True Biblical Conversion
Re-blogged by permission from http://billmuehlenberg.com/2014/02/24/true-biblical-conversion/
There are some vital biblical truths which are so utterly essential and important, that there is no problem in repeating them over and over again. Even though I have written on this topic often, and shared these passages often, I can never stop sharing them.
Indeed, it is incumbent upon me to do so. In Ezekiel 3 and 33 the watchman is commissioned to share biblical truth, and warn the wayward, and if he does not, then their blood will be upon his hands (see Ez. 3:16-21 and 33:1-17). Let me quote just one verse here:
“When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for[ their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood” (Ez. 3:18).
And this is not just some Old Testament stuff which is not relevant to us today. Not only was Ezekiel under solemn obligation here, but so too are all God’s people. We all have a watchman role in this respect. We all have an obligation to warn sinners – and those who think they are believers but may well not be – about their fate if they do not come to true biblical conversion.
Jesus made this perfectly clear when he said one of the most frightening and sobering things found anywhere in the entire Bible. I refer to his words as recorded in Matthew 7:21-23. They are horrible words, but utterly necessary words:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”
I speak to this text in much more detail here: billmuehlenberg.com/2012/03/19/the-most-frightening-words-in-scripture/
And another warning I have been sharing often comes from American pastor Mark Dever. He recently told an audience of 8000 pastors at a conference this: “My fellow pastors, could it be that many of our hearers each week aren’t saved, even many of our members?”
The is a very alarming reality. And it is not just pastors and church leaders who need to address this fact. As I already said, we all have an obligation to make sure that we ourselves are truly converted, and then make sure our colleagues in Christ are as well.
How can we perform such an evaluation on ourselves and others? The most obvious way to do this is to dig out our New Testament,s blow off the dust, get on our faces before God, and reread carefully and prayerfully the four Gospels. And no matter if you have read them hundreds of times before: ask God to speak to you plainly as if you are reading them for the very first time.
This should be your first port of call. But there are other helps available. There are godly preachers who have spoken much to this issue. Plenty of them can be mentioned here. Let me refer you to just one. American pastor Paul Washer is doing as good a job here as anyone in enunciating and explicating the true gospel message, and what true conversion is all about.
In fact, he has a series of books out called “Recovering the Gospel”. Let me refer to his 2013 volume,The Gospel Call and True Conversion. There are plenty of spiritual nuggets here worth quoting, so let me allow Washer to speak for himself. He says this in the series preface:
“One of the greatest crimes committed by this present Christian generation is its neglect of the gospel, and it is from this neglect that all our other maladies spring forth. The lost world is not so much gospel hardened as it is gospel ignorant because many of those who proclaim the gospel are also ignorant of its most basic truths. The essential themes that make up the core of the gospel – the justice of God, the radical depravity of man, the blood atonement, the nature of true conversion, and the biblical basis of assurance – are absent from too many pulpits. Churches reduce the gospel message to a few creedal statements, teach that conversion is a mere human decision, and pronounce assurance of salvation over anyone who prays the sinner’s prayer.”
He says the results of such “gospel reductionism has been far-reaching”: it “hardens the hearts of the unconverted”; it “deforms the church from a spiritual body of unregenerated believers into a gathering of carnal men who profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him”; it “reduces evangelism and missions to little more than a humanistic endeavor driven by clever marketing strategies based upon a careful study of the latest trends in culture”; and it “brings reproach to the name of God”.
He examines in detail a number of issues such as biblical repentance, biblical faith, the new heart, and the new covenant. He then rightly says this:
“The conversion of a person is possibly the most magnificent demonstration of the power of God in the universe. Although it necessitates a decision on the part of the individual, it is primarily a work of God from beginning to end. At conversion, God regenerates and transforms a person’s heart so that he becomes a new creation. This is not mere poetry, exaggerated metaphor, or hyperbole; it is to be taken literally. Through the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, a person is given a new nature with new and righteous affections that can no longer tolerate estrangement from God, friendship with the world, or the practice of sin.
“Although he may stray, he cannot stray for long, but is compelled by many forces within and without to return to God. His new nature will be sickened by sin and will cause him to loathe it even while the forbidden meat is still between his teeth. The Spirit who indwells him will convict him of his sin and renew his hope of finding pardon and restoration in the mercies of his God. The Son will seek him out and draw him with great reminders of Calvary’s love. The Father will employ every means of providence and stretch forth His hand in loving discipline.
“He will turn him from the path of destruction, teach him to fear the Lord, and make him a partaker of the very holiness of God. For this reason, the genuine Christian will not turn away or shrink back to destruction. He will persevere unto the end, not only in faith but also in sanctification leading to a personal righteousness. The God who began a good work in hi will perfect it until the day of Christ.”
He also examines the signs or fruit of genuine conversion. Consider the believer’s relationship to the world for example: “One of the first noticeable results of true conversion is biblical separation from the world – a gradual divorce or withdrawn from all that is displeasing to God and in opposition to His will. Such a separation is not an end in itself, but rather the first and essential step to a greater end: a drawing nigh unto God, and the giving of ourselves to His purposes and will.”
He concludes by saying this: “Much of what is practiced within the evangelical community in the West regarding evangelism, conversion, and the assurance of salvation is a denial of everything that the Scriptures teach about the new covenant, the new birth, and the very nature of God and salvation.”
I have only skimmed the surface here of so many vital and neglected biblical truths found in this book. I urge you to get a copy yourself of this 188-page volume and read it carefully and repeatedly. Along with rereading the Gospels, this is one of the better things you can do concerning the most important matter every single one of us must deal with.
Soli Deo Gloria