Detailed studies are to be written about conversion and what conversion means in a person’s life.
This study is limited to the most fundamental significance of conversion however.
When the Son of God, Jesus Christ, after a sinless life, died on the cross of Golgotha, He died as a substitute, as the atonement for the sins of the whole of humanity, …
… thus obtaining eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:12)
As Paul wrote:
God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood, … (Romans 3:25)
… God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them, … (2 Corinthians 5:19)
In him (Jesus) we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.
Jesus wrought forgiveness of sins through His death. This took away the barrier between God and man and God was reconciled to the world.
Since then everyone is invited by God to be reconciled to Him and to live in an open relationship with Him in this world, which will result in a life that is eternal, in God’s presence, as Jesus said:
I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die. (John 11:25)
Believing in Jesus Christ, or, in better words, trusting in Him, is called conversion in the Bible.
On the Day of Pentecost, when the apostle Peter spoke for the first time in public and explained to the listeners that Jesus died for the sins of humanity, but was raised from the dead by God, …
… they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:37-38)
Peter spoke of three steps to receiving the new life:
- baptism (immersion)
- receiving the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Receiving the Holy Spirit as a gift from God is the ultimate goal.
Just as Adam became a living soul when God breathed His breath of life in the body He had formed, a person enters into a totally renewed relationship with God after his or her conversion - a life that will be upheld by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The meaning of conversion - a definition.
Conversion, ‘metanoia’ in Greek, is derived from ‘metanoeo’, which is translated as to convert.
‘Metanoeo’ is a verb and is defined by the OLB as:
- thinking differently, i.e. experiencing remorse
- obtaining better insight
- sincerely improving oneself with abhorrence of previous sin.
The following statements are made in an explanation about ‘metanoeo’:
- a change of choice
- in every aspect of life
- the kind of about-turn in thought and life that is known as conversion
- and has the predominant thought of a complete change.
‘Metanoia’, which is translated as conversion, is derived from ‘metanoeo’ (to convert), and is a noun that is defined by the OLB as:
- change in the way of thinking, as happens when someone has remorse for something he has remembered, or for something he has done.
Conversion and being converted are therefore all about:
- complete change in the way of thinking.
What is conversion?
- Realising that one is not living in accordance with the will of God.
- Repenting for the faults of the past.
- Making the choice to want to live in accordance with what God intended.
- Directing the thought life towards Jesus Christ and His promises.
As Paul wrote:
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:2)
In other words, conversion is:
- turning away from the accepted norms of the world.
- being transformed (in Greek: ‘metamorpho-oo’ = changing shape) (Matthew 17:2)
- through a complete change in the way of thinking (also: observation, attention, judging thoughts, feelings, intentions and desires)
- in order to be able to recognise (also: taste, test, examine)
- what God’s will is: good, pleasing (pleasant) and perfect (complete).
A complete switch-over to another way of thinking does not happen automatically.
Old habits sometimes go clearly against the will of God, so that drastic choices will have to be made.
This is learning to discover ‘what God’s will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will.’
To which Paul calls:
… understand what the Lord’s will is. (Ephesians 5:17)
This is why one will have to make a conscious choice, to want to change.
Conversion begins with the choice, to want to let go of the so-called wisdom of the world, to exchange it for the wisdom of God, as revealed in the Bible.
Conversion in practice.
To be converted is: Realising that life is more than what one is experiencing at this moment and asking Jesus for help.
This is no intelligent choice, but a decision that is taken from the heart, the soul.
Those who have been brought up with the Bible will one day also have to make the personal decision to accept the Bible as The Truth and Jesus Christ as the Son of God.
A single call for help from the depths of the soul, the heart, often comes from those who did not grow up with the Bible: “Jesus, if you exist, help me”, is often the beginning of the experience of Jesus in his or her life, and of learning to trust in Him more and more.
For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13)
Paul wrote that conversion takes place in two stages:
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe (trust) in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)
One believes in one’s heart, in other words: one is confident that Jesus is alive.
However, only believing in one’s heart is insufficient, apparently.
One must declare this belief with one’s mouth!
One confesses, declares with one’s mouth to be saved.
Whoever trusts in Jesus in his heart, and declares this trust with his mouth, begins a new life, together with Jesus, for:
Anyone who believes in him (anyone who trusts in Jesus in this life) will never be put to shame. (Romans 10:11)
Think, in this respect, of the murderer who was crucified together with Jesus.
Conversion presented schematically.
Whoever confirms his trust in Jesus Christ by declaring his faith out loud, in the visible world, produces his salvation and his deliverance in the spiritual world. This confession of faith in Jesus Christ is the only way whereby the spirit of man, which was dead to God, is raised again to life.
Before presenting conversion schematically, man’s situation is repeated once again here, after Jesus’ death on the cross and after God raised Him from the dead again.
As was discussed in the study ‘The road to recovery’, Jesus took Satan’s authority over the world away, by His death on the cross of Golgotha.
Through this the open line to the realm of darkness was replaced by a discontinuous thick black line in the schematic presentation – discontinuous because Satan no longer has any authority over the world since Golgotha, although natural man is still strongly under his influence.
The thick black line to God remained in place, because the relationship between God and natural man was broken by sin, as explained in the study ‘Broken Relationships’.
God reconciled Himself to the world, in spite of this separation between God and man because of sin, because Jesus was prepared to take the punishment for man’s sin upon Himself, as is explained in ‘The way to restoration’.
Through conversion, by faith in Jesus Christ, converted man will truly experience reconciliation with God, as Paul wrote.
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ … (Romans 5:1)
… through whom we have now received reconciliation (literally: have taken receipt). (Romans 5:11)
Conversion brought into the schematic presentation would make the line to God to be completely open, because God has raised converted man to new life by faith in Jesus Christ.
In practice, however, believing in Jesus Christ does not always appear to automatically mean that a believer is a disciple of Jesus Christ and involves Him in every aspect of his life.
A second step is generally required in order to experience this.
This is discussed in the study ‘Discipleship’.
This is why the line to God in the schematic presentation is not (yet) completely open, and is represented by a discontinuous thick black line - to indicate that the believer is raised to new spiritual life through reconciliation to God, but does automatically live as a disciple of Jesus.
As a result, the believer still does not live in an open relationship with God and he is still able to be strongly influenced by the realm of darkness. That is why the discontinuous thick black line towards the darkness remains in place.
Conversion is an event in the invisible world.
This is why Jesus instituted baptism, immersion in water, whereby the believer confirms his spiritual renewal in the visible world.
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