WHAT EXACTLY IS CONVERSION ?

What exactly is conversion? Why is it necessary? Why does anyone need to Be ‘saved’? What actually happens when a person is converted? The best answer I know to these questions is given in one of the most famous parables in the Bible, the parable of the Prodigal Son. Yet thousands of people who can remember the bones of this parable have never really understood its meaning. You remember how it begins. The Lord Jesus Christ sets the scene by speaking of a wealthy man with two sons, the younger of whom demands his share of the inheritance even before his father is dead. What is not generally realised is that we are being told here just how God views the human race. How God views us It is a very blunt beginning, for Christ says, in effect — ‘What do I think of the human race? It Is like an arrogant son. utterly spoiled, greedy, and completely indifferent to anyone but himself. The day comes when he sneers at his father, “I wish you were dead! I can’t stand the sight of you! I detest you and your values, and I don’t want to hear or have anything to do with you. I just want everything that would he mine if you were dead and gone!”’ This is how the Saviour of the world sees us. His description may seem very severe — but only people who have never read the Bible imagine that it is a soft message. God sees us as people who were created by Him and who should appreciate Him. But instead, we have despised and rejected Him. It is as though we have all swaggered into life like the prodigal son and said, ‘I want to live as though God didn’t exist. I want nothing to do with Him. I just want all that God has created, as though He were dead.’
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In the parable the father allows the son to take his inheritance and go. And the Lord does the same with us. He does not punish us instantly for despising and rejecting Him. This life is the entrance hall to the next, and God gives us licence and liberty here even to spurn and reject Him. One day we will have to give account for this life, but for the present, the almighty Father has given us scope to turn our backs on Him and go our own ways. Every phrase in this parable is significant, and we read in the Bible that. Not many days later, the younger son gathered everything together, and made his way into a FAR country. He went into a far country, not just to a neighbouring one. Again, it is so like us. As soon as we first begin to think for ourselves we head away from God, and we go as far as we can. Why the great distance? Because like the prodigal we do not want to hear anything either from, or about our almighty Father. Every one of us has taken life and breath and seized it for ourselves. We have seized our youth and years, our faculties and powers — whatever they are — and lived as though they were entirely our own, and as though we owed nothing to God. Some people have academic minds and good memories; some have physical powers, physique and athletic capability; others have great ability for business, or creative gifts — but everything which was given by God has been seized for me. I spend it on myself, revel in it, and flaunt it. The Saviour’s parable of the Prodigal Son now gives a solemn warning, for we are told that the prodigal — wasted his substance with riotous living. Running down As time went by, his resources gradually ran down. So it is with us. So often our best years pass and we are still
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far from God. The ageing process begins to take its toll. One day all those faculties and powers which we have seized will let us down. Like clockwork toys we will run down, and all the things we lived and worked for will give us no more satisfaction or pleasure, A new generation will take over from us. Yet we live as though we had a lease from God on eternal youth and life in this world. Surely we can see how this parable explains our need for conversion to God? Suddenly this remarkable parable turns to describing what happens when a person is converted to God. The prodigal’s fortunes finally collapsed, and the Bible says that when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. The prodigal had run out of everything, and to make matters worse, a famine occurred, plunging him into utter desperation. A great famine What is the parable saying? It is this — when any man, woman or young person is about to be converted, a kind of famine comes into that life. Not a famine of food, but a famine of meaning, purpose and reality. Conscience begins to ache, because almighty God is pressing upon the soul, and this leads us to ask, ‘Why am I so rotten — so full of selfishness and sin?’ We feel completely spent out; we come to an end of ourselves. We run out of all self-seeking and self-confidence, and life suddenly seems pointless and empty. We can no longer pull ourselves out of such feelings by some recreation or pleasure. Nevertheless, we do not always immediately turn to God or seek Him. Human beings are very proud and very obstinate. The prodigal son did not return home when the pressures first came upon him, but attempted to solve the problem himself, and found himself a job feeding pigs. We react in the same way. When our souls first begin to ache we blame everyone and everything for how we
