a lifebuoy to the man who could swim, he ignored it. He kept on swimming towards the shore but the current was too strong for him. Still he refused to take hold of the lifebuoy. So the man who could swim was drowned. But the man who could not swim was saved.
“How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation?”