Conversion

U-Turn

In the second recorded gospel sermon following the healing of the lame man, Peter told the crowd that had gathered, “Repent…and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3:19, KJV).

What is conversion? The dictionary would define this as a change in form, character, or function. In the New Testament, it refers to a change to follow Christ. In this article, we will notice three things that happen in our conversion – not only to see how conversion happens, but also to learn how to keep from reverting back to the world.

Change of Heart

When we have a change of heart we convert from unbelief to belief. Following His resurrection, Jesus told Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing” (John 20:27). Thomas had doubted the word of the other disciples that Jesus had risen from the dead. The Lord wanted him to be convinced of the truth. He wants us today to be “firmly rooted and…established in [our] faith” (Colossians 2:7).

Faith is essential if we are going to be saved. The Hebrew writer said, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). God has given us His word so that we can have faith (Romans 10:17). He does not expect us to have an irrational “faith,” but a reasonable faith. The Scriptures define faith as “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). If we believe in Christ, we can have life. Near the end of his gospel, John wrote, “These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31). This was the message the apostles taught. The Philippian jailer asked Paul and Silas, “‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household’” (Acts 16:30-31).

We must not allow our hearts to revert back to unbelief. The Hebrew writer warned, “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12). There is a danger that we can be taken “captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

To keep from reverting back to the world, we need regular encouragement from our brethren so that we will not be “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). We also need teaching from and study of the word of God which is to be the source of our faith (Romans 10:17).

Change of Life

When we have a change of life we convert from worldliness to righteousness. God calls us to “deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age” (Titus 2:12). We are to be “zealous for good deeds” (Titus 2:14). As Christians, we are not to live as we once did – “no longer for the lusts of men, but for the will of God” (1 Peter 4:2).

Repentance is necessary for salvation. Luke recorded this as part of the Great Commission: “That repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations” (Luke 24:47). This call to repent was taught by the apostles in carrying out the Great Commission (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30). However, it is not always easy to repent. It takes strong determination to do so. In Corinth, some brethren had been caught up in sins like adultery, homosexuality, and drunkenness; but they repented and left their old lives of sin (1 Corinthians 6:9-11). Paul described himself as the “foremost of all” sinners, yet he “found mercy” as he turned to follow Christ (1 Timothy 1:15-16; cf. Galatians 1:13, 22-23). Repentance is possible, but only if we have the determination to do so. If we do not repent and become different from the world, we are useless to the Lord. Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men” (Matthew 5:13).

We must not revert back to our old lives of sin. Paul wrote, “Our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin” (Romans 6:6). We are to “consider [ourselves] to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus” and “not let sin reign in [our] mortal body” (Romans 6:11-12). If we go back to the world after coming to Christ, we will be in a worse condition than we were before. Peter warned about this: “For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first” (2 Peter 2:20). The reason why the condition of the fallen Christian is “worse” is not because the future punishment will be worse, but because it is more difficult to repent after first knowing all of the benefits of following God and then rejecting them (Hebrews 6:4-6).

To keep from reverting back to the world, we must follow good examples – the example of Christ (1 Peter 2:21) and of our brethren who “walk according to the pattern” (Philippians 3:17). We must also practice the virtues that Peter said we must add to our faith because “as long as [we] practice these things, [we] will never stumble” (2 Peter 1:5-10).

Change of State

When we have a change of state we convert from being lost to being saved. We move “from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God” (Acts 26:18). Paul said that God “rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son” (Colossians 1:13).

The change from a lost state to a saved state comes at the point of baptism. Jesus said, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). It is helpful to notice the parallel statements in Peter’s first two sermons. First he said, “Repent, and…be baptized” (Acts 2:38). Next he said, “Repent…and be converted” (Acts 3:19). In these two passages, Peter taught that one is converted to Christ at the point in which he is baptized into Christ. We must meet all of God’s conditions for salvation – including belief, repentance, and confession (John 8:24; Luke 13:3, 5; Romans 10:9-10) – but we are saved by the “working of God” when we are “buried with Him in baptism” (Colossians 2:12). This is why baptism is likened to an appeal: “Baptism now saves you—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience” (1 Peter 3:21). When we are baptized, we are making an appeal to God to save us. God washes away our sins, converting us from a lost state to a saved state.

However, there is a danger that Christians can revert back to the state of being lost. It is possible for us to “come short” of the promised rest (Hebrews 4:1). Therefore, the Hebrew writer said, “Let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:11). The “once saved, always saved” doctrine is a comforting idea, but it is false. We can fall from grace and be lost (Galatians 5:4).

To keep from reverting back to the world, we must remember our commitment – that “good confession” that we made, vowing to “keep the commandment without stain or reproach” (1 Timothy 6:12-14). We must continually “press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

Conclusion

In order to be saved, we need to be converted – have a change of heart, life, and state. If you have not been converted, or have not been converted completely, now is the time for you to do that. If you have been converted, but have reverted back to the world, now is the time to return to the Lord.


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