About Your "Boring" Conversion Story...
Recently, I’ve spent a lot of time studying the lives of Christians that God converted through his Spirit, discipleship, and the book of Romans. The testimonies of these men are phenomenal and very moving.
Augustine’s story was colorful and is, perhaps, very familiar to many people. He was skeptical of Christianity, despite being raised by a Christian mother. Instead, he pursued the high life through womanizing and jetting through his career as a rockstar professor in Rome. But God had different plans. In his early thirties, Augustine came to know the Lord and went on to do incredible things for the church. Augustine's is an incredible sinner-to-saint story.
Luther’s story was equally moving. After making a weird deal with God to save his life during a thunderstorm, Luther would spend years in a monastery fasting, working, and beating himself to death. He did so because he felt that he owed God. To Luther, God was an angry, capricious bully; Jesus was nothing more than a “terrible judge.” It wasn't until after an eye-opening trip to Rome—at a time when popes, priests, and prostitutes knew each other, biblically speaking—and steady discipleship did Luther come to know Christ’s righteousness by God’s grace alone. Luther would go on to spark the Protestant Reformation, a time that reemphasized a core gospel truth (salvation by faith alone) and forever reshaped Western civilization. Luther's is an amazing legalist-to-saint story.
But, then, there’s John Wesley. He grew up in a Christian home, went to Oxford, became a missionary, and then later preached in churches. After experiencing a few failures—at least from his perspective—he felt his heart “strangely warmed” while listening to a sermon on the book of Romans in London. “I felt I did trust in Christ,” John later reminisced, “and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins.” John became a Christian after a life of living Christianly. The end.
Compared to Augustine and Luther, John was a choirboy whose worst sin was the time he left a door open after entering the house. By all worldly measures, John’s conversion story is uneventful and boring. Is it even worth mentioning? Wouldn’t it be better to tell an eventful and exciting story to show how amazing God’s work can be?
No, not necessarily…
I’m afraid that sometimes Christians feel that crazy, drug-induced, sex-romping, sinner-turned-saint stories are the only stories worth telling. Think about that one guy’s testimony who, having been born to a drug addict and pimp, was mixed up in drugs, sex, and the gang scene on the southside of Chicago by age sixteen. Also, he was a Nickelback fan. But then, by God’s grace alone, Christ reached into his life and pulled him out by his love. Now, he is a stand-up father, an elder at a local church, and a Bible study leader. Importantly, he is also no longer a fan of Nickelback.
Now that’s a conversion story. Look what God has done!
Then, you look to your own conversion story—you grew up in the church, kept your nose clean, struggled with some sin (ever stole from the cookie jar?), repented, and, one Sunday during a sermon, felt your heart “strangely warmed.” Boring. Bland. Vanilla. Meh. Right?
Wrong. There is no such thing as a “meh” conversion story. Here’s why.
Four Reasons Why Your Conversion Story Matters
First, it’s a miracle that anyone is saved. Sin—the great separator between God and us—touches every aspect of our being. We were born in sin (Psa 51:5), without excuse for our sin (Rom 3:23), and dead in sin (Eph 2:1). Yet, God redeems us anyway. He does not need to, but, out of love, he does. He turns enemies into sons and daughters, and he did so through the sacrifice, death, burial, and resurrection of his Son. It is a miracle that anyone is saved at all.
Second, your conversion story is a sure sign that God is working in your life. We cannot convert ourselves; that’s entirely the job of the Holy Spirit. If you are a believer, then that means God has been working in your life. Think about how Peter knew that Jesus was the Messiah. Peter confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. That knowledge was not something he came to on his own. Instead, Jesus pointed out, “flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven (Matt 16:17).” Your conversion means that God revealed himself to you. How beautiful and wonderful is that?
Third, it is a blessing that God spared you from pain. We are all moved by the conversion story that begins in low valleys and ends on high mountaintops, but those stories came with an incredible price to the story-teller. Behind those amazing stories is a massive wake of sin, rebellion, and destruction. It is forgiven sin, but the consequences are still real. Your “bland” conversion story is actually an incredible blessing—God, as a good Father, spared you, his son or daughter, from a ton of pain.
Fourth, your conversion gives hope to new believers. The enemy would love nothing more than to see a new believer revert to his or her old identity. Conversion stories of God’s consistent and steady faithfulness provide new believers with precious assurance. New believers can be plagued by haunting questions: Is God really faithful? What if I sinned too badly? How long will God love me? Your “bland” testimony and life with the Lord is one way that God may use to answer their prayers. "Yes," you can say, "God is longsuffering and faithful. Just look at my life-long journey in his patience and grace!"
Do you believe that you have a “boring” story? Shake that lie. Your conversion story is precious to God, even if Steven Spielberg could not turn it into an award-winning drama. Who cares? Your conversion is, after all, the story of your second birthday. Embrace it. Celebrate it. Share it.
Conversion is God’s story in you. Now, go tell someone about it.