Vyacheslav Goncharenko. Salvation
They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household.”
These words conclude the long story of Paul and Silas’ journeys and adventures on one of which the Lord directed them to visit Macedonia, the city of Thyatira where amazing things began to happen. The Bible says that the apostles found a community of believers who held meetings in the house of prayer. Once, as they were on the way to prayer, they met a woman who began to follow them day after day. She is said to be possessed by a spirit of prediction, which gave her a demonic ability to see the present and the future. She was a fortune teller. The Bible says that she was a slave girl bringing her masters much profit by this ability. Probably many people would visit her looking for ways to resolve their everyday problems and meet their needs, and she would tell them what to do and might even cure them if they were sick. So, at one point she met the apostles. Please look at her reaction. She followed Paul and the rest, shouting, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.” (Acts 16:17). The Scripture tells us that she kept that up for many days.
In fact she was telling the truth. Apostles Paul and Silas were God’s servants who proclaimed the way of salvation. I find it interesting that they were not happy about what that woman was doing and didn’t say: “Well done! She is doing good advertising for us. We have come so that more people may hear about the Kingdom of God and Jesus Christ Who is the only way of salvation. And she keeps on screaming about it all along for all to hear.” They didn’t praise her but on the contrary, Paul became greatly annoyed and aggravated so he commanded the unclean spirit to come out and leave the woman. At that very moment the woman was set totally free.
Sometimes our lives work in a surprising way: Everything stays the same until we get aggravated. A number of people are constantly struggling with hardships and dealing with problems only because they haven’t gotten fired up over the situation, but have rather adapted to their problems and sicknesses. Somebody may have a document confirming his disability and think, “I’m OK with that.” Or welfare money may be trickling into his or her account.
But here is an important key – you have to take a firm stand against your illness, weakness, problem, etc. It took some time for Paul to get worked up. The Bible states that that fortune teller kept following the apostles and screaming for many days. Maybe she was bugging them for a whole month. But eventually Paul became greatly annoyed and drove out the unclean spirit and set the woman free. Her eyes brightened as if she just woke up, wondering, “Where am I? Where am I?”
But let’s go back to the essence of the story: apostle Paul didn’t approve of the woman crying. This fact gives us an important hint: we must never approve of the truth that comes out of an unclean source. I have heard some people saying, “I have visited someone and that person told me the truth!” Yes, it may seem like truth but be aware of where it comes from. Right things told by an unclean mouth bring temptation. We should see the truth coming out of the wrong source as a satanic come-on.
More than once Jesus Christ heard demons “advertising” Him saying things like, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?” (Mark 5:7). Demons knew Jesus was the Son of God. But He commanded them, “Shut up and come out!” Jesus never let unclean mouths proclaim the truth. So don’t trust everything you hear. Some people say for instance, “I have read what Nostradamus wrote and, look, it came to pass!” Or you may read some books or hear somebody saying something. Please understand, every time you trust any truth whose source is unclean you face a temptation. This is the way Satan tempts you to buy into his lies. The moment you believe this information, you begin to cooperate with demons. You may say, “Can it be true?!” Absolutely.
Many people are involved into fellowship with demonic world. I am not saying that they are possessed by demons. What I am saying is if even once they have turned to unclean sources, if they have inquired a fortune teller, if they have ever got involved into astrology trying to learn their future by reading the stars and zodiac signs, If they have searched for some information in the sources which God calls cursed on the first place and forbids turning to them, if they have practiced anything of the like then you can be sure it has opened the door for problems to come into their life. The devil never renders services for free. If you get helped by him somehow then sooner or later it will trigger some kind of sickness, curse or a misfortune. We see how many people are destroyed today: they lose their families, businesses, homes; they may even lose their minds. Mental hospitals are overcrowded with people who have been messing around with the unclean, feeding on information which poisoned their lives. This is what “the truth” in the mouth of wicked, possessed people, lawbreakers who refuse to submit to God, does. They serve the liar – the devil, the spirit of deception, who has ensnared the whole world into his web of deception. One would think people with high education are equipped to figure out the root of their problems but in fact they can’t because they have been caught up, enchained and ensnared.
