Conversion is about the continual reorientation of our lives. Conversion is not something that happens once for all, it is something that happens on a regular basis. Conversion is the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in forming our hearts, minds and actions to become more like Christ. Therefore conversion is a gift and a work. God gives us the gift of himself and we give God our time and discipline. The exchange is not a quid pro quo; it is all grace, mercy and love. Remember even the desire for conversion is a gift from God. The mystery is that we have a role to play in our conversion and it is a vital, but not equal role.
The temptation is to stall our conversion in the initial stages. The initial stage of waking up to the reality of the kingdom of God is so delightful and full of bliss. Look at any new or renewed person, they are full of joy and energy. The temptation is to think that is the final destination. One thinks that is has to be, it is so good and full of life and vitality. These initial stages rarely last too long and it is easy to allow ourselves to fall back into the old life with only small modifications.
We now maybe attend church or give financially, maybe we even volunteer but other that that our lives are largely the same as they were before and we long again for the days of initial conversion and growth. At this is the stage that we must begin to set a course for continual conversion of the heart. This is the time to engage in spiritual practice in earnest and to find a guide and a supportive community. The path of conversion is too important to leave to us; it is too easy to have the devil work against our growth.
Conversion of the mind is deeply connected to our reading, studying and contemplating the scripture. We are commanded to renew our minds. “2Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2). Regular encounters with the scriptures will begin to form the mind of Christ in our minds. We will begin to think differently about our lives and the life of the world. We will begin to have a different value system then those around us. The renewing of our minds is directly connected to our ability to discern the will of God. Conversion allows us to know the will of God and to know what is “good and acceptable and perfect.” To come to this depth of knowledge takes a lifetime of practice and dedication to the renewal of our minds. I can think of no greater task for the human mind than its renewal.
Conversion of the heart is deeply connected to our prayer life. It is in prayer that we are connected to the Lord in the deepest and most profound sense. The initial stages of prayer are about receiving, or having our requests answered. While intercession always accompanies our prayer life we must not stop there. Conversion of the heart happens by being in the presence of God in stillness and attention. We stop what we are doing and center our whole selves before God in open attention. We simply obey the Lord: “Be still, and know that I am God!” (Psalm 46:10a). We don’t bring our agenda, our need to impress or manage. We leave all the image management behind and learn to be with God in our naked being. We often can’t stand our nakedness before God, it is too raw, too honest and we are ashamed. It is only in our nakedness with all our sins, failures and contradictions visible before Almighty God that we can truly receive grace. It is in this totally exposed moment that the arms of Christ embrace us, that his scar stained hands hold us and we know the power and depth of the cross. If we hold back from God then we will always wonder if we are truly accepted and this doubt will make God’s love feel conditional and limited.
When we receive the forgiveness of Christ in full view of all our sins, failures, and contradictions then we will know that we are in fact beloved sons and daughters of the Lord. The power of this moment is infinitely more powerful than the atom bomb will all its power to destroy. The power of forgiveness flows from the infinite power of God who created the atom and this power of God is the power not to destroy but to save, redeem and sanctify. Never underestimate the power of the love of God in Christ Jesus. Prayer puts us in the place to be touched by the powerful yet tender love of God. Just like conversion of the mind, conversion of the heart takes time over time. We simply make to be with our Redeemer. In this time of simple being we come to Jesus in simple trust, we come to him like a little child, totally dependent and totally open. Holding our hands open in prayer is a way to symbolize this openness to Christ.
Conversion of the action is to look at our actions in light of what we are doing in prayer and scripture study. It is easy to deceive oneself and to feel self righteous and spiritually superior. Conversion of action is to review how we are behaving and to try to see why we are behaving this way. It is not something to do without grace and tenderness. We are not aiming at perfection in action or trying to create despair. We are simply trying to see any patterns and learn a little self-reflection. Too few people have the capacity for self-reflection and it seems even fewer are willing to take responsibility for their actions. Conversion of action is aimed at helping us mature into people who can self-reflect and be responsible. The ability to these things flows from our being radically grounded in the grace of Christ. Knowing that God has said “yes” to us allows us to practice conversion of action. This practice is best exercised with a journal and with a few close friends who are on a similar journey. The old adage “we create many of our own problems” has a great deal of truth to it. In conversion we try to see where we are creating our own problems, confess what needs to be confessed and to move forward in gratefulness.