Often, in Christian testimonies, one’s conversion experience takes center stage. Usually, with cool lights, soft music, and a little fog, the circumstance, emotions, and sensations of the event are described in great, gut-wrenching detail. Whenever testimonies are called for, more airtime is often given to those with the juiciest conversion-story offerings; those with boring testimonies (i.e. those punk, church-kids) are never asked to share unless they fudge the details to make their story a bit sexier. All that to be said, Evangelical Christians love a good conversion story.
Now, do not misunderstand me, there is nothing wrong with sharing the story of our conversion. When done well, they often bring glory to Christ as the One who saves the worst of us. But the ongoing emphasis on the moment of conversion can distract us from this one crucial, Scriptural truth: our conversion is worthless if it doesn’t result in life of love and obedience to God. David Wells explains:
Conversion inaugurates a life devoted to serving God. Conversion is not an isolated event but it is related to the entire life of faith that follows from it. It is the moment of birth into a new life. It is like a doorway into a room. A person is born to live, not to linger on the edge of the womb in a time of limbo. A person opens a door not for the pleasure of standing forever on the threshold but to enter the room. The Evangelical world has strangely perverted this truth. Evangelicals often make the test of spiritual life one’s willingness to testify about the moment of birth. Describing one’s sensations in passing through the doorway is considered proof that one is in the room! This shifts the focus from where it ought to be (the evidence of the Spirit’s renewing work in producing a God-centered life, a God-fearing heart, and a God-honoring character and witness) and places it on a person’s autobiographical account of the conversion crisis. The only real proof of our conversion is an obedient and fruitful life.
(Taken from Turning to God, p. 43)
Jesus’ disciples are known by their fruit (Matt. 7:15-20). The plant that produced fruit was the only one not cut down (Mark 4:3-20). Only those who do the Father’s will are recognized by Jesus as family (Matt. 12:50). Faith without deeds is dead (James 2:17). Love for Jesus will always result in obedience to Jesus (John 14:15, 21, 23-24; 15:10). More important than how high you jump is how straight you walk afterward. Genuine Christian conversion will change not only one’s claim but also their conduct. The Spirit of God is just too powerful and loving to dwell within us and leave us unchanged.
If you’d like a sermon that powerfully applies this truth to the American Church today, hold onto your hats and check this out.