Sunday – September 27, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 22:1-29 “Tempest in the Temple”

Sunday – September 27, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – September 27, 2020

Acts 22:4-5
I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison, as also the high priest and all the Council can testify.

Have you ever wished that you had a more dramatic testimony? Perhaps you’ve heard of someone who came to Christ from a life of terrible sin and you’ve thought, “If I just had a testimony like that, I could lead all sorts of people to Christ!” If you grew up in the church, your testimony may not be a dramatic or compelling story that leads people to Christ. But the Lord has shown me over the years that my heart is just as corrupt as the hearts of the most wicked people on earth. I’ve also learned that it takes the same mighty power of God to save an outwardly good person as it does to save an outwardly evil person. An outwardly good person needs salvation every bit as much as the notorious sinner does.

Everything about Paul’s conversion came from God. Nothing about his conversion stemmed from Paul. God didn’t look down and see some merit in Paul that qualified him to come to salvation. Quite to the contrary, Paul confesses that he was “a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a violent aggressor” (1 Tim. 1:13). There are many who say that the reason that God chose Paul, or that He chooses anyone, is that He foresees that the person will one day choose to follow Him. But to say this is to base God’s sovereign election on the fallen will of man, ignoring the plain biblical truth that unless God first does a work of grace in our hearts, no one would ever choose Him. No one comes to Jesus unless the Father draws him (John 6:44) and no one is able to come to Jesus unless it has been granted him from the Father (John 6:65).

In several places, Paul attributes the first cause of our salvation to God’s choice of us, not to our choice of Him. In Ephesians 1:4-6, he says, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world …. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” In 2 Timothy 1:9, he says that God “has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.”

If God’s grace and power are mighty to save a sinner such as Paul, then He is able to save any sinner, and to do it instantly and totally. His light can blind and knock down the most powerful persecutor of the church. You may have some terrible sins in your past. You may even be militantly opposed to Christianity, convinced by all of your arguments that it is just a myth. But the risen Lord Jesus is mighty to save even you. He can open your eyes to get a glimpse of His glory and grace, and you will never be the same.

Sunday – September 6, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 20:1-38 “Passing the Torch”

Sunday – September 6, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – September 6, 2020

Acts 20:1-3
When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said good-by and set out for Macedonia. He traveled through that area, speaking many words of encouragement to the people, and finally arrived in Greece, where he stayed three months.

The apostle Paul changed the world as few other men have ever done. He lived in a day before jet airplanes or cars and paved highways. He had to go everywhere by foot, on donkeys, or by sailing vessel, none of which were very speedy. He did not have a telephone to call and talk with the leaders of churches that he had founded around the Roman Empire. He didn’t have computers, email, copy machines, or other modern tools that make communication easier. He spent many years of his ministry in prison, unable to move about freely. He contended with fierce opposition both from outside and inside the church. And yet, after 25-30 years of ministry, he left a lasting impact on the world, not only in his time, but also for all times.

Jesus promised to build His church on Peter’s confession of Him as the Christ, the Son of the living God, and that the gates of Hades would not prevail against it. Paul traveled about preaching the gospel and helping the new converts begin to meet as local churches. Those churches in turn could evangelize their own areas, as well as train and send out new missionaries to evangelize and plant new churches in other areas, so that the process is multiplied many times over. He did this in Ephesus, so that after two years, all of Asia (western Turkey) heard the word of the Lord. Paul was unrelenting in his commitment to the church.. He called the Philippian church his joy and his crown. He told the Colossians of his great struggle on their behalf and for those in Laodicea, that they would be knit together in love and attain to all that wealth that comes from a full knowledge of Jesus Christ. In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, he goes through a long list of all of the labors and trials that he had gone through on behalf of Christ. The last thing he mentions is, “Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.”

At first glance, our text shows us a slice of Paul’s life describing his travels. Some things are skimmed over, and we can fill in many details from 1 & 2 Corinthians and Romans, which he wrote during this time period. Other things, such as his meeting with the church in Troas, are described in more detail. We might at first read these verses and think, “That’s interesting, but it doesn’t relate to my life.” But I think that just below the surface of Luke’s description of Paul’s travels lies Paul’s unswerving commitment to Christ’s church. It was that commitment that was at the heart of how God used Paul to change the world for Jesus Christ. No matter what our individual gifts or calling, we need to be committed to the church of Jesus Christ if we want to see God use us to change our world for Him.

Sunday – August 23, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 18:18 to 19:18-7 “Filling in the Right Blank”

Sunday – August 23, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – August 23, 2020

Acts 18:24-25
Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John.

