Conversion--The Response to the Gospel
What is the call of the gospel? The last two weeks we’ve looked at the gospel. We’ve started to define what it means to be a gospel-centered church. But what is the gospel call? What response are we seeking and expecting?
The doctrinal term for this is conversion. We are seeking a response of genuine conversion. Now, the scripture does not use that term much. Conversion is more of a summary of a couple things that are going on when a person responds to the gospel.
A simple way of thinking about this is that conversion describes our response to the gospel. We understand that behind the scenes, God has already done the work in the person’s heart. He’s done a regenerating work to call them out of spiritual death. Consider what the scripture says about Lydia. Paul was preaching the gospel in Philippi and it says that “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. “ (Acts 16:14 ESV)
Conversion though refers to the person’s response. When we call people to the gospel, what is the message? What are they to do? I like Wayne Grudem’s definition on this because it is simple and to the point. Conversion is our willing response to the gospel call, in which we sincerely repent of sins and place our trust in Christ for salvation.
In other words, the message “repent and believe the gospel” is a call to conversion. We declare the gospel, and we call men and women to turn from sin, rebellion, and idolatry and to believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.
When conversion is real, meaning a true work of God in the person’s heart, then change will be real. We even use the term “genuine conversion” to mean an actual work of God has taken place and the person is now truly a new creature in Christ. They have been grafted into Christ and we will see fruits of conversion growing in the person’s life.
Conversion does not require coming forward for an altar call. Altar calls were 19th-century inventions from the so-called revival movements. Conversion does not require praying a specific prayer. There is no magic formula. Conversion is when a repentant sinner, hearing and believing the gospel, turns to Christ in faith. That is the right response to the gospel.