A Healthy Church Member is Genuinely Converted (Part4)
May 18, 2014 | Speaker: Bro Jurem Ramos
We continue in our series on What Is A Healthy Church Member?,
which I have based on the book of that title, written by Thabiti Anyabwile. Those of you who have read the book of Mark Dever, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church,
will notice that the marks are the same. This is because these books present the same principles with the only difference of having those principles presented from different angles. One book targets pastors, the other, church members. You’ll also find those principles presented in more detailin the website 9Marks.org.
So far, we’ve seen four marks of a healthy church member: a healthy church member is an expositional listener, a biblical theologian, gospel saturated, and genuinely converted.
We’re not yet done with the fourth mark, which is, a healthy church member is genuinely converted. And the reason we’re taking a more extensive look into this mark is because, as I have said several times, one of the reasons why there are so many nominal Christians today in the church is because pastors fail to teach and members are ignorant of the biblical concept of conversion.
And so if we want to see more genuine Christians in our churches, we need to emphasize Biblical conversion. Please pray that God will grant preachers with the power to declare this message and pray that attendees will be filled with spiritual understanding and wisdom to grasp those things taught by God’s Spirit.
As we look at this topic on conversion, we began with the negative by looking at what conversion is not. And then we looked at the positive, what genuine conversion is.
We’ve been learning that genuine conversion begins with God’s initiative; it involves of man’s response, and it brings about a total life transformation.
- Conversionbegins with God’s initiative: effectual calling.
First of all genuine conversion is not something an unbeliever can do at will because the Bible says that he is spiritually dead, totally depraved, and incapable of submitting himself to God. Therefore God takes the initiative to overcome the sinner’s depravity and rebellion, draws the sinner to Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit and the gospel,opens the blind heart to give attention to God’s Word, grants the individual the gift of repentance and faith so that he or she is made willing and able to repent of sins and trust in Christ for salvation.
Theologians have used different terms for this initial work of God. Some call it prevenient grace or irresistible grace; otherseffectual calling accompanied by regeneration; while others call it effectual calling separate from regeneration. Other just call it regeneration.
I prefer the term “effectual calling” and separate it from regeneration but the term doesn't matter. Whatever you want to call it, the important thing is that conversion is the work of God and it is His initiative. When this special grace of God moves upon the sinner, it does not only make possible for the person to come to Christ but it ensures and makes certain that a sinner will come to Him.
- Conversioninvolves man’s response: repentance and faith
Conversion begins with God’s initiative, but it also involves man’s response, which is the second element in true conversion. Man’s response to the work of God is repentance and faith. And I think it doesn’t take long for man to respond once God draws a person to Christ and opens his heart to give attention to the gospel.
When God grants the gift of repentance, he removes the scales from the spiritual eyes of the sinner and causes him to see his danger in his unregenerate condition. In the words and ideas borrowed from Joseph Alleine:
The man who before saw no danger in his condition, now concludes himself lost and forever undone (Acts 2:37) except renewed by the power of grace. He who formerly thought there was little hurt in sin, now comes to see it to be the chief of evils. He sees the unreasonableness, the unrighteousness, the deformity and the filthiness of sin; so that he… loathes it, dreads it, flees from it, and even abhors himself for it (Romans 7:15; Job 42:6; Ezekiel 36:31). He now sees the rottenness of his heart, the desperate and deep pollution of his whole nature. He cries, 'Unclean! Unclean! Lord, purge me with hyssop, wash me thoroughly, create in me a clean heart.' He sees himself altogether filthy, corrupt both root and branch (Psalm 14:3; Matthew 7:17-18).
Now he desires to confess his sin and his confession is directed primarily to God whom he has offended above all. But he is also ready to confess faults before men. And if he has done injustice to individuals, he wishes to confess the wrong, and is anxious to make restitution.
But man’s response to Gods initiative does not just end in repentance. It also includes faith in Christ.
Before conversion, man seeks to make himself acceptable with God by his own duties. He is trusts in himself, and set up his own righteousness, and does not submit to the righteousness of God. But conversion changes his mind; now he counts his own righteousness as filthy rags. Now he is brought to poverty of spirit and condemns himself and says, 'I am poor, and miserable, and wretched, and blind, and naked!' [Rev 3:17].
Before conversion, the man made light of Christ; he was preoccupied with his work, studies, friends, or pleasures, more than Christ; now, to him to live is Christ. Now he says, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”(Phil 3:7-8a).
Before, the sinner saw no beauty that he should desire Christ; but now he finds Christ is the pearl of great price that he seeks. Now the sinner sees Christ as the only Mediator between God and man (1 Tim 2:5). He is the only one who can bring him to be reconciled to the offended God. Now he sees Christ as the only means to life, as the only way to the Father, the only name given under heaven by which a sinner may be saved. He does not look for salvation in any other but Him; he throws himself on Christ alone.
- Conversionincludes total life transformation: regeneration
When we look at Scripture we will discover that regeneration does not only refer to the initial work of God in the heart of an unbeliever but to the larger and more expansive work of God that includes the following:
- the divine work of a new creation,
- experiencing a complete heart transformation,
- going through a spiritual rebirth (aka born again, born from above, born of God, born of the Spirit, born of water and the Spirit, or born of the word),
- being transferred from death to life,
- having the sinful nature crucified or circumcised and putting on the new self or putting on Christ.
According to the Bible we experience regeneration by faith.
- Acts 15:9 says that the heart is cleansed by faith;
- Col 2:12 says we are raised with Christ through faith; and
- Jn 3:16 says we receive eternal life through faith.
Today we want to look at the practical aspect of regeneration. How does a regenerated person look like? Or to put it differently, how does a genuinely converted person think and behave?
Much of the material in this study comes from
- Archibald Alexander, A Practical View of Regeneration
- Joseph Alleine, Alarm to the Unconverted Sinners
- John MacArthur, Saved Without a Doubt
Turn to the first Letter of John 5:13. “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” This is the main theme of the letter.
John's readers were confronted with heretics who, initially, were probably part of the church and then had separated and left (2:18-19). John is writing to warn his readers about the same false teachers who are actively trying to deceive them (1Jn 2:26) and probably making them feel inferior.
John is also writing to reassure the faithful and explain in straightforward terms the differences between the two groups.
John was very concerned about this matter of true salvation, as was our Lord Jesus Himself. Throughout the letter is a series of tests to determine whether you possess eternal life or regenerated. In other words, this is an epistle that tells us how we can know whether we are truly Christians.
In this epistle we find, what John MacArthur calls in his bookSaved Without a Doubt,
eleven tests from an apostolic expert to find out whether you are truly saved.
So here are the apostolic tests to find out if you are regenerated or truly saved or not.
1. Do you enjoy fellowship with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ?
1Jn 1:3. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.
John MacArthur: All true Christians enjoy fellowship with the heavenly Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ. John was not referring to just the earthly acquaintance he had with Jesus. … Rather, he was referring to the present communion he was enjoying with the living God and the living Christ.
Prayer and praise are no longer a task, but a delight. Searching the Scriptures, and meditation on the works and word of God, become the daily employments of the genuine convert; and his progress in divine knowledge is often astonishingly rapid. He thirsts after the knowledge of God…
As naturally and instinctively as the new born babe thirsts after milk, so the young child of grace desires the sincere or unadulterated milk of the word, that it may grow thereby. "O how love I thy law" is the language of his heart. His estimation of the word is above all the most precious treasures of earth. "More to be desired than gold, yea than much fine gold." And pleasant as well as precious. "Sweeter also than honey or the honeycomb." Therefore, "he delights in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night."
The cross becomes the great point of attraction to the believer, and the center of his warmest affections. [Gal 6:14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.]
There is also a grateful sense of the love and goodness of God in the regenerate man continually. It is the most frequent emotion of the heart, and has the most powerful and practical influence upon his life. He is constrained by the love of Christ who died for him. The more he contemplates this glory, the more is he fired with the love of gratitude.
MacArthur: Have you experienced communion with God and Christ? Have you sensed Their presence? Do you have a love for Them that draws you to Their presence? Have you experienced the sweet communion of prayer—the exhilarating joy of talking to the living God? Have you experienced the refreshing, almost overwhelming sense of grace that comes upon you when you discover a new truth in His Word? If you have, then you have experienced the fellowship of salvation.
2. Do you walk in the light?
1Jn 1:6-7 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
To walk in the light includes both holding correct doctrine (truth) and walking in moral purity (holiness). To “walk in the light” also implies that one does not live in hypocrisy, keeping secret sins, falsehoods, or deception. Such walking “in the light” is a result of walking in deep fellowship with God (1Jn 1:3) and progressive cleansing from all sin(1Jn 1:8-9).
Joseph Alleine writes,
The sincere convert is not one man at church—and another at home. He is not a saint on his knees—and a cheat in his shop. He will not tithe mint and cummin, and neglect mercy and judgment, and the weightier matters of the law. He does not pretend piety—and neglect morality. But he turns from all his sins and keeps all God's statutes, though not perfectly, except in desire and endeavor—yet sincerely, not allowing himself in the breach of any.
[In contrast, the unregenerate is like this]: You may see them always present at church; but follow them to their families, and there you shall see little but the world minded. Or if they have family duties, follow them to their closets, and there you shall find their souls are little looked after. It may be that they seem religious—but they do not bridle their tongues, and so all their religion is vain (James 1:26). It may be they come to closet and family prayer; but follow them to their shops, and there you find them in the habit of lying, or some fashionable way of deceit. Thus the hypocrite is not thorough in his obedience.
3. Are you sensitive to sin in your life?
1Jn 1:8-10 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.
It is characteristic of unbelievers to be unaware of the sins in their lives. The individuals mentioned in verse 8 are not dealing with their sins because they think they’ve reached a state where they have no sin. But they are deceiving themselves. Those mentioned in verse 10 have never even confessed or acknowledged sin. Believers, on the other hand, have a right sense of sin. They know if they’re going to commune with God, they have to be holy. When sin occurs in their lives, they confess it to God (1Jn 1:9).
John takes this teaching a step further in the next chapter. In 1Jn 2:1, he explained, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” True believers realize they don’t have to sin. But when they do, they know whom to go to—Jesus Christ, the believer’s advocate.
The person who is truly saved is sensitive to the sinful realities in his or her life. Consider how that applies to you. Are you very much aware of the spiritual battle raging within you? Do you realize that to have true communion with God, you have to live a holy life—that you can’t walk in darkness and claim to have fellowship with Him? Are you willing to confess and forsake any sin in your life as you become aware of it? Do you realize you can choose not to sin—that you’re not fighting a battle you’re obliged to lose? But when you do fail, do you go to your divine Advocate? Do you sometimes cry out with Paul, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death?” (Rom. 7:24) because you’re so weary of the burden of sin in your flesh? If so, you are obviously a Christian.
[To be continued next week]