What Is Religious Conversion ?

 

 

Religious Conversion

 

In the King James Version of the bible,  Acts chapter 3, and verse 19  says;  “Repent therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.” 

Jesus said, in  Mat 13, and verse 15;  “For the heart of this people has waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed, lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I shall heal them.”   And that was pretty much a direct quote of  Isaiah 6, verse 10.

Jesus said in  Mat 18, verse 3;  “..Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of the heavens.” 

 

Turn to God

 

In all three of these verses, the word “converted” means..  “to turn back”, or “to return”.  The idea is to turn back to God, by following His word.  In other words, By following His instructions and His rules, and His law.

Romans 3, verse 23  tells us that  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  And so as a result, we need to return to God, because to sin, is to leave God.  When we sin, we not only leave His word, and His law, but we also leave His fellowship.  Sin separates us from God.  That’s what  Isaiah 59, verse 2,  tells us.  

Verse 1  says;  “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short, that it cannot save.  Neither is His ear so dull that it cannot hear.   And  Verse 2  says;  “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God.  And your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He does not hear.”  

So we’ve left God, and we need to return.  And God gives us the opportunity to return.  He gives us another chance.  And that chance is called repentance!  Jesus said in  Luke 24, verses 46 & 47;   “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead, the third day;  And that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name (in other words, by His authority), to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”  

So then Jesus is saying, that just like it was written about in the old testament prophesies;  “The Christ should suffer”,  and that includes all His suffering, but specifically, His death on the cross, and the shedding of His blood.  Because it was His blood that actually paid the price, for our sins to be forgiven in the first place.

That’s why Jesus refers to His blood as;  “..My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”   Mark 14, verse 24.   So if it wasn’t for His blood, there wouldn’t BE any forgiveness of our sins. 

And of course, just as important as His blood being  “poured out”,  is His resurrection from the dead.

1 Corinthians 15, verse 17  tells us;  “..and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless, you are still in your sins!”   That’s why Jesus said;  “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead, the third day..”   Both of those events were necessary for forgiveness to be possible.  Without His death and His shed blood, and without His resurrection, there wouldn’t be any forgiveness.  It’s as simple as that.

 

What Do We Need to Do?

 

But Jesus says there’s more to it than just what HE did.  Jesus said that  “REPENTENCE for the forgiveness of sins, should be proclaimed in His name.”   Repentance FOR the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed!  He’s got the authority, and He is proclaiming, and He is telling His apostles to proclaim it also, that repentance is REQUIRED, in order to have your sins forgiven.

If repentance is REQUIRED, and it is, then we had better know what repentance means.  To repent, is very easy to understand.  It means..  “To change your mind”.    “To think differently”.  Actually, it specifically means..  “To think differently AFTERWARDS”.    

So you might ask;  To think differently, after WHAT?   That’s a fair question, isn’t it?   After what, should we think differently?

So let me explain.  To repent means to change your mind, and to think differently, about a specific subject.  And the subject is, “obeying the will of God”.  The purpose of repentance is said to be.. “FOR the forgiveness of sins”.    When we sin, we disobey the will of God.  And so Jesus has “proclaimed”, that we should change our minds about this disobedience.  We need to “think differently” about disobeying God.  That’s simple isn’t it?

So then AFTER we have disobeyed, and AFTER we have sinned, and AFTER we have been separated from God, we need to change our mind about what we’ve been doing.  “To think differently afterwards”. 

Now, think back to  Acts chapter 3, verse 19.   We’ve been told to;  “Repent therefore, and be converted..”   In other words;  “Repent therefore, and turn back to God!”   To be converted, is to turn back.  AFTER you’ve turned AWAY from God, by disobeying his will and His word, we’re told to “think again”, and “change your mind”, and be sorry for what you’ve done.  And after being sorry, and after changing your mind, we need to “turn back to God”. 

We learn from  2 Corinthians 7, verse 10;  “For the sorrow that is according to God, produces a repentance without regret, which leads to salvation.”  

