Many believe “conversion” is simply accepting Jesus Christ as Savior. Yet the Bible reveals otherwise.
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What is true conversion? Is it sudden, or a gradual process, lasting a long time? So many struggle with problems, weaknesses and sins. Does God expect overcoming—and growth? What role does the Holy Spirit play?
I have known many who doubted their conversion because they had never been taught the meaning of true conversion. When under fire—under pressure—they lacked the confidence to know they could effectively address their problems. They were not sure that they had the power to overcome them.
Most people today wait for some kind of additional strength upon conversion. Tell a teenager that he will be given the keys to the family car and he will have no difficulty understanding he is about to receive real power. The first time I was handed the keys to my father’s car, I understood exactly what it meant. It is no different with a potential Christian waiting to receive God’s Spirit (Acts 1:8).
But how does one actually receive God’s Spirit? And how can he know for certain that it has been given? Since not having God’s Spirit precludes one from being a true Christian, surely God would not leave His servants in doubt as to whether they have it—or exactly when they receive it!
Receiving the Spirit of God comes upon real repentance and a correct baptism. (For more about this topic, read my booklet What Do You Mean Water Baptism?) With these things also comes the remission of sin—or forgiveness.
But how is repentance achieved? Does one just declare, by simple assertion, “I have repented”? The answer is an emphatic no!
Repentance is a gift from God just as much as one’s initial calling. You cannot understand God’s truth unless He has drawn you—called you—to it through the power of His Spirit. So, the process of coming to true Christian conversion begins with a calling or drawing directly by the Father. God’s Spirit is not something that you can earn by works, any more than salvation can be earned by works. Read Ephesians 2:8-9.
When speaking of Gentiles coming to conversion, the Bible states, “Then has God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18) and it speaks of circumstances where “God…will give…repentance to the acknowledging of the truth” (II Tim. 2:25). Finally, it explains that it is “God’s goodness” (Rom. 2:4) that leads people to repentance. No one “works up” repentance in order to require God to give him His Holy Spirit.
People must seek God and ask for the gift of repentance. It is not automatic and should never be treated as such. But God grants repentance to all those who seek it with their whole hearts, as David did in Psalm 51.
Exactly what does one repent of? Sin. Notice that the Bible says, “all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23). But what is sin? I John 3:4 states, “Sin is the transgression of the law.” This refers to the Law of God. The normal, fleshly or carnal mind is hostile to it (Rom. 8:7). Human nature disobeys—breaks—God’s Law, and does so naturally! A Christian keeps God’s Law. He does not just hear it or talk about it. Romans states, “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified” (2:13).
God will only give His Spirit to one He has conquered—one who is willing to obey Him.
The world depicts God’s Law as harsh and burdensome. But John wrote, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous” (I John 5:3). Also read Romans 13:10.
God’s Law is called holy, just, good and spiritual and it is through God’s Spirit that one is able to obey God and thereby practice the love of God. Romans 5:5 states, “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.”
The repentant mind has turned from the selfish “get” way of life, to the way of “give.” It wants to follow God.
The power that comes with God’s Spirit helps a person grow and overcome. Literally, this power is Christ living His life in a Christian. Without His help, a new convert gets nowhere fast!
Human power—human energy—only helps a person overcome in physical areas. Spiritual problems cannot be conquered through physical, mental or emotional effort. Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Christ [who] strengthens me” (Phil. 4:13), and, “my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might” (Eph. 6:10). Jesus also said, “with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). With God’s Spirit actively working and growing in you, this can be true of you!
To learn more about true conversion, watch my broadcast series “True Conversion—Explained! (Part 1)”