Until recently, my testimony was that I professed faith as a child and was baptized when I was 10. For almost two decades, I thought my constant involvement in church and my morality “being better than most” was proof of salvation. However, in December 2017, I began to take seriously the biblical admonitions to examine myself. From then until November 2018, I spent time studying the Bible, reflecting, praying, and talking to my wife and parents. I pieced together quite a different story from what I had always assumed about when I was saved. All signs kept pointing back to a more recent time of repentance and trust in God as the genuine moment of my salvation.
What Really Happened
The moment occurred either in 2009 or early 2010 after a bout of looking at pornography. During these struggles over the decade prior, I had always felt guilt over it and confessed to God but never understood true forgiveness. I would be sorrowful about it until the guilt kind of wore off and I forgot about it… and I hoped by that point that God also stopped being disappointed in me. But this time was different. I was completely broken before a Holy God. I cried to God, “I’m through! I’m done doing this by myself. I am completely incapable of freeing myself from sin. I need you—only you—for you are my only hope!” Today there is no doubt in my mind that God made me a new creation in Christ at that moment. I believe that God used the sin of pornography to till my heart, making it the good soil into which the Word of God could take root and bear the fruit of genuine faith.
Looking back, it is so obvious now that I was not a genuine Christian prior to that. My faith had always felt stagnant and I could not grow no matter what I tried. I looked like a morally good person on the outside, but I was really like a whitewashed tomb—full of dead man’s bones! (See Matthew 23:27.) I realize now that I had been legalistic, doing everything I could to avoid getting in trouble… and I certainly didn’t want to get in trouble with God!
At this point, I must apologize to anyone who knew me in those days. If I caused you to sin, I deeply ask for your forgiveness. If you thought I was a Christian, I am truly sorry I deceived you—I had deceived myself too! I was like one in Matthew 7 who cried, “Lord, Lord, did I not go to small group for you? Did I not play guitar for you? Have I not avoided drinking and sex (at least not going ‘all the way’) because of you? Did I not memorize tons of scripture in Awana Club for you?!” Well, reading Jesus’ response in verse 23 is sobering.
Since that turning point, my life has been on a different trajectory than before. My attitude towards sin changed from simply “not wanting to get into trouble” into actually hating my sin. As I sought God through His Word and prayer, the Holy Spirit started bringing even deeper sins to the surface so that He could begin working them out of me. To the world, I imagine this sounds no fun. But experiencing God doing His work on me so that He may be glorified is really one of my biggest joys! I could never grasp it before, but now I actually know what spiritual growth and a joyful abiding in Christ means.
Implications for Today
As my story crystallized and I became thoroughly convinced that my salvation was actually around 2009–2010, I almost immediately realized that my baptism (in 1991 or ’92) was long before my actual salvation. I am joyfully eager to now obey God in baptism! I also realized that I should technically not be eligible for Northstar Membership—not to mention my role on the Leadership Board—so I have voluntarily stepped down.
I did not intend to deceive anyone when I came to Northstar in 2012. At that time I was indeed an actual, growing Christian. It’s just that until recently, it hadn’t dawned on me that I had not been baptized as a believer.
If you have made it this far, I thank you so much for taking the time to read! Please feel free to talk to me about my testimony! I love you very much, and I am so grateful for my Northstar family!
We’re thankful that Callaway sat down with us to share his story on video!