Baptism Testimony

16 April 2006

Woodley Baptist Church

Easter Day morning service

I became a Christian on April 16, 1986. So, I'd like to thank you all very much for coming to my 20th birthday party. I'm sorry, there's no cake.

I had been a vocal and ardent atheist, but through the prayers of a friend, and the work of a little mission event in my village, God simply showed me that that I wasn't as clever as I thought I was. It was truly and deeply humbling to realise that I was not, in fact, cleverer than God, which is certainly how I'd been acting, but that actually I owed him my life and my love.

These twenty years have been up and down with God, but two things began that day which have particularly marked my life since then. The first is a deep respect for God's truth in his word, the Bible. The second is, of course, the work of God's Holy Spirit in my life. His number one activity in me has been to help me to struggle with loving people as Jesus loves. This doesn't come easily when your heart is as deeply arrogant as mine. But the struggle to love with Christ's love is perhaps the greatest challenge that God has been, and is, tackling in my life. I'm deeply grateful that he has given me a wife who is such a help and example in this, and terrific church families to belong to over the years.

So, why the twenty-year gap between believing and being baptised? Even by my standards, that's a long time to come to a decision!

Well, I was christened as a baby by my grandfather—who was a clergyman, and was actually vicar at Waltham St Lawrence in the 1940s—and six months after I believed I was confirmed in the Church of England by the Bishop of Ely. As far as the C. of E. is concerned, I have been properly done.

However, when Hannah was born I began to look into the theology of baptism more closely, as we were going to have to decide what to do with her. As I looked at the Bible I became convinced that whatever one did with a baby, baptism wasn't appropriate.

Later, we came to Woodley Baptist Church and my ponderings on baptism continued, prodded occasionally by God. To keep it brief, I slowly came to understand three things.

First, that what had been done to me as an infant was not by any Biblical measure a baptism: for one thing, there wasn't enough water; for another, there wasn't enough belief.

Second, that confirmation, even as a believer, is not a proper substitute for being baptised. Again, not enough water.

And third, and most recently, I've come to understand from reading the New Testament that a Christian who is not baptised is something slightly unusual. It's not that it is wrong to be an unbaptised Christian, it's just slightly odd. A peculiarity that ought to be put right sometime.

Once I'd finally come to these three realisations then it was pretty well inescapable that I ought to take the plunge. The question of when to do it became clearer after God put a couple of big signs in the sky: namely the coincidence of Easter day—which is a great day to be baptised—and my 20th birthday as a Christian. How could I ignore that? And I'm thrilled that Penny is joining me in this declaration of faith.

Since I'm up here, I can't resist a tiny bit of sermonising, so I just want to give you one reason I'm not getting baptised, and three reasons I am.

First, I want to make it clear that I'm not getting baptised because I am on a particular spiritual high at the moment. I've felt more devout in the past, and I've felt less devout in the past. But that's not the point. The point is that it is not about me, it's what Jesus has done for me that matters. That's the essence of the symbolism of baptism as I understand it. And that's what I want to rely on for my life and for my death.

And three reasons to get baptised? Well, first I want to encourage you lot. One of the joys of being a church is the encouragement that comes when we see others declare their faith. I love to see others take steps of faith, and I hope our profession of faith will encourage you today.

Second is to encourage myself. In Romans chapter 6 Paul says "Look at your baptism!" when he wants to teach his readers some great truths about Jesus' death and resurrection. Whenever I need encouragement about Christ's death on my behalf I hope that my baptism will be one of the things I can point to and say "Look! That's what he did for you" .

Last, and by no means least, I want to encourage God. It's a strange way to put it, perhaps. But I believe that God is delighted when we do the right thing. He's been prodding me for a while about being baptised, and I want to please him. The Christian life is a daily struggle with dying to self and living for Christ, and this is where I publicly declare in both word and action that that is what I am committed to doing. I'm fairly certain God will be encouraged by that.