 

A Chance to Come Back

 

God has given us another chance!   He’s given us the chance to have our sins forgiven.  We start out innocent, and sinless, but then we make some wrong choices, and we sin, and we become separated from God.  But God has given us the chance to come back.

That’s why Jesus said in  Mat 18, verse 3;  “Except you turn back, and become as little children, you cannot see the kingdom of the heavens.”   He’s specifically talking about being humble, as little children are humble.  The next verse says;  “Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” 

Pride can keep a person from repenting.  To admit that we’ve turned away from God takes humility.  It takes admitting that we’re at fault.  We live in a “no-fault” society today.  No one wants to admit they’re wrong.  But God says we’ve ALL been wrong!   “For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” 

But just because you’ve sinned, doesn’t make you any worse than anyone else, ’cause we’ve all done it.  And just because you’ve repented and been forgiven, doesn’t make you any better than anyone else either.  None of us are forgiven because we’re “good”.  We’re forgiven because GOD is “good”.

So if you need to change your mind today, and turn back to God, just do it!  God is giving us ALL,  the chance to come back to Him.  Don’t let pride get in the way.  There’s nothing wrong with changing your mind.  Not when it comes to being humble and becoming like a child again.  A child is innocent, and we need to become innocent again.  And God is saying;  Here’s your chance to do that.  “Repent therefore, and be converted.”  Change your mind, and turn back to God.

 

God’s Presence Brings Life

 

Again,  Acts 3, verse 19,  says;  “Repent therefore, and turn back again, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.”   There is NO life, while we are separated from God.  But when our sins are blotted out, THEN, that’s when the times of refreshing come.  And they’re “refreshing times”, because that’s when we’re back, in the PRESENCE of the Lord.

 

The other scripture that I read at the start of this study was  Mat 13, verse 15.   Here it is again, but this time, from the NAS version;

“For the heart of this people has become dull.  And with their ears, they scarcely hear.  And they have closed their eyes, lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and RETURN, and I should heal them.”  

As I said before;  Jesus was quoting here, from  Isaiah chapter 6, and verse 10.   Isaiah said that somewhere around 700 BC.  That’s about 2700 years ago, but obviously, the people back then had the same problem we have today.  They had left God, and stopped following his word, and they needed to be converted.  In other words, they needed to come back again.  So if you’ve got that problem, don’t feel like you’re alone.  Everyone has done that.

The people living in 700 BC, had heard the word of God.  But their hearts had become dull.  There wasn’t any emotion there for God.  There wasn’t any excitement in knowing about God.  They had all heard it before, but their ears had stopped hearing.  And they could see what it was that God was saying, but they had closed their eyes to it, lest they SHOULD see. 

If we would just open our eyes so that we DO see, and if we will just listen, so that we DO hear;  And if we would ALLOW our hearts to understand..  We just might turn back to God!   I don’t think there’s anyone hearing this today, that hasn’t heard it before.  But do you think that maybe you’ve become dull of hearing?  And I don’t mean that in a derogatory way.  I just mean that sometimes we can hear something so many times, that it just doesn’t have any effect on us anymore.  We can become dull of hearing, and so we don’t even acknowledge the words anymore.  We might even close our eyes and go to sleep.

 

Excitement or Boredom

 

In every audience, where the bible is being taught or preached, there’s some people who are listening intently to every word.  And they’re excited about hearing what God says.  And so they’re listening and thinking to themselves;  I want to learn more, I want to know more.  And then in the same audience, there’s other people who are basically bored by the same words.   There’s just no interest there.  Is it because they just don’t believe the bible?  Is it because God’s laws infringe too much on our personal desires, and we don’t even want to hear it?

Is it because people don’t really believe in heaven and hell?  Maybe that’s it;  Maybe too many people just don’t believe in heaven and hell.  Why turn back to God, if there’s no reason to?  No reward for turning to God, and no consequences for not turning to God.

