Just Who Do You Think You Are?
A Personal Testimony
by Kimberly B. Southall
Certain circumstances during the first week in February 1996 led me and my husband, Tim, to leave the denominational church we had been attending for over a year. Wanting to stay in the same denomination in which I had been raised, the following week I visited another church of the same denomination. After five minutes there, it was obvious I was in the wrong place. Tim and I wanted to attend church faithfully, yet we just didn't know where we should go. Several months before, a neighbor told us that the people at the local church of Christ were the friendliest people you could hope to meet. That statement stuck with me. We thought about trying another denomination, but each time I considered it, a voice inside me kept saying, "No. You're going to the church of Christ." And the voice inside me kept insisting I was going to the church of Christ.
That week, I did my best to ignore that voice. The only time I had ever been to a church of Christ anywhere was to a friend's wedding. And I had thought that wedding was very strange. (Looking back now, I see that the wedding was performed by a strange man and was the exception for the churches of Christ rather than the rule.) Plus, someone else I knew had told me that the church of Christ observes the Lord's supper every week. I didn't have any objections to that, I just thought it was odd. Where I had always gone to church, we had only observed the Lord's supper for special occasions and holidays or whenever the mood struck the leaders. And, worst of all, this church of Christ was a big church, and I didn't like big churches. I had always attended small, country churches all of my life. But try as I might, each time I tried to convince myself we should try another denominational church, that voice overrode mine and insisted I was going to the church of Christ. Finally, it was as if the clouds had parted and I could then see the light. I realized that the voice inside was telling me something important. All the circumstances leading to our leaving the church we had been attending were not just coincidences. God had pushed us out on purpose. And now He was pushing me where He wanted me to go.
So, I swallowed my pride and willfulness and, along with Tim and our toddler son, attended Sunday Bible class at the church of Christ for the first time in February, 1996. Everyone was very friendly (my neighbor had been right!), and we were made to feel very much at home. One couple in particular, seemed to take us "under their wings" that morning during the worship service. The woman graciously took our toddler to the nursery and watched him for us so that we could concentrate on the worship service. Not usually one to trust a stranger with my precious child, I just somehow knew I could trust her with him. Her husband warmly and invitingly related his story of once being a member of a denominational church, making us feel like we belonged in the church of Christ as much as he did. The worship service was very enjoyable and didn't make us feel like we were in a "big" church at all. The building was big, but somehow the people made it seem "homey."
Back at home, I waited for a visit from someone from the church; I just had a very strong feeling to expect someone. Sure enough, the evangelist, Dallas Puckett, knocked on the door that afternoon. I invited him in, and Tim and I sat down to talk with him.
In the sermon that morning, Dallas had mentioned baptism as a vital part of salvation. That was contrary to what I had been taught before. I had always been taught that one need only to believe in Jesus and ask for His forgiveness to receive salvation. I had been immersed in baptism when I was 12 years old, but I had believed it was merely a ceremony. Never one to mince words, I just blurted out what was on my mind: "I don't believe you have to be baptized to be saved." Dallas simply asked if I would like to get our Bible so he could share some Scriptures with us. After I handed him the Bible, he opened to Acts 2:38 and Mark 16:16, among several other Scriptures. But after reading just a couple of pertinent verses, I didn't hear much of what Dallas said.
Inside, I was reeling in shock. I had two voices fighting inside me. The bad voice said, "You don't have to listen to that garbage." Then the Good Voice said, "It was all a lie. What you had been taught, 'Praying to be saved,' was all a big lie!" The the bad voice retorted, "Hey! You don't have to listen to Dallas. He's just trying to confuse you. How could all of those other people have been wrong? Don't listen to him!" And finally, the Good Voice questioned me, "Kimberly, just who do you think you are!? You know the Bible is the Word of God, and Dallas just showed you what it says. What's the matter with you? Do you think you know more than God? Do you want to do what you want to do and go to HELL? Or do you want to stop being a know-it-all and obey God and go to Heaven?" The bad voice, getting weaker, countered with, "No, don't listen. Don't listen. Don't listen. Don't listen." The Good Voice finished with, "And what about Tim? He's never been baptized. What do you want to happen to him?"
I then heard myself speaking aloud to Dallas and Tim, "Well, that is what the Bible says." I then told Dallas that I had been baptized at the age of 12. Then I turned and asked Tim if he would like to be baptized. He said he had to think about it, and Dallas left quietly, looking defeated. Just minutes after Dallas had left, Tim made the decision to be baptized. We got our son and piled into the car and raced to the church building. Dallas was sitting inside his car in the parking lot. (I have a feeling that God led him to wait there.) Dallas was elated when Tim told him he would like to be baptized, and we rushed inside to the baptistry.
As Tim climbed out of the baptistry, he told me, "Kimberly, you wouldn't believe what that felt like! I felt all the hatred I've ever felt being pulled right out of me!"
As Tim changed into dry clothes, that Good Voice was back again: "Kimberly, you should be baptized again. Even though you were baptized before, you didn't know at the time that it was for your salvation." Then my practical side, throwing off the remainder of my pride, reasoned "better safe than sorry."
I told Dallas that I would like to be baptized again. This delighted him further. This time as I was immersed, I knew the real reason I was being baptized. I was obeying God, being forgiven for my sins, and receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit. As I went under the water, I truly felt buried with Christ. And when I came up out of the water, I felt a new assurance that I had been saved.
Tim and I strive to live as God wants us to. But from time to time Satan, the master of lies and confusion, pushes pride back into my life and makes me want to do things my way. When that happens, the Good Voice reminds me to open my Bible and see what God expects of me. And on rare occasions when I become stubborn and begin to "reason away" the Truth of the Scriptures, the Good Voice again asks me, "Just who do you think you are!?" Then, I once again swallow that pride and, through prayer and reading His Word, I try to do as God bids me.
Copyright © 1997 Kimberly B. Southall. All rights reserved.