Q. How many times can a person be born again?
Q. How many times can a person be converted?
A. Many times.
The Apostle Peter is an example of this. Although already born again, with God-given insight into the person of Christ (Matt. 16:17), Jesus told him that some time in the future he would be converted which would result in him being a strengthener of other believers (Luke 22:32).
R. C. Sproul is another example. Again, although born again, dramatically converted, and thoroughly changed in his desires and life, Sproul underwent a further subsequent conversion which was no less dramatic. In chapter 1 of The Holiness of God, he explains how in his early Christian life, “I knew who Jesus was, but God the Father was shrouded in mystery. He was hidden, an enigma to my mind and a stranger to my soul.”
While listening to a boring philosophy lecture in college, the teacher started explaining Augustine’s views on the creation of the world. The next several pages contain the most beautiful writing on God’s creation that I have ever read. Here’s a sample:
The first sound uttered in the universe was the voice of God commanding, “Let there be!”
The command created its own molecules to carry the sound waves of God’s voice farther and farther into space.
As soon as the words left the Creator’s mouth, things began to happen. Where his voice reverberated, stars appeared, glowing in unspeakable brilliance in temp with the song of angels. The force of divine energy splattered against the sky like a kaleidoscope of color hurled from the palette of a powerful artist. Comets crisscrossed the sky with flashing tails like Fourth of July skyrockets.
The Supreme architect gazed at His complex blueprint and shouted commands for the boundaries of the world to be set.
Then God stooped to earth and carefully fashioned a piece of clay. He lifted it gently to His lips and breathed into it. The clay began to move. It began to think. It began to feel. It began to worship. It was alive and stamped with the image of its Creator.
Sproul says he had always known that God created everything out of nothing; but it was when he realized how he did it that his whole view of God changed. He went from being a functional Unitarian to being a worshipping Trinitarian. He describes it as being converted not merely to God the Son, but to God the Father.
Suddenly I had a passion to know God the Father. I wanted to know Him in His majesty, to know Him in His power, to know Him in His august holiness.
It’s beautiful isn’t it! But what can we learn from Sproul’s second conversion? Here are five lessons.
1. Don’t rule out multiple conversions
We have so much to change in our lives, especially in our view of God, that we should not be surprised at subsequent “conversion-like” experiences where God enables us to take a quantum leap in our knowledge and understanding of God. We should be thankful for every such conversion.
2. Don’t seek multiple conversions
God normally works gradually not dramatically. We shouldn’t be worried if we’ve never had such a dramatic experience. The norm for most Christians is a slow gradual process of ongoing conversion in our God-view, self-view, and world-view. Seeking out the sensational or the dramatic is only going to disappoint and discourage.
3. Don’t make Sproul’s experience the norm
R. C. Sproul is a unique man with a unique ministry. Looking back, we now know that God had earmarked him to carry a radical message about the holiness of God to this generation of evangelicals who, like Sproul, were (and are) also guilty of a practical Unitarianism, or a Christo-monism. With that special ministry in view, God gave Him an overwhelming experience of His holiness that would flavor everything he would subsequently do, say, and write.
4. Use Sproul’s experience to challenge your faith
Although we shouldn’t make Sproul’s experience the norm, we should ask ourselves if we too have been guilty of practical unitarianism. Maybe we have focused almost exclusively upon Christ, with no real knowledge of or acquaintance with the Holy Father. If so, then Sproul’s experience should encourage us to ask God to show us His holiness, to reveal Himself to us through His Word. Who knows what might happen. Maybe the next R. C. Sproul is out there and about to be readied for a worldwide ministry.
5. True conversion will make us desire God
There are many spurious spiritual experiences that are nothing but sheer emotionalism, lasting only for a few minutes with no permanent spiritual fruit. But true spiritual experience results in a hunger for God and a passion to know Him, especially in His holiness.