“So what they told you, it is true…”
This was the phrase spoken by my dear friend and now brother in Christ, H, as he met my wife and several friends who arrived to witness his baptism yesterday. I told H that these friends, and many other believers around the world who have never met him, have been fervently praying for his salvation ever since he began reading from the Scriptures and asking honest questions.
I said, “we have told them all about you so they could also pray to the Father for you.” What joy, in heaven and on earth, as H put his faith in Christ—he has trusted and is trusting that the work was finished at the cross for his salvation, and He desires to follow Jesus all of his days. This evident change took place just in the last few weeks. How special that upon arrival for his baptism, these brothers and sisters who have cared for H and prayed for H, having never seen his face, could be greeted with these words from the primary source: “so what they told you, it is true.” This sweet, timid man was smiling with excitement.
What is this that has happened?
H has been called out by Christ, brought from darkness into light (Colossians 1:13-14, 1 Peter 2:9-10). He has been rescued from the empty traditions he had inherited from his ancestors and his eyes have been opened to see that Jesus is more than a man, more than a prophet, more than a good teacher, but truly God in the flesh come to save us by His own precious blood (1 Peter 1:18-19). H has come to recognize that the Scriptures are true, teaching that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. H sees that the old book he was reading and the Bible do not tell the same story. We told him early on that as he continued to honestly read and study the texts of the Holy Bible, he would see this story is not like any other. We shared that no one is like Jesus Christ, who stands alone as fully God and fully man. I believe this presented a healthy fork in the road for H, all by God’s grace.
A few notes on this story, which I find deeply precious:
- One of the beautiful parts of this story is knowing that H’s wife was already a Christian, desiring to raise her children to look to Christ and trust Him. How special that her husband is now in agreement, sharing in this hope? This is the salvation of one soul we are writing about, but it not merely that. This, by God’s grace, will serve up a dynamic shift, a landmark in a lineage that was turned away from God—now turned towards Christ our Lord. This will prayerfully be a family raised up learning from the Bible, keeping in step with the Spirit, repenting when they sin and stumble, growing through every joy and obstacle, all in praise to the One True God. This will be a quiet man made bold to speak, active in workplace evangelism, starting conversations because of the joy welling up inside. Coming to Christ changes how a man lives as husband, father, neighbor, worker, and friend. This is reason to rejoice. Pray for endurance, for patience, for joy, for growth in grace, for boldness and gentleness, and for good fruit as the love of God works in our brother. NOTE: This salvation story comes from a place where persecution is real. Please, genuinely pray for provision and protection, and perseverance through every circumstance ahead.
- It does not always go this way. How did this play out? Our brother M befriended H over 8 months ago. He was sharing with someone else who was resistant to the gospel but open to friendship. They would eat beans and chapati at H’s shop. In that way, H himself became a friend to M, and started hearing of Christ. Over time, he was engaging more in the conversation. Later, M invited me and another brother to come and field questions and hear concerns from H, and read together. It was special that when we asked H if he wanted to read together, he did, and he also wanted to be the one reading. It was special to sit with a Muslim friend excited to read the early pages of Luke, in the home he had just finished building. He also was open to us praying over his life and asking God to work in his heart. H was willing to put up his own resources to purchase a copy of the Scriptures to read after work. As time passed, brother M invited some of our friends delivered out from Islam, to come and share testimonies and answer more questions for H. How good is our God to orchestrate and allow all this networking to take place? He is a good God, all the time. It is His nature—even in the times when we don’t see the results we long to see.
- I was grateful that the local pastor was the one to baptize H and another brother who was ready to declare his faith and unity with Christ through baptism. Thankfully, the pastor is a Bible-believing man and the church gathers not far from where H calls home. We pray that H will continue to gather regularly among the Body in that place. We pray he will desire fellowship among the saints, to actively pray and participate and grow alongside others. The dear pastor presented clearly the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the purpose and truth of what baptism is, clear speaking on what baptism is not, and he called on all the bystanders to remember that day. Yes, there were bystanders.
