‘I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’ (Matthew 18:3)
In a world that has become increasingly smaller, most of us will have travelled to another country at some time. An indispensable part of the journey is converting our money from our own currency to that of the nation we are visiting. Only when we have done so can the fun of the holiday begin. Well, just as our money can ‘be converted’, so people can ‘be converted’ too, the Bible tells us. For conversion is about change.
Conversion is far more than simply making a decision to follow Jesus (though that is the indispensable beginning!). It is about being changed. This change is not brought about by self-effort or by ‘pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps’, however. It is a change that happens in the heart, a change brought about by the Spirit of God working within us, just as Jeremiah and Ezekiel prophesied. It is not something we ourselves can bring about; it is a change done to us, not by us. It has nothing to do with self-effort or self-improvement techniques, as both Nicodemus and Paul discovered. As Pharisees, they had been committed to the punctilious and legalistic fulfilment of the Jewish Law, in all its minute details and all its various interpretations; but they both discovered that it simply didn’t work; it didn’t change a thing – least of all, them.
No, this new beginning, this ‘change’, is God’s work from start to finish; it is God alone who can transform us. All we need to do is to call out to him, believing that Christ has already done all that is needed to bring about that change in us.
Today don’t try to change by self-effort. Rather, call out to Jesus to work in you by his Spirit; for only in this way can true change begin – and continue!
‘I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.’ (Ezekiel 36:26-27)
Copyright © 2017 Martin Manser and Mike Beaumont