As the church, we don’t simply have a social or religious interest in conversion. Our understanding of conversion is essential to our concept of Christianity.
In fact, “conversion” isn’t considered civil in our politically correct world—it smacks of intolerance.
And, more often than not, we tend to think of ourselves on a spectrum of spirituality. After all, we’re all spiritual beings. But some of the most supposedly “spiritual people” in today’s time have admitted they don’t know and have not seen God.
Yet the Bible says that people throughout history have known God. How is this relationship possible?
What is conversion?
“Conversion” literally means “to turn.” It is the act of turning from sin and turning to Christ in faith.
At conversion, Christ becomes the center of our universe, the source, the purpose, the goal, and the motivation of all that we are and do. Conversion isn’t like a multiple choice question in which you can check Jesus as Savior, but pass over His lordship
Conversion is a work that God begins and perfects. It is for His sake that He begins the work & for His praise that He sees it through. Conversion is a miraculous work of God that transforms a man’s nature, producing righteous affections that move him to keep God’s commands. Conversion is a supernatural and miraculous work whereby God changes the very heart of the sinner.
If the Gospel is grace alone–and it is–then every conversion is a miracle. Paul’s conversion is a great reminder that no one is beyond the reach of Jesus.
Conversion is distinguished from the rebirth Jesus talks about in John 3. We contribute nothing to our rebirth, but our God-given faculties are engaged in conversion.
How does conversion happen?
Thinking clearly about conversion will result in clear thinking on the Gospel.
1. We are called to repent of our sins and believe in Christ (Isaiah 30:15; Jeremiah 31:19; Matt. 3:2; Acts 3:19, 26:19-20; Romans 2:5; 2 Pet. 3:9, etc.). This thread is consistent between the Old and New Testaments; a walking away from old ways in order to obey God. Faith is trust in Jesus’ ministry and work alone as the perfect Son of God. True repentance always accompanies saving faith.
2. If we are to be saved, God must give us the gifts of repentance and faith. God promises to write His Word on His people’s hearts in the Old and New Testaments. People give thanks to God for their conversion (Ephesians 2:1-10).
3. God uses means to give the gifts of repentance and faith. The fundamental means is the Gospel (John 17:20). The summary of Christian ministry is that “faith comes by hearing” (Rom. 10:17). Local churches help us apply the gospel to our lives through membership and discipline. These practices and doctrinal teaching, taken together, are indispensable.
Why is conversion important?
1. For our church. Membership is a local church’s external affirmation of a person’s spiritual conversion. This is why we have high expectations of each other in biblical church membership. If you are a member of our church, we assume that you are sorry for your sins and want to grow in Christ. This is a key point in determining how apparently and overtly exclusive we should be as a local body of believers.
2. For our own assurance. 2 Corinthians 13:5 reminds us that we must shed any sense of cultural Christianity and examine ourselves. The evidence that a man has truly repented unto salvation is that he continues repenting throughout the full course of his life, not that a person simply “prayed a prayer” and got his or her “Jesus flu shot.”
2 Peter 1 and the entire book of 1 John says that struggling believers can have assurance that their salvation is secure. Enjoy a full sense of what your conversion means. If you struggle in this area, recall what God has already done, how your heart stands affected before God, and what God has done in Christ.
3. For our identity. Perhaps you are not in a crisis of faith, but you have taken your identity in Christ for granted. When we are converted we become more fundamentally Christian than anything else we might have in common. Meditate on this amazing truth. And remember: Biblical assurance is not based merely upon an examination of our conversion, but also upon an examination of our life from that moment on.
4. For non-Christians. If you don't yet believe, know this: Paradise was lost at the beginning of the world. Yet God had drafted a plan of redemption before the very foundation of the world! And, what’s more, understanding conversion is essential to obeying God’s call to repent and believe. One will not seek salvation until he knows that he is lost—he will not flee to Christ until he knows that there is no other Savior. You are not beyond God’s reach; the Gospel is our hope for salvation. Christ has given himself for all those who repent and trust in Him. Will you repent and believe?
Our greatest need before conversion is the Gospel. Our greatest need after conversion is the Gospel.