Over the last seven months, my wife and I went through our local church’s membership process. I have intentionally put aside writing for these last several months as we were not members and thus not technically under the oversite of the elders until they examined our professions of faith. The membership class was long and rigorous but it was a phenomenally rich time of fellowship, edification, and growth for both of us. During that time I began to give deep, serious thought to my conversion. I am thankful for the length of the membership class because it provided much needed time for self-examination. Upon much prayer, reflection, and introspection, I came to the conviction that I should be baptized this year as a believer even though I was previously baptized as an infant in the Roman Catholic Church, and at age 13 upon a profession of faith in a General Baptist Church. The following post comprises my testimony of salvation and the reason why I am being baptized this Sunday.
I was raised in a quasi-Christian home. My mother was saved, my father was not, but we attended Church faithfully and I grew up attending all sorts of Christian programs and ministries. I advanced in those programs beyond many of my own age, and thanks to a church program called Awana I had hundreds of Bible verses memorized by the age of 13. I was a highly involved student in the youth group at my church, and I was known as an all-around “nice guy” at my public high school. I made a profession of faith and was baptized at age 13 but in retrospect, I know for a fact that I was not truly converted at the time. It was not until my junior year in college that I believe I was truly converted. Up until that point, my testimony largely revolved around what I did and did not do, rather than what Christ did for me. I believed I was saved because of a prayer I prayed years prior and I justified my hidden sins by comparing them to what everyone was doing around me. I figured if I was not living in total hedonism then my sins were not THAT bad. In essence, I was like the Pharisee in the temple who cried out “thank God I am not like other men” (Luke 18:11). I was publicly proud and believed myself to be “holy” yet inwardly I was rotten and corrupt. In short, I was a whitewashed tomb. In private and hidden from public view, I was engaged in all sorts of immoral activity. I was addicted to pornography, cursed incessantly, had regular outbursts of anger, and I loved sensuality, fighting, brawling, and gambling. I consistently broke the Sabbath with no regard for God’s law, and though I attended church, I never really prayed or read the Bible on my own in a devotional manner. If I did open a Bible, it was merely an academic pursuit in order to gain more knowledge so I could hold my own in debates amongst my fellow peers.
In 2011, I decided to attend a Christian Bible college after high school as I did not want to get caught up in a partying lifestyle. At this time I was becoming very convicted about many of my hidden sins. I thought a Christian atmosphere would rub off on me and I would be able to fix my corruption with morality. I came onto that college campus oozing with pride and self-righteousness due to how much head knowledge I possessed and how little my college-age peers knew. During my freshman year, I went so far as to write a paper denouncing the doctrine of election as a blasphemous and evil heresy. I was spiritually blinded by pride, dead in my sins, and hostile to God in every way. About four years later in the Summer-Fall of 2015, (and after much pain in my personal life due to various family and personal incidents), I enrolled in an elective class on the book of Zechariah. It was an intriguing book to me that I had never read or really understood. When I got to Zechariah 3 (the story of Joshua standing before the throne of God) I realized I was in all actuality, not a righteous person at all but a wretched sinner who had nothing to offer God. At that point I realized my head knowledge was worthless, my baptism and being raised in the church was worthless, my outward appearance of righteousness was worthless, and I was truly depraved and unworthy of the grace of God. Prior to this, I had opposed the doctrine of election severely. I believed it was myself who chose God and made the “correct decision” that so many of my other friends had failed to make. I overlooked all my inner corruption and truly believed I was better than my friends because of a decision I had made for God and a prayer I had said years prior. Zechariah 3 stopped me dead in my tracks and it was here that I realized salvation is ALL of God. Jonathan Edwards is once claimed to have said, “we contribute nothing to our salvation except the sin that makes it necessary.” God showed me that salvation was all of the Lord imputing HIS righteousness to me and that I had nothing to offer Him except the filthy rags of my sin. Zechariah 3:3-5 says,
“Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel. He spoke and said to those who were standing before him, saying, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” Again he said to him, “See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.” Then I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments, while the angel of the Lord was standing by” (Zech. 3:3-5, NASB).
I believe the time of my conversion was some time in the fall of 2015. It was during this period of time that God began to work in me and gave me the gift of saving faith. I began to trust by faith in Christ’s work and righteousness, and I began to truly repent of my sin by turning from it and putting it to death. This was all a work of God whereby He opened my eyes to understand His word, took out my heart of stone, and gave me a heart of flesh. It had nothing to do with my good works or efforts whatsoever.
Some things immediately changed in my life during that time. I stopped gambling, cursing, and fighting. Other sins such as pornography and anger were gradually broken and removed through much discipline and sanctification by the Lord. This list is by no means a compendium of my sins. While the Lord graciously saved me from the bondage to and love of my sin, there still remains in me vestiges of my old man. I have been freed from my slavery to sin and I now long for the day when I will be freed from the very presence of sin. I love this quote by John Newton and it represents so well where I stand by the grace of God today:
“I am not what I ought to be, I am not what I want to be, I am not what I hope to be in another world; but still I am not what I once used to be, and by the grace of God I am what I am”.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11 wonderfully says,
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9-11, NASB).
Over the last two years, the Lord began to replace my evil desires and sinful urges with a love for His word, a zeal for evangelism and a desire to preach the gospel. Today, while I am not what I one day hope to be in glory, I am also not what I once was apart from Christ. I have been washed, and sanctified, and justified by Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. It is truly no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me. This Sunday I will be baptized as a believer in Jesus Christ out of obedience as a public sign that I have truly passed out of death and into new life with Christ. Question 97 of The Baptist Catechism defines baptism thusly:
Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament instituted by Jesus Christ, to be unto the party baptized a sign of his fellowship with Him, in His death, burrial, and resurrection; of his being engrafted into Him; of remission of sins; and of his giving up himself unto God through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life.”
I thank God for not dealing with me according to my sins but according to His loving kindness. I once was dead in sin and deceived by my pride but God… being rich in His mercy saved me. Praise be to God for His mercy and grace!
I would like to invite you to attend my public baptism. I will be baptized along with three other dear Christian brothers at 6pm this Sunday, April 22, 2018, at the Reformed Baptist Church in Scranton. A short fellowship meal will follow the baptism service. The Reformed Baptist Church of Scranton is located at 234 Adams Avenue Scranton, PA 18503. I hope to see you there!