True Conversion and Wholehearted Commitment - page 1

From the Summer 2011 issue of Knowing & Doing

True Conversion and Wholehearted Commitment:
Foundations of Discipleship

by Thomas A. Tarrants, III, D. Min.
Director of Ministry, C.S. Lewis Institute

George Orwell famously said, “Sometimes the first duty of intelligent men is the restatement of the obvious.” We live in such a time today.

In America there is widespread fogginess and confusion about what it means to be a Christian. This can be seen in much preaching, and it is painfully obvious in the lives of vast numbers of people who profess salvation through Christ but seem to have no clue of what this actually means in terms of beliefs and behavior. In such a time, it is the duty of every serious follower of Jesus Christ to go back to the basics. In this article, we will seek to do so by reexamining what Jesus taught about true conversion and total commitment. Our goal is to understand rightly the call of Jesus so as to please and honor him in daily life. And we do this not for our sake alone, but also for those we seek to reach and teach, for the church to which we belong, and for the watching world, which desperately needs to see authentic followers of Christ.

As we begin, we remind ourselves that Christ’s call to true conversion and wholehearted commitment is rooted before all else in the grace of a merciful God, who loves us and calls us to life in his Son. This life cannot be earned by repentance, faith, total commitment or anything else we do. Our part is simply to receive it as offered.

Before looking at the teachings of Jesus on these key themes, we note the broader context of his life and work, found in Genesis and the Fall.  

In Genesis we see God creating a beautiful world and two people, whom he made in his own image and placed in a garden-like paradise. Filled with all they needed or could desire, the garden was a special gift from God, a place for them to care for and enjoy. And it was a place for them to experience personal fellowship with God. God’s only restriction was that they not eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

How long this happy state continued we do not know, but at some point things went horribly wrong. Adam and Eve eventually disobeyed God’s command and ate from the forbidden tree. Their disobedience was not an innocent mistake but a willful rebellion against God’s lordship and loving care over their lives. It came about through the deceit and seduction of that “proud spirit,” the devil, who had himself earlier rebelled against God. Taking the form of a talking serpent, the devil sought to inculcate unbelief in Adam and Eve by suggesting that God was withholding something good from them by forbidding the fruit of that one tree. Simultaneously he enticed them to pride by assuring them that through eating the forbidden fruit they would become “like God.” Thus, by succumbing to pride and unbelief, they fell from their original innocence. The consequences of their willful rebellion were bitter: moral guilt, the corruption of their human nature, a shattering of God’s image within, immediate spiritual death, eventual physical death, alienation from God, the incurring of his judgment, and expulsion from the garden.

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