This week's 'thought' has to do with conversion. That is, what many think it is, as opposed to what the Bible assures us it is. It comes from David Wells superb book, "Turning to God - Reclaiming Christian Conversion as Unique, Necessary and Supernatural." It is well worth the read for any earnest Gospel-sharing Christian.
This selection speaks for itself. Enjoy.
"Conversion rests upon Christ, is grounded in him, looks to him, is supernaturally caused, and has eternal results... This truth has sometimes been inadvertently obscured in the evangelical world... If Christianity is true, and if conversion is a part of its message, then those who have turned to Christ will have a story to tell. They will have experienced God's forgiveness of sins. They will know what it is to return in the rags and tatters of human depravity, with no right to a place in God's house, and find the embrace of God. They will know what it is to be accepted by the Father, whose arms are opened wide, to be clothed in fine robes, and to take their seat at a welcoming banquet. They will experience the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit and will receive assurance of their salvation. If Christian faith is true -- and it is -- there will be experience of which we can speak.
Nevertheless, we are not testifying to our own selves, as if our own personal biography had a compelling claim to everyone's attention. No, we are testifying to Christ! That, at least, is what witness-bearing in the New Testament is like. There, the focus is on the objective reality of God's redemptive work. It is to that reality, not to themselves, that early believers pointed. And this is what is unique; our experience is not...
The truth of the gospel is not tied to our testimony to it. It is tied to what God did in Christ in reconciling us to himself. Therefore, while we can and should speak about our experience of this, that speaking needs to come in the framework that is also apologetic and draws people not to ourselves as those who are forgiven, but to Christ through whom forgiveness is found.
Additionally, the widespread use of testimony, perhaps as a habit passed on from the revivals, has had the unintended consequence of placing an emphasis on conversion that the New Testament does not have... Conversion is only the threshold to the building of salvation. We are not called to stand, year in and year out, gazing at the threshold and testifying to it, but enter the building. Conversion does not stand alone; it is the beginning of a lifelong journey of growing in Christ and being conformed to his image. Discipleship must follow on conversion as living and breathing follow on birth. There is no life without birth and there is no Christian faith without regeneration (supernaturally being made alive in Christ) and conversion (turning in faith away from sin to follow Jesus).
In the Christian world today, however, what we have all too often is an aberration -- spiritual birth that is not followed by an obvious spiritual life. And that is what has produced considerable in-authenticity at the very moment when, in Western cultures, people are searching for what is genuine. They are looking for what is real a midst the hype and marketing frauds of modernity.
Outside the context of personal authenticity, testimonies about being converted do far more harm than good... Just as there is no discipleship without conversion, so there also can be no conversion without discipleship. The two belong together. That, at least, should be our insistence. And if we fail here, our testimonies to God's grace in our conversion become empty, discordant, and unbelievable."
It doesn't take long (going through the gospels) to see that Jesus call was, "follow me," or "leave everything and follow me." It was a call to discipleship and the issue of conversion (turning from how they were living to a life of following Jesus) was thrust upon them simply by considering the cost of becoming a disciple. Shall I or shall I not?
Likewise, from the practice of many in the Church in recent years you would think Jesus had simply asked us to preach the Gospel of forgiveness and solicit "decisions" for Him, or a show of hands, and that the Great Commission is simply a call to make "converts."
Yet we know that's not true. The call of the Great Commission is to make disciples -- disciples who have been taught everything He has commanded us (Matthew 28:20). Better yet, disciples who are trained to go out and become disciple-makers themselves.
The call is, "Go therefore and make disciples of every nation (ethne = people group)..." What a daunting task! And one that still carries the same sense of urgency as the day Jesus gave it.
In the Bonds of Christian Charity, Pastor Jeff