Thrust Statement: Conversion to Christ is a change in one’s life that transforms everything in its path.

Scripture Reading: John 3:3; Acts 3:19; Matthew 18:3

CONVERSION TO CHRIST

As one reflects upon Nicodemus’ encounter with Jesus, one immediately recalls the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus concerning the rebirth. This rebirth is not a rebirth from natural phenomena, but rather, it is a rebirth from above. Without this regeneration from above, one cannot enter into the kingdom of God. Jesus says, I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3).[1] This rebirth in John 3:3 is the same as that which John spoke of earlier in his prologue to his Gospel: “to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God” (1:12-13).

            This message concerns the conversion of those who have experienced the birth “of water and the Spirit” (3:5) and its implications in one’s walk with God. How does one’s conversion to Christ influence one’s daily life? What does it mean to be converted to Christ? These are questions that everyone must deal with if he/she expects a relationship with God that results in eternal life. When one is converted to Christ—accepts Jesus as God’s answer to the problem of sin—one observes a change in one’s way of thinking. When one responds to Jesus as Lord, one also detects a renovation in one’s ethical behavior. When one accepts Jesus as Savior, one also perceives an alteration in one’s commitments. When one acknowledges Jesus as Son of God, one sees one whose life is first and foremost concerned about the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

Following the conversion of three thousand on the day of Pentecost, one finds Peter speaking to a crowd following his healing of a crippled beggar: “Repent therefore and be converted (ejpistrevfw epistrefw, “turn around”)” (Acts 3:19).[2]  This conversion represents a turning from one way of life to another, namely Jesus. Peter called on them to change their minds and attitudes about Jesus. He wanted them to be converted—turn to Jesus—in order that their sins might be forgiven and experience the “seasons of refreshing” from the Lord. When one turns to Jesus, one can feel the “seasons of refreshing” from the throne of grace. In other words, one can experience the exuberance of forgiveness through Jesus the Christ.

CONVERSION:

THE BEGINNING OF ONE’S WALK WITH GOD

Christians do not have to wait until they are raptured in order to experience “refreshing” from the Lord; they can have it now! Peter wanted his hearers to exercise faith in Jesus.  But this biblical message not only involved faith in Jesus, but it also included repentance toward God. Conversion to Jesus and repentance go together. Conversion to Jesus is just the beginning, not the end of one’s walk with God. True repentance represents a real change of mind and attitude toward Jesus and sin.  It is in this vein that Paul addresses the elders from Ephesus: “I have declared to both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in our Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:21). 

Conversion:

Alters One’s Behavior

 Conversion to Jesus and conversion of one’s behavior go hand-in-hand. One cannot live the same kind of life that he/she lived prior to becoming a Christian. Not only will there be a change in one’s ethical behavior, but there will also be a change in one’s priorities. The word converted is not just limited to the rebirth of an individual, but it is also employed in reference to ethical behavior. For example, one reads where Jesus seeks to bring about a change in motives of His disciples who were concerned about their status of superiority in God’s kingdom: “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted (strevfw strefw) and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3). The disciples had to be converted, that is, turned around in their thinking. The apostles were only thinking of themselves, not thinking of others. This admonition is still relevant for those converted to Christ. Conversion to Christ also demands conversion in the way one thinks and acts.

Conversion:

 Says “Yes” to God

The compound form of the Greek word epistrefw and the Greek word strefw are used interchangeably.  The idea is that of turning away from one thing and turning to another. This compound word in the New Testament frequently serves as a technical term for conversion with all of its implications. In true conversion, one says, “yes” to God, but, at the same time, one says “no” to sin.  There is a negative side to conversion as well as a positive side. The negative side is “no” to darkness; the positive side is “yes” to Jesus as God’s way of salvation for sinful humanity. Not only is there a necessity of conversion from darkness to the kingdom of God’s dear Son (Colossians 1:13), but there is also a necessity of conversion in one’s priorities (Matthew 6:33).

Conversion:

Beginning, Not End of Transformation

In Christ, one experiences a revolutionary change in one’s worldview. This kind of change actually transforms everything, as it were, in its path. One soon discovers that in Christ Jesus, one’s deepest conviction, one’s deepest emotion, and one’s deepest perspective makes one view the world and God’s kingdom from a different point of view. Since one is given a new life by God in Christ, then one’s conversion to Jesus is just the beginning, not the end of one’s spiritual journey. It is in this vein that Paul calls attention to this change in venue for the Christian. He writes:

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.  13 Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.  14 For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace (Romans 6:11-14).

