We’ve been in a season of having a bunch of baptisms at Christ Church. Having the privilege of baptizing followers of Jesus in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is one of favorite things to do as a pastor. I love hearing each person’s unique story and the way that the Lord sought them and saved them. It truly brings me to worship every time.
This past Sunday it was my great joy to be able to baptize the first person who has grown up in Christ Church. Esteban Gregory was a young child when he came with his parents to be part of the church planting team of Christ Church. Now, he is a godly young man and it was awesome to hear his story of God’s work in his life. It was a story that really came fully circle as his dad, Steve Gregory, was one of the first baptisms at the church that my Dad planted in NJ. So God used my Dad’s church plant to reach Steve Gregory and then he used my church plant to reach Steve’s Son, Esteban. God is so awesome!
Good morning, church! For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Esteban Gregory, but I also go by Steven. I’m the adopted son of Steve and Karen Gregory, whom you’ve seen countless times on this stage worshipping God with you all. I’ve been a part of Christ Church ever since the beginning. I was one of the many people and families that came over to Philadelphia from Sovereign Grace in Marlton New Jersey all those years ago. I was 12 years old when we came over. I am now about 2 weeks away from turning 19. Throughout these past years, filled with happiness pain, and sadness, and even more so uncertainty, I could feel God’s work in my life even if it wasn’t noticeable at first.
I was raised in the church ever since I was adopted. I learned all about the Bible and the stories of God’s grace and mercy within it, and I did so with an eagerness to understand more. I did Bible studies with my mother when I was younger, and attended Christian schools Kindergarten through 12th grade. But, as I grew up learning and finding myself as a person, part of me started taking faith for granted. I felt like I knew the basics when it came to the Bible, and that’s all that mattered. I witnessed people come to faith and prayed as often as I could, but there was something inside of me waiting to be awoken. I just didn’t know it yet.
Moving over to Philadelphia is a key part of what started this awakening in me. Experiencing new cultures and types of people is something I’m grateful I had the chance to do since it really showcased how beautiful the world is that God created. I went through Middle School about as normally as I could, but then High School started. With the start of this new chapter of my life, I quickly became thrown into a world filled with completing work, making time for friends, getting enough rest, and unfortunately, not making the time for God. It was during my first year of High School where thoughts started appearing in my mind more and more, thoughts of “ Am I going to get this done in time?” “What if I don’t do well in this class?” “When am I ever going to catch a break?”. They started to get to the point where that’s what I would be thinking all the time.
Those thoughts became thoughts of uncertainty for my long-term future, and even a bit of anxiety towards what would become of me if I was going down the wrong path.
It wasn’t until I attended the yearly Youth Camp that Sovereign Grace held each summer. It was my third time going, and I could tell something was different this time around. During one of the nights of the camp, Pastor Jeff was giving a sermon as one of the guest speakers. Now my memory isn’t fantastic, so there was I lot I might’ve missed or forgotten over the years from it. But the one thing that stuck with me the most from that message is that God already knows what’s to come. He’s proved time and time again that he provides and cares for the ones he loves. No matter the fears or anxieties or uncertainties that come to my mind, he is supreme overall and will be there to guide me through it all. I got that feeling of, “this is JUST what I needed to hear!”, and I was overjoyed by it. Right after that, the worship team played a beautiful song, “Oh come to the alter”, and at that moment I knew I had to give my heart to Christ. At that moment, all my fears and anxieties were wiped away by his love, and I felt a peace that I had never felt before. It’s why I’ve spent the last few years taking time to myself whenever I feel anxious or overwhelmed and remembering all that God has done for me, and that he’ll continue to do so as I grow. One verse in particular that I go to in those moments is from Matthew 6:25-27. “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?“
Praise God! I have to say that one of my favorite parts of his story is how the Lord used moving into the city to awaken his heart. In a time when so many Christians are leaving the city, it is encouraging to see how God actually uses the city to be a tremendous blessing, even with all its hardships, to keep us sensitive to spiritual things.
My heart is full,