When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God, saying, “So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.”
Acts 11:18 (NIV)
What a blessing when God gives us the gift of repentance, when he enables us to be able to turn from our own ways and our self-absorption with our lives, and turn to him. It’s the same for all of us – we turn our spiritual footsteps 180 degrees around. But the Holy Spirit accomplishes this move in each of us differently. He works with each of us individually according to our background, our personality, our understanding, and our culture.
For example, the turnaround was dramatic when God intervened in Paul’s life. He was on his way to Damascus to arrest anybody who followed Jesus and bring them back as prisoners to Jerusalem, when suddenly a blinding light from heaven flashed around, and he found himself on the ground having a conversation with Jesus. (Acts 9).
It was very different for C S Lewis. He wrote that one day he was travelling on a bus. At the start of the journey he was an atheist. When he got off, he believed in God. But that didn’t make him a Christian. However, two years later he was being driven by his brother to Whipsnade Zoo, ‘When we set out I did not believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and when we reached the zoo I did. Yet I had not exactly spent the journey in thought. Nor in great emotion.’ What a contrast to Paul’s conversion.
Not long ago I was talking to an acquaintance in a café. She told me that she was brought up in the church, but marriage, children and business took hold of her life and she forgot about God. Many years later, retired and with the children grown, she was in London, at Victoria Station, and heard the voice over the tannoy announce: ‘Mind the gap!’ There are many stations in London where you can hear that warning and with good reason, as there are large gaps between the trains and the platform.
But as she stood there, surrounded by people hustling and bustling by, it seemed that it was personal for her: you have created that gap between yourself and God. It hit her hard, in a way that only the Holy Spirit can. She heeded that wake-up call, she returned to her God and she returned to her brothers and sisters, and came back to church.
Dramatically, or quietly on a car journey, or very privately, surrounded by the bustle of a major national railway station – that’s just three different ways the Holy Spirit uses his power to bring us to Christ.
Father, our loving triune God, we thank and praise you for your care and how you come to each of us personally and reach our hearts and turn us around to Christ, through the power of the Spirit. Amen.
Study by Hilary Buck
About the writer:
Hilary Buck is a minister and pastors the Lewes congregation of Grace Communion International.
Grace Communion in Lewes
The House of Friendship
208 High Street
Sunday 11:00 am
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