Is there such a thing as an instant conversion?
What is an instant conversion? The word conversion
means, “an experience associated with a definite and
decisive adoption of religion.” It means
that you change, you do a U-turn and go a different
direction. It takes some people longer
to change their minds than others. After
the mind is changed, then the way of life has to be reeducated to the change;
the old habits have to be forsaken and replaced with new habits, which often
takes a period of time. But, when you
talk about an instant conversion, you are usually talking about the time when
the decision is made to follow the Lord.
An example of an instant conversion given in the Bible
is of the thief on the cross. Such a
conversion is sometimes called a deathbed conversion or an instant
conversion. Let us look at what the
Spirit of Prophecy has to say about
this. Speaking of the thief on the cross, Ellen
White wrote: “He had seen and heard Jesus, and had been convicted by His
teaching, but he had been turned away from Him by the priests and rulers.” The Desire of Ages, 749.
So, actually, we might ask, Did
the thief on the cross have an instant conversion? or
was it the result of previous wooing by the Holy Spirit? Whatever the case, when it was brought about,
it happened instantly.
We do not deny that there are people who are converted
instantly, when they suddenly see and hear Christianity for the first time and
see that it is something better than they have ever before known. But this is very rare. Usually the individual has heard the truth,
read a book, had some Christian contact or other Christian influences, such as
a grandparent, parents, or other relatives who were Christians. But these influences did not take hold
previously. Then, when the truth is
brought to the person’s mind in a meeting, a conversation, or through some
irregularity happening in the life, it causes the person to give his or her
heart to the Lord. He or she makes a
sudden turn around, which may be called an instant conversion, because it
happens so quickly, but it is actually the result of previous experiences and
truths that the person had before heard.
Conversion is not just something that happens when you
first give your heart to the Lord.
Conversion needs to take place every day. Paul said, “I die daily.” 1 Corinthians 15:31. Jesus said,
“If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross
daily, and follow me.” Luke 9:23.
The Lord is longsuffering and
merciful, not willing that any should perish.
(11 Peter 3:9.) He bears long with
the sinner, and the Holy Spirit pleads with the person until he either submits
his heart to the Lord or turns to his own way, and his heart is too hard to
impress anymore. At that time, the Lord
leaves the individual to the result of his own choices. If he chooses to follow the Lord, the Holy
Spirit abides with him, and he is given spiritual guidance and protection. If he chooses to follow his own inclinations,
he is left to follow his own decisions and to reap the results of his own
The Spirit of Prophecy informs us that, “Some among
the redeemed will have laid hold of Christ in the last hours of life, and in
heaven instruction will be given to those who, when they died, did not
understand perfectly the plan of salvation.
Christ will lead the redeemed ones beside the river of life, and will
open to them that which while on this earth they could not understand.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 262.
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