I am a male in my thirties. For about fifteen years I have been struggling with thoughts about my baptism. Thoughts go through my head practically every day. I have questions constantly running through my mind that cause me to feel anxious and fearful of God's judgment, all because I keep questioning if my baptism was acceptable to God or not. Some days I cry to God to help me and to give me wisdom about this situation. Because of these thoughts, I get feelings of hopelessness.
At this stage in my life, in my heart, I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. I believe he loved me so much to die on the cross for my sins. I believe that he was raised on the third day and those who believe in him will live forever with God. I want to serve him for the rest of my life. I love His word and I love learning from his Word, but it is these thoughts that torment the mind that gives me no peace.
When I was 8 years old my mother became a Christian at a church of Christ. She left Catholicism and we started attending a congregation. We then moved to another church of Christ in another state and we remained in that church until I was in my twenties and went every Sunday and Wednesday. As a young kid, I don't think I really enjoyed going to church. I felt I had to because my parents would tell us we needed to be there. Probably because it took away from activities I enjoyed. I also remember always falling asleep in the pew during the sermons. On Wednesdays, I did attend classes but I kind of was a smart alec.
During my teenage years, around 13-15, I really had no friends and kind of was an introvert. When I started high school as a freshman, I got picked on a lot. I use to think thoughts of hurting the ones that hurt me. One day I was in science class with my bullies and I felt trapped to the point of causing a lot of anxiety attacks. (To this day I still struggle with the same anxiety attacks that I experienced on that day, but not as frequently.) I would skip school a lot to avoid being picked on and to avoid anxious feelings. Toward the end of freshman year, I made a friend and he was friends with the ones that bullied me and we all made peace. Even though we were friends my anxiety didn't go away.
In my sophomore and junior year of high school, I started making new friends and would go to parties and begin drinking, and get into fights. I smoked pot a couple of times (never liked it). I was always hanging out with my friends.
I remember one Sunday the preacher was ending his sermon and for some reason, I wanted to walk up to get baptized. I don't remember what I was thinking, feeling or what my knowledge was. I didn't have the courage to do it because I was too shy to walk up in front of a crowd. There were times I would hint to my mother that this was something I wanted to do. I use to ask her questions like "Mom, if I'm not born again, I won't go to heaven?" On Sundays, she would ask me to talk to the preacher about what I've been asking. The preacher decided that he and his family were moving out of state and my mother would encourage me to talk to him before he leaves.
I was about 17. It was summertime and I was about to begin my Senior year and all my friends had a party. I remember hanging out with my friends and sitting there thinking about the decision I wanted to make. I don't remember what was going through my mind, but I told my friends I needed to leave. I drove to the preacher's house. He was outside with his wife, and I ask if I could talk to him. We walked to the church building. I told him I wanted to be baptized. He asked If I wanted to call my parents and I said "No". We walked into the building, and I don't remember what we were talking about. I put a robe on and stepped into the water and he asked me questions. I can't remember what he asked me or said. It's like a fog to me. When I think back I might have thought that Jesus rose off the cross, but not really sure. I remember coming out of the water, and as I was in the room I was so joyful and felt amazing and thanked God.
As I was driving home I was so happy. The happiest I've ever been. I felt free. There was a cigarette clip in my ash trey and I didn't want to smoke it but because of my addiction I smoked anyway and told myself I need to quit this habit. I went back to the party and people were asking why I was wet and I didn't have the courage to tell them what I did. Everyone was drinking, and I had no desire to drink. I went home and told my mother and she was happy.
I started my senior year at high school and started a music band with a bunch of friends and that was where I started drinking a lot and partying. I started dating this girl. I would be drunk all the time. I was sexually involved with her and cheat on her with other girls. I was very mean to my girlfriend. She had pancreatitis surgery, and I didn't care to visit her in the hospital. I was selfish and involved in my own desires. I remember coming home, and I would lay in my bed drunk and turn this Christian channel on and there would be peaceful music, images of nice landscapes and I would lay there reading the Scriptures that were on the TV until I fell asleep. There was one time I went to my girlfriend's house and told her that I can't sleep with her anymore because God doesn't approve of this lifestyle. I started watching "Christian" music TV and listening to "Does God Exist" tape cassettes.
