Are conversions real?
In 1960, God took a fifteen-year-old lad and completely changed the course of his life. He had been asking the questions that teenagers ask. He wanted to know why sex was wrong outside of marriage, why schools demanded uniforms, why violence seemed to be the winning way, why the Western nations were in a “Cold War” with Russia.
He joined a Youth Club and met people that seemed to have answers. However, their answers were based on the Bible. And, at that time, the Bible spoke in antiquated English!
The Youth Club was held in a church building, a Hall. The Christians called themselves ‘Brethren’ but took pains to explain that they were not to be confused with another kind of brethren group who were ‘exclusive’ in their attitudes and behaviour. These ‘Brethren’ were open, generous and loving. Their lives, on the most part, matched their teachings. Their teachings were focused on a Man named Jesus.
There was a Bible Class on Sundays. He attended and asked questions. The same questions that many ask about the Bible, the existence of God, the problem of suffering. The Bible Class leaders were more concerned with the problem of sin and the solution. The fundamental answer to all questions rested in the Man Who died a cruel death on a Roman Cross and came alive again after three days.
From January to June the lad continued seeking answers. One evening in June he met a man who attended the church. The man asked him a question, “Isn’t it about time you were baptised?” Something happened then, Not just in his brain but in his being. He realised that he was putting off a decision. There was sin to confess and a Lord to honour. A prayer to be made seeking forgiveness and rescue from God’s wrath. And this man thought he had already made steps of faith! So, the lad returned home and knelt by his bedside and prayed into nothingness. Nothing became something, something became someone. Somehow, this act of prayer had opened a door to the Presence of God. It was tangible and life changing.
The lad told his friend. His friend told him that he needed to tell the Bible Class leader who told him he should tell the world. Which he found very hard to do!
He bought a Bible and read it. He attended other church meetings and began to understand better what God had done in his life. He began to change, to grow a new life. Attitudes changed, the words out of his mouth changed, his interests changed. God had started a work in him.
This was the beginning. The lad had choices and could still choose wrong ways and actions, but the dominant theme was a spiritual drive, sweeping him along, giving him understanding of the Bible and of the new life he had begun.
So, what had happened?
No doubt there are theories about impressionable youth having experiences. After all, people believe in ghosts and aliens. Some young people have experiences that lead them into monasteries and nunneries. Many have attended religious services and have had religious experiences, but, for some, the experience does not develop into faithfulness or a converted life.
John Wesley – the 18th Century Christian Preacher wrote a diary. He was very religious and was a church minister. In May 1738 he wrote this:
In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.
It is written about Augustine of Hippo (354 to340 AD) that he was brought up in a Christian home. He left home and lived a very sinful life. He came to his senses and prayed to God. At that point God made Himself tangible to him and he found a life-changing faith in Christ Jesus.
Corrie ten Boom is well-known because of her books and her amazing story of helping Jewish people in Holland during the Second World War. She survived several years in a German concentration camp and emerged with a stronger, living faith in Jesus Christ. A biography about her describes her encounter with Jesus when she was only five. The proof that this was real rests in her amazing testimony and service for God.
A girl of 10 years old attended church with her parents. It was a simple kind of place. Just a hall with chairs and a place at the front for a speaker to stand. This girl heard the Bible explained and heard many people tell her about Jesus. How His death paid for all the sins of everyone. How He came alive again and had sent His Holy Spirit into the world so that people could know Him and receive forgiveness of their sins and be born again. Sin became a big obstacle – even for a ten-year-old. At school she was led into a bout of stealing things. She and her friends did not own up. At church one evening a man was talking about God’s forgiveness and spoke how Jesus was like a child who came forward and owned to everyone else’s sins and suffered the consequences! That spoke to her, convicted her, the Holy Spirit swept her along to pray and receive the Lord Jesus as her Saviour. It was no mere emotional thing but a permanent exchange. The grace of God opened her ‘heart’ to believe and place faith and trust in Jesus Christ for this life and the next. Being in a Christian home helped with the understanding of Bible Truth. However, she needed to make her own, personal decision of repentance and faith. These accounts echo the experience of the fifteen-year-old lad – and the experiences of millions who have encountered God through faith in Jesus Christ.
I watched a film about young people at a Christian Camp. Around the campfire they were encouraged to start sharing their faith with these words:
“I don’t know much, but this one thing I know …..”
The fifteen-year-old lad, John Wesley, Augustine, Corrie ten Boom and the ten-year-old girl could all claim that they knew God through Jesus Christ. Like the Apostle Paul who wrote:
2 Timothy 1:12 NKJV For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day.
He knew this, even though, in his past he had been,
1 Timothy 1:13 NKJV a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man; but I obtained mercy because I did it ignorantly in unbelief.
A constant in the Christian life is the Bible – all of it – the Old and the New Testament. It is the Word of God. It is God’s Word for us. Every bit is useful, truthful and able to make us wise. It is food for the spirit and light for the road.
The Apostle John encouraged Christians to live with confidence, having assurance that they belong to God.
1 John 3:24 NIV Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.
Are all these accounts true? Are they ‘nothing but the truth’? It is hard to challenge a personal witness statement. A Barrister might try to refute the words of a witness or even discredit the witness. The point I would like to make here is that there are not just a handful of witnesses about God’s intervention and transforming power in their lives – there are millions!
Here are some Bible passages to read that will help you understand what it means to be SAVED or CONVERTED.
The Apostle Paul’s testimony:
Acts Chapters 9:1-31; 22:1-21; 26:12-31
Romans Chapter 10:5-15
Ephesians Chapter 2:1-10
It is also very useful to read about Christian lives. Everyone has a story but some have been written about. So, look for a biography like these:
The Hiding Place – about Corrie ten Boom
For the Glory – about Eric Liddell
Joni – about Joni Earekson-Tada
Through Gates of Splendour – Elizabeth Elliot
There are hundreds of Christian biographies available. Choosing one might need some good advice.