What is exactly is conversion?

J. Mack Stiles

Here’s five principles from J. Mack Stiles’ book Marks of the Messenger on biblical conversion that must be understood which were very instructive:

  1. Conversion is required: Romans 16:5 (1st converts in Asia); Acts 15:3 (joyful report of conversions); John 3:3 (Jesus made it clear that you can’t enter into the Kingdom of God [Jesus isn’t your King] without conversion.God has no grandchildren; baptism doesn’t usher you in; not moral uprightness.
  2. Those that are converted  understand several things:  (1) they’re sinners and (2) what Jesus did for them – they may not understand the words justification, atonement, etc., but they understand that their sins were placed on Jesus and He died for them and now lives victoriously and come to Him believing in Him.
  3. Conversion requires genuine faith. Faith is only as good as the object you place it in. There must be heartfelt, deep-seated faith and trust in Christ and His work.
  4. Conversion is attested by a radically changed life. On the deepest level you cannot be truly converted and avoid a radically changed life, for you have moved from death to life.  Of course, what is radical for one is trivial for another, but usually the change is marked by a deep desire to obey God and to do His will. It may take different expressions for different people, but it is a radical change nonetheless. Paul said there were many people who “claim to know God, but by their actions they deny Him (Titus 1:15-16).
  5. Conversion results from God’s actions. The Holy Spirit works in our hearts, where He convicts us of sin.

Those previous statements presuppose one thing (among many): God’s love is not universal and unconditional. This is the way pop-culture believes God loves: we’re all just fine the way we are. That type of love requires no change or commitment. It’s the kind of love that believes that true love lets anyone do anything they want.  BC the world sees God’s love as universal, there appears to be no need to commit or repent since, “he loves us just the way we are.”

[1] J. Mack Stiles, Marks of the Messenger (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2010).

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