One year ago today, I re-affirmed my baptismal vows. I was christened1)Infant baptism https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infant_baptism as a baby and confirmed2)Confirmation https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infant_baptism#Confirmation at the age of thirteen, so I suppose you could say this was my way of ‘fulfilling all righteousness’,3)Matthew 3:15 at least in the eyes of the rest of the Church.
Did I feel like I had to do it?(There is some debate in the Church as to the validity of Infant Baptism, though most denominations practice it and have good theological reasons for doing so. I happen to agree with the majority view.) No!
I firmly believe that my parents’ covenant with God was a valid one when I was sprinkled as a child, and I know that when I made a public declaration of faith (after several wonderful sessions of mentoring with one of the wisest men I know – an awesome New Zealander called Bruce) at my church in Hong Kong at the age of thirteen, I declared with my mouth and believed in my heart that Jesus was my Lord and Saviour.(Romans 10:9-10)
Did this mean I was sorted, then, from there on out?
Absolutely not. My time at boarding school and beyond left some painful marks on my soul before God could reel me back in with His incredible grace. By this point last year, God had already worked miracles in my life, changing me almost beyond recognition. Where once I’d been a lost, lonely and, quite frankly, overly posh, irritatingly condescending public schoolboy, God had called out who I really was – His dearly beloved, dearly valued son.
My decision to re-affirm my vows, then, was a thoughtful, patient one – I wanted to honour God and my parents, and to affirm all of the amazing things He’d been doing in my life while I had been at St Stephen’s Society.4)http://www.ststephenssociety.com
I seem to remember that, on the day itself, it was actually quite spontaneous– though I’d already grown comfortable with the idea of getting dunked (after talking to God about it), it was only after dad pointed out that he and my mum would be heading back to England soon that the ball really started rolling. It was our day off, and we (myself and the three remaining gap years – Chris, Emma and Phil) were all chilling in the apartment in Sai Kung my parents had rented for the last half year, so it was unlikely that I would get a better chance.
“Okeydoke,” I thought to myself, “today’s the day!”
We got changed, then set off to a small, secluded beach around the corner (the flat was only a couple hundred metres from the shoreline). I was ready. Though I knew in my mind that what I was about to do was an outward sign of an inward change, I had no intentions of taking it lightly – I had thought long and hard about all the things I wanted to leave in the water in a concrete, final act. When my dad asked me if there was anything I wanted to say to God, I closed my eyes and took the time to go through everything that had defined who I was before I really let Him into my life. I knew that I had been crucified with Christ, and that I no longer lived, but Christ lived in me – from then on, I wanted to live by faith and faith alone.5)Galatians 2:20 We stood there for a while – it was a long list.
As soon as I’d finished, dad asked a few more questions (the basic, “Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God?” etc.) and then, without further ado, I was immersed in the water. It only lasted an instant, and to be honest, I didn’t feel that different at first. After a few seconds of processing what I’d just done, though, I felt an overwhelming sense of peace: everything was going to be all right, forever, and nothing could ever change that. I had put my hope in God, and would praise him as my Saviour for eternity.
The peace remained as I walked back to shore, grabbed a towel to dry myself off a bit, hugged mum (who was taking the photos) and headed back to the flat with the others. It was only later, at dinner, that we actually looked through the photos. I believe I was halfway through a mouthful of food when my mum exclaimed, “Ben, you’re glowing!”
I had no idea what she was on about. She then passed the phone around, and showed us all the pictures you can see below – sure enough, there was a glow!
“You didn’t do anything to them, did you?” Was my first question.
“No!” Mum replied, clearly just as surprised as I was.
Phil then had a look at them, then proclaimed something along the lines of, “There’s no photographic reason as to why this would happen.” (Phil, you see, had got quite into amateur photography a few years before this, so was the closest thing we had to an expert at the time)
The more I looked at the photos, the less surprised I felt – if the Spirit of God had indeed descended upon me,6)Matthew 3:16 then it actually made sense that something would happen. I certainly felt different when walking back to shore. It got me thinking: a lot of the time people who don’t believe in Jesus, or anything else for that matter, are unwilling to listen to the truth of Jesus’ life because they see the faith required to believe in His story a step too far. “Where’s the evidence?” People ask. Well, I would respond, we are the evidence, at least in part. When Jesus entered my life, he rocked my world, turning everything upside down. He changes people, radically, into who they are meant to be, to live the joyful, wonderful life they’re meant to – a life with Him.
Without Him, I would not be writing this post, and you would not be reading these words.
Without Him, the slave trade might have continued to exist in England7)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clapham_Sect for decades, if not centuries after the Clapham Sect, with William Wilberforce at its head, campaigned for its removal, to name but one example of Jesus working in and through people’s lives to change them and the world.
Without Him, I believe we would all lead lost, lonely and hopelessly pointless lives. He is my everything, and He can be and wants to be yours too, if you’ll let Him in. The evidence of that, I hope, is all around you.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me, or indeed to chat to any Christian friends you may have – I’m sure they’d love to tell you how Jesus has changed their lives too.
Link: The Salvation Prayer (if you want to see Jesus change your life too) – The Dilemma of Man & Gods Solution
Ben is a 20 year old reading law at the London School of Economics
After: (I’ll say it again, to be 100% clear – these are all unedited: they came out like this)