Posted tagged ‘Conversion’

What No Ear Has Heard

October 3, 2011

The video below has gone viral, with over four million hits on YouTube.  You can read all about it here.  Sarah Churman, deaf for her entire life, hears her own voice for the fist time in 29 years after being given a hearing implant. I could not help after watching this video but think about the following verse:

“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those whom love Him” (1 Cor. 2:9).

These things, Paul goes on to say, have been revealed to us through the Spirit.   As amazing as it is to hear your own voice with your own ears (and it is truly amazing), just think of how much more amazing it is to have your ears opened to hear not your voice, but the voice of God!  And should such amazement not bring us to tears of joy and thrill our hearts all the more?

As we have been informed in Proverbs, “The hearing ear and the seeing eye, the Lord has made them both” (Prov. 20:12), and that applies both physically and spiritually.  Praise the Spirit of Him who has revealed to us what no ear as heard!

“In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted, but you have given me an open ear.” – Psalm 40:6

Faith is the consequence, not the cause, of the new birth.

February 27, 2010

John Piper (and John Stott) on 1 John 5:1 . . .

Post-Christian Culture and False Conversion

April 3, 2009

There are things that can be mistaken that have little to no consequence, but conversion is not one of them.  You can be mistaken by the color of your socks while getting ready in the morning.  You can be mistaken by how well your digestive system can process “authentic” Chinese and Mexican food.  You be mistaken by the person you saw across the department store that looks exactly like an old friend but turns out to be a total stranger.  We make mistakes all the time, don’t we?

Yet, the greatest mistake carrying the greatest consequence comes down to our (1) understanding of the gospel and (2) knowing how sinners are to respond to the gospel call.  The most haunting words in all of the Bible come from the mouth of Jesus near the conclusion of the greatest sermon ever preached.  He said this:

21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’” (Matthew 7:21-23)

(more…)

A Follow Up Question

January 25, 2009

Following up on my last question (I’m going somewhere with this), allow me to ask a follow-up question for your consideration as well:

“If there is no life in Christ apart from love for Christ, how does one come to have a love for Christ?”

Discuss. 🙂

A Question for Your Consideration

January 24, 2009

Question:

“Is it possible to have life in Christ without love for Christ?”

Please answer/discuss in the comments.

Paul Washer, Decisional Regeneration, and First Baptist Woodstock

November 21, 2008

Paul Washer doesn’t play around in preaching, nor does he live in shades of gray.

What is fascinating about Washer’s preaching is that it continually dominates the charts on SermonAudio and attracts thousands through YouTube videos (his “shocking” sermon has nearly 900,000 visitors) while at the same time is never asked to come back and preach at many of the churches he was previously invited.  But what really caught my attention is that Washer was invited to speak at Deeper Conference which was being held at First Baptist Church Woodstock where Johnny Hunt, president of the SBC, is senior pastor.  The Deeper Conference was put on by The Way of the Master guys who had done conferences at Woodstock in years past; nevertheless, the fact Paul Washer was going to preach in the pulpit of the church where the John 3:16 Conference was held–a pulpit that has been grasped by just about every anti-Calvinist in the SBC–is no small thing.

So what was Washer going to say?  Was he going to water down the message, go gray, play politics, etc.? Nope.  In fact, he took on the invitation system and the doctrine of decisional regeneration behind it, showing the folly and unbiblical nature of them.  I can remember sitting through Bailey Smith “Real Evangelism” Conferences in years past shrinking in the pew when preacher after preacher would scoff and ridicule the doctrines of grace and often manipulate people into praying the sinner’s prayer. I cannot help but think that all the stagecraft of years past was exposed on the very platform on which it has been practiced.

To download Washer’s sermon from the Deeper Conference click here (you will need to submit your email address to download it).  Below is the sermon at Woodstock in its entirety (1hr 7min).

Related Articles:

The Sound of HeartCry Missionary Society
Reducing the Need for Church Discipline by Paul Washer (Part 1)
Reducing the Need for Church Discipline by Paul Washer (Part 2)
Missions and the Miracle of Conversion by Paul Washer
Evidences of the Miracle of Conversion by Paul Washer (Part 1)
Evidences of the Miracle of Conversion by Paul Washer (Part 2)

Paul Helm on Word and Spirit in Conversion

November 1, 2007

Paul Helm has posted on his blog an important article entitled “Word and Spirit in Conversion” (incidentally something I have been studying in regards to pneumatological inclusivism). He explains, “In this paper I should like to explore the moral side to conversion and to set out two models of this aspect of conversion which have been widely influential in the history of the Christian church but which, as I shall argue, are at fundamental odds with each other.” What is particularly crucial is how Helm lays out a clear disparity between these two models of justification, viz. justification as inherent righteousness and forensic justification. Here is Helm’s conclusion (emphasis mine):

A widespread current view is that the Reformation conflicts over the nature of justification are now chiefly of historical interest. So Alister McGrath:

On the basis of the above analysis, it will be clear that, there exist real differences between Protestants and Roman Catholics over the matter of justification. The question remains however, as to the significance of these differences. How important, for example, is the distinction between an alien and an intrinsic justifying righteousness? In recent years, there appears to be an increasing sympathy for the view that these differences, although important at the Reformation period, no longer possess the significance they once had.

