We need to be converted to Christianity, to life in Christ. It doesn’t matter if you were born into a Christian family. It doesn’t matter if you attend Church services regularly. It doesn’t matter if you teach Sunday School. We can do all of these, and yet still not have begun to really be a Christian. Perhaps we did make a beginning, as a child, or a youth, and things have just started to get tough recently. Maybe our Christian faith doesn’t seem to make sense like it once did. Maybe we find our Christian faith challenged both by the people we spend time with now, and by the daily problems we face and Christianity, that Christianity we were taught, just doesn’t seem to solve or even address. Maybe we know that we are just going through the motions, trying to please our family and priests, and God.
We need to be converted. You need to be converted. But converted to the real and authentic and abundant life that Christ offers. Not a substitute religion. Not a counterfeit religion. Not a false religion.
If we haven’t experienced all that God wants for us, and if we haven’t yet been able to participate in the divine life that is offered to us in Christ, then we have never rejected God. We have never lost our faith. We have never grown cold and confused. The problem is that we have never been properly taught what Christianity means.
What does it mean to be converted? Well in some sense it means simply to turn around. It means realising that you are heading in the wrong direction and doing something about it. How do we know that we are going the wrong way? From the perspective of being and becoming a real Christian it seems to me that we can know that we are heading in the wrong direction if some of these characteristics are present in our life:-
- We have no sense of being close to God and he being close to us at all times
- We are struggling with habitual sins and attitudes that we have no strength to overcome
- There is no spiritual fruitfulness in our life at all
- We don’t see how Christianity is relevant to life in the 21st century
- We go through the motions of prayer and liturgy but have no sense God is there
- We are angry with God because he seems to have let us down
- We think that we have things sorted because we are religious
- We have been hurt by people in the Church and blame God
None of these mean that we are to be blamed for how we feel and where we find ourselves. That’s not the point of this post. We have to begin the journey of the rest of our life from the place where we are today. But we do need to realise that our present experience, if this is what it is like, is not what God desires for us, and not what authentic Christianity teaches and invites us to participate in.
If this is what our life is like then we need to be converted. We need to change our direction. Indeed, even if things are not like this, even if we have rich and transforming experience of God, we need to begin each day with an act of turning everything round to make God the object and focus of our life.
How do we begin? We begin by being honest. Honest about ourselves and about what we think of God. For many folk, the God they have been told they must worship and love is not a God that can be respected at all. If we have been taught that God is angry with us and wants to send us to Hell if we do anything to displease them, then how can we say that we love him? If we think that God is weighing up our good deeds against our bad deeds and will only allow us to enter Heaven if the good outweigh the bad, then how can we love him? If it seems that we can bargain with God, doing religious things in return for gifts and favours, then how can we say that we love him? We can fear such a God, and we can think that we might be able to manipulate such a God, but we cannot love him.
But this is not what the God of Christianity, of real and authentic Christianity, is like at all. If you have been taught any of these other religions then you have been misled and deceived. You certainly need to change your way of thinking, which is another meaning of conversion. What is needed is a dawning understanding of what God is really like.
In the first place, God created all things. We don’t need to be concerned about how in this post. But he made everything, and he made you. He created you to be uniquely the person you could be and become. Why would he go to so much trouble? It is because he wanted each of us, and you yourself, to enter into a relationship of life and love with him. You were created uniquely for a unique relationship with God and you are irreplaceable in God’s purposes and will. All that God created he said was good. And you are created good in God’s love, even though we have fallen into sin and error and weakness and failures of many kinds.
In the second place, even though we have made a mess of our lives and have fallen into sin, we believe absolutely and without any hesitation or exception, that it was because God loves the world that he sent the Word of God into the world as a man like us, except for sin. God became a man while remaining God because he loves us, because he loves you. And the Scriptures are clear, God shows how much he loves us, how much he loves you, because it is while we were sinners that Christ died for us, so that we might live. It is while we were sinners that he rose from death, so that we might rise with him. If God became man, and died and rose again, while we were sinners, then his love is not constrained by our sin. He loves us already without limit. He loves you without limit. The extent of God’s love for you is that he was willing to die in love for you.
And in the third place, in love for each of us, God desires that we enter into a living and life-giving relationship with him. Each of us. That transforms and heals us, that creates in us that person that God created us uniquely to be and which we cannot become apart from a relationship with God who made us in love for love. It is this relationship which brings about, by the grace of the indwelling Holy Spirit, fruitfulness in the spiritual life, peace and joy, strength to overcome even habitual sin, and an unceasing sense of the reality of God’s presence.
This is what the Christian life is really about. This is what it means to be authentically Christian. Everything else is fake and false, and a cheap counterfeit. It is worth spending our life seeking such an experience. Growth in the Christian life does not come without much effort and commitment. But it does come if we enter into a true relationship of love with the God who loves us. If we are not experiencing such a life with God then we need to be converted. We need to change the direction we are heading in and turn back to God, perhaps turn to him for the first time.
Nor is this required of only a few, or those who feel far from God. On the contrary, each day and every day, all of us, if we are authentically Christian must turn again to God, and be converted, so that each day is spent in seeking God, and participating in his divine life and love, which is our salvation and the meaning of true Christianity.