For most folks this is IRS day, for better or worse, refund or payment. However, in my heart, this is MY day. On April 15, 1966, at 6:30 PM, I asked Christ into my life. Four months shy of my 21st birthday, living a life of heavy-duty sin and headed towards a significant amount of trouble, the Lord broke through. I have never doubted or questioned or regretted it. He had arranged for seed to be planted in my heart off and on since I had been very young, but the seed hardly survived. And then ...
I was living in Tacoma, WA. Towards mid-March a young woman at work, Carol, 18, was suddenly without a place to live and couldn't afford to fly back to her family in the St. Louis area. Someone at work said, "Hey, Joanne, you have room in your apartment. Let her move in with you." I didn't know Carol very well, but knew she was a sweet person -- and I WAS NOT!!! I knew it was the right thing to do, so agreed that she could, but I also said to her: You can move in with me. But I go out when I want to go out, I come back when I want to come back, and if you don't like it, you can leave.
Amazingly, even hearing that "jerky" statement, Carol moved in. What I didn't know was that she was a Born-Again Christian. I didn't know what that was, anyhow, so it wouldn't have sunk in. Over the next couple of weeks we yammered about religion for hours nearly every night. She couldn't always come up with answers for me, so she connected me to Stan, a man in her church, and he would hammer topics out with me on the phone. Very straight-forward, which is what works best with me most of the time. I decided to go to church with her -- Portland Avenue Baptist Church. My second Sunday, on April 10, Easter, there was an altar call and I knew I was supposed to go forward. I could feel the pressure in my heart ... my whole body ... in a way I had never experienced before... and I held on tight to the back of the pew in front of me so I would be able to not give in. I left church feeling pleased that "I won the battle."
The next Thursday, at work, Carol had a head injury and ended up in the hospital. She was there until Saturday. I was invited to dinner at Stan's house on Friday, and enjoyed dinner with him and his wife and four sons. After we finished eating, and Anita had cleared the table, and the boys had disappeared to the living room, Stan had me stay in the kitchen with him and he laid the facts of Christ's sacrifice out for me very clearly. Stan knew how sinful I was ... he had a similar history ... and he didn't look down his nose at me at all. He knew God could turn my awful life around, no question. I told him that I believed what he was telling me about Jesus and His sacrifice and the possibility of salvation, but I said I needed to straighten up first or I couldn't come to Him. Stan, of course, said it was the other way around -- come to Christ and the changes would start to take place. I knew he was right, and I made the commitment and invited Christ into my life. In my mind, because of all the abuse I had experienced from many others, mostly men, this was simply a "contract"... no emotional attachment to the Father or Son, just an agreement to follow the rules He laid down and, if I messed up, take the punishment that would hit me. After my prayer, Stan and I went to a young adult Bible study, so only an hour after I was saved I made the public statement and people rejoiced. I remember that the next morning when I woke up my first thoughts were about the new life I had before me.
And it was and has always been. Even though I was far from perfect, the Lord kept moving me along; He didn't give up on me. Stan wrote an article for a Baptist teachers magazine a year later and described someone who walked with the Lord, fell on her face in the mud, and climbed back to her feet again, and went forward and... fell on her face in the mud. How often this took place. He also said it was the climbing out of the mud and back onto her feet that made the difference. And that he trusted that as she grew in the Lord the pattern would simply be the walking.
After all these years, most of the time I can say that is true. Occasionally, I do end up with a little mud on my face, but it wipes off thoroughly ... by the blood of Jesus.
Where would I be if this all had not come to pass 44 years ago? Most certainly no one would know me today. I would have been a victim, or cause of, violence, domestic or otherwise; a suicide statistic; dead from alcohol-based illness. No friends, no family, and, most certainly, no hope for my future.
So the key word today is HALLELUJAH!!
Happy "rebirthday," Joanne. Awesome story...amazing how God works!
and you have walked it well, my friend ...
Happy "rebirthday!" from me also.
"God works in mysterious ways, His wonders to perfom!" Is that from a hymn or scripture--anyone know? It keeps coming out of my mouth and I'm thinking it's in a hymn that my Dad must have liked a lot!
Awesome story--I like the falling in the mud analogy.
Beautiful. Happy belated rebirthday!
Thank you for sharing & for reminding us how Jesus takes us out of the pit & places us on a solid Rock! Rejoicing with you! Happy Rebirthday!
Your story of your "re-birth" is an emotionally moving one--and one which I believe to be sincere in its expression. It cannot be denied that you made a change in your life and that you made a committment, on that 'day', for which you celebrate as when you were 'born again'. And I believe that you are sincere in your love of Christ. I'd only like to recommend that you 'further' your understanding and embrace of what 'being born again' actually means for the christian believer.
While acceptance of Christ, on an intellectual level....in responding to His calling and accepting His love...is most assuredly part of a christian's life...it cannot be denied that Baptism is its beginning...and initiates that journey, as one puts on the clothes of Christ.
