“I always saw myself as someone who influenced others…The truth is that I was the one who was being influenced.” – Cody Bateman

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” (Colossians 3:23-24)

“It’s 2 am, and I’m driving home from an evening at a bar with my college buddies,” said Cody Bateman. “The next thing I know, the police are banging on the car window, trying to wake me up. I was given a citation for public intoxication and failure to update a driver’s license. I was fortunate not to get a DWI. The next day I was hung over and worried about what people back home would say if they found out. I was thought of as a good Christian guy. But if people really knew me, they’d say I was a partier and a drunk.

“I started drinking when I was in high school. I didn’t want anyone in my hometown of Sherman, Texas to find out. My parents were believers and very involved in a local church. I trusted Christ early in life and had mentors who poured into me. But I wrongly thought that because my salvation was secure, I could do whatever I wanted to, as long as I didn’t get too crazy. I made some really bad decisions back then.

“By the time I went to college, I wasn’t reading God’s Word and had no community with other believers. I joined a fraternity, and before long I was drinking every night, getting into fights and engaging in inappropriate relationships with women. I always saw myself as someone who influenced others, and I knew that my influence could be used for something greater. The truth is that I was the one who was being influenced. My life didn’t look any different from anyone else’s life.

“Eventually, I failed out of school and had to get a job selling cars to support myself. My parents let me stick around campus, and I slowly worked my way back into college. But bad decisions and broken relationships left me really hurt. That pain continued when I moved to Dallas, got a job and was living by myself. It was very lonely.

“One night after leaving a bar, I thought about an illustration that one of my Christian mentors shared with me. My life was a lot like a cup that could be filled by the Lord. Instead, I chose to fill it with bad decisions that didn’t honor Christ, and I was suffering the consequences.

“Fortunately, a friend told me about the young adults ministry at Watermark. At first, I was turned off because The Porch was so big. But I continued going and heard a message about God’s love and purpose for our lives. I felt like God was clearly reaching out to me. He wanted a relationship with me in spite of all my bad decisions.

“After I started following Jesus intentionally, I needed a strong community of men. Some of my old friends didn’t want anything to do with my life when I committed it to Christ. That was hard, but the good news is that for every friend I lost, God gave me 15 deeper friendships with other believers. My life is filled with that now.

“I’ve been in a few different community groups, but our group now has been meeting for several years. All the guys are very different, but they are all men I trust because they go to the Bible for wisdom rather than giving answers based on feelings or circumstances. We push each other to live authentically, memorize scripture and apply God’s Word to our lives daily. As I see the changes God has made in the men around me, my love for Christ has been strengthened.

“In community, God also helped me see my workplace differently. I’ve always felt comfortable sharing my story with people I work with. But when our office building burned down a year ago, God showed me that my spiritual role could be bigger. I needed to be more faithful at work by caring about the people at my office and their families. There were a lot of growing pains in the fire’s aftermath, and during the process God showed me the importance of letting people see Christ in my work ethic (Colossians 3:23).

“If I were talking to a guy who was walking the same path I was a few years ago, I’d want him to know that he doesn’t have to be stuck where he is. God has a purpose for us, and He had much more for me than the life I was living. God wanted me to grow as a man and prepare for eternity and know that there is life in Christ.”