Written July 28, 2012 by Joe Cunningham
If you've read my testimony, you would know that I came to faith in Christ in January of 2002.
This began my journey of faith that has now spanned over a decade.
I was no stranger to God. I grew up in the Roman Catholic church. My family and I went to
Mass every Sunday. I attended Catholic school from first through eleventh grade. I had
received the Sacraments of Baptism, Penance, Holy Communion, Confirmation, and Holy
Matrimony. But still, I didn't know Him.
You may ask, "How can a person grow up in a very devout Christian home and honestly have
no idea what it means to be a Christian?" It's more common than you might think.
We tend to concentrate on the duty of our religion, and not the relationship. We become
"religious" people. We go through the motions, fulfilling the requirements. And, often times,
we never stop to think why we are doing it in the first place.
I'm not sure what it is that draws us to organized religion and away from a relationship with
God. Or, to a point where we reject the very existence of God all together. It might be a
feeling of unworthiness to approach such a holy, righteous and perfect God. Or, a feeling
that there must be more... More that we should do, or can do, or must do to earn His
I'm not saying that people of organized religions can't have a relationship with God, I can only
speak from my own experience. In my case, it was all of the above. I felt unworthy and
therefore, I felt more comfortable admiring God from a distance. It felt safe. I knew the rules,
and I followed the rules. This is nothing new, many of the religious leaders in the first century
AD felt the same way. And, much like them, I couldn't imagine knowing God. Or, even
beginning to understand Him.
My hope of salvation was anchored firmly in my faith in the sacraments of the Roman
Catholic Church. I was baptized as an infant. I had received the Sacrament of Confirmation.
If I felt that I had committed a mortal sin, I would confess it to a priest and be absolved. And,
my "Ace-in-the-hole" was the Sacrament of the Last Rites, which would absolve my
un-repented sins even after death. Worst case scenario was that I would spend a time in
Purgatory while others would offer petitions that would ultimately satisfy God, and free me to
spend eternity with Him.
As with many catholics, there was no peace in my heart. I constantly felt under the gun. To
me it was a game of chance. Would I die with un-repented sins? As a child, I would stay up
all night praying that I would go to heaven. The thought of not going scared me to death. I
would have to go to confession every day to even stand a chance. The outlook was bleak. I
didn't understand God. And more so, I didn't understand what He did for me.
By His death on the cross, Christ paid the price for every sin that ever was and that will ever
be committed. He did this because He loves us, and He wants us to know Him as well as He
It was never about doing this, or doing that. It was always about faith in what God has done
At the age of forty, I gave my life to Christ. I began to read and study the bible. I had never
read it before. The more I studied, the more I began to understand, and actually get to
know, this God of ours.
It was two-and-a-half years later when the opportunity arose, and I felt led to publicly pledge
my faith in Christ.
We were attending Calvery Chapel - Wheaton, IL at the time. There were about a dozen of
us that were never baptized as adults, so we decided to set a date. We could have done it
anywhere that there was water, but we decided to take a trip down to North Ave. Beach in
downtown Chicago, and pledge our faith in front of all of the world. To say that it was an
awesome experience would be an understatement.
We were a little nervous, doing it on a public beach. We didn't know how the public would
respond. We kept it low-key. We weren't out to prove anything. It was our special time.
But amazingly, the public was very supportive. It didn't take long for them to realize what we
were doing. Most ignored us, but some wanted to be a part of it. It was an incredible time of
I was the first to be baptized that day. I couldn't wait. I may have knocked down a few people
that got in my way. I hope not, but if I did, I humbly apologize. One by one, we walked out
into the water, and gave our lives to Christ.
John the Baptist was the first to begin this practice during his ministry in the first century AD.
John's mission was to prepare the way for the coming Messiah, the Savior of the world. John
was the "voice crying out in the wilderness" as prophesied by Isaiah. (Isaiah 40:3)
"John lived in the wilderness and was preaching that people should be baptized to show that
they had turned from their sins and turned to God to be forgiven. People from Jerusalem
and all over Judea travelled to the wilderness to see and hear John. And when they
confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River." (Mark 1:4-5 NLT)
Baptism is an outward expression of an inward commitment. It is our way of publicly pledging
our faith and hope in God. I don't think that anyone else can, or should, do it for you.
It is between you and God. But, at the same time, it should be public.
Polls say that as high as 85% of Americans claim to be Christian. But, when asked if they
would publicly acknowledge it, the number drops to 49%. When asked if they would speak to
stranger about their faith, the number drops less than 30%.
"Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. But John didn't
want to baptize him. "I am the one who needs to be baptized by you," he said, "so why are
you coming to me?" But Jesus said, "It must be done, because we must do everything that is
right." So then John baptized him." (Matthew 3:13-15 NLT)
Jesus said that baptism is the right thing to do. James asked that we show him our faith by
our actions (James 3:18). Public baptism is our way of putting our "money where our mouth
is". It is our way of boldly proclaiming that we are followers of Christ. We can't be "closet
Christians" any longer.
First century Christians knowingly, and willingly proclaimed their faith in Christ in the middle
of the Jordan River. They knew that in doing so would most likely be a death sentence by
the hands of the Emperor Nero. Yet they did it anyway. They were so convinced that Jesus
Christ was the Son of God, that they were willing to risk their lives.
Twelve of us were baptized on September 4, 2004, in the beautiful waters of Lake Michigan.
Seeing the pictures has brought back some great memories, not the least of which is having
my daughter Jessica give her life to Christ that same day.
There were a few extra people that were baptized with us, that were not a part of our group.
The Holy Spirit was alive and at work that day.
God Bless you all,
|From the right, Pastor Scooter Hill, me,
Assistant Pastor Chad, and Youth
|Pastor Hill prays and asks me if I
accept Christ as my personal savior.
Of course, I said, "Yes".
|Symbolically buried with Christ, then
risen with Him to new life!
|An awesome time of celebration!
|My Daughter Jessica prays to accept
Christ as her Savior.
|Jessica is born again to a new life in