Conversion is the act of changing from one state of being to another. A good example from nature is the element, carbon. Carbon can exist as a lump of black coal, but after undergoing much heat and pressure for a time, carbon can be converted into a diamond. Diamonds are just carbon in its most concentrated form. Coal is a soft, common, cheap fuel that is burned up in a furnace, while diamonds are hard, expensive, desirable, and always reflect their brilliance. It is the conversion process that makes all the difference. Conversion for Christians is similar, and it is a great deal more than a change of heart or change of conviction.
It is the purpose of this article to show what Christian conversion is, how it takes place in an individual, and what the end result of conversion will be. We will look at the details of how physical, temporal man is converted by God - through many tests and fiery trials of our faith - into an immortal Child of God in the Family of God (Acts 14:22, 1Peter 1:7, 4:12). It is almost too much to believe, but the Scriptures tell us that it is true. God is reproducing Himself in man through the conversion process. Here is how it takes place:
At one time, we did not exist at all - then we were conceived, and nine months later, we were born. Now we exist as human beings. When God calls us, He grants us repentance and faith, and then after baptism, we receive the promise of the Father – an earnest of His Life - His Holy Spirit in us (Acts 1:4-5). We are changed instantly into Children of God – no longer mere children of the world. “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.” (1Corinthians 2:12)
“Now we are the Sons of God.” (1John 3:2)
God’s Spirit in a Christian begins the conversion process, which culminates in our being born into the eternal Family of God. God’s Spirit is the gift of God unto eternal life (Romans 6:23). It is God’s Will that we enter His Kingdom as His Spirit-born Children. Jesus Christ described the process leading up to our spiritual birth in the Kingdom of God to Nicodemus: “Truly, truly, I say unto you, Unless a man be born [gennao] of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God. That which is born [gennao] of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born [gennao]of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:5-6)
The Greek word, gennao, encompasses the entire life process in the womb from the moment of conception, the forming of the embryo, through prenatal development, to full maturity of the fetus at birth. Jesus also uses gennao to mean the spiritual development in a converted Christian that parallels the physical maturation period within the womb. Conversion is a process that begins with a “newness of life” at water baptism and the laying on of hands, and continues uninterrupted until we are raised as spiritual beings in the “likeness of Christ’s resurrection” (Romans 6:4-5)
This inconceivable truth is lost on the world. They think “Children of God” is a platitude meaning simply that God created us. They cannot grasp the awe-inspiring reality expressed in these Biblical words that convey the fact that our mere humanity is being transformed into Godliness. When a human being undergoes the Christian conversion process, he enters a transformation from temporary mortal life to eternal God Life.
Think about this, there are all kinds of life: There are many types of plant life, and a great variety of animal life. What are we? We are only one version of life - human life; and God is a different version of life – the highest form - God Life. A con-version from the earthly human-version to the God-version of Life, must take place in us for us to be like Him. God reveals this in Genesis where He talks about all the different versions or kinds of life. Notice carefully how man-kind is to become God-kind.
“God said, let the earth bring forth the living creature after its kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after their kind: and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after its kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creeps upon the earth after his kind… And God said, Let Us make man in our image, after our likeness… So God [is creating] man in His own image, in the
image of God He [is creating] him; male and female created He them.” (Genesis 1:24-27)
God created man-kind. He made them, man and woman, capable of reproducing their species, their kind, only as an embryonic step in His plan to reproduce Himself - the God-kind. God is in the process of reproducing Himself by beginning with God-like children who are a part of His Family – the Family of God. In order for man to make that great leap, from man-kind to God-kind, God gives baptized Christians a token of His Life - His Spirit. It is only when God’s Life unites and changes our human life to be like His, that we are made into His Godly children – and on our way to becoming fully converted. “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when [Christ] shall appear, we shall be like Him.” (1 John 3:2)
Paul explained how the change in kind, from man-kind to God-kind, takes place. “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God… you have received the Spirit of sonship, whereby we cry, Abba,[daddy] Father. The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit, that we are the Children of God.” (Romans 8:14-16) Expounding further on Jesus’ analogy of being born and the mother’s labor pains in giving birth, Paul tells how the purpose of all of creation is for the conversion process of bringing many sons to glory. “We know that the whole creation groans and travails in [labor] pains together until now.” (Romans 8:22)
When we are literally born into the Kingdom of God, as full members of the Spiritual Family of God, it will not be in these temporary physical bodies. In the resurrection to eternal life, immortal Spiritual bodies that cannot perish will replace our old physical bodies. “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body… “Flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.” (1Corinthians 15:44, 50) “The Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto His glorious body,” (Philippians 3:21)
Conversion from man-kind to God-kind begins in a instant of time, just like at the moment of our conception, when we went from having a non-existent status to being physically alive at the formation of the embryo. From that initial instant onward, an earnest of God’s Spirit in us continues the conversion process of going from purely physical beings toward the goal of becoming eternal Spiritual beings. The ultimate transformation occurs at our resurrection to full God-life.
God, through the power of His Holy Spirit in us, works a complete change in us. At the completion of the conversion process, there will be absolutely nothing remaining of the physical and sinful man that God called to salvation. Though we are now Children of God, we must develop and complete the conversion progression. Jesus said that we must go through the entire process to be in the Kingdom of God (John 3:3). Continuing repentance and growing faith are an integral part of this development (2Peter 3:18). Because we are still human – we fall. It is only with God’s help – His Spirit in us – that we begin to overcome our sinful human nature, and begin to put on God’s divine nature.
It is God’s Spirit, united with our spirit, which gives us the beginning of Spiritual Life. But, just like a physical babe in the womb, we must develop spiritually to full term – from mortal to immortal (1Corinthians 15:53-54). “God has given unto us the earnest of [His] Spirit.” (2Corinthians 1:22, 2Corinthians 5:5) “You were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance.” (Ephesians 1:13-14, 4:30)
A word of caution here: Some people, upon being baptized, begin to coast along because they erroneously think, “I have it made – I’m converted now!” No. God gives us the picture of a newly conceived babe in the womb that must grow and mature until the day of its birth. If an unborn infant for any reason ceases to grow and develop, it will die within the womb. In the same exact way, if anyone deliberately refuses God’s help in overcoming sin, and renounces His Way of Life - they will be stillborn - and not enter the Kingdom of God. As converted Christians, we must continue to grow in Godly righteous character until our day of maturation - the day we have finished our course with joy (Acts 20:24). Only then will we meet the criteria for our spiritual birth into the Family of God.
At Baptism, and with the laying on of hands, we receive that powerful spark of Divine Life that makes us embryonic Children of God. Our spiritual growth process begins to convert us from being purely carnal to entirely spiritual – a tremendous process that will not be complete until the resurrection to Life.
“Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (2Peter 3:18) “Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord, according as His divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto Life and Godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue.” (2Pe 1:2-3) “Until we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13)
The conversion process begins with God’s Holy Spirit in us. “You are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you.” (Romans 8:9)