Conversion

“assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus”

~ Ephesians 4:21

As the truth is in Jesus. This contains a reproof of that superficial knowledge of the gospel, by which many are elated, who are wholly unacquainted with newness of life. They think that they are exceedingly wise, but the apostle pronounces it to be a false and mistaken opinion. There is a twofold knowledge of Christ,—one, which is true and genuine,—and another, which is counterfeit and spurious. Not that, strictly speaking, there are two kinds; but most men falsely imagine that they know Christ, while they know nothing but what is carnal. In another Epistle he says, “If any man be in Christ, let him be a new creature.” (2 Cor. 5:17.) So here he affirms that any knowledge of Christ, which is not accompanied by mortification of the flesh, is not true and sincere.

Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians (p. 294). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

 

Put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. ~ Eph 4:24

The Christian walk is one of constant renewal.

We are first renewed in our hearts when the Holy Spirit infiltrates our self-focused and self-worshipping lives and replaces our stone hearts that cannot care about the things of God – and puts a heart of flesh in its place. Once this transformation takes place, we begin to see our sin as it is, and we are ashamed of it. God then starts to infiltrate our thinking with His truth in whatever method he chooses to insert it – pastors, preachers, evangelists, past Christian experiences, lay Christian interactions – however he brings it upon us, he converts our minds with these things. Our minds, now renewed, begin to ruminate on the truths of God – first in anger, then with open minds, then in obedience. Finally, our speech is renewed as we confess with our mouths that Jesus the Lord is the Christ of God, and that his salvation is both sufficient to cover the full breadth and depth of our sin debt before our creator, and also efficient in that it is applied to our lives and that we now walk in light of this change in our being.

That mass of renewals is merely the first step of our walk in Christ. That’s our first external understanding that our lives have been converted to Christ for his glory and not our own. The next set of renewals begin to change our interactions with the world. Our old habits and old thoughts begin to bother us. The Holy Spirit, finished with the replacement of our hearts, now reignites our consciences that have been seared from years of neglect and abuse. This God-fueled conscience now begins to whittle away at our idols and prompting us to abandon them for the sake of Christ. They are different for all people , but all have the same focus – to take our eyes off of Christ and to fall back into the old patterns that we are comfortable with. For some people it comes quickly – this abandoning of our old ways, but for most it takes time. We begin to learn about who God really is, in contrast to what we think he is. We start to desire to know God more intently, and seek him out in both good teaching, and in study of his word.

In this new understanding of who God is we learn that he is not on our side, but God is on his own side. God was not created for our good pleasure, but we were created for his. Our lives are not created for pursuit of our own desires, but to serve him in all that we do. Whatever we do, wherever it is done, is to the glory of God and Jesus his Christ. Our salvation was purchased so that we would be purchased back from our slavery to our own desires, and instead to glorify God in truth.

This is the “new self”. The “old self” was that which we were before, but that “self” is dead. It rots in the coffin of our salvation – forever dead and gone. Any time we try to revert back to our old ways, we bear the stench of that rotting corpse and it burdens us until we forsake it again in repentance and rush to wear again the “new self”.

This “new self” is free from the burdens of our old self. It no longer desires the things that we loved in the past. The “new self” is created much like Adam was – free from the hard-wired desire for self pleasure, and free to worship and serve God as he is. As Adam was created “in the likeness of God”, so we are created in same likeness – in true righteousness and in holiness.

“If righteousness be taken as a general term for uprightness, holiness will be something higher, or that purity which lies in being devoted to the service of God. I am rather inclined to consider holiness as referring to the first table, and righteousness to the second table, of the law, as in the song of Zacharias, “That we may serve him in holiness and righteousness, all the days of our life.” (Luke 1:74, 75.) Plato lays down the distinction correctly, that holiness (ὁσιότης) lies in the worship of God, and that the other part, righteousness, (δικαιοσύνη,) bears a reference to men. The genitive, of truth, (τῆς αληθείας,) is put in the place of an adjective, and refers to both terms; so that, while it literally runs, in righteousness and holiness of truth, the meaning is, in true righteousness and holiness. He warns us that both ought to be sincere; because we have to do with God, whom it is impossible to deceive.1

1 Calvin, J., & Pringle, W. (2010). Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians (p. 296). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.”

So that old “self”, being dead to us, is also dead to the world – therefore we only live in the “new self”. We now live our lives, reborn through the work of Christ, initiated by the work of the Holy Spirit, and saved to the glory of God the Father. These lives are revealed in our holiness from the world to God, and in lives bathed in the righteousness of God, revealing our new self to the world.

