Before you say, “I don’t believe.” Chapter 25
How do you explain how radically lives are changed when people put their trust in Jesus?
We have already considered the impact of Christian conversion on individual lives. Conversion is not just the acceptance of a particular creed, but a change of heart. Conversion involves a turning around: turning from our sin, to God, and His Son, Jesus. At conversion God does a deep work in the mind and heart of the person, so that He who made us, remakes us. And He does this at great cost to Himself. It cost only words to bring everything into existence, but to convert us and bring us to Himself cost the life, the blood, the suffering of Jesus on the cross.
Famously, Professor C.S.Lewis, author of the Narnia series of books and ‘Mere Christianity’, recalls his conversion story: “You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalene, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England…. but who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance to escape.” (C.S. Lewis in ‘Surprised by joy’.)
When people ask Jesus to be their Lord and Saviour, not only is the past forgiven and the conscience cleared, but a new joy, peace and purpose starts to take a grip on them. For some, as we have seen earlier, there is such a radical transformation that everyone can see they are completely new people. This is not just a passing phase, an enthusiasm, but as the Bible puts it, they have become new creations in Christ; the old has gone, the new has come. When people become aware of God, their manner, demeanour, their vocabulary, their reactions and relationships turn around. What a power this is that changes people so clearly that the best way to describe them is that have been born again!
Jesus spoke to a deeply religious Jewish leader and said that “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” So Christian conversion is a must for all who will come to know God in life, through death, and into eternity.
Atheistic journalist and left-wing politician Roy Hattersley, writing in the Guardian (12th September, 2005) just after Hurricane Katrina had caused severe damage, in the USA, wrote challenging his own atheism. Below are extracts from his article:
‘The Salvation Army has been given a special status as provider-in-chief of American disaster relief. But its work is being augmented by all sorts of other groups. Almost all of them have a religious origin and character.
‘Notable by their absence are teams from rationalist societies, free thinkers’ clubs and atheists’ associations – the sort of people who not only scoff at religion’s intellectual absurdity but also regard it as a positive force for evil.
‘Late at night, on the streets of one of our great cities, that man (a Salvation Army worker) offers friendship as well as help to the most degraded and (to those of a censorious turn of mind) degenerate human beings who exist just outside the boundaries of our society. And he does what he believes to be his Christian duty without the slightest suggestion of disapproval. Yet, for much of his time, he is meeting needs that result from conduct he regards as intrinsically wicked.
‘Civilised people do not believe that drug addiction and male prostitution offend against divine ordinance. But those who do are the men and women most willing to change the fetid bandages, replace the sodden sleeping bags and – probably most difficult of all – argue, without a trace of impatience, that the time has come for some serious medical treatment. Good works, John Wesley insisted, are no guarantee of a place in Heaven. But they are most likely to be performed by people who believe that Heaven exists.
‘It ought to be possible to live a Christian life without being a Christian or, better still, to take Christianity à la carte. The Bible is so full of contradictions that we can accept or reject its moral advice according to taste. Yet men and women who, like me, cannot accept the mysteries and the miracles do not go out with the Salvation Army at night.
‘The only possible conclusion is that faith comes with a packet of moral imperatives that, while they do not condition the attitude of all believers, influence enough of them to make them morally superior to atheists like me. ‘The truth may make us free. But it has not made us as admirable as the average captain in the Salvation Army.’
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