Category Archives: Conversion

Conversion – nearly always incremental

Shakespeare has one of his characters truly say that wounds heal only by degrees.  In the same way, converting from an ego-centered to a Christ-centered life happens by degrees.  As the Twelve disciples proved during Christ’s ministry, that change can be so incremental it’s nearly invisible.

Ernie Pyle wrote about the change from home-focused to war-focused perspectives among GI’s in North Africa, 1942.  He noted first the change in his own beliefs.  He had previously pondered possible defeat by the Germans, due to few troops and supplies reaching American forces.  That pessimism vanished with the build-up of troops, planes, tanks and confidence by victory in battle.

He also noted the change in the troops.  While stationed in North Africa, they thought only of home.  They could hardly wait to return home.  As weeks passed, and they concentrated on the military mission, they thought less of home and more of battle.  Until, when he wrote, home remained more a figment of memory by war being the monster of reality.

He judged that a nation would take a couple of years to change from a consumer economy to a war economy.  While it didn’t take as long for troops to make the alteration, it did happen  in the gradual displacement of one perspective by another.  Reader’s Digest Illustrated Story WWII, 320

Conversion from ego-centered to Christ-centered thinking is also a process, not an event.  The disciples hardly qualified as apostles while Jesus ministered.  But once granted the Holy Spirit’s Baptism, they became what Jesus envisioned for 3 ½ years.

The difference is perseverance:  soldiers concentrating on their duty, disciples on their responsibility.  As soldiers by effort in war put home in the shadows, Christians by involvement in the Christ-life leave little emphasis on ego-building.  As time passed, the soldiers forgot about going home until they fulfilled their mission.  As time passes for the Christian, we develop the conviction that we can’t and won’t go back to what we were by concentrating on what we’ve become and want to continue being.  Our future is a maturing Christ-likeness, not any previous lifestyle we considered irresistible.  Whatever help psychology may give us to mesh, not grind our mental gears, the WILL to change our lives drives us forward to the goal for which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus Philippians 3:14.

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Conversion – our second chance

A San Diego man co-owns a wood reclamation shop, where he turns different kinds of old wood into useful benches, tables, flooring, and doors.  Driving some 50,000 miles a year in Oregon, servicing the ATMs owned there, gives him splendid opportunities to find unused wood barns, houses, outbuildings, and fences.  These he has dismantled and shipped to his San Diego shop.  Among the rough boards sent south were wood from an 18th century Oregon monastery and a 200 year old barn in Delaware.  Union-Tribune, 1/17/15

Two pictures in the article had special interest.  The first showed the usually two-four inch thick boards piled high, the various colors identifying the wood to their practiced eye.  The second featured a conference table he made from such boards.  The table revealed its age and its true-wood look.  The craftsman preserved the identity of the resource while creating a useful tool for humans.  Union-Tribune, 1/17/15

Conversion to Christ is like that.  We come to him with all the imperfections years of sin have marked on us—with holes, splits, cracks, nails protruding.  Then the Holy Spirit, God’s Spiritual Master Craftsman, sizes us up, spies along all our sides and breadth and colors, sees how each can best be fashioned to get the most out of what we bring to him.  When the Spirit finishes we’ll have all the marks of our persona left, with every imperfection removed or covered, fit to be a spiritual instrument of Jesus Christ.

One might wonder if it wouldn’t be better to leave our imperfections as scars, to be a witness of our perseverance in discipleship.  Probably not.  The only one in Heaven with scars will be the Lord Jesus.  For a definitive reason:  his will be the scars of redemption, which only he achieved.  Ours would be merely of service, maybe of sins, mistakes, or accidents.  Hardly worth mentioning, let alone remembering.

Conversion – life worthy of necessary

Nick Waddell, a coastwatcher in the Solomon Islands in World War II, kept a “visitors book” in which he wrote the names of all downed flyers rescued by his men.  He organized a club called “Rubber Rafters Association” and gave every rescued airman a certificate of membership.  To maintain good standing in the group each man had only to get drunk every year on the anniversary of his rescue; if possible he also had “to make as many others as possible equally drunk.”  Not a high expectation of those rescued from almost certain death.

When Jesus liberates us from sin’s power he frees us to remain independent of it, not to celebrate our emancipation with further plunges into depravity.

When members of the Boston Museum X‑rayed Jean‑Francois Millet’s “Young Shepherdess”, they discovered his “The Captivity of the Jews in Babylon” beneath.  Millet apparently painted over the “Captivity” in 1848 after it received unfavorable reviews.

God’s forgiveness doesn’t paint over sin, hiding the old life underneath.  He removes that life altogether.  For he won’t have canceled sins visible like shadows beneath a veneer of grace.

 

Conversion – means we no longer belong in the old life

In My Fair Lady, after Eliza Doolittle has proven she can be the lady her upbringing denied, she returned to the flower stands where she made her living before Henry Higgins made her his personal project.  Only to find she didn’t belong there anymore.  She went to several persons, looked them in the eye and purchased flowers.  Only one man said she reminded him of someone he knew.

Where she would go, she didn’t know; she knew she no longer belonged among the Cockney’s.  TCM, 1/26/14

Christians understand the dilemma.  Conversion to Christ always has a defining impact on us.  Whatever we were before being born again, we can’t be THAT!  Like the assumed apocryphal story about Augustine:  he met and passed a lady he had known carnally in his pre-Christian life.  When he didn’t stop to talk, she called back to him, “Augustine, it is I.”  He replied, “Yes, I know, but it is not I.”

We don’t know if that happened, but the point is true.  Once rescued from our past, we not only shouldn’t go back…we can’t…for real conversion means we don’t belong there anymore.  Unlike Eliza, we know God has determined where we’re to go, where we should live, and what we should be doing while there.  Ephesians 2:8-10.