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What is it all about? Football Mixing it up with So Why God? What's So Amazing About Grace? Join our community Save your favourite resources, and add your comments to our website. Explore by category Small group View all. Whole church View all. Enquiring View all. Beginning View all. Conversion is often associated with acts reflecting a purification of mind and heart — "return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning" Joel ; cf.
Joel ; Ps ,9. The Bible generally shows conversion to be both event and process Acts ; see also Jer ; For example, in the account of Paul's conversion, he first had an encounter with the risen Christ: "suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice This dramatic event was followed by a process of formation over a period of time during which he was prayed for by Ananias v.
Paul further described the process, mentioning his journey to Arabia, return to Damascus for three years, and his time spent in Jerusalem with Peter Gal One prominent effect of conversion is the urge to give testimony to others and consequently to evangelize, particularly in response to the Lord's command in the Great Commission: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you" Mt During the post-resurrection period, when Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin, their declaration was, "we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard" Acts ; cf.
Lk In the New Testament, several perspectives on conversion can be found as one looks at the Synoptic Gospels and the Johannine and Pauline writings. This theme occurs in a variety of contexts and with different emphases. Nevertheless, there are elements that are common to all of them, though not always highlighted in each one. Generally, conversion entails being embraced by God's goodness, turning away from sin, and turning towards God. In the stories narrated by the New Testament authors, conversion occurs instantaneously or as an ongoing process. It can be a very dramatic event obvious to all spectators or a process of inner development that is largely hidden from the view of other people.
For instance, the exchange between Jesus and the teacher of the law was a seemingly quiet event, resulting in Jesus noting the change in the man and declaring, "You are not far from the kingdom of God" Mk In the synoptic Gospels of Matthew and Mark, conversion is linked to repentance. The definition of conversion as turning away from sin is rooted in these passages — "John the baptizer appeared proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins" Mk ; see also Mt ; 8, 11 ; and also, Jesus began his ministry by proclaiming, "The kingdom of God has come near.
Repent and believe in the good news" Mk Later in Matthew repentance is described as changing one's mind towards obedience Mt The parables in Lk 15 the lost sheep, lost coin and prodigal son illustrate the notion of being embraced by God's goodness. This is contained in two motifs also emphasized elsewhere by Luke: first being brought back by God — "So he set off and went to his father. But while he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion; he ran and put his arms around him and kissed him" v.
The repentance described in the lost sheep and coin parables emphasizes God's initiative, while the prodigal son's repentance demonstrates a more active human response. In all three parables there is a sense of restoration to community: being found, being carried home, being restored to the rest of the flock, being reinstated into the family.
Other Lucan passages also reflect the drama between the divine initiative and the sinner's response in regard to repentance Acts ; ; Lk Lk "pay attention to how you listen" implies an active listening, being actively involved in something that is happening within oneself, or to oneself.
In Lk 19, Zaccheus experiences a conversion. He is restored to the fellowship of the community; the excluded one has been included by Jesus. This narrative is almost paradigmatic for many conversion stories in Luke-Acts: conversion is believing in the good news and allowing oneself to be embraced by God's love and to be restored to the community of God's people. In a more active sense, Luke speaks of conversion as turning towards God. When John the Baptist and others preach repentance, the typical Lucan question is "What then should we do?
John's response to the question helps define what repentance means: share with those who do not have Lk , do not defraud people in business v. The Johannine perspective focuses more broadly on salvation, and not specifically on conversion. Two metaphors that John does emphasize are those of receiving life and receiving light. Jn emphasizes the new birth as the work of God, although it does not take place apart from faith expressed by the person being born again.
Here and elsewhere in John the emphasis is on Jesus coming so that this world and those who believe will have life — "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life" ; cf. The variety of "life" metaphors birth, living water, bread point to John's interest in Jesus giving or bringing life. The same emphasis applies when considering John's use of the metaphor of light: Jesus comes into this world, gives light, and people are to receive it and live in it — "I am the light of the world.
Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life" Jn ; cf. However, John also reports Jesus' invitation to the thirsty that they should take action: "come to me, and Paul offers us a unique insight into the theme of conversion, by giving us a profound theological interpretation of his own conversion experience. While Acts 9 describes the conversion of Paul, Paul provides us with his personal understanding of it which sheds some light upon the mysterious interplay between the human and the divine Gal ; Phil Pauline writings reflect conversion as a radical, decisive event, expressed by a variety of descriptions.