There is one bright example from my life. Bright stories are usually hard to forget. We were in the process of building our house. And there was another house across the street. Every day many expensive cars would drive up to that house and lots of people would pay visits. At first we couldn’t figure out why. Later we came to know the lady of the house and found out that she was a fortune teller. People came to visit her to hear answers to their questions. That business paid off very well and everyone could tell that the woman prospered. On the surface she looked a nice cheerful and kind woman. But actually she worked together with unclean spirits “helping” people in this way. Before we even managed to move into our new house we found out that there had been a short-circuit and her house totally burned down. Everything she had accumulated was set on fire and burned away. She couldn’t survive such a setback and hung herself on a pear tree in her yard. Satan drove her to that rope’s end. Her son, a 10 year old boy with Down syndrome, was taken in by a social institution.
Many years passed. One day an aged woman came to our house. Her looks showed that she was going through a period of a great suffering; grief and hopelessness were written on her face. She said, “I have come to receive some treatment. Did I come to the right place?” “What is the number of the building you are looking for?” I asked. “I need number 4,” she replied. That was the number of the house which burned down. “Ours is number 3 but you are welcome in and let us have a talk.” She seemed lost but my wife and I invited her to take a seat. I introduced myself, saying that I am a Christian and pastor of a church, and then introduced my wife. We told our guest what had happened to that fortune teller and inquired if she could share what she was going through that we might say a prayer for her. She revealed that somebody had been plotting awful things against her, practicing witchcraft and cursing her. She said, “I can feel worms moving in my body.” My wife and I were terrified, but at once a verse from the Bible came to my mind: “… where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:44). I thought, “Could these be those worms from hell? Could the unclean spirits mentioned in the Bible eat up her body now?” Then we offered, “Let’s lift your situation before the Lord. We believe in the living God and we would like to pray that the Lord may deliver and set you free.” We didn’t pray in the Spirit. We addressed God with a simple prayer: “Lord, God Almighty! You know everything this woman is going through. You see how Satan has tormented her. We ask You to deliver her! In the name of Jesus of Nazareth we command every evil spirit to stop tormenting this woman and leave her alone.” It was less than a minute before those “worms”, those demons emerged. She was a big woman, but she shot out of the chair as if from a cannon. She landed on the floor and began coughing and writhing. We stood near watching her deliverance take place. Five minutes later, it was over. We lifted her up and helped her back onto the chair. Looking at her, we saw that her eyes had changed. She said, “Wow! I feel much better! May I come tomorrow for another session?” I replied, “Sure, you are welcome!” But she didn’t come back because she had been set totally free.
I do believe that there are many people who get helped and receive answers to their questions but unfortunately only a few of them are quick to express gratitude and give due praise to the Lord. We may wonder, “What God is doing in our church? Why do we hear so few testimonies?” I know what God is doing in our services! But I also realize how shy our people are. Often having seen a miracle people still don’t believe it. They want to make sure and then Satan comes to sow doubts in their thoughts: “Maybe it just went away on its own. Maybe I wasn’t so sick after all.” Don’t buy in devil’s lies; don’t believe this spirit of deception!
I remember the story of ten lepers from Luke’s account. What stands out for me is the fact that only one of them returned back to Jesus to express gratitude for healing. At times I myself find comfort in the fact: even Jesus had only one man come back and give thanks. But Jesus didn’t say, “Well, one is enough.” He wondered, “Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? (Luke 17:17). God wants every healed person to give Him the glory. God’s name is worthy to be praised and His glory is worthy to be acknowledged by everyone. When people hear a testimony of God’s goodness their faith is built up and the Kingdom of God broadens.
Let’s go back to the story from the book of Acts. When the unclean spirit left, the servant woman returned to the place she served. Her owners saw that she had been set free and lost her “gift” so they ran out and caught the apostles and set them before the rulers. They brought the apostles into the marketplace and proclaimed, “These men are foreigners teaching customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice. They should be isolated from society!” Sometimes, when you are doing God’s work, persecution can arise. But be not discouraged. When persecution comes because of your proclaiming the Gospel, driving out demons or healing the sick; if somebody turns against you, see it as a reward proving that you are on the right track! Don’t let anything stop you. The most important thing is that God is for you. Your family can turn from you; people can say bad things about you spreading slanders about your life and your friends might even forsake you. But remember you have a friend who will never betray you. He will always be with you wherever you go. Jesus Christ said, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20). He never leaves us.
The magistrates ordered the apostles to be thrown into prison. The Bible says they were put in an inner cell, an isolated cell for dangerous criminals, located in the deepest part of the prison so that they could never escape from it. Their feet were fastened in the stocks. But what positive folks believers are! What a great royal spirit they possess! In the middle of the night, beaten and bleeding, the apostles didn’t lose their courage and began to pray. They prayed, sang hymns to God and prayed. The other prisoners probably thought as they listened to them, “What strange people these are!? Singing in the middle of the trouble.”