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or atone for my past sins. Unless I return and repent God cannot and will not help me. but give yourself over to Him. and this is the great essential of conversion for us all. it is impossible to exaggerate his condition. and make it possible for you to feel and know Him. What a description of us all while we are away from God! Life is a kind of play-act. Then He will come to you and do what you cannot do. Tell Him you have been a fool. if God puts a famine of meaning and purpose into your life so that you wake up to spiritual reality. The only possible way we can really understand this parable is to grasp that the prodigal barely began the Journey. destitute and forlorn. the rivers and frontier posts — defenceless against animals. But while he was still a great way off. In the case of the prodigal. and the best part of it. We are unaware of reality. I cannot produce spiritual life in myself. Do not cling to a single shred of imagined goodness. What is conversion? It is what happened to the prodigal son. The Son of God has made the long journey into this world to span the gulf between us. He suffered it fully in the hours that He hung on Calvary’s cross. Father I have sinned. Metropolitan Tabernacle. then the Father must come out to me. it starts when we wake up to spiritual realities and begin to grasp our alienation or separation from God. But the father somehow knew. a selfish and sinful failure. for I am morally weak. He was in such a desperate condition he had longed to be able to eat the husks given to the pigs. In other words. The gulf between us is too great. All I can do is turn to Him and repent. Perhaps he was covered in sores and boils and clad in rags. He has taken the terrible pain due to me for my sin. hundreds of miles from home. due to God’s amazing love and kindness. saw his situation and went out to him. and of feeling a famine of meaning and purpose. And now the last point — and this is the key to -4- understanding the parable. I will arise and go to my father. Let me apply this to our situation. Your soul is dead unless Christ gives you life. Spanning the gulf That is what the Lord Jesus Christ has done. a rebel. and ran to him. Between the prodigal and his father was a gulf of many miles. If God puts pressure on your soul and brings you to the end of your self-seeking and rebellion. He was starving. And then. The prodigal was now about to do the only thing he could do — return and repent. and will say unto him. another prodigal will have been found. The mountain of my sin which stands in the way is impassable by me. It is a matter of running out of self-confidence. condemned state before Him. anguish and pain which should have fallen upon me. If I am to be converted. I cannot earn my passage to Heaven. Your life is lost unless Christ makes you His child. London distributed by: -6- . It is obvious that the prodigal could never have made it home unaided. and our sinful. God -5- must have mercy upon me. and the father came out to him. You must do so earnestly and genuinely. because it tells us the most important thing of all about conversion. I cannot pay the terrible debt of guilt and sin which keeps me away from almighty God. so that He could pardon and convert all who repent of their sin and turn to Him. The parable tells us that the prodigal arose and came to his father. He could never have covered that Journey home — the mountains and deserts. That is surely what Christ meant when He said — when he was yet a great way off. The return home The prodigal said. Do not forget that he was in a far country. Dr Peter Masters. he came to himself. his father saw him. bankrupt and exhausted. I certainly cannot change my ways. and the trance or coma of delusion was shattered. the passing of the years and the river of death which lies ahead. He came to! He woke up! He was jarred into reality. supremely unconscious of the dangers of life. He will forgive you. In fact he had been starving for some time. Impossible journey He must have been far too emaciated and weak for any journey. Repent and yield your whole life to the Lord Jesus Christ. This statement is so crucial. I must repent of my disastrous past life and all my sin. Like the prodigal I could never return to God if it was up to me. The parable makes that so plain. We are like sleepwalkers.feel and try all kinds of measures rather than seeking the Lord. and to know the Lord. God must do all these things for me. to earn or deserve God’s blessing. We live far from God. and had compassion. then learn from this famous parable — you must return and repent. in His mercy. He has borne that punishment. if I am to be changed. penniless for food and shelter. we read that at last. We are all dreamers. totally transform you. He has suffered what I should have suffered in hell for ever.