Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Marks Of A True Conversion

The following is excerpts from a sermon by George Whitefield. It can be read in its entirety here.

Matthew 18:3 — “Verily, I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

I suppose I may take it for granted, that all of you, among whom I am now about to preach the kingdom of God, are fully convinced, that it is appointed for all men once to die, and that ye all really believe that after death comes the judgment, and that the consequences of that judgment will be, that ye must be doomed to dwell in the blackness of darkness, or ascend to dwell with the blessed God, for ever and ever. I may take it for granted also, that whatever your practice in common life may be, there is not one, though ever so profligate and abandoned, but hopes to go to that place, which the scriptures call Heaven, when he dies. And, I think, if I know any thing of mine own heart, my heart's desire, as well as my prayer to God, for you all, is, that I may see you sitting down in the kingdom of our heavenly Father. But then, though we all hope to go to heaven when we die, yet, if we may judge by people's lives, and our Lord says, “that by their fruits we may know them,” I am afraid it will be found, that thousands, and ten thousands, who hope to go to this blessed place after death, are not now in the way to it while they live. Though we call ourselves Christians, and would consider it as an affront put upon us, for any one to doubt whether we were Christians or not; yet there are a great many, who bear the name of Christ, that yet do not so much as know what real Christianity is. Hence it is, that if you ask a great many, upon what their hopes of heaven are founded, they will tell you, that they belong to this, or that, or the other denomination, and part of Christians, into which Christendom is now unhappily divided. If you ask others, upon what foundation they have built their hope of heaven, they will tell you, that they have been baptized, that their fathers and mothers, presented them to the Lord Jesus Christ in their infancy; and though, instead of fighting under Christ's banner, they have been fighting against him, almost ever since they were baptized, yet because they have been admitted to church, and their names are in the Register book of the parish, therefore they will make us believe, that their names are also written in the book of life. But a great many, who will not build their hopes of salvation upon such a sorry rotten foundation as this, yet if they are, what we generally call, negatively good people; if they live so as their neighbors cannot say that they do anybody harm, they do not doubt but they shall be happy when they die; nay, I have found many such die, as the scripture speaks, “without any hands in their death.” And if a person is what the world calls an honest moral man, if he does justly, and, what the world calls, love a little mercy, is not and then good-natured, reacheth out his hand to the poor, receives the sacrament once or twice a year, and is outwardly sober and honest; the world looks upon such an one as a Christian indeed, and doubtless we are to judge charitably of every such person. There are many likewise, who go on in a round of duties, a model of performances, that think they shall go to heaven; but if you examine them, though they have a Christ in their heads, they have no Christ in their hearts.

Are ye converted? Are ye become like little children? Then what must ye do? My dear hearers, be obedient to God, remember God is your father; and as every one of you must know what a dreadful cross it is to have a wicked, disobedient child; if ye do not want your children to be disobedient to you, for Christ's sake be not disobedient to your heavenly parent. If God be your father, obey him: if God be your father, serve him; love him with all your heart, love him with all your might, with all your soul, and with all your strength. If God be your father, fly from everything that may displease him; and walk worthy of that God, who has called you to his kingdom and glory. If ye are converted and become like little children, then behave as little children: they long for the breast, and with it will be contented. Are ye new-born babes? Then desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby. I do not want that Arminian husks should go down with you; ye are kings sons and daughters, and have a more refined taste; you must have the doctrines of grace; and blessed be God that you dwell in a country, where the sincere word is so plainly preached. Are ye children? Then grow in grace, and in the knowledge of your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Have any of you children that do not grow? Do not ye lament these children, and cry over them; do not ye say, my child will never be fit for anything in the world? Well, doth it grieve you to see a child that will not grow; how much must it grieve the heart of Christ to see you grow so little? Will ye be always children? Will ye be always learning the first principles of Christianity, and never press forward toward the mark, for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus? God forbid. Let the language of your heart be, “Lord Jesus help me to grow, help me to learn more, learn me to live so as my progress may be known to all!”

But I only mention one thing more, and that is, if ye are converted, and become as little children, then for God's sake take care of doing what children often do; they are too apt to quarrel one with another. O love one another; “he that dwells in love dwells in God, and God in him.” Joseph knew that his brethren were in danger of falling out, therefore when he left them, says he, “fall not out by the way.” Ye are all children of the same Father, ye are all going to the same place; why should ye differ? The world has enough against us, the devil has enough against us, without our quarreling with each other; O walk in love. If I could preach no more, if I was not able to hold out to the end of my sermon, I would say as John did, when he was grown old and could not preach, “Little children, love one another:” if ye are God's children, then love one another. There is nothing grieves me more, than the differences amongst God's people. O hasten that time, when we shall either go to heaven, or never quarrel any more!

