Thursday, May 08, 2008

conversion as ongoing

Yesterday we looked at conversion a little, from L.L. Barkat's wonderful book, Stone Crossings: Finding Grace in Hard and Hidden Places.

I believe in conversion to God through Jesus. And that there surely is a point when we have crossed over from death to life, whether we know when it happened or not. In the evangelicalism I grew up in, even though Mennonite, knowing the day and giving your testimony about it were considered important. One needed to know that.

That can be good, but what is better is when we know we have faith now, and are seeking to follow in the faith which is in Jesus now. And this involves a process beyond just the point when we were saved. In Scripture we have been saved, are being saved, and will be saved. So we're undergoing a process now. It's a walk by faith, and sometimes it can be quite uncomfortable.

This reminds me of John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress. The journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City had plenty of hazards along the way and was anything but comfortable at times. We have to look at our difficulties and things we go through which we hate as just part of this ongoing process of being increasingly conformed into the image of Jesus. And while we're directly responsible for ourselves individually in this, we're also responsible for one another, to help others to faith, and help each other in Jesus by our prayers and life and words, to walk in and become increasingly conformed to the Way who is Jesus.

For me this involves so many things. Wrong heart attitudes, yes sinful at times. But more than that. Learning to follow Jesus with others, in everything. And cherishing what is good, revelling in that in faith and practice. So that any good thought or sense of grace that comes to my awareness is welcomed. Also being happy of gradual growth in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Conversion as ongoing is an acknowledgement that we haven't arrived. Yes, we're on our way, hopefully well on our way. And conversion in process should involve being in company with others who are in this same journey of faith.

We're being changed in Jesus, from glory to glory, as Scripture tells us. How wonderful. By grace may we leave behind more and more the old, and take on more and more the new, in Jesus. Losing ourselves in him, and then finding our true selves together, in Jesus. Along with passion it involves pain, and is a process. So hang in there!

What thoughts might you like to add or share on this?

16 comments:

L.L. Barkat said...

Sometimes I think we are converted before we know it and that the "moment of conversion" is simply a recognition that something which had been long simmering is indeed now boiling. And we can go ahead and pour it into our cup... and enjoy a fine sip of tea.

Enjoyed your "yesterday" post. As you know, I always love to hear the stories of your liffe.

preacherman said...

I think our faith grows, as are relationship with God grows deeper. I think that once we accept Christ as Lord and Savior then we are under the grace of God. As Paul says, "Nothing can seperate us from the love of God."
I wake up every and ask God, "What do you want from me today. What can I do to accomplish your will in my life." The conversion being ongoing I am uncertain of, but the relationship with God is definately ongoing. Great post Ted.

On another note: I have a prayer request on my blog. I would love for you and any of your readers to stop by and let them feel our love and prayers.

God bless you Ted in all you do this week.
In Him,
Kinney Mabry

Mike said...

I do think that there is a "point" of salvation for all--Paul is the great example of this. But your points are also well taken. The Christian life is certainly "process," as we learn and grow throughout our life. We are the sum of our experiences.

Rachel Mc said...

I've been thinking about conversion and I agree it is a life long process with some days better than others. I don't think I had an "Ah" moment of conversion, but I can say when I have been at the worst places in my life is when I feel God the strongest..and I don't really understand how someone feels the need to turn away from God when life gets tough..I have always felt the need to cling to God all the more.
I like to think of my conversion as a work in progress that I will never finish this side of heaven.
Hey parents: I have 3 boys, 12, 13 and 15. When do you start sharing your thoughts on conversion and your own experiences with them?

NaNcY said...

i am thinking a little bit like l.l. because when i think back of being a small child going to church and sunday school, no one asked me if i believed in Jesus. i think that before i even heard the name that as a child i already belonged to Jesus. and then there came a time when i got older that i started to see Jesus and his Love. and as an older adult i came to know my overwhelming need for Jesus. so i am thinking that there is a place in a life that has been introduced to Jesus at a very early age that the seed is planted but the child is not aware of the actual decision of belief, just like one might not be aware of the decision to believe anything as a child. but, there comes a time that awarness of beliefs appear and can be put to the test. the belief can be questioned and analized. anyway, i have to get off the computer now.

love your post today.

God bless you.

Every Square Inch said...

I'd like to pick up on LL's comment about being converted before we know it... Yes, I absolutely agree in the sense our hearts are regenerated, made alive and then we become "aware" and respond to God.

God does a miracle in our hearts - making alive, a heart dead in sin

Allan R. Bevere said...

Good thoughts, Ted. John Wesley referred to this as sanctifying grace.

Ted M. Gossard said...

L.L.,
Thanks! You've been the one to get me to do that, you know!

Good point, too. Thanks.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks so much Kinney. And will do, brother!

Ted M. Gossard said...

Mike,
Yes. It often doesn't look pretty, but in the end it will be beautiful (in its time).

And I certainly agree with you!

Ted M. Gossard said...

Rachel,
Good words for us. I agree. The hard times can just help us grow and draw us closer to the Lord. And conversion involves a process even beyond initially passing from death to life.

Right now, with much prayer of course. Share with them. Pray with them. Listen to them. Keep living it out. And for them to see your struggles is more than okay, because they'll know God is real to you, and you are real to them as well.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Thanks, Nancy. Good points. I can identify with you to some extent in my own life. Seeds planted in my youth and childhood bore fruit later. Mom's reading to us of Kenneth Taylor's book of stories from Scripture was precious to me, and so much more.

Ted M. Gossard said...

ESI,
I believe regeneration and conversion which involoves faith and repentance, probably ordinarily happen simultaneously.

In Acts we have cases where the Spirit came after people had believed, but maybe this is a special case in that transitional time.

But only by grace and the Spirit do we believe. Yet we're called to believe, and I speak here of appeal and our will.

Ted M. Gossard said...

Allan,
Thanks. Yes, so much good from John (and Charles) Wesley. Amen!

Andrew said...

I think we would be better off, in one respect, if we substituted "transferral" for "conversion" in our theological language: We have been once and for all transferred out of the dominion (basileia) of darkeness and into the kingdom of light (Col. 1:13-14). But the rest of our lives are a process not so much of "conversion" (which sounds so mechanical), but of "conformation"--being molded into the humanity of Jesus (Rom. 8:29; 12:2).

While I don't totally agree with the Lutheran view of things, I like the idea that in Baptism we have a new identity, and the rest of our lives are to be a continual returning to our baptisms: a daily drowning of the Old Adam and rising to newness of life in the New. Every day we are called to be converted, that is, to walk in the reality of our new baptismal identity. (Should we return to the ancient practices of conferring new baptismal names? They still do in other parts of the world.)

Ted M. Gossard said...

Andrew,
Thanks for your good thoughts here.

I like transferral fine, but I have to admit I stll think I'm undergoing conversion and by conversion I mean a dynamic change from the inside out by the work of
God so that more and more when I might pray "the Lord's prayer", I more and more mean it or it has more depth of meaning for me. And I can see a difference in my life in reference to God's will for us in Jesus.

Conversion involves so many things. Of course in the simple, straightforward sense it means to be converted from our darkness in sin, into the light so that we are then light in the Lord, and as you note, transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son.

But I like the concept of conversion as ongoing. And indeed a heart change is not just needed at the beginning of our Christian life at regeneration, but it is needed after that in the process of sanctification. And there are major bumps and issues we have to face along the way just as Christian had to in Bunyan's story. But as we keep going on we are more and more conformed to the image of Jesus, just as you express so well, here.

Your words are helpful here, and I agree. I like what Luther says in regard to Baptism as well, and you express that quite well.

Good to hear from you.