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True Conversion

 

Iíve got a question for you today. Itís something we probably take for granted as we go about our busy daily lives but just stop for a minute and think: Are you converted? You may think to yourself">

 

 

                                     

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Prophecy  

 

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The Church   

 

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Sermon

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True Conversion

 

Iíve got a question for you today. Itís something we probably take for granted as we go about our busy daily lives but just stop for a minute and think: Are you converted? You may think to yourself, what a stupid question, of course I'm converted! I do what scripture says (or, in the words of the self-righteous Pharisee, "I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess"). The real question, however, is "How can you know if you are truly converted?"

 

First of all, what is conversion? Webster's Dictionary defines the verb convert as "to turn from one belief or course to another; to transform or change," but how does God define conversion? There are several examples in the Bible of people who convert or change their behaviors but is the changing of behavior the only thing required for true conversion?

The book of Jonah relates the story of the warning of Godís judgment to come on the people of Nineveh. They changed their behavior but were they really converted?

(Jonah 3:5) "So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them" Continuing in verse 10, "And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that He had said that He would do unto them; and He did it not."

In verse 11, we see evidence of God having mercy on them for His own purpose when God states to Jonah: "And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?"

In Matthew 12:41, Christ also mentioned the repentance of Nineveh as an example against the scribes and Pharisees who sought from Him a sign of His Messiahship.

(Matt 12:41)"The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here."

What was it they heard preached by Jonah and what was their attitude after being warned? Back in Jonah 3, we can see how Jonah was received by those in Nineveh.

(Jonah 3:1-10 NASB) Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, {2} "Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you." {3} So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh according to the word of the LORD. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, a three days' walk. {4} Then Jonah began to go through the city one day's walk; and he cried out and said, "Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown." {5} Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. {6} When the word reached the king of Nineveh, he arose from his throne, laid aside his robe from him, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat on the ashes. {7} And he issued a proclamation and it said, "In Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let man, beast, herd, or flock taste a thing. Do not let them eat or drink water. {8} "But both man and beast must be covered with sackcloth; and let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands. {9} "Who knows, God may turn and relent, and withdraw His burning anger so that we shall not perish?" {10} When God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way, then God relented concerning the calamity which He had declared He would bring upon them. And He did not do it.

Letís see if we can gain some perspective of the scene. Earlier, we read that the city of Neneveh was stated as having a population of 120,000 people. Even by our standards of today, thatís a pretty good-sized city. Verse three says that it was "an exceedingly great city, a three daysí walk." According to commentaries, itís generally considered that a dayís walk is about twenty miles. Therefore, Nineveh was probably about sixty miles across. Now, thatís a huge city by any standards. Look back at verse eight. It quotes the King of Nineveh as proclaiming, "let men call on God earnestly that each may turn from his wicked way and from the violence which is in his hands." The Ninevites didnít take Jonahís warning lightly. They changed. They gave up their evil deeds and their violence and as verse ten states, "God saw their deeds, that they turned from their wicked way." So, they really did change but were they what we would call "converted?"

Just because the men of Nineveh listened to God's warning and changed their behavior doesn't mean they were converted to God's way of life. In the second book of Kings, we see evidence that even the great repentance and change in behavior which took place at Jonah's preaching didnít last for long because just a few generations later there were signs that the old ways had returned. During the reign of Judahís King Hezekiah, God defended Jerusalem against the impending siege of the king of Assyria.

(2 Kings 19:36-37) "So Sennacherib king of Assyria departed, and went and returned, and dwelt at Nineveh. And it came to pass as he was worshipping in the house of Nisroch his god, that Adrammelech and Sharezer his sons smote him with the sword: and they escaped into the land of Armenia. And Esarhaddon his son reigned in his stead."

So, the old ways of idolatry and violence which the King of Nineveh had warned his people against in Jonahís day had already returned during the reign of the King of Assyria.

What does God say are the requirements for true conversion? David addressed the subject in Psalms 19:7.

(Psalms 19:7) "The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple" (Psa 19:7).

We should also ask if conversion is a discreet act occurring at one time or if it is a process occurring over a period of time. In todayís study of Godís Word, we will find that it is both.

 

Conversion Is Action

On the day of Pentecost in the third chapter of Acts, Peter recounted the heritage of Godís chosen people who were in Judah at that time, and how they were living lives of wickedness and rebellion against God; but they needed to change.

