conversion: the person cooperating

        In the Old Testament as in the New, God is the gracious initiator of conversion and the abundant enabler of salvation whereas human beings are the repentant objects of mercy and the recipient subjects of God’s spirit.  Knowing that humans are incapable of completing the surgical processes of heart circumcision and heart transplantation themselves, God enacts the process himself.  He explains that the procedure is necessary, then performs the surgery upon those who express willingness.  The requirement of the recipient is the simple process of obedience in allowing God’s hands to reshape and rework the heart to respond to God’s love.  Just as a patient gives trust to a surgeon to perform radical but necessary surgery, so the believer must allow God to cut everything out that threatens salvation and begin the process of healing within us.  The agreement of action between God and the recipient is covenantal, both promising commitment towards one another- God promising regeneration and the love of his Spirit for the repentant heart and the person promising earnest loyalty and the love of his soul to God (Ro 5:5).
        In both the Old and New Testament, conversion results from the cooperation of God’s mercy, a person’s contrite attitude, and then God’s recreating work on the penitent heart.  Just as the practice of circumcision of the flesh was an outward sign of God’s covenant relationship with Israel, so the act of circumcision of the heart depicts the commitment of one’s whole self to God.{1}  In its eternal sense, conversion relies upon the interaction between God and his people via a process recreation involving faith, hope and love.  Conversion occurs by faith as the repentant person recognizes the hopeless condition of sinfulness and chooses to seek and depend upon God’s mercy.{2}   Conversion occurs by hope as the repentant person trusts in God’s promises to provide salvation.{3}   Conversion occurs by love as the repentant person sees and understands the faithful love of God for his people and then responds in love to God with heart soul and mind.{4}   Admittedly, that response of love is only possible because it is met overwhelmingly by God’s gracious gift of enabling people to love him anew through his Holy Spirit dwelling within them.

{1} Wright, Christopher.  New International Biblical Commentary, vol 4: Deuteronomy. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1996, p. 151.  See Dt 10:16; 30:6; Lv 26:41; Jr 4:4; 9:26; Ez 44:7-9.
{2} Gn 15:6; Ex 14:31; Ps 116:6; Mt 9:2; 9:18, 22; 15:28; Ac 15:9; Rm 3:22-31;4:1-5:2; Ga 3:6-14; Ph 3:9; Hb 10:38-12:2.
{3} Ps 46:1; 65:5; 119:49; 131:3; Is 8:17; Mt 12:21; Ac 28:20; Rm 5:5; 15:12; Hb 6:18, 10:23, 11:1.
{4} Ex 34:5-10; Dt 6:4-6; 11:1,14,22; 2 Ch 9:8; Ez 9:9;  Ne 1:5; Ps 52:8; 109:26; 1 Co 13:7; Ga 5:5.


  1. I must say, I think the point of conversion is different from the point of salvation. Salvation strikes me as something we tend to sign off with a conversion, but I do not think that it is always the same. I all too often hear about the sinners prayer and the intellectual sign off on the beliefs of heaven, hell and Jesus’ saving us from one and sending us to the other. I think conversion is actually the engagement with Christ and the disregard of all others. A little like a wedding engagement, it signifies you are spoken for and noone else can take you. Salvation is more the activity of Jesus’ atonement that makes our lives ‘sinless’ whether in the present or the glory to come. The work of salvation begins at conversion, but it is not the same.
    At the campus retreat Ken was talking about creation, the image of God and the fall. I would like to point out that humanity, through salvation, is intended to reclaim that status as God’s image bearers so that, like Christ, we reflect God in all actions of our lives under the adoption of the Father with the working out of our salvation possible through the Holy Spirit. However, Ken pointed out something I think is really key to this explanation. an image is not the thing, it is a reflection, somewhat like a mirror reflects you, but the image within is not you. In order to reflect the image, the mirror must be facing the desired object. When humanity fell, we turned away our mirros to ourselves and bent our will to our own demise. Christ came to show us what it takes to really reflect God in this world. Christ came and showed us how to turn our mirrors back around (conversion) and begin to reflect (salvation) God again.
    Hope that was logical.

  2. I think you have some pretty key points here ken. God is the initiator and completer of our salvation (conversion). I think some might suggest that God being the initiator only makes salvation from our sins a possibility, not a current reality.
    When it comes to forgiveness of sins there are some differences between old and new testaments; mainly that of covering over (old) and taking care of (new).
    I recently heard a sermon about the early church where the preacher said that we are the ones finishing Jesus’ unfinished work. Maybe it’s just semantics, but I’m pretty sure Jesus accomplished everything he intended while here on earth! There is a difference between empowering people (through the Spirit) to live as Jesus lived and doing what Jesus didn’t do (you will do even more that these).
    Conversion is about realizing that God’s initiation, in Jesus Christ, is the ultimate and all consuming way for salvation and then embracing it wholeheartedly with a humble and committed heart towards God’s ways.
    Too many people take the initiation of God towards a “Limited Atonement” end…which I do not think is necessary. Jesus’ work was for all, but not all will receive it…and that does not mean that God failed in his plan, but rather it shows his unending love for his relational creations, as far as one scar hand to the other (cool song).

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