Apollos is a most fascinating fellow, and thanks to Luke’s description, we know he was a gifted Jew from Alexandria. This Egyptian city was where the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) was written. Alexandrian Jews were among those with whom Stephen debated (Acts 6:9). If Apollos was “well-versed in the scriptures” (Acts 18:24) it was probably in Alexandria that he became a great student of the Old Testament. Apollos was not only very knowledgeable in the Old Testament Scriptures; he was also a very powerful speaker.

Luke tells us a great deal about Apollos, but he also informs us that there were some gaps in his understanding of the gospel. The question is, “What were these gaps?” Imagine, for a moment, that you were a God-fearing Jew, who eagerly awaited the coming of Messiah. You knew that Messiah would make His appearance at Jerusalem. You would go there for one of the feasts and when you made your trip, it was during the time when John the Baptist was proclaiming the coming of Messiah. But it was still at a time when John had not yet been informed that Jesus was the Promised One. You would have left Jerusalem with heightened expectation, but without the specific identification of Jesus as Messiah. What you would not (and could not) know is who He was.

I believe that is the situation with Apollos, as perhaps also it might have been with the Bereans, Priscilla and Aquila, and the 12 disciples of chapter 19, verses 1-7. For someone who had finally learned of Jesus, and had come to trust in Him as the Messiah, how strange it must have been to hear a man like Apollos preach, a man who was still living in a past era, still looking for Messiah, but not knowing He had come. As Priscilla and Aquila sat in the synagogue and heard Apollos teach, they must have looked at one another and said, “His teaching points to Jesus, and he doesn’t know it.” What Priscilla and Aquila did was to “fill in the blank” for Apollos, informing him that Jesus of Nazareth was not only Messiah, but that He was Yahweh—God in human flesh.

There was a necessity for these “Old Testament saints” to hear of Jesus and trust in Him personally. That need was met through Priscilla and Aquila, as well as by Paul. If these “believers” in the “Christ to come” had to be told of Jesus and His coming, and to trust in Him, then no one will be saved apart from a personal knowledge and trust in Jesus as the Savior today, either. Unlike these “Old Testament saints,” who had not heard of Jesus, you know all that you will ever need to know about Him. But have you ever really crossed the line, from a knowledge about Jesus to a personal faith and trust in Him? If not, the hour is late and the need is urgent. Cross that line today!

Sunday – August 2, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 17:1-15 “What Is Our Goal”

Sunday – Sunday – August 2, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – Sunday – August 2, 2020

Acts 17:2-4a
And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ.” And some of them were persuaded

The general malaise and moral confusion of the culture reminds me of Saint Francis’s claim that he would go to the city center in Assisi and stand on his head to see the world aright. The early Church was given credit for turning the world upside down. The Christian worldview required everyone outside of the Christian faith to stand on their heads to make sense of things. But now, the world is back where Christians found it. Now we find ourselves standing on our heads to see it aright. Light has been declared darkness and darkness declared light. Right is wrong, wrong is right, up is down and down is up. The old greeting, “What’s Up?” requires the answer, “Who knows?”

For 50 years, the Church has held a false idea that there are two optional tracks in the Christian life. One track is the committed discipleship track, for gung-ho types. They give up the comforts of life, giving large portions of their income to the cause of Christ and they devote themselves and their time totally to Jesus. But if that track is a bit much for you, then you can choose the comfortable Christian track. Comfortable Christians usually go to church on Sundays, unless one of their hobbies has a big event that day. They give a bit to help out the church and volunteer some time to the cause, when time permits. For them, Christ and the church are a nice slice of life that help to make life more pleasant. But I never find Jesus offering this second track to any of His followers.

In our Christian apathy, we have failed to see the war around us. It is a cultural war, but, more profoundly, it is a war of ideas. Behind those ideas are persons and, finally, only two persons, God and Satan. Why would we, the church, dirty our hands and join the fight? Because our disciples have failed and we have lost the culture. We’ve been making our kind of disciples for the past fifty years and look at what we have accomplished. The disciples we have produced have allowed the culture to be taken over by leftist ideology that is clearly anti-Christian, anti-gospel, and has cut off at least two generations from the biblical, literary, social, and cultural foundation of a working society. Those young people tearing down statues are our disciples. We must make different disciples in order to get a different result and the church must take some responsibility.

