Is Conversion to Jesus Enough?
April 4, 2012
Updated February 27, 2014
4 comments 88 views
There is no greater thrill in ministry to watch a person move from death to life and put their trust in Jesus. We preach the gospel and pray the Holy Spirit illuminates hearts to respond to him in faith- and when people do it reminds us why we labor each day for the sake of the gospel.
But is conversion to Jesus and his gospel enough? What I mean is that while we proclaim the gospel so that people can have a renewed and right relationship with God through Christ- is this the only conversion that needs to happen in the life of a Christian? Or could there be more “converting” work that needs to be done in the life of Christians and our churches?
Jonathan Dodson in his book “Gospel-Centered Discipleship” argues that at least three conversions need to happen in the life of a Christian. Martin Luther talked along these same lines as a conversion of “head, heart, and purse”. If Jesus is Lord and Savior over the life of a Christian he wants all of us not a segmented portion.
What are the three conversions that need to happen in the life of a Christian and the church at large?
First, at the foundational level there of course needs to be repentance and faith in Jesus for salvation. That is where all of these conversions must begin. But, if we are not careful this conversion to Jesus can be seen as an individual response that is devoid of Christian community and the Christian church. It becomes my “personal” walk with Jesus devoid of involvement in a local Christian community where ministry takes place.
Second, God is redeeming a “people” for his name and glory. It is not a bunch of spiritually minded individuals- but rather a new community (church) where Jesus is the center. The Christian community is where the gospel is heard, lived, and demonstrated to the world. There needs to be a conversion from “I” and “me” to “us” and “we”.
The most heart breaking part of ministry are Christians that have not been converted to community and simply try and live apart from a local church body. It actually short changes their sanctification because they are not able to use their gifts, hear the gospel, encourage one another, and be called to repentance in places where their lives are out of sync with the gospel. Living apart from Christian community never leads to deeper intimacy and knowledge of God in Christ.
Third, as people are converted to Jesus and his church there must be a final conversion to mission. This takes on many shapes and sizes but must involve the “Great Commission” by making disciples, baptizing, and proclaiming the gospel in word and deed to the entire world.
Our local church communities are by their very nature “missional”- a place where people will hear the gospel proclaimed, but also see the gospel demonstrated in how we love one another, forgive one another, show unity, and care for the needs of others. Our communities should be “gospeling” one another on a regular basis.
When Jesus showed his infinite kindness to sinners like you and me he did not do this for us to sit back and wait for heaven. He saved us because he had “good works” for us to do (Eph. 2:10). He rescued us from sin and death so that we would be “ambassadors” and re-present our King well in the world. This mission “to make disciples” is the responsibility of every Christian and local church community.
We also must not forget that God is renewing “all things” through Jesus. In other words he is not simply saving souls but renewing all of his sin-scarred creation. That is why the cultural mandate given to us in Genesis 1-2 is vital as we join God in his re-creation work in the world. We need conversions of souls and the cultivation of God’s kingdom in all spheres of our culture.
It is vital that pastors of the CRC and pastors in the greater evangelical world not assume that our people have been converted to all three of these areas. We must call people to repentance and faith in Jesus, his bride, and his mission. To forget one is to only have part of the gospel message we proclaim.
What conversion would you say is lacking most in our lives, communities, and churches?
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it is enough, but barely, as one escaping through the flames and suffering great loss/regret at what they have missed (I Cor. 3:15). not saying I understand it since heaven is perfect, but the attitude of as long as I'm in heaven, that's all that matters, so I can do whatever I want because I'm covered by the grace of Jesus, will cause deep regret at some point...
So, I see the first conversion becoming Loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and then the other 2 as living out loving your neighbor as yourself. But having said that, I'm sure we can work on all the areas.
- our love relationship with God, the intimacy factor, our love for Jesus, as we are His Bride, that I find makes people uncomfortable. Song of Songs, was for many centuries seen as an allegory of God and Israel, Christ and His Bride, but as the rational - modern world view took precedence, it became viewed as simply a human love story. Now as we've moved into a post-modern view, maybe it's time to re-think this book of the Bible. I will admit, I haven't wrapped my head around it yet, other than chapter 8:6-7, and that was with help, but (spiritual) intimacy with Christ, that we are His Bride, and what that looks like, is one of the concepts I'm focusing on and asking God to help me better understand, whether that's with intellectual and/or experiential knowledge.
It seems to me we have been emphasizing the loving our neighbor (ie doing justice, being missional) over and above how to walk humbly with our God, how to love Him with all our being, the spiritual formation (the intimacy/emotional) aspect. I see this in the statistics of peoples prayer life, and how much time on average/day is spent in prayer, as well as several comments made to me about the biblical illiteracy in the church, as well as other statistics that show the prevalence of addictions such as porn in the church, and in choices we make of how we spend our resources, as well as a number of other indicators.
and that leads me to how much time/resources we spend on what's eternal and what's not, and probably most of us (including myself) can cut out some non-eternal activities, and replace them with more quiet time with the LORD, or more time in worship, or more of those good works He's prepared for us in advance.
so that's my perspective from the pew =)
I've been writing about the importance of discipleship in the church for the past year or so in the small groups network and I would say this is spot on.
I really wonder how we might be able to rekindle true discipleship in the church where people truely commit to deeper communnal conversion allowing the body to hold them accountable and walk them in their growth. While the Bible does say some folks will make it in by the skin of their teeth, Jesus said he came to give us a life that is full. That doesn't happen outside of community or without it.
Mission is both an extension of transformation and a learning, discipling process where people learn to use their gifts to be Christ to those outside the community, so-to-speak. I'm a firm believer that discipleship begins before conversion.
Interesting question. Concur on the 3 points, however, wonder at times whether the church is speaking into a vacuum to an ahistorical audience that has lost it's counter cultural bearings. Currently reading Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way by J.I. Packer & Gary A. Parrett. Recommend it.
I've been thinking about the discipleship question a lot over the past couple years and am still trying to figure out what it means. I find myself seperating #1 (how to get to heaven or salvation) with #2 & 3 (how to live on earth or discipleship) and catch myself saying (and hearing) things like "This is (or is not) a salvation issue and that is discipleship issue." I guess inferring that once salvation is completed we then work on the job of creating disciples. But then I meet people with a broader view of salvation (we work out our salvation with fear and trembling) as well as those who see a narrower view of discipleship (our only job is to convert souls and baptise in the name of the Father, Son and Spirit - once we've done this we can move onto the next unsaved soul and rest easy)...so my question is when we say "This is a salvation issue" what do we mean? And when we say we need to work towards discipleship what does this mean? Just thinking e-loud.
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