Monday, July 4, 2011

what I learned from stories of spiritual transformation

A couple of weekends ago I read an entire book of stories of people who were not followers of Jesus who then became followers of Jesus.  I'm trying to understand more about what that looks like and how people go from spiritual death to spiritual life.  I know that there are things about it that are not fully understandable, but I've only seen it happen 10-15 times.  I wanted more information. 

So as I was reading, I made a list of some of the things that the stories had in common and I thought that I'd list them here.

Prayer.  Every single story referenced Christians who had been praying for the new believer's salvation.  Every single one.  I'm sure that not everyone who is prayed for ends up following Jesus, but it doesn't seem like it ever happens without prayer.

Loving engagement with Christians.  All the stories also had the involvement of Christians who acted in love toward the new believers.  Many times they were sharing life with each other, and many times the Christians asked thought-provoking questions to the new believers.  Sometimes it was attending a church service where the interaction with Christians happened, but often the new believers met these Christians outside of church and didn't attend church at all before becoming followers of Jesus.

Engagement with Scripture.  I think the woman who used to be an atheist said it best.  She had been challenged to read the Bible.  She had read parts of it years before, apparently, but she started reading it again, from the beginning.  She said that as she was reading the Bible, "the Bible read me."  The Holy Spirit is clearly involved with illuminating Scripture, and she was convicted and challenged and invited into relationship with Jesus.

Stories about transformation through Christ.  For one person, the stories of how God had transformed others was the catalyst for that person's own willingness to seek transformation through Christ.

Dreams.  This one didn't happen a lot, but for some people, dreams where Jesus appears and presents an invitation can be a very powerful and life-changing experience.  This happens a lot in countries that are steeped in spiritual darkness or where there appears to be a lot of demonic activity.  The reason I'm mentioning it is because I think it is sometimes a good thing to pray for--that Jesus will appear to someone in a dream.

I'm sure that I could've read a book that would've outlined all these things as "important steps" or "things you can do" to help people get to know Jesus.  But the power for me of reading it in story form is that everyone's story is different.  I don't think there's a set way of going about spiritual transformation.  So much of it depends on the work of the Holy Spirit and where the person is at anyway.  But I do think that there are some things that we can aim for - like praying for others, always acting in love toward people, telling stories about how Christ has transformed us, and introducing people to Scripture at an appropriate time.

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