A Life-Changing Event|
Some changes in life happen slowly and progressively while others happen suddenly with a single event. For example, the infirmities of age come upon a person little by little, but a stroke can incapacitate him in a single day. Of course, not all life-changing events are bad. Events such as marriage or the birth of a child cause positive changes in lives. Such events shape our lives and permanently affect who we are.
The most radical, life-changing event a person can ever experience is conversion to Jesus Christ. When a person is converted to the Lord, everything about him is affected. The purpose of his life, his relationships with others, his words, his thoughts, and his actions all are changed into conformity to the will of Christ. Granted, new Christians are immature and have much to learn. In fact, there is never a point in a Christian's life when he stops learning and growing spiritually. However, there is a single event that marks a person's conversion to Christ and changes the course of his life. That event is baptism.
When a person is baptized into Christ, his life is instantly changed. This change is described in Romans 6:4, which says, "Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life." This newness of life is not physical, for we still possess the same bodies with the same weaknesses as we had before baptism. Instead, this newness of life in Christ is spiritual. It is a life that has been freed from sin (Rom. 6:5-7). This is not to say that we will never be tempted or sin again, but rather it is that sin is no longer master over us. A person who submits to baptism in Christ commits himself to the service of God rather than the service of sin (Rom. 6:11-14). Moreover, the blood of Jesus remains effective to cleanse him of sin as he walks in the light of God throughout the rest of his life (1John 1:5-10).
Consider the example of the Corinthians. These people lived in a culture that was utterly debased, yet when Paul preached the gospel to them, "many of the Corinthians when they heard were believing and being baptized" (Acts 18:8). Notice how Paul described their conversion in 1Corinthians 6:9-11, and give particular attention to verse 11:
9Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
The life-changing event for the Corinthian Christians was in the washing, sanctifying, and justifying power of their faithful baptism into Christ.
Perhaps the greatest individual example of a life-changing conversion is that of the apostle Paul. Consider his own description of his conversion and the providential purpose of it in 1Timothy 1:12-16:
12I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, 13even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; 14and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. 15It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. 16Yet for this reason I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.
From Paul's own words, we learn that if a sinner such as Paul can be converted to Christ and forgiven, then so can any other person. For Paul, the moment of his conversion was baptism into Christ, for he was told, "Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name" (Acts 22:16). For Paul and all Christians, baptism is the point at which "our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin" (Rom. 6:6). Thus, all Christians are able to say with Paul in Galatians 2:20,
"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me."
Has your life been changed by Christ? Unless you have undergone that single event that marks true conversion to the Lord, your life has not been truly changed. If you believe in the Son of God who died for your sins and was raised from the dead, and if you are ready to commit your life to His service in faith, then you need to be baptized in His name (Acts 2:38). For those of us who have been baptized into Christ, let us constantly renew ourselves to that commitment that changed our lives when we first obeyed the gospel. It is a change not only to our lives here on earth but also to our eternal existence (John 3:16). Nothing could be more life-changing than an event that promises to extend our lives for eternity.
Stacey E. Durham
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