Some of us learned at a very early age that Math was not our strong suit. It happened when we came to the unit in our studies about converting fractions into decimals, and vice versa. Minds were boggled as we tried to understand how "one-half" could also be written as a five with a dot in front of it, or how the number 75 with a dot in front of it was the same as "three-fourths"! And most bizarre of all were the repeating decimals. A dot in front of an infinite string of numeral threes equals one-third! OK teacher, whatever you say!
Perhaps we can take comfort in this: whether those quantities are written as fractions with numerators and denominators, or as decimal equivalents, the values remain the same! One can choose whichever form he finds easier to work with for the task at hand, and still get the job done.
In the spiritual realm, true conversion is much different. When a genuine conversion to the Christian faith occurs, the change in value of the thing converted, namely a human soul, is profound and eternal.
In this five part study, we are asking and answering the question, "How Does True Conversion to Christianity Take Place?" In the gospel according to Matthew chapter 18 the Lord Jesus said to His disciples, "Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven." Therefore anyone who hopes to enter heaven should learn well what conversion means.
Thus far, we have seen that every person is desperately in need of conversion because of the sorry state of the human race. By nature we are dead in trespasses and sins, alienated from God, under His wrath, corrupt and lost. We have also seen that true conversion, like raising the dead, is something only God Himself can do. God gives sinners new life and CALLS them to Himself, just as He called the universe into being by the word of His power. The call of God has an outward and inward aspect. The outward aspect is the preaching of the Gospel message, that seed by which new life comes. The inward aspect comes to those whom God has appointed to everlasting life. Those who hear God's call repent of their sin and come humbly to God for salvation. If you hear the call of God today, don't despise it. Respond by calling back! Call upon the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. He will by no means cast out the one who comes to Him.
A converted person not only repents of sin, but exercises faith in the Lord. He learns to put his confidence in Him, to trust Him for eternal salvation as well as lesser things involving life in this world. James provides a good example of Biblical faith.
There are several men in the New Testament with the name James. This is not surprising, because it is the Greek form of the Old Testament name Jacob. Two of the men in the New Testament with this name are among the twelve apostles: James the brother of John, and James the son of Alphaeus. Another is James the brother of Jesus Christ. Yes, Mary the mother of Jesus had other children; Jesus Christ had both brothers and sisters, as we read in Mark 6:3 -
"Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?"
And in John 7:5, the Gospel writer tells us"... For even His brothers did not believe in Him.
In fact, the Gospels tell of the occasion when Jesus was told that His mother and brothers were seeking Him. Jesus responded by saying that whoever does the will of His heavenly Father is to Him a brother, a sister or a mother. Holy Spirit inspired Gospel writer Mark tells us WHY His natural mother and brothers were looking for Jesus. When his people heard about His appointing of twelve apostles, and all the attention swirling around Him, they went to "...lay hold of Him, for they said, `He is out of His mind'."
We know that for at least one of these natural brothers of Jesus, a great transformation took place. He went from doubting his brother Jesus and wanting to take Him away as an insane person, to believing in Him as Lord and Savior. James the brother of Jesus was converted, and even came to be numbered with the other apostles, as Paul writes in Galatians 1:19 -
"But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord's brother."
Here is man who was truly converted. He went from being an unbeliever to being counted as a peer of the very hand picked apostles of Jesus.
The mighty power of the resurrection of Jesus Christ figured prominently in this conversion transformation that James experienced. Between His resurrection and His ascension to His Father's right hand, over a period of forty days, Jesus repeatedly appeared to many people. In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul describes the various appearances of the resurrected Christ. Paul writes that among His earliest resurrection appearances was His appearance to the twelve. That would have included James the brother of John and James the son of Alphaeus. Paul goes to say that after appearing to 500 other people at one time, he appeared to James. This James was his brother. The risen Jesus appeared to his brother according to the flesh.
James' conversion came with faith. This James is likely the writer of the epistle of James, in which we find words about a robust faith that demonstrates itself by works. Faith without works is dead, says James. Yet, he himself had once doubted the One in whom he now had faith. This is because he was truly converted. He repented of unbelief and found faith. He heard God's call. He recognized that in himself and in the sin cursed world around him there was no hope.
The Gospel presents a call to faith to all who hear it. It displays Jesus as the Savior Who died on the cross, fully satisfying Divine justice for sins. He was buried, showing that He carried sins far away, never to be remembered against His people again. His glorious resurrection was far greater than the resurrection of Lazarus or any others than even Jesus Himself raised, for His resurrection was the resurrection that destroyed death's power forever. His resurrection was proof that God's justice was indeed fully satisfied...death could no longer hold the One Who had paid in full!
Lifted up to you today by way of this radio program is this loving Savior. This message calls you to put all your confidence in Him. He says that He will by no means cast out the one who comes to Him. Turn from your sin, but not only that, have a vibrant faith in Jesus: faith that He fully paid for YOUR sins, faith that He is able to save YOU, faith that He is exactly Who He claims to be, the eternal Son of God and the only Savior of the world. Will you put your faith in Him today?
Like repentance, faith is foundational to conversion, as we read in Hebrews 6:1 Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God.
In our next session, we will consider where we goes from repentance and faith. Well, perhaps a sneak preview is in order. Although there is a foundational repentance, and a foundational faith as per the verse just quoted, there is also a deepening repentance and a growing faith. The Christian convert is a person who is learning to always turn away from evil, and to identify and hate it more and more. He is someone who, in view of his Savior's great, eternal love is learning to love God and desire to please Him more and more...and without faith it is impossible to please God. So although we are commanded to leave the foundational faith and repentance, in another sense faith and repentance stay with God's saints all through this life on earth...until they attain to heaven where faith turns to sight and where repentance is swallowed up, there being no longer even the slightest blemish of sin troubling the redeemed soul.
This glorious eternal heaven is the destiny, not of those who merely change their outward customs, learn new religious jargon, and enter a new social context, as if they were changing their clothing. This place of unending joy, worshiping before the face of God, is the destiny of those truly converted by the power of God, the Gospel of Jesus Christ our Lord!
Go to Session Five, True Conversion
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