Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Following Christ-Is Conversion a Point or a Process?

Today, I read a really thought-provoking post from @gavoweb on Twitter. The article was entitled "I love Jesus, but I'm keeping my stripping job." The article recounts an apparently true story of some Christians who protested a strip club and the dancers who responded with a protest of their own. After the smoke had cleared, apparently two of the girls had "accepted Jesus in their hearts" but were going to continue to work at the Foxhole Club as dancers.

This post hit a nerve with me because it speaks to an issue I've wrestled with over the years. In sharing Christ with others, at what point does true conversion occur? Growing up in church, salvation was always a black and white issue. Once you put your faith in Christ, "what fellowship can light have with darkness?" . But the older I get, and the more I realize how far I am from being the person that Christ wants me to be, I'm not so sure. I've shared before my thoughts on evangelism, as it relates to spiritual growth, and how I see it more as the beginning of a process of discipleship, rather than a magical change that is literally instantaneous.

To make a metaphor of it, I'll ask it this way. Is putting our faith in Christ a dot on a map, or is it merely us finding the right road we need to be on, on that particular map-the road that leads to Jesus? Paul speaks of justification-justified before God through the work of Christ-but he also speaks of sanctification-being made into the likeness of Christ.

So which is it? Is the power of the Holy Spirit so great that when we put our faith in Christ we instantaneously become a new creation? Or are we just baby disciples learning to find our way and learning to take off the grave clothes of our old lives? The Apostle Paul had a pretty profound conversion. There was no gradual process for him. But we know that some of those whom Paul brought to faith in Christ took a little longer to come around. In Philippians 4, we learn of two ladies who evidently were entrenched in a pretty stiff quarrel.

So what are we to make of all this? Well, I do know this.
1. A lot of services that are called evangelistic really do nothing more than make a bunch of baby Christians and there is not much done to follow up and help these young believers grow in their faith.
2. It's not my place to question whether or not a person's faith in Christ is true or not. Last time I checked, it was only God who knows a persons heart.
3. While I may not know whether a person's faith is real or superficial, I do have a call on my life to spur others on to good works in Christ Jesus.

So what do you think? Is following Christ a one-time miracle, or is it the beginning of a life-long process? Can a stripper be a Christian and still keep her job?


gavin richardson said...

hey jason, my point was just that we have to reconcile that we need to help people provide the basic needs before that full sanctification in Christ.

I once heard a great analogy of the idea that we cross the start line and celebrate that, but never continue on in the race. So take some of that St. Paul race metaphor, what does it mean to run the race?.. and what does it mean to help people run the race? what does it mean to run backwards to help people catch up? i'm interested in some questions like that.

Jason Huffman said...

Absolutely, Gavin. That's why I loved this story so much is it spoke to so many different angles of the Christian life. It also gave me cause to re-evaluate the differences between justification and sanctification. I know Hebrews 10 says we are called to spur each other on to good works (help each other run the race). I've never thought about running backwards to help people catch up. What are your thoughts on that?