As Jesus says in John 15:14, we are his friends when we do what he commands of us, then in the next verses he explains that it’s not we that hold ourselves to him, because it’s God that chose us for salvation, and that he is the one who binds us to him, so we, living our new lives that are borne in us through his sacrifice on our behalf, and the renewal of our lives to his praise and glory. So we are his friends; we are brothers and sisters with him in glory, not “IF” we do what he commands us, but since we do it. He will bring us to himself, and birth the obedience in our lives, to his glory in the world. This is the life that is found in the “new self”.

So, with Paul, I agree and say that we should, in our rejection of old ways and our old lives, put on the new self – the self that’s created for worship of our God and King. Separating ourselves from our lives in the past, rejecting the snares and temptations of the world, and replacing everything with that which is in the pursuit of God’s intentions and that which glorifies him who died for us. May we all walk in this pursuit, forsaking all else, and bring glory to our Creator.

Jesus’ rejection of men does not come from their continual rejection of him. God, if he is incapable of saving people whom he has intended to save, is not God, but a mere reactor to the will of mankind. Every soul whom God has elected for salvation will be saved – from birth to the grave, their salvation is sure. They, however, cannot see it on their own and from their experience they only know their own walk in rebellion, their conversion, sanctification, and eventual glorification.

God’s rejection of men comes from their relentless attack against his character and nature. They are born without hearts that can understand him or his nature, they live their lives in self-worship, which is sin in that it rejects God’s role in creation, salvation, and his sovereign rule over their lives. That said, they have his laws written upon their heart in their conscience – they know of their relationship with him through the revelation of God through nature, and no man has an excuse before him that they did not know. Their consciences battle within them against them all the days of the lives, but they are still living in rebellion – focusing on their own self-worship and appeasing their own self-glorification.

God rejects the world and the non-elect, in his love for them – in giving them exactly what they want. They want self-autonomy from God’s laws, so he gives it to them. They want self-managed gratification by fulfilling their evil hearts desires, so he gives it to them. They want to reject everything that God has given them, yet still using the gifts he’s provided for them (the wealth, food, clothing, shelter, and freedom) to pursue their own destruction. And God gives it to them. At no point were they approved by God, not from birth to their deaths, but God, in love for his creation, grants to them what they want because they know the result is their destruction, but the draw to worship themselves and their own desires is too much for them to stop them from serving it.

God rejects men, because their desire is that he reject them.

God’s saving of men is where God stops giving men what they want. Salvation requires that God inject himself, against the will of men, into their hearts. He converts their self-focused hearts to understand their sin against him and their rejection of him. He fills them with His Holy Spirit and converts their soul to break their hearts over their sin against him. He reveals to them the love of God in that he has stood idly by as they sin against him, and he still served them in taking care of all of their needs. He then opens their minds to the reality of their sin debt against him, and the eventual end of that path which is their eternal destruction. God reveals to them his glory, his power, and his nature – and turns their hearts and minds from worship of self to worship of him until they can do nothing but fall on their knees in repentance and faith. Once it leaves their mouth that they repent and believe, it merely represents a wholly converted mind that has been transformed by their converted heart.

The heart of man cannot, on his own, embrace the goodness and greatness of God. To state that man has this ability is to say that God is a liar when he says that the hearts of men are corrupt from the womb, and that the hearts of all mankind os desperately wicked. The salvation of mankind comes from God is directed to God for the glory of God, to the shame of man because our self-worship is too important to us.

Praise be to the God and King of all creation who interferes in the lives of his creation, who violates the self-destructive will of man, and saves men against their will, so that there are witnesses in this age to his glory, to his praise, and for his name.

I saw this statement on a Facebook group where I participate, and it made me wonder why he wouldn’t want to pursue rebaptism. Anyway, here’s my response.

Reformed Baptist church I attend Sunday mornings has a statement that lists criteria they ask for before partaking…the one we don’t meet is being baptized after conversion…me and my wife were both baptized as babies…my dad also is a pastor at a non-denomination church…there its usually taken the first Sunday of the month

What role do you see baptism playing in scripture? Was it administered before or after conversion?

Follow up question, in the great commission, given by our Lord Jesus, what is the pattern that we see there?

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
~ Matthew 28:19–20 (ESV)

The baptisms we see in scripture taking place before the conversions of the people (baptisms of John, for instance) are Jewish ceremonial washings which were common in that day. The baptism of a Christian is an uncommon baptism. Instead of it “cleansing you” of your past sins, it is a commanded act that we must engage in – one that aligns us with our King in his death (when we are placed under the waters of death) and raised anew in our new life in Christ. Also, the public act of our baptism stands witness against us, declaring our standing before God to all. This is why baptisms are public affairs for the whole church to participate in, because it is they who will watch over you, helping you on your path to sanctification, and they will lean on you as well for the same purpose. It openly declares that you are of the same family as those in the congregation, and that, as another of God’s children, you are under the same authority and expectations (that you’d seek to live a holy life, that you are bound to the Christ of scripture, that you are a sheep among sheep, and not a goat or wolf, etc).