            Are you dead to sin? Is sin your way of life? Does sin reign in your body as king? Are you fulfilling the lust of the flesh? Or are you alive to God in Christ Jesus? When sin takes hold of one’s life, one beholds a heart that is cooled by selfishness; that is to say, one’s way is bent inward, not outward to God. In other words, this individual puts himself/herself at the center of the world. Sin prevents one from being captive to the things of God. It is not uncommon for Christians to allow their carnal nature to take hold of their being. Do you allow sin to hinder you in your daily walk with God? Are you walking in the flesh? If so, then one would do well to listen to the author of Hebrews:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (Hebrews 12:1-3).

            Are you throwing off every sin that entangles you? Are you bringing into captivity your very being to Christ? Paul writes concerning the spiritual warfare that every Christian should be actively engaged in: “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). He is saying that everyone should bring all his/her intellectual activity into complete subjection to Christ. One can hardly read these remarks of Paul without recalling the words of David in his prayer to God: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer (Psalm 19:14).

Conversion:

 Demands a Life of Holiness

But before this kind of conversion can take place, one must be converted to Christ; one must experience the birth from above. One needs Christ in order to redirect his/her life from a world of sin to a world of righteousness. As one contemplates his/her own life, one can quickly grasp that sin is real. Without conversion to Christ, one seeks his/her own will. Christ is the only One who can deliver one from this “body of death.” Paul experienced the anguish that every person goes through as he/she seeks to serve the Law of God. Listen to Paul as he unburdens his heart, as it were, of his moral dilemma:

I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  19 For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.  20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it (Romans 7:18-20).

            Within every man and woman there is a dual nature—spirit and flesh.  When one is born from above, he/she still has the adamic nature. One belongs to Christ and lives his/her life in Christ, but, at the same time, one still lives in the flesh. Paul, in his Galatian letter, also expresses this same concept to the churches scattered throughout the province of Galatia:

So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature.  17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want.  18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law (Galatians 5:16-18).

How does one seek to overcome the propensities of the flesh? Paul says, “Live by the Spirit.” In other words, one’s life must be under the control of God’s Spirit. One must be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18). Even though every believer is free from sin (Romans 6), nevertheless, he/she must continue to battle against it. Man/woman has not ceased to be a child of Adam. One still lives as a sinner among sinners, even though one is redeemed. As long as one lives this side of glory, there will always be tension between being “in Christ” and being “in the flesh.”  Again, if one is conscious that he/she is born again, then one seeks to bring his/her life into conformity to the Law of God. The ultimate victory can only be through one’s conversion to Christ: “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57).

Conversion:

Enables One to Change

The good news of the New Testament is that God through Christ is able to accomplish for man what man cannot accomplish for himself—freedom from the curse of the Law. What humanity cannot do, God has accomplished in Christ Jesus. God can change our human nature through Jesus. Conversion to Jesus creates within every individual the desire for a certain change of outward habits. But this inward desire for a new substance or new being comes about through Christ, not outside Christ. When one is converted to Christ, then his/her prayer is: “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). It is in this same vein that Paul writes:

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good (Titus 2:11-14).

In Jesus one has the freedom to obey, the freedom to follow, and the freedom to rise up and worship God as one’s way of life twenty-four hours a day. God wants His people to wake up from their slumber of “don’t care-ism.”  Have you lost your salt as a preservative in a world of sin? Does your life exemplify you as a partner with God in the redemptive task of reaching out to the lost? Do you think of yourself as a part of the divine purpose and a link with eternity? If so, then your external and internal behavior should promote God’s will on earth.

Do you illustrate Christ in your daily conduct? Do you want spiritual renewal in your life? If so, one of the best places to accomplish this feat is in the “redemptive society of God,” that is, the church of Jesus Christ.  You cannot find this in the world itself. There can be no living Christianity without a fellowship of concerned ones. When one is a member of the Body of Christ, then one experiences a common devotion to a great cause. This common devotion enables one to keep his/her flame burning with intensity. This common devotion enables one to love the unlovable. This kind of devotion strengthens one to “bearing with one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2). When one is a part of God’s community, one witnesses God’s activities being carried out by His people. It is in this vein that Paul reminds the Corinthians: “As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain” (2 Corinthians 6:1).

