A Healthy Church Member is Genuinely Converted (Part2)
May 4, 2014 | Speaker: Bro Jurem Ramos
Today, we will continue looking at the fourth mark of a healthy church member: A healthy church member is genuinely converted.
Last week I shared to you about False Conversion.
Conversion is not simply professing to be a Christian.
Conversion is not just morality.
Conversion is not experiencing conviction of sin or illumination.
Conversion is not making a decision for Christ.
Conversion is not just being baptized.
Conversion is not being enthusiastic in the external religious duties.
Conversion is not having some spectacular manifestation that has come upon you.
I spoke in tongues, I fell to the ground. I felt wonderful.
Others speak of having heard a Bible verse come suddenly into their mind
Some even speak of having had visions of Christ.
Conversion is not being able to give a moving account of your experience.
Conversion is not feeling sure you are going to heaven.
1. Now let us look at True Conversion
Last week I mentioned that the word conversion
appears only once in the English Bible.We find it in Acts 15:3
“So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through both Phoenicia and Samaria, describing in detail the conversion of the Gentiles, and brought great joy to all the brothers.”
The basic definition of conversion is “turning to God.” It involves forsaking sin and turning to Christ. Here are some examples from the New Testament where we see the concept of conversion although the term is not used.
- 1Th 1:9-10 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
- Ac 14:15 “ Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.
- Act 19:18-19 Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. 19 And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. And they counted the value of them and found it came to fifty thousand pieces of silver.
9 “ I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth. 10 And I did so in Jerusalem. I not only locked up many of the saints in prison after receiving authority from the chief priests, but when they were put to death I cast my vote against them. 11 And I punished them often in all the synagogues and tried to make them blaspheme, and in raging fury against them I persecuted them even to foreign cities.
12 “ In this connection I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. 13 At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me. 14 And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘ Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads. ’ 15 And I said, ‘ Who are you, Lord? ’ And the Lord said, ‘ I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand upon your feet, for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, 17 delivering you from your people and from the Gentiles — to whom I am sending you 18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me. ’
19 “ Therefore, O King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, 20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.
- The conversion of Paul in Acts 26:9-20.
Let us look into this more closely. There are three things that we see in a true conversion:
- True conversion begins with God’s initiative.
- True conversion involves man’s response: repentance and faith.
- True conversion includes total life transformation.
1. True conversion begins with God’s Initiative.
A totally depraved human being is incapable of submitting himself to God.
- Ro 8:6-8 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
- 1Co 2:14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.
- Eph 2:1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins.
Unless God provides a special grace in the life of a totally depraved sinner a person cannot be saved.
This initial work of grace in person’s heart is the work of the Holy Spirit which effectively moves men to believe in Jesus Christ as Savior. It is irresistible by changing the heart it makes man perfectly willing to accept Jesus Christ unto salvation and to yield obedience to the will of God.
This special grace is the effective invitation of God whereby He woos the person through the power of the Holy Spirit and renders the individual willing to respond to the gospel. In the case of the elect, God works intensively through a special calling so that they do respond in repentance and faith. The special calling is simply an intensive and effectual working by the Holy Spirit which renders the conversion of the individual both possible and certain.
The NT epistles describe this initial work of grace that overcomes the depravity of sinners as a “call.”
- 1Pe 2:9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
- 1Co 7:18 Was anyone at the time of his call already circumcised? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone at the time of his call uncircumcised? Let him not seek circumcision.
- Romans 8:30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Here is the complete list in the NT where you find the “call.”
- Ro 1:6-7; 8:28,30; 11:29
- 1Co 1:9,24,26; 7:18
- Gal 1:6,15
- Eph 1:18; 4:1,4
- Phil 3:14
- 1Th 4:7; 5:24
- 2Th 1:11
- 1Ti 6:12
- 2Ti 1:9
- Heb 3:1
- 1Pe 2:9,21; 5:10
- 2Pe 1:3,10
MacArthur Study Bible:“In the NT epistles the “call” of God usually refers to God’s effectual call
of elect sinners to salvation, rather than the general call to all people to believe.”
