Conversion And Call (Blog #2)
Ongoing Resurrection Adventure
Saul of Tarsus had a remarkable experience on the Road to Damascus. Many students of scripture believe that this was Saul’s conversion to Christ as well as his Call from God to serve as an Apostle. I tend to agree. Saul, who later called himself “the chief of sinners” was converted to Christ as Savior and called of God to be an Apostle at the same moment in history. The blinding flash of light from heaven combined with the voice of the Savior accomplished these two great wonders – conversion and call – in the same moment of time. This was Saul’s (Paul’s) first RESURRECTION ADVENTURE.
This may have been true of my own experience with God when I was 19. In my own mind, it is entirely possible that I had never been converted until that grand text from Romans 5:1 dawned on me in all its glory. If that is the case, then I with Saul was converted and called all in the same moment.
It is also a possibility in my own mind that I had been converted several years before, and that this experience of coming to an assurance of my salvation and to an awareness of my call to the ministry came to me when I was 19. If this is the case, then God’s calling me to the ministry was a kind of “new phase” of my conversion. I believe there is real value in reflecting on conversion in this way.
Because he spoke so well on this “new phase” idea of conversion, I want to quote professor Oliver O’Donovan on the subject. In his 1994 book RESURRECTION AND MORAL ORDER, O’Donovan remarks that “conversion happens not once but many times” (page 258). In saying this, O’Donovan is not denying the “once-for-all” nature of conversion, but is saying that conversion is a many-splendored experience that touches first one aspect of our lives and then another enabling us to follow Christ in the ever expanding adventure of discipleship to Christ.
Some might prefer using the language of “sanctification” rather than “conversion” to describe this ongoing experience with Christ. O’Donovan seems to prefer “conversion” because it more graphically conveys the idea of “turning”. Surely we would agree that there was a “turning” or “conversion” in Peter when he left his denials of Christ behind and proclaimed the Savior on Pentecost. The terminology, however, is not so important as the reality behind it and we would certainly all agree that Peter had “turned” dramatically when he began to proclaim Christ to the crowd at Pentecost.
So, whether I was converted and called all at the same moment, the fact remains that God’s call to me came with wonderful power at the same moment that Romans 5:1 “justified by faith” took hold of my heart. At that point I was caught up in a RESURRECTION ADVENTURE that transformed my life. I began to see the resurrection of Christ and the preaching of the gospel as the most desirable experience in my life. I had not only seen the new age dawning, I had entered into that new age and could speak about it from first-hand experience. O ‘Donovan speaks about this experience as an “eschatological reality…the one decisive transformation; so that we may say, and more profoundly, that conversion happens only once, and that each successive turning back claims and reclaims the one decisive encounter.”
Such RESURRECTION ADVENTURE is available to all who are trusting the Risen Savior. The sadness we see in the fallen world is the sadness of a RESURRECTIONLESS world, a world whose boundaries are Hell and the grave. God’s children are called out of this sad world into the beauty of the “new creation” where the Lamb of God is the light and where the celebration of the marriage supper of the Lamb continues into all eternity.
My calling is to preach this glorious truth. Your calling is to give witness to this truth through the great variety of callings that God has given to his children, a great variety of RESURRECTION ADVENTURES.