In the summer of 1998, my mother met a preacher in a chat room online. He came and visited us and preach at the church. I really liked him. He taught a Bible class about using our talents. He taught us new worship songs, and I really enjoyed it. Around that time I was trying to quit smoking and I prayed to God to help me quit.
One day I was sitting on the couch with my girlfriend, and I had a really bad panic attack. I thought I was dying. I was laying on the floor and all I could say was "Jesus help me" over and over. Whatever I went through that day made me change the way I was living. My eyes were opened that day. I had a fear of dying and didn't want to do anything wrong. I stopped drinking, sleeping with my girlfriend, and stopped smoking. I was sleeping on the floor all the time with my Bible and afraid to go anywhere. I had my Bible by my side 24/7. I would read the Scriptures every day and every night. Out of fear I made a 180-degree change in my life. I was fearful of living that lifestyle again. I was praying constantly. My thoughts were obsessively focused on God and Jesus. The preacher I met would have discussions online and taught me to preach the Gospel. I never knew what the gospel was the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. I was learning so much. It's hard to explain, but I was fearful and excited at the same time. I was excited about the change in myself and had great awe about God and Christ.
As I was teaching people online about believing the gospel and baptism, this is when I started questioning my own salvation. I was looking back at my baptism and thinking what did I know. I remember the great joy I had and very little detail of what I knew. I then began to get scared and very afraid. I couldn't sleep. I didn't know what to do. My mind was stuck on the joy I had at my first baptism and I must have known something because I had been going to church since I was 8. I was trying hard to remember.
Then I would get all these questions in my head such as:
- "You can't receive the Holy Spirit twice, why get baptized again?"
- "Will God be mad at me?"
- "I think I knew about Jesus, that he died for me and risen again."
- "Did I really know I was a sinner?"
- "Did I know baptism washes away my sins through the blood of Christ?"
- "Why didn't the preacher sit down longer to talk to me?"
- "Why didn't he read Scriptures to me?"
These questions are never-ending. I sought advice and couldn't get a solid answer.
One night I couldn't fall asleep, the thoughts of hell were racing In my mind and the question I mentioned above was constantly going through my head. I was confused. I tried to call the preacher at 2 am to talk to him, but he would not answer the phone. I tried to talk to my mom, but she was sleeping and too tired to talk. I was scared out of my mind. I was praying, calling to God to help me.
I got through the night and went to church that Sunday. I couldn't even worship God because my mind was thinking about this. I walked up in front of the church and asked to be re-baptized. As I was in the room putting on the robe, I was reading I Corinthians 15:1-4. As I was reading the Scripture I was having doubts about if I was doing the right thing. I wasn't sure because all I can think of is the first baptism I had. I was baptized that day and my mind felt at ease. I didn't have the same joy I had at the first one. That night I had to go work the third shift and as I was walking into work doubts started to flood my mind. With all these questions running in my mind. I was still thinking about my first baptism and the second one and the first and on and on. Back and forth in my mind like a ping pong ball. This is the point where I started to feel hopeless and confused. Throughout the years I started feeling numb and was put on Paxil for anxiety.
That preacher I mentioned came over to preach again, and I asked him to baptize me again (third time). He asked me, "Why?" He baptized me again, and I had no joy. I felt really hopeless. Since then I have been struggling with this for all these years with these thoughts. When I'd sin and pray to God to forgive me I would wonder If He is forgiving me because of what I am struggling with. Since recently, I have been praying about this more. For the first time, I am really seeing the love of God and how much He loves me, and I desire Him even more than ever. I have this new love for God, but I still have these thoughts about the validity of my baptism. When I'm at worship I have a hard time worshiping God because I'm always wondering, "Am I Christian or not?"
I honestly don't know what to do. I pray to God and tell Him that I want to serve him and desire to know Him more. That I'd leave anything and anyone for Him. I decided a year ago to not touch alcohol, I stopped chewing tobacco.
Have you experienced anyone that went, or is going, through what I'm going through?
