The guard led Paul and Silas outside and asked, “Honorable sirs, what must I do to be rescued?” They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your entire household.” – Acts 16:30-31
Last week, I was watching a baking contest. The judges told the contestants that they needed to make brownies for the first challenge. The contestants could use any recipe they wanted, so long as they had 18 chocolate brownies ready to eat by the end of 90 minutes. As the contestants set to it, melting butter and sifting flour, the host of the show asked the judges a few questions backstage. What, the host wondered, was the mark of a perfect brownie?
One judge answered: it needs to be fudgy on the inside, with a lovely crinkly top. She went on to say that it would be a mistake to try to bedazzle the judges with elaborate frostings or fillings that might overpower the brownie or add too much sweetness to an already rich dessert.
Meanwhile, in the kitchen, the contestants were describing their ambitious plans to the other host. Two were making s’mores-inspired brownies with a cinnamon cookie base and marshmallow frosting. Several were coating their brownies in salted caramel sauce and whipped cream. One was making layered brownies with raspberry cheesecake on top. No one was making simple brownies, fudgy on the inside and crinkly on top.
Each baker had problems getting their creations finished in 90 minutes. Some were underdone and oozed when sliced into. Two bakers were afraid to take their hot brownies out of the pan, so they served up a whole pan instead of eighteen sliced brownies. A few had so much embellishment that the brownie itself was obscured by all the fluff.
When the judges returned to evaluate the brownies, it wasn’t good. They found fault with every baker’s finished product. By the end of the judging process, the contestants were equal parts disappointed and relieved that there were more challenges before the end of the day. One reflected afterward, “I reckon that if any of us had just made plain brownies, we’d have won. We made it more complicated than it needed to be.”
We made it more complicated than it needed to be. Hmm. That could have been said about all sorts of things. I wonder- do you ever make being a Christian more complicated than it needs to be? If not you, do you know someone who does, making long lists of things Christians must do or avoid in order to be assured that they are saved? Lists like: don’t swear, don’t drink, don’t dress in certain ways, do volunteer work, do sign up to be on a church committee, do read the Bible every day… and so on. But Paul and Silas don’t say any of those things to the guard who wants to be saved. They tell him: “Believe in the Lord Jesus.”
That doesn’t sound too complicated. It sounds so simple, in fact, that we can have trouble accepting it. Are you sure that I am saved by faith in Jesus Christ, and not by any good works that I do? Don’t I have to do something? Pray a certain prayer or go to church a number of times or change my life in some way to prove my salvation? That’s adding marshmallow frosting to your brownies, and trust me, that’s not what you need. All you need is trusting faith in Jesus.
And, yeah, having the Holy Spirit in your life certainly will change the way you live, speak, and relate to other people. Of course. But that’s all the result of being saved by Jesus, not a requirement before the Holy Spirit will forgive you.
Too often we get ourselves turned around, putting the cart before the horse, so to speak. To be very clear: the Holy Spirit is the horse and we’re the cart being pulled along to salvation. If the cart brings any good to anyone, it’s simply because the horse pulled it on the right roads. Being saved is simple: believe, have faith, trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. Period. We don’t need to make it any more complicated. It’s simple.
God, sometimes I make things more complicated than they need to be. I do it in my everyday life, in my relationships, in my worship. Help me trust the simple truth: I am saved by faith in you. Amen.