Jesus made clear that Unless you turn, and become like a child, you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven. He also said You must be born again. Here are some conversion stories, all real.
1. Bruce was a big, tattooed, burly ex-Hell’s Angel, who had left his motorcycle outside a coffee shop where he met a current Hell’s Angel, Charley. Bruce wanted to introduce Charley to his new friend, Jesus, and tell him about the club he was now in, “Bikers for Christ.”
So after their lunch of double cheese-burgers and fries, during which time Bruce told Charley about how Jesus had changed his life, from endless running around the country, getting into drunken brawls, violence and being miserable, to a life of meaning, joy and peace. Bruce asked Charley if he wanted to accept Christ into his life, but Charley just shook his head.
Then they went into the comfort room. Charley, I told you, you need to accept the One who died for you, into your life! —No, I’m not ready. —No, you’ll never get ready. The Bible says “Now is the day of salvation.” —No! —Well, the Bible also says “Compel them to come in.” —No!
Thereupon Bruce takes Charley by the shoulders and pushes his head into the toilet! —Are you ready now? —No! Again Bruce pushes Charley’s head into the toilet. OK, OK, I give in! Charley then prayed “the sinner’s prayer,” and asked Christ into his life, as Lord and Savior. Soon he became a preacher, like Bruce, reaching out to other Hell’s Angels.
2. Charles Colson was President Nixon’s brilliant, and ruthless, personal attorney, who got caught up in the Watergate Scandal, and was sentenced to prison, where he did at least seven months. But he had become a Christian. When he got out he wrote Born Again, and started Prison Fellowship, which has since grown into a world-wide ministry to prisoners and their families. He travelled the world repeatedly, visiting and evangelizing prisoners in some of the worst hell-holes imaginable. Plus he authored some 22 books, like Loving God, had a radio broadcast, and was a leader in the ecumenical movement.
3. His travelling companion and fellow “minister” was Jack Eckerd, who had been a government administrator and business man who had a chain of 1700 drugstores. After reading Colson’s Born Again, he too accepted Christ. Thereupon he immediately banned the sales of all Playboy and Penthouse magazines in all his stores, at a considerable financial sacrifice.
One of the prisons Colson and Eckerd visited was the notorious Muntinlupa Prison, outside Manila. Conditions were terrible, with serious overcrowding and violence going on, along with serious deficits in medical care. In spite of a terrible stench from stopped-up sewers, he went around and talking to and hugging all sorts of prisoners. And when he returned to the States, he sent huge supplies of drugs and other medicinal supplies to the prison, and other sad prisons in other countries.
4. Saul, who became St. Paul. He was a very strict and zealous Pharisee, who for a time did his best to try to stamp out the fledgling Christian movement. He was there, for instance, approving the killing of Stephen, an early convert.
When he was on his way to Damascus to seek out and persecute Christians there, God knocked him off his horse, so to speak, and he heard a voice from heaven, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” “Who is it, Lord?” “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” He was temporarily blinded, but was converted on the spot, and went on to become the greatest missionary and church planter and theologian of all times, and the writer of more books of the New Testament than anyone else. His conversion was so profound that in spite of all his accomplishments, he called himself “the chief of all sinners.”
5. An 81 year old American, married to two Filipinas, (one after the other!). “I started out as a child,” as the former comedian and actor Bill Cosby said. I was raised in a conservative Christian home, church and school, all the way through college. I learned to pray and read the Bible daily at an early age, but had a real conversion experience when, half-way through college, in prayer one evening I had a vision of Christ on the cross, and I knew He loved me, not just others. I felt a His love, and load of sin drop off my back. I soon decided to learn Greek, so I could attend seminary. (I early on had a dream of being a great missionary or preacher, but there were some ego needs embedded in that dream.)
Long story short: In spite of fits and starts, mistakes and even a marital failure, and a career in teaching not in the pastorate, the Lord’s always been there, helping, forgiving, guiding. As a pastor told me some 54 years ago, Your sins are on the Cross, but your failures as well, and now because of Easter you can go forward and help others who are struggling with similar issues.
This has happened countless times, mostly in jails and half-way houses or recovery centers. But am I truly, completely, converted? No, I’m a work in progress. Case in point: Recently I was leaving Halsema Highway when a young man ran up to me, and handed me my wallet. “Sir, did you drop this?” “Oh yes, thank you, I appreciate it!”
Then I looked inside of it, to see if I had a 20 peso note to reward him with, and to see if the 100 P. bills were still there! I should immediately have given him 100 pesos, butI did not love your neighbor as myself. (The Holy Spirit convicted me.) I’m thus still a sinner—but forgiven: my sins and failures, are on the Cross, as are those of all who simply turn to Him in faith and repentance, and ask Him in as Lord and Savior.
You don’t need to have your head dunked in the toilet to have your sins washed away; The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. (I John 1: 7) You just need to realize, with St. Augustine, “You have made us for yourself, Oh Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.” (See the end of Matt. 11)
This is the heart of what turns us around, which is conversion. “The kindness of God leads to repentance,” says Paul in Romans 2.