Perhaps you do not share this urgency concerning this war for the minds and souls of others because you have not come to grips with the urgency of your receiving Jesus Christ as your Savior. Apart from Him, you will die in your sins and spend eternity apart from God in eternal suffering. The gospel of Jesus Christ informs you that God has provided for the forgiveness of your sins through the death of Jesus Christ in your place, bearing your condemnation, and offering you His righteousness. Time is limited. He may return at any moment, or you may die before He comes. Accept Him today.

Sunday – June 21, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 13:42 14:7 “Good News Divides”

Sunday – June 21, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – June 21, 2020

Acts 13:44-45
On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying.”

Rare are the people who really enjoy conflict and division, most of us do not. We like peace and often go to great lengths to avoid confrontation. Most of us put off any kind of confrontational encounter as long as we possibly can. Maybe that’s one reason that most of us are afraid to tell others about Jesus Christ. We know that the other person may not respond favorably, and we’d rather not create conflict. And we know that Satan will oppose the one who tells others about Christ. After all, who wants to engage in combat with the prince of darkness?

If we take a stand for Jesus Christ, we will encounter opposition, sometimes even from our own families. While we should always be sensitive and gracious to each person, and be careful not to be personally offensive, there is an inherently divisive quality about the gospel. We see this in our text. Everywhere that Paul and Barnabas went, they caused division. In 13:42-52, we see the reaction to Paul’s sermon in Pisidian Antioch: Some believed and followed Paul and Barnabas; others rejected their message and created such strong opposition that they drove the evangelists out of the region. The same thing will happen at the next town, Iconium (14:1-7). The gospel is good news that divides.

The gospel caused the entire city to be polarized into those for Paul and Barnabas and those against them. In Luke’s words, the whole city was divided – some siding with the Jews, the rest siding with Paul and Barnabas. This is familiar to those who have studied the Gospels. In the Gospels – particularly John’s Gospel – we find the crowds often divided in their response to the teaching and ministry of Jesus: There was a lot of grumbling about him among the crowds. Some were saying, “He is a good man,” but others, “He deceives the common people” (John 7:12).

It seems to me that we are in danger in our day of taking the offense out of the gospel. We’ve made it a safe, palatable message that would offend no one. “If you’re unhappy in life, try Jesus. He will make you happy. You don’t have to worry about your sin—no repentance required. Just believe and live as you’ve always lived!” That is not the gospel. The gospel confronts every sinner with his sin. It shows that no sinner can save himself, but that God will save everyone who casts himself on Jesus alone. If we are saved, it is because God chose to save us, and all the glory goes to Him. If we are lost, it is because of our stubborn pride and disobedience. That message is divisive because it confronts human pride and glorifies God alone.

Sunday – June 14, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 13:14:41 “Past Perspective”

Sunday – June 14, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – June 14, 2020

Acts 13:32
We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers 33 he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus.”

In October, 1940, Presidential candidate Franklin Roosevelt promised, “I have said this before, but I shall say it again and again: Your boys are not going to be sent into any foreign wars.” In October, 1964, candidate Lyndon Johnson promised, “We are not about to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves”. We’re so used to politicians not keeping their campaign promises that those outrageous quotes hardly bother us.

If you’re going to entrust your soul for eternity to God, it is important to know that He keeps His promises. Most of us have had the experience of being disappointed with God. We trusted Him for something that we thought He had promised, but it did not work out as we had hoped. Whenever that happens, it is we, not God, who were mistaken. We somehow failed to understand or properly apply His promises. But on the matter of our eternal destiny, it is crucial that we properly understand and apply God’s promise of salvation. To be mistaken here would be eternally fatal!

We live in a day that scoffs at the thought of God’s judgment. Even many who profess to know Christ say, “My God is a God of love, not a God of judgment.” But what matters is not how you speculate God to be, but rather, how He has in fact revealed Himself in His Word. Some who claim to be evangelical theologians argue that hell will not be eternal punishment. Rather, they say that God will annihilate the wicked after they have served an appropriate sentence. While appealing to the flesh, that view contradicts the very words of Jesus, who quoted Isaiah, that hell will be a place “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched” (see Mark 9:42-48). Just as eternal life is forever, so eternal punishment is forever.

The God who keeps His promises is also the God who carries through with His warnings! Paul’s sermon gives abundant evidence that God faithfully kept His gracious promise to send Jesus as the Savior of all who will believe in Him. The word of this salvation is sent to you (13:26). Through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you (13:38). Through Him everyone who believes is justified in God’s sight (13:39). But also, all who scoff at Him or ignore Him “will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thess. 1:9). Remember, Paul was speaking here to a religious audience. Everyone present believed in God. But they needed personally to put their trust in His promise of salvation through Jesus Christ so that the words of His warning did not come upon them.