(Acts 3:18-26 NASB) "But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ should suffer, He has thus fulfilled. {19} "Repent therefore and return, that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; {20} and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, {21} whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. {22} "Moses said, 'THE LORD GOD SHALL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN; TO HIM YOU SHALL GIVE HEED in everything He says to you. {23} 'And it shall be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.' {24} "And likewise, all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and his successors onward, also announced these days. {25} "It is you who are the sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, 'AND IN YOUR SEED ALL THE FAMILIES OF THE EARTH SHALL BE BLESSED.' {26} "For you first, God raised up His Servant, and sent Him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways."

In the second chapter of Acts, he was asked by his audience what was required for conversion.

(Acts 2:37-39 NASB) "Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ĎBrethren, what shall we do?í And Peter said to them, ĎRepent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God shall call to Himself."

So, there is an action required in addition to the change in behavior exemplified through repentance. It is the commitment demonstrated through the physical act of baptism. The promised reward for that demonstration of commitment is the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Is there more scriptural evidence that conversion is a discreet act happening at one point in time? Yes, Christ speaks of the time when His disciples would be converted.

(Luke 22:31-32) "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."

Christ was speaking of a definite time when Peter would be converted and he was telling Peter what He expected him to do when that time came. It's not, however, only a change in behavior that's required. Whatís required is a specific type of behavior according to a specific code of conduct outlined in the law of God.

John the Baptist not only specified the necessity of repentance and baptism that were required for conversion but he got to the heart of the matter when he addressed the mindset or motivation that is required for conversion. In Matt 3:8, he was speaking to the hypocritical Pharisees.

(Matt 3:8-12) "Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance: And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit, and with fire: Whose fan [the Greek word is ptuon: a winnowing-fork] is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire."

Conversion Is A Process

There is also much evidence that conversion is a process occurring over a period of time. In Matt 18:3, Christ very clearly addresses the subject of developing a converted or changed behavior and instilling that as a way of life. Jesus was responding to a question posed by his disciples about who was greatest in the Kingdom of God. Notice in the King James Version, the use of the rather archaic English word "ye." The word "ye" is actually the plural form of "you." In todayís modern English, however, there is no single word equivalent for the plural form of "you." The closest approximation is the term "you all" as used in the southern United States. So, the setting in Matthew 18:3 was Jesus telling all his disciples. In short, Jesus was speaking directly to us as a part of his disciples.

(Matt 18:3) "Verily I say unto you, Except ye [you all] be converted, and become as little children, ye [you all] shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven."

The word "become" denotes a process of achievement over a period of time. In several parables, Christ describes fruits which must be developed in all of us over a period of time.

In the thirteenth chapter of Matthew, in the parable of the sower, Christ addresses all four conditions in which people could receive the truth of God.

(Mat 13:3-9 NASB) And He spoke many things to them in parables, saying, "Behold, the sower went out to sow; {4} and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up. {5} "And others fell upon the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil. {6} "But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. {7} "And others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out. {8} "And others fell on the good soil, and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty. {9} "He who has ears, let him hear."

Letís hear Christís own interpretation of the parable in verse 19.

(Mat 13:19-23 NASB) "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road. {20} "And the one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word, and immediately receives it with joy; {21} yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away. {22} "And the one on whom seed was sown among the thorns, this is the man who hears the word, and the worry of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. {23} "And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit, and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty."

In Luke 8:15, again, in slightly different language, Christ speaks both of the outward achievement of good and the inward mindset and motivation for that good.

(Luke 8:15) "But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience."

Therefore, our achievements, whether they be good or bad are observable, by other people, by ourselves, and by God. In Matthew 7:16, Christ speaks of both kinds of fruits.

(Mat 7:16-20) "You shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them."

What is that good fruit? Paul defines the good fruits which God desires as "the fruits of the spirit."

(Gal 5:22-25 NASB) "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit."

So, conversion requires an outward expression of commitment to God demonstrated through repentance and the physical act of baptism. It also requires an inward commitment to God demonstrated by living according to the law of God. By that sure standard of conduct we can measure and examine ourselves. We have as signposts along the way the fruits we bear which give us both positive and negative feedback.

Come back to the original question, "How can you know if you are truly converted?" In the final analysis, Christ tells us the ultimate answer in Matt 24:13.

(Matthew 24:13) "But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved."

We can see, however, that mere endurance is not enough. As we read in Ezekiel 33:11, it is endurance with righteous obedience that is really required.

