My Photo
Location: Pensacola, Florida, United States

Thursday, January 25, 2007


(Matthew 18:3 Proverbs 14:12 II Corinthians 13:5 Matthew 7:21-23)

Matthew 18:3, "Verily, I say unto you, Except ye be converted and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."

Proverbs 14:12, "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”

II Corinthians 13:5, "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?”

Matthew 7:21-23, "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we no prophesied in thy name? and in thy name cast out demons? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."

Conversion is the central, personal miracle of Christianity, the miracle that makes Jesus Christ perennially contemporary in human experience. It is the first and fundamental work of the Holy Spirit. All the powers and wonders of the Christian Gospel proceed from this center. Because of its very importance, we might suspect that Satan would seek to counterfeit this matter of conversion. And we would be correct in our suspicion!
Dr. E. Stanley Jones, on page 26 of his book entitled Conversion, says, "Probably two thirds of the membership of the churches know little or nothing about conversion as a personal, experimental fact." But these same people came into the church on a statement that they had been converted! Were they deliberately declaring a falsehood? No. Most of them at the time actually believed that they were converted. Thus, it is absolutely necessary that we define the meaning of conversion both negatively and positively. We must tell what it is not as well as what it is. In this study, I urge you to face the question, "WAS YOUR CONVERSION TRAGICALLY COUNTERFEIT OR TRULY CHRISTIAN? Eternity is too long for you to be wrong!

First, we must note that there are several counterfeit types of conversion that are labeled "Christian." And the counterfeits usually have such a similarity to the genuine experience that they can easily be substituted for it. Many people have received a "religious inoculation or vaccination." When we are vaccinated, we are given a little of the disease and it keeps us from getting the real thing, the big thing. Thousands of church people have just enough religion to "inoculate" them against having a real relationship with Jesus Christ. It is necessary that the counterfeit be identified in order that we may be sure that our conversion experience was genuine.

The first counterfeit conversion is what we might call a doctrinal conversion. A doctrinal conversion is simply a conversion from one set of ideas to another set of ideas. It is a conversion from one set of beliefs to another set of beliefs. For example, here is an atheist. He says that he does not believe in God, in Jesus Christ, in the Bible as the Word of God, in salvation, in immortality, or in any of the doctrines of the Christian faith. But by some means (perhaps by discussion with an intelligent and informed Christian), he one day becomes finally convinced in his mind that these and other doctrines of the Christian faith are true. He makes a public profession of his faith (his new found belief in the doctrinal truth of the Christian faith), is baptized, and becomes a church member. Was his conversion truly Christian, or was it tragically counterfeit? Is he a Christian? No! He has merely changed one set of ideas for another. He has traded in the idea of atheism for the more satisfying ideas of the New Testament and of the Gospel of Christ. He has new ideas, but he also has the same old sinful heart and the same old untransformed life. He believes intellectually in all the doctrines of the Christian Gospel that are presented to him, but his conversion is only intellectual.
Perhaps a simple illustration will help here. Suppose I go to my doctor and he tells me that I have a vitamin deficiency. He prescribes some vitamins for me to take daily, and I begin to follow his orders. But suppose that one morning I come to the refrigerator to lift the vitamin bottle out. As I do so, the label or wrapper of the bottle comes off in my hand. Holding the wrapper in my hand, I begin to read from it the list of ingredients in the vitamins. It is conceivable that I might become vitamin starved while reading the contents without taking the tablets themselves. Even so, many take the table of contents of the Christian faith --- its doctrines and beliefs - but they do not take Christ Himself as the Redeemer, Savior, and Absolute Lord of their lives. They starve to death spiritually while reading (and believing) the menu! They have been victimized by a counterfeit conversion.
No one would dream of confusing a marriage certificate with a marriage. You might hold a marriage certificate without a marriage. You might hold a marriage certificate in your hand all the days of your life and still not be married, and the certificate would be a poor substitute for the relationship.
Many people treat Christianity as primarily a set of interesting moral or religious ideas which can be conveyed by teaching and argument. People cannot be argued into the Kingdom of God, because what is entrusted to the church is not so much a set of ideas as the living reality which lies behind them. It is the crucified, risen and living Christ who stands at the center of the Christian faith, not a mere set of religious propositions.
There is a story which is told about the agnostic philosopher Bertrand Russell. One day, he was walking down a road when he suddenly stopped and said to a friend, "The ontological argument is right after all!" In other words, that a certain philosophical evidence or "proof" for the existence of God was valid. On another day, earlier in human history, a Pharisee named Saul of Tarsus was walking down a different road when he encountered the risen and living Christ. Russell had encountered an idea; Saul had met a Divine Person. And there is all the difference in the world between the two experiences. That encounter with the risen Christ certainly gave rise to a set of ideas, but lying behind them as their source and origin was the risen Christ.

