"He is a changed man. From the time he was a freshman in college, all he did was chase women. For him, life existed to have a good time, and to have it any way you could find it. You could not depend on him for anything. He did what he wanted to do when he wanted to do it, and that is all he did. Today you would never guess that he had been that kind of person."

"She is a changed woman. From the time she left home, all she did was party. Could she drink! And she smoked like a chimney! She had a different boyfriend every week. She was never serious with anyone, never serious about anyone. When she finally got a good job, she worked five days a week so she could party hard every weekend. Today you would never guess that she ever lived that kind of life!"

Each of us knows someone who totally turned his or her life around. This man or woman made a life-altering decision. That decision completely redirected his or her life. He was uptight; now he is easy going. She was stressed out; now she is calm. He was driven and compulsive; now he follows a sound value system. She was overbearing; now she is understanding. He was money hungry; now he is family centered. She was addicted to prestige; now she is truly down-to-earth.

Usually such people fall into one of two general categories. Some are convinced, "I have no choice. I have to be who I am; I have to live this life." Others are convinced, "I have to achieve my ambition. This is the only path to my ambition. If I am going where I want to go, I have no choice--I simply must do this."

Then one day she finally realizes, "I do have a choice; I can choose a totally different life." One day he realizes, "The life I am living is not worth the price I am paying. It is stupid to live my life this way."

The day that we are converted to Jesus Christ, that is what happens in our lives. Something brings us to a point of decision that says, "My life cannot continue to be what it has been. I cannot keep on living life as I have lived it. I do have a choice, and I can make it. It is just not worth the price to keep on living the way that I have lived."

The conversion decision is the decision to be a new me living in a new world.

  1. For some of us, the moment of conversion came simultaneously with our baptism into Christ; for others of us the moment of conversion came when we matured in our understanding of our baptism into Christ.
    1. For an adult who lived a life devastated by evil, who then discovered Jesus Christ, and who then learned about hope and forgiveness, the moment of conversion likely was the moment of baptism.
      1. The moment was not created by the act of baptism--conversion was not just the fact that he or she was immersed in some water.
      2. The moment of conversion is represented by the decision leading to baptism.
        1. By decision, he or she is dying to sin.
        2. By decision, he or she is entering Christ.
        3. By faith, he or she is being buried with and resurrected with Christ.
    2. For a young person, for one of our children who has always lived in a Christian environment, in simple love for God and simple desire to obey God, he or she is baptized.
      1. In most instances this young person has never known great sin or devastating evil.
      2. He or she obeys God by being baptized, but he or she has not yet experienced the true devastation of evil.
      3. Conversion with its life directing commitment comes later.
        1. It comes when he or she confronts the realities of evil.
        2. It comes when he or she consciously, gratefully, decides to walk with Jesus.
    3. Most of us who are Christians know many facts about baptism.
      1. When combined with faith and repentance, baptism results in the remission of sin (Acts 2:38).
      2. It places us in Christ and allows us to be clothed in Christ (Galatians 3:27)
      3. It makes us a part of the body of people who belong to Christ (1 Corinthians 12:13).

