Posts Tagged ‘change’

What About Conversion?

Posted: January 18, 2012 by Nathan in What About...
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Conversion is an event that takes place when you become a Christian. It is the act of turning a belief in God into a trust or a faith in Him. One of the most dramatic conversions is recorded in the book of Acts .

 

        Acts 9

Saul’s Conversion

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

                        “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

The men travelling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord,” he answered.

The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

“Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.”

But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength.

 

Saul went, in the blink of an eye, from Christianity’s fiercest opponent to its greatest proponent. It was quite some turnaround. However, although we now talk about people’s “Damascus Road” experiences (their conversions) it is more unusual than usual for people to be converted in this manner.  Many people will know the date that they decided to follow Jesus. They may have wrestled with the idea for many years, they may have taken a winding road that led them to the decision but will finally have taken the plunge and made the decision to turn from their old ways and put their trust in God. However, there are also people who have been converted over many years and can’t put their finger on a date or time when they decided to follow Jesus.  All people have different journeys towards God.  St. Paul’s was quick and dramatic but if you look at the disciples of Jesus in the Gospels they seem to have all gradually come to trust and believe in Jesus over a period of a few years. There is no right or wrong way to approach conversion.

 

However, a decision does need to be made! Whether we’ve had a dramatic experience of God or whether we have been exploring for years, there comes a time when we need to decide one way or the other. Are we going to believe and trust in God or are we going to reject Him? If we make no decision it is the same as rejecting Him. Unfortunately with Christianity you simply can’t just sit on the fence.

What will you do?

 

If you still have questions that need to be answered before you feel comfortable in making a decision please do ask me in a comment below and I will do my very best to answer them. We all need to make a decision to either trust God and His saving grace, mercy and love or reject Him. Please don’t leave it longer than you need to. As a friend of mine says “To Not Decide is to Decide”.

None of us like change that much, we are comfortable with the constant and familiar. Change can make us feel awkward, fearful, anxious and uncomfortable. We look at our lives and have a “better the devil you know” attitude. My life may not be perfect but why rock the boat. We may look at Christianity and think that although it claims to offer good things I’d have to change too much to become a Christian.

I won’t lie to you, if you become a Christian your life will change! It may very well change quite dramatically. However, if anyone can manage change well it is God. Many people see Christianity as a set of rules that we all must follow and so it looks like we would have to suddenly change our lives to fit in with these rules.  This is a bit of a warped view of how God works. Christianity is far more about relationship than rules. Relationships do cause us to change, some fairly quickly others more gradually and all the changes are made because we want to change.

Consider two situations one falling in love and the other having a baby.  People fall in love because they want to, you don’t find many people who fall in love against their will. However falling in love brings change. There are the changes in your emotions and then there are the changes you make to accommodate the other person in your life. You don’t look at a stunning young man or women and say well I don’t want to date them because it would bring about too much change, I’d have to give up my weekends and a few evenings and I’ll have to buy some smarter clothes and even start cleaning my teeth. No, you meet someone you like and you want to make changes. As you grow to know and love that person you may want to make major changes in your life. That person is not forcing you to make them but you may want to make them to please that person. These changes can be made at your own pace, nothing is forced but over time you will have change quite a bit.  You are see very much you but as the relationship grows you will both change to please each other.

 

Now consider having a baby.  Babies bring massive change to people’s lives.  This time the change is much quicker. One minute there are two people in the relationship and the next there are three. The baby requires round the clock supervision, lots of attention, feeding, money spent on it, and so on. The parents suffer from sleepless nights, lack of time, a complete change in routine, a change in their relationship, constant visitors etc. However, most people who want a baby don’t mind the change in the slightest because the baby more than makes up for it.

 

Becoming a Christian can be like these two situations. Becoming a Christian is simply entering into a relationship with God. He doesn’t suddenly demand that you change to fit in with Him. God is far more likely to gently bring you to a place where you can see that a change in what you do will be of great benefit to you, not to Him.  The changes we may make over time when becoming a Christian are far more beneficial to us than they are to God. We may change the things we do because we want to please a partner and the partner benefits but with God we may change the things we do to please God but in fact it is us that benefits not God. It may please Him but it is us who really benefits.

Some people who become Christians go through the baby situation. They suddenly see that the way they have been living is wrong and change overnight. Their world is turned upside down by understanding who God is and the love He has for all of us. It is however, purely their decision. They’ve decided that they want to change and that that change would be good for them. In both cases change is driven from them not God. In both cases change is entirely positive.

 

A friend describes his life before becoming a Christian as being great. He was a generally good person. He was happy. He had no major problems in his life. He saw no need to change. However, after exploring the Christian faith he did become a Christian. He says that before he was a Christian it was like watching a black and white television. It was great, he didn’t know any different. There was nothing wrong with watching the television in black and white; he was more than happy with it. However, being a Christian for him is like watching television in high definition full colour. There is no way he’d want to return to watching television in black and white, it would be sorely lacking. His life has changed, changed for the better.  There is no way he’d want to go back to his black and white viewing.  He has changed because he wanted to change, not because he had to or felt obliged to.

In summary:

With Christianity change is for our benefit, it is not forced and it is always at our own pace. If the God who created us cannot manage change well then who can? Our lives do not need to be in a mess or bad for change to be really great!

