I was converted to saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ fifty-six years ago in January 1957. I had good parents and a stable home but neither my parents, nor I, nor my younger sister Ann, had any true knowledge of God before that date. My religious life amounted to saying private prayers in bed at night before going to sleep. Church attendance, family worship, grace before eating our meals was no part of our life.About the age of fifteen I, along with two other boys whom I was friendly with, started to attend a local church in Sale, Cheshire, where we were brought up. I do not think I heard the gospel preached there, but I am sure some of the church people we met there were true believers.A friend of my mother’s from her childhood occasionally visited our home. We referred to her as ‘Auntie’, though she was not really a relative. This lady was, I now believe, a real Christian. She was unmarried and lived at some distance from us, but she never failed to send a gift to me as a child on my birthday. I remember once, when I was quite young, seeing her coming into a room of our house. Her face was bright with Christian love. I remarked on this to myself. But I did not yet know what it was that made her different and put a godly shine on her face.
University Christian Union
The significant period of my life was the time when I started to study at university. In the goodness of God I there met another student, one who was a true believer and who was preparing for the work of the Christian ministry. He was a young Welshman from South Wales. This student befriended me and introduced me to the university Christian Union. Here I met enthusiastic young believers who loved Christ and looked on the Bible as God’s inspired Word. All this was new to me.
As I look back I can see that God began to strive with me in December of 1956. I was conscious of an influence on my conscience and mind convicting me of my need to put God’s will first in my life and to turn my back on worldly pleasures. In this state of mind I read through a little copy of John’s Gospel in the course of one or two nights while at home with my parents. In January 1957 I was back at university and I was now under the powerful strivings of God’s Holy Spirit.
The crisis came during a lecture at the university. I was in class trying to take notes. But I was in a state of spiritual distress. In this troubled state of mind I prayed silently to God. As I did so a few words from the Bible came into my mind: ‘All things work together for good to them that love God’ (Rom. 8:28). As I did not then know my Bible I have since wondered how these words came to my memory. It was the goodness of God.
A Difficult Decision
A difficult decision now faced me. I can to this day recall the strain and stress of it. I needed to put certain things out of my life. I needed to put God first. But what would my friends say? Would they not scoff at me? Here, I do not hesitate to say, was the crucial moment in life. It was a time of agony and of decision. The issues of that decision-time were of eternal importance. The pull of the world and of worldly people was very strong. I think as I look back now that this was the most crucial hour in my life. Whom would I serve: God or Mammon? Which course would I take: to heaven or to hell?
Those who have experienced a Christian conversion know the struggle which I refer to. I was eighteen at the time and I had no knowledge of how others before me had gone through the same critical experience. The heart is pulled in two opposite directions. The emotions are placed under strain. Tears, fears and uncertainties all tear at the soul of one who is under conviction of sin.
By the grace of God I found strength to deny my carnal love of the world and to take up Christ’s cross. But it was a most difficult decision to make. By the end of January 1957 I had come through the worst of my struggle. 1 did not as yet have full assurance of salvation. That came later. But I was able, on returning home for a brief visit, to say to my father, ‘I have become a Christian’. It was not an easy thing for me to say. But he received the words with fatherly kindness. Some time later I asked permission in the family to read the Bible to my parents and to my dear sister. This was granted and I was able from now on to conduct Family Worship in the home.
Mother was, I believe, the first in the family to be converted after me. I had left the dead church earlier referred to and now met with serious Bible-believing Christians. Then my sister Ann came to know the Lord. Some years after, our father, who had attended a good church in later life along with mother, wrote a lovely letter to me to say he now believed in Christ as his Saviour. O God of grace, how good thou art! All in the family were now safely in Christ. My sister later married a lovely Christian minister and they served abroad as missionaries for several years.
After five years of teaching in an English grammar school I married and went with my wife Sandra to live in, and later near, Edinburgh. After a further few years as a teacher I trained in the Free Church of Scotland College and entered the ministry. For almost twenty years we served in the lovely town of Ayr. Then, for some sixteen years, in Inverness.
One Thing Matters
I can testify that those who give their life to God will be given their heart’s desire. One thing matters in life: to get safely to heaven. What is the big change which people feel when they are converted to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ? Of course, there are many changes. In a sense everything changes when you come to know the Lord Jesus as your own personal Saviour. Your ambition now is not for things in this life, but to glorify God and to look forward to eternal life with God in heaven forever.
But let me emphasise one big change in a person’s life after conversion. It is to try to win others also to come to believe in Jesus Christ. The gospel is such wonderful good news that we cannot keep it to ourselves. We must tell others so that they may enjoy the love of God as we have experienced it. I am able to testify that to win a soul to Christ is a wonderful experience.
Through the great kindness of God I have had this experience a number of times. I have seen lives changed for the better through the gospel of Christ. When one person in a family is converted it can lead to others also being brought to Christ. A few words spoken about the need to be ‘born again’ can be blessed to several members of a family, so that new life enters into several family members within a few short months. Brothers and sisters, parents and children, husbands and wives can all rejoice together — just through a simple presentation of Christ’s powerful gospel: ‘Ye must be born again’ (John 3:7).
If I may, as one who is now an older Christian, let me offer friendly advice. I would urge all who believe in Jesus to spread the gospel by all lawful means. When travelling by bus, plane or train try to engage the person next to you in conversation. Begin with everyday things and move on to the gospel. Tell them your testimony perhaps. Or else offer them a little New Testament. (It is good practice to carry one or two New Testaments with you as you travel around.)
God can bless a few simple gospel truths to people in such conversations. He has shown us how to do this in the wonderful life of Christ. At the well mentioned in John’s Gospel chapter 4 Jesus begins by asking the Samaritan lady for a drink of water and ends up by telling her that he is the long- awaited Jewish Messiah! The woman, whose life was stained by many a sin, came to a saving knowledge of Christ there and then. And it did not stop there. She forgot her water-pot in her enthusiasm to tell others what she had found!
People today have lost the church-going habits of the past. But if we know Jesus Christ for ourselves we can take the gospel to them in this simple every-day manner. Who knows the good that may come of a few kindly-spoken gospel words to a fellow-traveller? Those who win souls are wise, says God (Prov. 11:30). They will get their reward eternally in heaven.