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Sunday, 13 July 2014

Conversion

Acclaimed as ruler of Britain and Gaul  after his father's death in 306,  Constantine The Great was battling with Maxentius over control of the entire Roman Western Empire. He decided to settle the matter by force and on the afternoon before the Battle of Milvian, as he was about to cross the Alps, he observed a cross of light superimposed on the sun. On it were the words “In this sign you shall conquer.” The emperor related this to the Christian God and ordered his men to go into battle with the sign of the cross painted on their shields and standards. The battle was won, Constantine’s conversion was sealed.

Vladimir the Great of Russia (c. 958 – July 15, 1015) was confronted with the choice of converting Russia to Christianity or to Islam. He eventually chose Christianity, because of Islamic teaching on alcohol, saying, "Drinking is the joy of all Rus'. We cannot exist without that pleasure."

In 1204 whilst on a military campaign St Francis (1182-1226) had a dream, where God appeared to him and said, "Francis I want you to fight my campaigns instead ". He returned home and gave up his playboy lifestyle and determined, despite all the ridicule, to follow the new course that God has planned for him.

The first American conversion to Christianity was a native Indian guide in 1540.

After his conversion to Christianity in 1654, Blaise Pascal inscribed his testimony on a piece of parchment which he sewed onto his coat. For eight years Pascal hid this story of his salvation sewing and unsewing as he had need. After he died a Servant found it. The parchment in his jacket said "The year of Grace 1654, Monday Nov 23rd... from about half past ten in the evening until half past 12, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the Philosophers and Scholars. Certainty, feeling, joy and peace God of Jesus Christ... I have separated myself from him, I have fled from him, renounced him, crucified him, may I never be separated from him... renunciation total and sweet. "

Originally a High Anglican, who led a footloose and fancy free life, John Bunyan’s heart was first touched whilst playing tipcat, when he heard a voice saying “Wilt thou leave thy sins and go to Heaven or have thy sins and go to Hell?” Later he noticed four old women sitting at a door in the sun talking about new birth, the work of God on their hearts and of their own righteousness as too defiled to do them good. They spoke with “such pleasantness of Scripture language” Bunyan’s heart began to shake.

Bunyan's Christian wife introduced him to two religious works, Bayley’s Practice of Piety and Dent’s Plain Man’s Pathway to Heaven, which Bunyan duly read.  He describes his conversion thus: “One day as I was travelling into the country, musing on the wickedness of my heart and considering the enmity that was in me to God, the Scripture came to mind, 'He hath made peace, through the blood of the Cross.' I saw that the justice of God and my sinful soul could embrace and kiss each other. I was ready to swoon, not with grief and trouble, but with joy and peace.”

Charles Wesley wrote O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing, to celebrate the first anniversary of his conversion from High Church to Evangelical.on Whit Sunday 1738. It was inspired by a Moravian friend Peter Bohler, who had remarked to him, "If I had a thousand tongues I would praise Christ with them all." The words set the poet's heart aglow and to celebrate the anniversary he wrote the hymn.

Charles Finney (1792-1875) was the leading American evangelist of the first half of the nineteenth century and one of the leaders of the second Great Awakening. It is estimated that his preaching was responsible for the conversion of over half a million Americans.

C. S. Lewis converted while riding to a zoo in his brother's motorcycle side car. "When we set out I did not believe that Jesus is the Son of God," he said, "and when we reached the zoo I did."

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