One morning I was sitting in my room writing when I heard a loud voice listing Bible verse after Bible verse.
I was confused at first, but then remembered that my mom had told me that she had invited the homeschooled girls’ basketball coach that she assisted over to talk about her beliefs. My mom had told me that she had noticed the lady do some strange and different things, but that she thought that they shared similair beliefs.
I peeked out of my door, my mom and the lady were sitting at the kitchen table, both of their Bibles open.
I had never heard someone list off so many verses like that, it was effortless.
I listened in from my room, “Yep,” I thought, “that lady is crazy.”
When the lady left, my mom turned to me and said, “I’m pretty sure she’s in a cult, it’s called the church of Christ, she says it isn’t a denomination.”
How can something not be a denomination or a sect? I wondered.
“What did she say?” I asked.
“I don’t think she thinks we’re Christians.”
My mom has always been the strongest and godliest person I know, so that seemed insane.
I thought we would move on, accept the fact that my sisters’ basketball coach had some wacky beliefs and never talk about it again, but that booming voice kept coming from our dinning room.
I could hear the pages of the Bible flying every direction.
“I don’t think we’ve been obeying the Bible, Grace,” my mom said one day, “I don’t think we’re Christians.”
“Mom, that’s insane. Her crazy talk is getting to you.”
“Every story about someone becoming a Christian in the Bible says “and then they were baptized”, if it wasn’t a part of salvation why were they immediately baptized? The jailer’s family was baptized in the middle of the night, if it wasn’t a step, why didn’t they just wait?”
I was in disbelief that my mom could believe something like that, “What about the thief on the cross? He wasn’t baptized. Are you saying that if someone dies without being baptized that they aren’t saved?”
My mom wasn’t shaken by my questions, “The thief on the cross died under the old law, Jesus himself said he could go to paradise.”
“That’s crazy to think that.” I shook my head.
I went to my room and I wrote a paper, I wrote all the arguments for the sinner’s prayer I could find, all the arguments for grace and belief only.
I gave it to my mom, she gave it back covered in Bible verses and the corrected context of the verses I gave.
One night my mom was crying, “Grace, He doesn’t hear my prayers.”
“I haven’t been baptized for the remission of my sins, and God doesn’t hear the prayers of sinners read John 9:31, Psalm 34:17, Proverbs 15:29, Isaiah 59:1-2. All these years I have been praying to Him, but my sins have separated me. I’m not a Christian. I don’t know how your dad will react, but I need to get baptized.”
I was in shock. How could my mom believe she wasn’t a Christian?
The next night my dad picked me up from the movie theater I was at with a friend, “We have to go to that church of Christ building,” he told me when I got in the car, “your mom is getting baptized.”
We drove in silence before I broke it, “What do you think, Dad?”
“I think she was a Christian before, but if this makes her feel better to do it, then she should do it.”
“Do you think we’re Christians?” I asked.
Yet, all those verses kept running through my head.
My mom was baptized that night and added to the church (Acts 2:47).
“God, I know I don’t have the strongest relationship with you,” I prayed one night, “but does that mean I don’t have a relationship with you at all? Is baptism essential? Are they right?”
I knew if they were, I wasn’t saved. I prayed the sinner’s prayer at five, I was baptized as an outward sign of an inward decision at twelve, there was never any talk about remission of sins or that baptism was a step just like hearing the gospel (Romans 10:13), believing (John 8:24), repenting (Acts 2:38), confessing faith (Romans 10:9), and then baptism into Christ, that for some part we had left out.
Sunday rolled around, we went to the church of Christ building where that lady who studied with my mom went and where she was baptized. I sat with a few of the high schoolers.
“I have a question,” I asked one of the girls next to me, “since I haven’t been baptized, you guys don’t think I’m a Christian, so I shouldn’t take communion right?”
The girl looked uncomfortable, but she nodded yes.
“I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable, I just don’t want to offend anyone,” I told her. I decided not to take it. I had been taking communion since I was five, it felt wrong. I felt like I was doing wrong by standing down from my beliefs, but I wasn’t even sure if I was right anymore.
The man that preached that morning used more verses than I had ever heard in a sermon before.
I was in awe, I felt so happy to finally just be given the Bible, not some political rant or a feel good speech from the pulpit.
My brother and I talked about how different it was on the way home.
“Did you write down all those verses?” my brother asked me, “I’ve never heard so many verses used at once, it was awesome. He really knew the Bible.”
I felt confused. I had braced myself for a cult, for lovebombing, but all I had been met with was sincerity. I wasn’t used to sincerity.
These people were friendly, and they loved the Lord and clearly knew their Bibles. They had no doubts on where they stood with God and His word.
I realized that I wanted that.
One night I opened my Bible to study like I usually did, I was reading through Proverbs at the time and during my reading I came to verse fifteen of Proverbs twelve:
“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise.”
I’ve been closed, I realized. For years I have wanted people to just give me book, chapter, and verse and now that people are, I am not listening. The least I can do is listen.
“God, if you can hear me,” I prayed, “please help my heart to stay open to your word, I just want to obey you.”
I stopped sleeping.
I couldn’t sleep.
I read through those verses about baptism over and over again.
I read all the stories about salvation, even the ones that didn’t mention baptism seemed to imply it when I put it next to the rest of the Bible.
I cried, read my Bible, and cried some more. I would open my mouth to pray but all of my sins came to my mind along with Isaiah 59
“Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.”
“He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” -Mark 16:16
“Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.”-Colossians 2:12
“The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:”-1 Peter 3:21
Through faith; the answer of a good conscience toward God.
Repeated over and over again in my head.
It’s obedience, I realized, that’s all it is.
Why did what I was told by denominational people make me feel like it was disobedient to obey God? Like I was lacking faith to obey God?
The next day was Christmas, I didn’t sleep that night, the day passed in a blur.
I knew the truth.
I couldn’t ignore the Bible anymore.
I was afraid to be baptized though. I knew it was a big commitment, and I knew that I was wrong about a lot of the Bible. I didn’t want to make a commitment without understanding it fully. No more incorrect beliefs. I had been in the dark long enough.
The preacher’s wife came to my house the next day to study with me.
We read through John 3:5, 1 Peter 3:21, Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, Romans 6:3-5,
2 Timothy 2:10, says IN CHRIST. How do we get into Christ?
“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”-Galatians 3:27
After the study, I said the words I had been dying to say, “I need to be baptized.”
“Are you ready?” my mom asked me.
“I know what the Bible says, I know what I need to do.”
I grabbed a change of clothes, and we were off. It was the scariest car ride of my life. I didn’t know where my soul would go if we got into a crash, all I knew was that I needed to obey the Bible immediately.
“And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?”-Acts 8:36
My first thought after coming up from that water was, “I am His, I can die now.”
It wasn’t in a morbid way, but I felt such a calm knowing I had fully obeyed the Bible, knowing that I was saved.
If you think this is the end of this series, it isn’t.
Like all things, this is only the beginning.