The effectual call is God compelling people to come into the kingdom of God:
- Luke 14:23 And the master said to the servant, 'Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.
The effectual call is the supernatural drawing of God that Jesus speaks of in John 6:44,65:
- John 6:44, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him…”
- John 6:65 “…no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.”
The combination of v. 37a and v. 44 indicate that the divine drawing activity that Jesus referred to cannot be reduced to what theologians call “prevenient grace,” i. e., that somehow the power to come to Christ is allegedly dispensed to all of mankind, thus enabling everyone to accept or reject the gospel according to their own will alone. Scripture indicates that no “free will” exists in man’s nature, for man is enslaved to sin (total depravity) and unable to believe apart from God’s empowerment (Ro 3:1–19; Eph 2:1–3; 2Co 4:4; 2Ti 1:9). While “whosoever will” may come to the Father, only those whom the Father gives the ability to will toward him will actually come to him. The drawing here is selective and efficacious (producing the desired effect) upon those whom God has sovereignly chosen for salvation, i. e., those whom God has chosen will believe because God has sovereignly determined that result from eternity past (Eph. 1:9–11)
The effectual call is also the supernatural work of God in opening the mind or the heart to understand spiritual matters:
- Lk 24:45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
- Lk 24:31-32 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?
(Please take note that this in effectual call, we are talking about the initial
work of the Holy Spirit. It is what caused the disciples to feel their hearts burn within them while Jesus explained to them the Scriptures (v. 32). However, this is not yet a complete work, because according to verse 31 they still did not recognize Christ until their eyes were opened.
Maybe you can compare this initial work of the Spirit with the healing that Jesus did to the blind man from Bethsaida in Mark 8:22-25. When Jesus spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, the blind man received some sight. However, it was not yet a complete one because he saw the people look like tress, walking. And so Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again and then he saw everything clearly.)
- Acts 16:14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.
Here is how Theological Dictionaries define effectual call:
- Easton’s Bible Dictionary:
An effectual call
is something more than the outward message of the Word of God to men. It is internal, and is the result of the enlightening and sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit (John 16:14; Acts 26:18; John 6:44), effectually drawing men to Christ, and disposing and enabling them to receive the truth (John 6:45; Acts 16:14; Eph. 1:17)
- Evangelical Dictionary of Theology:
In Calvinistic theology, effectual calling
refers to the inward work of God that effectively summons particular individuals to receive the blessings of his redemption (Rom. 9:11–26). This unilateral activity is the prerogative of a free, wise, and holy Sovereign (Rom. 9:14–26; 11:33–36) and is grounded solely in both his eternal purpose in Christ (Eph. 1:10–11; 2 Tim. 1:9) and his elective love (Rom. 9:11, 13), and is therefore not subject to any change or frustration (Rom. 11:29). As the initial act of the Holy Spirit in applying redemption to God’s elect (Rom. 8:30), this call is in itself invested with an efficacy that unconditionally secures the means and the end of their eternal salvation (Rom. 8:28–30; Eph. 1:4–5). It is therefore not ultimately dependent on any activity of the recipient (Rom. 9:11), but on God’s immutable will (Rom. 11:29). Proximately, it is an act of God’s grace that ushers God’s elect from darkness into light (1 Peter 2:9) and into fellowship with Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:9). Ultimately, this lavish display of graciousness (Eph. 1:6–8) is for the praise of God’s glory (Rom. 11:36; Eph. 1:6, 12, 14). – J. Mitchell Jr.
2. True conversion involves man’s response: repentance and faith.
Conversion does not stop with God’s initiative. The Bible tells us that that both divine and human activity occurs in conversion. God does not repent and believe for us. We are the ones who forsake sin and turn to Christ.
I have to admit that there is some mystery involved here.
On the one hand, the Bible tells us that repentance and faith are gifts
- Repentance is a gift of God.
- Acts 5:31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.
- Acts 11:18 When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, "Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life."
- Philippians 1:29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,
But on the other hand, the same Bible also says that we
need to repent and believe.
- Mark 1:15 and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."
- Acts 3:19 Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out.
- Acts 14:15 "Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them.
- Acts 26:20 but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.
What is repentance?
- 1 Thessalonians 1:9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God.
John Stott, author of “Basic Christianity” explains repentance:
First, there must be a renunciation of sin.
The word for this is repentance
, and it is the first step in Christian conversion. There is no way around it. Repentance and faith belong together. We cannot follow Christ without forsaking sin.
Repentance is a definite turning away from every thought, word, deed and habit that we know to be wrong. It is not enough to feel pangs of remorse or to make some kind of apology to God. In essence, repentance is a matter neither of what we feel nor of what we say. It is an inward change of mind and attitude toward sin that leads to a change of behavior.
There can be no compromise here. There may be sins in our lives that we do not think we could ever let go; but we must be willing
to let them go and ask God to deliver us from them.
If you are unsure about what is right and what is wrong, about what must go and what may be held onto, do not be too greatly influenced by Christians you may know and what they do. Go instead by the clear teaching of the Bible and by the prompting of your conscience, and Christ will gradually lead you further along the right path. When he puts his finger on anything, give it up. It may be someone you spend time with or something you do, or some attitude of pride, jealousy, or resentment or a refusal to forgive.
Jesus told his followers to gouge out their eye and cut off their hand or foot if these caused them to sin. We are not to obey this literally, of course, by mutilating our bodies. It is a vivid figure of speech for dealing ruthlessly with the ways through which temptation comes to us.
Sometimes, true repentance has to include making amends. This means putting things right with other people whom we may have hurt. All our sins wound God, and nothing we do can heal the injury. Only the atoning death of our Savior, Jesus Christ, can do this. But when our sins have harmed other people, we can sometimes help to repair the damage, and where we can, we must. Zacchaeus, the dishonest tax collector, more than repaid the money he had stolen from his clients and promised to give away half his capital to the poor to compensate for the thefts that he was unable to make good. We must follow his example. There may be money or time for us to pay back, rumors to be contradicted, property to return, apologies to be made or broken relationships to be restored.
We must not be unduly overscrupulous in this matter, however. It would be foolish to rummage through past years and make an issue of insignificant words or deeds long ago forgotten by the person we offended. Nevertheless, we must be realistic about this duty. I have known a student own up to the university authorities that she had cheated in an exam, and another return some books that he had stolen from a shop. An army officer sent a list of items he had “scrounged” to the Ministry of Defense. If we really repent, we shall want to do everything in our power to put things right. We cannot continue to enjoy what we have gained from the sins we want to be forgiven.
Second, there must be renunciation of self.
In order to follow Christ we must not only forsake isolated sins, but give up the very principle of self-will that lies at the root of every act of sin. To follow Christ is to surrender to him the rights over our own lives. It is to abdicate the throne of our heart and obey Him as our King.
What is Faith?
The other side of repentance is faith. What does faith include? First, faithbegins with understanding the essential truths of the gospel. If our doctrine is wrong in the essentials, we will not be saved. If, for example, we reject Christ’s deity or his substitutionary sacrifice, we cannot be saved. Next, from knowledge, faith grows into assent or agreement. You affirm that the gospel is true. However, understanding the facts and affirming their truth is still not enough. Demons know there is only one God (Jas 2:19) and they agree that the gospel is true, but they hate that truth (Lk 4:34). Saving faith includes trust, personal reliance, and dependence upon Christ as living Savior who forgives our sins. Faith also includes committing ourselves to Him, the living Lord, as His obedient disciples.
3. True conversion includestotal life transformation.
We will look at this next week.