True Conversion

To be converted is to turn away from one thing to deliberately turn toward another. It is a decisive change. To what then were you converted? We preach, “hear, believe, repent, and be baptized,” which is not a bad approach to take. The problem may be, however, that our approach converts people to ideas and teachings rather than to Christ.

Conversion is a familiar term in the New Testament. Acts 15:3, we see Paul and Barnabas telling the brethren of the conversion of the Gentiles. In Matthew 18:3 records Jesus calling on his followers to be converted as little children. In Luke 22:31-32, Jesus speaks of a future conversion of Peter. In Acts 3:19 records Peter and John calling on their audience to repent and be converted.

Conversion to Substitutes

Sometimes, we convert people to the idea of salvation. While this is a gaol, it is not the center of one’s spiritual foundation. Mark 10:17 shows us a man coming to Jesus, seeking salvation. Unfortunately, that concept of salvation was not enough for him to turn from materialism. Also, in Acts 8:13, a sorcerer named Simon hears, believes, repents, and is baptized, but he had not yet truly made a turn from his past to a new life in Christ. Matthew 13:20-22 speaks to those who immediately respond to the message of salvation but whose faith do not endure without a stronger foundation.

We might also be converted to the idea of blessings. We want to become children of God for the good things we feel should come from that conversion. This is exactly what Satan challenges in the beginning of the book of Job, when he accuses that Job will turn away from God should his blessings crumble. In John 6:25-26, Jesus addresses this problem with the crowds, seeing they followed him for the food they ate more than for his message. Do we pray for our daily bread while forgetting to hallow and honor God as the core of our faith? Remember what Paul says in Philippians 4:11-13; contentment comes from God, not from material blessings.

Sometimes, we are converted to the idea of outward appearances – pleasing others, peer or familial pressures, valuing the social aspects. In Matthew 23:3-5, Jesus criticizes the Pharisees for this exact motivation, using religion for the perception and respect. This is also the case in Matthew 6:2-4. In Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira contribute to the church for appearances. II Timothy 4:9 speaks of one who loved this present world, forsaking God’s work. Being members of the right faith, of the right church, having the right stances – these are not the objects of our conversion.

Were You Truly Converted?

Rather than asking, “To what was I converted?” perhaps a better question would be,”Was I really converted in the first place?” In Matthew 28:19-20, Jesus commands his followers to make disciples, to make followers, from the nations. If we are converted to Jesus, we are followers of Him. We do not follow ideas, philosophies, or blessings. We simply follow Him. The only thing that can cleanse us, make us pure, wash us from sins, is Jesus’ sacrificial blood. It takes a deliberate change in our lives to reach that sacrifice. We must sacrifice self, turning away from everything that holds us to this world, so we can reach forward to the next.

lesson by Tim Smelser