Have you ever been in one of those corporate or company-wide business meetings that talk about unification, i.e., team work? I guarantee most everyone has. In this meeting, they talk about how everyone plays a vital role in the overall impact of the company. They pump you up, have jazzy motivational speakers, and talk about how all of us together will accomplish the overall goal.
This past week I had a great conversation with a gentleman, and during our discussion, we talked about conviction and conversion. We discussed that we (God's children) do not convict or convert. God alone does
this. We are Christ's ambassadors conveying the grace, love, and understanding that God offers in their life, and if they so choose to be apart of this commitment, i.e., God converts them then we get to walk alongside them and show them what a life lived for Christ resembles.
To reinforce the opening paragraph... we all play a part, but what role of conversion and conviction do we play if any? Today we're going to look at Conversion. Why only conversion? Glad you asked! Because without conviction we can't convert. They are one in the same, two peas in a pod, teammates, unified. For conversion to work, conviction must play its part.
Conversion - Born Again - Made New
There's this misconception among the Christian religion - Love All. As my wife would say, "loving someone for who they are or what they do only loves them straight to hell." Strong words but I agree (see Ephesians 2:1-3; John 2:16-21). God did not intend to accept us for who we are. God created us to be in a relationship with him, for His glory, to be apart of His kingdom. To be who we want to be is to be apart from God, so for conversion to be effective, we must be Born Again.
You Must Be Born Again
3 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
"Truly, truly I say to you." Take note of this. Jesus says this three times in this passage.
1. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
2. Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.
3. Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.
I want to focus on the third "truly, truly." It reinforces the first two.
"Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony."
Back to what we said before. You can't have conversion without conviction. Jesus says this in John 3:11, but here is where Christianity is flirting with danger. Instead of pointing out a persons worldly desires we accept them, i.e., love them to hell instead of showing them the way which at times includes being blunt and honest.
Unless you want to turn from your ways (be convicted by God) and be born again, you cannot truly, truly see the kingdom of God.
In other words, if we don't do our part - embody Christ to those who come to us - we cannot truly, truly lead them towards a life fully lived for Christ.
Again, our part is not conviction or conversion. God alone does those things. We are here to embody a way of life fully lived for Christ. What it looks like, how we do it, etc. - discipleship.
Seeing that we're talking about living a life fully lived for Christ let's take a look at Luke 10:25-28
The Parable of the Good Samaritan
25 And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” 27 And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” 28 And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
I want us to reread verse 27 but put emphasis on the work "all" and replace the word "love" with "faithfully obedient":
"You shall be faithfully obedient to the Lord your God with ALL your heart and with ALL your soul and with ALL your strength and with ALL your mind."
This is how we need to answer people when they ask, "How do I live a life for Christ?" It's not about checking off a list of "To Do's" or "Doing good things". We must turn from a life of self-satisfaction and be born again, re-created, transformed anew in a life lived for Him and to do so we must be faithfully obedient to our creator giving Him ALL of who we are.
Let's take a look at what Paul has to say in 1 Corinthians 9:16
Woe To Me
16 For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!
The point we make here is woe to us if we don't preach God's word and nothing else. God's word reigns supreme. Our modification to this, being nice and not challenging others to turn from their selfish ways and enter into a relationship with Christ goes against all that God is call us to do. If we are to live faithfully obedient to God with ALL our heart, soul, mind, strength then this means we will preach His word and not our modification to His word to fit our lives or other people's lives.
I want to leave us with a compilation of passages from Michael Lawrence's book on Conversion - The Appeal of Nice:
"It's worth recognizing the powerful appeal of nice.
Nicodemus and Pharisees like him believed that people entered the kingdom of God by being nice, which for them meant being a good Jew: keeping the Law of Moses, going to the temple, offering all the right sacrifices, and staying away from Gentiles. I'm not suggesting Nicodemus thought he was perfect. He probably knew he should be a better person. Perhaps that's why he went to Jesus in the first place. but at the end of the day, moral righteousness was the standard to which he aspired. Nice people got into the kingdom"
"This is why nice doesn't work. We must be made new."
"If we would be right with God, we don't need to improve ourselves. We need a complete restart. In fact, the Bible uses several theological concepts to describe what Jesus means:
Regeneration, which means being born again, with an emphasis on the divine source of that new life (1 Peter 1:3)
Re-creation, which means being made anew as part of the end-time new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15)
Transformation, which means being given a new nature (Colossians 3:10)"
Conviction and Conversion happen in the heart. When we present a biblical life lived for Christ to those who come to us they will begin to look inward and wrestle with their self-satisfying way of life.
So, how is God the only one that can convict and convert? Because when we biblically and adequately present a life or regeneration, re-creation, and transformation in Him and for Him, it points only to Him - our creator and sustainer of life. God word convict and converts not us.
The last thing... the hardest thing you'll ever have to do as a follower of Christ is to watch someone reject His way of life after you have presented it to them. Take heart though. You've planted a seed. Continue to pray for them. Pray that a fellow brother or sister in Christ will allow God to bring it to harvest.
Live for His glory... Succeed for His kingdom!