Each of the Sundays of Advent I will be leading a forum looking at the spiritual journey through four experiences of Conversion, Sanctification, Surrender, and Discipleship
I. Advent One: Conversion
John the Baptist calls us to recognize what God is doing in Jesus Christ:
Luke 3:15—“As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah,[d] 16 John answered all of them by saying, “I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with[e] the Holy Spirit and fire.”
John Wesley’s experience of the grace of Jesus Christ, I am calling a conversion of sorts. He was ordained an Anglican priest 10 years before this experience so it is not a conversion from un-faith to faith, but from head faith to heart faith. This continues to be the most common struggle for those of us who were raised Anglican or Episcopalian.
After a time in Savannah, Georgia John Wesley returned to England discouraged.
From Wesley’s Journal: On 24 May 1738:
“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.
I began to pray with all my might for those who had in a more especial manner despitefully used me and persecuted me. I then testified openly to all there what I now first felt in my heart….
“After my return home, I was much buffeted with temptations, but I cried out, and they fled away. They returned again and again. I as often lifted up my eyes, and He “sent me help from his holy place.” And herein I found the difference between this and my former state chiefly consisted. I was striving, yea, fighting with all my might under the law, as well as under grace. But then I was sometimes, if not often, conquered; now, I was always conqueror.
Thursday, 25.—The moment I awakened, “Jesus, Master,” was in my heart and in my mouth; and I found all my strength lay in keeping my eye fixed upon Him and my soul waiting on Him continually…..
Yet the enemy injected a fear, “If thou dost believe, why is there not a more sensible change? I answered (yet not I), “That I know not. But, this I know, I have ‘now peace with God.’ And I sin not today, and Jesus my Master has forbidden me to take thought for the morrow.”
|The Conversion Story of C. S. Lewis
Lewis was a brilliant scholar of Medieval and Renaissance literature at Oxford, and then at Cambridge, yet we know him today as one of the foremost apologists for Christ in the English speaking world. His books are selling better today than when he died in 1963. His conversion from atheism to theism, and then from theism to Christianity penetrated deeply into his mind and heart, transforming his daily life. If you want an overview of his work I heartily recommend the book, A Year with C. S. Lewis: Daily Readings from His Classic Works.
“You must picture me alone in that room at Magdalen, 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” (Surprised By Joy, ch. 14, p. 266).
On September 22, 1931 Lewis said yes to Jesus Christ:
“I know very well when, but hardly how, the final step was taken. I was driven to Whipsnade one sunny morning. When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did. Yet I had not exactly spent the journey in thought. Nor in great emotion…. It was more like when a man, after long sleep, still lying motionless in bed, becomes aware that he is now awake.”
1. Both Wesley and Lewis were Anglicans yet many Anglicans are put off by stories of “giving their lives to Christ”. Why is that? What about you?
2. What do these stories say to you about your faith in Christ?