Author | Steve
A complete change of mind and heart is a rare and significant thing. In the case of driving down a road with a bridge washed out – making a one-hundred eighty degree turn is life saving. In the case of changing my mind about what to have for dinner – maybe it’s not all that important (unless of course I’m deciding on donuts again)!
Repentance & Conversion
In the Christian walk of faith we call this complete change of mind and heart repentance. It is clear from the pages of scripture that our repentance, our turning around, is not a work we produce in ourselves, but it is actually produced in us by the Holy Spirit as God reveals both our own sin leading toward our destruction and revealing Himself and His deep love and acceptance of us because of Jesus, His Son.
O.K., I know that was really heavy stuff there…but stick with me. This repentance, or turning around, which God produces in us is life-saving and converts us in a whole new direction: toward Jesus and the life He alone gives.
Converting: The Spirit’s Kind or Our Kind?
Here’s the thing I’ve noticed: far too many of our churches and our leaders are usurping the role of the Holy Spirit assuming it’s their job to convert people. The more troubling thing is our converting usually converts people to our “church,” not Jesus.
Too many of our churches and our leaders are usurping the role of the Holy Spirit assuming it’s their job to convert people. The more troubling thing is our converting usually converts people to our “church,” not Jesus.
I purposely put church in quotes, because the true definition of the church is the people whom God is gathering around His gifts given through His Son and Spirit. The “church” we convert people to is the way we sing, the way we are organized, the traditions (and rules) we have…and on and on. This is truly damaging to people because it replaces Jesus as God’s converter from death to life with something that was never intended to do anything but deliver this good news. The church doesn’t convert people. It simply holds out the good news that in Jesus, God is turning our lives around from certain death!
The church doesn’t convert people. It simply holds out the good news that in Jesus, God is turning our lives around from certain death!
But here’s another thing I’ve noticed: God is faithful to show up and still convert people from death to life even in the midst of our messing this up. It by no means makes our misrepresentation acceptable, but it shows just how determined the Father is to bring us into His kingdom, for it is His kindness that leads to repentance.
I truly believe that God’s kindness towards me has been converting me again – converting me from “church” to Jesus. Don’t misunderstand me and think this eliminates God’s church from my consideration or my participation. Quite the opposite! When I am converted by God’s Spirit to Jesus, His Son, my relationship with His church, of which He makes me a part, is as natural as apples growing on an apple tree. With His life flowing into and through me I live for, and even suffer for, the body of which I am a part. But if I’m converted the other way around, which has definitely been a part of my past, then my relationship to Jesus and His church gets all out-of-whack! My relationship to my church becomes self-seeking and ultimately leaves me disappointed.
So who (what) are you converted to? And when you present people with the good news of Jesus…what are you actually presenting? Is it good news, or something else? Jesus has life for you, freedom for you, courage for you, rest for you far better than anything else you might orient your life toward…even your church!