- We walked about a mile through the village to the nearest river; the bulk of the congregation, trailing one another along the narrow path is forever imprinted on my mind. We arrived at the swimming hole (great cliffs, which reminded me of favorite spots in North Carolina and Puerto Rico), the clothes washing hole, and the Sunday hangout, which was also the baptism location. I think this baptism looked like those in early church days. Many around were not believers, and they were wondering what was going on. Some curious, and interested to listen. Others turning to walk away, as a few men at the top of the hill did yesterday. Maybe some angry onlookers. A few believers already present, cheering with excitement to see what had come to the river on this Sunday. The church gathered all around to pray, to sing (No Turning Back), and to celebrate the obedience and proclamation of the Gospel through our brothers’ baptism.
- This is a story of God’s grace, in God’s timing. How special that he would allow brother M, and each of us, to see what Christ has worked in the heart of one of His children? M is set to return to the states this week, according to God’s good plan. How special to see some fruit of the labor, to see that those conversations were surely not in vain? To see that the seed was planted, and watered, and has fallen on good soil which we will pray fervently over; we trust God will continue to bring growth. Also in this is a challenge for each of us to trust Christ when we don’t see the outcomes we hope for in our preferred timing, to rest in Him knowing that He is sanctifying us through every aspect of life. His Word is not returning void, even when it feels like it is.
In the eyes of the world:
It doesn’t make sense for someone to move from the West to set up shop near a refugee settlement. It doesn’t make sense to expose yourself to hard things like struggle for survival, starvation, lack of clean water, regular sickness, broken economy in a place with poor infrastructure, and more. But love of God and compassion towards eternal souls who have not yet heard the Good News will motivate exactly that. God’s economy, God’s Kingdom, is different and far more glorious.
Every trial is worthwhile. Every hard story heard, every difficult-to-describe scene taken in, every tear shed and heart-hurt, every loss, the distance from loved ones, the missed wedding or funeral or bedside, all of it (Romans 8:18, 2 Corinthians 4:17). The 1.5 hour broken-down, dirt-road drive is worthwhile to observe the baptism of a new brother. All the flat tires on previous trips: worthwhile. Awkward moments where the elderly or the mentally confused yell at you: worthwhile. Cultural challenges and unconventional aspects of our living arrangements (in the eyes of our home country) are all worthwhile.
Why? How? Because we long to live as faithful and obedient servants of our God and King, and He is our portion and our strength (Psalm 73:26). We want to spend and be well spent for the sake of the Gospel going forth (2 Corinthians 12:15). We long to see the eyes of our friends set upon Christ and what He has accomplished (Psalm 86:8-11). We pray for the people who listen to be those who truly have ‘ears to hear’ like our new brother H, and we trust the Scriptures that proclaim every nation, tribe, people, and language will be represented before the throne, before the Lamb, Jesus our King (Revelation 7:9-10).
M shared about the Ethiopian official who Philip won to Christ as he was led by the Spirit. Philip guided the official to understanding the Scriptures, and the good news about Jesus. The Ethiopian trusted Christ, then was baptized, as he and Philip came upon a place in the desert with water. Yesterday, we prayed for endurance for our brothers and for all those in Christ, and for salvation to come to the lost. I cannot emphasize to you enough the greatness of what took place, and the need to pray over the days and sure trials which lie ahead. What we have seen is the fulfillment of Christ’s own words, that He is drawing His sheep to Himself. I pray that these two men, and all who witnessed these baptisms, went away rejoicing just as the Ethiopian official did so long ago (Acts 8:26-40).
What we experienced yesterday was better than a pile of candy as a kid. It was better than a free ticket to an amusement park where there are no lines. It was better than the first day of school, finding out your teacher is one of the good ones. It was better than a stack of cash, or even a good book or movie. It was better than the conclusion to The Office. It was better than graduation, or any other accomplishment.
This was an answer to prayer from the Living God, who works what no human can. This was hours of conversations and laboring, and the work of the Spirit, and the beauty of the Church, and the greatness of our God on full display—out beneath the hot African sun. I bet that water felt good as they went under. I pray it’s a day these brothers never forget, one that I never forget. I pray now, in closing, that you won’t soon forget reading these words, and considering how the Lord desires to work through you in the lives of the people you are already seeing, or passing, day by day.
Soli Deo Gloria
Believers: meditate on the following words.
Unbelieving friends: please investigate.
So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
—Excerpt from John 10