“Mental assent to a set of ideas, rules or beliefs isn't the same as the experience of encountering Jesus Christ.“ The central question of Christianity is not, "Do you believe this idea or that idea?" but, "who do you say Jesus Christ is?" Once this question is answered adequately and accurately, the question is, "What is your personal relationship with Him?"
I would not be misunderstood at this point. I am by no means saying that doctrine is unimportant. Doctrine is important, but it is like a signpost to point the way to a real, intimate personal relationship to Jesus Christ. If I wanted to go to Shreveport and did not know the way, a signpost could help me. But woe to me if I climb up and sit on the signpost itself, as though that would get me to Shreveport! Doctrines are like signposts that point the way to the Savior. But if you have only believed the sign without meeting the Savior, you have had a counterfeit conversion.

Another counterfeit conversion is the merely emotional conversion. The emotional conversion is simply a conversion to a feeling, or by a feeling. In this type of counterfeit conversion, feeling is everything. The person who has had this type of conversion spends a large part of their life after the conversion trying to feel right. If they feel right, they are confident that all is well between them and God. But if for any reason the feeling is not there, they are miserable, and run to find it again. They go to church, to evangelistic services, and special conferences in order to get the “feeling.”
Again, an illustration might help to reveal the counterfeit. This is an actual case history, a true story. The person was a small child at the time. She was in an evangelistic meeting one night. In the invitation, the congregation sang a hymn which was deeply moving and packed with emotion. Gripped by the song, the little girl began to cry. The pastor saw her, walked to where she was standing, and asked her if she believed that Jesus Christ died for her sins. Of course she answered, "Yes," because she had been raised in a Christian home and had always believed this. Then the pastor put his hand on her shoulder and led in prayer, thanking God that she had come under conviction of sin. She said years later, "That was where he was wrong. I had had no conviction of sin at all. I was crying because the music was sad, the emotional pitch of the service was very high, and the emotion of the moment had gotten me." But the pastor told her that she was converted, and because he said so she tried to believe it. So another unconverted person was added to the rolls of the church.
Again, I would not be misunderstood. Emotion may be a very vital part of genuine conversion, but it is not equal to conversion, and should not be regarded as the test of conversion. A merely emotional conversion is a counterfeit. A counterfeit “emotional conversion” in the past is the hardest to overcome. But we must remember that all of the looking back and desperately wanting that bogus moment to become a “true conversion to Christ,” will NOT make it anything other than what it is, an emotional conversion. All of the looking back at the moment and knowing what you wanted to happen -- what you meant to have happen -- what you hope happened, and what you wish had happened will NOT change the fact that ALL it was, was a “merely emotional conversion.” A good rule to go by is, “Don’t go tell GOD that you are satisfied with what happened back there, go ask Him if He is satisfied with what happened back there.” Don’t tell Him you are saved, ask Him if He has saved you and be prepared to DO whatever He tells you to do about it.

Another counterfeit conversion is the merely moral conversion. In this type of conversion, a person who has been morally bad becomes morally good. This is the kind of conversion that is often referred to when someone says, "I made a change." This is a conversion to a set of ideals or to a moral standard. It is possible to make a complete moral change and never be converted. In place of one set of conduct patterns, the individual acquires another which is more acceptable and praiseworthy. There is many a man who used to curse, and thought that when he quit cussing, that made him a Christian. There is many a man who used to drink, and thought that when he quit drinking, that made him a Christian. This is counterfeit conversion.

