Big Words: Conversion

Pastor Terry Tatum

Last week, Craig taught us about Prevenient Grace. I have heard it said before that “Prevenient grace is the first light of the soul,” and if accepted, it leads us to the brink of saving grace. 

Have you ever heard the term saving grace before? How about salvation, justification, or being saved? Over the next few weeks we’ll discuss all of these terms but for today’s purposes let’s just say that’s where we will end up once we begin to accept and live into prevenient grace. 

To be clear, you must understand that there is one God and one grace. How we experience God, and his grace will change as we change, but there is only one God and one grace.

John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement had an example of what salvation looked like that he called the order of salvation, or the way of salvation. That order contained three parts: 1) Conversation, 2) Salvation, 3) Sanctification. 

He used the metaphor of a house to describe this. Conversion = the front porch, where people would seek and explore God. Salvation = the door, where you had to simply open it up and enter. Sanctification = the rooms of the house, ie. our Christian journey. 

Today we are going to look at a process that takes place between prevenient grace and salvation. Prevenient grace leads us to the porch, and all we have to do to be saved is enter the house. Conversion, or converting grace happens on the porch. 

For some of us, that’s a big ol’ porch. 

Conversion is a process. For some the process can take years, even most of a lifetime. For others it can happen quickly, but conversion is necessary to salvation. 

Before we keep going, I want to explain a couple of terms for you:

Grace = A spontaneous gift from God to people; generous, free, and totally unexpected and undeserved. 

Conversion = The process of changing or causing something to change from one form to another. 

Converting Grace = The process of turning away from sin and turning to God, caused by His amazing love and grace.

Conversion (Converting grace) leads us to salvation, but it is not salvation. They are two very separate and distinct things. 

In this message we are going to focus on the process of conversion and how it leads us to salvation. 

Salvation has two sides: Human and Divine

God’s part: Salvation is by grace alone 

Our part: Salvation is by faith

Saving Faith = Repentance + Belief 

Sounds a little complicated doesn’t it? But it’s really a very simple and very beautiful thing. 

Mark’s Gospel tells us that “The kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good news!” (Mark 1:15b NLT) 

You see, not too complicated at all. We must repent and believe. Both of those actions make up the conversion process. 

What is involved in repentance? 

Repentance literally means a “change in direction.” When we experience repentance, we experience: 

1. Change in knowledge of ourselves 

On the day of Pentecost Peter stood up and addressed the crowd and said “…… let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:36 – 37 NIV) 

Once the people in the crowd (non – Christians) heard who Jesus was and what he did for them they knew they had to change but didn’t know what that was supposed to look like. At some point there has to be a realization that YOU are a sinner and that YOU fall short of what God wants for you every day. 

Life is not all about YOU. YOU are not always right. YOU don’t always do the right thing. None of us do. But God still loves YOU and He gave his son to die for YOU. If you were the only person on this earth he would still have died for YOU. Understanding this will lead you to a desire to change. 

2. Change through conviction

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. (2 Corinthians 7:10 NIV) 

Once we realize who we really are in the grand scheme of things we will begin to be convicted of the things in our lives that aren’t right. 

Do any of you have regrets? Would you like to get rid of that regret?

REPENT. “Repentance … leads to salvation and leaves no regret.” 

When you realize who you really are, that will lead you to conviction (regret and remorse), which leads us to the final thing involved in repentance:

3. Change of our minds

A lot of us live our lives with God and what He wants for us not being front and center. I’m guilty of it. We see things a certain way and convince ourselves that this is the way to go. But through repentance our mind changes. 

Realizing it’s not all about us leads to conviction, and ultimately a change in our mind. Repentance = a desire to come home! 

So, just to stay on course, earlier I told you that we must repent and believe and that those actions make up the conversion process. Now that we know what repentance is, let’s look at believe. 

Many people have absolutely no problem intellectually with what the Bible teaches about Jesus, God, heaven and hell. But they don’t really believe it in their hearts. 

The concept of belief had a much stronger meaning in Biblical times than it does today. I believe that in a little while I will eat a meal. In fact, I know it will happen. But am I willing to bet my life on that? NO! Anything could happen between now and then. 

In Jesus’ day when someone would repent of their sins and believe in Him, they would literally be putting their lives in danger. Christianity was seen as a weird new religion in a part of the world where Judaism was the dominant religion. For the people who weren’t Jewish there was wild immoral living or polytheism (multiple gods). Christianity did not fit into most lifestyles. 

When people would “believe” in Christ it meant everything, but today it could mean a lot of things. So, what is meant by belief in scripture? 

1. Confidence or trust in the mercy/forgiveness of God

True belief includes total trust that God loves you and that nothing can separate you from that love. You must trust it in your heart. 

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow — not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below — indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39 NLT) 

2. Assurance

True belief means assurance with all that you are that the promises of God are real. 

I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life. (1 John 5:13 NLT)

3. Reliance

True belief involves total dependency on the promises of God. 

4. Obedience

True belief requires obedience. You can’t experience conversion or salvation without obeying God. 

And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments. (1 John 2:3 NLT)

“So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say?” (Luke 6:46 NLT)

All you must do is repent and believe, and you can change, or convert into who God created you to be. 

“The kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good news!” (Mark 1:15b NLT).  

John Wesley referred to repentance as the “faith of a servant,” while he called belief the “faith of a son.” Repent (go in a new direction) because He is the King of kings. Believe because he is your dad and he loves YOU!

“When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’ (Luke 15:17-19 NLT) 

This message had a lot of different points, but there is only one main point: Right now you can convert from who you are to who God wants you to be! Are you ready to come home today? Have you been wandering around on the porch long enough? 

We’ll explain next week about going through the front door and entering the house, but if you want forgiveness from your sins and if you want to be saved, just know that the door is open. It’s time to come on in.