When you were an infant, did you understand the role of Christ in salvation, who Jesus is, what his sacrifice on your behalf meant, or the full sin debt you owed to your creator? Did you understand that it was an unwritten contract with the body of believers that you were baptized into, where you hold Christ as your savior alone and that you’d seek to honor the commitment that comes with a public confession of faith in Christ? If not, then was it really a baptism of a believer into the kingdom of God or a baby getting wet to satisfy the fears of your parents, that somehow it may prophylactically apply some measure of God’s grace upon you, outside of the means we see in scripture, by their works upon you? That God would somehow break his own standard by which he holds men accountable, namely by faith, and that he would instead impart salvation (or the “seeds of salvation”) upon a child who cannot even speak or act under its own will, simply because the parents of that child got it sprinkled or dunked?

You’d just as well say that it has no part in the life of a believer at all.

But given that this is not what we see in scripture, that it is something that carries substance both publicly (in the eyes of those in your Christ-community (church), and commanded by our King after conversion, then why would you not follow in this example after your conversion?

(I’ll update this post if there are any further posts)

In follow up to the last question I was asked the following:

Now please enlighten me concerning the indwelling and infilling of the Holy Spirit. The baptism of the Holy Spirit and how whether it happens automatically after being saved or what.

The indwelling of the Holy Spirit, in some way or another, starts way before you are ready to repent. We are born with a sinful heart that hardens to our sin as we continue to battle against our God-given conscience and sin. By doing so it becomes easier and easier to continue in our sin, but it also makes it harder and harder to understand the message of freedom in Christ that is the Gospel. Therefore, in order to repent you must first have your heart reborn so that it can accept this news (not “accept Jesus” – he is the one who accepts us, not the other way around). So God elects us from the throngs who love their sin and want to stay in it, he forcibly replaces our hearts with those that are soft to his message, and he places the holy spirit in our lives to begin to work on us by leading us to ask questions that violate our sinful souls’ desires, but that begin reshaping our minds and wills to conform to that of God our King. Eventually God leads you to a place mentally and emotionally where you can do nothing but cry out to God in fear and thanksgiving as you repent of all of your former works in sinfulness, and trust in him alone as your salvation.

This is typically where the “indwelling” of the Holy Spirit is seen, but as you can see, we’ve had him working in our lives up to this point.

The Holy Spirit is the protector of our souls and our seal against the evil one (and even our own wills) (2 Cor 1:22; Eph 1:13; 4:30). He also is our interpreter between us and God the Father in our prayers, both interpreting what we say so that it’s presentable before our God and King, and also interpreting that which we mean to say, but cannot. (Rom 8:26). The Holy Spirit works always in our lives, commending us to righteous acts, conditioning our hearts to see that which brings God glory and leading us to his praise and worship.

The “baptism of the Holy Spirit” was a term used by the 2nd and 3rd wave charismatics to give credence to their supernatural powers which they used to attempt to create a second level of Christianity where their brand Christianity allows them to reach a higher plane of Christian understanding. I went to these churches (and was a member of one) for about 7 years. Basically it works by telling you that while you may be a Jesus-trusting, God-honoring, sin-hating Christian, you won’t be a /real/ Christian until you get the ability to speak in “tongues”. Now, “tongues” as a biblical term, merely meant to be able to speak in other languages that you weren’t trained in, but that were understandable to other cultures for the purpose of spreading the Gospel. A neat article on the sign gifts (including tongues) can be found here:

Berean Bible Society – When did the Gift of Tongues Cease

That said, as we mature in Christ, we lose the “puppy love” sentimentality of our initial conversion – often filled with emotion and “feelings” of oneness with Christ, and that develops into a firm trust in God alone. In my own marriage I saw this as the initial wave of emotional affection I had for my wife which carried me through our first years and marriage developed into a firm bond that I share with her. I cannot see where she ends and I begin, and neither can she. This is the same with our relationship with Christ. We become so tightly bound to him that we cannot see ourselves as anything separate from him. It is no longer a “does he accept me as I am” but a “I am forever grateful to be in his family, and I know that my sins and struggles will either fade away on this side of the veil of death, or will be forever removed upon my entrance into glory, and for all of this I stand before him in praise and worship.”.

