Study 4 WHAT IT MEANS TO BE CONVERTED
TEN STUDIES IN PSALM 119
by Francis Dixon
Key-verses: “I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes. I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands.” (Psalm 119:59-60)
In this brief testimony the psalmist defines the meaning of scriptural and spiritual conversion, and that is the theme of this study. We are not only to think about conversion, but about spiritual conversion, Christian conversion, conversion to Christ Himself. Of course, we can be converted to anything – to communism, fascism, protestantism, catholicism, or any other ‘ism’, so it is obviously not enough to speak about conversion. What does the Bible mean by conversion? The answer is given in these two verses: scriptural conversion is not to a man, to a religion, to a church or a creed, but it is conversion to a Person – or, perhaps we should say, to the three Persons in the Godhead. It is our whole life being turned into a right relationship with God whom we come to know as our loving Heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ whom we trust as our personal Saviour, and all this is brought about by the work of or by submission to the Holy Spirit. This subject is very important in the light of our Lord’s own words recorded in Matthew 18:3. Notice exactly what conversion is and how it takes place.
1. Christian Conversion begins with Serious Consideration.
The words to underline here are, “I have considered my ways”. If only people would stop and think – about God, about life, about sin, about time and about eternity! As a matter of fact, God asks us to do this very thing, and to face up to our need of His grace and of His salvation – look up Isaiah 1:18. Until we do this we shall never be converted, because conversion does not just happen. It is only when He brings us to think upon our ways and we are faced with a deep sense of our own need that we realise how much God loves us, how much Christ has done to procure our salvation and how much the Holy Spirit is striving to convert us. Conversion begins with serious consideration, and one of the best illustrations we have of this in the Bible is found in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-19), and notice in particular verses 17, 18 and 19. See how the Prodigal “came to his senses”, and notice that he only did this when he came to the end of himself and when he was in dire straits. How often this is the case! It was then that he realised how foolish he had been and how much he needed his father’s love and provision. Christian conversion begins with serious consideration. But notice this second point:-
2. Serious Consideration leads to Definite Action.
The words to underline now are, “I have considered my ways and have turned my steps to your statutes.” When a man thinks hard and seriously about God and salvation, his own soul and his soul’s need, he soon makes a decision that leads to action. So we find again in Luke 15:20 that the Prodigal Son came to the point where “he got up and went to his father”. He turned his back on the old life and set out towards a new life. Think of the provision which the father made for him! Think of the love, peace and joy that filled his heart! – let the wonder of this scene fill your heart with gratitude as you think about the confession, the robe, the ring, the shoes, the food, the fellowship and the joy.
3. Definite Action leads to Loving Obedience.
The words to underline now are, “I will hasten and not delay to obey your commands.” Definite action does not stop short at this point – it must lead to a life of obedience. Conversion is just the beginning of a life of joyful obedience to the Lord, of finding out His perfect will, and doing it (Romans 12:2). Let us think about some other New Testament illustrations which are evidences of conversion and indications of loving obedience to the Lord and to His Word.
- 1. Zacchaeus: when he was converted he showed the reality of his conversion by his obedience to the Lord in making restitution for his sin (Luke 19:1-10).
- 2. Woman of Samaria: after her conversion she gave her testimony of how she had renounced her sinful ways, and this also led her to become an evangelist (John 4:1-42).
- 3. Saul of Tarsus: evidence that he had been truly converted was when he gave up persecuting the Church and became a humble apostle of the Lord whom he had denied (Acts 22:1-15).
- 4. Cornelius: his conversion led to a desire to evangelise his family, a desire which was granted when the Holy Spirit worked mightily (Acts 10:1-48).
- 5. The Queen’s Treasurer: he believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and also demonstrated publicly his trust in Him by being baptised in front of all the officials travelling with him (Acts 8:26-40).
- 6. The Jailer. The evidence of his conversion was first of all seen when he washed the wounds of Saul and Barnabas, and later in his baptism and loving hospitality (Acts 16:25-34).
- 7. Those converted at Ephesus: evidence of their conversion was seen in the bonfire they made, testifying to a desire for a clean break with the old life (Acts 19:18-19).
These were initial evidences, things that happened immediately after these people or groups of people were converted. Scriptural conversion can be described in three words: (1) Stop. (2) Turn. (3) Obey. Stop in your tracks and repent of your sin (Isaiah 55:6-7); turn to the Lord and put your trust in Him as your personal Saviour (Romans 10:9-13); give yourself wholly to Him and obey Him every day – look up John 2:5, and compare 2 Samuel 15:15.