These include hearing and responding to the call — "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved'" Rom Paul also expresses the beginning of the Christian life either as a cry for help Rom , the experience of being called, or other depictions that illustrate the newness of the existence. Most of these emphasize God's initiative, with the person entering into experiences such as repentance, death of the old nature, or becoming a new creation.
The one passage referring to repentance Rom depicts it as an encounter with God's love and mercy. Other terms in Pauline writings that relate to conversion are used similarly: being purchased 1 Cor ; being liberated Rom ; having received grace Rom ; being justified Rom As in the Gospels, this newness of life, while personal, is not merely an individualistic experience but that of a believer being reconciled with God and restored to community. It comprises a restoration to fellowship — "For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility..
This new community is as radically different from the one experienced before, as is the individual's inner transformation — "In Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male or female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus" Gal The Bible presents various perspectives on conversion, and not just one definition. Catholics and Pentecostals find that they can agree on many characteristics of conversion found in Scripture. First, conversion involves establishing or re-establishing a personal relationship with God so that the sinner can cry out with confidence, "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions" Ps It implies a mysterious interplay between the human and the divine, primarily the human response to divine initiative.
Though conversion is a personal experience, the biblical understanding is that it is always relational both vertical and horizontal. The biblical call to conversion is properly directed to whole communities as well as to individuals. Patristic Perspectives on Conversion. Some of the patristic writings which can speak eloquently to both Pentecostals and Catholics today are the joyful accounts by individuals of their own conversions. In one such personal testimony, Justin Martyr c.
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But straightway a flame was kindled in my soul; and a love of the prophets, and of those men who are friends of Christ, possessed me" Dialogue with Trypho 8. But after that, by the help of the water of new birth, the stain of former years had been washed away, and a light from above, serene and pure, had been infused into my reconciled heart. Then, by the agency of the Spirit breathed from heaven, a second birth had restored me to a new man I was enabled to acknowledge that what had been previously living in the practice of sin, being born of the flesh, was of the earth and was earthly.
A contemporary of Cyprian, from the eastern part of the Mediterranean world, Gregory Thaumaturgus c. One of the most memorable patristic accounts of conversion is found in St. Augustine's autobiography, which he entitled The Confessions in order to acknowledge not only his own sins but also the great mercy and love of God toward him.
You gleamed and shined, and chased away my blindness. You breathed out upon me and I drew in my breath and do pant for You. I tasted, and do hunger and thirst. You touched me and I burned for Your peace" Confessions X, Such patristic witnesses have the power to inspire and encourage both Pentecostals and Catholics, since both of our communities treasure and retell the stories of marvelous conversion and transformation which God has worked in the lives of his saints.
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Augustine's story includes some of the characteristics that both Catholics and Pentecostals recognize as part of the complex phenomenon of conversion. At times of crisis, a potential convert may seek order, meaning and purpose in life, leading to the search to encounter God. Augustine had moments of such encounter which were so vivid that he felt like St.
Paul, who wrote of being " lifted up to the third heaven " cf.
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But that this encounter should be more than simply a fleeting occurrence, Augustine chose to resume his participation in the catechumenate and to seek baptism Confessions VII, He believed that he could encounter Christ only as part of the community of believers Christ had founded. For Augustine, the way of entry into that community was through the rites of Christian Initiation, which provided access to a genuine encounter with God.
The interaction of potential converts with the community and the development of their commitment formed a clear pattern in which instruction and ritual were woven closely together. Augustine was influenced by the preaching of Ambrose Confessions V, The change at the root of conversion is nothing less than transformation of the person through the interaction of divine grace and human freedom. The patristic writers used a variety of images to describe this holistic change or transformation, such as sanctification, enlightenment, and even deification;  but the dominant metaphor, as in Romans 6, was death and rebirth.
The Fathers described the change in behavior that results from conversion in various ways. Origen observed that the word of teaching and instruction "taking hold of those who are most intemperate and savage if they follow her exhortation effects a transformation, so that the alteration and change for the better is most extensive" Origen, On First Principles III, 1,5 [c.
He adds that "the name of Jesus produces a marvellous meekness of spirit and a complete change of character" Origen, Against Celsus I, 67 [c.
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So dramatic was this change that it often surprised the non-Christian acquaintances of the newly converted: "Some persons wonder that those whom they had known to be unsteady, worthless, or wicked before they bore this name [of Christian] have suddenly been converted to virtuous courses" Tertullian, To the Nations 4 [c. The Fathers generally spoke of conversion in the context of baptism as the beginning of the Christian life. They were attentive to the role of grace and to a person's free will in making a decision toward conversion.