On Facebook I came across the following post in one of my Calvinist groups:

Spoke with my brother about my Calvinist theology and one question I struggled answering was “So you believe that there are just a set group of people that are hopeless and bound for Hell, that God won’t even give them a chance to believe?”

I also struggled a bit with the “God makes us robots” argument. Have any of you run into a situation like this, and, if so, how did you handle it?

Having encountered this myself, I’ve seen both bad and good arguments in response to the question. That said, here is what I typically aim for in that conversation:

God, in his kindness, allows all people to live on this life for their “best life now”. They can pursue that which their hearts desire to the fullest extent of that, until God directly prevents them from sinning beyond what he allows, or until he prevents their influence upon others.

That said, God has placed the conscience in the hearts of all men, and they have to overcome this conscience in order to begin pursuing this desire to sin. No one is just free to sin without the knowledge of the consequences that are at hand. You have to push past your conscience time and again before it becomes comfortable for you to just continue living in that way, and the reason most people rile against the teaching of scripture is that it reminds them that they’re living beyond the bounds of their conscience. So no one stands uncondemned before God. No one is pure from sin in the eyes of God. Also, due to our sin nature, no one lives their lives in any way that’s pleasing to God. The 10 commandments aren’t a simple rule set for a life of blessing, but it’s God’s holy standard of perfection. This is his “you must be this holy to enter My rest” marker that stands before the entrance before the gates of Heaven, and only a life spent in constant obedience to that will allow you to enter. As James 2:10 says, to violate one point of the law, you have failed in all of it.

More than that, no one, because of our self-focused, sin-sick hearts, would ever want to have a redeemer, much less would pursue this savior unless there’s a significant, personal pay off for that man. As we know from Psalm 51, the only sacrifice that God desires – the only one he acknowledges is one that comes from a contrite and humble heart. You cannot be truly contrite or humble if you’re coming to the throne of grace for how it will improve your life. If you’re looking for a salve for your conscience, or some kind of religious rite or procedure that will help you to balance out the sin you enjoy and the guilt you feel over it, then this is not the place for you. This is what the vast majority of Jews in Israel and Judah were pursuing prior to the Babylonian captivity and it led to their public humiliation and destruction.

Since we know that the heart of men only ever seeks its own interests and comfort, and since God has provided to all men both the natural revelation around them which point to his existence and guiding hand in all of creation, and the conscience which lives in their heart, revealing their sin to them, the question about those who are clamoring for salvation and are “turned away” just doesn’t happen. Sure, there are many in the church who are there for their own benefit, but those are the ones who will be told at the last day, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Mt 7:23). God, knowing the hearts of men, and knowing that only those who enter the throne room of grace with a contrite and humble heart are those who are the ones who are there for God’s purpose and not their own, has chosen from the vast throng who are sprinting headlong into hell to interfere in the lives of his elect, to radically change the attitude of their hearts away from themselves and toward him, then to bombard them with his grace and mercy until they can do nothing but cry out in repentance and faith in the God and King of all creation who died in their place.

The kindness of God allows sinners to pursue their own desires – their own dreams, despite the fact that they’re both living in rebellion to him, but also knowing that they’re doing it to their own hurt. It is therefore the God who interferes, the God of the “but God” statements in the Bible, who steps in and violates the autonomous rule of man’s heart to turn him to Himself for the sake of the sinner, and for the glory of the King of mercy and grace.

“I used to think that growing as a Christian meant I had to somehow go out and obtain the qualities and attitudes I was lacking. To really mature, I needed to find a way to get more joy, more patience, more faithfulness, and so on.

Then I came to the shattering realization that this isn’t what the Bible teaches, and it isn’t the gospel. What the Bible teaches is that we mature as we come to a greater realization of what we already have in Christ. The gospel, in fact, transforms us precisely because it’s not itself a message about our internal transformation but about Christ’s external substitution. We desperately need an advocate, mediator, and friend. But what we need most is a substitute – someone who has done for us and secured for us what we could never do and secure for ourselves.

The hard work of Christian growth, therefore, is to think less of ourselves and our performance and more of Jesus and his performance for us. Ironically, when we focus mostly on our need to get better, we actually get wore. We become neurotic and self-absorbed. Preoccupation with our effort instead of with God’s effort for us makes us increasingly self-centered and morbidly introspective.

Again, think of it this way: sanctification is the daily hard work of going back to the reality of our justification. It’s going back to the certainty of our objectively secured pardon in Christ and hitting the refresh button a thousand times a day. Or, as Martin Luther so aptly put it in his Lectures on Romans, “To progress is always to begin again.” Real spiritual progress, in other words, requires a daily going backwards.”

~ Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian.

