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New Birth vs. Conversion

The spirit must be reborn and the soul converted

new-birth-vs.-conversionMost Christians believe that the new birth and conversion mean the same thing. Confusion regarding the difference in these terms can generate mistaken theological paradigms.

The Bible says it is necessary to be born again. It is logical that new birth includes the initial aspect of conversion. What is new birth? It is the new birth of the human spirit. The Holy Spirit re-creates the spirit and begins to live in it. It is a regeneration of the spiritual life. We call it salvation. The spirit is born again instantaneously. All you have to do is believe in Jesus and make a decision to follow him. This faith comes supernaturally from repentance through the message of the gospel. It is easy to be born again.

But there is another word: conversion. Conversion has a completely different meaning. Conversion is the continual process of regeneration of the soul. This takes time and it has its costs.

Therefore, being born again is an instantaneous regeneration of the spirit, and conversion is a continual process of deliverance and regeneration of the soul. Salvation is free, but to become a disciple costs everything.

You can be saved and not be converted. Why is this? The answer is because conversion takes place in the soul and salvation takes place in the spirit. You can be saved, have the Holy Spirit within you, live in God’s presence, be a new creature in Christ and still not be converted in your soul; your thinking, feelings and will.

What is your soul? You are a triune being: a body, soul and spirit. Your spirit is you; the real you that God created. Your soul is basically your mind, your will and your emotions. Your body is your house. Jesus can save your spirit in an instant, but your soul requires much more time to be converted.

Nothing is more dangerous than one who has been saved but not converted. You know that you are born again but you still think with your old mind, your old habits still dominate you, and many of your old opinions, sins, desires and ways of life continue to be struggles for you. All negative convictions still remain. Evil thoughts still frequent your mind. Corruption, bitterness, and hate continue to remain in you. You still fight with some uncontrollable desires. But you are saved. You may not know how long the Holy Spirit will contend with your fleshly attitudes, but you must know that you have been born again and thus you are God’s child and your spirit is eternally saved. Now it is up to you to cooperate with God so that your soul (mind, will and emotion) may be converted and this involves the lifelong process that we call “sanctification”.

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