Conversion, Part 2
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching people.” When they had brought their boats to shore, they left everything and followed him. – Luke 5:10-11
To be converted literally means to be turned around. It denotes a directional change in life, a line marking a “before” and an “after”. For Jesus’ disciples there was clearly a moment of responding to Jesus’ call which changed the direction of their lives. They went from catching fish to catching people.
While I grew up in a Christian home and attended a Presbyterian Church, I walked away from faith in late high school, mostly out of sheer rebellion. It wasn’t until college that I began to rethink God and faith. Friends invited me to participate in a campus ministry and I admired the passion and kindness of the students I met there. I learned that conversion was a matter of my decision, a coming to terms with my sinfulness. “For the wages of sin is death” they said, and “death” was interpreted as being cast into hell for eternity. But if I made the decision to invite Jesus into my heart, praying the “sinner’s prayer”, believing that his death paid for my sins, then God would love and forgive me.
Sitting in the second row of an Evangelical Free Church in Grand Forks, North Dakota, listening to the pastor preach on Ruth, I prayed that sinner’s prayer. It was a moment of conversion for me. It changed the direction of my life. Learning more about and being intentional about following the way of Jesus became a priority.
But that was by no means my only conversion experience. In the last decade or so I have felt called nearer to Jesus, not by a fear of hell but by the compelling love of God revealed in Jesus. Fear, I discovered, is a powerful motivator in the short-run, but isn’t sustainable. Love, however, engenders inner transformation, breaths life and restoration into sinners like me, and sets me free to love others out of desire and not obligation.
So, which conversion was the “right” one? When did I truly become a follower of Jesus? To be honest, I don’t much care! What I do care about is a growing confidence that Jesus calls me daily to follow, and even when I don’t, Jesus pursues me with a love that will not let me go. I’m not only in bondage to sin but by grace through faith I’ve come to believe that I’m in bondage to a love that is greater than I can comprehend. I truly live in faith when I live in the light of that promise.
So, let me ask you again, what’s your conversion experience? And what helps you to hear and respond to Jesus call to follow? Don’t just “like” this post; leave a comment. I really want to know!
Jeff Marian serves as lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN.