Do you know what basic problem is in the world? Do you know what the basic problem is in our society? Do you know what the basic problem is in the families of our society? It is the same basic problem in all of them! The basic problem is people.

Do you realize that every significant problem in our world is caused by people? Look at the problems in our society, and notice that the causes for every social problem is people. People cause the problems in our country. They cause the problems in our state. They cause the problems in our city. They cause the problems in our families. They even cause the problems in our congregation. It is always people!

We could solve all our existing problems if we just got a brand new people to inhabit this earth.

"David, that is ridiculous! That is worse than ridiculous --that is just plain stupid." I know it. It is a gross, ridiculous oversimplification. I know that having a huge, world wide people exchange is ridiculous. I also know that if such an exchange were possible, it very likely would not solve anything.

But have you seriously thought about what God said about changing the world, or changing society, or changing families? God said that the key to causing this incredible, desirable change is new people. God never suggests that we import a whole planet of new people from some distant universe. God says that the people who are living in our world right now need to let Jesus Christ recreate them, to literally make them new people.

  1. May I ask you some very personal questions?
    1. I would like for you to be absolutely honest in your answers.
      1. But don't answer out loud.
      2. Do not share your answers to anyone else.
      3. Just be brutally honest with yourself.
    2. Are you a Christian? "Yes."
      1. When you were baptized, did you genuinely believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ? "Yes."
      2. When you became a Christian, did you sincerely repent, did you consciously decide to redirect your live? "Yes."
    3. That being true, when you were baptized into Jesus Christ, what were your intentions?
      1. There are different, legitimate intentions at baptism, and we can have more than one intention.
        1. "Well, I intended to do what I understood I was supposed to do."
        2. "My intention was real simple--I did not want to go to hell."
        3. "My intention was to become a member of the church that was dedicated to being Christ's church."
        4. "My intention was to serve Jesus Christ as I made him my Lord."
        5. "My intention was to do the will of God."
      2. Now may I ask a much more personal question: when you in faith and repentance were baptized into Jesus Christ, when you accepted Jesus as the Lord of your life, did you have any intention of becoming a new person?
        1. "Do you mean did I intend to modify my behavior?" No, that is not what I mean.
        2. "Do you mean did I intend to change my habits?" No, that is not what I mean.
        3. "Are you asking me did I intend to take control of my life and accept responsibility?" No, that is not what I am asking.
        4. "Are you asking do I intend to put a stop to some visible forms of evil in my life?" No.
      3. "Then what are you asking me?" I am asking did you intend to become a new person--to think in new ways, to develop new emotions, new values, new motives, new purposes for living, new ambitions, new uses for life, etc.?
        1. I literally mean when you made the decision to place your life in Jesus Christ, did that decision include your conscious choice to allow Jesus Christ to totally change you as a person?
        2. Did you intend to become a different person, or did you intend to remain the same person that you always have been, but do some necessary things differently?

  2. Today the church confronts a very serious problem.
    1. The truth is this: the church always has confronted this serious problem, and it always will confront this problem.
      1. When you read the letters written to the churches of the New Testament, this serious problem is very obvious--you see it again and again in the congregations written in the New Testament.
      2. While this problem is as old as the church, it was extremely serious then and it is extremely serious now--and it will always be a serious problem.
    2. What is this serious problem?
      1. When non-religious people who are outside the church look at religious people who are inside the church, they are struck by the fact that the people in the church are not that different.
      2. Maybe they have a different lifestyle--but maybe not.
      3. Religious people like creature comforts just as much as non-religious people; they just focus on a different set of creature comforts.
      4. Religious people's priorities outside the church often are not different at all.
      5. Religious people's vocabularies may be different, their habits may be different, but basically they are the same kind of people.
      6. They really do not see or believe that Christ makes the people different.
        1. It may make a difference in how they behave in a specific circumstance.
        2. It may make a difference in what they say in some circumstances.
        3. It may make a difference in some of their habits.
        4. But the changes are external; the person does not really change.
    3. If we, as Christians, struggle to understand that belonging to Christ is supposed to change us as a person, we are not weird--many of the first Christians struggled with that same understanding.
      1. The Colossian Christians had a distorted understanding of what it meant to live the Christian existence.
      2. In chapter three Paul dealt with a key element of their distorted concept.
        1. Verses 1-4:
          1. This is what happened when you were baptized: you were resurrected in Christ--by an act of God, you were actually resurrected.
          2. If you were resurrected with Christ from a dead existence to a new existence, you need to focus your new existence on Christ.
            1. You need to let Christ teach you how to think.
            2. You need to realize that your entire existence is completely enveloped by Christ's existence.
        2. (Verses 5-9) Your physical body no longer exists to be used for:
          1. Sexual immorality.
          2. Greed.
          3. Worshipping things or gods other than Jesus Christ.
          4. Anger and all its rage companions.
          5. Any of the evil behaviors and activities that characterized the old existence, the old self.
        3. (Verse 10) Because you are a Christian, you have a new self, you are a new person.
          1. That new self comes into full existence by focusing on the image of Christ to learn true knowledge that will produce the new existence.
          2. Christ created this new self when you were raised with him in baptism.
          3. Allow this new self to come into its full and complete existence--become the new person Jesus created you to be.
        4. (Verse 11) Please understand this fact: Jesus recreates every single person who participates in his death and resurrection.
          1. He does that to the most and the least civilized person.
          2. He does that to the Jew and to the non-Jew.
          3. He does that to the slave and to the person who is free.
          4. Every person who is in Christ has Christ in them; every person in Christ is recreated by Christ himself.
      3. Why did Paul tell them this? Simply because they did not understand it.

