It is awfully disturbing when people make commitments to follow Jesus as Lord and don’t make any progress. Some flare for a while … similar to the parable to the soils. Remember how Jesus taught this parable?
Lu 8:5 “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. 6 Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. 8 Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”
The seed was good, but not all of the soils were good. The seed is God’s Word (Gospel) and the soils are people (Heart). As the farmer sowed his seed so some fell onto the pathway. Birds ate these seeds. Some fell on rocks and sprouted, but due to no root depth, there was no source of water (nutrition). They died. Some seed fell amongst thorns and as it grew the thorn bushes throttled them. But some seed fell onto good soil and achieved the farmer’s intention … a health crop. You and I can see where this parable is leading, but not the first hearers:
Lk 8:11 “This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14 The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.”
The first three categories are people who stubborn, but interest in the world takes first place. Only the last category of people go through to full eternal salvation. We should never believe that everyone who makes a commitment for Jesus is a genuine convert! As a young believer I heard of a popular reformed pastor saying a man surrendered to Jesus and after a year he came to the pastor saying he was still a Christian. The pastor said he needs to come back after 10 years with the same story. The man did and the pastor was delighted. I thought the pastor was harsh, but I did not know the circumstances, yet the point is valid … true salvation is proved over time … just as the seed in the good soil proved itself genuine growing into a plant producing a crop. The Philippian jailer was like the good soil and the seed was the Gospel message in verses 31-32.
Ac 16:33 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.
This was the First Century where the apostles had supernatural gifting as we have seen before, so true conversions were obvious from the start because the convert knew he or she might face the death penalty. Notice:
1) The ministry of mercy. You will recall how they were beaten …at that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds … In his heart he demonstrated two things to me.
(1) He showed the emotions, mercy and concern the Good Samaritan did when he came across the beaten up Jew.
(2) He showed the spiritual gift of mercy. What the jailer did was unheard of … attending to the wounds inflicted by the magistrates. He could lose his life and family for betraying the Roman Empire. This proves genuine conversion. It was not just a momentary emotional hype. We ought to display the ministry of mercy … not to the lazy and grabbers but to those in need, first to God’s family and then to others too.
2) The ministry of identification. Another proof of true conversion was … then immediately he and all his family were baptized … they wanted to declare to all their new life in Christ Jesus. Remember at this stage they were still in the prison quarters. All the prisoners plus those working under the jailer saw the demonstration of a change of life from whatever religion they followed to becoming believers in Jesus. This was profound because from here on out the jailer would be a Christian jailer with a new cultures, character, personality and work ethic. Right here lies a major challenge for you and me in the market place. Consider the use of language, dirty jokes, under the counter or back handed activities, laziness, starting and ending times, sick leave and attitude. You see, in Jesus our morality is to be Gospel or we take His name in vain and are blasphemers!
3) The ministry of hospitality. Here’s another dangerous act of love … The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them … he took them out of jail and took them home! One could see this as criminal but God was at work and when God works no earthly authority can overrule him. Maybe the jailer knew they had not eaten for a while, but a meal is the center of fellowship … that is why the Bible calls it the gift of fellowship. The best way to get to know people is over a meal because it’s then that you speak about literally everything. If you have not yet invited some church folk over for a meal … or at least a cup of coffee and fellowship as the beloved in Christ, you really don’t know what you are missing.
4) The ministry of joy. Joy is more than happiness … it includes thanksgiving … he was filled with joy because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole family … they were filled with joy … why … because … they had “come to believe in God”. The joy is controlled by the reason for joy. The term “believe in God” explains real salvation. This is why the joy includes thanksgiving. Are you happy because you are saved or are you thankful as well?
Lord Jesus, often we neglect being thankful. Forgive us for this and fill us a joyful and thankful heart for what You have done for our eternal benefit through your blood shed at Calvary. Amen.