Many people are happy with their lives. They may like to change one or two things but on the whole they are content with their lot. They have their routines and they like them it gives them security and structure to their lives. They know they are not perfect but they’ve never killed anyone and anyway they like their little forays into the world of doing wrong. It can be exciting, freeing and helps them to fit in to a world where, let’s face it, nobody is perfect. We’re not talking major crimes here just the odd time of drinking a little too much, the late night puff of weed, the bit of bitchiness at the school gate or flirting just a little too much at the office party – you know the kind of thing. These things can be fun, no-one gets hurt and they add a little bit of vitality to life. Why should they change? In fact they don’t want to change? However, if they became a Christian they would have to change!! Become all straight laced and high and mighty! They would have to change the things in their lives that they like doing and that is just not going to happen!! They may believe there is a God; they may even believe in Jesus and what he taught; they may even go to church once in a blue moon; but diving headlong into this thing they call Christianity? No! Too much would have to change.

 

But now let’s look at the other end of the spectrum. Many people are unhappy with their lives. Life has not been good to them. Perhaps that late night puff of weed developed into a full blown addiction and not just to weed but to much harder drugs. Perhaps in the struggle to make ends meet they felt like they had no option but to turn to crime. They might be trapped by all sorts of other addictions that have such a grip on their lives that the idea of change just can’t be comprehended. Their lives started on a slippery slope and the downward spiral has taken them to a place of seemingly no return. It seems to them that it would be impossible to change and become a Christian. They simply wouldn’t be able to. It would take too much and they don’t even have anything. Again too much would have to change and this time it’s not that they don;t want to it’s just that they don’t believe that they can!

 

Now, of course, none of this applies to us, because our lives are perfect! We are all sorted – we never do anything wrong – we have no addictions – we are happy all the time – our lives need no extra excitement – we are the all singing all dancing perfect person. We come from a perfect family and we have a perfect family. In fact we have no need whatsoever to change because we have it all! It’s about now that I wake up, the dream is over, the bubble has burst and I come well and truly back to reality!! When it comes to being perfect we are all in the same boat!! Some of us might like think that we’re in the first class cabins and some of us may feel we’ve stowed away and don’t even deserve to be there – but let’s face it when the boat goes down we’re all in the water. When it come to being perfect we are all a long way off. Whether someone has been a Christian for 70 years or one day – whether they’re from middle class respectability or gang culture – whether they have a criminal record as long as your arm or none whatsoever they all need to change. We all need to change.

 

Now, nobody likes change. It is seen as unsettling, awkward, a hassle, difficult, uncomfortable, abnormal, you name it, it never seems good. Change is big business. People are paid big bucks to “manage” change. However, let’s not blow “change” out of proportion. We change and adapt every hour we’re awake. It really is no big deal. When we first fell in love did we focus on the changes that we may have had to make? When we got rid of our old banger and bought a brand new car did we constantly bemoan the fact that lots of things were different? When we moved out of the slum and into a house did the change seem bad then? How we look at change depends on how we cope with change. Do we look at all the negatives or do we focus on the positives? When we go on holiday do we look at the hassle of packing, the nervousness of getting a plane, the uncomfortableness of the first night in a new bed, the pain of having to put on suntan lotion, the removal of sand from between our toes after a swim in the sea etc. etc. No we look at all the wonderful aspects of the holiday – the fresh air, time with family, the sun on our skin, the beauty around us, the wonderful food, the cultural spectaculars, the rest if gives us, the places of interest, the break from work and the list could go on and on. When it comes to Christianity the benefits far outweigh the changes that need to be made. More than that – in Christ we have the greatest manager of change that there ever has been. Why? Because Jesus loves you just the way you are! You don’t have to change to merit his love. It is 100% unconditional! Even though we might detest God, hold things against Him, curse Him – he still loves us! Now, that doesn’t mean that he wants us to stay that way. He wants the best for us – just as we want the best for our children, family, friends. Do we want those who we love to do things that hurt us, no! Do we stop loving them until they stop doing things that hurt us, no! The same is true with God. I love this phrase that holds a lot of truth – “There is nothing that we can do to make God love us more. There is nothing that we can do that can make God love us less.” God’s love for us is constant – never changing – unconditional. He accepts us exactly as we are.

 

When you start a relationship with someone they love you for who you are. In many ways there is no need for you to change your ways, your habits or your activities. However, in time the likelihood is that you will want to change. You will find out more about each other, what each other likes and dislikes. You will want to spend more time with each other – so you’ll willingly give up that Monday evening art class to spend the time with each other. You may discover that your smoking sets off their asthma and will see that as a great incentive to give up. All the freedoms you enjoyed as a single person suddenly don’t seem so important any more and you’ll gladly give them up. The same is true with becoming a Christian. God will not force you to change in any way at all. However, it is likely that you will find, as you get to know Him more, that you will want to change. You will see some things in your life as more important and some things as less. Jesus will only help you change your life for the better, on your terms, at your pace, on your say so. Let’s face it there aren’t many people who give up smoking and wish they hadn’t or kicked an addiction and long to go back to it. All change with Christianity is change for the good – no pressure – no arm twisting – and also no regrets.

 

Change doesn’t have to be bad, daunting and difficult. If it is managed well it can be freeing, liberating, exhilarating, life enhancing, fulfilling and affirming. Don’t let anyone look down on you because they think they’re in first class and you’re in cattle class – remind them we’re all in the same boat and that Jesus loves us all, just the way we are!! Then gently remind them that Jesus doesn’t necessarily want them to remain that way!!