God wants us to experience His promises to satisfy our deepest needs. “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who trusts in Him!” (Psalm 34:8). Jesus promised that those who test what He says will find it to be true: “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17).
History is filled with testimonies of changed lives, from cannibals and slave traders to musicians, philosophers, scientists, and writers.
One powerful point to bring up, as you discuss the certainty and truth of God’s Word, is a long history of changing lives.One powerful point to bring up, as you discuss the certainty and truth of God’s Word, is a long history of changing lives. Millions of people, both famous and obscure, have been taken captive by the Word of God. It has changed them, and they have come to depend on its words in the same way that Christ’s twelve disciples and modern Christians disciples do. This faith in the Scriptures is not a newfangled phenomenon.
To bolster your claims, it would be helpful to learn a few of these famous names. Many of these Christian converts are names that a great many people already know about, whether from history, literature, or science. By sharing their salvation testimony, you can show what really transformed them to the point that their lives are still studied today.
The testimonies of many of these famous people were collected in a book by J. F. Weishampel, Sr., The Testimony of a Hundred Witnesses (1858), if you want to read them in their own words. The language is sometimes a bit archaic, but the messages are powerful. Another good, contemporary source is the archive of articles published in the now-defunct magazine Christian History (www.christianhistorytimeline.com).
This early church father, said to be a disciple of the apostle John, was martyred during one of the Roman persecutions at the age of 86; the events, reliably recorded in the Martyrdom of Polycarp, are the beginning of a long tradition of Christian martyr stories.
By any standards, Augustine is one of the giants of ancient civilization. Formerly a pagan philosopher, he converted to Christ and became a Christian leader and writer.
John Wycliffe (c. 1328–1384).
Wycliff was a leading English scholar of the 1300s who lost his post when he openly condemned false teaching of the medieval church; he used his free time to translate the first English Bible.
John Huss (1369–1415).
John Huss was a medieval peasant in Bohemia who became a scholar, then a preacher. When he came to understand the full meaning of the gospel, he spoke openly and was eventually burned at the stake for his biblical views.
Martin Luther (1483–1546).
Luther was a German monk so oppressed by his sins that he could find no comfort until God made clear the blessing that we are justified by faith, not works. For his views he was sentenced to die, but he never quit fighting despite this condemnation hanging over him for his entire life.
Hugh Latimer (c. 1487–1555).
Hugh Latimer was one of the faithful preachers who willingly gave his life under the reign of Bloody Mary rather than renounce his belief in the gospel. His famous words to his friend Ridley, as they were dying in the flames: “Be of good comfort, Mr. Ridley, and play the man! We shall this day light such a candle by God's grace, in England, as I trust never shall be put out.”
John Bunyan (1628–1688).
John Bunyan was a foul-mouthed, poorly educated English youth who was marvelously converted and became a preacher. Jailed for his preaching, he wrote what became one of the greatest bestsellers of the English world, Pilgrim’s Progress, as well as one of the most-read autobiographies, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners.
John Wesley (1703–1791).
John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church, is an example of someone who grew up in a Christian home and went out to serve Christ without really knowing Him as Savior. While on a mission trip to the Americas he began to see his own need, and upon his return, God used a reading of Martin Luther’s commentary on Romans to settle the matter for him.
John Newton (1725–1807).
This slave trafficker in Africa was wondrously converted from his wicked lifestyle and eventually became an Anglican preacher. He is known worldwide for “the most often sung testimony of all time”—the hymn Amazing Grace.
Fanny Crosby (1820–1915).
Blinded by a doctor’s quack treatment of her eye infection as a young girl, Fanny Crosby nevertheless resisted bitterness and trusted Christ’s mercy. She became a teacher and then wrote many popular American songs and more than 8,000 hymns, many of which are still sung in churches worldwide today. Examples include “Blessed Assurance,” “All the Way My Savior Leads Me,” and “Praise Him, Praise Him.”
William Booth (1828–1912).
The son of a builder who became bankrupt, Booth was converted at age 15, began to preach to the poor, and had a worldwide influence by founding the charitable outreach called the Salvation Army.
C. H. Spurgeon (1834–1892).
Saved as a 15-year-old, deeply convicted about his sinful heart, Spurgeon gave his life to preaching. Known as the Prince of Preachers, it is estimated that 10 million people heard him during his lifetime, and his thousands of sermons have been translated and distributed worldwide.
D. L. Moody (1837–1899).
A poverty-stricken young shoe salesmen in Boston was converted when the Sunday school teacher at his uncle’s church came to talk to him at the store. He later moved to Chicago, where he went to the poor children in the streets to bring them to his Sunday school and to Christ. Despite his poor education, he eventually became a preacher and international evangelist. An estimated million people confessed faith in Christ during his lifelong evangelistic efforts.
C.S. Lewis (1898–1963).
This atheist scholar was converted and recorded his experience in Surprised by Joy. He became a widely read Christian author, producing works like The Screwtape Letters and The Chronicles of Narnia.
Jim Elliot (1927–1956).
Even non-Christians are familiar with stories of missionaries who have given their lives in service of Christ, such as David Livingston. The most well-known modern missionary is probably Jim Elliot, who was killed by the Aucas in Ecuador. His journal entry is often quoted: “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”