(Ezek 33:11-19 NASB) "Say to them, 'As I live!' declares the Lord GOD, 'I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?' {12} "And you, son of man, say to your fellow citizens, 'The righteousness of a righteous man will not deliver him in the day of his transgression, and as for the wickedness of the wicked, he will not stumble because of it in the day when he turns from his wickedness; whereas a righteous man will not be able to live by his righteousness on the day when he commits sin.' {13} "When I say to the righteous he will surely live, and he so trusts in his righteousness that he commits iniquity, none of his righteous deeds will be remembered; but in that same iniquity of his which he has committed he will die. {14} "But when I say to the wicked, 'You will surely die,' and he turns from his sin and practices justice and righteousness, {15} if a wicked man restores a pledge, pays back what he has taken by robbery, walks by the statutes which ensure life without committing iniquity, he will surely live; he shall not die. {16} "None of his sins that he has committed will be remembered against him. He has practiced justice and righteousness; he will surely live. {17} "Yet your fellow citizens say, 'The way of the Lord is not right,' when it is their own way that is not right. {18} "When the righteous turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, then he shall die in it. {19} "But when the wicked turns from his wickedness and practices justice and righteousness, he will live by them.

Therefore, we see itís the end of the matter that really counts

Is that all there is? Are those the only things that are required? Letís look at the man that was called "blameless and upright" by God in Job 1:1.

(Job 1:1-12 NASB) There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job, and that man was blameless, upright, fearing God, and turning away from evil. {2} And seven sons and three daughters were born to him. {3} His possessions also were 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, 500 female donkeys, and very many servants; and that man was the greatest of all the men of the east. {4} And his sons used to go and hold a feast in the house of each one on his day, and they would send and invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. {5} And it came about, when the days of feasting had completed their cycle, that Job would send and consecrate them, rising up early in the morning and offering burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, "Perhaps my sons have sinned and cursed God in their hearts." Thus Job did continually. {6} Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. {7} And the LORD said to Satan, "From where do you come?" Then Satan answered the LORD and said, "From roaming about on the earth and walking around on it." {8} And the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil."

Read that again. What an endorsement from the Creator of all mankind! "Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil."

(Job 1:9) Then Satan answered the LORD, "Does Job fear God for nothing? {10} "Hast Thou not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? Thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. {11} "But put forth Thy hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse Thee to Thy face." {12} Then the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him." So Satan departed from the presence of the LORD.

We all know the story of how Satan started taking things away from Job. Verse 22, however, sums up the matter: "Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God." Continue in chapter two.

(Job 2:1-10 NASB) Again there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. {2} And the LORD said to Satan, "Where have you come from?" Then Satan answered the LORD and said, "From roaming about on the earth, and walking around on it." {3} And the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man fearing God and turning away from evil. And he still holds fast his integrity, although you incited Me against him, to ruin him without cause." {4} And Satan answered the LORD and said, "Skin for skin! Yes, all that a man has he will give for his life. {5} "However, put forth Thy hand, now, and touch his bone and his flesh; he will curse Thee to Thy face." {6} So the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life." {7} Then Satan went out from the presence of the LORD, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. {8} And he took a potsherd to scrape himself while he was sitting among the ashes. {9} Then his wife said to him, "Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!" {10} But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

While in tremendous pain for days or maybe even weeks, Job began to question Godís sense of justice and equity in the following chapters. In chapter 38, however, God does begin to put Job in his place and impart to Job a proper perspective of Godís vast greatness in relation to the smallness of mankind and the rest of creation.

(Job 38 NASB) Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, {2} "Who is this that darkens counsel By words without knowledge? {3} "Now gird up your loins like a man, And I will ask you, and you instruct Me! {4} "Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding, {5} Who set its measurements, since you know? Or who stretched the line on it? {6} "On what were its bases sunk? Or who laid its cornerstone, {7} When the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy? {8} "Or who enclosed the sea with doors, When, bursting forth, it went out from the womb; {9} When I made a cloud its garment, And thick darkness its swaddling band, {10} And I placed boundaries on it, And I set a bolt and doors, {11} And I said, 'Thus far you shall come, but no farther; And here shall your proud waves stop'? {12} "Have you ever in your life commanded the morning, And caused the dawn to know its place; {13} That it might take hold of the ends of the earth, And the wicked be shaken out of it? {14} "It is changed like clay under the seal; And they stand forth like a garment. {15} "And from the wicked their light is withheld, And the uplifted arm is broken. {16} "Have you entered into the springs of the sea? Or have you walked in the recesses of the deep? {17} "Have the gates of death been revealed to you? Or have you seen the gates of deep darkness? {18} "Have you understood the expanse of the earth? Tell Me, if you know all this. {19} "Where is the way to the dwelling of light? And darkness, where is its place, {20} That you may take it to its territory, And that you may discern the paths to its home? {21} "You know, for you were born then, And the number of your days is great! {22} "Have you entered the storehouses of the snow, Or have you seen the storehouses of the hail, {23} Which I have reserved for the time of distress, For the day of war and battle? {24} "Where is the way that the light is divided, Or the east wind scattered on the earth? {25} "Who has cleft a channel for the flood, Or a way for the thunderbolt; {26} To bring rain on a land without people, On a desert without a man in it, {27} To satisfy the waste and desolate land, And to make the seeds of grass to sprout? {28} "Has the rain a father? Or who has begotten the drops of dew? {29} "From whose womb has come the ice? And the frost of heaven, who has given it birth? {30} "Water becomes hard like stone, And the surface of the deep is imprisoned. {31} "Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades, Or loose the cords of Orion? {32} "Can you lead forth a constellation in its season, And guide the Bear with her satellites? {33} "Do you know the ordinances of the heavens, Or fix their rule over the earth? {34} "Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, So that an abundance of water may cover you? {35} "Can you send forth lightnings that they may go And say to you, 'Here we are'? {36} "Who has put wisdom in the innermost being, Or has given understanding to the mind? {37} "Who can count the clouds by wisdom, Or tip the water jars of the heavens, {38} When the dust hardens into a mass, And the clods stick together? {39} "Can you hunt the prey for the lion, Or satisfy the appetite of the young lions, {40} When they crouch in their dens, And lie in wait in their lair? {41} "Who prepares for the raven its nourishment, When its young cry to God, And wander about without food?

