When someone is presented with the gospel of Jesus Christ a decision will be made, for or against. When someone decided to believe in Jesus Christ we (as Christians) typically call this ‘conversion’.
Conversion as a concept comes from the Greek verb ‘epistrepho’ (translated ‘return’, or ‘turn back’) and literally means to change direction. In the context of New Testament writings this word is used in reference to turning from sin to God.
Let’s consider one example, in Acts 9 we read of the Apostle Paul’s conversion from a Zealous Jew and persecutor of Christians, to a devoted follower of Christ. Later in his life, Paul tells of his conversion and quotes Christ as promising him,
“(I will) deliver you from your people and from the Gentiles—to whom I am sending you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”
While there is no typical pattern, or ‘archetypical model’ (Demarest, The Cross and Salvation, 250) in conversion, Biblical texts and experience inform us that there is always one commonality, a superior power bringing someone towards salvation. That superior power is God (John 6:65). Paul alludes to the words of Jesus in his description of God’s role in conversion, speaking of those who have not yet believed;
“In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”
Someone’s conversion may be dramatic (where you can remember a specific time and place) or a gradual process (by which God slowly works within your inner man to bring you towards faith and repentance), in either case conversion is a divinely enabled human response when the light of the Gospel shines on the heart, and knowledge of the one true God is shown in the person and work of Christ.
At this point, a decision must be made. Christian conversion is turning towards God in complete submission and willing obedience, and is a divinely enabled thing.