As a true Christian, one must have fully experienced conversion to be able to write about or discuss it. I am grateful to be able to write a few words about this important part of the life of a Christian.
In speaking of conversion it is necessary to think of its relation to regeneration. The great distinction between a regenerate and a natural man is this:—Christ is the end of the one and self the end of the other. If the end of Christ’s death and resurrection is not accomplished for us, the fruits of it shall not be enjoyed by us.
Regeneration is difficult to describe because of its very nature. It is a mighty and powerful change wrought in the soul by the working of the Holy Spirit, wherein a vital principle, a new habit, the law of God, and a Divine nature are put into and framed in the heart. This enables the regenerated person to act holily and pleasingly to God and to grow up to eternal life and glory.
According to Webster’s Dictionary conversion is defined as: (1) a change from one state to another, as conversion of coal to ashes; (2) substitution of one thing for another, as conversion of bonds into cash; (3) a spiritual experience involving a drastic change ill belief. Our
Heidelberg Catechism teaches that the true conversion of man consists of two parts, the mortification of the old and the quickening of the new man.
Conversion is that work of God by which the regenerated sinner through the Spirit and Word is turned about from the way of sin to the way of truth and righteousness, from serving the devil to serving the Lord, the fruit being that converted sinner hates sin, turns from it and walks in the way of God’s law. It differs from regeneration. Conversion is the effect, regeneration is the cause. Regeneration is a spiritual change, conversion is motion. In regeneration man is passive, in conversion he is active. Regeneration is the motion of God in the creature, conversion is the response, of the creature, to God.
Now it is readily seen, this change in man is not due to anything of himself, it is entirely motivated by God without the aid or even any activity of man.
In Jeremiah 31:18 we read: “Turn thou me and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God.” and in verse 19: “Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed I wrote upon my thigh, I was ashamed, yea, even confounded because I did bear the reproach of my youth.” Again we are impressed with the fact that conversion is a work of God’s grace in the heart of His regenerated people. Sinners that we are, wanting to go about our own willful way, we are stopped and turned about from this way. Looking at our inmost heart we find by nature we are liars, haters of righteousness, lustful, envious, back-biters, proud, at enmity with God end the neighbor.
Now man was formed after the image of God, but turning from God, he forfeited all the excellent gifts, and brought upon himself blindness of mind, darkness, vanity, and became wicked, rebellious and contrary to God in mind and will.
This new life or conversion of the regenerated man does not begin or come forth in conscious action by its own power, but only through the Holy Spirit: John 6:44 “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.”
As Rev. Hoeksema clearly states in his work on the Heidelberg Catechism: In regeneration the sinner is principally converted; but it is not true that after regeneration the sinner converts himself. In our day we read and hear by means of radio, books, newspaper, magazines, etc., the admonition to convert ourselves, that God is waiting and longing, even begging man to turn to Him. It is extremely necessary for young people to be on their guard especially as they mingle with the people of the world in school, recreation and as employee. Too soon we accept tile teaching of the evangelists as something that is true and scriptural just because he says so.
We become conscious of our true conversion by the preaching of the Word which assures, confirms and strengthens us in the faith that has been given us.
The call to conversion comes to all, elect and reprobate alike. Man is responsible for this call whether he heeds or rejects it.
Many have the idea that conversion is leaving one religion for another, or that one surrenders himself to the Lord after hearing an emotional sermon. Now this is true according to the definition by Webster, but this may he but a temporary conversion and may have for a time the appearance of true conversion. It is possible that true conversion may have a sudden beginning, one being able to point to a certain time in his life when God turned him from the way of sin; or it may be gradual, so much a part of the early years of training and instruction that one cannot at all remember if he ever was converted. True conversion is that act of God whereby He causes the regenerated, in their conscious life, to turn to Him in faith and repentance and to acknowledge Him as the God of his salvation.
You who have had the gospel preached to you from infancy and have received the instruction of the Word in catechist classes, have heard about regeneration and conversion, though you are not regenerated or converted thereby, you are confirmed and assured of your conversion by these means. How am I to know then whether I am truly converted? Only by the Spirit of God through His Word will I find my assurance.
The question is not how or when you were converted, or, whether conversion was gradual or sudden, but are you converted today? Surely the beginning of conversion is only the start of a new life which must continue throughout your whole life. And this conversion is not stagnant. It will continue to grow as you pray to God beseeching His guidance in all your activities and desiring to be used in His service. It is God who works in you to will and to do of His good pleasure, knowing the work which He has begun will surely be accomplished.