When I was 9 years old, I understood that I was a sinner and Jesus Christ was the answer based on his finished work on the cross. I walked the aisle in my church, prayed with the pastor, and was baptized soon after.
But as I’ve prayed and considered what my life looked like after that experience, I see more and more that while I had a strong, spiritual church image, much of the rest of my life did not demonstrate the testimony of one who was following after Christ. In fact, when I went to college, I walked away from the church for a while and did not return until my late 20s, when God totally invaded my life, my marriage, and my family in a big way and called me into ministry. I've been in church and following the Lord faithfully, by his grace, ever since.
As I have reflected on this over time, I believe it is most likely that my true conversion occurred when I returned to the Lord in my 20s. At that time, the pastoral counsel I received did not encourage me to be baptized again, and as a result I did not pursue it further.
As my walk with God has grown since then, I have reflected at times about baptism and my own testimony. The Bible tells us that baptism is an act of obedience that occurs after conversion, not before, and it testifies of a believer’s salvation. Baptism is an outward display of the inward change God has made in my life.
I serve at the North Raleigh campus as an elder. Last year brought us some significant issues to work through as a leadership team. We saw firsthand how sin can overwhelm us and lead us down a path we might have believed was impossible. Our campus pastor, John Muller, challenged us as elders to examine ourselves before God to ensure there were no sins or issues that could compromise us or cause us to stumble as elders, husbands, fathers, or men of faith.
I took John’s challenge seriously and began to pray earnestly that God would reveal any sin or issue of disobedience in my own life. As I prayed, the question of baptism again came to mind. After praying more on this and talking with my wife and some trusted counselors, I raised my concerns to John directly. The result of several conversations with him led me to move forward in baptism before the church.
It was a truly glorious day! I knew that my salvation was secured about 30 years ago, but this important act of obedience was an awesome reminder of God’s saving grace in my life. He has used it to renew my walk with him and to remind me that he is faithful in all things. I trust him more than ever to make me a godly husband, father, elder, teacher, and man of God. My prayer is that God will use my obedience in baptism to challenge others to examine themselves as well.
By Randy Bridges