Summary: 4th in a series. A sermon about baptism and its part in crossing over from death to life.
Intro: He had been cheating on his taxes. It was really bothering his conscience. So he sat down and wrote a letter to the IRS. "Dear IRS, I have not been claiming all of my income and have therefore not been paying all of the taxes I owe. As a result, I have not been able to sleep at night. Enclosed is a check for $2,000. If I still can't sleep at night, I will send you the rest."
Someone has said, is “Conscience is a mother-in-law whose visit never ends.”
Mark Twain said, “Man is the only animal that blushes, and the only animal that needs to.”
We are ashamed, are we not, of things we've done in the past? Instead of being able to talk to God or to look one another in the face, we want to run away and hide when our conscience troubles us.
Where will I ever get a clean conscience? There are a few techniques that the world has suggested:
1. Convince myself that what I‘ve done isn’t so bad
Sydney J. Harris – “Once we assuage our conscience by calling something a "necessary evil," it begins to look more and more necessary and less and less evil.”
The problem is that sometimes what we’ve done is so bad that we aren’t that convincing.
2. Surround myself with people who are so bad I look good. “The Double Stuff diet.” Just buy a lot of Oreo double stuff cookies for all the people around you. Eventually, you’ll look thinner.
The problem is that you can’t always be surrounded by people, let alone people who make you look good. Plus, exploiting other people’s faults only makes your conscience feel worse!
3. Commit enough sin that my conscience becomes seared.
This can actually happen. But anyone who cares about a clear conscience can’t seriously think about this one.
4. Do enough good that it somehow makes up for it
This is a common attempt to have a clean conscience. I even saw, in a magazine article, advice that said you need to go out and do some act that’s opposite of the bad you did – that you need to “atone” for your bad deed. If you kicked a dog, volunteer at an animal shelter, things like that. The problem with this is that it doesn’t ever take away what you’ve done. The dog is still kicked, and the guilt you have for doing it will still be there too.
The only way: Somehow have guilt removed. That’s really the only way that works.
That brings us to where we are today: We need something that will cleanse our consciences from what we’ve done. So, I want us to look at a bit of Scripture today that specifically talks about how that can happen.
Ill – A lady once argued with my dad about the necessity of baptism. After getting nowhere with her, my dad said, “I suppose if there was a verse in the Bible that just flat-out said that baptism saves you, you would believe it then?” She said yes, and my dad showed her this passage. (I Peter 3:18-21)
We don’t want to take this out of context. That would be proof-texting, and misusing the Bible. We don’t want to do that. I’d rather consider all that the Bible says about a subject and understand what the Lord meant for us to believe. That’s why we’ve spent some weeks on this whole topic of Crossing Over, and it’s not until today that we’re really ready to talk about the role that baptism has in that.