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Gospel Conversion

Matthew 28:16-20

Conversion has become a major taboo in our culture today. Converting people is something that we do not often hear in civilized conversation because of the negative connotations that are often affiliated with it. In order to understand the importance of conversion we need to come to an understanding of what conversion means. The most basic definition of conversion is the process of changing or causing something to change from one form to another. It is a complete transformation. Conversion means that you become something that you weren’t before. Rather than conversion being a manipulative tool or a way to control the behaviors that we find unsavory, conversion is the transformation from death in our sin to being alive in Jesus Christ.

Why would we want anyone to be Converted?

A major theme in the gospel of Matthew is that God has been at work to redeem the world throughout history. A common question that exists in the midst of humanity’s shortcomings is how will God remove the broken intentions and desires that exist in our world? How will God reconcile his creation to himself? The answer is that one will come who will bridge the gap between Heaven and Earth who is Jesus Christ. Every human being has been seeking satisfaction in earthly appetites which always leaves them grasping at straws. Every human longing, want, and desire was ultimately desiring Jesus Christ and now he has come. We want to convert people because every longing that they have can be fulfilled in Jesus whether they know it or not. Everything else in this world will pass away except the promises of Jesus who vehemently states that he will be with us forever.

“Why would we want anyone to experience this new birth, eyes opened to see Jesus? It’s because it is everything they have ever desired, whether they realize it or not.”

Three Distorted Approaches to Making Disciples

When we approach people with the proposition of conversion we must remember that we are not the ones who are transforming them because God is the only one who has that power. In one of the last conversations Jesus had with his disciples he warned them that there would be many who would claim to know Christ but would end up leading people astray. We must be aware of how we are representing Christ so that we do not unintentionally lead others away from truth.

1. The Parrot Approach

The Parrot approach focuses on converting the mind. Proper conversion is not about getting other people to think like us or mimic our jargon. The pitfall in this approach is that we often begin to think that people are born again if they just say the right religious phrases or have the correct theological answers. One could be saying all the right things or repeating what we have told them, but could still be dead inside. Following Christ is about more than mere information, it is about complete transformation. The outcome of the Parrot Approach is not disciples of Christ, but disciples of us.

2. The Puppet Approach

The Puppet approach focuses on colonizing the will of others. Jesus explains that disciples will come from every tongue, tribe, and nation. Jesus will renew humanity right in the culture that they are in. This emphasizes the fact that people do not have to look exactly like us to be followers of Christ. Too often we make conversion about acting exactly like us. In this approach, people live bound in the strings of our expectations rather than living in the freedom of their own transformed worship to Christ.

3. The Party Approach

The Party approach focuses on emotional highs for conversion. Jesus promises to be with us to the end of the age which is eternal rather than a moment or a season. Regardless of how we feel in a moment of our lives, God’s word still rings true. We often think that conversion is about experiencing a series of emotionally charged moments so that others will finally want to give their lives to Christ. Jesus wants to transform the inside not leave us endlessly searching for another high.

“We are commissioned to go after more than just right thinking, right actions, or right feelings. Jesus wants the whole person.”


The Key to True Conversion

The key to conversion is to understand that we are commissioned and God converts. It is not in our own power that conversion happens because in those circumstances we end up manipulating minds, wills, and emotions. When we allow God to convert others it leads to true transformation of the whole person. Conversion must be rooted in the power of Jesus Christ not rooted in our own power, personality, or persuasion. If we allow God to get their heart the rest will follow.

Then what is our task in the conversion process?

1. Proclaim the gospel

The best way to learn how to share the gospel is to allow God to do a work through the gospel in our own lives. People need to see that there is one who is true and on high in our lives rather than hearing people who preach from a pedestal. We need to share how Jesus has given us the newness of life which is offered to all.

2. Pray

Everyone around us is seeking to know the Lord. Sometimes we take the weight of conversion on our backs by believing we must persuade people into conversion, but it is only in God’s power. Once they are converted it is our job to bring them into the fold and teach them how to live a Christ centered life. So, ask God to change the hearts of the people around you. Ask God to give you the opportunity to share how Jesus has changed your life forever.

“What the heart most wants, the mind finds reasonable, the will finds doable, and the emotions find desirable.”

-Timothy Keller


Links: Youtube-Full Sermon Transcript

The Wonder of Resurrection

Luke 24:1-12

In the difficult seasons of our lives it can be easy to succumb to the coldness and hostility of a broken world. We can become focused on the anxiety we feel to the point that we miss out on the immense beauty that is constantly around us if we were to simply take a moment to look. It may even come to the point that we believe that death, disappointment, and frustration will win out in the end. But on Easter we are reminded of the fact that death does not have the final say. The resurrection reminds us to pause and look at the truth around us rather than the despair we may feel. The truth is that God is at work in bringing life from death.

A Counterintuitive Word

Easter is a reminder that all of our preconceived notions about death are challenged. On the first Easter when the apostles arrived at Jesus’ empty tomb they still believed that death had the final word and so they were perplexed about Jesus’ missing body. They were greeted by two heavenly messengers who asked “why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” Any notion that Jesus’ body was stolen or that he falsified his death are taken off the table with this one question. All previous beliefs about death’s power over resurrection power are turned on their heads in light of the risen Lord. The problem is that rather than seeing Jesus in his resurrected glory, the disciples are only given a word of resurrection. This is something we can relate to today because we may not have the obvious view of resurrection power but we have been given a word proclaiming its existence.

“The resurrection isn’t forcefully obvious,

but resurrection and resurrection life is clearly visible.”

A Contrary Belief

We live in the tension of Jesus’ resurrection and our current experience which is that death is final. Just like the disciples, when these contradictory truths collide it is not surprising that we often respond with unbelief. It is important to note that unbelief is not synonymous with a belief in nothing, but simply means that we believe in something else more fervently. When people struggle to believe in the resurrection of Christ it is because they believe in the reality of death and all its affects more robustly.

When we are faced with the death of a loved one, we are often desperate to reassure the one who is departing that their life mattered. Of course, there is nothing wrong with expressing our gratitude towards those who have had a tremendous impact on our lives or reminding them of how much they mean to us, however in these moments we often believe something about death that is not entirely true. We can often push to remind the individual that their life mattered because we erroneously believe that death is about to win, thus snatching the meaning from their lives. A world without resurrection life can lead us into believing that life is a slow surrender to death.

What if death is real, but not final?

What if Jesus is not just past, but present?  

What if Jesus were to meet us here?

Beauty of a Concrete Hope

If resurrection life is true how do we step into it?

The Easter message calls us from our old understanding of death to a new belief in resurrection life. The reality is that death is foreign to us because it was something that was not meant for us, but entered the world with sin. We are all sinned against-some of us in heinous ways- which can cause us to believe in death more than the resurrection life. But the hard truth is that we have also sinned by contributing to the violation of peace and beauty of resurrection life. Humility is the best thing for God’s people because it is there that we trust Christ who takes our sin upon himself. Resurrection life begins when we die to ourselves. The resurrection life tells us that we can finally rest because we do not bring resurrection upon ourselves, but Christ brings it to us.

“We cannot live before we die to ourselves.

When we die to ourselves we become alive in Christ.”


Links: Youtube-Full Sermon Transcript