  3. David, are you really asking us to believe that people changed as persons because they believed in and entered Jesus Christ? Absolutely! I want you to believe it because it happened.
    1. Take your Bible, turn to Acts 2, and remember what happened.
      1. For the first time the resurrected Jesus was presented as Lord and Christ.
      2. This happened in the same city where Jesus was executed less than two months previously.
      3. Many of the people who heard this first declaration that Jesus was resurrected to be Lord and Christ were the same people who screamed for his crucifixion.
      4. When they realized they made a horrible mistake, when they realized that they demanded the execution of God's own son, they were terrified (murdering God's son is serious business!) and asked, "What can we do?"
      5. Because they believed that Jesus was resurrected Lord and Christ, they were told that repentance and baptism would result in forgiveness and receiving the Holy Spirit.
      6. Three thousand of those people were baptized, and a conversion explosion began in Jerusalem.
    2. As I paraphrase, look closely at Acts 2:43-47.
      1. Verse 43---The sense of awe that began on the first day of conversions continued--people were astounded at what God had done and was doing.
      2. Verse 44--The people who accepted Christ formed an incredible bond of togetherness.
      3. Verse 45--They were so devoted to each other because they were in Christ that they were determined to care for each other's physical needs--even when it required selling property and possessions.
      4. This was not a "share the pennies" arrangement.
        1. Last weekend we took our three-and-a-half year old twin grandchildren to a recreation of a first century market place.
        2. As each child came through the gate into the marketplace, he or she was given a cloth money bag with 25 pennies in it.
        3. In the market place, for a penny, they could buy or do all kinds of things.
        4. My grandchildren were so thrilled with their bag of pennies that they spent them sparingly.
        5. When they got home they got into a fuss about how many pennies they each should have, so Dad equally divided the pennies and dictated an end to the fuss.
      5. These people did not divide the pennies--they took care of needs.
      6. Verse 46--They went to the temple everyday, likely to pray; they ate together in their homes; they were happy and genuine.
      7. Verse 47--They praised God (would that make you uncomfortable? would you know how to do that?) And people liked them!
      8. They were a new people! And it was not just initial enthusiasm after baptism--they were still doing this in Acts 4:32,33. It says there was not a needy person in that congregation of thousands!
    3. In an age of poverty, that was unheard of! In an age of prosperity, it still is!
      1. How would you like to be part of a congregation like that?
      2. Think you would love it? On which end of the prosperity spectrum?
      3. Would you agree with this statement? That could happen only because those people become new people.

I am not talking about manufactured differences. I am not talking about artificial differences. I am talking about actually becoming a different person. If I cooperate, if I allow Jesus to mold me into the image of the new creation, Jesus will mold me to be like him. There won't be anything artificial about it. Naturally, week by week, year by year, I act, think, feel, care, and serve like Jesus. I adopt his purposes and his ways and his concerns. And that literally results in me being a new person.

Maybe you did not intend to become a new person when you were baptized. But the moment you entered Christ, Jesus created something from you that never existed before. When you realize that that same faith that placed you in Christ will begin shaping and molding you into a different person. If you refuse to believe that, Christ will never be able to do in your life what he intended to do the day he recreated you.

It has been so easy for us in the last two generations to be obsessed with what is right. We can be so focused on what is right that that becomes the only concern. This leads to cold, unsympathetic, formal congregations. They do what's right, but it doesn't change how they feel.

It is even more important to change into being what Christ wants us to be. When I become what Jesus wants me to be, I can do what's right. (I can do what's right with the same old heart, but that is not what God intends.)

Don't forget about what's right. But put first things first. Let Christ complete His creation. Do what's right with a life of compassion. Get the focus right. Be a new person in Christ.

David Chadwell

West-Ark Church of Christ, Fort Smith, AR
Morning Sermon, 5 October 1997
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