Sunday – June 7, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 13:1-13 “What a Way to Go”

Sunday – June 7, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – June 7, 2020

Acts 13:7-9
The proconsul, an intelligent man, sent for Barnabas and Saul because he wanted to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for that is what his name means) opposed them and tried to turn the proconsul from the faith.”

Many people enter the Christian life with false expectations. They were told that trusting Jesus as their Savior would solve many, if not most, of their problems. They heard that the Christian life is an abundant life, full of joy and peace. What they didn’t hear is that it also is a life of mortal combat with the enemy of our souls, who is not only powerful, but also incredibly crafty. And, the combat intensifies when a person engages in some sort of ministry. When we go out to do the Lord’s work, we should expect and be prepared for satanic opposition. Leading someone to Christ involves more than giving a sales pitch or using logical arguments. We are engaging in battle with Satan himself, who wants to keep the person in his kingdom of darkness.

Although Peter had witnessed to Cornelius and the Gentiles in his home, the Jerusalem church never seemed to pick up on this as a precedent for further outreach to the Gentiles. It was left to the church at Antioch to see this direct approach bring many Gentiles to the faith without coming through the door of Judaism. When Barnabas and Saul begin their mission, they start by witnessing to the Jews in the synagogues of Cyprus. This was always Paul’s approach, to take the gospel to the Jew first, and then to the Gentiles (Rom. 1:16). Perhaps he did this because of his intense desire to see his own people saved (Rom. 9:1-5). He may have been following Jesus’ approach, of first taking the good news to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and only later mandating that the message go out to all the nations.

Satan uses deceit to undermine the necessity of the cross of Jesus Christ. In our day, there is a resurgence of “spirituality,” but it is a spirituality devoid of the substitutionary death of Jesus on behalf of sinners. It is a spirituality where each person makes up “truth” according to his own likes and dislikes. It even “works.” There are many publications giving evidence that faith contributes to physical healing- but it doesn’t matter what your faith is in. For example, Hindus in India who pray regularly have 70 percent less heart disease than those lacking such faith. This is satanic deception, causing people who read it to think that it doesn’t matter what you believe, just so you believe in something.

Satan does not want the gospel to go out, because he knows that God will use it to open people’s eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Jesus Christ. But your only real option is to go into battle, armed with the gospel of truth. With Paul at the end of his life, you will be able to say, “The Lord will deliver me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (2 Tim. 4:18).

Sunday – May 24, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 12:1-25 “Death and Deliverance”

Sunday – May 24, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – May 24, 2020

Acts 12:1-2
It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword. 3 When he saw that this pleased the Jews, he proceeded to seize Peter also.

There are times when evil seems to be winning the day. Wicked men get away with murder and their popularity goes up, not down. Throughout the world, the saints of God are persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ and the righteous suffer terribly. Their loved ones are bereaved. It’s easy at such times to wonder, “Where is God in all of this? Why did He allow this to happen? How can any good come out of such awful wickedness?”

Peter, James and John had been close. James and John had asked to be given privileged positions, above the other disciples, by allowing them to sit at the right and left hand of the Lord in His kingdom. Instead of talking about these honored positions, Jesus turned the subject to His “baptism,” His suffering and death. He asked Peter and John if they were able to drink the cup which He was to drink. Ignorantly, they assured Jesus that they were able. Jesus responded by telling them that they would indeed drink of that cup, the cup of death. Little did either James or John realize how soon it would be before James would drink of that cup. They had spent three years in close contact with Jesus. But now, James was suddenly gone and Peter was awaiting execution. John was left wondering, “Why?”

What a commentary Acts 12 provides us on the words of John, recorded in the last chapter of his gospel. Peter, James, and John were all present when Jesus appeared to them. Peter was asked the three-fold question (“Do you love Me …”), and was given a three-fold command (“Feed My sheep.”). He was also given the command to follow Christ, with a specific reference to his death. And yet Peter wanted to know about John’s death, about what God had purposed for John. Here were Peter and John, thinking of their deaths, and now we see that in God’s plan and purpose it was neither of them who would be honored by the privilege of dying first. That privilege was saved for James.

There is nothing mechanical about the Christian life. God is not obliged to treat all Christians alike, and the record of the Bible is that God deals differently with each individual. Summed up in one word, God is sovereign. He works all things according to His own good pleasure. Men cannot and do not manipulate God; God manipulates men, for His glory and for their glory and good. How evident this is in the lives of these three men, all of whom experienced such different fates, all of whom served God in such different ways.

