My hands literally death gripped the pew in front of me. I knew exactly what God was commanding me to do, but there was no way I could do it. Tomorrow was suppose to be my first sermon, how in the world was I going to explain I needed to be baptized?
There’s a really long story that lead to this moment (20 years long) so I’ll just give you a brief summary. At age 6, I asked Jesus into my heart and got baptized. For the next decade or so I lived a pretty moral life, went to church, and looked the part. When my friends were getting into all kinds of trouble, I refrained because I was focused, determined, and passionate. Not about Jesus, but about motocross.
When my pro motocross dreams crashed and burned, so did my resolve for ethical living. I entered college looking for happiness, and the college life had plenty to offer. After a full semester of drinking from the college well, I was left empty rather than full.
Over Christmas break I went to a Campus Outreach event with about 500 other college students. At the climax of the event, I stood in a room watching everyone else worship God, while I stood in anger of Him. There I decided to pick a fight with God, one I would quickly loose.
I asked God why I didn’t share the same passion for Him that others did? I asked why He seemed so far away from me, while apparently being so close to them? I reminded Him of all those times I had prayed, “God, if I am not saved, save me.” I reminded Him of all I had done for Him; church, camps, mission trips, etc.
Finally, in complete frustration I got brutally honest. “God, I have done everything I know to do to be saved and I don’t feel anything! I’m not even sure you exist, and maybe all these people are just faking it. It was then and there that God answered in the silence.
“You are right. You have done everything you know to do to be saved, except for the one thing I require. You have been “doing” for a long time, rather than trusting in what I have ” done” for you.
Click! Light bulb! Gospel!!!
I had heard the gospel my whole life, yet for the first time in my life I saw it. Salvation is not doing, it’s trusting in what Christ has done. Period.
Now with new seeing eyes and a new trusting heart, I look up at the screen and read these words, “When we’ve been there ten thousand years, bright shining as the sun. We’ve no less days to sing God praise, then when we first begun.” For the first time in my life I knew for sure those words were true, and true about me.
I then came home, told no one, and convinced myself I had merely had a deeper encounter with God. Then everything began to change. I quit dipping and cussing, cold turkey. I stopped drinking from the college fun well, started reading my bible, hung out with other Christians, and fell deeply in love with my church.
Of course everyone began to notice these changes, but I would shrug them off and chalk it up to new growth, rather than new life.
So there I sit, 10 months later with my hands gripping the pew in front of me, reflecting back on the past year of trying to show God I was right, and He was wrong. The longer I thought, the more I was convinced I was the one who was wrong. So with my heart at the point of exploding inside my chest, I gave up and said, “Ok, God, tomorrow during my first sermon at Hardin I will tell my true testimony and get baptized.” Immediately, complete relief and peace came over me.
Of course that peace was soon replaced with fear and anxiety, as I began thinking about all the implications. I first had to call my dad (which I didn’t want to do) and tell him I got saved 10 months ago rather than over 10 years ago. Then I would have to stand in front of the church that helped raised me, and confess I had been living a lie for more than a decade. I was scared. Scared of what people would think, say, and do.
So on Halloween night 2004, as I stood in front of a packed crowd and watched their jaws drop, I preached my first “sermon” and asked my dad to come up and baptize me. As I went into the water and came out, all fear melted away as person by person embraced me with acceptance rather than rejection.
On that Halloween, the night set aside to celebrate all things evil and spooky, I showed the world that by faith in Jesus I was raised from the dead. Not as a half dead zombie corpse with an axe through my head, but as a new creation in Christ, more alive than ever before.