Twelve Steps towards Freedom – Conversion

I don’t know if you do this in your church, but when I was baptised, they gave me a Bible verse to encourage me.  I have often wondered why the minister who baptised me was led to this verse.  Maybe

Rev Dr Dave Gregory

because he recognised in me a questioning and inquisitive mind – the kind of person who growing up was always asking the question “why?”.  In fact, I am writing this from the library in the coal mining town that I grew up in.  A place where in my childhood I explored many of those “why” questions – mainly in the science section!

So, what was the verse?  Romans 12v2: “Do not be conformed any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will”

It’s been a good verse for me to travel with through the years since I declared my faith in Jesus in baptism.  As I have explored the world and cosmos in which we live as a scientist, and encountered the creator as a follower of Jesus, I have often thought about this verse and have sought to be shaped by it.

A verse that speaks of conversion – a change of view of self and of God.  Something at the very heart of the gospel.  And the third step towards freedom for ourselves and creation is very much about conversion; “Make a decision to turn your will and life over to the care of God as you understand God”.

As good Baptists, perhaps we might all say “Amen” to that.  But in the face of the environmental crisis and climate change, I wonder if our call to conversion needs to be bigger, wider, deeper than it is has often been.  Perhaps we have converted towards God as we understand Him, but not towards God as God is?

Let me ask a question for you to ponder.  How does the way we are changing the world that is God’s gift to us through our use and abuse of fossil fuels shape how we speak out the hope of the gospel and call people to conversion?

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world” – a call to conversion.  Turning from patterns of life that are bad for us and others.  Turning to patterns capturing God’s heart and desire for our lives.  And our world.  To be re-created in our thinking and character by the life of Jesus.  Released by his death and resurrection.  Empowered by the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Yet, I wonder if our call to conversion has become trapped by the individualistic nature of the age.  And by an ecclesiology that is shaped by the idea of local, gathered community.  Does our call to conversion fail to recognise the full breadth of the “good, pleasing and perfect will” of God who made the world and gives life through it?  A call to conversion that embraces God’s declaring that creation is “very good” despite the brokenness we see and add to?  To be freed to an enlarged view of the care of God not just for humanity but for the whole of creation – “for God so loved the “cosmos” that he gave his one and only son“ (John 3v16); “to reconcile to himself all things … by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross”  (Col 1v20).

To be honest, my Baptismal verse was well chosen!  I am still asking questions.  After over 30 years of following Jesus, I still feel there is more to grasp about this cosmic aspect of his death and resurrection. It’s an expression of the gospel that shows the care of God not only for us but for all of creation.  Two aspects of God’s care that are in fact inter-twined.  God’s care for us comes through the provision of creation for our needs.  Care expressed in the story of creation where God places Adam in a garden with “all kinds of trees grow(ing) … that were pleasing to the eye and good for food” (Gen 2v9).  God’s care for both our emotional and physical well-being.  And Adam is called “to work it and take care of (the garden)” (Gen 2v15).  Responding to the care of God, living out God’s “good, pleasing and perfect will” in the care of creation.

So, again, what gospel are you speaking about and seeking to live for in this century which is being shaped by climate change?  One that is shaped by God as we think we know God?  Or shaped by God as God is?  Does our journey of conversion need to continue on, seeking for a greater “transform(ation) through the renewing of your minds”?

This is the third blog in a 12 part series from Dave Gregory. To read the first post ‘Addicted’, please click on this link

Rev Dr Dave Gregory is Ministry Team Leader at Croxley Green Church, a former President of the Baptist Union, and co-ordinator of Messy Church Does Science. He recently became a JRI Director.

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This article was first published on Seventy-Two and it is reprinted with their permission.

Image by AnnaCA, free on Pixabay https://pixabay.com/users/annca-1564471/