Neglected Doctrines Surrounding Conversion
Just looking at the church in mainstream America, something is deathly wrong. The conversion experience is centered on meeting the needs of the seeker and God is touted to the lost as a panacea for hell, unhappiness, loneliness, and dissatisfaction-almost like a magic pill guaranteed to give you a better life. Certainly following Biblical principles will often have pleasant results- improved relationships with others, freedom from debt, peace in Christ-however, when we center salvation around fixing surface problems in the lives of prospective believers, giving them their “Best Life Now,” we miss teaching them the basic understanding of several things crucial to true conversion, and we risk creating false converts. To begin, I would like to highlight a few key teachings that I believe we have neglected to preach to the lost, and that I believe, if taught, will reap a harvest of genuine, passionate believers.
The first thing I believe we must preach to this lost world is the truth of who God is. We may ask ourselves why the church on the whole is apathetic and lethargic toward the idea of God. Perhaps it is because many people see Him as a holy vending machine that exists only to create a happy life for them. But consider what gall we have when we portray the Creator of the universe in any other light than that which the Bible has provided for us. From reading the scriptures, we see that God is all powerful as he speaks the universe into existence and breathes life into the dust pile that becomes the first man. We see that he is holy as he destroys the wicked world with a flood and later calls his people, Israel, to be set apart and gives them detailed regulations to “be holy, for I am holy.”1 We see that nothing is hidden from him in Psalm 139 and that He is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy.”2 So, why do we feel the need to promote God as someone to obey only because we will benefit from him? We should submit to him because it is what we were created to do! In the beginning, he made us to dwell in communion and obedience to him. Our rebellion in the Fall ruined the perfect order He created, but in conversion, we should see that we should surrender ourselves to him, not because we are looking to receive something from him, but instead because we see it as our duty as his own unique creation. As evangelist Paul Washer said, “If you want to follow Jesus because He’ll fix your marriage, if you want to follow Jesus because He’ll give you a better life, that’s idolatry. Follow Christ for the sake of Christ; He is worthy!”
Secondly, we must preach the seriousness of sin. In Luke 7, we see the woman, described as a “sinner,” who washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her hair. When she was scorned by the Pharisees sitting nearby, Jesus responded (vs. 47), “Wherefore I say unto thee, many sins are forgiven her: for she loved much. To whom a little is forgiven, he doth love a little.” Because the poor woman understood the magnitude of her sin and the forgiveness that she had been granted, she was filled with awe, appreciation, and love for her Savior. However, when we, like the Pharisees consider ourselves already decently moral and good, how can we ever attain that same level of love and gratitude to our Lord? Until we are able to see our sin as God sees it, and not as our lenient human nature does, we will be held back from loving our Lord with the devotion that He deserves from us. But, when we realize the horrors that Jesus suffered for us, and the wretchedness of the sin that held Him to the cross, then our hearts will be filled with an unspeakable ecstasy and an unparalleled thankfulness to Him who has loved us. And this is the essence of Christianity, my friends. “ For God setteth out his love towards us, seeing that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”3
Lastly, I want to emphasize the importance of sanctification for the Christian. So often, when new believers are adopted into the body of Christ, they lack wholesome doctrine and good wisdom. And few people feel the need to help them address and eradicate sin in their lives. But this situation is precisely the right time when older, mature Christian brethren should step in and mentor the new believer, showing them Scriptural principles for how we ought to live. As Jesus said in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and the holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things, whatsoever I have commanded you.” You see, conversion is only the beginning of a long walk with the Lord, and there is a great need for faithful discipleship in the church. But, I believe that when we see godly mentorship become a priority within the church (as described in Titus 2), we will see a shift away from worldliness and toward holiness and purity.
In conclusion then, let us remember the necessity of teaching these core doctrines. If we neglect teaching God’s character, then we risk losing a healthy respect for him and making salvation “seeker-oriented.” If we neglect teaching the gravity of sin, then we diminish the love and devotion we ought to have for our Savior and his sacrifice. And lastly, if we neglect teaching sanctification and discipleship, then we end up with a carnal and worldly church. And at that point, one may ask (as many have already), what is the merit in being a Christian if there are no practical differences between how supposed Christians live and how the lost live? But I am convinced that we, the Body of Christ, truly do have something or, more specifically, some One the world desperately needs. May we have the courage and the character to share Him with those in need in a Scriptural and God-honoring way.
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1 Leviticus 11:44-45
2 Psalm 103:8
3 Romans 5:8
Image courtesy of Pablo Fernandez.