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December 9, 2009

Conversion

by Rev. A. J. Iovine

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been re-introducing myself to the blessedness known as the writings of C.F.W. Walther, the first president of our Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, a man who is most needed today in our church.

In his Nineteenth Evening Lecture, he reminds us of the matter of conversion. Today, many “born again” Christians and other Protestants stress the importance of “accepting Jesus in your heart” as proof of faith. Many of them can tell you the specific time and place they “accepted” Jesus, and with that acceptance, it proves that their Christian faith is alive.

We Lutherans counter this argument with a deeper understanding of faith and conversion — it is all an act of God. As Luther tells us in his explanation to the Third Article, without the Holy Spirit, we would never be able to accept and believe and come to Jesus Christ, our Lord.

How can we, as mere sinners, accept and believe something so holy and wonderful without God working in our minds and hearts by His Holy Spirit? The time and day of conversion means little as long as the faith is real, borne of God and strengthened by Him through Word and Sacrament.

Walther clearly expresses the conversion argument in a bold way — conversion is the turning from death to life.

And how, dear sinner, can you turn yourself around? Only by God and His work, both at the cross where the Son of God paid our sin debt, and by the Holy Spirit who turns our hearts from unbelief to belief in Him who died for us.

Now, it is indeed, true that conversion does not require a day or an hour, but only a moment. For according to the Holy Scriptures it is nothing else than the quickening out of spiritual death unto spiritual life, or the turning out of the broad way leading netherward and into the narrow way leading upward, or the transfer from the kingdom of the devil to the kingdom of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.


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