Summary: There are three words that define a Christian’s life no matter their particular testimony: repentance... belief... baptism
When Jesus Christ comes into a person¡¦s life, conversion brings changes that may be sudden or gradual.
Sometimes, the winds of conversion blow through a person’s life -- mowing down their sins and rebuilding a life of faith in what seem like mere moments. That was definitely the case for Bill Breunle. That was definitely the case for Bill Breunle. I now quote from a March 2002 article by Karen Willoughby (http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=12901):
"Adopted by a dedicated Southern Baptist family when he was an infant, Breunle took up bodybuilding at age 18. He found he had a natural ability for the sport, and with the abuse of steroids Breunle soon was able to bench press 685 pounds.
That led to a two-year stint as a WWF wrestler, before the emptiness of fame and the joy of marriage cooled his ardor for the bright lights. A year after he opened a chain of health spas, he was arrested for conspiracy to smuggle steroids. He served two years of a three-year sentence, but soon after his release was arrested again on what were later proven to be trumped-up charges.
During the seven pre-trial months he spent in the Los Angeles Detention Center, Breunle finally made his peace with God.
"I remember standing in the chow line facing 40 years," Breunle said about his potential prison sentence. "I remember God speaking to my heart: ’You can choose the Aryans, you can choose the Brotherhood [prison gangs who wanted him to join with them] or you can choose me.’ I got out of that chow line -- and for me that was a miracle in itself! -- and went to my room and prayed like I had never prayed before.
"God rescued me that day," Breunle continued. "He saved me. I finally had the peace and joy I’d talked about all over the world. In the middle of the complete darkness of that jail -- and I was living in hell -- I was consumed by God’s complete love."
Out of 140 inmates on his floor, Breunle led 27 to a life-changing relationship with Christ within the next two months.
"It was unreal," Breunle said. "Guys of the most horrid crimes, guys tattooed from knuckle to neck, we became this community of love."
The miracles continued. In the midst of his trial, the prosecutor stopped the proceedings and apologized to Breunle for his arrest. He was free to go.
Since Christ changed his life in a jail cell about 12 years ago he has helped birth 38 new congregations and is currently transforming a dying traditional church into a vibrant postmodern one. He considers his most important non-family responsibility to be mentoring young ministry leaders. Meanwhile, he’s renovating his family’s home and studying for his second doctorate. "Doing my best is important to me. It’s like worship to the Lord," said Breunle.
Now, that’s a testominy of someone who was instaneously changed for Jesus! Most likely, not many of us here can claim that kind of life-changing encounter with Jesus crisis. But, no matter how the changes occur -- whether they are pressure-cooker or slow-boiling-- three words will mark the life of a true Christian. The well-known Bible commentator William Barlcay wrote in his book entitled Turning to God:
"Conversion begins with repentance, is confirmed in baptism, and is founded from the beginning to end on commitment in trust to Jesus Christ.¨ (W. Barclay)
Repentance... Belief (or faith)... Baptism. I want to consider with you today these three words as found in our texts today.
We’ll first deal with repentance and belief. And to understand these first two words, we must see, as James Beggs points out, "Like two side of the same coin, faith and repentance are the necessary elements of true conversion. Like two sides of a coin, repentance and belief are connected to one another and yet we need to study the side of each coin for a moment to understand exactly what each entails."
A. Repentance is a turning from our SINS.
B. Repentance is a turning to our SAVIOR.
I use the analogy of faith as an engine that moves our life forward with God. A good-working engine needs the gear shafts to be properly aligned and working together.
A. We believe with our HEADS.
B. We believe with our HANDS.
C. We believe with our HANDS and feet.
Although they had different conversion experiences, both Philippian Jailer and the Ethiopian eunuch responded to the work of God in their lives by being baptized.