We have dead churches all over the world, or at least the part I am familiar with. These churches are not dead primarily because of incorrect doctrine, apathy, lack of enthusiasm, lack of service, etc. Those are all symptoms of the real problem. The real problem is that there are too many dead people in our churches. Jesus said, “You must be born again.” Jesus also told us that we would have tares with us until the end. We just have to co-exist with the tares. Attempting to root out the tares destroys the wheat. The issue must be dealt with at the front end. We must examine ourselves to see if indeed we ourselves (you and me) are really in the faith, regenerated, born again. Second, we must be very careful in our evangelism efforts. God adds to the church, not you, and not me. You and I are to proclaim the good news about salvation (forgiveness of sins) found in the person of Jesus the Christ. We must be careful to explain that repentance will accompany trusting Jesus. We must also be careful to explain that a great change will occur in the behavior of the saved, born again, regenerated person. No change indicates no new birth. Please do not misunderstand me to be indicating a salvation by works. Rather, works will follow true conversion.
I think that Saul of Tarsus is the model of true conversion found in the New Testament. I suggest reading the various accounts of Saul’s conversion found in Acts 9, Acts 22, and Acts 26. I also recommend supplementing those with First Timothy 1 and Galatians 1. I think you will see several principles that will be true in every person who is truly converted. Conversion is a matter of pure grace given to one who is still an enemy of God. That is made clear by Paul in the passages listed above but also in Romans 5. You, Paul, and I were not seeking God and yet He poured out mercy and grace on us. We speak a lot about making a decision for Christ. We would be far closer to the truth if we spoke about a revelation of Christ that led us to making a decision. You and I might not see a bright light and we might not hear a literal voice from heaven, but we must meet Jesus. After meeting Jesus, Paul was blind for three days, after which time I can assure you that he never saw the world the same way again. Neither will we.
I can think of very little else that would humble me as much as being blinded and having to be led around by the hand. Paul was an arrogant proud Pharisee who experienced a tremendous humbling. The truly converted sinner will certainly be humbled. The three passages in Acts that describe the conversion of Paul contain some different details from each other but one fact that is found in all three passages is that Paul refers to Jesus as Lord. The truly converted person will recognize Jesus as Lord and acknowledge that fact. The first thing Paul saw upon having his sight restored was Ananias whom Paul had traveled from Jerusalem to arrest and cruelly mistreat. It seems to me that Ananias was representative of the Church, the Body of Christ. The truly converted sinner will need and accept ministry from the local church. Please do not miss the fact that Jesus told Paul that persecuting the church was persecuting Jesus himself. The truly converted sinner will love the church. In Galatians 1, Paul makes it clear that others saw Jesus revealed in him because of the change in him and also they glorified God because of this change.
STEVE ELLISON is director of Ouachita Baptist Camp in Arkansas. You may contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.