The Necessity of Conversion

"Christians" are in need of conversion. I say this because it seems that most Christians in our day do not actually know the Jesus of Scripture. When you look at a typical Christian in America, s/he talks about Jesus, but this Jesus seems very different than the one in the NT. What is needed in our day is a true conversion to the Jesus of the Bible.

Conversion requires us to repent-- to change course/direction. The question is what course or direction is Jesus asking us to turn from and to. This is where I think we in America have an inaccurate idea of Jesus and his gospel. The most immediate answer people will give is "to turn from sin and turn towards Jesus" or something like that... however, that is a very meaningless statement because we still have not figured out what turning to Jesus looks like and we will always still sin.

There is so much in the OT about turning from the idolatrous ways of the Egyptians, Canaanites, and Babylonians. The NT makes many, many references to Rome and Caesar. Even the phrase in Romans 10:9 about "the Lord Jesus" or "Jesus is Lord" is a spin on the common understanding in that day that Caesar is Lord. It would be simplistic just to say that this has to do with prostrating ourselves before Caesar, another idol, or even Jesus Christ. The reason is that the type of "lord" that your serving determines the kind of kingdom that you live in. The kind of kingdom determines the daily routines of life: who is in control, what laws govern life, how do we relate with our neighbors and our enemies, economics and politics, the poor and rich, etc.

Do we believe that Baal is in control or Jesus? If we believe Baal is then we will implement Baal values in our life-- values of violence and hyper-sexuality. If we believe that Pharoah is God, then we will implement Pharoah's values and actions-- domination of a particular people/race, domination of economic landscape, sort of a survival of the fittest. If we believe that Caesar is God, then we will believe in Pax Romana-- that the trade networks, jobs, and security that Rome brings through such a strong ruler is the way for the world. However, to serve Christ is to reject such idolatry and the values and ways that go along with such idolatry.

Jesus asked the people of his day to repent of their wicked ways-- this required a turn from sin in self and society. This requires a choice, do I believe in Pax Romana/Americana, do I believe in Pax "Alcohola" (peace from the bottle or some other drug), do I believe in Pax Utilitarianism (peace from pursuing what brings happiness to the greatest number of people), etc. Or do I believe in the Shalom of God-- a true peace from a way of life that models Jesus Christ?


  1. Interesting post, and really interesting that you posted this today, on that same day that I made the "Unconverted Believer" post.

  2. yeah... I've been discussing this theme with some buddies of mine for a few weeks now... mostly getting frustrated at the lack of conversion, especially in regards to the imagination. People imagine that they are saved but have no idea of what this might mean for regular, everyday life. A great example of this is going to work. If a "Christian" worker is one who works hard, doesn't cheat, uses his/her abilities to further the cause of the company, etc., then we have not yet created a Christian imagination for the workplace. The gospel wants us to do something far more radical than this. It seeks to create a new imagination in the people of God. It seeks to question our relationships to the corporate world, our role in the marketplace. Basically, what is work? What is Christ's work in and through us? How does He seek to convert our daily life to his will?

  3. What you write reminds me of some of Newbigin's stuff in The Gospel in a Pluralist Society.

    Sometimes I wonder if growing up in a Christian home is the biggest detriment to conversion.

    I also wonder if our emphasis on evangelism is also another significant obstacle to the kind of conversion you are imagining.

    If you grow up as a Christian, it seems like the existential need for conversion diminishes the further you are engulfed by the Xian sub-culture. And for churches that emphasize evangelism so strongly, they may get the confession without the longterm work of conversion.

    Therefore, many Christians who grew up in a Christian home, or who were saved in an evangelistic church, go about their week like most normal people, abiding by the poplular values, and then hope to be entertained on Sundays.

    What do you think?

  4. Tim, I think your last few sentences really get at it: "go about their week like most normal people, abiding by the popular values, and then hope to be entertained on Sundays." This is really the heart of the issue. When surveys are conducted in the Midwest of the culture at large, and then the same survey is given to church folk in the Midwest, the results are identical. The reason for this is that Christians in the Midwest hold to the same values and practices as those who don't go to church. (Note: this holds true in the south as well; however, the east coast and west coast tend to have slightly different results mostly do to the fact that the coasts have less homogeneity than the center). More importantly, I would make the case that it is the church in the Midwest and South that perpetuates such thinking and practices (obviously exceptions exist). The gospel must first be preached in the pulpits if it is going to make it into the hearts of church-goers.

  5. Also, Newbigin has had a large influence on my thinking... thus explaining some of the similarities.