Paul Hayford's baptism testimony
A very wise man once said that whether someone is a Christian is a matter of fact, not of quality. So being baptized signifies that we are aware of our sin nature and that we profess faith in the risen Christ for forgiveness and righteousness. Baptism also makes our faith a matter of public record. I want to make my profession of faith in Jesus Christ a matter of public record.
I became a Christian about 30 years ago when, to my surprise, the Lord enabled me to pray to receive Jesus Christ into my heart as my Savior and Lord. I say surprised because at the time I really thought that I could never do it, because I wouldn’t be able to pray wholeheartedly. I knew that becoming a Christian involved praying to ask Jesus Christ into your heart, and I didn’t think I could pray. Three things were preventing me: self-righteousness, fear, and a mocking attitude. Even if I could admit my sinfulness and overcome my fear of the unknown, I thought that my mind would be divided if I tried to pray, and part of me would be like a spectator at the event.
I read a lot of books, and for Christmas in 1971 we bought my mother a best seller as a gift. She read it and let my wife Geraldine borrow it. After she finished it, it was my turn to read it. It was The Exorcist. I read it and it scared me. It made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. When I finished, at about 2 o’clock in the morning, I said to myself that I did not want to be on the side of the devil. I got down on my knees and prayed and asked Jesus Christ to come into my heart and save me and be my Lord and let me be his servant. The book had terrified me into a momentary single-mindedness, so that I was not second-guessing or mocking my effort to pray.
There was immediate evidence of change the very next day. God took away from me a constant temptation to foul language that I had been unable to resist on my own. He also gave me a desire to read His Word and other Christian literature that would help me to understand and apply what had before been only academic and not practical. He changed my attitude toward others; I used to see other people as competition, but now I wanted to learn how to love them, not necessarily an easy thing. As I get older I sense in myself more willingness to be changed—I no longer fear how God wants to change me, though sometimes I still resist. Lately He has used an unhappy circumstance in our lives to change me. It has involved pain and disbelief and even dread. I wouldn’t have chosen it, no one would, but one consequence has been that in my mind I am less judgmental. I am also less inclined to be critical of others. The Lord can use painful circumstances to batter one’s pride. I would not say these negative habits of mind have been completely eradicated, but I do sense change in the right direction.
Salvation also gave me a foundation for morality. That was good, but it wasn’t the main thing. For a disciple of Christ to become more like Him is a process. It is not instantaneous. And we don’t all have the same gifts, aptitudes, or inclinations. Truth has always been a lot easier for me than grace, for example, and talking easier than listening. I still struggle with a critical spirit and am reactive and irritable though I pray not to be, and I do try to name my sins and confess them. The antidote to some of my bad attitudes is a thankful spirit, which I desire but often lack. Still it is good to be aware of our sins so we can ask God to help us resist them.
I pray that being baptized will make me more accountable.
P. Hayford, 5-19-02