My dear friends, there is a great deal more implied in the words, than is expressed: when Christ says, “Ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven,” it is as much to say, “ye shall certainly go to hell, ye shall certainly be damned, and dwell in the blackness of darkness for ever, ye shall go where the worm dies not, and where the fire is not quenched.” The Lord God impress it upon your souls! May an arrow (as one lately wrote me in a letter) dipped in the blood of Christ, reach every unconverted sinner's heart! May God fulfill the text to every one of your souls! It is he alone that can do it. If ye confess your sins, and leave them, and lay hold on the Lord Jesus Christ, the Spirit of God shall be given you; if you will go and say, turn me, O my God! Thou knowest not, O man, what the return of God may be to thee.

Precious souls, for God's sake think what will become of you when ye die, if you die without being converted; if ye go hence without the wedding garment, God will strike you speechless, and ye shall be banished from his presence for ever and ever. I know ye cannot dwell with everlasting burnings; behold then I show you a way of escape; Jesus is the way, Jesus is the truth, the Lord Jesus Christ is the resurrection and the live. It is his Spirit must convert you, come to Christ, and ye shall have it; and may God for Christ's sake give it to you all, and convert you, that we may all meet, never to part again, in his heavenly kingdom; even so Lord Jesus, Amen and Amen.

"There are many likewise, who go on in a round of duties, a model of performances, that think they shall go to heaven; but if you examine them, though they have a Christ in their heads, they have no Christ in their hearts."
There are many people like this filling the pews of many churches today. Knowledge of God does not save your soul. Going to church does not get you entrance in to heaven. Simply "believing" in God is not enough. Having Christian parents is not enough. Being born in a Christian nation is not enough. Being baptized as an infant does not get you to heaven. "You must be born again". Confess your sins. have faith in the blood of Jesus and His death and resurrection. Repent (turn away) from your sins and make Jesus Lord of yur life. True "life" is found when you serve the Lord Jesus Christ. God loves everyone, but if you are not Born Again you are under His wrath. Everyone WILL stand before Him one day. Hell is real and if you are not Born Again, and on your way to Heaven, then you are headed for Hell. There is no in between!

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1 comment:

Mason said...

Greetings. I came across your blog by chance awhile back and I've been reading it ever since. The following is a recent post of mine.

"As Christians, we often say that we have a relationship with Christ, rather than a religion. After attending a recent evangelistic event, I couldn’t help but feel that we pay lip service to this idea but often don’t actually live out our faith this way. The speaker at the event spent most of his time on stage turning out tired clichés to “share the gospel.” He even finished his time with an altar call for people to come forward to sign themselves up on the “saved” list rather than stay on the “lost” list.

Most of the 7,000 people in the crowd didn’t seem to have any issue with this style of presentation. In fact, many of them applauded when people responded to the call. Now, I concede that some people may enter into a relationship with Christ this way, and I understand that this style may be the final step of a long spiritual journey. However, I can’t help but feel we are doing a great disservice to new believers when we present such a simplistic version of our faith. Black and white. In and out.

After all, when are real relationships this unambiguous? I think of my relationship with my wife and the first time we told each other that we loved each other. Sometime between our first date and our declaration, we fell in love with each other. Our declaration was a proclamation of something that had already taken place. It’s not like we only fell in love with each other after we uttered the words. Our feelings changed so slowly that we didn’t notice it happen and one day we looked back and realized that our feelings had changed from affection to love. It was a slow process that took time; even now, when I reflect on our relationship, I can’t think of a single moment where I was suddenly “in love” with my wife.

I believe our faith is much the same. I don’t think it’s so straightforward that we can say that one-minute we have a relationship with Christ and the other we didn’t. True relationships take time, energy, and are filled with a lot of grays, not blacks and whites. In fact, the only relationships I’ve seen function in these kinds of absolutes were back in Junior High, and I can’t think of a single one of those relationships still in place today.

I believe we are presenting a faith relationship with Christ in this way when we try to “save” someone the way the speaker did at this event. I believe a healthier way of looking at relationships and salvation is to think of it as a slow process. A process that has no clear start and only becomes apparent when someone looks back on their life and sees that something has changed. In this way, a relationship is developing a deep connection that will last the test of time. I believe anything else would be short-changing the mystery of a personal relationship with Christ, and possibly even salvation.

Your thoughts?"