- Series: Basics of the Reformed Faith
- Paperback: 32 pages
- Publisher: P & R Publishing (February 9, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0875526594
- ISBN-13: 978-0875526591
- Product Dimensions: 4.9 x 0.1 x 7.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #120,840 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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What Is True Conversion? (Basics of the Faith) (Basics of the Reformed Faith) Paperback – February 9, 2005
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"This little booklet could help solve one of the greatest problems in churches today--confusion over what it means to really become a Christian. With the sure touch of a humble Christian and a faithful pastor of many years standing, Steve Smallman has served us all well by giving us a brief and biblical treatment of conversion." --Mark Dever, senior pastor, Capitol Hill Baptist Church, Washington, D.C.
About the Author
Stephen Smallman served for over forty years in pastoral ministry. He is an urban missionary serving with CityNet Ministries.
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4 out of 5
As a Pastor I regularly keep my eye out not only for large academic work but also smaller practical booklets for a lay audience that would be beneficial for discipleship and biblical counseling. I picked up this booklet, What is True Conversion? with that in mind and I used it as a tool for my pastoral care with those who attend our church that I wanted to discuss assurance of salvation with. I also used this booklet as something I read along with one of the special needs attendee in our church in which we read through each section very slowly and discussed it together. The following are my thoughts of the book.
This booklet consists of four sections. The first section is the introduction which include a discussion of how best to use this book in which the author Stephen Smallman recommended using it in small groups and using this booklet ideally in four weeks for study and discussion (7). Since Smallman is conscious about having this book as a tool for small group discussions he has each section end with a “Review” that features questions for discussion. I really enjoyed that. The introduction also featured the author sharing his personal testimony of his conversion of how he came to know the Lord. He shares his testimony as a catalyst for a small group discussion where readers share one’s early stages of one’s spiritual journey and/or individual reflection of one’s need for salvation. Again I really appreciated the review following the end of each section especially with the introduction. After sharing his testimony the author also puts one’s testimony in biblical perspective that even if one’s conversion story is or is not dramatic, it is still the testimony of God’s saving grace in your life; but the author also balanced that out with the point that we should not be transfixed only with our conversion experience but we must strive to grow in our faith and get a bigger and biblical picture of what conversion is about. The following three sections is organized along the Person of the Trinity with what each Member contribute in a Christian salvation process beginning with the Holy Spirit, the Son and the Father.
Though the booklet might be short do not judge it by its size; incredibly the author was able to pack a lot of important biblical doctrines concerning the Gospel and salvation ranging from the doctrine of effectual calling, regeneration and adoption. Smallman quotes Scripture to prove these doctrines are true and also various Reformed historical confessions and documents that help explain these truths. Although I misjudged this book was on assurance of salvation because of the title mentioning “true conversion,” nevertheless I thought this book overall was helpful in explaining the Triune work of God behind our conversion.
Smallman's work is somewhat autobiographical as he recounts his conversion experience. He notes the impulse to "reform myself so that I would feel better about my relationship to God." His transparency proves helpful at the outset as most people have struggled with a similar experience. However, the author admits that he discovered he had no power in and of himself to change. He learned of his powerlessness before a holy and omnipotent God.
The author takes time to carefully develop the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the unconverted. Each one of God's elect is effectually drawn by the Holy Spirit in an irresistible and compelling way. It is the Holy Spirit who carries out the unique purpose of God. "He comes to us while we are spiritually dead, ignorant, indifferent, lost, blind, sinners, and he gives us a heart for God that did not exist before. When the call comes, we have ears to hear because of the sanctifying work of the Spirit."
Smallman rightly distinguishes conversion (which involves human response) and regeneration (which is the sovereign work of God in the hearts of people). We must be born again - we must be regenerated. When Jesus tells Nicodemus that he "must be born again" (John 3:5-7) he does not issue a command. Rather he "makes a statement of what God must do in our hearts if we are to enter God's kingdom."
Smallman utilizes the excellent definition of conversion in the Westminster Shorter Catechism: "True conversion is embracing Jesus Christ as he is freely offered to us in the gospel." While he stresses God's exclusive role in regeneration, he also rightly emphases the human role at the point of conversion, namely, sinners must believe/embrace Jesus in order to be saved. Again, the role of the Spirit is essential. Smallman writes, "The gospel message is only a string of words until the Spirit applies it to the heart."
The author emphases the role of repentance and the vital role it plays in true conversion. "Conversion is rightly defined as a turning to a new direction ... repentance is understood as a turning from sin in order to turn to Christ." This stress on repentance is necessary in this discussion - for without repentance one has not experience true saving faith.
Finally, Smallman points out that when one is truly converted life change takes place. "Conversion assumes turning to walk on a new path." True conversion does not result in lawlessness. Rather, true conversion results in bearing fruit to the glory of God (John 15:8).
What is True Conversion? is a necessary resource that should be fully utilized in the local church. Smallman includes helpful study questions at the end of each section that can and should be utilized in small groups.