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Saturday, January 27, 2007

What was your conversion; Counterfeit or Christian

WHAT WAS YOUR CONVERSION; COUNTERFEIT OR CHRISTIAN?”

(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 twothirds 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!

I. COUNTERFEIT CONVERSION
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 newfound 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 vitaminstarved 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.
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.
So 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.
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.
What was your conversion; Counterfeit or Christian?

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