One thing that strikes me is that the circumstances surrounding each conversion are always different, and yet the profound truth of the gospel is always the same. Some, like Athenagoras, came to saving faith while trying to disprove Christianity. Others, like Augustine, lived in wanton rebellion and immorality, until they were tracked down by the Hound of Heaven. Still more, like Luther, desperately sought to earn salvation through their own self-righteous works, finally discovering the gospel of grace and finding the gates of heaven flung open.
Countless stories could be told—from John Bunyan (the reprobate soldier) to John Newton (the slave-trader)—of dramatic conversions in which God’s grace suddenly and visibly arrested the sinner, like Saul on the road to Damascus. Other conversion stories are not as outwardly dramatic, but they are nonetheless equally profound. John Calvin summarized his salvation experience in a simple sentence: “God by a sudden conversion subdued and brought my mind to a teachable frame, which was more hardened in such matters than might have been expected from one at my early period of life.” Church history weaves together all of these powerful stories of divine grace (both the visibly dramatic and the seemingly subtle) to create a beautiful tapestry testifying to the glory, power, and mercy of God.
Some of my favorite testimonies are of those who grew up in the church—like Jonathan Edwards, a pastor’s son who came to saving faith as a teenager; or A. A. Hodge who followed in the footsteps of his father, Charles. Perhaps I’m drawn to those stories because they are similar to my own experience.
I grew up in the home of a church elder and seminary professor. Six months before I was born, my dad helped launch an extension of Talbot Theological Seminary on the campus of Grace Community Church. A decade later, that extension campus became The Master’s Seminary.
Growing up in a strong Christian home, and sitting under the teaching ministry of John MacArthur, I was exposed to the truth of the gospel from before I can remember. The realities of God’s perfect righteousness, my sinful unworthiness, and His gracious provision through the cross of Christ were repeatedly presented to me. Through the faithful teaching of God’s Word, I came to understand that being a Christian was more than being a “good kid.” It is about embracing the Lord Jesus in saving, repentant faith (Rom. 10:9).
Though I professed Christ from a very early age (I remember praying under a patio table in the backyard when I was four years old), I did not fully appreciate the implications of the gospel until my teenage years. The reality of what it meant to be a follower of Jesus Christ especially hit home when I began to attend public high school, and found myself surrounded by deistic hedonists, self-professed atheists, Roman Catholics, Mormons, and members of the L.A. Church of Christ. It was there that I began to develop a growing interest in Christian apologetics. The Lord also used that experience to strengthen my faith and deepen my love for Him and His Word.
In some ways, my testimony is that of an ordinary church kid. Yet, there is never anything ordinary about the wonder of God’s amazing grace. The gospel is not just for those who are openly living in wanton rebellion. It is also for the “good kids”—the outwardly compliant pew sitters who are no less hell-bound without Christ than drug dealers, murderers, and atheists. (On that point, be sure to read this.)
This last Sunday, I had the privilege of teaching our fellowship group a message entitled, “Every Christian’s Testimony” from Titus 3:3–7. As I reminded our group, all believers share several elements of their conversion stories in common:
1. As sinners, we deserved none of God’s grace (v. 3).
2. In salvation, God accomplished everything by His grace (vv. 4–7).
3. In sanctification, we are now called to live in light of His grace (v. 8).
The glorious reality of the gospel is that it is powerful enough to save both the most profligate of sinners and the most religious of the outwardly moral.
No sinner is so wicked as to be beyond the reach of God’s grace. But, conversely, no sinner is good enough to merit God’s favor. Salvation comes only to those who rest fully in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Soli Deo Gloria.