SIN, TRUE AND FALSE CONVERSION, AND BABY CHRISTIANS

There are a vast number of people who, instead of making Jesus Christ their standard and just obeying the Bible because it is the Spirit-inspired Word of God, only aim to keep up a respectable religious front for others. Instead of seriously asking themselves what the Lord and His Word require, they tend to look at the status quo professing church member and imitate them. They do that which is outwardly respectable, but not what is inwardly right, true, and holy according to God’s Word.

Standing beside each other a true convert and a sinner will talk and act differently, but a true convert and a false convert can look similar. The Bible says there can be quite a few outward similarities between them. It tells us that an unsaved “religious” man (false convert) can be strictly moral and seem prayerful in his outward life (Mt. 23:8) (Mk.12:40); zealous in religion (Mt.23:15); and even conscientious in doing what is expected of him (Mt. 23:23).

A false convert can also be making efforts to gain converts and give money for the work of religion (1 Cor. 13:3; Mt.23:15; Lk. 18:12). But none of these things are necessarily fool proof signs that he has definitely been converted.

Remember that the false convert is not a Christ rejecter. He stands beside you in the midst of the congregation or he could be a member of another congregation. What he has done is merely change his means of serving himself, from the secular to the religious. Either way, he is still serving himself. Unlike a false convert, a “baby” Christian being young in the Lord is selfish at first, but the love of God is now shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost (Rom. 5:5), and his motive to live unselfishly for the Lord has been planted there. He only needs to grow.

“And He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:15).

In God’s sight it is the heart that determines whether he is a true Christian or not. We can’t judge someone’s heart, but we can judge the fruit of his life. But if the heart is wrong, everything else is wrong, no matter what is done outwardly. Either your heart is set on serving Christ supremely or it is set on serving yourself supremely. You either belong to God or you do not.

But the most basic and fundamental message of the gospel is that Jesus came to save us from our sins. The message to forsake our sins is not optional; it is an absolute necessity. It is as simple and clear as, “Surrender your will and live. Rebel and die.” No honest Bible scholar could justify the salvation of a man who still lives in sin. No definition of a Christian, that allows fellowship with sin and cost God His Son and Christ His life, comes from the Holy Spirit of God. He that practices sin has not been born of God.

“Whoever has been born of God does not (practice) sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot (practice) sin, because he has been born of God” (1 Jn. 3:9).

What about “baby” Christians? Don’t they sin? As a new convert I remember  sitting at a racquetball club after a workout and having a beer. My mentors, a young Christian couple, walked into the club at that time and later told me how disappointed they were in me. I had no knowledge of wrongdoing. If a “baby” Christian does not know that what he is doing is wrong, to him it is not sin. I was not drinking to get drunk, but enjoying a beer after a workout. In God’s eyes I was innocent.

If a “baby” Christian sins ignorantly, it is not reckoned as sin; if he sins knowingly, it is sin (Jas. 4:17).

My point is this: Although a “baby’’ Christian needs to grow spiritually his “growing” is not from partial repentance to then a commitment to complete repentance. All true converts who have come to genuine faith and repentance have forsaken all known sin, and are not knowingly living in sin. They have surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus and their will is bent toward serving Him. They just need to “grow” now as they receive more light from the Word of God and discipline new areas of their lives that the Holy Spirit reveals to them.

If a “baby” Christian is struggling with areas of the flesh and wants to be set free and made right, then we are to instruct them and help them and work through with them in these areas. Once I was instructed and knew that drinking beer did not provide for a godly Christian witness and could be a stumbling block to others I immediately stopped and have not even had so much as a sip of beer since them. As a young believer and disciple of Jesus it was far more important to me to please the Lord than to please my friends or look respectable in the eyes of the world.

The problem has been that there are so many professing “Christians” in churches today who are living in adultery, fornication, homosexuality, addicted to pornography, drinking, smoking weed, are gossipers, slanderers, criticizing other Christians etc. and nothing is being said or done about it.

We are called by Scripture to teach, exhort, and rebuke in these areas. We are called to confront such ones who are living intentionally in sin, and with meekness instruct them as a means of bringing them to repentance (Mt. 18:15-17) (Gal. 6:1). If they refuse, we are called to take one or two others with us and confront them again. If they refuse again, we are to tell the church and break fellowship with them and/or turn their flesh over to Satan for destruction so their spirits might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus (1 Cor. 5).

If more Christian pastors and leaders were thorough in following through with these steps we would have a far purer and more powerful church.

That’s what love would do.

 

 

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FALSE CONVERTS AND FASHIONABLE CHRISTIANS

If you are walking in willful disobedience to God’s Word, if the consistent pattern of your life is the practice of sin and the deeds of the sinful nature that Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, Galatians 5:19-21, and Ephesians 5:3-7, then you must question your salvation.

Any teaching that opens the door to false assurance and loose living is not from God.

A wave of watered-down and milquetoast “Churchianity” has flooded the church world. A non-confrontational gospel has failed miserably to deal with sin and repentance. We have forgotten that the central message of the gospel is that Jesus came to save us from our sins (Mt. 1:21), not in our sins. He didn’t just come to forgive us of our sins, but to free us from our sins. This is one of the most tragic fundamental errors we have made in our contemporary gospel, and it largely explains the degradation in our society today. A weak church has opened the way for the devil’s onslaught.

