Monday, March 7, 2016

Conversion Factors

Conversion to what? Centigrade to Fahrenheit? Teaspoons to Tablespoons? Well, maybe sometimes, but not in this case. In this case, we are talking about Christian conversion. We are talking about the dramatic change in status which occurs when the non-believer becomes a believer in Christ.

But what is the real essence of conversion? What are the mechanics of this shift in our reality? We certainly need to answer those important questions – but, not for a minute or two. First, let’s talk about what conversion involves in terms of the everyday human reality.

For example, conversion means you don’t wake up alone anymore. It means that you will never have to face another day, depending only upon yourself, or forsaken to the dilemmas of your own weakness. 

To experience Christ is to experience the grand privilege of His enduring and empowering friendship, and with that, the confidence and synergy that comes from a life lived as two. It is an existence which is exponentially better than life lived as one.

In the everyday, conversion also means a thorough reprieve from our own inner darkness. Whether it’s a latent and unexplainable anger, some ugly appetite, or some unresolved guilt, etc., conversion means – “It’s all solvable.” The reality of life in Christ is that the path is ever upward. In simple terms, under his care, newness of heart and life flourish.

Conversion is also the means by which the living Jesus conveys to the believer’s heart, every day, a durable hope for that day, and for the days to come. He whispers confidence in words unspoken, and yet, clearly understood. 

And, by these confirming whispers of love and support, we discover the means to escape the previous patterns of our own stupidity.  We are set free from the devilish lies and silly delusions which have, before, led us astray. These things are all replace by new, and fulfilling, and entirely attainable dreams – dreams of substance, which do, indeed, eventually become a personal success story.

The simple reality, of which unbelievers are completely unaware, at least in the real terms of daily relationship, is that our Savior lives. And through His constant and invisible presence we are, every day, helped in a thousand ways – far beyond just the needs of our soul. 

The world needs a Savior of the soul; and Christ is certainly that. But, in the everyday, our Savior becomes our best friend, our confidante’, our advice giver, our direction provider, our forgiver, and our constant encourager.

It’s true; conversion has some mechanics to it. But most days, those mechanics are far less important than the daily result. To live in the light of God’s daily friendship and blessing is the “daily redemption.” It is the redemption, not so much of our soul, as of our life circumstance.

Nevertheless, understanding the mechanics of conversion does sometimes expedite this blessing that is – the divine friendship. So, again, what is the real essence of conversion? What are the mechanics of this shift in our reality? Well, to put it simply, it is ultimately just a matter of values.

It works like this. Each human being has a value system which is completely unique to them. And, this value system is composed of a group of deeply held and very basic beliefs, tenets, principles etc. 

These very primary "instincts" essentially form our guidance system in life. They are our perception mechanism. And thus, our values largely determine our actions and reactions. They form our likes and dislikes. Our values determine what is important and what is not important to us.

So, for example, the value system of one person may determine that slavery is horribly wrong. The value system of another may dismiss the moral implications of slavery, altogether. 

 And so it goes with all of the issues of life. It is our value system which determines how we feel and behave toward most everything. And it is the absolute uniqueness of our value system which makes us see and react to things differently.

So, before we encounter Christ, our value system is very small and subjective. That is, it creates a very me-centered view of life. And, if we do occasionally get briefly beyond this “me” perspective, it is with no small effort and no great consistency. 

 Always this subjective view of life exerts itself as a background pressure upon who we are and what we do. And it is this specific condition which Jesus begins to address at conversion.

The redemption which Christ offers is essentially about giving us a new value system which is based in God’s perspective, rather than our own. And, while we might not actually verbalize it in these terms, yet the reality is, at conversion, we are declaring our willingness to take on this new value system - God’s value system.

So, at conversion, the obverse decision is to entrust ourselves to the will of Christ, going forward. But, intrinsic to that decision is the underlying necessity of embracing His values, the same values revealed to us in the Bible.

The concept of values, and more specifically, subjective values, explains a lot in our world. For example, when we view the conflict between good and evil, it is really simply a clash of values. 

When we look at the controversial social issues of our times: abortion, homosexuality, same sex marriage, legalization of recreational drugs, etc., the controversy is born from a clash of values. The same is true of racial and ethnic tensions, religious differences, as well as political ideologies. It is all about differing values.

So, it becomes obvious that, as people, we cannot really resolve our serious differences until we reconcile our values. And God understands that this same dilemma exists between Himself and mankind. 

 We will never have peace with God until we share a common value system with Him. Thus, the central, underlying issue of conversion is really our willingness to forsake our own flawed value system and embrace His.

And, that is exactly the opportunity which God offers to humanity through Christ. It is the opportunity to be reconciled to Him in this enduring way. He is offering us a profoundly peaceful relationship which is well anchored in our common values. So, Paul would write in the Book of Romans, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord, Jesus Christ...”

We actually discover this new and harmonious relationship with God in two stages. The first stage of discovery is, indeed, at conversion. As described, at that conversion moment, we are actually agreeing, in our conscious mind, to begin operating our lives in accordance with His value system.

But the conscious mind does not entirely decide the redemptive matter. Even after this conscious decision is made, there remain the issues of the subconscious mind. And those subconscious issues are very real. 

Paul paints a clear picture of the subconscious confrontation in Romans, chapter 7, where he writes, “For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man. But, I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.”

So, beyond the conscious mind, we must also take the decision to embrace God’s values to our subconscious mind. However, the subconscious mind is one over which we have virtually no control. So, what is to be done?

In fact, God has devised the perfect solution through the Living Christ. It is our spiritual baptism into His living essence. Through this literal merger of natures, our human nature with His divine nature, the embrace of His value system is effected in our subconscious mind. 

When this happens, the clash of values between God and the individual is finally and entirely settled. And what is left in the wake of this Christ arranged peace is a new and harmonious relationship with God, which reaches to the very core of the believer’s being.

Jesus once said, “A house divided against its self cannot stand.” When we share a common value system, whether with people or with God, there is peace and agreement of heart. When we do not, conflict, tension, and division are inescapable.

In Christ, God has devised a way to bring about a beautifully harmonious and enduring relationship with those who would be converted from darkness to His light. And ultimately – it is just a matter of Christ implanted values.

"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you..." - Jesus