Jun 27, 2010

The Process of Conversion

The process of conversion is a fascinating topic. My experience of conversion was more like Paul on the Damascus Road, quite dramatic and appearing quite instantaneously. Many however do not have that conversion testimony and seemingly slip quietly into the Kingdom of God. No matter how your conversion experience was the story of Paul on the Damascus Road illustrates for us the process of conversion that everyone goes through regardless of the time frame associated. Richard Peace has a wonderful book out on this: (Peace, Richard. Conversion in the New Testament : Paul and the Twelve. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1999).

I put together the above diagram to explain what Richard Peace talks about.
Paul's conversion story is documented in the scriptures in three particular passages: Acts 9:1-9, Acts 22:3-21 and Acts 26:3-23.

Peace is suggest ting that Paul went through the 3 step process of 1) seeing, 2) turning and 3) transformation. And in fact we all go through this process.

Here's how it looks in Paul's Life:
1. Seeing
Paul saw the truth.
He saw his true state before God
He saw who Jesus was.
He realized that although he believed he was living in obedience to God, he in fact was in direct opposition to Jesus. He saw that in persecuting the Christian Church he had been persecuting Jesus, whom he discovered in that moment to be God. (25) Paul discovered he was not working for God. As he had assumed but against God.
This is the personal context within which Paul was converted. (25)

2. Turning:
This has 2 parts: a turning from and a turning to.
He turned from persecuting the church to joining the church.
He turned from opposing Jesus to following Jesus.
He turned from what he discovered to be Satan’s way to what he now learned was God’s way.
This turning is specific, not general.
It required a major rendering of his theology! (25)

3. Transformation:
Transformation flowed from Paul’s response to Jesus.
Paul’s life is changed.
His first response is to be baptised, to align himself with the church, and to preach the good news about Jesus. He also accepts his commission to be a witness of who Jesus is to all people. He is transformed from a zealous Pharisee to a zealous apostle. His life takes a radical new direction.

If you look at your own life, you will notice the 3 steps of conversion.
This has been very helpful for me in training others, particularly those who don't feel they have a great conversion story or find it hard to articulate. Using Peace's model, everyone I have trained has been able to view their conversion with clarity.

(Peace, Richard. Conversion in the New Testament : Paul and the Twelve. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans, 1999).