Not only has our gospel been watered down, but the themes of holiness and sanctification in the church are hardly ever mentioned. As a matter of fact, there’s been a diabolical silence on it as the “I’m okay, you’re okay-once saved, always saved” mantra  gains popularity”. And all at the expense of the many urgent appeals of New Testament writers to warn the early saints of the dangers of deception (1 Cor. 6:9), falling back (2 Pet. 3:17), drifting (Heb. 2:1), stumbling (1 Pet. 1:10), changing the grace of God into a license for immorality (Jude 4), and giving heed to seducing doctrines of demons (1 Tim. 4:1).  The church world is fast adrift into an “easy believism” salvation void of His Lordship that Christ would not recognize today.

Men who profess Christ are not meeting God’s own conditions for true conversion. “Christian” is almost a meaningless word to the masses today, because so many believe they are Christians, when in fact, they are not. And sadly, there are very few voices today strong enough to change that and stir the church and shake the world.

It has been estimated that over half a million were converted to God as a direct result of Charles G. Finney’s ministry in the 1800s, and that by a conservative estimate over 80% remained true to Christ to the day of their death, without backsliding or falling by the wayside. Figures are nowhere near that today.

“Examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith… prove your own selves.” (2 Cor. 13:5).

Only the dishonest fear the truth. If your faith is real, it will stand any thorough examination. If it is false, God knows it and you shall know it, too. Please do something about it before you go out into eternity.

Christian, God’s question to you is not, “What are you doing?” but, “Why are you doing it?” It is possible to look exactly like a true Christian in every outward detail, but for a fundamentally different reason. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. Other professing Christians judge you by the ways and means you live out your life, but God looks at the reason and purpose for which you are living (Mt. 6). Almost any means of Christian service can be counterfeited by a deceived person, but unless there has been a change of heart, or ultimate purpose, nothing you do is really true.

So a person may believe that Christ came to save sinners, and on that ground may submit to be saved for his own safety, without submitting to His Lordship. His submission is only on the selfish condition that he will be happier. It is never with that unreserved trust in God’s character and love for the complete will of God. And in large part, this is what we have come to today: Christianity is a religion of happiness and prosperity. But that is not the gospel, dear ones.

The false convert obeys God, not because he loves Him, but only because he hopes to get something good out of it for himself. The true child of God delights in doing God’s will. When love for Christ and the gospel is central, there is no weariness or struggle in serving the Lord. It is your delight! His commandments are not grievous. (I Jn. 5:3; Mt. 11:30; 23:4; Lk. 11:46) Do you enjoy Christianity or do you serve God basically only for what He can do for you?

A true convert loves the word of the Lord. He loves hard truth. He loves to hear about being holy, fearing the Lord, denying yourself, and taking up your cross and following Jesus. He is not the least bit offended by those themes.

The false convert never enjoys hearing those type of messages.

Christ’s words commanding supreme love of His followers over all other earthly loves have no meaning to the false convert. They do not supremely love Him. They love themselves, and everything connected with their own happiness (Matt. 6:33; 22:36-40; 10:37-39; Lk. 14:25-26).

We have a radically defective Christianity today. It is not an exaggeration nor unloving to say that these aforementioned descriptions of false conversion seem to fit a very large majority in the church.It differs from Christianity as much as the Pharisees differed from Christ, or as much as true faith and love differs from fear and legalism.

Now, let me ask you another question. Is Christ the center of your life, or are you trying to fit Him in for your own happiness?

The problem has been that it has become quite fashionable today to take Jesus as your Savior, but not as your Lord as if He is somehow divided. However, if you do a study on the word “Lord” you will find it listed more than 400 times in the N.T. as opposed to Savior, which only appears 15 times. The N.T. calls Him our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. His Lordship always has preeminence. To our own detriment, preachers today have subtly excused His Lordship by saying things such as, “sinners just need to take Jesus as their Savior”, as if His Lordship is optional or something you do later on when you become a stronger Christian. Once again, that is not the gospel.

“We have developed this philosophy in order to come up with an answer to the strange contradiction between a self-pleasing, self-centered person who claims the name “Christian” but who bears no resemblance to the Savior they profess to love. It’s been an easy way to distinguish between an “effective” Christian who lives like his Lord, and the “believer” who seems no different than his pagan neighbor. One has made Christ his Savior and believed Him for salvation, but has not yet made Him Lord that He might use this person for service. The common thought has been that this nominal “Christian” may partly serve God while at the same time partly living in sin. His ticket to heaven is guaranteed; his discipleship is optional. It appears by this that a man can be saved, but not surrendered to Christ; following Him, but still serving himself.” — Paraphrased quote from Charles G. Finney

Friends, that is not the gospel! This line of thinking is at the root of all the church’s problems today.

Maybe it is time to face the hard truth. The real answer is that the person who displays these characteristics is a false convert. Our churches our full of them.

They are “fashionable Christians!” Their style of religion is fashionable and popular and they generally follow the spirit of this age in their thinking, behavior, fashion, dress, and custom. No matter what God requires, they are carefully determined not to offend His enemies. If they are ever faced with a choice between pleasing man or pleasing God, they will offend God. They will do more to gain the approval of men than the approval of God. This must change in the church today if we are to see nationwide revival.

Will you surrender now and trust in God’s empowering grace to live no longer for yourself, but to live for God and His glory? Will you, preacher and pastor, begin to proclaim the real gospel and the real salvation?