It is possible to have a psychological conversion without a spiritual new birth. It is possible to profess conversion without any vital transformation taking place in the life and character of the “convert,” to assume the name of Christian without any real change within. And the profession may be in good faith because of a lack of experience! This leads to the tragic possibility of a person evaluating Christ and Christianity through the blind eyes (II Corinthians 4:4) of a mere natural man (I Corinthians 2:14). Only the truly born-again person will know the vast difference between the profession of a natural man and the conversion of a spiritual man. Any time a person has been tormented by emotional and psychological problems for many years, relief can “feel” like a new birth. When the wisdom of the scriptures penetrate the burden of darkness from a psychological lie one has carried for many years the freedom of relief can very easily confuse a person into thinking they were converted to Christ.

The fact of the matter is, a person can be converted to almost anything — to the minister, to the church, to the youth program, to the Sunday School, to some dynamic Christian — and none of these, either singly or together with others, adds up to a Christian conversion.

There is only one conversion that may properly be called "Christian." The trouble with a doctrinal, emotional, a moral conversion or any other conversion is the same in each case. In each case I am left with the same sinful self. I may have a new set of ideas, a good feeling, or a new set of ideals, but my inner person is basically the same. My inner life and character remain unchanged. Such a person cannot understand the real nature of spiritual life. Therefore they are un-able to “live in the spirit” for any length of time, because they are still birthed in the flesh. They do not know that a real birth, “birth from above,” the term Jesus used, has occurred. “Except a person is born from above (gennetha anothen), he cannot see the kingdom of God,” said Jesus. Just as a person is born physically to get into the human family, so he must be born spiritually to get into the family of God. The only answer to the problem of my old sinful self is Christian conversion!
Two questions arise with regard to Christian conversion: First, “What is the meaning of conversion?” and secondly, “What are the means by which it occurs?”

First, what is the meaning of Christian conversion? The word "conversion" is not an exclusively Christian word. In fact, conversion is a quite common word with universal usage. We speak of converting fuel to energy; we speak of converting a factory from one kind of manufacturing to another; we speak of converting a check to cash. In the distinctively Christian sense, conversion means that the direction of one's life is changed; that one's mind is changed; that his inner character is radically and absolutely revolutionized and transformed, and something completely new and different (indeed, Someone) is now at the center of his life. Author George Grant wrote, “According to the Bible, conversion is not simply an ethical or philosophical revision. It is a transformation of the very soul. It affects every detail of life. A converted individual is altogether different than he was before. He has new motivations, new standards, and new objectives. He has a new outlook, a new way of thinking, and a new way of living. He is born anew (see II Corinthians 5:17).” The simplicity of this will confound some, but a Christian conversion is simply conversion to Jesus Christ.
Robert Munger wrote, "During my college days, there was a boy whose room down the hall from me was a continual mess. It always looked as if a tornado had just recently torn through it. When a room is branded `messy' by college students, it's really messy. One evening we were endeavoring to crowd into this room, and he said somewhat apologetically, `I guess that what I need is a little system.' `Oh, no,' one of his friends quickly said, `what you need is not a little system. What you need is a little wife to live in this room and take care of it.' Even so, every sinner needs a new relationship, a new Resident, to live in his messy heart to forever cleanse it and change it.
The word "convert" simply means "to turn." In fact, the word "conversion" has in it several significant different shades of meaning. It simply means "to turn around," or to do a 180 degree turn. But it also has several accessory ideas in it. It means "to turn toward" a certain object. The difference is that between a wheel turning on its axis and a flower turning toward the sun. In Christian conversion, the human heart is attracted toward Jesus by the drawing power of the Holy Spirit, just as that flower was attracted to the sun by the warmth of its radiance. It means also "to turn from one object to another", and the two objects are seen to be in direct opposition to each other. So Christian conversion is the turning of the sinner from sin and selfishness to Christ. It means "to turn back to a point from which it had been turned away." This introduces another dimension of Christian conversion. Conversion involves a great miraculous crisis that fixes the heart forever on Christ, but it also involves the process of overcoming all of those seductions of Satan, sin, and the world which would attempt to distract us from Christ. Someone has correctly said that there are two types of Christian conversion. One could be called “revolutionary”; this type is sudden and dramatic and powerful. The other could be called “evolutionary”; this type also involves a moment of transformation, but the preparation for it occurs through slow development and is much less dramatic. The process that always follows the moment of transformation is what Sam Shoemaker called "continuing conversion". A magnetic needle may be mechanically forced to point to the south, but as soon as it is freed from the mechanical pressure it will turn automatically again toward the north. Even so, a truly converted person may be temporarily and artificially distracted by the world, the flesh and the devil, but his heart will always finally overcome the artificial distraction and return to its “polar north,” the Person of Jesus Christ.