I want to encourage you: if you are a believer and you are facing a problem, sing and pray! And you will see miracles. Don’t give up! Even amid of the most horrible situation you can sing; no one can ever shut your mouth. Open up your heart and worship Jesus Christ.
So the apostles were worshiping God when suddenly there came a great earthquake. Probably a huge angel came down from Heaven and put his feet on the prison so that its foundation began shaking. It is written that the chains fell away and all the prison doors flew open. What a miracle it is when God delivers His people! I want to tell you: don’t be afraid! If you do the will of God, you will see God coming to your defense, making you triumph in the situations that seem impossible from the human point of view. An angel from God will accompany you wherever you go, he will protect your life! When you serve God, preach the Good News, when you are committed to do the will of God you will witness how God’s protection surrounds you. You have nothing to fear. No matter what happens, God will see you through this crisis. Remember, my friends, how God brought me through my crisis in the summer of 2013. Inconceivable things happened to me. It was an extremely hard time but God set me on high again. Glory to Him! We are drown-proof and fireproof. With God we can always break through. Of course, we should learn good lessons and give praises to God for leading us through.
When the apostles were set free from their imprisonment the jailer was completely shocked and about to kill himself because he assumed the prisoners had escaped. So he took out his sword ready to kill himself but Paul said, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here, no one had run away!” He lit a torch to make sure everybody was in place. The jailer rushed in and fell down trembling at the feet of the apostles crying, “Sirs…” Just recently he had thrown them in prison like dogs but now he was asking, “What must I do to be saved?” What did Paul reply?
“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved–you and your household.”
Look, what a simple formula of salvation this is. Today people are seeking where they can find salvation. They think the answer might be here or there. I had people asking me about salvation. I recall one official asked, “Would you share your secrets of success in helping other people?” Some time ago there was a hang out in Minsk. People from our church came there and soon it was shut down because everybody there believed in Jesus Christ. The police were amazed, and asked “How do you do this?” Changes like that are always a mystery for unbelievers. But for us believers it is all very clear: it’s not our own power which gets the job done. God’s power overtakes people’s lives when they hear and believe the Good News. We just encourage them saying, “Believe”. It’s exactly the way Paul told them, “Believe and you will be saved!”
By human standards, the jailer faced serious trouble because of what had happened where his responsibilities were concerned: the doors of the jail got unlocked and all the prisoners could go free. It shocked him.
But regardless of what has happened to you or what troubles or hardships you are facing there is only one answer: “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ!” A person could think, “Can faith in Jesus Christ get me out of this?” It can and it will. It can get this job done better than anything else. Faith in Jesus Christ is the best answer for you. It is what every person who is going through trials needs. People say, “Doctors will help! Maybe psychologists or some other professionals!” Today I am standing in front of you and I am declaring to you, brothers and sisters, faith in Jesus Christ is the best medicine, the best way to solve your problems, to redeem you from the curse, diseases and even eternal death.
Studying the original meanings of the word translated “salvation” in the Bible, I found the Greek word “sótéria” which means more than simply deliverance from hell, when a person is given eternal life. We commonly see the word “salvation” from this standpoint. But the Greek word holds larger meaning. It also includes healing, deliverance, provision and so on.
For instance, if you are sick it means that you will be delivered from this sickness, if you are oppressed by an evil spirit you will be set free from it, if enemies attack you it means you will be protected. This word carries a great variety of meanings. I would say the word “salvation” includes everything which is included in the word “redemption” which Jesus Christ has offered to the mankind. All in all “salvation” means deliverance from every evil! We may face big or small problems, struggle with serious or insignificant sicknesses or weaknesses etc. If you are experiencing something negative in your life the word “salvation” can be applied to your situation. And, when such salvation comes through, have faith in Jesus Christ! Believe!
Now let’s take a short digression from the main topic. When people hear about faith in the Lord Jesus Christ the majority assumes it’s a certain form of religion. Sometimes people who call themselves Christians sin, drink alcohol, commit adultery, follow worldly life style but together with it they consider themselves Christians and carry a cross around their neck.
