Ask yourself this question: Do I stand in need of conversion?
Pointed question? Terrifying thought? It ought to cause us all to engage in a period of self reflection.
To be clear, I refer to conversion and not regeneration. The new birth (regeneration, quickening) is a GOD ONLY action. It is literally life from death. Conception from nothingness. Scripture describes it as a birth, a resurrection, and a creation. In each, God is active and the sinner is passive. This is the moment in which a sinner receives eternal life.
Conversion, however, means to turn. This is an activity that is shared between God and a sinner. People who are converted make a cognitive decision to turn from their own self-will to a life of submission to Christ in ALL THINGS. This is when a regenerated person becomes a disciple of Jesus.
A Blessed Life
If not converted, you might be thinking, “Oh great, another preacher harping on me to live a morbid life of stoicism. I don’t want to be a Puritan.” Yet I want to consider three texts that teach the blessings which come with conversion.
- First, according to Matthew 13:15, conversion brings healing. Do you stand in need of healing? Is your life in shambles? Christ brings healing.
- Second, according to Mark 4:12, conversion brings forgiveness. Not forgiveness in an eternal sense, but in a parental sense as we live in the world. Christ put the sins of His elect as far away as the East is from the West on the cross. Yet we still come under the chastening rod of God daily. The forgiveness that comes with conversion is the same as a parent who spares the severity of chastisement because his son is crying, ashamed for failing his parent.
- Third, according to Matthew 18:3, conversion is equated to a child-likeness. While we should be MEN in understanding, in malice we should be as children. Converted people trust God with a child like faith. They depend on Him and believe in Him.
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? But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates. – 2 Corinthians 13:5-6
Paul says that unless a man is reprobate (unregenerate) Christ is IN HIM. Paul trusted that the Corinthians knew that they, himself AND the church at Corinth, were not reprobate. But notice – just because Christ is in you (saved), it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are “in the faith.” Therefore, we should self examine to see if we are in the faith, or converted.
Here are some sample questions to ask:
- Do I attend worship?
- Do I attend worship out of duty, or desire?
- Do I pray daily?
- Do I study scripture often, if not daily?
- Is what I believe, regardless of the subject, in accord with the Bible?
- Am I submitting to what God says in every area of my life?
Sobering questions indeed, but if we answered “no” to any of these or if our worship is mere duty and not desire, conversion is probably needed.
Why? Because Luke 14:26-27 teaches that if a man does not forsake ALL, take up his cross and follow Christ, he cannot be Christ’s disciple (pupil). Notice Jesus doesn’t say “it would be harder to be my disciple.” No, he says such a one CANNOT be his disciple. Those are strong words but indeed true. In a word, real discipleship is costly.
An unconverted follower
In Luke 22, after keeping the Passover, instituting the Lord’s Supper, and washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus pulled Peter aside and the following exchange occurred.
And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.
And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.
And he said, I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thou shalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.
Peter, a man who was baptized and had followed Christ for three years, was not converted. Now understand – Peter WAS regenerated. He preached. He cast out Devils. He loved Christ. But he was unconverted. How?
Peter was not willing to submit entirely to Christ. In fact, in a few short hours he would even publicly deny Christ. He needed conversion.
I believe this conversion happened in John chapter 21. After Christ was resurrected, He appeared to the Disciples AT LEAST two times. Following this, Peter said “I go a fishing.” This was not recreational fishing, but Peter’s career. In other words, he was going back to work. The problem is, in Matthew 4 when Christ called Peter to service, he was to leave his net and become a fisher of men. Peter was going back to his former life in disobedience to Christ.
Jesus came to the shore, prepared a meal of fish, and called them in from the sea. He then asked Peter a sobering question “Lovest thou me more than these?” These what? These fish. Peter, do you love me enough to leave your career and preach? Peter’s answer was “Yea Lord, thou knowest I love thee.” Jesus replied: Feed my lambs.
This exchange happened three times. Ironic, since that’s the exact number of times Peter denied Christ. Jesus’ point was clear – from this point I expect total submission. Peter complied. Peter converted.
But consider the ramifications of this exchange. A baptized preacher who followed Christ stood in need of conversion. If PETER stood in need of conversion, it is likely that we do as well.
A Willingness to Submit
Conversion is demonstrated by a willingness to obey Christ and pursue Him above all things (In Peter’s case, feeding God’s sheep). This brings me to the following point:
There is to be a great difference between the Church and the World.
The Church is to look different than the world, but I am sad to say in many areas it does not. Studying the condition of the home in America, the divorce rate among believers mirrors that of the unbeliever. Vices such as pornography and R-rated movies are viewed by Christian and unbeliever alike. According to a brother who works for his state government, the language and subject matter he hears each day at work is equally vile, whether spoken by a professing Christian or an unbeliever.
Is it a wonder the Salt of the Earth is impotent in preserving our rotting culture? It has lost its savour! How can the church expect to impact society when there is hardly a distinction between the two? Lord forgive!
Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 6 that we are to be SEPARATE from the world. Often preachers will quote this in regards to other denominations. That wasn’t how Paul used the text. There was only one type of church in his day. His words were intended to convict believers to live their lives in a different way than the world around them. No, they were not to be Pharisees. Yes, they were to be different. In the world but not of the world.
Peter exhorts us in 1 Peter 1:13-16 to be holy, for our God is holy. Your calling is one to holiness, and God has already equipped you and given you all things that pertain to life and godliness. Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. To be frank, we have no excuse. Don’t believe the lie – you can change.
I do want to clarify – this doesn’t mean that we will live sin free lives. Not so, for we all have the nature of the flesh. Even Paul said that when he would do good, evil was present with him (Romans 7). Our lives after conversion will always be a struggle or warfare. This is why we daily take up our crosses. A cross is a symbol of an execution. We must execute, painfully put to death, the lusts of our flesh each and every day. This is no light matter. Honoring Christ is a daily warfare with ourselves, let alone Satan and his minions. But remember, 1) He already owns you, for you are bought with a price; and 2) He has already equipped you with salvation, His Spirit, His word, and other believers for strength.
Coming to Christ
Jesus instructed those to whom He had been revealed, those struggling with their sins (all you who labor and are heavy laden), to come to Him. Our conversions (and we might experience many in a lifetime) begin with coming to Christ in submission. As Paul said on the road to Damascus in Acts chapter 8, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” In the presence of Christ, we find a yoke of servitude, instruction for our lives, and finally, rest for our souls.
“I will arise and go to Jesus, He will embrace me in His arms. In the arms of my dear Saviour, Oh, there are ten thousand charms!”
Originally published April 2014