In short, conversion is the establishing of right relations with a living Lord and Savior. Christian conversion means that your life has been brought under the management of Jesus Christ. Robert Munger said it like this: "During the Second World War, thousands of bombing planes were sent on missions of destruction. After the war a few of them were taken over for commercial service. They are called `converted bombers.' A converted bomber is the same plane that once carried a lethal load of destruction. It has the same wings and fuselage, the same type motors, the same cockpit and instrument panel. But there are several differences. The bomb racks are gone. The gun turret is gone. The plane now has a new owner. It carries new cargo. It has a new pilot. This is true conversion." Even so, if you have been truly converted to Christ, you have a new owner and a new pilot, and you carry a new cargo. An almighty and loving God now owns your life; its pilot is Jesus Christ, who guides and controls you through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; and you now have a new direction, new ambitions, new dynamic, and new resources for the living of an abundant life in Christ. This is why Dr. E. Y. Mullins called conversion "the Christian life in germ form." In it is concentrated all of the elements of the Christian life which follows. So conversion installs into the believer the “DNA”, all the spiritual “genes and chromosomes” of the Christian life.

The other crucial question is, what are the means by which conversion occurs? The way is simple, but it produces an absolutely revolutionary change in life and living. First, you must repent of your sins. In fact, the Bible specifies that it is "repentance toward God" (the One against whom I have sinned). Repentance is sometimes defined as being sorry for our sins. But repentance means far more than that. Repentance means to adopt God's way of looking at things: God's way of seeing yourself and your self-centeredness (S-I-N, Self-Ish-Ness), God's way of seeing the solution of your sinproblem, God's way of seeing life and its responsibilities, God's way of looking at the world. To repent is to renounce the past and to turn your back on what you are, what you did, and how you viewed things. When you do this, you do not lose your identity, you gain your true destiny! When you truly repent, the mind of God becomes your point of reference for everything! Then, the other step is faith. Again, the Bible specifies that it is "faith in the Lord Jesus Christ." This involves complete surrender and total commitment to Jesus Christ. The faith that converts is the faith that shifts the center of gravity in a sinner’s life from self to Jesus Christ.
An American preacher told of this beautiful incident which occurred at an all night prayer chain in his church. Different church members had signed up for 30 minute segments to form an allnight prayer chain. He had volunteered to pray at 2:30 in the morning. When he arrived at the church and entered the sanctuary, the woman who had taken the 30 minute segment before him was still kneeling in prayer at the prayer altar. He waited at the door, but it became apparent that she was struggling with something in her life that was unsurrendered to God. Her prayer increased in fervency as the minutes passed. Finally, when she had prayed fifteen minutes overtime, the preacher walked down the aisle of the church from behind her and said gently, "I'll take over now." There was a moment of silence, then the praying woman looked up at him and with a radiant smile, she said, "Everything is all right. The Lord Jesus just told me that He would take over now." She had been so intense in her prayer that she had unknowingly transferred his words to Christ. What a beautiful illustration of the meaning of Christian conversion. Conversion is never Christian until Jesus Christ has taken over our entire lives. When Christ becomes central in everything, you are converted.
Our real trouble is that He (Jesus) has been on the margin of our lives, and our lives have been dominated by something else entirely, usually self! If Jesus Christ is not central in your life, you have not been converted to Him, or you had a counterfeit conversion.

