This is Stephen Ell's story before he was baptized on April 21st, 2019 in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
I was baptized at my church in Florida when I was about 14 years old. I thought I was a Christian at the time. However, I was completely blind to my self-righteousness, legalism, and performance based habits. When I compared myself to most people, I thought I was a pretty good guy. As long as I didn’t commit any of the “bad sins”, I figured I was ok. Little did I know during that time in all my self-righteousness, I was just as guilty as the worst criminal on the planet.
I thought that as long as I was pretty good and moral from a worldly standard I could be in right standing with God. I didn’t realize how broken I was. I was completely blind to sins I had committed in the past, as well as the many sins I was committing at the time. I didn’t truly understand my depravity and what God’s grace meant for me. I tried so hard to refrain from certain sins that I deemed worse than others but little did I know I was already guilty and could never do enough.
I remember being at my parent’s house a few months ago and we were watching old home videos. My baptism happened to come on and when I heard my testimony I literally cringed. My testimony at that time consisted of something along the lines of “My story is not about being in sin and coming out of that, but that God has kept me from sin”. That was the most self-righteous thing I think I have ever heard in my life. My heart literally dropped when I heard that. It was in that moment that I knew I wasn’t truly a Christian at the time. It disturbed my soul greatly. It was right then that I knew I needed to be baptized and that God has truly revealed himself to me these past 7 years while attending the Paradox Church and Grace Church. God gave me a new heart around 7 years ago. A heart that has genuine affections for Jesus.
I can now confess with full confidence that Jesus Christ’s blood on the cross is the only thing that can save me. I am a horrible, depraved, and broken sinner. I didn’t truly understand that when I was 14. By faith in him, I am saved, and not by works or good deeds. All the good works, deeds, sexual abstinence in the world could never have been enough to actually save me. I needed a savior. He took my place on the cross, and carried all of my shame and guilt. Not just some of it, but all of it.
Through my brokenness God has revealed himself to me in a mighty way. Now that I truly understand the gospel, I am eager to be obedient to Christ’s command and be baptized. In the last few years God has done an amazing work in my heart, and today I want to celebrate and declare in front of my brothers and sisters with full certainty that I am saved by faith in Jesus Christ alone. And there is NOTHING, absolutely NOTHING I can do to deserve this gift. I want to continue to surrender my life to him and give him all the glory. I accept this free gift with a resounding YES.