Some of you may know, and some not, that I was recently baptized in September 2008. Since I didn't get to share this with you all then, I wanted to share my testimony with you now. So, here it is:
On January 22, 1973, a controversial decision in the landmark Roe vs. Wade Supreme Court Case, abortion was deemed a fundamental right under the United States Constitution. Since that time, it’s been estimated that 40 million American children have been killed in the name of women’s rights.
I’m not here to talk about abortion today. But, I am here to talk about God’s grace. Please bear with me as I explain.
I was born on March 8, 1978, a little over five years since the Roe v. Wade decision. For whatever reason, my biological mother decided she wasn’t going to raise me. She could have decided to abort me, but God had a plan for me. I hadn’t done anything that would earn life. That’s grace
In May of 1979, at the age of 14 months, God sent two of the most loving people I’ve ever met to adopt me from the adoption agency I was in the care of. Again, I didn’t choose them, they chose me. Again, God’s grace.
I was raised in an Apostolic church. I didn’t know much about sin, the gospel or even what baptism was, but I knew one thing for sure. I wanted to sing on the choir. The only way I could sing on the choir was to be a member. The only way to become a member was to be baptized. So, that’s what I did. I got baptized with no real understanding of what the call to Christ really meant and how to live after being called. I’m not sure if I even understood that there was a call. I was 12 years old at the time. Was I saved? Looking back on it now, my answer would be a resounding no. But, I was on the choir and that’s what mattered to me.
From the age of 12 to about 19 or 20, I was a faithful member of the church. I was involved in all sorts of activities. But, I started straying away from the church as the sinfulness within me was drawing me away into all sorts of lust and sinful living. I could sit and recount all of my endeavors in the world, but it’s best summed up in Ephesians 2.
1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind (ESV)
I was spiritually dead in my trespasses and sins. That was my normal course of life. Unbeknownst to me, there was a tremendous weight of sin resting upon me. God’s wrath was abiding upon me. He was angry with me because of my willful disobedience. Yes, I had free will, but that free will ONLY sought evil, because it was dominated by a heart that was desperately wicked and deceitful above all things, and it had been that way since my youth. I was His active enemy, living in the passions of my flesh, carrying out the desires of my body and my mind. I wasn’t His child, I was a child destined for wrath because of my sin, just like every other person in the world.
But here’s the part that changed it all:
4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.
“But God” might be two of the most important and most passionate words I have ever read in the Bible. But God! It was His great love that He had for all of us who are believers that caused Him to make us alive in Christ. We, who were dead, now made alive. And He didn’t do it while we were yet righteous men. He didn’t do it when we were being obedient to Him. He did it while we were still DEAD in our trespasses. That’s grace!
The passage goes on to tell us that He did it so that in the coming ages He would be able to show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness towards us in Christ Jesus. Soli Deo Gloria! Let God alone be glorified!
I was saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone in the early part of 2004. I can’t pinpoint a specific date of conversion, but I know that God had radically changed me. The things that I once loved to do, I began to gradually hate more and more. I no longer desired to go the places I used to go, nor hang around those I used to hang around. I couldn’t tolerate the sight and sound of much that I used to say and do. The things of the world started to become strangely dim in the light of Christ. The things I once hated started to become loved.
My mom could tell you that I never enjoyed reading too much. But, when the Lord saved me, He placed this insatiable hunger for Him inside of me. I couldn’t put the Bible down. I wanted to know Him in such a way that I had never known anyone before. I’m still appreciating the awesome opportunity given to me by grace to know our beautiful, Triune God.
I don’t want to spend too much time talking about myself. Sometimes when we hear testimonies we can tend to pay a lot of attention to the person giving the testimony and not as much to the one who provided the testimony. My testimony is not about Michael Armstrong. My testimony is about work of God in salvation, from beginning to end. Salvation is truly of the Lord.
In conclusion, some may ask, “Michael, why have you waited so long to be baptized? It’s been four years.” It wasn’t until after my conversion that I realized I was just being saved. I had believed for years that I was saved prior and that this time it was just a re-dedicating myself to the Lord. A man much wiser than I once said, “Rededicating one’s life to Christ is like redecorating the Titanic.” I didn’t need redecorating, I needed a resurrection, and God graciously provided that and will provide a future resurrection for me, along with the rest of His body, at the last day.
I know that baptism doesn’t save me. There is no regenerative work going on in the water. But, the baptism is an outward symbol of the regeneration that the Holy Spirit has already accomplished, removing my cold and hard heart of stone and replacing it with a warm and tender heart of flesh that seeks to please Him in everything I do.
Born in sin, then born of God. Adopted in the flesh, and then adopted by God. That’s what I call grace.