Charles Simeon, the great Cambridge pastor, was asked about the process of conversion. He wrote, "Conversion is contrary to the course of nature, and can only be brought about by God's almighty power. Before conversion, the person's heart and mind flow steadily downward—away from his Creator, by a natural tendency—toward destruction. After conversion, all its tendencies are changed, and it flows upwards from destruction, back again toward its Creator. Is this due to mere human agency? Certainly not! All the resources, all the capabilities, all the efforts of all the inhabitants of the globe could not do it. It is done by the invisible, infinite, miraculous power of God. Tell the worldling (who knows nothing of this power) these truths, and he will not only ridicule the whole idea, he will ridicule you for entertaining it."
Christian conversion is inseparable from Christ and impossible without Christ. If the person is ever to be harmonized with GOD the Father by Jesus Christ, it must be through the forgiveness of sin, the cleansing of the heart, the shifting of the inner center of gravity from self to Christ, and all of that is bound up in the phrase "eternal life". That is “regeneration,” -- “born again” or true conversion to Christ.
Conversion (of some kind) is common to all religions, but Christian conversion stands alone. It is not an end in itself but a means to becoming a life of glorifying Christ. It may be approached from a thousand points along different avenues, but ultimately it resolves itself into union with Christ through faith. Christian conversion is the supreme fact of human experience, and it is the biggest experience known to man. It is the determinative factor of the Christian and of the Christian church, allowing the fellowship of the Christian church to become a veritable river of Divine life. Otherwise, it would be a stagnant pool.
Charles Spurgeon, the great London pastor, said, "I have seen hundreds and thousands who have given their hearts to Jesus, but I never did see one who said he was disappointed with Him. I never met one who said Jesus Christ was less than He was declared to be. When first my own eyes beheld Him, when the burden slipped from my heavy-laden shoulders, and I was freed from condemnation, I thought that all the preachers I had ever heard had not half preached the truth of it, they had not told half the beauty of my Lord and Master, so good, so generous, so gracious, so willing to forgive; it seemed to me as if they had slighted Him with small words, that they had almost slandered Him; they painted His likeness, doubtless, as well as they could, but it was a mere smudge compared with the matchless beauties of His face. All who have ever truly known Him will say the same." As a deeply “satisfied customer,” I whole-heartedly concur with Mr. Spurgeon’s words, lamenting only the poverty of language to define and describe Christian conversion.
The Bible says, "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, you cannot enter the Kingdom of God." We sometimes think that a child needs an adult's understanding to be saved, but actually, every adult needs a child's heart to be saved.
Dear friend, what about you? Have you been converted—by Christ, to Christ, into Christ? If you have never been converted to Christ, let the Holy Spirit use these words to lead you to Christ. Jesus said, "Him that cometh to me, I will in no wise cast out."


Blogger Patrick said...

About 3 years ago I dropped into a black hole – four months of absolute terror. I wanted to end my life, but somehow [Holy Spirit], I reached out to a friend who took me to hospital. I had three visits [hospital] in four months – I actually thought I was in hell. I imagine I was going through some sort of metamorphosis [mental, physical & spiritual]. I had been seeing a therapist [1994] on a regular basis, up until this point in time. I actually thought I would be locked away – but the hospital staff was very supportive [I had no control over my process]. I was released from hospital 16th September 1994, but my fear, pain & shame had only subsided a little. I remember this particular morning waking up [home] & my process would start up again [fear, pain, & shame]. No one could help me, not even my therapist [I was terrified]. I asked Jesus Christ to have mercy on me & forgive me my sins. Slowly, all my fear has dissipated & I believe Jesus delivered me from my “psychological prison.” I am a practicing Catholic & the Holy Spirit is my friend & strength; every day since then has been a joy & blessing. I deserve to go to hell for the life I have led, but Jesus through His sacrifice on the cross, delivered me from my inequities. John 3: 8, John 15: 26, are verses I can relate to, organically. He’s a real person who is with me all the time. I have so much joy & peace in my life, today, after a childhood spent in orphanages [England & Australia]. Fear, pain, & shame, are no longer my constant companions. I just wanted to share my experience with you [Luke 8: 16 – 17].

Peace Be With You

4:55 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home