Conversion: The Heart’s Transformation by Thiago Silva, ThM
In a recent lesson I discussed the miraculous spiritual regeneration of the Christian that comes from believing in Jesus Christ.
We now delve into the realm of conversion—another element in the divine symphony of God’s salvation of sinners.“Conversion is the transformation of thoughts, desires, and emotions from sinful inclinations to a devotion to holy things—a redirection of life’s course.”
Conversion represents the profound response of a sinful heart and mind to the irresistible call of God, resulting in a pivotal change that encompasses repentance of sins and a profound faith in Christ.
While conversion is an effect of regeneration, it distinguishes itself as a distinct process, with the individual actively involved.
Conversion is the transformation of thoughts, desires, and emotions from sinful inclinations to a devotion to holy things—a redirection of life’s course.
Notably, the individual’s active role in conversion is only positively enacted under the influence of God’s transformative work within.
Even in this active role, it is God who orchestrates the change and enables the individual to partake in the transformation. Thus, our participation in God’s salvific plan is enabled solely through the agency of the Holy Spirit.
Some Reformed theologians delve into the nuances of conversion, highlighting two intertwined aspects: the active and passive dimensions.“Two fundamental elements underscore genuine conversion: faith in Jesus Christ and repentance of sins.”
In the active sense, conversion involves the change orchestrated by God, altering the course of one’s life.
It is vital to acknowledge that conversion is not a mere spontaneous act of the regenerate; rather, it follows regeneration and is intrinsically linked to it.
In the passive sense, conversion embodies the outcome of God’s transformative action—a visible alteration in one’s life trajectory and a return to God.
This process, while propelled by the individual’s conscious and voluntary decision, aligns with the overarching providential calling of God that empowers the response.
It is crucial to emphasize that the conscious and voluntary actions of man in conversion transpire in harmony with the Providence of God’s calling and enabling.
The multifaceted nature of conversion is aptly encapsulated in the dual interplay of human responsibility and divine agency.
Within this complex interplay, two fundamental elements underscore genuine conversion: faith in Jesus Christ and repentance of sins.
Saving Faith: Embracing the Unseen
According to the Westminster Confession of Faith,
By this faith, a Christian believeth to be true whatsoever is revealed in the Word, for the authority of God himself speaking therein; and acteth differently upon that which each particular passage thereof containeth; yielding obedience to the commands, trembling at the threatenings, and embracing the promises of God for this life, and that which is to come. But the principal acts of saving faith are accepting, receiving, and resting upon Christ alone for justification, sanctification, and eternal life, by virtue of the covenant of grace. (Chapter XIV, §II)
Saving faith, an essential component of conversion, stands as a testament to the transforming power of the Gospel.
Through faith, the believer acknowledges the truth inherent in the Word of God and acts in accordance with its precepts. “The focal point of saving faith is none other than Jesus Christ Himself. This faith, though at times frail or tested, triumphs through its anchoring in the unchanging character of Christ.”
This faith involves embracing commandments, trembling at warnings, and embracing the promises of both temporal and eternal blessings.
This transformative faith centers on the acceptance and reception of Jesus Christ, relying solely on Him for justification, sanctification, and eternal life—a result of God’s covenant of grace.
The focal point of saving faith is none other than Jesus Christ Himself.
This faith, though at times frail or tested, triumphs through its anchoring in the unchanging character of Christ.
This faith is not measured by its size, but by the unfailing object in which it is vested—our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
The smallest inkling of faith leads us to behold the face of God, as John Calvin so eloquently asserts.
Repentance: The U-Turn of the Soul
True faith paves the way for genuine repentance—a transformative process that encompasses a recognition of sin, a heartfelt sorrow for offenses committed against a holy God, and a resolute turning away from sin.
According to the Westminster Confession of Faith, the threefold nature of repentance encompasses an intellectual awakening, an emotional response, and a volitional decision.“True repentance engenders a deep recognition of sin’s impurity and its disharmony with God’s holiness. It kindles a profound sorrow directed toward God alone and births a firm decision to forsake sin and embrace a path of righteousness.”
By it, a sinner, out of the sight and sense not only of the danger, but also of the filthiness and odiousness of his sins, as contrary to the holy nature, and righteous law of God; and upon the apprehension of his mercy in Christ to such as are penitent, so grieves for, and hates his sins, as to turn from them all unto God, purposing and endeavoring to walk with him in all the ways of his commandments. (Chapter XV, §II)
In this context, mere remorse or fear of punishment falls short of true repentance. True repentance engenders a deep recognition of sin’s impurity and its disharmony with God’s holiness.
It kindles a profound sorrow directed toward God alone and births a firm decision to forsake sin and embrace a path of righteousness.
This life-altering decision is poignantly encapsulated in Psalm 51, where David’s repentant heart reflects a determination to sin no more and live in accordance with God’s will.
Repentance, however, is not confined to a singular event; it marks the beginning of a lifelong journey.
This journey is fueled by God’s sustaining grace, with the believer continually seeking to turn from sin and turn toward God.
Thus, repentance becomes both an initial response and an enduring lifestyle sustained by divine grace.
Conclusion: A Unified Expression of Conversion
When the regenerated sinner turns to God in repentance and faith, the culmination of conversion is realized.
This act involves inclining one’s ear and turning one’s face toward the true God—a movement inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit. “The intertwined threads of faith and repentance weave a tapestry of conversion—a masterpiece that displays God’s grace, man’s response, and the ongoing work of the Spirit.”
When the Holy Spirit converts a man, the man’s act joins with the Holy Spirit’s act.
In this divine harmony, God initiates the transformation, causing the sinner to forsake his former path and turn to the forgiving embrace of the Almighty.
However, it is imperative to underscore that emphasis should never be placed solely on human effort, disregarding the sovereignty of God.
The pivotal truth remains that a spiritually dead sinner cannot autonomously convert to God; it is God who takes the initiative and ushers the sinner into conversion.
This divine call is the prerequisite for any positive response. The regenerated heart, inclined by God’s transformative touch, responds in repentance and faith.
In this harmonious symphony of conversion, the believer’s heart is directed toward God through the transformative power of the Holy Spirit.
The intertwined threads of faith and repentance weave a tapestry of conversion—a masterpiece that displays God’s grace, man’s response, and the ongoing work of the Spirit.
As we grasp the profound nature of conversion, faith and repentance, our hearts resonate with gratitude for the marvelous work that has turned us toward the gospel of Jesus Christ—a transformation initiated by God’s call and actualized through the response of our hearts.
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