Shia Labeouf, a popular Hollywood actor, recently claimed to have converted to Christianity. ” I found God but not in a flaky sort of way” is a sanitized version of what he said. It’s not very often that a celebrity claims to convert to Christianity, especially in the day and age we live in, where the Bible is often regarded as a folktale at best. What are we to make of Shia Labeouf’s conversion? Is it authentic? Is it sincere? God is ultimately the judge of such things, but I personally tend to doubt its sincerity.  I base this opinion on two factors. First, I have heard that he exhibits bizarre behavior and is prone to saying crazy things. Secondly, most conversion testimonies don’t include swear words, whereas his did. Shia Labeouf aside, we have another important question: what is conversion?  Conversion is turning in sorrow from a life of sin and committing one’s life to God and the things of His kingdom. We have no part in this work and apart from the grace of God would have no interest or desire in or for spiritual things. The Bible mentions a number of conversion accounts. Rahab, a harlot in city of Jericho who hid two spies who had come to check the city out, was brought into the kingdom of Israel. Naaman, a Syrian general who had leprosy, was directed to Elijah who told him wash himself seven times in the Jordan River. As a result, he too was converted to the worship of Jehovah. Manasseh was the son of the God-fearing Hezekiah, king of Judah. He did not follow in his father’s footsteps at first however. He “reared up altars for Baalim, made groves, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them” (II Chronicles 33:3). In addition he “… caused his children to pass through the fire in the valley of the son of Hinnom: also he observed times, and used enchantments, and used witchcraft, and dealt with a familiar  spirit, and with wizards: he wrought much evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger”(II Chronicles 33:6). In other words, Manasseh was heavily involved in idolatry, especially the occult and black magic. God was so angry with him that He caused the Assyrians to come and take Manasseh into captivity in Babylon. At the lowest point in his life, in a Babylonian prison, God worked a remarkable change in Manasseh’s heart “And when he was in affliction, he besought the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and prayed unto him: and he was intreated of him, and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh know that the Lord he was God” (II Chronicles 33:12, 13). God worked faith and repentance in Manasseh’s heart by His grace and Holy Spirit. As a result, he dismantled the idols he had built earlier and encouraged the people to do the same, although not all of them followed his lead. His  conversion was sincere. Another example of a sincere conversion is the conversion of the thief on the cross. He mocked Jesus up until a certain point when God’s grace began working in his heart and he rebuked the other thief and told him that Jesus did nothing wrong, whereas they were receiving the just punishment for their deeds (Luke 23: 40,41). The malefactor then turned to Jesus and said, “Lord remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. And Jesus said unto him, verily I say unto thee, today shalt thou be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:42,43). There is also the apostle Paul who was converted on the way to Damascus to persecute the Jews. God used him to defend the Christian faith and inspired him to write a significant part of the New Testament. Conversion, however, isn’t just a one time act. It happens every day of our lives as Christians. We are turned from sin and brought to God constantly. Our prayer is “… turn thou me and I shall be turned” (Jeremiah 31:18). When we turn in faith and repentance, by the grace and Holy spirit of God, we will experience God’s blessing as we live our lives here on this earth. May God give us this grace!
Kevin Rau

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