Within the vocabulary of salvation, there are a few key words that we need to have an accurate understanding of and we’ll be covering a good number of them throughout this blog series. We’ll narrow in on only one of those Gospel words today…
If you’ve been in church any number of years, you’ve heard the term. Gospel preachers and teachers proclaim the truth of Gods Word with prayerful hope that it takes place. As a matter of fact, if you’ve bowed your knee to THE Sovereign God and have received His Salvation…well…you’ve got firsthand experience with this Gospel Word.
Throughout Scripture, the term “conversion” is employed either directly or in directly.
“The instruction of the Lord is perfect, converting one’s life” Psalm 19:7
“Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You” Psalm 51:12-13
The Greek Word translated “conversion” speaks to the twofold change that takes place in an individual. One of those changes has to do with “repentance” (which is a turning from) and the other with faith (which is a turning to). Conversion is impossible without these two aspects.
So Let’s take a moment to understand these two attributes of conversion so we can better appreciate the transformational change that Jesus makes in those who believe, called “converts”.
First of all, lets deal with repentance (Greek, metanonia)
There are a lot of misconceptions as to what repentance IS so lets begin by first looking at what repentance IS NOT.
Repentance IS NOT….
*Reformation- repentance cannot be defined as simply “turning over a new leaf”
*Remorse – simply being sorrowful is not repentance
Think about Esau “He found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears” (Heb 12:7 and for full background on this read Genesis 27)
*Penitence – repentance is not the attempt to make up for the wrongs committed through good works
What repentance is – the voluntary and sincere change in mind of the sinner that causes him to turn from his sin
It should be noted here that I wrote sin and not sins. repentance as it relates to Salvation involved the turning from one specific sin, the previous rejection of Christ. Jesus made this very clear for us in John 16:7-11…
“Nevertheless, I am telling you the truth. It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send Him to you. When He comes, He will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment: About sin, because they do not believe in Me; about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see Me; and about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged”
Point is, when talking about repentance as it pertains to the Gospel of Salvation, God is not primarily interested in convincing a sinner to give up cursing, smoking or illicit sex, as bad as these things may be, for doing so will not ultimately save him. His great sin which will in time condemn him forever is the sin of rejecting Jesus Christ as the Messiah. So repentance concerning salvation deals with the horrible rebellion of spurning Jesus.
One of the great themes of the New Testament is the call to true repentance….
“Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Matthew 9:13
“No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well!” Luke 13:5
“Therefore repent and turn back, so that your sins may be wiped out, that seasons of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” Acts 3:19
True, Biblical cannot take place without true Biblical repentance. In order to be saved from the just wrath of God, one must turn from his rejection of Jesus as Messiah…but that’s only the 1st aspect of conversion.
You see, even the demons of hell understand that Jesus is who He says He is says He is…they believe…yet are not converted. In James 2:19 we find that “The demons also believe—and they shudder”. So here we find that it’s possible for a man to intellectually believe that Jesus is the Messiah (repenting or turning from his previous unbelief) and still be unconverted. What is it that completes his conversion then?
The Answer is Faith.
When we’re talking faith, we’re not talking about a blind leap into the dark, speculation or even supposition. We’re talking about a voluntary and sincere change in the mind of a sinner causing him to TURN TO a Savior.
Biblical and authentic Conversion is not only turning from the sin of rejecting Christ as Savior (repentance) but it’s also turning to Christ as Savior (Faith).
The Apostle Paul deals with both of these conversion essentials when he says, “I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus” Acts 20:21
He also addresses how this faith is produced in Romans 10:17 “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ“. The author of the Book of Hebrews carries this thought even further, explaining why faith is necessary, “Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him” Hebrews 11:6.
Long story short, conversion is absolutely necessary for a person to cross the line from death to life but make no mistake, conversion is incomplete without both repentance and faith. It’s a false conversion if we’ve not turned from the rejection of Christ and turned to an embracing of Him as Savior.
The GOSPEL (good news) of Conversion is the fact that it is Gods will that all are converted and He both initiates conversion and enables us to be converted.
How Does He Initiate Conversion?
The clearest verse on God’s drawing to salvation is John 6:44 where Jesus declares that “no one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.” The Greek word translated “draw” is helkuo which means “to drag” (literally or figuratively). Clearly, this drawing is a one-sided affair. God does the drawing to salvation; we who are drawn have a passive role in the process. There is no doubt that we respond to His drawing us, but the drawing itself is all on His part.
Why does God need to draw us to salvation? Simply put, if He didn’t, we would never come. Jesus explains that no man can come unless the Father draws him (John 6:65) The natural man has no ability to come to God, nor does he even have the desire to come. Because his heart is hard and his mind is darkened, the unregenerate person not only doesn’t desire God, but is actually an enemy of God (Romans 5:10).
How Does He Enable Us To Become Converts?
First, the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sinful state and our need for a Savior (John 16:8) Second, He awakens in us a previously unknown interest in spiritual things and creates a desire for them that was never there before. Suddenly our ears are open, our hearts are inclined toward Him, and His Word begins to hold a fascination for us that is new and exciting. Our spirit begins to discern spiritual truth that never made sense to us before because we were in a natural state: “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1st Cor 2:14). Finally, we begin to discern new desires which He has created within us. He places within us a new heart that inclines toward Him, a heart that desires to know Him, to obey Him and to walk in the “newness of life” (Romans 6:4) which He has promised.
Ultimately, in order for true conversion to take place God gives us something that we simply do not posses in and of ourselves…faith to believe. Faith to believe is a gift from God, “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift” Ephesians 2:8
In conclusion….I know this post was a tad lengthy. But that’s ok because the subject of conversion is so radically important….so life and death. There is simply no middle ground concerning it as you’re either a convert to Christ or you’re not. Would you take a moment and think deeply about your own spiritual life? Have you truly turned from sin and to the Savior? Is repentance and faith the hallmark of your profession? I pray so. If not, today is the day of Salvation.
As always, if you have any questions, that’s what we are here for.
Soli Deo Gloria! – Pastor Kyle