Since every believer is a partner with God in the saving of the world, every believer must be on guard against allowing the ways of the world to envelop his/her actions. Do you keep under your body? Are you conscious that the Christian life is like a race? Listen to Paul as he exhorts the Corinthians:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).

Are you running aimlessly in your walk with God? Are you fighting like a man beating the air? Do you discipline your body as an athlete does as he/she enters into strict training? Again, listen to Paul as he expounds on the kind of performance that every Christian must engage in as a result of his/her new relationship with God:

Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature (Romans 13:13-14).

            Remember, conversion to Christ involves a conversion in one’s behavior. Conversion makes one see things in a different light. When one is given a new life by God in Christ, one then seeks to glorify God and shine like stars in the universe. When one becomes a disciple of Jesus, then one’s Christian character, one’s pattern of behavior, and one’s relationship to others takes on a different outlook. Does the Word of God make a difference in your way of life? Are you like the children of Israel who died in the wilderness? Listen to the author of Hebrews as he explains: “For we also have had the gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard did not combine it with faith” (Hebrews 4:2).

            Too many Christians are drifting from their conversion to Christ by not paying attention to the teachings of God. The author of Hebrews calls attention to the necessity of listening carefully to the original call:

We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. 2 For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, 3 how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. 4 God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will (Hebrews 2:1-4).

God’s people must train themselves to distinguish between good and evil (5:14).  Many believers claim to know God, but they deny him by their actions. Paul, in writing to Titus, says, “They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good” (Titus 1:16). Today, Christians, too, can profess to know God, but, in actuality, deny God through their ungodly behavior. The works of the flesh are still evils that Christians must constantly battle in their own lives. Paul writes to the churches of Galatia these ominous words:

The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21).

            As one reflects upon the sins enumerated by Paul, one quickly identifies three sexual sins (sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery), two sins of false religion (idolatry and magic), and a series of social sins (hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and the like). Just a perusal of these categories of sin reveals that all of these sins result from self-assertion or pride. Many Christians decry—and for good reason—sexual sins; yet, on the other hand, they are not as quick in condemning social sins, except “drunkenness” and “orgies.” Yes, many Christians are baptized with hate, with discord, with dissensions, and with jealousy. When one’s life is saturated with social sins, one discovers a life that lacks love.

Conversion:

Involves Loving One Another

Jesus told His disciples to love one another: “This is my command: Love each other” (John 15:16). Christians are told to love one another, but Jesus, earlier in His conversation, added another phrase to the commandment: “Love each other as I have loved you” (15:11). Do you love others as Jesus loves you? How do you react to someone who hurts your feelings? What if someone does not speak to you on Sunday morning, how do you react? If someone phrases something in a way that irritates you, do you just throw up your hands and go to another congregation? Or do you just throw in the towel and forsake God? What does it really mean to “Love each other as I have loved you”? There is a principle that is set forth in the Sermon on the Mount that many Christians fail to adhere to:

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5:23-24).

            If Christians would apply this teaching to their affiliation with other believers, then many Christians would not be packing their bags and moving off to another congregation. If one goes to another congregation, then this leaving ought not to be over ill feelings toward another Christian. If someone does something that one does not like, then go to that believer and seek reconciliation. Today, Christians can attend the services Sunday after Sunday and still harbor bitterness toward another believer. If one wants his/her corporate worship to be acceptable to God, then one must do what Jesus said. Do you give refuge to disgust in your heart for another Christian?

What does this Scripture mean to you: “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12)? Again, Jesus discusses how individuals are to love even their enemies (6:43-48). In this discourse He says, “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?” (6:46). When one is living in a right relationship with God, it is easier to get along with people. When one is in a right relationship with God, one begins to see other people in a different light. As one reflects upon conversion, one should remember that conversion is not only an initial act but also a growing experience. An unloving spirit can cut one off from true communion with God and from real love and friendship with others.

One can pick-up readily on the sins of sexual immorality and drunkenness, but the sins of “discord” or “hate” are not as easily recognizable. As one reflects upon the marks of true holiness, one must come to grips with the power to deal with difficult people and difficult situations. If one would fix his/her eyes upon Jesus as the Eternal Pattern, then one could cope with stumbling blocks that exist within the body of Christ. Every Christian must desire to give his/her heart to God for His purposes. One must gaze upon the Eternal Pattern. How did Jesus react to the twelve Apostles in their carnality? How did Jesus react to the two boys—James and John—who desired two places of eminence in the Kingdom of God (Matthew 20:20-28)? How did Jesus react to Peter’s denial of Himself at His trial before Pilate (Mark 16:7)? How did Jesus react toward those who crucified Him (Luke 23:34)?

