What is Christian Conversion?

Lesson 8, Introduction

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Introduction

In this lesson we examine the process by which our lives can be turned to God—the process of conversion.

We will learn what Peter meant when he exhorted his countrymen, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out …” (Acts 3:19). We examine how, beginning with repentance, new converts can turn from a life of sin to become servants of the living God. What does it mean to be converted? By the middle of the 20th century hundreds of millions of people had been politically converted to the atheistic way of life promoted by the Communist Party. The widespread adoption and conversion to communism’s social and political ideals made it one of the most powerful belief systems in history. But conversion to that belief system led people away from God rather than drawing them to Him. This should teach us a lesson: Not all conversions are God-inspired. Zealous advocates of almost all ideologies, philosophies and religions regularly attempt to convert others to their own way of thinking. Wanting to convert others to a different way of life can be a noble aspiration. But who has the right or the authority to decide which way of life is best? That right belongs exclusively to the Creator God. As our Maker, He alone can determine the standards we must follow if we are to live in peace and harmony with each other.

God's Commitment to Change Our Nature

Only God can give us the power to rightly manage our thoughts and attitudes and resist the temptations that surround us.

God very much wants us to become converted—to be one of His converts. He wants us not only to learn but to practice His way of life—to become sincerely and thoroughly committed to it. He promises us His help if we willingly follow His instructions. Through His Spirit He will empower us to “put on the new man which [is] created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24, emphasis added throughout). His purpose is to change us, to convert us from the inside, from the heart. When one addressed Jesus Christ as “Good Teacher,” He responded: “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God” (Matthew 19:16-17). His point was that God is the only source of righteous character, not that something was wrong with Jesus’ own character. If we are not naturally good, then how do we become righteous in the eyes of God? Jesus supplies the answer: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance” (Mark 2:17). 

The Bible explains why mankind so desperately needs spiritual healing. It also explains how that healing can come about. It reveals God’s efforts to heal the character defects we generally label as human nature. It begins by showing how humanity became spiritually ill. It ends with spiritually healed human beings inheriting eternal life as the children of God. In the Bible we find details of God’s resolve to save us from the spiritual malaise that has plagued us throughout history. It explains the source of our behavioral and spiritual problems. It contrasts God’s divine nature with our human nature and describes His plan to change some of our most basic attitudes and responses to life’s everyday situations. It reveals God’s commitment—expressed in His “exceedingly great and precious promises”—to make us “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4).

Two major factors shape all that is wrong with human nature. First is the fundamental weakness inherent in our fleshly body and mind. Our thoughts and emotions are directly linked to our fleshly impulses and desires. We are born with them. But we are born with neither the knowledge nor the power to properly manage them. Second, our natural impulses and desires are often affected and even manipulated by external pressures. Adverse influences arise from many sources—familial, educational, recreational, cultural and spiritual, to name a few. But they have one thing in common: They tempt our basic instincts and desires. Our parents can teach us valuable spiritual knowledge, especially if their understanding is based on the standards and values of God. But only our Creator can give us the power to rightly manage our thoughts and attitudes and resist the temptations that bombard us. Therefore the process of becoming righteous is a miraculous process that requires the direct and active intervention of God. First He calls us by opening our minds to understand the Scriptures. Then He begins turning our lives around—if we willingly respond to His calling and cooperate with Him.

What is Conversion?

In this lesson we examine the process by which our lives can be turned to God—the process of conversion.

The word conversion, as we use it in religious circles today, usually implies the acceptance of a religious belief system. But the fundamental biblical meaning is “to turn”—usually to turn to God. This, of course, brings up a crucial question: What do we turn away from when we to turn to God; what do we set aside when we are converted? Or, in different words, why do we need conversion? What separates us from God in the first place? The prophet Isaiah gives us the answer: “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2). The apostle John adds: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves …” (1 John 1:8). To receive blessings and other help from God, we must turn to Him—recognizing and turning from our sins. Jesus commissioned the apostle Paul to go to the gentiles and “open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me” (Acts 26:18). Christ’s instruction to Paul provides us with a brief outline of how converts are added to His spiritual body, “the church of God” (1 Corinthians 1:2). Each new convert must turn away from Satan’s ways by turning to the ways of God. Each must accept and respond to God’s terms and conditions for the forgiveness of sin. In this lesson we examine the process by which our lives can be turned to God—the process of conversion. We will learn what Peter meant when he exhorted his countrymen, “Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out …” (Acts 3:19). We examine how, beginning with repentance, new converts can turn from a life of sin to become servants of the living God.

A Reminder

As we suggested in previous lessons, we encourage you to look up, in your own Bible, all the scriptural references mentioned but not directly quoted in this lesson.

We include them for your benefit, to add to your understanding of this crucial subject. You can also enhance your understanding by looking up the scriptural references that are quoted in the lesson. This will help you build the habit of learning how each passage is used in its original context. If you have questions not answered in the lesson, you may contact us either through E-mail or the postal system. Members of our staff will do their best to answer them.

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