  2. But as much as we know about baptism, it is amazing to realize that there are many things that we do not understand about our baptism.
    1. The book of Acts is the only New Testament book that talks about people who were not Christians who decided to become Christians.
      1. Yet, except for Acts 2:38 and 22:16, the book of Acts teaches us very little about the significance of baptism.
      2. It tells us that people who were not Christians were baptized when they learned about Jesus, his death, and his resurrection.
        1. The first time Jesus was presented as Lord and Christ, three thousand who placed confidence in Jesus' resurrection were (Acts 2:41).
        2. Men and women in Samaria were (Acts 8:12).
        3. Simon who practiced magic as sorcery was (Acts 8:13).
        4. The Ethiopian eunuch was (Acts 8:36).
        5. Paul was (Acts 9:18).
        6. Cornelius and his friends were (Acts 10:47,48).
        7. Lydia was and her household was (Acts 16:15).
        8. The Philippian jailor and his household was (Acts 16:33).
        9. Crispus and many Corinthians were (Acts 18:8).
        10. And some disciples in Ephesus were (Acts 19:5).
    2. But I find these facts amazing.
      1. Amazing fact one: Acts records a number of sermons preached to people who were not Christians, and the primary subject of each of those sermons is Jesus Christ.
        1. None of those sermons use baptism as a subject.
        2. In the entire New Testament there is no sermon to the unconverted on baptism.
      2. Amazing fact two: Most of the New Testament teaching on the meaning, the significance, and the importance of baptism was written to Christians, to people who had already been baptized.
        1. It is obvious that these people had been baptized.
        2. It is also obvious that most of them had not grasped the meaning and significance of their baptism.
      3. Amazing fact three: Often when a New Testament writer discussed baptism with Christians, he said that the reason they had spiritual problems was this: they did not understand baptism; they did not trust what God did when they were baptized.
    3. Let me give you some specific examples.
      1. In Rome some Jewish Christians rejected the idea of grace in Jesus Christ.
        1. They argued that grace did not produce salvation.
        2. They said if salvation came by grace, Christians should sin as much as possible to demonstrate the truth of grace.
        3. Paul said that the fact that they would make that argument showed that they did not understand their baptism (Romans 6:1-11).
      2. The congregation at Corinth had an enormous problem with internal division.
        1. They divided up into groups that fought and rejected each other.
        2. Paul said one of their primary problems was in this fact: they did not understand baptism (1 Corinthians 1:10-17).
      3. The congregations in the province of Galatia had turned away from Jesus Christ to follow the legalistic teachings of Judaism.
        1. That decision dumbfounded Paul--he could not believe they did this.
        2. He plainly declared that these non-Jewish Christians did not understand what God had done when they were baptized (Galatians 3:26, 27).
      4. There was a horrible rift between Jewish Christians and non-Jewish Christians in the congregation at Ephesus.
        1. Jewish Christians shunned and rejected non-Jewish Christians--at best non-Jewish Christians were considered to be spiritually inferior.
        2. Paul said God made all of them one--they were one because there was one body, Spirit, hope, Lord, faith, baptism, and God (Ephesians 4:1-6).
      5. This same inferiority issue was raised in the congregation at Colossae.
        1. Paul said no one who is baptized into Christ is inferior.
        2. In baptism God cuts the evil away from every person's life, and God resurrects that person to a new life in Christ (Colossians 2:11-14).

  3. Please take your Bibles; I want you to see something in the book of 1 Peter.
    1. In chapter one, Peter writes:
      1. You have an eternal inheritance that no one can take from you, and you are protected by God's power (1:3-5).
      2. Even so, your faith in Jesus is going to be tried by fire just like gold is refined--persecution is coming, so get ready (1:6-12).
      3. Knowing that, commit yourself without reservation to a holy life (1:13-21).
    2. I want you to clearly understand how you are to act in your relationships.
      1. This is how you treat people who do not believe in God (2:11-12).
      2. This is how you treat government officials (2:13-17).
      3. Slaves, this is how you treat owners who make you suffer (2:18-25).
      4. Wives, this is how you treat your husbands (3:1-6).
      5. Husbands, this is how you treat your wives (3:7).
      6. This is how you conduct yourself in general (3:8-12).
    3. Please look carefully at 3:13-22.
      1. Persecution is coming, but you are less likely to be abused if you do good.
      2. But, if you do good and still are abused, God will bless you.
      3. In these difficult times, this is what you must do:
        1. Let Christ be the only Lord who sits on the throne of your heart.
        2. Preserve your good conscience by the way you live and act.
        3. It is better to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.
        4. Trust your salvation; trust what God did when you were baptized.
      4. Look closely at verses 17-22:
        1. Affirmation: It is better to suffer for doing right than doing wrong.
        2. Reasoning:
          1. Christ died for everybody's sins to bring us to God.
          2. People killed Christ physically, but God gave his spirit life.
          3. God achieved His purposes in Jesus--and Jesus declared to the world of the dead that his death accomplished God's purposes.
          4. Just like God used the flood in evil days to save Noah, God will use your baptism in evil days to save you.
          5. God's power did it then; God's power will do it now.
          6. It wasn't the boat, and it is not washing dirty bodies.
          7. It is your good conscience looking to God and trusting Jesus' resurrection.
        3. When times get tough, trust your salvation because you trust your baptism, and trust your baptism because you trust Jesus' resurrection.

Baptism is not a matter of changing religions or adding a religion to your life. It is not a matter of changing churches or adding a church to your life. Baptism is a matter of finding a Savior, of accepting his forgiveness, and of trusting his resurrection. Baptism is the decision to become a new me and live in a new world.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 21 September 1997
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