The foundation of the Christian life is an authentic conversion.
Conversion is the conscious experience of the grace of God. Conversion is the human response to God's saving work wherein we appropriate salvation. It is the conscious acceptance of salvation. The Lord makes conversion possible. Conversion is the act of choosing to follow Jesus. Put yet another way, conversion is the consequence of an encounter with the living Christ.
Greg Herrick of Bible.org writes: “Conversion involves hearing the pure gospel and mixing it with saving faith and genuine repentance. Thus conversion has two closely related aspects to it: faith and repentance. Faith itself involves understanding the message of salvation through Christ, agreeing with it, and personally trusting him to save you. An essential element of that trust is repentance from known sin. This involves a turning from sin to Christ for forgiveness. Thus saving faith is penitent and genuine repentance is believing; it is not just worldly sorrow (Acts 20:21; Heb 6:1; 2 Cor 7:10). Faith is not just mental assent and neither is biblical repentance. We are not dealing simply with historical facts in the gospel, though it indeed rests on these, but we are dealing with a person, “a consuming fire” as one biblical writer put it (Heb 12:29).
The above is taken from the article here: http://www.bible.org/page.php?page_id=730
Some people mistakenly think that conversion is the end of the line. In other words, once converted, they think that's all there is to it. Conversion for them simply means getting out of hell. They are satisfied with the minimum requirement to get into heaven. This is the wrong attitude. Conversion should be the starting point of the process of sanctification. To be converted is to experience the transforming grace of God as it turns a person away from sin, causing him or her to focus on Christ.
I do not wish to get into a discussion of Calvinism versus Arminianism and predestination versus free will. Let me simply note that God takes the initiative where salvation is concerned, but that does NOT exclude the critical place of human agency. Malachi 3:7 reads, “Return to me and I will return to you.” The gift of salvation and the invitation to return to God are offered to all, but not all will respond affirmatively.
Everybody is not going to have the same conversion experience. Take Paul, example. He had a sudden and dramatic conversion on the road to Damascus (he recounts it three times in the Book of Acts). But then there’s the case of John Wesley who had a slow conversion that developed over years. He was raised in a Christian home and entered the ministry, but did not have a complete understanding of what being a follower of Jesus was all about until he was standing on board a ship sailing from the United States to England where he had what he described as “a warming of his heart”. That was his “aha” moment that came only after years of learning about Jesus and reading the Bible.
My conversion was a slow one over time as well. I grew up in a Christian home, had Jesus make himself real to me as a young child, and never doubted his existence. However, I never fully understood what it was to commit one’s life to Christ and live for him according to his will rather than live my life for myself and expect him to bless me until a car accident changed my life and made me question what God was doing in it.
Sometimes, when I heard people speak of their own conversions and how they could remember exactly the place, the day and the time of their conversion, I wondered if I really HAD been converted because I couldn’t isolate a particular moment when it all came together for me. But I came to realize that conversion experiences are as individual as the people who undergo them and my experience doesn’t have to be like everybody else’s to be authentic.
Different people will suggest different essential components of a true conversion. I offer the seven elements that my professor outlined with the understanding that other people would add more to the list:
1. Intellectual component: Belief
We have an understanding of who Christ is and accept in faith the fact that he has atoned for our sins through his death and resurrection. We believe the Gospel and this belief brings a change in our thinking about everything in life.
2. Penitential component: Repentance
This knowledge about Jesus and sin and salvation leads to our repentance. (See Acts 2:38). Repentance is not a merely remorse about sin, but a turning away from sin, rejecting it and embarking on a new pattern of life that leads away from sin.
3. Emotional component: Trust
The New Testament shows us three different emotional responses when a person comes to Christ: a) assurance of forgiveness when we have confessed our sins and know that God has given us right-standing with him b) radical dependence on Jesus as we trust him to guide us through life c) joy coupled with hope and thanksgiving because of Christ
4. Sacramental component: Water Baptism
Some people view it as essential. Others see it as optional. The Bible presents it as an integral act (see Acts 2:38, for example). The act of baptism itself is not a means of salvation and should never be misunderstood that way. Rather, it is the symbolic act by which we confirm externally what is happening internally, that our old selves have been buried and we have been resurrected as new creatures in Christ.
5. Volitional Component: Commitment to Christ
We choose to transfer our allegiance from all the things of the world to Christ alone. We choose to serve him instead of living only for ourselves. We are called to participate in the world for his kingdom purposes, not for our own earthly desires.
6. Charismatic Component: Reception of the Gift of the Holy Spirit
This is a controversial issue. There are two perspectives, one that says everyone receives the Spirit automatically at conversion, whether they realize it or not, and a second that suggests people receive the Holy Spirit subsequent to conversion. Whatever way you look at it, I think people MUST be aware of the fact that God fills them with the Holy Spirit and that the Holy Spirit will guide us in life. Without that awareness, people may attempt to live Christ-like lives in their own power instead of relying on the Holy Spirit’s power to resist temptation and overcome sin. We need to cooperate with the Holy Spirit to succeed.
7.Corporate Component: Incorporation into the Christian Community
Eugene Peterson in his A Long Obedience in the Same Direction says there is no way to avoid this. To be a Christian is to be part of the family of God. God has one only-begotten son, but he has a myriad of adopted children – us! So we must not expect to live our lives as only children apart from everyone else. Truly, we need the structure of the Christian community to help us grow in faith toward spiritual maturity. I’ll be elaborating on the importance of this in the next thread.
In my next post in this thread, I will present some examples from the Bible of specific conversions and what they illustrate for us. Always remember that, when talking about conversion, it's all about Jesus, faith and repentance.