John, an Apostle of Christ, deals with brotherly love in his first epistle. Was loving a problem in John’s day? Surely, he was not beating the air with just a make-believe situation.  He writes with great urgency and admonition:

We love because he first loved us. 20 If anyone says, “I love God,” yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. 21 And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother (1 John 4:19-21).

Does one think for a moment that Christians did not experience the same conflict in personal relationships that Christians experience today? Listen once more to John as he drives home the point of love among Christians:

11 This is the message you heard from the beginning: We should love one another. 12 Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous. 13 Do not be surprised, my brothers, if the world hates you. 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. Anyone who does not love remains in death. 15 Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life in him. 16 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. 19 This then is how we know that we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence 20 whenever our hearts condemn us. For God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything (1 John 3:11-20).

The “company of the redeemed” is a society of loving souls. God created a community to proclaim it. How can Christians proclaim love when they themselves do not love? This new society of the redeemed is itself the revelation of the activity of God. Jesus, in order to carry forward His redemptive work, formed a community of “concerned ones” to tell the world about His love. There is to be spiritual solidarity among His people; there is to be common devotion to the cause of Christ. When Christians fight and quarrel with one another, they negate their ministry in reaching out to the lost. This, perhaps, is one of the reasons that Paul encouraged two sisters in Philippi to get along with each other:

I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, a help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life (Philippians 4:2-3).

            One other congregation is of paramount importance in calling attention to the need for love in order to maintain the unity created by the Holy Spirit. Just a casual reading of First Corinthians reveals the turmoil that permeated that fellowship of believers. After Paul enumerates many of their problems, he gives the answer that will create unity out of all the confusion:

If I speak in the tongues a of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, b but have not love, I gain nothing. 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails (1 Corinthians 13:1-8).

 When one is converted to Christ, there are certain changes that must take place. Erik Routley points out, with justice, that “Christ, through His death and resurrection, gives a new context to all things.”[3]  Paul cautions the Christians at Rome to reflect upon the implications associated with their acceptance of Christ:

I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. 20 When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. 21 What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of? Those things result in death! 22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in a Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:19-23).

Conversion:

Forbids Drunkenness

            It is not uncommon for some Christians to revert back to excessive consumption of alcohol. When one is converted to Christ, this conversion, as stated above, is just the beginning, not the end, of one’s conversion in one’s way of life. Paul in the Ephesian Epistle tells the saints to not be drunk with wine:

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit. 19 Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, 20 always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:15-21).

When there is no meaning or purpose in life, men and women frequently drink strong drink in order to fill the void. One cannot live a godly life unless one sees meaning and purpose in life. Alcoholism is the result of spiritual emptiness. Men and women consume alcohol to escape from an intolerable sense of futility. If there is a lack of spirituality in one’s life, this deprivation of spiritual things results in fulfilling the works of the flesh. If God’s people could grasp that work in God’s vineyard is sharing in the eternal kingdom of God, then one’s work would be undertaken with great joy. What does the church mean to you? When one does not understand the true nature of the church, one’s behavior is not going to be what it ought to be. Elton Trueblood has rightly pointed out the lack of concern for the things of God:

Once a church was a brave and revolutionary fellowship, changing the course of history by the introduction of discordant idea; today it is a place where people go and sit on comfortable benches, waiting patiently until time to go home to their Sunday dinners.[4]

Conversion:

Compels One to Burn with Zeal

When one is converted to Christ, one whole’s life is taken up and filled and controlled and compelled from a mild religion to one that is burning with fervent heat. Every Christian is to be filled with the Holy Spirit in his/her daily walk with God (Ephesians 5:18). If one wishes to be filled with the Spirit, one must read the Word of God, one should meet with the people of God on Sundays, one ought to read literature that is spiritual in its contents, and one needs to listen to music that honors God (Ephesians 5:19). If one wants to be filled with the Spirit, one must go into places were the Spirit is working.

