A Conversion Story

I admit to selfish motives in penning this piece. How one comes to allegiance and obedience to Christ is an intensely personal story. And, others may likely find nothing in it to identify with from their own experience. But for me, at this point in my life, it is important for me to describe how my life was turned inside out if only for the benefit of my progeny if no one else. This is that story.

What is the Christian’s Calling?

There are three polar opposite popular opinions these days as to what it is the Christian is called to do. The first is that the Christian calling is to do essentially nothing. This is the view held, in whole or in part, by the vast majority of those who identify with the Reformed Church tradition, convicted as they are by the doctrine of God’s Grace. These folks’ understanding is that God is in complete control of the outcome of society, and so they are at best incidental to His Sovereign decision. Some who hold this opinion share it only up to a point, insisting that spreading the Gospel of Christ is the true Christian calling, which they read as applying to themselves in Mat 28:19-20. The other opinion is that Christians should “work” for the righting of society’s wrongs, be they racism, child trafficking, spousal abuse, drug abuse, or,…fill in your favorite societal pathology. This opinion also includes climate-related causes, such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, tree planting, trash clean-up, etc. These people are persuaded not so much by Biblical commissions but rather by their well-founded belief in the advent of the “New Heavens and New Earth” at the Eschaton. If there’s going to be a “New Earth”, they reason, then they should be about its preservation until that day. What these popular opinions seem to fail to appreciate is what Jesus actually called us to do . Let’s unpack what they’re missing.

The “X-Files” of the Tanakh

There is some very strange stuff going on, semantically, in the Tanakh – the Old Testament. Our English translations hide much of it, allowing us to blithely assume that unclear verses are either just poorly translated or, perhaps, intended to be purposefully obscure. But, what if their obscurity/ambiguity reveals some much deeper meaning than simply the literal texts in which they appear? And, if there is a deeper meaning, what could it be, and what is it likely to be?

The Economy of God

God’s economy is not a traditional economy but it does have some characteristics in common with them. Both are composed of a series of “transactions” – interactions between “supplier” and “acquirer”. However, this is largely where the analogy ends. The economy of God doesn’t have a measure of value that you can denominate in quantitative units. It also isn’t constrained by a finite amount of value. Its source of value is God Himself, whose resources are inexhaustible.

Seek First the Kingdom of God

Not all Christians experience the same quality of spiritual life.  For some, their lives are joyful, full of confidence, full of assurance of their acceptance and eventual reward, and full to overflowing with the Spirit of God, to the point that they feel compelled to give it away to those around them.

For others, life is more measured, perhaps a bit more stressful, containing more concern, at least to a degree, for some of the things in their lives, resulting in worry.  They are somewhat discouraged by the lack of spiritual “fruit” in their lives.  They want to love, and to serve and to experience the joy of the Lord.  But frustratingly, they just feel they’re stuck in a rut.

Why is the one life blessed so abundantly, while the other seems unfulfilled?

Belief, and the Indwelling of the Holy Spirit

There appears to be in the Christian church today a profound misunderstanding of the working of Salvation in the Christian’s life.

On the one hand, we have the tried and true fundamental statement of salvation found in Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians (2:8):

For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

When one hears and receives this glorious proclamation, he breathes a groaning sigh of relief.  “I no longer have to strive to please God on my own; to be ‘good’ enough; to worry that I won’t live up to God’s expectations.  I’m saved and my faithfulness to Him has saved me.”

These are all legitimate conclusions for the one who has, perhaps at long last, repented and believed.  God saves from His judgment those who live faithfully to Him and His Son, Jesus, the Christ.

But what is it the Christian believes who receives this reprieve?  And what is it that he has agreed to in proclaiming Christ the Lord of his life?

“in Christ”?

What does it mean to be “in Christ”?  How do I know if I am?   The Apostle John tells us this:

1 John 5:20 (ESV)

[20] And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

To John, the condition of placing our faith in God and His Son, the Christ, was synonymous with being “in him”.