31And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat:32But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren. Luke 22:31-32
There is a difference between God's sifting and Satan's sifting.
For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth. Amos 9:9
This sifting of Peter comes after Peter's great confession: You are the Son of God, the Messiah. So is that when Satan chooses to sift us? When we're sure of our own righteousness? Peter was awfully sure of himself: "I will never leave you!"
So is sifting as wheat the same as separating the chaff from the wheat? And what is the difference between God purifying us and separating us from our chaff? Satan is concerned about the law and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil....but Jesus is about the tree of life. Satan is concerned with accusing those who cannot fully follow the law, and how religious people deal with their own righteousness. Jesus is concerned with believers leaving off their righteousness and accepting Jesus' righteousness.
But what is "after you are converted" supposed to mean? Placed here in this passage, it seems to mean that one can repent from one's sins and become a disciple and even an apostle doing all kinds of miracles with the twelve, the other seventy, the one who followeth not us, with Jesus...and yet not be converted yet? Is this converted from one's own righteousness? Or converted from one's ways of looking at the world?
There are those who obey God and do His will but they do not know His ways. Their ways are still worldly. They think as the world thinks. They don't yet understand how the kingdom works. Indeed, many Christian pastors nowadays teach the law more often than they teach about the riches of God's grace, and few teach about the "good news of the kingdom," which is what Jesus often preached.
What is it to be converted, to be sifted in such a way that all earthly ways of understanding the world is pushed away from the believer?
Peter repented and followed Christ. Repentance means to turn your heart toward God, to change your mind about the way you view the world. But repentance is a turning point, a moment in time when a decision is made. Peter and many others do this when they decide to follow Christ.
But although that is a good place to begin, it is not the journey and it is not even the final destination. Conversion is the journey. As one walks along the Christian path and into new life, the Holy Spirit grows more and more within and slowly weans the believer away from the world's way of thinking. The word "baptism" means to be "dipped." It is a word used to mean "to dye" because cloth was dipped into the dye. Thus as Christians continue their walk, they are continually dyed and marked as the Holy Spirit is --spiritually and figuratively-- soaked into them. After one has walked long with the Holy Spirit, the conversion is so deep within the spirit that one cannot return to seeing the world in the typical human way. But such change is the power of the Holy Spirit working with the human spirit.
This is why many Christians who have gone to church fo so much of their lives still seem to see things in a way that is not truly spiritual.
Paul describes the following as fleshly, carnal, unspiritual:
Being proud of your denomination:
for you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men? For when one says, "I am of Paul," and another, "I am of Apollos," are you not mere men?… 1 Corinthians 3:3
Indulging in self-denial, will-worship, and stoic-ness:
Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind, ...Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.-- Colossians 2:18,23
Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom. But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and so lie against the truth. This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic.… James 3:13-14
Paul compares those who are unconverted to those who are living by the Spirit:
…Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.… Galatians 5:19-21
The "old man", as St Paul calls the human habits of the redeemed Christian, does not die or go easily. Thus, it is clear that Christians often need to be converted...even after they have followed Jesus.