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Making A "U-Turn" In Life

Philemon 11

John L. Kachelman, Jr. 

I. A traveler once asked a man in China, "Have you ever heard the gospel?' "No," he replied, "but I have seen it. There is a man in our village who was the terror of his neighborhood. He had a violent temper. He was an opium smoker, a criminal, and a dangerous man. But the gospel has made him gentle and good. He no longer smokes opium. No, I have never heard the gospel, but I have seen it and it is very good." 

II. One of the most thrilling witnesses of the gospel's validity is its ability to dramatically change the lives of those who follow it. 

1. There is no secret that this is due to its divine "power" (Ro 1:16). 

2. Its ability brings about a transformation in thought and deed (Ro 12:1,2; Ep 4:17-24; Col 1:21-23). 

3. This thrilling change is evident in many lives. Let us briefly mention specifics: Saul of Tarsus (Ac 9:3-18); the jailer (Ac 16:27-34); the Samaritan woman (Jn 4:28,29); and Onesimus (Phlm 11). 

III. It is the change in Onesimus that is examined and illustrates the point in this lesson. 

1. He had taken a very wrong turn in life; he had really messed things up! He had violated a number of civil laws, had dealt treacherously with those who were nice to him, and lived in rebellion and ignorance to Almighty God. There probably was not much that Onesimus had not tried or seen in the immoral streets of Rome. 

2. But an unbelievable event took place--this man (who had fallen to the lowest depths of humanity and who did not care who he hurt or used as long as Self was satisfied) drastically changed! He heard the gospel and saw its precious treasures. When he realized the blessing that God extended through grace, Onesimus was converted (Ac 3:19). It would do no injustice to say that Onesimus made a "U-turn" in his life, a 180 degree about face! Such a drastic change deserves close study. 


I. The wonderful change that transpired. This dramatic change is a common trait of genuine conversion. Scripture often tells us that genuine conversion is identified by dramatic changes and contrasts in behavior (Ep 5:8,11). Conversion was evident in Onesimus' life because... 

A. Someone cared enough to teach him the gospel. 

1. It was Paul (v.10). The compassion of Paul for the lost is never illustrated better than in the phrase "my child." Paul saw value in the life of this runaway slave and thief; he saw purpose and meaning to Onesimus' life; he saw an eternal soul stained with sin and separated from God. 

2. We do not know how Paul and Onesimus met. But we do know that as they met Paul was anxious to tell the "old, old story" (Philip 1:12-14). 

3. Pr 10:30--the wisdom in seeking and saving the lost is evident in many ways: it fulfills God's will, it spreads the news of God's great love; it provides great joy for the soul winner. 

4. How sad is the thought that there are many around us like Onesimus--stumbling through this world searching for the Truth and never finding it. They will be found in your school, your civic organization, your family, and even in worship assemblies! 

5. Each day witnesses multitudes leaving earthly life unprepared for eternal life because they do not know God and have not obeyed God (2 Ths 1:8). 

6. Such is not God's desire (Lk 14:21b-23). He wants "all" to enter (Rv 22:17). 

7. Paul was doing all he could to see that God's goals were accomplished. At every opportunity he sought to teach the gospel. When Onesimus and Paul met, the gospel was discussed. 

8. This simple truth needs emphasis today -- How can the gospel achieve its desired goals unless we are willing to do as Paul? (Ro 10:13-15; Col 4:3). Had Paul acted like many Christians today, he would not have discussed the gospel with Onesimus and Onesimus would have never changed! 

B. The gospel was heard, believed, and obeyed (10,16). 

1. "Begotten"--often used to describe the act of God in bestowing upon obedient believers the disposition of "children" in His family (Jn 3:3,5,7). 

2. " the Lord"--again refers to the bond of unity shared by those who are children of God. 

3. Note: Onesimus could have only shared these things if he had been baptized for the remission of sins. The obedience to baptism is the "birth" of John 3 and it places one "in Christ" (Gal 3:27). Thus, if one truly desires to follow God's will he/she must be baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Ac 2:38; 22:16). 

4. The dramatic difference in conversion is connected with baptism (Ro 6). 

a. Baptism is a death of sin and life to God (3,4). 

b. Baptism is a putting away of the old and accepting the new (6-11). 

c. Baptism is the point where we resign as servants of sin and are acceptable as servants of God (17-22). 

5. When Onesimus heard the gospel message, he wanted to respond. His faith in Christ as God's only Son prompted him to obey God's command of baptism. Following his baptism, he had a "new life" (4). 

C. Fruits of repentance were demonstrated in his life. 

1. The useless became useful (v. 11; Ps 51:2,10; Ro 6:13). 

2. The deserter went back (v.17; Ez 11:19; Hos 6:1). 

3. The grudging slave had become a willing servant (v.13; Ez 36:26-27; Dt 30:6; Ps 110:3). 

II. The wonder of the change that transpired. 

A. This change was dynamic--incredible that one could change to such an extent, yet this is the "power" of the gospel (Jer 24:7; 1 Ths1:9). 

B. This dynamic change is possible today. 

1. May we be careful and never "write off" anyone as beyond the scope of the gospel's power. Even when one's life is marred with sin and devoted to self, a change can take place! (Lk 15:17a). 

2. If one will believe and obey the gospel, he/she is able to make a "u-turn" and find joy! (1 Co 6:9-11). 

C. As you consider the marvelous change of conversion, you have to question those who refuse to accept God's invitation. Why? God invites us to receive wonderful blessings (Is 32:3-4,15,17; Ez 11:19-20). 


I. Rv 22:12-15--the urgency of making a "u-turn" right now! 

1. "Wash robes"--urgency of baptism (Ac 22:16). 

2. "Right to eat"--heritage of being a member of God's family (Jn 3:5). 

3. "Enter in"--the exclusive fellowship. 

4. "Without"--the tragic destiny of all who refuse to make a "u-turn" to conversion (Ac 17:32). 

II. What about you and conversion to Christ? Can it be said of you by another, "I have never heard the gospel, but I have seen it in _____'s life and it is very good." Does your life encourage one to accept or reject the gospel? 

III. 2 Cor. 6:2 -- Make a "u-turn" right now! Follow the example of Onesimus -- hear, believe, repent and be baptized for the remission of sins!

Copyright 1998 by John L. Kachelman, Jr. may be reproducted for non-commercial purposes at no cost to others.

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