Sunday – May 3, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 11:1-19 “Calling Peter on the Carpet”

Sunday – May 3, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – May 3, 2020

Acts 11:1-4
Now the apostles and the brethren who were throughout Judea heard that the Gentiles also had received the word of God. And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those who were circumcised took issue with him, saying, “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.”

We all get into mental ruts from time to time and often need a whack on the side of the head to jar us into new and better ways of thinking. Also, we all bring a lot of wrong-thinking baggage with us into the Christian life. If we are to grow into being more like Jesus, every now and then God has to take a 2×4 and gently whack us on the side of the head to help us change our thinking.

We’ve seen how the Lord whacked Peter in preparation for his going to the house of the Gentile centurion, Cornelius. No Jew would think of going into a Gentile home, much less eating with Gentiles, for fear of contracting ceremonial defilement. The Lord Jesus had clearly told the apostles to go into all the world to preach the gospel to every creature. But in their centuries-old Jewish way of thinking, the disciples thought that Jesus meant for them to go and preach to Jews who were scattered all over the world. But the thought of preaching the gospel to pagan Gentiles and of those Gentiles coming to salvation without first becoming religious Jews was simply unthinkable.

By nature, we all bring wrong theological views into our Christian experience. Charles Spurgeon once said that we’re all by nature born Armenians, so at first we think that we came to the Lord ourselves. Only later we learn from God’s Word that He first sought us. Part of the process of sanctification is God’s transforming our minds (Rom. 12:2) as we begin to assimilate the truths of His Word. Peter had seen this remarkable response, as a whole house full of Gentiles had believed in Christ and were saved. But rather than rejoicing over what God had done, these saints were grumbling about the matter of Peter’s eating with Gentiles!

But before we try to remove the splinter in their eye, let’s deal with the log in our own eye! We often do the same thing. We elevate certain traditions or ways of doing things above the salvation of the lost. We are all for seeing young people getting saved, but they had better make sure that they not delay in looking and acting like those who have been in the church for 50 years! If any of our cultural baggage (including spiritual culture) is getting in the way of our commitment to reaching people from different cultures with the gospel, then drop baggage! Our main focus should be the salvation of lost people to the glory of God. If you see someone come into church who is not “your kind of person” and you don’t go out of your way to make that person feel welcome, your heart is in the wrong place!

Sunday – April 26, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 10:34-48 “What a Difference a New Menu Makes”

Sunday – April 26, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – April 26, 2020

Acts 10:42-43
And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.”

Since life is short and uncertain and eternity is forever, the most important question anyone can answer is, “How can I be saved?” How can I know for certain that I am right with God? Sadly, even among Christians there are myriads of answers to that crucial question.  Many think that if a person is sincere, it really doesn’t matter what he believes. Another common belief is we must be good people to be saved. If we try to do our best, if we don’t hurt anyone, if we help others, then we will get into heaven. Often faith in Christ is combined with good works. If we believe in Jesus and do the best we can, the combination will somehow get us into heaven.

Peter and the other apostles knew that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by our good works or efforts. But practically speaking, up till now they also believed that to be right with God, a pagan Gentile had to become a Jew in the sense of obeying the Jewish laws regarding circumcision and ceremonial issues. The thought of a Gentile getting saved without coming through the door of Judaism was foreign to them. But God has been breaking down Peter’s Jewish prejudices on this matter. Now they are all swept away in an instant, as the Gentiles in Cornelius’ house clearly get saved and receive the Holy Spirit in the same manner as the Jews had on the Day of Pentecost.

Even though Cornelius was a good man- even a God-fearing man, he still needed to hear about Jesus Christ and to put his trust in Him. As Peter proclaimed in Acts 4:12, “There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” This means that there is no salvation for good people apart from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no salvation for good Americans who live in a supposedly “Christian” nation, apart from personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. But there is salvation for everyone who believes in Him.

Believing in the name of Jesus does not refer to a general, vague sort of belief. Instead, it is specific and personal. To believe in Jesus means that I believe He is the Lord who gave Himself on the cross for my sins. I believe the promise of God, that whoever believes on Him receives eternal life as God’s gift, not based on any human merit, but only on God’s free grace. To believe in Jesus means I no longer rely on anything in myself to make me worthy in the eyes God. Rather, I trust only in what Jesus did on the cross as my hope for forgiveness of sins and eternal life.