jesus on the crossThe archbishop William Temple (1881-1944) said, “The only thing of my own which I contribute to redemption is the sin from which I need to be redeemed.”  Conversion is nothing short of miraculous.  And it is something to which we contribute nothing of value.  Our fascination with what we must do, what we must stop doing, and what steps we must take in order to be converted is nothing new—Jesus himself shut the door on such an approach to conversion.

Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?  No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.  ~John 3:1-14, ESV

We must be born again and it’s as simple as “whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”   The Spirit must open our eyes and our hearts.  We don’t have the luxury of believing 4 spiritual laws, praying an hour each day, fasting a week a month, attending church 3 times a week, or even feeding the poor and then believing those things will save us.  We can’t make the wrongheaded assumption that to stop smoking, stop watching the wrong movies, and stop using bad words will mean we have been converted.

Conversion isn’t a result of anything we do but rather the result of who we believe in and what he has already done.