“Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”Matthew 18:3
I find the word “conversion” to be an interesting word. The root word is convert—“To change something into a different form.” Considering its religious connotation, it means, “to cause to acquire different beliefs, attitudes… ones believed to be better.” So it is, the word conversion means, “the act of converting,” “being in a state or process of being converted,” “one an alteration of form or substance”, and my favorite, “a change in a person’s beliefs or attitude.” As you can see, depending upon the use and context, the word will take on a different meaning. Many times, the word convert has to do with a person who changes one’s previous belief system for another. Growing up my mother explained to me why she converted to Catholicism from Protestantism. Why she favored one belief system over the other. As I grew older, I learned of others who went through similar conversions, everything from converting to Mormonism to Islam. But changing one’s religion or belief system doesn’t mean that one has converted to the right thing or the right way.
Wouldn’t it be great to convert to a religion rather to a person? Memorize a creed, learn some new prayers, attend a “New Convert’s Class,” do a few good deeds and there you have it, you’re a convert, you have been converted… conversion is completed. Unfortunately, that is exactly what a variety of religious institutions do.
But at the same time Jesus made a blanket statement that included the word convert in it. So being converted or having a conversion experience is very real when we talk about our relationship to Him. As the above passage indicates, we must be converted into little children if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven.
CONVERSION—The very mention of the word my eyes start to get all watery. I love my conversion story and I am sure that I have shared it from the pulpit more times than you wanted to hear it. This is going to sound awkward (at least for me), but it is the best story I have ever told and it is the best part of me that you will ever see and hear. I like bragging about how God came into my life after 25 years of being His enemy, rebelling against everything He stands for. If you haven’t heard it, pull me aside sometime at church or give me a call and I will be happy to share it with you.
That being said, the word conversion is much more than just my personal story, it is a Biblical word of infinite value, a word when coupled with The Savior will bring about changes that will be puzzling to those who count us as friends and angering to those who would call us enemy. Of course, the root of conversion is seeing change. When I convert my bike miles to kilometers, I see the change. Riding 3000 kilometers sounds like a long distance until I understand that we are not talking about miles. 3000 kilometers in miles is 1864.114 miles. Kind of takes the air out of your tires doesn’t it. But at least you can see the difference. Americans! Go figure.
When someone comes to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, he or she goes through a conversion. Put simply, things change…you change, the way you think, the way you act… you are different…you are converted. But what does that really mean? You are converted to what, to whom? To make things a little more complicated Jesus tells His disciples that “unless you are converted and become as (like) little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” How is that even possible—I’m an old guy—become as a little child—what does a little child have to do with an old guy’s conversion? Apparently if Jesus said it, it has everything to do with it.
If you look at the context of this verse, you will quickly realize that Jesus’ disciples wanted to know who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. No doubt, His disciples were concerned with their position in His kingdom and wanted to know what they were up against. As they perused the average rank and file of human life they probably determined that because they were with Jesus, they had a good chance of being leaders in His kingdom or at least be considered great by their own measurement… dare I say using their own conversion table 😊 So Jesus messes with their heads, He says, they have to convert to little children if they want to even enter His kingdom. Talk about deflating the ego.
At the heart of the problem is a problemed heart
—We think we deserve to be in the presence of God. We believe that somehow, I am good enough to be saved by Him, that somehow, I hold more value than others. But the truth of the matter is, you and I don’t hold anything of value in who we are or what we do to deserve any entrance into God’s kingdom. We have to become like little children. What does that look like? It looks like what all two-year old’s act like. Remember the “terrible two’s?” This is the age which a toddler can regularly bounce between reliance on adults and a newly acquired desire for independence. But we know that the vast majority of toddlers will soon experience the need for an adult to bail them out when they get themselves into trouble. Although toddlers cannot articulate with words their need for an adult to rescue them out of a bad situation, it is however seen in their actions as they go running headlong into the arms of a parent. What did they realize? What did they do? They realize that they had a need that couldn’t be filled by them, and they had to go to that one person they knew could and would help them.
Conversion is all about running into the arms of Jesus, realizing we have no confidence in our own merit, ability, or perceived standing with God. It is where self-aggrandizing is on a head-long collision with the perfection of Jesus Christ, and there is only one survivor and it isn’t us. We have to be converted to something else… to Someone else. And we cannot do it unless we become that little child, sprinting into the arms of the Savior, realizing we have nothing of merit in ourself and we humble ourself like the little kid Jesus is using as an object illustration (Matt.18:4) and get the change we need (convert) in order to get what we want… the Kingdom of God.
This is Pastor Pat FROM BEHIND THE PEN wishing you Joy in Jesus!