Thursday, 28 February 2013

Conversion

Today shared with the Mother's Union why I am so committed to the Mission of St. James to share the life of Jesus (hence Mission Statement: "Living the Life"). It all stems from my own conversion to the Christian faith over 30 years ago. It's rather unexciting in some ways. From a nominal church background - choirboy, Church Youth Club, confirmation - until one day two people joined the church I attended who stood out from everyone else. I could not put my finger on it except to say there was some 'attractive' quality about them that drew my interest. At some point they invited me and Hazel - my wife - to a Bible study in their house and for whatever reason we went. As we studied Romans I grew more and more interested and asked more and more questions, staying later and later after the study had finished until after reading part of the way through Hal Lindsey's "Liberation of Planet Earth"  the penny dropped and God stepped out of the shadows and became real and alive to me through Jesus. I understood how through the cross the walls erected by my sin had been knocked down and I was reconciled to God. I went from the house that morning a new person, with a new life and onward into full time ministry, determined to live my life telling others what Jesus had done and could do for them.

Whether it was sudden or gradual, leading up to that one point where darkness turned into light makes no difference. The point was something happened and I was changed. the Holy Spirit gave me the essential illumination I needed and I, who once was blind, now could see.

I love the story of a nineteenth century Vicar called William Haslam who was converted by his own sermon while preaching in the pulpit. Here is his story in his own words:

“So I went up into the pulpit and gave out my text. I took it from the gospel of the day—’What think ye of Christ?’ As I went on to explain the passage, I saw that the Pharisees and scribes did not know that Christ was the Son of God, or that He was come to save them. They were looking for a king, the son of David, to reign over them as they were. Something was telling me, all the time, ‘You are no better than the Pharisees yourself—you do not believe that He is the Son of God, and that He is come to save you, any more than they did.’

I do not remember all I said, but I felt a wonderful light and joy coming into my soul, and I was beginning to see what the Pharisees did not. Whether it was something in my words, or my manner, or my look, I know not; but all of a sudden a local preacher, who happened to be in the congregation, stood up, and putting up his arms, shouted in a Cornish manner, ‘The parson is converted! The parson is converted! Hallelujah!’ and in another moment his voice was lost in the shouts and praises of three or four hundred of the congregation. Instead of rebuking this extraordinary ‘brawling,’ as I should have done in a former time, I joined in the outburst of praise, and to make it more orderly, I gave out the Doxology—’Praise God, from whom all blessings flow’—and the people sang it with heart and voice, over and over again.

My Churchmen were dismayed, and many of them fled precipitately from the place. Still the voice of praise went on, and was swelled by numbers of passers-by, who came into the church, greatly surprised to hear and see what was going on. When this subsided, I found at least twenty people crying for mercy, whose voices had not been heard in the excitement and noise of thanksgiving. They all professed to find peace and joy in believing. Amongst this number there were three from my own house; and we returned home praising God.

The news spread in all directions that ‘the parson was converted,’ and that by his own sermon, in his own pulpit too…. So clear and vivid was the conviction through which I passed, and so distinct was the light into which the Lord had brought me, that I knew and was sure that He had ‘brought me up out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a Rock, and put a new song into my mouth.’ He had ‘quickened’ me, who was before ‘dead in trespasses and sins.’… At the end of this great and eventful day of my life—my spiritual birthday, on which I passed from death to life by being ‘born from above’—I could scarcely sleep for joy.”

Wow! If only more clergymen - and women - were converted by their own sermons the church would be in a much better state than it is now.

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