Many people can recall a specific time or event in their lives when they felt like their eyes were opened…a turning point where they made a conscious decision to follow Christ. Some people even call this event their “conversion story”. Many also liken it to Paul on the road to Damascus:
And Saul, as yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, And asked of him letters to Damascus, to the synagogues: that if he found any men and women of this way, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. And as he went on his journey, it came to pass that he drew nigh to Damascus; and suddenly a light from heaven shined round about him. And falling on the ground, he heard a voice saying to him: Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? Who said: Who art thou, Lord? And he: I am Jesus whom thou persecutest. It is hard for thee to kick against the goad.
And he trembling and astonished, said: Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said to him: Arise, and go into the city, and there it shall be told thee what thou must do. Now the men who went in company with him, stood amazed, hearing indeed a voice, but seeing no man. And Saul arose from the ground; and when his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. But they leading him by the hands, brought him to Damascus (Acts 9:1-8).
While there may be a single event considered a turning point in life, conversion is not a one-time thing. We may know, like Paul, exactly when our eyes were opened but such an event is just the beginning. Conversion is an ongoing process that continues until the day we die; that is, we are or should be in a constant state of conversion…a constant state of both turning from and turning toward. We must turn away from sin and turn to the Lord. Making every effort to conform our will to His is our goal.
I BESEECH you therefore, brethren, by the mercy of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, pleasing unto God, your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world; but be reformed in the newness of your mind, that you may prove what is the good, and the acceptable, and the perfect will of God (Romans 12:1-2).
Perpetual conversion is a choice. Once our eyes are opened and we know what we should do, it remains for us to choose to seek the will of God in our lives. We must give up old habits and live in a manner befitting reality which is that we are creatures made in the image and likeness of God.
When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. But, when I became a man, I put away the things of a child
(1 Corinthians 13:11).
To put off, according to former conversation, the old man, who is corrupted according to the desire of error. And be renewed in the spirit of your mind: And put on the new man, who according to God is created in justice and holiness of truth (Ephesians 4:22-24).
Choosing to live in accordance with the will of God and giving up old ways should not make us sad. On the contrary, with our eyes open we can repent and “put on the new man” which is a cause for great joy. Conversion is not about what we “give up”; it is about what we gain.
Furthermore I count all things to be but loss for the excellent knowledge of Jesus Christ my Lord; for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but as dung, that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:8).
Admittedly this is difficult to understand at first because our culture trains us to be egocentric from day one. If we look around us we must acknowledge that an “It’s-all-about-me” attitude is dominant in our culture. Therefore, dying to self or “giving up” our own will in order to receive the greatest gift of all which is Christ is a foreign concept to someone whose eyes have just been opened. Nonetheless, this is exactly what we must do.
Amen, amen I say to you, unless the grain of wheat falling into the ground die, Itself remaineth alone. But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world, keepeth it unto life eternal (John 12:24-25).
If we recognize a single event as the beginning of our conversion we should give thanks for this special grace but know that conversion is a constant choice, a constant prayer, “…Thy will be done.”
And he said to all: If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me (Luke 9:23).