A profound description of true conversion experience

Posted: February 28, 2012 in Evangelism, Life, Me and God, Me and people, The Bible, The Church

What does it mean to be ‘born again’? How can one know whether he or she has experienced a true conversion?

I recently came across the autobiography of E Stanley Jones. A missionary to India in the early 1900’s who described in a very sublime and poetic way, his conversion experience.

He states that as a child, he thought he was saved because he dressed up to go to church. However, further he realized: “…I had unwittingly run into the central problem in religion—the problem of the self-assertive self”. Later when he was about ten years old, he had a second experience in which he “felt he needed to repent and seek God” and “prayed the prayer”… and he thought then he was born again. Nevertheless, as he recounts: “I wasn’t. I felt religious for a few weeks, and then it all faded out and I was back again exactly where I was before, the springs of my character and my habit formation unchanged. I had been horizontally converted, but not vertically. I was outwardly in, but not inwardly in. It was a sorry impasse. I could have lived out my life on that level the balance of my days, a cancelled-out person, neither here nor there”.
Finally, when he was around twelve years old, he writes that he met an evangelist who was “a converted alcoholic, on fire with God’s love” and Jones thought to himself: “I want what he has”. He continues: ”This time I was deadly serious. I was not to be put off by catch phrases and slogans. I wanted the real thing or nothing. No halfway houses for me; I wanted my home”. After three days of deep fervent seeking and asking God in prayer, and meditating on John 3:16, he knelt down and made what he calls “the sincerest prayer I had prayed so far in my life: ‘O Jesus, save me tonight’…and He did”.

This is how so poetically, profoundly and conspicuously Biblically, E Stanley Jones described his later experience in 7 ways: (text on ‘[ ]’ are my personal comments)

What had really happened? I said that “a tiny ray of light had pierced my darkness.” In that ray of light, as in all light, were seven colors blended—three primary, the rest secondary.
1. A sense of forgiveness and reconciliation with God, with life, with my brothers, with myself. The universe seemed to open its arms and take me in. The parable of the prodigal son was reenacted in my setting. [see: Colossians 1:13-14]
2. A sense of being at home in my homeland. I did not try to make myself at home in my new condition and position—I was at home. This was my native land. This had the feeling of a homecoming upon it. This is where I belonged. [see: Ephesians 2:19]
3. A sense of purpose, direction, and goal. I had been a raft, tossed by storms and waves of meaningless emotion. Now I had been taken aboard a great liner that was going somewhere, with some goal, with power to move on to that goal. A woman in one of our Ashrams asked: “Is there anyone here with a car going anywhere?” Well, I didn’t want to go “anywhere.” I had a goal and power to move on to that goal. [see: Ephesians 2:10]
4. A sense of not being alone. I had Another who knew and understood me perfectly and was always with me. In spite of knowing me, He loved me. I was loved, and I was giving love. I was no longer preoccupied with myself. My entire being went out in gratitude and love to Another. My self absorbed me no longer. That was the greatest emancipation. With it came a sense of caring. I began to think of and care for others. [see: Matthew 28:20]
5. A sense of being a person. My total being was awakened and coordinated and fulfilled. One man said: “I’m not a man; I’m a menagerie.” I was a menagerie too, growling with passions, in a state of tension. But now I was at peace with myself and respected myself as a person. My whole being was awakened, including my mind. [see: 2 Corinthians 5:17]
6. A sense of wholeness. Fragmentation was over. Life was pulled into central meanings and purposes around a single Center. [see: 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24; Colossians 1:16-17]
7. A sense of grace. How did this happen to me? I felt so undeserving and so unworthy, and yet it was mine! I found myself going off in solitude and reading my New Testament, and when I came across a verse which spoke of him, I found myself reverently pressing my lips to that verse. The people in the synagogue “wondered at the words which fell from his lips.” I did too. And the wonder has turned into a life of wonder. I gaze at him and wonder and wonder until my knees bend in gratitude. But I’m soon up on my feet again with a compulsion, a divine compulsion to share this with everyone, everywhere. [see: 1 Peter 4:10; Matthew 28:19-20]

These seven colors of the light that pierced my darkness are a part of that light and only a part, for the light comprehends them; but the light is much more.

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