One of the grave dangers of our age is false conversions to Christ. I think the major contributing factor to this is the failure to discriminate between different kinds of conversion. Here is what I mean.
There are those who become convinced of the intellectual viability of the Gospel. They look around them and see creation. Common sense tells them that it didn’t just happen, no matter what pseudo science says. They also are somewhat honest with themselves and admit that they have human faults and moral failures. Under the ministry of the word they “decide” to try Christ and hope for the best. They go forward during an evangelistic meeting, dutifully pray the words the evangelist tells them to pray, and consider that action the culmination of their salvation. If they are in a group with a mildly Calvinistic bent they are told that they can never be lost again and so they go on their way satisfied that they have done what they could, and if the teaching about Christ finally proves to be true, then all will be well because they have “prayed the prayer.” Their conversion has no discernible influence on their lifestyle and many of these people go through life without another thought on the subject. If doubtful thoughts ever do enter their minds they dismiss them immediately with the assurance of “once saved always saved.” These people are the victims of an intellectual conversion that has nothing to do with the a supernatural true conversion.
Another kind of conversion happens when people are brought under deep emotional stress. It may be the emotional stress of a broken relationship, or a physical tragedy or it might simply be the overwhelming power of someone else’s personality. Feelings are very real. When these people sit under a strong personality who tells them that Christ came to solve all their problems, that he died so they could be happy, they hopefully plunge into a profession of faith thinking that now all their problems will be solved. How many people have rushed through the front doors of religion only to bitterly slink back into the world when the promises didn’t come true.
Others are converted emotionally when they are carried away by the music or stirred by stories that melt their hearts, or are overcome by the lights and the chants and the beat of the drums. They want to join this happy band marching toward heaven and be a part of what is so stimulating and encouraging. But once again, when the lights go out, the music is silenced and the preacher’s stories are forgotten, the “convert” finds himself in the exactly same place he was in before, empty and with a faint sense of having been hoodwinked.
True conversion is something of a completely different order from what I have described above. First it is spiritual not just mental or emotional. “Spiritual” is absolutely foreign to human consciousness. John 3:27 says,”…a man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven.” Jesus said to Nicodemus, “. . . Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.”
The heart of a man is dark spiritually. He is natural. He is flesh. His spiritual nature is slumbering in death. It takes a word from above. It takes an impartation of life from God, to give any human being spiritual reality or spiritual life. With that life comes a self consciousness full of guilt and shame before God. It is like a man standing on a round stage, surrounded by a mass of people who suddenly realizes he is naked. The spotlight is streaming down on him. His shame grows until it is unbearable. It is not just his nakedness but his filth, his sin is exposed as well. In the agony of conviction this same man hears his name called with authority. The Spirit of God tells him to look to the cross. As his attention shifts from his own exposure to the cross of Calvary, He sees another naked man dying in infinite pain. The Gospel tells him that the dying of that man is sufficient to take away all of his guilt before God, and he believes it. The Gospel tells him that the man on the cross has carried all his shame before God, and he believes it. The Gospel tells him that all of his naked shame can be covered in the robe of righteousness that belongs to the dying man. As he rests in the finished work of Christ, he feels the righteousness of Christ like a robe, covering him and he senses in his heart that he has been made clean. He looks again at the cross but the scene has changed. There, sitting at the right hand of God is that now resurrected Christ, showing the Father the name of the sinner engrafted on his hands and heart. This dead sinner has been brought to spiritual life and he is changed forever more.
My friend the question comes. What kind of conversion do you have? Intellectual? Emotional, or spiritual? “If any man be in Christ he is a new creation, old things have passed away and all things have become new” (2Cor. 5:17).