When I was involved in itinerant evangelistic work my primary mode of transportation was a blue Chevy conversion van. While not so much today, twenty five years ago such vehicles were very popular. A conversion van was a full size passenger or cargo van that, after it left the factory, was customized with various luxuries making it much more comfortable for long road trips. The van was altered, changed, or converted.
Conversion is a word that, like the van I used to drive, was once very popular – at least among Christians. It is not anymore. For various reasons the word conversion has gained a negative connotation. This is unfortunate. The word simply means change or transformation. We need to speak about conversion because the Bible tells us that it is essential for every individual. Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 18:3) The apostle Peter preached, “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out.” (Acts 3:19)
The Bible depicts numerous examples of people being converted by the grace of God. A thieving, greedy tax collector named Zacchaeus confessed his heart change when he told Jesus in Luke 19:8, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.” A violent persecutor of the early church named Saul was transformed by Christ and “preached the faith which once he destroyed.” (Gal. 1:23) The Thessalonian Christians were people who “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.” (I Thes. 1:9) The Corinthian church had in it people who had been converted from lives formerly characterized by serious sins such as idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, theft, and drunkenness. Paul writes of them, “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” (I Cor. 6:11)
The wonderful promise of God in the gospel is that forgiveness can be granted and change is possible. “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you.” (Ez. 36:25-27) This is conversion.
As implausible as it may sound, there is a new legislative proposal in California (Assembly Bill 2943) that would actually ban efforts to convert people from certain sinful lifestyles. The legislation would amend the state’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act (a sensible law to protect consumers against fraud) adding the ability to sue for damages for “advertising, offering to engage in, or engaging in sexual orientation change efforts with an individual.” In other words, any effort to sell a good or service that would help people struggling against same-sex attraction and related moral problems would be criminalized.
Would this make paying a Christian counselor, charging a registration fee for a Bible conference, or even the sale of the Bible illegal? National Review attorney and journalist David French thinks it just might. He sees this legislation as a “dramatic infringement on First Amendment Rights.” “Efforts to change behaviors or gender expressions, or to eliminate or reduce sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same sex” would be made unlawful. If someone if offended by a practice or teaching regarding homosexuality or so-called transgender issues, a crippling lawsuit could be brought.
One legislator who supports this bill said it was time for the “faith community” to “evolve with the times.”
No, the church does not need to evolve. The Bible’s teaching on family life and morality does not need to be changed. Christianity does not need to be converted. Instead, God commands all men everywhere to repent and believe the gospel – the state of California notwithstanding.