Being born to Baptist parents, raised in a Baptist church, attending a Baptist school, and running with a Baptist circle of friends, left quite a Baptist impression on my life. An old saying says, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” I am thankful that this was not the case with me. I loved my Baptist community and was very blessed to be placed in my Baptist family. I learned the importance of honesty and adhered to this principle “religiously”. Obedience and respect to authorities was always important for an adolescent. Some (like my grandparents) might have considered me to be a perfect little angel.
Yet, there was so much more than just being a good little Baptist girl on the outside. Being a Baptist would not get me to Heaven; all of my Baptist influences taught me this. My little ten year old brain began to think about this. All of my good deeds like going to church faithfully, reading the Bible, trying to be good, and growing up in a religious home would not get me to Heaven. All of my righteousness, the best that I could possibly be, looks like filthy rags in God’s eyes. “Being a Baptist would not get me to Heaven; all of my Baptist influences taught me this.” I knew this because the Bible says in Romans 3:10 “There is none righteous, no, not one.” Not only was I not righteous, but I was also a sinner according to Romans 3:23 “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Growing up under the preaching of God’s Word I knew that I deserved a penalty for my sin. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”(Romans 6:23)
I wanted that eternal life. I did not want to spend forever in what the Bible calls a lake of fire. But this was a selfish purpose. I was only thinking of myself, and not about how my sin separated me from a Holy, Righteous God. God did not want me to be separated from Him; that is why He sent His Son, Jesus Christ to take my place and to pay for my sin. That is what Romans 5:8 says, “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
As a child, I knew this verse and could even quote it, but that was all I could do… was quote it. I was so proud that I could not see myself past my little Baptist nose. I knew in my head that I was a sinner because that is what I had heard. It was not until I was ten that I had realized that all of my former vain and empty prayers had made no difference in my life. Underneath the good girl facade was a deceitful, angry, and proud sinner. The Bible had a simple solution for this in Romans 10:9, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” I was so proud that even though I knew I could have freedom from my sin I did not want to submit to Jesus as my Savior from sin and death.
“For a year I struggled with wanting my own way and submitting to God’s best way.” For a year I struggled with wanting my own way and submitting to God’s best way. Finally on June 28, 1998, I sat up after tossing and turning in bed for an hour; I had made my decision. I jumped out of bed, snapped the lights on, woke up my grumpy sister, and asked her to pray with me. Kneeling beside her bed, I asked Jesus Christ the Son of God to forgive me for my sins and to be the Lord of my life. And He did. In that moment the Prince of Peace came into my life and took away my struggle and confusion. I do not need to feel lost or lonely, because Jesus said in Hebrews 13:5, “…I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”
I now have direction and purpose in my life. It may not be the direction that I thought that I would have taken, but God knows what is best for my life. His Word, the Bible, is my guide, and its promises give me strength and hope. I once thought only of myself and what I wanted, but now I desire to please my Lord. My heart does not have room for sin and my Savior. Does this mean that I am now perfect? No, I am not perfect, but I do like to claim Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:” When I do sin, God never allows it to stay. He commands in Romans 6:12 to not allow “sin [to] reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.” Before I put Christ first in my life, my stubborn heart would choose to stay angry at someone because I was too proud to admit that I was wrong. Now, I am quicker to humbly ask for someone’s forgiveness because I know that I can not be right with God while I am angry with someone else. God has given me a purpose for living and a joy that endures even when the tough times come. I now have something fare greater than the name Baptist; I have a relationship with Jesus Christ that will last forever.