Conversion Confusion

Part 3: True Conversion

By Jim Allen

In my last post, I wrote about the trap people fall into when they recite the salvation prayer without any reliable appreciation for what they are doing. The difference between a true and false conversion is God has begun a good work in the true believer that will result in a changed life (Philippians 1:6). The true believer, over time, will turn away from worldly pleasures and draw nearer to God, much in the same way a moth draws near to light. True believers should prefer the light of the gospel to the darkness of the world (Ephesians 5:8 8-14). True believers learn to give up a life they no longer want for one they cannot live without (Ephesians 4:20-24). The darkness is shed, and Jesus becomes their new life.

In Ephesians 4:14-15, Paul warns about doctrinal traps that can raise havoc with believers and their newfound faith. First John 2:27 says we can avoid doctrinal traps by the anointing that abides in us. True believers often struggle with the idea of losing salvation because this particular "wind of doctrine" is powerful and can blow believers off course.

Of this fearful doctrine, Dan Robinson said:
Learning from websites and books may seem easy, yielding instant answers. Learning from the Bible is difficult, and it may take months or even years to get the answers you need to understand the truth. But the difference is this — the easy answers are also easily refuted — shallow-rooted and toppled quickly by opposing views. But the sought-out answers from personal Bible study are grounded, rooted firmly, and unshakeable by even the most adept apologist. [1]
Preparing the Soul
The best defense against a doctrinal trap is good offense, which is an awareness of what the Bible says about a matter (2 Timothy 3:13). During conversion, the Holy Spirit will convict the person of sin (John 16:8). Conviction is initiated by God to expose our sin nature (Romans 3:23; 5:12). The word "convict" in John 16:8 is translated from the Greek elencho, which means "to convince or persuade someone to believe a truth."

The Holy Spirit is the prosecuting attorney who works to expose the crime and prove guilt. The jury of Ten Commandments will find the defendant guilty on all counts (Romans 3:23), and the Judge will pass sentence (Romans 6:23). It is at this point the defendant will either reject the verdict or ask for mercy (Luke 2:11). Jesus said that a person who believes they are guilty as charged, is humbled before Lord by the evidence presented, then seeks mercy from the court, will indeed be justified (Luke 18:11-14). [2]

Many evangelicals jump over the first step of conviction by forcing the unconverted to "recite the salvation prayer" before they have been convicted by the Holy Spirit. Driven by the need to count the number of salvation prayers, evangelists and pastors persuade the unconverted to call upon the Lord before they are even ready. Although Jesus never preached about coming forward to recite the sinner's prayer, He did talk about the need to go humbly before the Lord to seek His mercy (Luke 18:13). While the altar call plays a role in false conversions, it is not the foremost cause. The leading cause resulting in false conversions is the high number of unprepared hearts who come under the arm-twisting tactics of evangelicals to say the "magic words."

Justifying the Soul
God's second step during conversion is to justify the soul. The thief on the cross was guilty as charged, remorseful, humbled by guilt, and looked to Jesus for mercy (Luke 23:42). Jesus saved the criminal because, in simple faith, he believed Jesus was the Lamb of God (John 1:29). When a person sincerely believes and places faith in Christ, God instantly transplants the old heart and spirit with a new heart and spirit (John 5:24). God speaks about this surgery in Ezekiel 36:26 when He said through the prophet, "I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you." The criminal crucified next to Jesus repented from unbelief and believed, being born again (1 Peter 1:23) and made righteous before God (Romans 10:10).

Obviously then, the evidence for true conversion is not found in a single prayer or magic words, in good works, nor in repeated trips to the altar to say the prayer of salvation again-and-again. The evidence for true conversion is found in simple faith (Romans 10:9), the result of which is a changed life. God will give all true believers the desire to seek after truth (Matthew 6:33), examine it carefully (2 Timothy 3:16), keep it in memory (1 Corinthians 15:1-2), and then make it a working part of their daily life (Philippians 2:12-13).

Volumes have been written about the topic of true conversion; the basic steps of conviction and justification are fundamental doctrines leading to salvation. After salvation is sanctification, the divinely instigated process for molding us into the image of Christ, which is the perfect will of Father (2 Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 2:20).

Read more about true conversion at

1. "The Endless Debate on Eternal Security" -
2. What is conviction of sin? (paraphrased)

Conversion Confusion, The Series
Part 1: The Sinner's Prayer
Part 2: False Conversion
Part 3: True Conversion

Image Credit: jamelah e.; "6: bible nerd"; Creative Commons

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Published Jul 2011