Summary: A sermon for Baptism of the Lord Sunday.
“The Power of Conversion”
By: Rev. Kenneth Sauer, Pastor of Parkview United Methodist Church, Newport News, VA
Paul had no more arrived in Ephesus when he met 12 men who had the baptism of John but not the baptism of the Lord Jesus.
The baptism of John is a name for Christian water baptism without the Holy Spirit.
In a sense, the baptism of John was a baptism into moral improvement.
It initiated persons into a great reform movement, and it was very important but it wasn’t the baptism of Jesus.
To be baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus is a baptism into the death and resurrection of Christ.
It is a dying to self, and a living for God.
It is a recognition that in and of ourselves we can do nothing, therefore we are willing to stand as sinners in the presence of God, claiming nothing, but only counting on God’s love and forgiveness—and nothing else.
This changes the center of our lives from some self-directed effort into a God-given grace!!!
It’s the difference between a person who is trying desperately to be good enough to enter God’s Kingdom, and a person who admitting that he or she is a sinner who will never be good enough—decides to rely fully on God’s unmerited grace to bring him or her into the Kingdom!
And once that admission is made, the person is raised into a new kind of life where there is a power living inside that he or she never had before!!!
Before, this person was like Atlas trying to carry the entire world on his or her shoulders; after it, he or she is a new man or woman who has allowed the Cross of Jesus Christ do the heavy lifting.
Remember that grace-filled offer Jesus gives us in Matthew chapter 11?
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
How many of us are weary and burdened because we are trying to carry the weight of the world on our shoulders?
Well, the good news is that we don’t have to do this!
God, in His love and grace, is the One we are to rely on and can rely on to do the carrying for us!!!
In our Lesson from the Acts of the Apostles this morning Paul comes upon some folks who are trying desperately to follow Jesus Christ, but they have not yet received the power they need in order to do this.
“Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” Paul asks them.
No they hadn’t. They knew nothing about it.
I fear that there are a lot of folks who have the baptism of John, but not the baptism of the Lord Jesus.
Churches are filled with persons who are Christians, but not quite.
If we look back just a little to Acts chapter 18 we find such a person.
His name was Apollos.
We are told that Apollos “was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John.”
Two Christians named Priscilla and Aquila invited Apollos to their home in order explain “to him the way of God more adequately,” where more likely than not Apollos was baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus.
Later we are told that Apollos became a great help in “proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.”
In our Gospel Lesson from Mark for this morning John the Baptist says to the crowds: “I baptize you with water, but he [meaning Jesus] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
Most all of us here this morning have been baptized with water in one style or another, some as infants and some as adults.
Most of us also know the gist of the gospel message.
We try to live good Christian lives.
We have a high sense of moral responsibility.
But have we truly died to self and been raised to life in Christ Jesus the Lord?
Have we received the Holy Spirit?
Have we received the power of God’s grace?
John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, spent many years as a Priest in the Church of England having been instructed in the way of the Lord and speaking with great fervor about Jesus.
But he knew that something was missing in his life.
He didn’t have a certain ‘power’ which he had witnessed in others and he didn’t know how to go about getting it.
He had been on some missionary crusades, even one to America, but he had experienced no success.
In his journal, Wesley describes his powerful conversion experience: