What true biblical conversion?
Many of us have probably heard the following terms we may have even used them. Todd Friel has compiled a list of 13 such phrases. As he says they may contain a nugget of truth, but they are not the Gospel:
1. Make Jesus your Lord and Savior. We cannot make Jesus our Lord and Savior, He is our Lord and Savior. We are living in rebellion to Him and He commands us to repent and trust Him.
2. Ask Jesus into your heart. Does Jesus come into our hearts? Yes He does. The question is, “How does He get in there?” It is not by simply asking Him in; it is by repentance and faith.
3. Just believe in Jesus. The demons believe and they tremble. We must repent and trust.
4. You have a God-shaped hole in your heart and only Jesus can fill it. We have far more than a hole that needs to be filled so we can feel complete; we have a wretched, deceitful, sinful heart that needs cleansing. Repentance and faith applies the blood of the lamb for that cleansing.
5. Accept Jesus. Whoa. We need to accept Jesus? This is entirely backward. We need Jesus to accept us–and He will, if we repent and trust.
6. Make a decision for Jesus. Decisional regeneration puts man in the driver’s seat of salvation. When we repent and trust, Jesus decides to save us. That puts Him in the driver’s seat…where He demands.
7. It is easy to believe. While the formula of repentance and faith sounds simple, a complete surrendering of self in repentance is anything but easy. It’s hard.
8. God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life. The only promises for the convert are trials, temptation and persecution. If that is how you define a wonderful life, fine. Otherwise we must command all men everywhere to repent and trust.
9. Come to Jesus just as you are. We should come to Jesus just as the sinners we are, but He also expects a broken heart and contrite spirit demonstrated in repentance and faith.
10. Come to Jesus and you will receive forgiveness of sins and ________________ (fill in the blank with money, health, a healed marriage). Jesus didn’t promise healed marriages; in fact He promised broken homes because we would divide when one member repents and trusts.
11. Come to Jesus and experience love, joy, peace. Do we get the fruit of the Spirit upon conversion? Yes. But if we come seeking the gifts and not the giver, we will receive neither. Instead, we must repent and trust.
12. Jesus is the missing piece. Um, no, the God of the universe is not the missing piece, He demands that He is the center of our lives when we repent and trust.
13. Jesus is better than fame and fortune. That is an understatement, and frankly, it is insulting. Saying Jesus is better than money is like saying that a steak dinner is better than eating a dung hill. He defies comparison and we trivialize the Son of God. Instead, we should be pleading with all men everywhere to repent and trust.
I thought that the following quote from the late Dr. D. James Kennedy sums up the problem with the above 13 phrases:
“The vast majority of people who are members of churches in America today are not Christians. I say that without the slightest contradiction. I base it on empirical evidence of twenty-four years of examining thousands of people.”
Now I will readily admit that only God Himself knows our heart. Yet, down through the ages both the Bible and Baptistic Confession of Faiths have stated what true Biblical conversion is.
Acts 26:19-20 "So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.
Acts 20:21 “solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”
(cf., Matt 13:1-23…note that it is only the fourth seed which bears fruit and is counted worthy of repentance)
Listen to the New Hampshire Confession of faith of 1833:
“We believe that repentance and faith are sacred duties, and also inseparable graces, wrought in our souls by the regenerating Spirit of God; whereby being deeply convinced of our guilt, danger and helplessness, and the way of salvation by Christ, we turn to God with unfeigned contrition, confession, and supplication for mercy; at the same time heartily receiving the Lord Jesus as our Prophet, Priest, and King, and relying on Him alone as the only and all sufficient Savior.”
Over the last several years we have shared this from the pen of Pastor Mark Dever:
- God is our Holy Creator and righteous Judge-Gen 2:7, 16-17; 18:25; Rev 20:11-13
- We have all sinned against Him Gen 3:1-7; Rom 3:23; Eph 2:1-3
- He has sent Christ to die the death that we deserved for our sins Jn 1:14; Rom 3:21-26; 5:6-8; Eph 2:4-6
- Christ death and resurrection is the only way to be reconciled to the one true God. Rom 10:9-10
- We must respond to this good news by repenting of our sins and believing in the gospel if we would be forgiven by God, reconciled to Him and saved from the wrath to come Matt 3:2; 4:17; Mk 1:15; Lu 3:7-9; Jn 20:31; Acts 26:20
- We must persevere in a lifestyle of repentance and belief displaying an increasingly loving and holy lifestyle that proves we are His disciples: Jn 15:8; 1 Thess 3:12-13; James 2:14-26; 1 Jn 2:3; 3:14; 4:8
As Pastor Dever puts it:
[True conversion]… “Is not reciting a creed. It’s not saying a prayer. It’s not a conversation. It’s not becoming a Westerner. It’s not reaching a certain age, attending a class, or passing through some other rite of adulthood. It’s not a journey, everyone strewn along the path at different points. Rather, conversion is turning with our whole lives from self-justification to Christ’s justification, from self rule to God’s rule, from idol worship to God worship.” (Acts 11:18; Eph 2:8)
So how do we make sure our church rolls have people who have “repented-turned to Christ-are doing works worthy of repentance”?
Let me suggest
1. Not rushing admittance to membership, but seeing evidence of “fruit worthy of repentance”
2. Requiring a testimony during the membership class.
3. Requiring a prospective candidate to give their testimony to the church family before being voted on.
4. They must be able to explain the “6-points of the Gospel” (hey they just repented and turned to Christ)
5. Members on the church role should be able to clearly state the six points of the Gospel in 60 seconds (if you don’t know how can you share it)
For further reading:
1. Evangelism by J. Mack Stiles, XI Marks
2. Real Change: Conversion By Bobby Jamieson, XI Marks
3. Nine Marks of a Healthy Church by Mark Dever, XI Marks