The Conversion Process
CONVERSION BEGINS WITH THE INTELLECT
The Word begins its work on the heart of man by appealing to his intellect in order to persuade him to believe in Jesus. The preachers who came to Antioch preached “the Lord Jesus”. A large number believed in the Lord Jesus and therefore turned or were converted to Him. (Acts 11:19-21).
Luke’s record of Paul’s preaching efforts in Thessalonica spells out in more detail what it means to “preach the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 17:1-4) Paul went to the synagogue where those who gathered already had a foundation on which he could build his case for Jesus. They believed in and worshipped the living and true God. They accepted the Scriptures (the Old Testament) as the Word of God. They were not like the pagan idolaters in Athens where Paul had to begin his conversion efforts by making a case for an almighty and invisible Creator. (Acts 17:22-34)
In Thessalonica, Paul reasoned with them by explaining the Scriptures and giving evidence from them that Jesus is the “Christ” (King). The prophets made 100’s of predictions about the coming King 100’s of years before they were all fulfilled in one person- Jesus. How could one person fulfill all of these predictions? By accident? By coincidence? That would be illogical and unbelievable. He must have fulfilled them on purpose in accordance with the plan of God- He must be the King!
The evidence hit home with some of the Jews and they were persuaded. They joined Paul and Silas (as disciples), along with a large number of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women of the city.
In every sermon recorded by Luke in the book of Acts we see the presentation of evidence to appeal to the intellect of the hearer- to persuade them to believe that Jesus is the King and therefore He should rule their lives. In addition to the evidence of fulfilled prophecy, eye-witness testimony of Jesus’ resurrection was given to the hearers, testimony that was backed up by miracles. (Acts 4:10, 33) The preachers also set forth Jesus’ miracles as evidence of who He is. (Acts 2:22; 10:38; see also Jn 20:30-31)
If you have not done so, won’t you consider carefully the evidence that the gospel presents that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Conversion to Jesus begins with the gospel’s appeal to your intellect- with you being persuaded by the evidence to believe who He i
CONVERSION IS FINISHED BY THE EMOTIONS AND THE WILL
Before I believe in Jesus, I have no reason to pay attention to what Jesus says because I do not hold Him to be Lord and King. But once I accept that He is the Ruler, my mind begins considering several questions: “Since Jesus is Lord and King, how does my life compare with His law? Have I broken His law? If I have broken His law, what has this done to my relationship with God? What does my sin have to do with His crucifixion?” Questions like this lead me from belief to conviction.
A prime example of people moving from belief to conviction is found in the first conversion account in Acts 2. Peter gave evidence to his listeners that Jesus whom they crucified was raised from the dead and exalted to the position of Lord and Christ in heaven. “When they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’” (vs. 37) Once the word of God has convinced the intellect, it convicts the conscience.
True belief causes the piercing of the heart, the feeling of pain and sorrow because of sin committed against Jesus, the Lord and King. As one old preacher said about preaching, “You have to make them sad before you make them glad.” No one will ever be moved to seek forgiveness until they first see their need for salvation. Those who see the need will cry out, “What shall we do?!”
The stirring of emotions is a crucial part of the conversion process, but it is not the end. A person’s intellect may be persuaded that Jesus is Lord and King and their emotions may be racked with guilt, but they may go no further. Paul preached to Felix concerning having faith in Christ (King) Jesus. Specifically, Paul spoke on the subjects of righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come. Felix became frightened. He believed Jesus is King and was terrified because He stood condemned before Him, but it stopped there. He sent Paul away without deciding to do anything about his lost condition. (Acts 24:24-25)
Belief and grief must provoke a person to “turn” if conversion is to take place. The work of God’s word to convert the heart begins with the intellect, continues with the emotions, but it is not finished until it provokes the will to decide to follow Jesus. W.E. Vine, commenting on the fact that the Thessalonians “turned” (1 Thess 1:9) said that the word indicates “an immediate and decisive change, con-sequent upon a deliberate choice.” (p. 1174) Conversion occurs when a person decides to gladly receive Jesus’ word and repent and be baptized. (Acts 2:38, 41) His sins are forgiven and his conscience is made glad. From that moment he lives in view of the commitment that he has made with his will. He lives as a servant of Jesus the King instead of as a servant of sin. (Romans 6)
OBEYING FROM THE HEART
Paul wrote that the Christians at Rome had been slaves of sin, but they became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which they had been committed. (Rom 6:17) True conversion- turning from serving sin to serving Christ- comes from:
- Teaching the Gospel
- Belief in the Intellect
- Godly Sorrow in the Emotions
- Resolve in the Will
Where are you at in the conversion process? Have you been taught? Study the gospel for yourself and/or get some-one to teach you so that you can see why to believe. Do you believe? Think about the implications of your belief that Jesus is King so that you may come to sorrow for your sins. Are you in anguish over your sins? Resolve to follow Jesus and to do something about your lost condition by deciding to repent and to be baptized. If we may assist you in your conversion to Jesus, please let us know.