Recently (January 20, 2002), several members of the Oakwood Hills family went to Bonifay, FL (Lighthouse Assembly of God) to hear the Oakwood Junction Revival group praise God through songs of praise. This gathering of the saints to praise God is one of the means whereby God’s people are filled with the Spirit. If one wants this continuous filling of the Spirit, one must feast upon spiritual things—preaching, teaching, singing, praying, reading, and so on. Bernard A. Weisberger relates a story that occurred in 1799 during one of James McGready’s revivals. This camp meeting was just one of the many events that transpired during the period of the Great Awakening in which the zeal of religious passion spread like wildfire. Weisberger summarizes one of the meetings that took place at Gasper River. He describe in striking detail the excitement that infected the people when they attended meetings expecting great miracles to happen:

A mixture of motives brought the Kentuckians from far and near to the log church at Gasper River. They were looking for a rare chance to hobnob with neighbors unseen for a year at a stretch. They hoped for entertainment in the form of rousing sermons, and a chance to let out feelings which were cramped up by a hog and hominy existence. But it is important to remember that fundamentally they were expecting to be converted by divine influence. Put simply, they came expecting a miracle.[5]

            Individuals attending these meetings were expecting to be filled with spiritual fervor. They would travel great distances on horseback and wagon in order to hear the Word of God proclaimed. They knew that in order for one to be burned with fire, one must touch fire. The same is true in the spiritual realm. If one wants to be on fire for God,  one must touch spiritual things. Thousands upon thousands attended these great revivals because they wanted to participate in the things of God. The early church manifested this same kind of enthusiasm. Listen to Luke as he captures the spiritual fervor of the Early converts: 

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45 Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47 praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (Acts 2:42-47).

Elton Trueblood is correct when he writes: “In the early Christian community the people sang, not from convention, but from a joy which overflowed. Life for these people was no longer a problem to solve but a glory to discern.”[6] When one is converted to Christ, one is like the Ethiopian eunuch in his joy (Acts 8:39). How do you feel about preaching, teaching, singing, and praying? Are you overflowed with joy about the things of God? Do you meet regularly with the people of God? Can you hardly wait to study God’s Word? Where is your heart? Where is your interest?

CONCLUSION

            As one reflects upon his/her own life, one quickly realizes that sin cools one’s spiritual fervor for the things of God.  Sin in one’s life puts him/her at the center of the world. In other words, one’s will is bent inward, not outward toward God. If one does not fill his life with God, then this emptiness will overflow with the works of the flesh. If one wants to be transformed into His image, one will frequent places where the Spirit of God is working. Conversion to Christ also requires a conversion from luke-warm to hot, from a mild religion to a burning religion that is on fire for God.

True conversion to Christ results in a life that is filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit. One should never forget that in a real conversion, one witnesses not just an end, but also a beginning of one’s walk with God. Christians are called to conform their lives to the Eternal Pattern—Jesus. Do you actually promote unity among God’s people? What is your relationship with other believers? Where do you stand in your daily walk? Is it God or is it Satan? Listen to Paul as he concludes his last letter to the Corinthians:

5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test? 6 And I trust that you will discover that we have not failed the test. 7 Now we pray to God that you will not do anything wrong. Not that people will see that we have stood the test but that you will do what is right even though we may seem to have failed. 8 For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. 9 We are glad whenever we are weak but you are strong; and our prayer is for your perfection. 10 This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority—the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down (2 Corinthians 13:5-10).

Olive Wyon strikingly captures the essence of this message of conversion with the following comments:

The ‘spiritual life’ is that life which is created and quickened by God Himself; it affects our whole nature in every part: mental and physical, as well as that which we call ‘spiritual’. It includes regular, definite prayer and self-denial. Its keystone is Jesus Christ; its foundation, humility. Its goal is love: love to God and love to man. People in whom this goal has been realized to a very high degree are those whom we call ‘saints’.

 

Perhaps we can see the significance of this spiritual wholeness still more clearly when we look at human life without it: ‘The heart of man is an abyss; there is room in it for infinity because there is an infinity of desire; and it cannot remain empty; the stark horror of an alien evil will inhabit it, if it is not filled by the limitless ocean of the good ness of God.’[7]



[1] All Scripture citations are from The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984, unless stated otherwise.

[2] The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982.

 

[3] Erik Routley, The Gift of Conversion (Philadelphia: Muhlenberg Press, 1955), 89.

[4] Elton Trueblood, Alternative to Futility (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1948), 31.

[5] Bernard A. Weisberger, They Gathered at the River: The Story of the Great Revivalists and Their Impact upon Religion in America (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1958), 26.

[6] Elton Trueblood, Alternative to Futility (New York: Harper & Row Publishers, 1948), 31.

[7] Olive Wyon, On the Way: Reflections on the Christian Life (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1958), 31.