I remember the first Bible my father gave me. One day my friend and I went out to preach the Gospel and I took my Bible with me. It was in 1988, a big celebration was taking place near the Palace of sport and crowds of people were hanging around there. We found a place next to the fountains on a small hill. I lifted up my Bible feeling very excited. At that time it was uncommon to see a Bible. I began preaching the Gospel when someone approached me and asked, “Sell your Bible to me!” “No way”, I refused. He said, “Well, then may I hold it and take a look?” I agreed. So while I was preaching they took my Bible and passed it from one to another for everybody to see. When I finished the sermon I said aloud, “Where’s my Bible?” No one answered. So it turned out that somebody had stolen my Bible. I cried all night long, “Lord, how can this be? It was such a precious gift and somebody took it away…” Commonly, stealing is considered a sin. But if someone steals a Bible, perhaps it’s not a sin after all. Let salvation come into his life through it. I believe my Bible has produced a good harvest.
Why have I recalled this story? When we were about to leave, a big crowd surrounded us. People screamed, “We are believers! Orthodox!” and they beat their chests, threatening to drown us in the fountains. Those people were overflowing with anger and their eyes were full of hatred. There wasn’t a whiff of faith in Jesus Christ. I don’t remember how but we managed to escape from those guys.
There are people today who say, “I am a believer!” But their faith is nothing more than formality. God has never designed faith in Jesus Christ to be a sort of religion, a formal duty which person observes once a year. Faith in Jesus Christ is much more. My friends, I believe faith in Jesus Christ is tangible. Take me, for instance. I am a believer in Jesus Christ and can feel faith in my heart. I am so confident in what I believe so that even if my life suddenly comes to an end, I am absolutely convinced my faith won’t let me down. I know he who believes on Jesus Christ will never be ashamed! You will never be put to shame. Be sure you will pass from death to life.
And now there is a question. Imagine your life unexpectedly breaks off. You are a Christian. Can you testify that the pearly gates will open wide for you to enter? Do you believe that angels will lift you up and carry you to meet Jesus? Are you confident that you will enter the Kingdom of God? Ponder these questions. Sooner or later we all will appear before the Lord. Does your faith lay such a firm foundation that you can boldly say so? If you have no confidence as far as these things are concerned you should work to build up your faith. If you are not sure that you will be saved then your faith is not sufficient and needs an upgrade.
1 Peter 1:7:
so that the proven genuineness of your faith–of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire–may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Your faith should shine in your heart and be treasured as precious gold; it should radiate with light on the inside of you. You should be firmly convinced that all you believe is true. Your faith should rest assured on the Word of God, on the revelation from God. Your faith begins with confession of your sins, when you open them up before God and admit, “Lord, I am a sinner”, when you approach the cross and lay down all your sins at the cross and receive cleansing. Faith can’t live in the heart overburdened with sins.
Faith is very precious. When God forgives your sins and you start living by faith, you obtain a sixth sense. We have five senses – seeing, hearing, smelling, touching and tasting. These senses make us comfortable to live in the physical realm. Faith as the sixth sense allows us to enter God’s Kingdom. Though you live in the physical world you obtain the ability to navigate in the unseen world. By faith we can see, hear and feel God. By faith we receive from Him and feed on Him. By faith we can have powerful, strong and solid relationship with God and with Jesus Christ. That is why our faith is so precious.
What does faith mean to me? I consider it as a very precious pearl which I will never give up for anything else. Should an enemy tempt me I will never trade my faith. Should I find myself in the middle of hardships bound down to earth I won’t change or renounce my faith. Even at the face of death I won’t give up my faith, won’t throw it away. This is what faith means to me. If you believe the same your faith will never disappoint you. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved,” the Bible says. Such faith will most surely save you, such faith won’t put you on the spot.
Many people say in disappointment, “I had faith!…” But was your faith of such great value that you would stand for it, never letting anyone or anything steal it from you? Have you ever believed to the point of being ready to lay down your life for what you believe? When the day comes for you to appear before the Lord, everything will lose its value. Your wealth, your honor, your knowledge; all you have been storing up your whole life will lose its value. The only thing that will retain its value for eternity is whether you belong to Jesus Christ, whether you have entrusted to Him your life, whether you have given your heart to Him. This is, in fact, what faith is all about.
In that day people will throw away to the moles and bats their idols of silver and idols of gold, which they made to worship.
Real faith is when you put aside all your sins and obtain this precious pearl, when you give your life over to Jesus and you know you are a child of God. You are a son or a daughter of God and this assurance comes because the Holy Spirit bears witness with your heart that you are a child of God. You know you are saved, you know you have been washed clean by the blood of Jesus. You know it! You may not understand where this assurance came from; you know it on the inside. Your faith is tangible; you can sense it. When you wake up you can feel it on the inside. When you commute to work it resides in your heart. When you come home after work it’s still there. This assurance is built up by the Holy Spirit. Hallelujah! This is what faith is all about.
