2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Colossians 3:2-4
3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. Romans 6:3-4
Here's what's crazy about it. I was baptized as a teenager….twice. Once when I was 12 when I started to realize I was a sinner and that was a problem. Again when I was 14 and I was realizing that I really did believe what the Bible said about things and that I still had a sin problem. And that was it. I thought that took care of things between me and God. He was definitely revealing Himself to me, opening my eyes to things. And I didn't want to be in trouble with Him. So I thought I was good.
I went to a Christian college, I spoke like a Christian, I even went to work my first summer off from college at a Christian camp. And then I got a Christian boyfriend. I prayed when I was really lonely. I knew God had a plan for me, somehow. My boyfriend Gabe who loved me so much, even from across the country was an answered prayer. God was taking care of me. But I didn't offer much to Him.
I had a lot of sin in my life, especially in that relationship with my boyfriend, then fiancé, now husband of 16 years! He was convicted over parts of our relationship that were impure. I wasn't. I figured since we were getting married it was fine. Life went on, eventually we came back to church when we became parents and hearing the Word preached and being in worship more often started to have an effect in me. I started to pray. I started to wonder when I took communion if I was okay. But I was caught even deeper in sin: alcohol abuse and then adultery. I betrayed friends. I treated my husband very poorly. And the natural consequences of those choices eventually caught up with me.
God in His mercy kept me from them for a few years and gave me a good job and a wonderful nanny and friend and well as caring co workers as I walked through a necessary separation from Gabe. When He brought us back together, we went back to church again. Then He saw us through losing Gabe's mom to cancer. I was in Bible studies, had Christian friends, and put the kids in Christian school. I thought I really had it figured out. Except that I still couldn't give up drinking and I had some not so little habitual sins of gossip, slander, and unkindness and selfishness that I didn't feel much conviction over. The people who knew me through all this time would probably say I was a nice person and a good friend…or even a strong Christian….but I was carefully concealing my sinful side. God was not fooled, however.
|Sabino Canyon, Catalina Mountains, AZ|
So through His ultimate grace, in the spring of 2011 before the crazy journey that led us here, I picked up a little book called Crazy Love by Francis Chan. Almost as if He was leading me, I found myself going on a solitary hike into Sabino Canyon outside Tucson while the kids were at school. I sat down by a river and I think I read the book straight through. Several things pierced my heart that day:
- from chapter 4 "Profile of the Lukewarm": "Do not assume you are good soil." What? Of course I'm good soil! I go to church, I do all the right Christian things, I believe all the right doctrine. How could I not be good soil? Chan goes on: "Has your relationship with God actually changed the way you live? Do you see evidence of God's kingdom in your life? Or are you choking it out slowly by spending too much time, energy, money and thought on the things of this world?" ouch!
- there's more: "Are you satisfied being 'godly enough' to get yourself to heaven, or to look good in comparison to others? Or can you say with Paul that you 'want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death' (Philippians 3:10)?
- and finally: "Would you describe yourself as totally in love with Jesus Christ? Or do the words halfhearted, lukewarm, and partially committed fit better?"
I don't know if I was born again that day in the Canyon or shortly afterward, but I have come to realize just recently! that the spring/summer of 2011 was when I became His. And according to His word, once you belong to Him, he wants you to make an official, public statement through baptism. You identify with Him in His death as you go into the water and His resurrection and power to wipe away your sins and redeem you in coming up. It's kind of like a wedding…you are gladly committing your life publicly to another forever.
36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”
37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”
38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:36-39).
So last Sunday they were having a baptism at church. Only two people were scheduled, but as our pastor preached on it, he encouraged all whom the Spirit was moving in to be baptized. Well, I was done for. Never mind the embarrassment of being 37 years old and not realizing I had only come to know Him truly a few years ago. All that mattered was that I obey. It was amazing! I can't even describe the joy and peace I've had this week as I walk with Him in a new beginning. Feels kind of like a honeymoon! And how precious to bring it into the week Gabe and I celebrate our 16th anniversary.
If I can encourage you, friend, do not fear examining your heart before the Lord Jesus. He wants an authentic, open, fully surrendered heart from you. Don't try to hide behind good deeds or church attendance or long-held beliefs or what others think of you. Read His word and search your heart for yourself. He will speak. He came first to save the nation of Israel, religious people who didn't even know they were lost. Like me. I am so thankful He did!
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In His love,