Our Language of Conversion

Categories: Devotional

The way we talk about things changes as our thinking changes. Can altering the way we express certain truths about conversion to Jesus change the way we think about it?

A medical doctor and psychiatrist named Anthony Daniels practiced in a British city for 15 years. During that time he noticed subtle changes in expression. In his “The Worldview that Makes the Underclass” (Imprimus, Hillsdale College, May/June 2014), Daniels writes:

A small change in locution illustrates a change in the character and conceptions of a people. When I started out as a doctor in the mid-1970s, those who received state benefits would say, “I receive my check on Friday.” Now people who receive such benefits say, “I get paid on Friday.” This is an important change. To have said that they received their check on Friday was a neutral way of putting it; to say that they get paid on Friday is to imply that they are receiving money in return for something. But what can that something be, since they do not appear to do anything of economic value to anyone else? It can only be existence itself: They are being paid to continue to exist, existence itself being their work.

Something similar has occurred with the way we typically speak of conversion to Christ. The great evangelist and apostle, Mr. Paul (Paul being his family name), preached to the Gentiles in a capital city called Antioch. It was his first sermon and Luke records the amazing result: many Gentiles “honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48).

This sounds strange today. Shouldn’t Luke have said that many people “accepted Jesus as their personal Savior”? Yet we look in vain for that expression in the New Testament. Instead, we read descriptions like, “The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s Message” (16:14); or “The jailer . . . had come to believe in God—he and his whole family” (16:34).

To say, “I accepted Jesus as my personal Savior,” emphasizes our role in what happened and may imply that we receive eternal life because of what we did at that special time.

If we could find a better way to talk about such a great thing, that could really be something to celebrate.

Author: Toby Larson

Toby Larson leads Celebration International. He is a husband and father of 5. Whether he's teaching, hitting tennis balls, sailing a Hobie, serving in Asia, skiing on water or snow, Toby is passionate about the love of God and the love of life. Read more ...