There is no doubt that, through the power of the gospel, God can save us. (Romans 1:16) A crucified Christ is God's declaration that a free and full pardon is available. (1 Corinthians 1:18) And that message of hope is for everyone; no one is outside the scope of God's divine love and mercy.

But can the baptised believer be changed? Forgiven, yes! But changed? Can God change the life that has been shaped by a past, a past infected with all kinds of sin and wickedness? A past that has allowed the filth of this world to reside in heart and mind? A past that carries scars of emotional and physical abuse? A past that has instilled the belief that you are an unlovable failure? A past shadowed by fear, insecurity, anxiety and low self-esteem? Can the alcoholic, the pornographer, the habitually immoral, the angry, the resentful, the selfish be changed? This can be some of the "baggage" that is often brought by new believers who have come to Jesus.

Our life is not like a piece of text on a computer screen that can be highlighted then deleted, never to be seen again. We all have a past, but the past does not have to control our present and our future. Mention Peter's name and immediately we remember that he denied the Lord. His sin is public knowledge; it's out in the open for all to see. What Peter did was wrong, inexcusable. But this event did not control the rest of his life; this tragic event did not shape what he was to become. He didn't feel the need to avoid farmyards lest the sound of a cock crowing remind him of his past sin. And I seriously doubt that he gave up eating fowl. The Apostle Paul had a track record of persecuting the church that followed him to his grave. He could never forget his part in the death of Stephen, the first Christian martyr, or his blasphemy against the one who is now his Lord and Saviour. (Acts 26:9-11) Yet the life of neither of these men was controlled by their past. God utterly changed them, empowering them to live faithful and fruitful lives in his service.

The wrecked life we bring to Jesus - with its warped way of thinking, the sinful mind that has been a reservoir for immoral thoughts, the heart that has been filled with evil of every kind - can be changed by the power of God. We don't have to be enslaved to our past, for God has made deliverance available to us.