“Nothing in my hands do I bring,
simply to the cross I cling”
Acts 16: 16-34
Two of the most confusing years of my life were my first the seminary studying to be a pastor. For an older student the languages and doing assignments it was a culture shock and difficult. So yes, the doing “stuff” was at times difficult. But the confusion was from within because I continually self-doubted whether I was meant to be there. I wanted so much to do what God had wanted me to do but kept thinking that maybe I had misinterpreted just what that was, and maybe it was my own human construction that had led me there.
So one day I asked to see one of the lecturers and told him of my situation-of being torn daily and the anxiety it was bringing me. His answer was not one of let’s look how you got here or working through things but simply “it seems you have a faith problem”.
I’ve been called many things in my life, but that hadn’t been one of them. But over the following weeks and months I got it. Yes, I knew who Christ was and what he came for. The son of God, the saviour of the world and even me. But I got it. I was so wanting to follow what he wanted that it was getting in the way and yes I was continually asking Him, but also myself and then rationalising it with my human mind and I’d be back at the start again which was like, maybe I was only there because I was like Whoopi Goldberg in the movie nuns on the run where she only went to the nunnery because she was boxed in by the stuff she had done and was there by default.
And maybe I was right, but maybe also, that’s what had to happen.
Maybe that’s what had to happen to see through the eyes like the jailor in today’s reading from acts. To where you are brought to the brink, think of all the options and realise you have none and have a seemingly simple but nevertheless, unfathomable choice. To either follow what seems the logical outcome to destruction, or just give all that has gone before and lay ourselves at His mercy-say “what must I do”.
I’m done-What must I do to save me from myself? What must I do to take away the guilt? What must I do? I’ll climb mountains. I’ll do anything to start again. I’ll beg for mercy and if the only way to see some peace is to end it, then let it end because this world is too hard for me, no rather-I’m not strong enough to fight the world, to fight what I’ve done and what I’ve become. To be trapped like the jailor in Acts.
To the horror of the jailer, he awoke at the commotion, thinking his worst nightmare had come true. Believing the prisoners had escaped he reached for his sword to end his life, but Paul shouted, “Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!” (Acts 16:28)
29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family. (Acts 16:29-34)
What must I do to be saved? The question “what one must do?” is perhaps a very natural response for humanity. The jailer faced death, because the prison had become unsecured under his watch. He was frightened, humiliated, and his immediate response, before Paul stopped him, was to take his life.
No more excuses or lying up the sleeve. When there’s nothing left but a broken spirit-we look to the Lord and ask “How can a person like me be saved, how can a person like me go on?”
And His answer “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved”.
Saved eternally-Yes, but also saved today-from yourself.
As Christians we often place ourselves back under bondage, as did the jailer. Instead of our freedom in Christ allowing us to be who we are called to be, we get caught up worrying what we and others must do to be Christian – what we must do to be saved and save others. However, “being a Christian” is exactly that, “being” rather than “doing”. When one faces the question of doing — failure, depression, and death follow hot on the heels of our defective human deeds. It’s not so much a question of “what I must do to be?” but rather, “my being in Christ allows me to do what he wills for me.”
Martin Luther wrote that: “In the matter of faith one must let everything go and cling to the Word alone. When we have gripped that, let the world, death, sin, hell and every misfortune storm and rage. But if you let go of the Word, you will be doomed.”
If you let go of the Word you are doomed because then it comes back to us, of how we feel inside.
The Word of God comes from outside and is not accountable to how we feel-it remains resolute and does not change.
I would like to read a passage from Revelations. Revelations Chapter 7, verses 9 to 14:
“9 After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 14 (I asked who they were)
And he said, “These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. “
We are in the great tribulation-trouble, trial and ordeal. And in that things get confusing to us but not to the Lord.
He sees every self-doubt and burden we carry-and that he knows they are heavy-he offers no catches or tricks. That we make it through this great tribulation still in faith even astonishes the angels. Our Lord’s offer is simple because there is no other way but belief in Him, the Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour and to be washed clean in his blood.
We ask our Lord for forgiveness and most certainly are given eternal life.
We ask each other for forgiveness that we may be free today, and today-I beg of your forgiveness.