December 4 — Converted From One Life Into Another
The term “conversion” is not new to most people, but what does it really mean? How do Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection become effective for us? Conversion requires less than we might initially be comfortable with, but more than we might initially realize.
The Essential Starting Point: Jesus is the Way
Read John 14:5-14
Jesus makes some definitive claims in these verses: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (v.6-7). Jesus is claiming to be the exclusive way to salvation and life in these verses. It is for these claims that C.S. Lewis developed his logical argument that Jesus must have been either “liar, lunatic, or Lord.” The resurrection is the definitive proof Jesus was exactly who He said He was: the Way the Truth, and the Life, the Lord.
Read Romans 10:9-13
Salvation is activated in our lives when we willfully and intentionally receive it for ourselves. Accepting first that Jesus is the only way by which we can have forgiveness for our sins, purpose for our lives, and a relationship with God for all eternity, we receive the gift of salvation. The moment we believe, we are born spiritually. Eugene Peterson expresses Romans 10:9-13 in this way:
Say the welcoming word to God—”Jesus is my Master”—embracing, body and soul, God’s work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That’s it. You’re not “doing” anything; you’re simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That’s salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: “God has set everything right between him and me!” (The Message)
We call out to God and trust that His Provision, His Way, has met the requirements for us to be saved.
Confess and Repent
Read Romans 3:9-24 and Luke 13:3
In Romans 3, Paul lays out a truth that we must embrace in order to be saved: we are sinful. We are full of sin and we possess no righteousness of our own. We cannot claim that we are good enough to earn any part of our new birth. We must throw ourselves on God’s grace and mercy.
Some people have a hard time confessing their unworthiness. They may try to pass it off as “It’s just the way I am,” or they may even try to blame God by saying, “Well, God made me this way.” They may try to excuse their sin by comparing themselves to other people; “I know I’m not perfect, but I’m no murderer either.” The truth of the matter is that God’s standard of righteousness deserving of salvation is Jesus, and no one on earth has ever or will ever possess that kind of righteousness. The only thing that we can do is confess our sinfulness. We must trust that Jesus’ death and resurrection are effective for us (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Along with confessing our sin, we must repent from our sin. When we repent, we make a change. We go a different way. Repentance is a word picture of walking one way, then changing direction and going a completely different way.
Spiritually, repentance is letting go of our previous way of life. Before we’re saved, we live to satisfy our own needs, wants and desires. When we are born spiritually, we pledge to change our ways so that we can look out for others’ needs. Instead of pleasing ourselves, we follow Christ. For a variety of reasons (age, upbringing, or lifestyle), our lives may change a little or a lot after coming to Christ. One thing is sure: our heart is changed. Therefore, our outlook should change.
Read John 14:15-31
Fitting hand in hand with the command to repent is the command to obey. If repentance is going a different way from our initial direction, obedience is the new way. And Jesus put it pretty clearly: if we love Him, we will obey His commands.
This aspect of conversion is a little more than many people initially realize. Salvation would be pretty easy to “sell” if we could say to people, “Look, just say these words and you’re good.” If we allow people to think that, as long as you say some religious words you can live like you want, we’re letting them think that they can continue to love sin and still be in a right relationship with God. When we understand that commitment to Christ as gratitude for what He has done is a part of the process, we see the whole idea in a different light.
One more thing: our conversion is an ongoing process. When we are born spiritually, we are justified, or made “just as if we had never sinned” in God’s eyes. As we grow in Christ, we are sanctified, or progressively set apart from sin as we become more like Jesus. When we meet Christ face to face, whether we meet Him in the air when He returns to earth or we meet Him after passing through the doorway of death, we will be glorified, completely free from sin. That’s when our salvation will be complete: when we stand in Heaven with all of God’s children and all the angels and sing, “Worthy is Jesus the Lamb to receive glory and honor and power and blessing!”.
Does the fact that salvation is the beginning of our life in Christ have any implications for how we tell people about it? If so, what do you think the implications are?
Have you known anyone who was baptized as a child who realized at a later time that they did not receive Christ?