The Lord Jesus said,
“Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Matt. 18:3
“Repent … and be converted.” Acts 3:19
The apostle Paul preached,
“Repent and turn to God.” (be converted, literal translation) Acts 26:20
Dear Friend, I ask you, “Have you been converted?” Sadly, many today in our community have the same idea about conversion as C.T. Studd wrote years ago in the following personal testimony. He thought the idea of his needing to be converted was ridiculous. Please read carefully and see if your ideas are not as confused as his.
“I was brought up in the Church of England and was pretty religious—so most people thought. I was taken to church and baptized the right day, and after a time I was confirmed and took communion. But I did not know anything about Jesus Christ personally….. There was not a moment in my life when I ever doubted that there was a God, or that Jesus Christ was the Saviour of the world; but I did not know Him as my personal Saviour. We boys were brought up to go to church regularly, but, although we had a kind of religion, it was not a religion that amounted to much. … We had lots of ministers and lots of churches all around us, but we never saw such a thing as a real convert. We didn’t believe much in converts in those days. We thought that the Chinese and Africans had to be converted; but the idea of an Englishman (or American, editor) being converted was absurd, because it made him out a heathen before he was converted.”1
Have you been converted, dear Reader, or do you think conversion is for others? Perhaps you say, like Mr. Studd, I am a Christian, I have been baptized, I go to church, I believe Jesus is God’s Son. But have you been converted? Remember the words of Christ, “Except ye be converted, … ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” To be converted is to be changed, to have a new life. It is to change direction.
Conversion is associated with “quickening” and forgiveness of sins. To be quickened is to be made alive. It means that the Holy Spirit of God imparts new life to the soul and a new life continues unto eternal life. The inspired apostle wrote to the saved members of the New Testament Churches the following: “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;” Col 2:13 And also, “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;” Eph 2:1 Notice with me in both of these scriptures that the saints of God are described as having been DEAD prior to their conversion. They were dead because of sin. Death is separation. Sin separates from God. But they were made alive by the power and the grace of God. The first fruits of this regeneration are conversion and forgiveness of sins. This is exactly what the verses above teach.
One of the great examples of conversion in the New Testament is the apostle Paul himself. His conversion is found in Acts chapter nine. He relates it on at least two other occasions as he gives his testimony of salvation (Found in Acts 22 and 26). Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, chapter three, is also helpful, because here Paul gives the doctrinal explanation of what he relates experientially in the Book of Acts. If you do not have a personal testimony of conversion, I urge you to read carefully please as I relate some details of Paul’s conversion.
First of all, let us note the life of Paul prior to his conversion. Listen to what he says about himself at this time.
“If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh (self), I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” Phil. 3:4-6
Paul is saying that he had had more to brag about than anyone. He was a Jew. He was a Pharisee according to the law. This means that he endeavored to keep the law of God. Outwardly his life was “good” in the sight of men. Paul was very religious. He was also very sincere and zealous in his religion. Paul was not guilty of drunkenness, adultery, lying, idolatry, or many other sins of the day. But he had not been converted. He had not been quickened. He was dead in sin and on the road to Hell.
Before his conversion, one of the main traits that would have characterized Paul, was pride and self-righteousness. He was good. He believed himself better than others. He believed that he did not need to be converted, because he did not consider himself a wicked, Hell-deserving sinner.
What about your life? Have you been drunk? Are you guilty of murder, adultery, lying, hatred, or any one of another hundred sins? Are you, also, trusting in your own works as Paul was? Do you, my Friend, think of yourself as a rebellious, Hell-deserving sinner? Or do you, like Paul, have “confidence in the flesh” (yourself)? This is one of the great evidences of conversion, a somber, humble confession of our own sinfulness and a complete lack of all hope in self. This is exactly what we see in Paul after his conversion. In the very next verses in Philippians Paul says,
“But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith:” Phil. 3:7-9
Paul also wrote to the Romans in chapter seven, verse 18, “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing:” Nothing good in me, says the converted Paul. He has been changed by the Spirit of God. He no longer has any confidence in himself, but has cast all of his hope and trust upon Jesus Christ. Paul now wants only the righteousness of Christ, which we can have only by grace through faith, apart from all works. Look again at Paul’s attitude toward his religious deeds and good works, “I … count them but dung.” Has the blessed Spirit of God ever caused you to look at yourself like this? If not, my Friend, you have not been quickened or converted. “You must be born again,” as Jesus told Nicodemus.
Can you give testimony of the grace of God that has changed your life? I ask you again, “Have you been converted?” Do not forget the words of Jesus, “Except ye be converted, … ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
Paul was converted on the road to Damascus when he met Jesus and had his heart humbled and changed by the grace and power of God. As Paul walked on that road he was trusting in his own righteousness. His confidence was in his own works and deeds. He did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God. He did not believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. But the risen Lord Jesus revealed Himself to him. The Lord humbled him and made him to see his own sinfulness and rebellion. God’s grace quickened Paul, and he instantly repented and trusted upon the Lord Jesus Christ. He was now a converted soul. His life had been changed by the power of God.
Allow me here to add a conclusion to the testimony of Mr. C. T. Studd. He relates that his father was a successful business man who loved gambling on his racing horses. But God converted his father, and he opened their house to preaching and preachers. One of those visiting preachers confronted the younger Mr. Studd by making him confront his unbelief. As C. T. Studd was confronted with the truth of the Lord Jesus and the Bible, God quickened his soul and brought him to trust in Jesus alone for his salvation. I close his testimony with this quotation, “Then I got on my knees and I did say ‘Thank you’ to God.” (For the gift of eternal life through His Son.) “And right then and there joy and peace came into my soul. I knew what it was to be born again, and the Bible, which had been so dry to me before, became everything.”1
How You Can Be Converted
Peter and Paul both preached, “Repent and be converted.” This means nothing more complicated than to change your mind about yourself, sin, and the Lord Jesus. It means that you confess and understand that you are a guilty, rebellious sinner deserving of God’s wrath and judgment. It means that you cast aside all confidence in your own works and deeds and realize that the word of God is true which says, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” Isaiah 64:6 Salvation is by God’s grace alone, “it is a gift, not of yourselves, not of works, lest any man should boast.” Eph. 2:8,9
To “repent and be converted” is to acknowledge and confess that you not only have done bad things, but that you ARE A SINNER. It is to agree with God’s Word which says, “There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God… For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;” It means that you agree with God that you are a rebel against Him. He gives to you “life and breath and all things,” but you live your life as you desire. Every moment not surrendered to God is sin. Every day lived for selfish pleasure and selfish ambition is sin. We indeed are sinful creatures against our Creator.
To “repent and be converted” is to humble ourselves in faith and trust before the Lord Jesus. Jesus gave a parable of a man who was converted and went to his house right with God. That man simply cast himself before God in faith and said, “God be merciful to me a sinner.” Luke 18:13 We can be right with God, have a new heart and a new life, and be converted because of the redemption through the Lord Jesus Christ. He gave His life, and shed His precious, sinless blood to save us from our sins. Jesus died that we might have life. He gave His life as the one perfect sacrifice for sins. He rose again from the dead and now sits at the right hand of the Father and intercedes for all that come to God through Him.
Let me ask you once again, “Have you been converted?” Try this exercise to know. Sit down and write down your own personal testimony of conversion. If you cannot do so or do not understand, you probably have not been converted. I would love to hear from you. Please send me your testimony either by regular mail or via e-mail. You can contact me through our web site
1. Quotations from the Testimony of C. T. Studd taken from The Fundamentals, Reprinted by Baker Books, 1993, Vol. IV, Pages 333, 334