Acts 16:34 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 household.
Before he became the great reformer, Martin Luther was terrified of God. He believed that God was out to get him, especially during thunderstorms. He suffered mentally and emotionally, as well as spiritually. He constantly went to Confessions, sometimes for six hours at a time! His priestly confessor, Johann von Staupitz complained that Martin was wearing him out. He often tried to explain to Luther about the grace of God and that Christ had died for every one of his sins. All that Martin needed to do was to trust Jesus and love God. But Luther would not believe it. Instead, he continued to be afraid and feared Christ as a terrifying judge.
Thankfully, there came a momentous time in Luther’s life when he realized that God’s grace was more than sufficient to allow Martin to stop torturing himself and be forgiven. His fear was replaced with faith; Christ’s judgement was exchanged for real joy.
In today’s passage, (Acts 16:25-40) we can read about a jailer who was so terrified that he strongly thought about killing himself. The words of hope from Paul and Silas, as well as God’s grace turned his life around. After being baptized, along with the rest of his family and household, the jailer experienced the real and lasting joy that God brings to people who believe in Jesus for the first time. Paul and Silas were God’s chosen servants to bring about this remarkable conversion. The jailer received Christ’s spirit in his heart, encountered God’s grace, and embraced the Spirit’s love. For the very first time in his whole life, the jailer knew what it was to be forgiven of his sins, released from his fears, and restored to God’s Kingdom.
We all go through times of doubt, fear, and low esteem. We all battle with the world and feel unworthy. We all have shameful secrets and past regrets. If we dwell on them, we will become as miserable as sin; however, if we dwell on God’s gracious love, like Luther and the jailer from the past, our fear will disappear and Christ’s joy will reunite us to Him.
Questions for reflection
Am I afraid of God? Am I willing to find peace and joy in Jesus?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, we confess that we are sinful and selfish, prone to stubborn pride and tempted every day. Forgive us for being faithless and fearful; help us to seek God’s grace, joy, and love. In Your Holy Name, we pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment or ask questions about today’s message, please send him an email to Traqair@aol.com. John is always interested in your thoughts. And, if you ever find yourself in Knoxville on a Sunday morning, the people at Erin will make you feel welcome and will be delighted to worship with you.
Today’s image is John’s latest Nativity drawings called “The Child.”. If you would like to view a larger version, please click on this link: Child.