It’s not every day I can say, without a shred of fabrication, that for a few brief moments, I stood buck naked in the church that serves as one of my spiritual anchor points. But yesterday, June 30, 2013, that’s exactly what happened. It’s not an exaggeration—we’re talking naked-as-a-newborn, birthday-suit kind of nudity here.
I kid you not. Never before—and likely never again—will I be so physically exposed in the House of God.
And all this following an even more shocking exposure in front of a crowd of nearly 400 people.
I’m a bit of a thinker. Okay, that’s a bit of an understatement. I plugged my way through twelve years of post-secondary education to end up with a doctorate in physical chemistry, with an emphasis in experimental quantum mechanics. I say this not to boast—and believe me, there are very few situations where accolades of any significance would be heaped on me for that admission—but to give you, dear reader, a sense of the kinds of things I like to sink my teeth into.
But it’s not just “science-y” stuff. I’ll read a textbook on macroeconomics if that’s the only thing available (albeit grudgingly).
It even extends to the Bible. Over the years, I’ve spent countless hours reading the Bible and listening to equally countless sermons that provided me a unique, intellectual understanding of Biblical history and doctrine. While certainly not to the extent of pastors and preachers who have spent years studying the Hebrew and Greek texts of the Old and New Testament in seminary, I could claim an encyclopedic layman’s knowledge of the scriptures.
“[Jesus said] ‘Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs,as which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every impurity. In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.'” —Matthew 23:27-28, HCSB
I can’t tell you how many times I had heard that verse in the context of a Bible study or a sermon and it sailed right over my head. Those are some pretty powerful words aimed at the “religious elite” of Jesus’ day. The scribes and the Pharisees were those who had studied the scriptures since an early age, and likely had the whole of the Old Testament memorized. And yet, in essence, Jesus called them “dead on the inside.” (That’s my paraphrase.)
In retrospect, Jesus might as well have been talking to me. I could quote relevant scripture from the Bible for almost any situation. I wrote a book about faithful financial stewardship. I taught a Wednesday night class at my church. I went on two mission trips to minister to the indigenous tribes of Panama. I’ve served on my church’s worship team for the past two years. In previous churches, I’ve filled in preaching for the pastor when he was out of town. In that same church, I was a deacon–in fact, before my family moved, I had been voted in as the next chairman of the deacons.
Let’s be honest, that’s a pretty impressive religious resume. Don’t you think?
But that’s all it was. I had built my religious resume on a foundation of little more than accomplishments, not an unshakeable faith. I had prayed the prayer of salvation when I was very young, but the commitment to Jesus Christ had eroded heavily for thirty-plus years.
So, back to being naked at church.
CrossRidge Church in Little Elm, Texas, has a lovely setup. Behind the stage where the praise team leads worship and the pastor brings the word of God to the congregation is a hallway that contains a waiting area for the musicians and a long hallway with both men’s and women’s changing rooms/bathrooms. In one stall inside the men’s changing room, I stood shivering beside a pile of sopping-wet clothing pondering what had just happened.
After thirty-odd years of presenting myself as a devout believer, I reached a crisis-point in my life and found myself in need of immediate resolution. A few days prior, in the office of Pastor Marc Farnell, we resolved my crisis.
After thirty-odd years of professing my faith in Christ, I waded into the baptismal waters for a second time.
My realization just days before that I too was a “whitewashed tomb” gut-punched me in a way that I could not have anticipated. Whether or not my profession of faith in Christ when I was very young was sufficient—and I believe it may have been—I had no choice but to affirm my commitment as an adult and make that new, highly-informed commitment public to those who had been walking alongside me, unaware of the internal battle raging in my soul.
Similar to what Jesus said in Matthew, on the outside, I seemed righteous to people, but on the inside, I was full of darkness and hypocrisy.
In a matter of moments, I exposed my deception to the members of CrossRidge Church, and I’m happy to report that—as I expected—they cheered my decision to make Christ the Lord of my life, once and for all.
When Pastor Marc tugged on my t-shirt, pulling me backwards under the surface of the water, I faintly heard the words “buried with Him in the likeness of death.” I closed my eyes and let the warm waters of the baptistry flow over my face.
Dying to sin and self. Buried.
No sooner had I experienced this display of sybmolic burial, I was pulled up and greeted with the words, “…and raised to walk in newness of life.”
I had walked into the baptistry, nervous, shaking, knowing that I was exposing myself to my friends and church family for the fraud that I had become. I was naked (in the figurative sense, at least).
But walking out of the baptistry, I was clothed in the warmth and encouragement of a loving church family, as well as the embrace of a wife who has stood by me through eleven years of marriage (many of which have admittedly been pretty rocky).
Raised to walk in newness of life.
Standing in the changing stall, my mind raced with the events of the previous few moments. I pondered the strange parallel between my physical and spiritual states.
Anyone who had seen me at that moment—and praise God, no one did—would have seen everything. Every imperfection. Every blemish. Every fat-roll. Just moments before, I had allowed my church family to see me for what I really was.
A man who had realized his need for a Savior, and who chose to repair the disconnect in that relationship.
JESSE GREEVER is a man—a human being full of flaws who is redeemed by the blood of Christ. He is also husband, a father to two (almost three) beautiful daughters, a scientist, and an author of both fiction and non-fiction, and the CEO of eLectio Publishing. Find out more about Jesse at www.jessegreever.com.