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 mistakes.
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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