In chapter 42, we begin to see the fruits of true conversion in Jobís life. His new perspective of Godís greatness, and Jobís own insignificance in comparison, gives Job an even more converted nature. Thatís the nature God really desires.

(Job 42:1-17 NASB) Then Job answered the LORD, and said, {2} "I know that Thou canst do all things, And that no purpose of Thine can be thwarted. {3} 'Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?' "Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know." {4} 'Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask Thee, and do Thou instruct me.' {5} "I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees Thee; {6} Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes." {7} And it came about after the LORD had spoken these words to Job, that the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite, "My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends, because you have not spoken of Me what is right as My servant Job has. {8} "Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, and go to My servant Job, and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves, and My servant Job will pray for you. For I will accept him so that I may not do with you according to your folly, because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has." {9} "So Eliphaz the Temanite and [the shortest man in the Bible] Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did as the LORD told them; and the LORD accepted Job. {10} And the LORD restored the fortunes of Job when he prayed for his friends, and the LORD increased all that Job had twofold. {11} Then all his brothers, and all his sisters, and all who had known him before, came to him, and they ate bread with him in his house; and they consoled him and comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought on him. And each one gave him one piece of money, and each a ring of gold. {12} And the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning, and he had 14,000 sheep, and 6,000 camels, and 1,000 yoke of oxen, and 1,000 female donkeys. {13} And he had seven sons and three daughters. {14} And he named the first Jemimah, and the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch. {15} And in all the land no women were found so fair as Job's daughters; and their father gave them inheritance among their brothers. {16} And after this Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons, and his grandsons, four generations. {17} And Job died, an old man and full of days.

 

We see the world around us full of deception. We know from Revelation 12:9 that Satan deceives the whole world. We can be deceived, too. We can be deceived by other people or we can choose to deceive ourselves. We will not know for sure whether we are truly converted until the final harvest as described in Matthew 13 in the parable of the tares.

(Matt 13:24-30 NASB) "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares also among the wheat, and went away. But when the wheat sprang up and bore grain, then the tares became evident also. And the slaves of the landowner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?' And he said to them, 'An enemy has done this!' And the slaves said to him, 'Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?' But he said, 'No; lest while you are gathering up the tares, you may root up the wheat with them. Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, "First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn."

What are the meanings of the symbols of this parable? Letís hear the explanation in verse 36 right from Christ, the author.

(Mat 13:36-40 NASB) Then He left the multitudes, and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him, saying, "Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field." {37} And He answered and said, "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, {38} and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; {39} and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. {40} "Therefore just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age.

We can see then, that itís only at the final harvest when the reapers are able to tell for sure and separate for sure the tares from the wheat.

What about Paul? If anyone had it made, it surely would have been Paul who raised up so many churches and taught so many people about the righteousness and forgiveness that comes through faith. In 1 Corinthians 9, we can read about Paulís life-long struggle.

(1 Cor 9:23-27 NASB) And I do all things for the sake of the gospel, that I may become a fellow partaker of it. {24} Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. {25} And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. {26} Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; {27} but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified.

So you see, even Paul said it was possible for him to be disqualified, regardless of his many good deeds. Paul endured, however, and, in 2 Timothy, we can read the end of his story. At the end of his life, Paul is now sure that he has qualified.

(2 Tim 4:6-8 NASB) For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. {7} I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; {8} in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

 

Good Enough?