Faith is not founded on facts alone: “I believe in Jesus because he is proven to be a real historical figure.” Go online and search for “Jesus Christ” and you will get a long list of facts about him: he was born in Bethlehem, lived 33 years and so on. But to obtain the information that Jesus was a real person is not all there is. The Bible says: “the demons believe that – and shudder” (James 2:19). The faith the demons have doesn’t save them. The demons know God has authority, they know Jesus Christ is the Son of God. They know, they know, they know…
But true faith is not like that. It’s essential to believe not only that Jesus is but also Who He is. It’s of great importance to know that He is God Almighty, the second person in the Trinity, Jesus Christ! It’s written that He upholds the entire universe (micro- and macro-space) by the word of His power (Hebrew 1:3). Just imagine that every single small atom He holds by the word of His power! Galaxies and the sun He holds by the word of His power! He spoke and everything appeared. He is Mighty! He is indescribable! He is the true King of this universe. He is vast. He is powerful. He knows no bounds. He is wise. There is no one like Him! No one could be compared to Jesus Christ! Just think what this great God Who has no one to create Him (some people believe He was created, that He is an angel, a created being), God Who is, Who was and Who is to come, God Who has no beginning and no end did. He humbled Himself. Mary carried Him as a little baby in her womb. She thought she was carrying Him but in fact He carried her. It was Him, an infant, Who made her heart beat. God became a man. What a humble thing to do!
Here is my question: would you ever take a risk to become a cockroach or an ant? Would you ever even dare to think to become like one of them? For Christ to become a man was a similar question. What a great humility, what a great love: He came to earth, was born of a virgin, lived as a man and not only these. It’s written that Christ redeemed us to God (Revelation 5:9). All sins that we committed, past, present and future, He removed with one single offering. He let people nail Himself to the cross. While He was hanging on the cross they mocked at Him and spit on Him. He had the power to pay them back and they would have disappeared in a split second. But He said, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34). And after that He rose from the dead and today He dwells in unapproachable light at the right hand of God the Father. He is our representative. When we come to Heaven we will recognize Him by the nail prints in His hands and we won’t mistake Him. Do you believe in this Jesus? That’s why we worship Him. And the more we understand the more we entrust Him our hearts. We are saved. He has provided a chance for each person on earth to repent and receive salvation. There is hope for everyone regardless of sins or crimes he has committed. His love is so great and it’s hard for us to comprehend how much He loves us.
Therefore, faith is not only believing on the fact that Jesus existed and still lives but also believing in Who He is, believing His word, trusting what He promises. Faith is when you fall asleep holding the Bible in your hands because you find God’s word very dear. When you wake up you speak God’s word, “By the stripes of Jesus I am healed!”, “This is the day that the Lord has made and I will rejoice in it!”, “My God is my fortress!”, “God gives me strength and power!”, “He who believes on Him will never be ashamed”, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever”, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread!”
This is my God – Almighty – El Shaddai, my Provider – Jehovah-jireh, my personal physician! “Jesus, good morning, You are my Savior, the only Lord of my life, I recognize Your authority over this universe as well as Your authority over my life, I bow down before Your majesty! You are the King over the earth and in Heaven and You are the King of my life,” – this is what faith in Jesus Christ is all about.
Faith is tangible, brothers and sisters. It’s vital for us not only to trust His words, to seek His word, comfort and strength from Him while going through the time of hardships but also to do God’s works.
Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
This is what faith in Jesus Christ means. It’s when we do the works of God, when Jesus Christ lives through us, when our love reaches beyond our own home, when we consider the suffering and afflicted and do what Jesus did helping people, preaching the Good News, bringing them before the Lord in prayer. We become true believers when we lay down our life and let Christ live through us. It’s when we stop living for ourselves. We have already lived a selfish life for quite a long while. Let’s live for the Lord Who died and was risen for our sake. It’s right to live for the one Who gave His life for us. It’s fair to give Him what is due. But we will never be able to give Him what He truly deserves. What we can do is to be passionate about doing His will and performing His deeds. Such faith will save you, such faith will never let you down. This is a true faith, a real relationship with Jesus Christ!
Now when you go home please keep in mind what a treasure you carry on the inside. Nothing in this life matters more than that. Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.