What Actually Happens at the Gate (Conversion)?

Last week I introduced the topic of change, that after the gate (conversion) a new believer is going to start down the narrow path, and things are going to be different. I think it is important to alert a new believer to the fact that things will change; it is also important to tell them why.

So many people think of Christianity as a list of do’s and don’ts. Their view of God is that he is frowning in heaven, terribly afraid that someone, somewhere, is having a good time. So he has all these things we must do, and things we can no longer do, and the only reward he holds up is heaven — not a bad reward, but wholly inadequate for most people.

How much better to help people understand how fundamentally they were changed at the gate, how change in life is natural, and that they should embrace the change with all the implications.

What did you understand when you became a follower of Christ? Certainly you came to the gate understanding that you had sinned and therefore were separated from God. You acknowledged that you had done what God called you not to do, and that you had not done what he had asked you to do. In turn, what happened? Did not God bring you near to himself? Did he not begin to fill the emptiness in your heart with himself? In a word, things were “different.”

Did you know that before conversion, it was God who was drawing you to the gate? Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them” (John 6:44). When you started to feel guilty over things you had done, things that previously produced no feelings of guilt, that was God working in your heart, making you aware of the seriousness of your sin. He was drawing you to himself by showing you your weaknesses. When you started to feel empty, when you started to feel that something significant was missing from your life, that was God. He was helping you see that you had been created for him, and without him there would always be a deep longing. In this, God was starting to change you.

What else happened at the gate, truths that a new believer may not understand?

  • You were rescued from the kingdom of darkness and brought into God’s kingdom of light.
  • You were justified. This is a legal metaphor by which you are declared innocent of all guilt and all wrongdoing in the law court of God.
  • You were freed from all condemnation. Because God is judge and jury, and because he has declared you justified, there is now no condemnation for those who follow Jesus.
  • You were redeemed. This metaphor is often associated with the slave market. If you were to redeem a slave, you would pay a price and freedom would be granted. The price was the precious blood of Jesus, and you were brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God, freed from the mastery of sin.
  • You were sanctified, declared holy, separate from all sin. This is a metaphor from the sacrificial system of the temple. As you continue to walk down life’s path, you will do some things that are wrong, but as far as our basic relationship with God is concerned, you remain holy, a saint.
  • You were adopted as a child of God. You were brought into a new family, with a new father, new brothers and sisters, a new home, and a new inheritance in heaven where it can’t be spent or lost.
  • You were given God the Holy Spirit, who comes into you life and stays with you, encouraging and helping you to walk the path, guaranteeing that you receive your new inheritance.

And the list goes on. But the point is this: as you passed through the gate, God fundamentally changed you, and it just makes sense that the path you walk from here on out is going to be different.

Changed people live in changed ways.

5 thoughts on “What Actually Happens at the Gate (Conversion)?

  1. Bill
    How about including regeneration on this list? Especially when thinking of your final statement, that “changed people live in changed ways,” it seems like our status as new creations in Christ is a fundamental part of that.

  2. Bill, the question I have is that, as it used to be, Christians were told to maintain a relationship with God via the direction of the Holy Spirit. This certainly has been integral to evangelical forms of Christian practice; Campus Crusade’s Bill Bright popularized this, again, in the 1970’s and referred to it as “spiritual breathing.” And this is supposed to be instrumental in furthering the Gospel to others. Yet the trends which come up among evangelicals can be unsettling at times: political movements, very intense theological discussion, financial misdeeds, factions. I know there are troubles. I guess what has perplexed me is: what does it really take to to be a positive component of human society? Some religious groups quickly become identifiable for cult like practices. Yet, it seems that if Evangelicals were on the right track there should have been some greater improvement in our society. In other words, we can’t just argue with people– we have to win them over. Our life has to have an appeal.

    My tremendous respect for those laboring in pastoral ministries. But from the layman’s view, and also having to deal with the secular world on a regular basis ( especially the money grubbing aspect) I would have liked to have seen more success for Our Team. I think dedicated pastors need lay people who can fill the other niches that we need to be doing to advance our message. My apologies if I sound critical at times, but I believe that it IS important to further the good news….

  3. It is counterproductive when Christians are known for what they are against. Always better to be “for” something. The simple answer is that we are to be known for our love (John 17). For Moses, it was to be known s the people who live in God’s presence. “How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” (Exodus 33:16). In both these cases the connection ios relational.

  4. “I would have liked to have seen more success for Our Team”

    That’s what I’m for. And I think it is important to be known for trust. I don’t want to detract from the message of Good News.

    Personally, I have been involved in some conservative political activism lately, which I could not have even imagined a decade ago. I don’t want to get off track in explaining it. It”s kind of intriguing to see the varying political currents moving around through conservative Christianity..

    I became more conservative, politically, when I realized that the phenomenon of lay voluntarism—-which has sprung up as a major—but ignored—-social trend of the last few decades. . I was sorry….now….to see religious conservative political candidates bashed as heartless when they may be part of a church that is, on the whole, very giving. I watched Sarah Palin get this grilling—-when I even personally know her pastor and I knew that she was part of a congregation that would have a lot of charitable, giving people. Liberal politicians, OTOH, seem to propose an endless welfare state—-now expanded to an international version where we keep admitting more people to this country from poorer countries. That sounds good until you start to see the enormous planning costs involved in accomodating more people. It is almost always much cheaper to help them in their home countries than here.

    So, surprising to me, I have become much more conservative in the last few years. What does this have to do with your topic? Well, while I think we are going to see more tolerance of other “conservative” religious ideas (i.e Mormonism, conservative Catholics) Evangelicals need to remain clear about what their role is. If our role is to present the Gospel we need to demonstrate that it really does cure the sick soul…that it is a genuinely inspiring and uplifting message for those who need it.

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