So, is "good enough" ever really good enough? Is there ever a time when we can relax and slough-off? The answer is "NO." In Galatians 6:9, Paul spells it out for us.

(Gal 6: 9-10) "And let us not be weary in well doing for in due season, we shall reap if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith"

Notice that again. For many years in the Churches of God, we have been taught much along the lines as if the verse actually read, "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto them who are of the household of faith." Wait a minute, though. Is that what it really says? No, we left out four words: "to ALL men, especiallyÖ" So, we are commanded to do good to ALL men and, especially not forget to do good to them who are of the household of faith.

Why? That question is answered by Peter in 1 Pet 2:12.

(1 Pet 2:12 NASB) Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they [that is, the Gentiles] slander you as evildoers, they may on account of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.

In James 3:17, the apostle speaks of the standards of the righteous wisdom that comes from God. His standards are to be our standards.

(James 3:17-18 NASB) But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. {18} And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

Remember that, the seed is sown in peace by those who make peace a part of their daily lives. That seed produces fruit which is the fruit of righteousness.

James wasnít the only one who knew that. Psalms 34:13 show that David knew it as well.

(Psa 34:13-14 NASB) Keep your tongue from evil, And your lips from speaking deceit. {14} Depart from evil, and do good; Seek peace, and pursue it.

In the book of Isaiah, God speaks to the unconverted of humanity.

(Isa 55:7-9 NIV) "Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him, and to our God, for He will freely pardon. For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways," declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts."

In Romans 8:5, Paul addresses the difference between our human minds and the mind of God.

(Rom 8:5-14 NASB) For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. {6} For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, {7} because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; {8} and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. {9} However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him. {10} And if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. {11} But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit which indwells you. {12} So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh-- {13} for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. {14} For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

Again, in 1 Corinthians 2:16, Paul talks about the greatness of the mind of God.

(1 Cor 2:16 KJV) "For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ."

In 2 Peter 3, the Apostle Peter sums up the ongoing process of conversion with the following admonition:

(2 Pet 3:14-18 NASB) Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, {15} and regard the patience of our Lord to be salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, {16} as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. {17} You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard lest, being carried away by the error of unprincipled men, you fall from your own steadfastness, {18} but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

 

Promises of Success

Lest you become depressed as Job did through trial and tribulation, keep in mind the words of encouragement of Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:13.

(1 Cor 10:13 NASB) No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.

So, with Godís help, we can do it. We can surmount the hurdles and pass the tests of this life.

In 1 Timothy 2, Paul goes on to state that it is Godís very ambition and desire for us to succeed.

(1 Tim 2:3-6 NASB) This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, {4} who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. {5} For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, {6} who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time.

Weíve already seen from the parables of Jesus that successful conversion will not occur for all mankind under all circumstances but it should bolster us to know that it is Godís true desire for all to succeed. So, the cards are not stacked against us. We all have an equal opportunity to make the grade. God is for us as Paul declares in Romans 8:31.

(Rom 8:31-39 NASB) What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? {32} He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? {33} Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; {34} who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. {35} Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? {36} Just as it is written, "FOR THY SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED." {37} But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. {38} For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, {39} nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So, if none of those adversities can separate us from the love of Christ and the love of God, is our conversion a sure thing? No, it isnít. We can still separate ourselves. The responsibility still belongs to each one of us to diligently strive for righteousness as Paul advises in 1 Timothy 6:11.

(1 Tim 6:11-12 NASB) But flee from these things, you man of God; and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. {12} Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Lastly, remember the words of encouragement from the Apostle James in James 1:2.

(James 1:2-4 NASB) Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, {3} knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. {4} And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James says that "the testing of your faith produces endurance." Well, look at that. Weíve now come full-circle because youíll remember that we read Christís words earlier in Matthew 24 where he mentioned that endurance is the key factor in reaching the ultimate goal: "But the one who endures to the end, he shall be saved."

 

 

So weíve learned today that true Christian conversion is the complete changing of the human mind from the physical level of human carnality to the spiritual level of God's mind. It begins at a specific moment in each of our lives but it is not complete until the final harvest and the change that awaits us at Christ's return. In the mean time, we can be encouraged that God is for us and will not withdraw his love from us but we need to remain diligent in obedience to Godís laws, in performance of good works, and in development of more of the mind of Christ through the power of the gift of Godís Holy Spirit. By the fruits of the Spirit, we can gauge our daily conduct in order to keep it in line with Godís will as revealed to us in the pages of His Word.

 

Sermon given by Philip Edwards

December 8, 2007

 

 

 

Studies in the Word of God
 

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