BY: SUNNY ORLY COFFMAN
MARCH 26, 2001
This morning in our family devotion, my husband read the 6th Chapter of Romans in The Message, a modern translation of the Bible that we have been enjoying recently. We talked about water baptism and our individual experiences concerning this aspect of our walk with Christ.
I reflected on my own steps of progress in this one area. My first experience was in the Church of Christ at age 12. A young evangelist had come to preach a “revival” at the church where I was attending by invitation of neighbors. They saw my mother and I as “heathen” and in need of salvation and had invited us to attend services in hope that we might “get saved.” This particular Sunday morning, we had relatives visiting from out of town and I went to church alone with our neighbors while Mom stayed home to visit with our relatives. It was during this evangelistic sermon that I heard about a place they called “hell” that was reserved for those that did not join their church, get water baptized, and continue on in following after all of their rules and traditions. The delivery of this sermon was done with such enthusiasm and so many graphic descriptions of hell were given, that fear rose within me and I ran down the aisle when an invitation was given to “get baptized and join the church and save your soul from hell fire and damnation.” Without any real understanding of what I was doing, I simply followed the instructions given and was robed in white garments and placed in a tank filled with water – called a “baptistery” and completely immersed in water.
When I got home after church, I was later than usual, my hair was still soaking wet, and my Mom was angry. She had been waiting Sunday dinner for me and now I was a mess and all of this in front of relatives. She was visibly embarrassed and let me know I’d never go to this church again without her being there.
Around age 19, I was again baptized in a similar manner. I had left the Church of Christ in search of “truth” and was attending a Southern Baptist Church. This time I was again responding to a “hell fire and damnation” sermon and went forward to join the church. I was told that they did not honor the baptism of the Church of Christ and I would have to be baptized a second time if I wanted to be a member of their denomination. I was still not given any real instruction concerning the purpose of baptism. All I knew was: they told me it was necessary to keep from going to “hell” and required to be a member, in good standing, of their church.
By age 23, I’m now married and in my desire for unity in my home, I deferred to the “religion” of my husband and took classes to be instructed in the ways of the Episcopal Church. In this church, members were not immersed in water, but were “sprinkled.” Thus, I received my third official church baptism by receiving a few drops of water on my head – administered by one of the priests of the local congregation.
For me, each one of these experiences had some emotional affect upon me, but did not appear to produce any type of lasting change in my life. [My soulish realm had been affected [emotions], but nothing had touched my spirit.] Interestingly enough, I was not instructed to expect a change in either of these situations.
In 1992, I was miraculously given an opportunity to join a close friend from Nashville and go on a tour to Israel. The trip had been prophesied 18 months earlier, but now it was manifesting and I was excited. One of the high points of the trip for many was the day we went to the Jordan River and were given the opportunity to be baptized “in the exact place where Jesus was baptized.” I had no particular unction to do this, but not wanting to be the “odd man” in the group, I changed into the white robe provided me, and was baptized is some really dirty water, along with several hundred other people. I didn’t feel any differently after it was completed – maybe a little dirtier – thinking how nice it would be to get back to the hotel for a shower. I received a nice wall plaque commemorating this event, but no apparent change was attached to the experience.
It was not until I had a near death experience in a hospital in Houston, TX at age 37, that my life took on a whole new meaning in the spiritual realm. Without having the information to even know how to pray and ask for it, I received an empowerment called the “baptism in the Holy Spirit” only a couple of days after leaving this hospital. From that day forward, my life was never the same.
But it was not until age 53 that God Himself spoke to me to attend a particular church here in Dallas one Sunday morning. This was after 3 years of being alone with God. He had been speaking to me personally for quite a long time and He had instructed me to come out of all the organized religions – to live a separated life alone with him in the confines of my home – for a period of time. So, it was quite a surprise to have Him instruct me to attend a church. I listened to the sermon carefully expecting to get some great revelation. After all, I was here by Divine appointment. But it was not until near the end of the preaching time, that the pastor announced the church would be having a baptism service at 3:00 pm and anyone who wanted to be baptized, should come up after service, get their name on a list, and receive further instructions.
When I got home after church, I had such a burning desire to read all of the scriptures in the Bible that pertained to water baptism and I did so before even considering a little lunch. When I had finished doing my reading, the Lord again spoke and told me that He had led me to this church for this express purpose: to be water baptized. He said “this act of obedience will close all of the doors to your past.”
When I arrived at the church at 3:00 pm, both the pastor and associate pastor were officiating in this baptism service in a small chapel adjoining the main sanctuary. Just prior to lowering me into the water, the associate pastor spoke directly to me: “My sister, the Lord would have you know that your obedience here today will close all of the doors to your past.”
Here was the confirmation, word-for-word, of what God had spoken only a couple of hours ago. And I can tell you that today, my life is totally changed. God has used this “right of passage” as a key pivotal point in my life. Today, there is victory in areas I never dared to dream of. But I was not baptized this time to satisfy the requirements of some church so I could “place my membership there,” because I was concerned about the opinions of those around me, to keep from burning in a fiery “hell”, or because I was coerced or intimidated by any man. I experienced this “right of passage” solely because I had been led by the Spirit of God to participate in this sacrament and to receive the benefit available to me through my obedience to God’s personal command to me.
As Roger was reading Romans, Chapter 6, I had some thoughts concerning baptism, its true purpose, and how God can use it for good in a believer’s life. For the first time, I saw that the purpose of baptism is not “being buried with Christ” – but is “being Resurrected with Christ.” How can you be resurrected if you have not been buried, but burial is not the purpose. How can you know the joy of light until you have experienced the void of darkness? But what is your focus – light or darkness?
I saw there was both death and life represented in this act of baptism, but the focus for me was certainly LIFE. I remembered the passage of scripture that says: “Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds onto life, just as it is, destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.” [The Message: John 12-24]
My motivation in being baptized this final time, was my love for and desire to please God. It had nothing to do with “saving my neck.” There was no fear motivation – purely a love basis. God has spoken much to me about doing all things from this love motivation. This is the basis for producing LIFE. Anything done without love will produce death in one form or another.
BAPTISM-WATER BAPTISM [Sunny Orly Coffman] 3-26-01 1