This gem comes today from one of my favorite blogs, Of First Importance:

The person who knows that he is a beloved son does not do good to earn his father’s acceptance. He does good because he knows it pleases his father.
— Neil H. Williams
“The Theology of Sonship”
(Jenkintown, Pa.: World Harvest Mission, 15), 15

It makes an excellent point that I would like my Catholic friends to consider. If we are truly sons of God, adopted by the sacrifice of Jesus, the Son of God, on the cross, why do we then have to work to acheive His acceptance? If He has chosen to save us, revealed by our repentance of our sinful lives and faith in the propitiation of the Christ on the cross, then why do we need to do any “good works”? If anything, I believe that “good works” are merely our natural response to the gift of salvation. By doing any “meritorious work” we are simply worshipping God through our actions and revealing to the world our changed hearts.

The reason that I quote meritorious and good works is that scripture tells us that we are, by nature wicked and wholly corrupt individuals (Jeremiah 17:9; Isaiah 64:6). If our hearts, that being our souls, are wholly wicked it would then mean that which we desire to do, regardless of the perceived intention, is a wicked act. As Jesus said, “No good tree can bear bad fruit and no bad tree can bear good fruit (Matthew 7:15-20)”. While the Christian walk is just that, a progression toward sanctification, and it is clear that no man is able to walk in perfect unity with the will of God, the journey will present itself in an upward direction. Out of the pit of despondance that comes from a life trapped in sin, though pleasing to those who are immune to its effects by a seared conscience, toward a life free from sin and temptation. Everyone who has been born is trapped in this pit until they are saved by the act of a sovereign God on their lives. He does the work necessary to get your attention, to reveal to you the disastrous end of your sin-drenched lives, and upon the application of His path to salvation presented in the good news of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, He fills you with the Holy Spirit so that your sin-driven wicked heart can be nullified and you may respond in repentance and faith. Since it is God alone who does this, it is He alone who is responsible for keeping you in your faith. We cannot lose our salvation that was purchased for us and applied to us. It is no longer something we possess but somethin that we are. We are the elect, adopted sons of God. Not equal to Jesus in power or position but in promise.

Now for those who are in continual rebellion against God, though they may call themselves “Christian”, they are simply not. John says, “No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. (1 John 3:6)”. This is not for the Christian who is struggling with a specific area of sin in their lives. Men, for instance, struggle with the sin of lust through the use of pornography. Jesus, expanding on the ten commandments in the beatitudes, explains:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

~ Matthew 5:27-28

He makes it very clear that even looking with lust (this includes pornography) condemns us of our sins and in James 2:10, the brother of Jesus reminds us that even if we only break one of God’s commandments, we are as guilty as someone who has sinned against all of them. But, for the Christian man who understands this issue and who is guilty over it and walking with God in prayer daily to be rid of that sin, He is not the one who is addressed in the 1 John 3:6 statement. It is the man or woman who longs for their sin despite the calls from God in scripture to separate themselves from it. The people who both have long rejected their “Christian” title and have embraced their sinful lusts and for those who maintain a veneer of “Christian” appearance, yet secretly love to gossip and ridicule others behind their backs. For the homosexual who longs for religious experiences and feigns a “Christian testimony”, and for the boasters who seek to proclaim their own good deeds before others in order to fill themselves with their pride. These are the goats among the sheep who live lives of hypocrisy and drag down the name of Christ and His Church by their actions and words.

The true Christian does not focus on these things – not for long anyway. God works on them individually, transforming their lives and separating them from their besetting sins, whatever they may be. They are wholly forgiven, eternaly secure sinners who are seeking the final transformation that comes upon either death or Jesus’ return, when they will be stripped of their old bodies and their old hearts and be clothed instead in glorious new bodies who have neither the desire nor the capacity to sin against God. That, for the Christian, is the end of our hope. That is the desire of every man, woman, and child who is wholly sold out to God. We are the beloved sons and daughters of the creator of the universe; purchased by our God through a bloody and horrible transaction that was also beautiful and awesome in its design and purpose. We understand that we bring nothing to the transaction, but are merely benefactors of a plan put into place long before time began, and as a result, we now use our transformed lives to bring the light of this glorious news to the world for all to see. Our “good works” are neither meritorious nor pure, but are acts of worship toward the God who has done so much for us.

“If, then, I believe on Jesus Christ’s name – that is, simply from my heart trust myself with the crucified, but now exalted, Redeemer, I am a member of the family of the Most High. Whatever else I may not have, if I have this, I have the privilege to become a child of God.”

– Charles Spurgeon, Morning & Evening, December 22

HT: Of First Importance

Search the ESV Bible


(e.g., John 1 or God's love)