But the bible clearly says that there IS a heaven, and there IS a hell.  I used last weeks lesson to show how it is utterly impossible for man’s thoughts to have inspired the writing of the bible.  That lesson was proof, that the bible is God’s very own words.  And God says that there IS a heaven and there IS a hell.  You can’t afford to be dull of hearing when God says this:

“For it is JUST, for God to repay with affliction, those who afflict you, and to give relief to you who are afflicted.  And to us as well, when the Lord shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire.  Dealing out retribution to those who know do not know God, and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  And these will pay the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power, when He comes to be glorified in His saints on that day, and to be marveled at, among all who have believed – for our testimony to you was believed.”                                (2 Thessalonians 1, verses 6 thru 10)

 

To Believe or Not to Believe

 

So then to refuse to believe in heaven and hell, really is simply closing your eyes to the truth.  And refusing to acknowledge your need to turn back to God, well, that’s kind of like sticking your head in the sand, and hoping the truth will somehow go away.

God doesn’t mince words in the bible, does He?  God comes right out and says the things that we need to hear.  For instance;  Jesus said, just as plain as day;  “If you believe not that I am He, you will die in your sins.”   John 8, verse 24.

And just as clearly, He said in  Luke 13, verse 3;  “..Unless you repent, you shall all likewise perish.” 

Then Jesus said in  Mat 10, verses 32 & 33,  And I’ll paraphrase hear just a little.  But He said that if you will confess His name, then He will confess your name in heaven.  But if you deny Him, He will also deny you., in heaven.

And of course Jesus also said in Mark 16, verse 16;  “He who believes AND is baptized, shall be saved, but he who disbelieves shall be condemned.”  

So then God’s word is very plain and straightforward, with no fancy words to spruce it up.  Just the plain simple facts.  And there’s a reason for the bible being so plain and straightforward.  And the reason is, that all the fancy speech in the world, won’t convert anyone.

Did you know that the most eloquent preachers that have ever lived, have never converted one soul?  They haven’t.  And do you know why they haven’t?  It’s because no matter how eloquent or fancy someone’s words may be;  Man’s words do not have the power to convert the soul.  Man’s words aren’t capable of doing that.  Only God’s words have that power.  That’s why the apostle Paul said, in  Romans 1, verse 16;  “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for IT is the power of God for salvation, to everyone who believes..” 

I cannot convert you, and neither can any other person in all the world.  But God’s word can!

So then when the scriptures say;  “Repent therefore, and return, that your sins may be blotted out, in order that times of refreshing may come, from the presence of the Lord”,  it’s THOSE words that will save you, not my words.

And if you’ve become dull of hearing, or have closed your eyes, lest you see;  Then that’s your choice.  And I say it just as plainly as the bible says it.  God said;  “The gospel is the power of salvation to all who believe..”   But God never said that everyone who hears the gospel will BE saved.

But here’s what God did say, in  Isaiah 55, verses 10 & 11;  “For as the rain and snow come down from heaven, and do not return there, without watering the earth, and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower, and bread to the eater;  So shall My word be, which goes forth from My mouth.  It shall not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding for which I sent it.”  

 

God has sent out His word, for the purpose of giving us another chance.  A chance to return to Him, by believing in Christ, by repenting of sins, by confessing His name, and by being baptized for the forgiveness of your sins.  And by remaining faithful unto death.

God’s word saves, and it will not return to Him empty, without succeeding in the purpose for which He sent it.  But whether or not His word saves YOU, well, that’s your choice.  But the question is;  Why would you NOT allow His word to save you?

“Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.”   (Hebrews 4, verse 7)

Here’s God’s warning to us;  “But if your heart turns AWAY, and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods, and serve them;  I declare to you TODAY, that you shall surely perish!”    (Deut 30, verses 17 to 18)    This world, and all the things in this world, are “other gods”.   And we can’t afford to fix our attention and our hopes on them.  So that’s God’s “warning” you might say. 

But here’s God’s invitation;  “I call heaven and earth to witness against you TODAY, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse.  So choose life, in order that you may live, you and your descendants.  By loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him..”   (Verses 19 & 20)

 

Thanks for studying with me, and may God bless you with a greater understanding of His word.

 

As always, you’re encouraged to leave your thoughts in the space below.  All comments and questions are welcome. 

 

 

 

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