I happen to think that this view is profoundly wrong. And that, as someone has said, justification is ‘the main hinge on which religion turns’. Important differences about important matters should not be labelled [sic] ‘insignificant’ and then moved off stage. There are still mountains between Geneva and Rome, or rather between the view of justification by an intrinsic righteousness, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant, and justification by an alien righteousness. These mountains continue to impede the achieving of a common mind on the fundamentals of the Christian gospel. But even if you do not share this conviction of mine, but rather agree with Alister McGrath, you may nonetheless be persuaded, by what we have discussed, that although such differences may no longer be of much theological significance, they are nevertheless of considerable ethical importance, and that one feature of this importance is that they profoundly influence views of the place and the character of word and spirit in conversion.

The Pelagian System of Decisional Regeneration Detrimental to Evangelism, Says Packer

October 25, 2007

More from my studies of Finney, this time from Packer in his “zinger” days of old. Below are three quotes from his book A Quest for Godliness: The Puritan View of the Christian Life (Crossway, 1990). Anyone see a relationship here between decisional regeneration and unregenerate church membership? Of Finney, Iain Murray argues, “The new teaching, by putting its emphasis on instant action taken by an individual following the evangelist’s appeal and not upon a changed life, inevitably lowered standards of membership in evangelical churches and so encouraged an acceptance of worldliness among professing Christians” (Pentecost Today? The Biblical Basis for Understanding Revival, 51). I think Packer agrees. 😉

“While acknowledging—indeed, insisting on—universal depravity in the sense of a constant inclination to sin, he was a clear-headed and forthright Pelagian in his emphatic declarations that everyone is naturally able to turn whole-heartedly to God once he or she is convinced that that is the right, proper, and needful thing to do.” (293)

“If Finney’s doctrine is rejected, such methods are inappropriate to a degree, and actually detrimental to the real work of evangelism. It may be said that results justify their use; but the truth is that most of Finney’s ‘converts’ backslid and fell away, as, so it seems, did the majority of those since Finney’s day whose ‘decision’ was secured by these means.” (294)

“If one tells people that they are under obligation to receive Christ on the spot, and calls in God’s name for instant decision, some who are spiritually unprepared will come forward, accept directions, ‘go through the motions,’ and go away thinking they have received Christ, when in reality they have not done so because they were not yet able to do so. So a crop of false conversions result from these tactics in the nature of the case. Bullying for ‘decisions’ can actually impede and thwart the work of the Holy Spirit in human hearts. When the evangelist takes it on himself to try to pick the fruit before it is ripe, the result is regularly false conversions and hardenings. ‘Quick sake’ techniques in evangelism always tend to boomerang in this way; their long-term effect is regularly barrenness. . . . Finneyism, which seeks to break up the fallow ground, issues rather in a scorching of the earth, a state of diminished rather than enhanced responsiveness to the gospel.” (299-300)

The Glorious Work of Redemption

October 18, 2007

In his Thoughts on the New England Revival: Vindicating the Great Awakening, Jonathan Edwards shares how the work of redemption is “the most glorious work of God whatseover.”  Edwards writes,

“It is the work of redemption (the great end of all other works of God, and of which the work of creation was but a shadow) in the event, success and end of it.  It is the work of new creation, that is infinitely more glorious than the old.  I am bold to say that the work of God in the conversion of one soul considered together with the source, foundation and purchase of it and also the benefit, end and eternal issue of it, is a more glorious work of God than the creation of the whole material universe.  It is the most glorious of God’s works, as it above all others manifests the glory of God.  It is spoken of in Scripture as that which shows the exceeding greatness of God’s power, and the glory and riches of divine grace,  and wherein Christ has the most glorious triumph over his enemies, and wherein God is mightily exalted: and it is a work above all others glorious, as it concerns the happiness of mankind; more happiness and a greater benefit to man is the fruit of each single drop of such a shower than all the temporal good of the most happy revolution in a land or nation amounts to, or all that a people could gain by the conquest of the world.”

