There is a great problem in the world today– there are many “Christians” who profess to be in Christ and yet are far from the truth. We must examine, what is genuine conversion? What does it mean for someone to truly be a Christian?
What Does it Mean to Be a Christian?
It seems in the American church today that there is a lack of a thorough understanding of what it truly means to be a Christian. Many people are led through a process that would lead to them to believe that they are Christians. Will Metzger makes points out the situation this way, “complacency in doctrinally Orthodox churches regarding both the content of evangelism training and confusion on how to evaluate professions of faith has led to Christians who are self-deceived and to a God who is dishonored.”
We need to be aware that people are either saved or lost. Will Metzger continues in his book “to weaken this radical but scriptural cleavage of mankind by suggesting a third category for people is an attack on the biblical doctrine of regeneration.
There is no such thing as being a half Christian. For instance, being a quote-unquote Christian but not a spirit baptized Christian, being a Christian but not accepting Christ as Lord, or being a Christian, but living a life continually characterized by being carnal. That is spiritual adultery.”
Just think of the many adjectives that we try and add to the Christian faith to try and determine whether someone is truly a Christian or not. And yet, the term in and of itself should be enough, because there is no third category. It’s either you are saved or you are lost. You are a Christian or you are not.
By and large the American church today has a weak view of what it means to truly be regenerated, to be converted. What does it actually mean to become a Christian? One place to start would be to understand those terms.
What Does it Mean to be Converted?
What does it mean to be regenerated and What does it mean to be converted?
Well, regeneration is salvation looking at it through the lens of God’s perspective. It’s the instantaneous moment in which someone is transferred from death to life. And conversion is looking from the human perspective. It is the entire process starting from the first point of someone understanding biblical truth to the point in which they have genuinely become a new believer, this new birth.
It’s helpful to understand that this process for some may take an hour when they are first presented with the truths of the gospel and who Christ is and they become a believer. And sometimes it may take years or even decades where someone heard the gospel, they have heard the truth, and maybe even grown up in the church but it may be years until they actually come to a full understanding of the gospel, and God has moved them from death to life.
I think this is what is so helpful in understanding what our role in evangelism is. Again, from our last video, Our responsibility is to proclaim the gospel with our lips and our lives knowing that it is God who is going to work in people’s hearts to bring them to faith. In that perspective, we can see that it is not our job to convert people. It is not our job or our responsibility even to see that people directly come into a relationship with God. Our responsibility is to be faithful to God’s Word to share His Word faithfully and trust God’s timing.
As Will Metzger puts it “God does not work according to our timetable.” That should be comforting in us, freeing to us, to know that God is the one who is working,
This is where there’s been a lot of confusion in the church today, and where we have to be very careful about potentially confusing the first workings of the Holy Spirit in someone’s life, where they are beginning to understand the truth of Scripture or they’re seeming to adhere to Christian practice, and confusing that with the final work of being brought from death to life, the true new birth.
Simply because someone has prayed a prayer or they raised their hand or even came forward during an invitation does not mean that they are genuinely converted. This is extremely important. So important that I’m going to say it again in case you missed it. Simply because someone has prayed a prayer or they raised their hand or even came forward during an invitation does not mean that they are genuinely converted.
Martyn Lloyd Jones makes this clear when he says, “A man does not become a Christian by making a decision. He is made a Christian by God, who marked him out before the foundation of the world and sees to it that he is born again and that he believes in him.” We do not want to deceive people into thinking that they are Christians when in fact, they are not.
Again from Will Metzger “we should be cautious in identifying outwardly favorable reactions with regeneration.” Just because people outwardly show signs does not mean that they are genuinely converted. He uses the terms inquirer or seeker. And he says, “These terms are a more lucid and helpful way to denote people who indicate an interest in the Gospel. initially, it’s better to say that someone professed faith rather than they became a Christian.”
We don’t want to confuse anyone or deceive anyone into thinking that they are truly in Christ when they are not. To imagine the day that they come before the Lord and Christ proclaims to them that he never knew them, and how horrible that situation would be. and to think if I was the one that was in a position to lead them into them being deceived. We should be cautious because people’s eternal destiny is at stake.
When thinking about genuine conversion, we must continually go back to the necessity of one’s trust being in Christ ALONE. This reality points back to the fact that it is the Lord Christ that saves, not the ability to muster up desire. It keeps us ‘God-focused,’ recognizing that He rescues us by His power.’
We cannot prevent someone from deceiving themselves, but we can describe to them what truly knowing God means, that being born again by the Holy Spirit’s power through faith in Christ.
Genuine conversion = being born again. The Bible uses terms such as “born of God,” becoming “a new creation,” “regenerated,” “born again,” and “born of the Spirit” to describe this reality. This work of the Holy Spirit results in a new set of desires to follow after Christ. And this will show in a life of growing, even though it may not be perfect but growing, obedience to God, a life of fruitfulness. “We can know them by their fruit.” This fruit can be tested by examining oneself under the scriptures. So we can encourage people to go to the Scriptures to examine themselves .
Trust in Christ himself, not a moment in time or a prayer prayed. Trust in Him alone whom you prayed to.
We have the example of Jesus who at times was cautious with those who were following him. He would question them to see what they truly believed. One example of Jesus doing this is with Nicodemus in John 3. Nicodemus is showing signs of faith BUT Jesus doesn’t just stop there, He continues to help him to understand more fully what new birth is.
Not only do we have the example of Jesus encouraging a further investigation of oneself but we see the command in 2nd Corinthians, “examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith.” Test yourselves. This is biblical. Individually we should examine ourselves. In our evangelism, we should encourage others to examine themselves. But we shouldn’t wallow in our thoughts and misery in an unbiblical way.
This self-introspection is unhelpful. Rather for those who are inquiring, we bring the pressure of the Word of God upon them, and upon ourselves, that we might truly see if we are in Christ or not. That’s the loving thing to do. it’s unloving to leave others deceived, or lead them into a way in which they think that they are in Christ when in fact, they are not. People have to see that God has created us to follow Him and to love him. And if we don’t live up to those commands, we are disobedient.
There are a number of places that we could go to in the Bible to encourage this self-reflection in the biblical way. The Beatitudes, 1st John, and Psalm 51 are pictures of true genuine repentance. These are a model of the whole man, the whole person coming to Christ, the whole person is addressed in these situations. And this includes the mind, the emotions, and the will. And it’s absolutely crucial that the whole gospel is presented to the whole person.
We’re going to cover presenting the whole gospel to the whole man in our next article.