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.

Recent Posts
Showing 2 comments
  • Ken Walter

    I was first challenged to give my life to Christ at a week of revival meetings at the Evangelical United Brethren Church I grew up in. I was 18 at the time. I and my cousin went together in response to the alter call. I felt a tug of emotion a year earlier but had resisted. I stayed connected in pew sitting through the Navy years, marriage, children, college, jobs. I did do a few things to help with programs, but it was all doing good, trying to keep myself in good favor.
    When in 1981 our 20 year old Son died of a drug overdose, three weeks in a coma brain dead, then letting go, I became deeply grief stricken and searched for answers. I had given up on church about three years before and then for about six more years did not attend, was not part of a family of believers, did not worship as a part of the body of Christ. This all left me guilt stricken in many ways. Counseling, support groups and work helped keep me alive when many times I in desperation did not want to stay alive, the pain was so deep
    Then came the day of trying to do a next step of recovery, attending an outdoor worship at Prince of Peace in 1987. I did not feel like I belonged there. But I was urged to go back and I did into the fall. Their were tears many times as God worked on me, opened my eyes and ears to know His love for me. Out of one of the sermons came a great grief reliever in a most unusual way. In brief God (perhaps better said the Holy Spirit with what I believe now) told me that house shaking thunder and lightning prickle of static in my ear when the IC doctor called to tell me our son had died was God telling me I have him now, he is with me, my child, a better place than on earth. This then was a great step in a conversion that led me to grow in relationship with my Father in Heaven and the body of Christ. I humbly praise God every day for delivering me and making me a part of the POP body of Christ.

    • Jeff Marian

      Thanks for sharing your story Ken!