God chose to convey His Grace to us, in a physical and spiritual manner (through water and spirit together)...as the Incarnational Christ...a true expresson of His physical/human and divine natures. Baptism and 'acceptance of Christ' are not separate events, but one. There is no separation of the water from the Spirit.
We christians are not stagnant creatures. We are on a journey, which does not 'begin and end' with one moment in time.
We are called to perseverence, to the end of our lives. It begins with baptism... a baptism that regenerates (removes/washes away original sin and imparts the Holy Spirit--making that christian a member of the Body of Christ). So while you embrace the day in which you 'accepted Christ'..you do not have a complete concept and have not been regenerated in the same manner in which the early church 'initated catechumens...the first christian believers'.
Baptism begins a new life and removes sin. From that time onward, it initiates a life in Christ which includes 'following Christ'...even, sometimes, suffering (taking up one's cross and following Him)....
As Saint Cyprian wrote, in 251 A.D.:
"Confession is the beginning of glory, not the full desert of the crown; nor does it perfect our praise, but it initiates our dignity; and since it is written, 'He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved,' whatever has been before the end is a step by which we ascend to the summit of salvation, not a terminus wherein the full result of the ascent is already gained." Cyprian, Unity of the Church.
Your sister in Christ, Rachel
More historical documentation for you to ponder, from the Church's earliest christians:
"It is, indeed, to be wondered at, and greatly to be wondered at, that to some of His own children--whom He has regenerated in Christ--to whom He has given faith, hope, and love, God does not give perseverance also." Augustine, On Rebuke and Grace, 18 (A.D. 427).
"Watch for your life's sake. Let not your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed; but be ye ready, for ye know not the hour in which our Lord cometh. But often shall ye come together, seeking the things which are befitting to your souls: for the whole time of your faith will not profit you, if ye be not made perfect in the last time." Didache, 16 (A.D. 90).
"Whoever are convinced and believe that what they are taught and told by us is the truth, and professes to be able to LIVE ACCORDINGLY, are instructed to pray and to beseech God in fasting for the remission of their former sins, while we pray and fast with them. Then they are led by us to a place where there is water, and they are reborn in the same kind of rebirth in which we ourselves were reborn: ‘In the name of God, the Lord and Father of all, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit,’ they receive the washing of water. For Christ said, ‘Unless you be reborn, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven’" (First Apology 61:14–17 [A.D. 151]).
Theophilus of Antioch
"Moreover, those things which were created from the waters were blessed by God, so that this might also be a sign that men would at a future time receive repentance and remission of sins through water and the bath of regeneration—all who proceed to the truth and are born again and receive a blessing from God" (To Autolycus 12:16 [A.D. 181]).
"Happy is our sacrament of water, in that, by washing away the sins of our early blindness, we are set free and admitted into eternal life. . . . [But] a viper of the [Gnostic] Cainite heresy, lately conversant in this quarter, has carried away a great number with her most venomous doctrine, making it her first aim to destroy baptism—which is quite in accordance with nature, for vipers and.asps . . . themselves generally do live in arid and waterless places. But we, little fishes after the example of our [Great] Fish, Jesus Christ, are born in water, nor have we safety in any other way than by permanently abiding in water. So that most monstrous creature, who had no right to teach even sound doctrine, knew full well how to kill the little fishes—by taking them away from the water!" (Baptism 1 [A.D. 203]).
"Baptism itself is a corporal act by which we are plunged into the water, while its effect is spiritual, in that we are freed from our sins" (ibid., 7:2). - Tertullian A.D. 203
"It is an excellent thing that the Punic [North African] Christians call baptism salvation and the sacrament of Christ’s body nothing else than life. Whence does this derive, except from an ancient and, as I suppose, apostolic tradition, by which the churches of Christ hold inherently that without baptism and participation at the table of the Lord it is impossible for any man to attain either to the kingdom of God or to salvation and life eternal? This is the witness of Scripture too" (Forgiveness and the Just Deserts of Sin, and the Baptism of Infants 1:24:34 [A.D. 412]).
"The sacrament of baptism is most assuredly the sacrament of regeneration" (ibid., 2:27:43).
"Baptism washes away all, absolutely all, our sins, whether of deed, word, or thought, whether sins original or added, whether knowingly or unknowingly contracted" (Against Two Letters of the Pelagians 3:3:5 [A.D. 420]).
"This is the meaning of the great sacrament of baptism, which is celebrated among us: all who attain to this grace die thereby to sin—as he himself [Jesus] is said to have died to sin because he died in the flesh (that is, ‘in the likeness of sin’)—and they are thereby alive by being reborn in the baptismal font, just as he rose again from the sepulcher. This is the case no matter what the age of the body. For whether it be a newborn infant or a decrepit old man—since no one should be barred from baptism—just so, there is no one who does not die to sin in baptism. Infants die to original sin only; adults, to all those sins which they have added, through their evil living, to the burden they brought with them at birth" (Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Love 13 [A.D. 421]).
To me, baptism is a beginning, and can be a good one. I was first baptized when I was 14, right before I was confirmed. That DID make a difference in my heart. However, until I made the commitment to the Lord when I was 20, it didn't "connect" in a spiritual manner. I'm not an arguer or debater. Each person knows when and how the Lord has dropped into their lives or has lead them forward. Everyone knows that. I have many contacts in many denominations that have use different terminology for many of the same spiritual and life changes. However, in my case, I know exactly when the change came, when the sense of the Lord's move into my life in a deeper manner occurred. He was present a number of times, which is why I'm alive; He protected me and poured His grace on me. However, again, personally, I know when the "togetherness" hit. Sorry if my comments offended you. Again, to me it's usually a manner of terminology. Some people think that you have to be baptized or you'll never make it to heaven. I don't agree with that one; I know it should be done, but I also know there are times when it is not possible. My Father God is bigger than those situations that occur. At any rate, I ain't perfect, but I know I'm walking with Him, following His guiding hand, or there'd be nothing to go forward with or gain in my life or in the life to come.
"Some people think that you have to be baptized or you'll never make it to heaven. I don't agree with that one."
the Bible says this:
1 Peter 3:21: "Baptism . . . now SAVES YOU, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a clear conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
Your God is not 'bigger' in the sense that his Word is contradictory. Your interpretation is just lacking it's fullness. You're creating a false dichotomy.
"Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38)
This verse doesn't mention a 'decision for Christ' as the precursor for receipt of the Holy Spirit--though, as Christians, we all know that faith, hope and love are integral to our lives in Christ!
"For Catholics, the Christian pilgrimage starts at Baptism, usually as an infant...........it is a GROSS INACCURACY, however, to say that Catholics believe we are saved by baptism. Baptism is only the means God uses INITIALLY to INFUSE GRACE. Grace works in us to save us. ......
It is only by bringing to the Scripture a virulent anti-physical bias that the evidence can be avoided. This common Evangelical prejudice can be stated like this: "Nothing we do with our bodies in the physical realm has anything whatsoever to do with God's dealings with our eternal souls in the spiritual realm."
......"Actually, the anti-physical bias is nothing new. Its origin is in a Gnostic heresy called Manicheaism. We have already seen the effect of its bias on Evangelical views of the Eucharist. Although Scripture clearly teaches that physical substances do impart spiritual benefits, grace (John 6:26-59),
Evangelicals stick by their prejudice. This notion that we should worship like angels, without the aid of our bodies, leads Evangelicals to reject other things besides the Eucharist and baptism. I have come to believe that this bias distorts the Evangelical understanding of baptism, marriage, death, communion, the body of Christ, grace, Mary, the Holy Spirit, and even the Incarnation. Largely to accomodate this bias, Evangelicals redefine the meaning of baptism in Scripture. All lexicographers agree the word literally means the physical immersion of something. Ancient Jewish writers used it this way, to describe the use of the term has meant a use of water with the participation of the Holy Spirit. Evangelicals redefine the word baptism to mean a spiritual immersion of the Holy Spirit alone, with water not even involved. They do this without adequate scriptural basis and without early Church precedent." ...."
It is through physical baptism that God initially grants us forgiveness of sins. ...."What are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name" (Acts 22:16). The fact that physical baptism is the moment when the Holy Spirit becomes operative in one's life is quite clear. Peter, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, preached, "Repent and be baptized...and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38)
In 1 Cor. 12:13, we learn that baptism grants us membership in the Church, the body of Christ: "For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body." ...."
"When Evangelicals talk about Christianity, they almost always discuss it in terms of a "personal relationship" with God. For some reason, they think that Catholics do not believe in having a personal relationship with God.".......
While the Church obviously believes that a personal relationship is a helpful concept in today's culture, Catholics are not in danger of viewing this as the only essential way of expressing Christian faith. Some Evangelicals are. ......we should not assume that the members of the early church also found that a helpful way to describe their faith. The expression is never used in Scripture. It is a product of our present cultural way of thinking. A more biblical expression is "following Christ".
My point is this: Evangelicals must not assume that because a Catholic is unfamiliar with their language he is somehow less of a Christian. There are good biblical reasons with long historical precedent for the way Catholics express themselves."
For more reading, I'd suggest this link:
Baptism and the early church fathers
St. Paul was more than figurative when he wrote, “You were buried with Christ in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead” (Col 2:12).
Those who profess to be Christ's will be recognized by their actions. For what matters is not a momentary act of professing, but being persistently motivated by faith (The Letter of Ignatius to the Ephesians, ch. 14:2).
This is a corollary to our Lord's warning in Matthew 10:22: "But he who endures to the end will be saved."
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