By Richard E. Stephens
FOREWORD – A NEW BEGINNING
One Southern United States coastal cummunity is seeking to lure new residents by using the advertising slogan “THE PLACE OF NEW BEGINNINGS.” The billboards along the highways have used this theme with a very appealing ring. Very often in life a person feels the need for “a place of new beginnings.” The job seems to become a real drag, the dream home appears to be too far in the future, nothing seems to be going justs right and “the place of new beginnings” gives added attraction. A new job, new friends, new way of life; these all appeal to us when life seems to have lost some of its meaning and purpose.
Most will never own a little piece of land in this coastal city’s “place of new beginnings”, but there is a new beginning that can be made that will give life more meaning and real purpose. It is the life of a Christian. By the term “the life of a Christian” it is not meant church membership simply for membership’s sake and occassional attendance to hold one’s standing. It means the acceptance of Christian principles in all of the purity of their first century meaning. It is a step of commitment, a move to action, a decision to serve others. It is the decision to devote time, money, influence and effort. It is a “go for broke” effort to succeed in spreading the good news of Christianity to men throughout the world. It is an effort to give ourselves and others a “place of new beginnings.” It is to help people make this decision that this booklet is written.
With all the confusion that exists in the religious world over the subject of conversion and the manner in which man may take the necessary steps to become a Christian, the following information has been carefully prepared. Care has been given not to offer the religious opinions of any denominational group. On the contrary, we have sought to offer only the plan as outlined in the New Testament for the salvation of man. This is being presented in five major divisions of study: meaning of the command, command given, benefits for obedience, punishment for disobedience and a New Testament example of a person or persons obeying the command under consideration.
Very early in the dawn of man’s relationship with God the need for salvation arose. Adam and Eve, even though they lived in a paradise garden, ignored the command of God and committed sin. The need for salvation arose. Down through the corridors of man’s existance this need has continued as each new generation of people committed sins against God and then faced the need to have these sins erased from the mind of God.
To twentieth century man the word “salvation” often reflects a mental picture of overly zealous people rolling in the church house isles or of a religion of shouting, speaking in strange sounds, etc. Although contemporary American religious life (at least the main stream) has very much forsaken a stance that deals with the “salvation of man through the blood of a crucified Christ” this does not mean this position should be forsaken by an enlightened generation. Also, simply because other elements of the religious world use these terms and illustrations, and we might not agree with their methods, does not make the terms or illustrations bad within themselves. On the contrary, a close scrutiny of the New Testament will show that the very foundation of Christianity is rooted in man’s needs for salvation from errors committed against his Creator.
Jesus came to save sinners (Luke 19:10) and John tells us “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (I John 1:8) Thus, even with all of our twentieth century gains in other areas – space, medicine, and the industrial advances, we still stand in need of the forgiveness of sins.
The word “convert” is a verb. Webster’s Dictionary defines it as “to change, transform, turn, transmute.” In the area of religion Webster defines its application as “to change from one religion, doctrine, opinion, course, or action to another.” In the original language of the new Testament, the Greek language, the word “conversion” is “epistrophe” and means “a turning to.” The two Greek words “stephe” and epistrophe” meaning “to turn” are found 49 times in the Greek New Testament. In this study the word “convert” will simply mean the act of changing from a life of disobedience to a life of obedience to God. Luke, to writing his discourse on the Acts of the Apostles, states it this way:
“To open their eyes, and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sactified by faith that is in me. (Acts 26:18)
Conversion is simply a change of direction in one’s life. In the Biblical sense it is to turn one away from service to wrong or evil, as portrayed by darkness, and to turn or direct this person to a devotion to good as presented as light. It is said in another way, that is, “turn them… from the power of Satan unto God.” The selfish motive of God in this effort toward the conversion of the individual is that he (the individual) might gain the “forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified.” This also reflects the real benefit of the individual seeking a conversion of his life.