“When I was a sinner, I didn’t know how to pray. My words didn’t seem to fill me. I didn’t know the words I said. Then a voice came from Heaven and said: “I will show you the way.” Yes, I know I’ve been converted. Do you?” — lyrics from I’ve Been Converted by Kelly Joe Phelps.¹
I believe that we will never fully appreciate what a profound and extraordinary thing conversion is until we know that it is a divine miracle. As I watch the snow falling outside my window in Colorado. (Yes, it’s May the 21st) I am moved to tears as I recall the scripture from Isaiah 1:18,
“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.” (English Standard Version).
Conversion is a gift of God. I am writing today under the realness of this gracious gift, and from within the spiritual transformation God promised throughout the entire life of every believer.
For those who love to read and research, an entire branch of theology centers on conversion and the doctrines of effectual calling, regeneration, sanctification, and repentance. For time’s sake (and the length of this blog), conversion encompasses a change in behavior and our very nature. Going beyond what we see and into the deepest places of human mystery. Many teachers will emphasize that this all takes place in one single event; this teaching is understood best within the term conversionist²— and gaining roots through the personal testimony of individual conversion experiences. Our work in the story of God’s love is conversion (i.e., repentance, faith, confession). Christ’s work is regeneration (The English word “regeneration” is the translation of palingenesia from palin (again) and genesis (birth). It means simply a new birth, a new beginning, a new order.)³
Without the work of Christ, we can never bow our hearts to his power, sovereignty, and love. So here, within these words and under the work of Christ, I bow myself in reverence, promising never to forget the raw power of conversion. Of all the manifestations of the Holy Spirit available to us, I believe conversion is the most precious and powerful.
Friends, never minimize the Holy Spirit’s power to transform a sinner. If you are on the fence, “You don’t need to unburden or collect yourself and then come to Jesus. Your very burden is what qualifies you to come. No payment is required; he says, “I will give you rest.” His rest is a gift, not a transaction. Whether you are actively working hard to crowbar your life into smoothness (“labor”) or passively finding yourself weighed down by something outside your control (“heavy laden”), Jesus Christ’s desire that you find rest, that you come in out of the storm, outstrips even your own.” — Dane C. Ortlund, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Suffers.⁴