When Christians talk about conversion, they are talking about the change that occurs when a person decides that they want to serve God wholeheartedly. At that point, they move from allegiance to secular values to commitment to godly attributes. Their attitudes and behaviours, which were once negative, are transformed in a similar way that a butterfly is transformed from a caterpillar.
John Newton began his early life under the strict tutelage of his Christian mother. She died when he was just seven and he was left to the care of his less religious sea-captain father.
Much of his life was then spent at sea and after several years, he found himself as a slave to a ship’s captain called Mr Clow on the Plantain Islands near Sierra Leone. However, having gained respectability at sea, the tables turned, and he became a slave owner, participating in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.
A violent storm that shipwrecked his boat was the catalyst for his initial conversion. Yet, it was a while before he was fully convinced that the slave trade was wrong. In 1756, after the Seven Years’ War broke out, maritime traffic declined, and Newton found himself with much time on his hands. He spent that his newfound leisure becoming an itinerant preacher and eventually became an ordained minister in the Church of England, one of the greatest abolitionists alongside his friend William Wilberforce and the writer of ‘Amazing Grace’, a favourite hymn of millions.
Like the story of the Apostle Paul, Newton is changed from a persecutor of slaves to the slaves’ champion.
Conversion is a mystery. God transforming the heart of a human being is certainly a miracle that we can’t understand. ‘Conversion is a change of heart, a turning from unrighteousness to righteousness. Relying upon the merits of Christ, exercising true faith in Him, the repentant sinner receives pardon from sin. As he ceases to do evil and learns to do well, he grows in grace and in the knowledge of God. He sees that in order to follow Jesus, he must separate from the world, and, after counting the cost, he looks upon all as loss, if he may but win Christ…Daily he seeks the Lord for grace and he is strengthened and helped. Self once reigned in his heart, and worldly pleasure was his delight. Now self is dethroned, and God reigns supreme. His life reveals the fruit of righteousness…This is genuine conversion.
Take a moment to reflect on your life. Have you taken time to surrender your life to Jesus Christ? Crossing over from your old life to a new one can be very challenging. Old habits are hard to break and desires that have lodged in your life may take time to be removed.
Crossing over may not prove easy. But take time to pray and ask the Father to ‘create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit in me’ – Psalm 51:10 (KJV).
Pastor Eglan Brooks is the President of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the UK & Ireland.