If you read much about the conversion of people to Jesus Christ you start to see a simple, yet profound, pattern. A person is headed in one direction, he encounters Christ, and the impact is so great that his life is fundamentally redirected. We know from reading the Bible that a change of heart is also involved, one we call the “new birth.” A rebirth is behind the redirection of a person’s life.
The Bible describes conversion to Christ as repentance and faith. In repentance we turn from one thing, and in faith we turn to another. Christian conversion is repentance from the self-life in its varied forms, and faith in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
The Bible also tells us how conversion happens. Take the Apostle Paul, for example. He wrote a short testimonial about his own conversion in Galatians 1:13-16. He says he was headed in the direction of a self-life that included extreme religious devotion and violence against people he saw as a threat to that tradition. He persecuted the Christian church. Then he encountered Jesus Christ, the very one whose name he tried to eliminate from the earth. He attributed this encounter to one thing: it pleased God to reveal his Son to him. (You can read about Paul’s conversion in Acts 9.)
We use many phrases to describe our conversion to Christ. We say we “prayed to receive Christ into our lives,” or “came to faith in Christ,” or “became a follower of Christ.” All of these are good and true ways to speak of conversion.
But there is something powerfully helpful for us to think about how Paul spoke of his conversion. He said, “it pleased God to reveal his Son to me.” That little phrase grounds his conversion to Christ in the grace of God. God did what needed to be done, and what Paul could not and did not want to do. God stopped Paul, arrested his attention, revealed to him his Son Jesus as Savior and Lord, opened his mind to understand, and moved upon his heart to believe. Then, and only then, did Paul experience conversion.
Lately, while meditating on the experience of Paul in Acts and his description of that experience in Galatians 1, I have thought more about my own conversion to Christ as being God’s gracious revelation of his Son to me. I remember when my understanding of Jesus as the rightful, good, and true Lord began to become clear and compelling. God was at work. I remember a time of articulating a turning, of saying with my words that Jesus is now my Lord. God’s revealing work worked. When God revealed his Son to me, I was saved.
When God reveals his Son to us, we worship because we see that our conversion is by his grace. We pray because we realize that only he can convert another person by revealing his Son to them. And we witness because we understand that God does, in fact, still reveal his Son to people, and that he will use us to do so.