Can you shed some light on what I need to do or anything according to God's Word?
It appears there are several issues all interplaying here.
A part of the problem is that you have been hoping that becoming a Christian would make you be a good person. You knew you were doing wrong as a teenager. You felt the temptation to do greater wrongs, so impulsively you decided to become a Christian to protect yourself from those temptations. It worked for a few days, but since it was an emotional decision with unreasonable expectations, it didn't last. The temptations came anyway and because you dropped your guard assuming God would protect you from sin, sin overwhelmed you. "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (I Corinthians 10:12).
A related issue is that you approached Christianity as an emotional choice. You decided at first you were saved because of the strong emotions you felt after coming up out of the water. But the other two times you didn't get the rush of excitement because you were afraid it would fail like before. The lack of emotion made you doubt whether you were really committed to Christ. Because you were filled with doubt, you became easy prey for Satan. "But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind" (James 1:6). Even after the first baptism, the emotion didn't last -- it never does. I'm sure the decrease caused your doubts and your giving into sin confirmed those doubts.
Another issue is that you assumed that a real Christian does not sin. Getting deeply involved in sin made you doubt your Christianity, and in part, you excused your behavior by telling yourself that you weren't really a Christian anyway.
Let's start with the most fundamental element: "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). Faith isn't an emotion, though a strong faith produces an emotional response. Faith is the decision to trust God because of the evidence you have learned from God's Word. Knowing that you are following God removes the anxieties, even when you realize that you aren't always perfect. "Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, "I know Him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked" (I John 2:3-6).
Regardless, I suspect that in one or more of your baptisms you did know what you were doing, why it was being done, and you were doing it for the right reasons. What is needed is a strengthening of your faith. Right now, you've allowed yourself to become stuck at the beginning of the Christian walk. "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment" (Hebrews 5:12-6:2).
Almost no one fully grasps the significance of baptism and salvation. Understanding grows as your knowledge and faith grow. It doesn't make what you did less, it allows you to appreciate what God offers more.
It is past time for you to grow up as a Christian. "Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious" (I Peter 2:1-3). The more you learn from God, the less desirable sin becomes. "Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You!" (Psalms 119:11).
Thanks for your response. I really appreciate your time to write back. I wanted to read what you wrote many times before I wrote back.
I agree with everything you have written and I want to grow more in Christ and move from this in my mind. Still, in my mind, I keep going back and forth not knowing what baptism was and is acceptable to God. When someone asks me when I became a Christian I say at my first baptism because I never doubted at the time what I did, but I don't remember what I knew (only some stuff that I can remember). The preacher never sat down with me and Bible and go over stuff. I told him I didn't think I needed to. But me being raised in the church I think I probably heard something that moved me. But I can't put my faith in an emotion.
But then in my head, I'm thinking maybe it was my second baptism because I had more knowledge, but what if I was not sure at my second baptism because I was already baptized? I was consumed by emotional fear that moved me to get baptized again. How do I deal with this thinking?
I agree, I need my faith strengthened. I have been reading John 6:26-40 about how we aren't right before God not by our works and being good, but the work of God is to believe in Jesus.
Honestly, I am really confused.
What you are saying is that either your first or second baptism was legitimate. It doesn't matter which one, the point is that you did enter into the covenant with Christ. It is that knowledge you need to accept.
Obviously being a Christian doesn't keep you out of sin, so the focus now is not on whether you became a Christian, but how to return to the God you loved and left. You've made good strides in getting sin out of your life. I suspect that some still remain, otherwise you would not be still questioning your salvation. So what are you still struggling with? Perhaps I can help.
In regards to the sins you repented of, God made provisions for what to do when a Christian sins: "This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us. My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (I John 1:5-2:1).
Sorry, I'm really late responding back. I want to say thank you for helping me. I haven't been having repetitive thoughts about my baptisms. I had to focus my mind off the emotion and accept that I obeyed Christ. My thoughts do at times slip, but I have to focus my mind on the Word.
If you have a prayer list at the church you're at, please pray my thoughts to stay healthy, for me to grow in Christ, give me understanding with His Word, and lead me where He wants me to serve.
Thank you, brother!