– Jonathan Edwards, Thoughts on the New England Revival: Vindicating the Great Awakening (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 2005), 62-63.

That is a meaty paragraph to chew on!  Should meditating on such a thought not cause us to desire to spend every waking moment of our lives experiencing and being a part of such a glorious work?  More than the whole material universe is the glory of conversion of one soul.  Greater than the conquest of the world is one single drop the happiness wrought in the work of redemption.  Has such glories enraptured our affections?

Elemental Evangelism, Part 3

October 12, 2007

[Part one and part two]

After having presented the truths of the gospel, the next two elements necessarily follow, viz. being confrontational and pastoral.

5.  Confrontational

Saving faith has historically been understood to carry three aspects: notitia (knowledge), assensus (assent), and fiducia (trust).  What doctrinal evangelism through a biblical theological approach does is provide a healthy and rich dose of gospel truths to the minds of unbelievers.  Two things I should mention here.  There is no such thing as blind faith.  God has given us a revelation that is both personal and propositional.  Sinners put their faith into the truths they understand, the God who is real and has disclosed Himself to them (revelation) through Scripture (the written Word) and Jesus Christ (Living Word).  Secondly, faith is not merely the intellectual acquisition (knowledge) or even agreement of the truths (assent); rather, saving faith is an attitude of dependence and act of trust where we appropriate the truths we have come to understand and agree.  Simply put, we make them our own.

It is here where I call my unbelieving friends to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.  I remind them that they are no better off for simply having heard the good news of Jesus Christ.  It must become good news for them.  The question Jesus asked in his day, “Who do you say that I am?” is a question everyone must come to terms with, for God is calling all men everywhere to repent.   There were many who followed Jesus for the miracles he could offer or the amazing sermons he could deliver, but only few counted the cost to take up their cross and follow Jesus.  This accounting is nothing short of declaring “Jesus is Lord” and experiencing that truth in our hearts and lives.  It is an emphatic “YES” to everything that God is for us in His Son Jesus Christ.

6.  Pastoral 

The Puritans often called the work of a minister as a “physician of the soul.”  When dealing with a sinner under conviction who has been confronted with their need to trust in Jesus, knowing how to address an illumined mind, wounded conscience, and broken heart is crucial.  I want to press the law to expose their need for alien righteousness (that is, from Christ) and appeal to the promises of the gospel that Jesus will not cast out any that will come to Him.  Knowing that the Shepherd will call out His sheep, my goal is to put as much Scripture before them as possible, confident that, as they hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, those who are called will follow.

One of the most difficult challenges I see at the point of decision is to not manipulate a sinner or try to force a decision by praying a prayer or any other superficial means.  It is tempting to deal lightly with sinners by providing them a false sense of security, that after a prayer or whatever, we quickly say “Welcome to the family of God!”  The fact is, I don’t know whether at that moment true conversion had taken place, for only God knows their hearts.  If the Spirit has regenerated a sinner to new life where they in turn trust Jesus and turn from their sin, the fruit of that will become evident, but it is not my place to make any priestly pronouncement or appease their consciences.  No one would trust a physician who treats cancer patients with Scooby-Doo bandaids.  The truth is that the soul of my friend is before me, and the way I handle the gospel and counsel them pastorally has eternal significance.

Lastly, I understand that when a person who I shared the gospel with becomes a Christian, I am personally responsible to help them grow in Christ.  Conversion isn’t the end but the beginning.  These friends who have watched me live, pray, read my Bible, and witness with others will come alongside me and will do it together.  Paul had much to say about being spiritual fathers and mothers to new Christians who are infants in Christ.  We cannot expect new Christians to be as mature or sanctified as those who have walked with Christ for years.  Therefore, being pastoral in leading them to Christ as well as caring for their spiritual growth should be the natural implications of evangelism and desire of our hearts.  To the Thessalonians, Paul stated that he desired to share not only the gospel of God but also his entire life because they had become so dear to him (1 Thess. 2:8).  To the Philippians, he speaks how he longs for them with the affection of Christ Jesus (Phil. 1:8) .  To the Galatians, he said that he was who was spiritual in labor until Christ was formed in them (Gal. 4:19).  To the Corinthians, he stated that he became a father to them through the gospel (1 Cor. 4:15).  Here is a man, an evangelist who understood that evangelism means much more than making converts.  It means making disciples–a task that will require giving our lives for years to come.  It is a task where the gospel is central in constant in our conversations in winning them to Christ and also in seeing them grow in Christ.   Indeed, the need to be confrontational and pastoral is at the heart of the Great Commission.

Concluding this short series, I will mention the last element – doxological.