Brethren in light of current talk and discussion regarding the wheat and tares of the KINGDOM and the revival talk on latter-day and end time apostasy i thought it applicable and fitting to submit this word to you today on (the radical nature of conversion) For how else can one describe SALVATION other than that of being RADICAL and totally TRANSFORMING?
THE Next thing i wish to say: Is Have you ever been around someone you thought HAD THE genuine article of SALVATION? And as far as you were concerned there wasn't a shred of doubt they were TRULY BORN AGAIN - having found true repentance?? Personally speaking I have had the honour of being around these little ones that have only just come to know Christ savingly! And from the very moment regeneration occurs in their life....from that moment ON they become a wonder to OBSERVE and behold! What i mean to say is if you were to follow them around and watch them from a distance what you would notice is HOW REMARKABLY DIFFERENT AND CHANGED THERE LIFE HAS BECOME. For such is the norm of anyone who has truly found Christ! For instance You would see what a glow they have on their countenance! Joy unspeakable and full of glory! These new creations have many questions about the bible, about prayer, about water baptism! And They continually ask what the next step is! They want to know how to please God! And What sin is? and what demands holiness have - upon there lives? Truly The sign of authentic conversion must be seen and evidenced in the fact that these regenerated souls cant get enough of Jesus and of his word! And just eat up everything others put into there lap. Friends im here to tell you today that these are the signs of a healthy, growing, and radically saved and converted soul! One that has truly repented and wants to know what the next step is - In the things of God! IN fact He or she can't wait to be water baptized and confess Christ (both) openly and publicly. Such ones will have a burning desire to WITNESS Christ TO FRIENDS, COLLEAGUES, PEERS, SIBLINGS AND KINFOLK! Truly old things have passed AWAY And all things have become new! Personally speaking i LOVE being around new converts everything about them is refreshing. They oozze joy, they are full of life! They have the fire of heaven upon there lives. Everything about them is contagious! To the effect there new found zeal and love touches all they come into contact with. Hence i like to be around new converts and warming up to there fire and there enthusiasm - in the Lord.
Interestingly The author of THE BOOK OF Hebrews describes the newly converted as BEING veritable "GAZINGSTOCKS" TO OLD COMPANIONS. And indeed we became exactly that to the world a "gazingstock" with many of our former companions musing to themselves words like "I cant believe how different that person has become" or comments like "he doesnt run with the old crowd anymore" our old companions will muse saying " I asked him to come and get smashed with the boys on friday night like old times and shoot pool" and you know what he replied? "sorry i got a prayer meeting to attend and then a soulwinners class in the morning" yes our old companions who see us as gazingstocks - will say "And when i tell those dirty jokes he doesn't seem to laugh along with them anymore" Man he really has changed!!! And when i ask him why he dropped his old mates the reply i got was "how much he loves his new life and all this Jesus stuff " and how righteousness cannot fellowship with unrighteousness! And not only that since he has been on this (Jesus kick) i haven't heard him cuss, swear, get angry or lose his temper once! he seems to have this composure and peace that is hard to understand (well in human terms) it is! Our old companions will say of us " Well i think we have just lost an old buddy and pal then " to this whole Jesus thing!
Now Contrast that with the following things Ive heard said in some meets ive been in attendance at " Well ive been a christian now for ten years AND I THOUGHT IT WAS TIME TO GET WATER BAPTIZED OR " Ive been coming this church now for lo these many years and i thought it was time i finally got baptized in Christ! OR THIS STATEMENT WHILST BEING INTERVIWED OR TESTIFYING ON CENTRE STAGE "I still hang out with the guys FROM school and COLLEGE" BUT "I just dont do THE DRUGS AND ALCOHOL THING - WITH THEM. ECET. Now whilst that's enobling that they abstain from the vices - however the question that needs to be asked is? why are they still hanging out with the same old crowd ?? and thinking they are strong enough not to be pulled down or dragged under?? what fellowship has light with darkness or what fellowship hath christ with belial? Why do they think water baptism is something you delay or put off? Shouldn't radical life changing conversion cause you to lose some of your old friends? doesn't conversion equal becoming a gazingstock? I remember when salvation came to our house as young boys all of our old friends came knocking on our door - saying is it true, is it true, ...your a religious person now ... and one of those Jesus freaks ?? We told them yes!! they would roll there eyes and then turn around and go back to the local pub or light up a cigarette -- as they left our premises.
And as for this business of waiting ten years before your finally baptized -- well frankly i find that to be just plain ridiculous and totally unscriptural. I ask you the reader to reflect back to the ethopian in acts 8:36 " Here is water so what doth HINDER me from being baptized" ??
Philip the evangelist responds by saying nothing is hindering YOU from being baptized! that is if You believe with all thine heart, THAT JESUS IS THE VERY SON OF GOD The ethiopian responds i believe - and without DELAY he obeys the COMMAND and is BAPTIZED. PHILIP SAID THAT THERE WAS NO DELAY OR ANYTHING HINDERING YOU - IF YOUR TESTIMONY IS "YOU BELIEVE" THE ISSUE IS "BELIEF IN JESUS = EQUALS IMMEDIATE RESPONSE AND OBEDIENCE TO THE PLAIN COMMAND TO BE WATER BAPTIZED"... A GOOD CONSCIENCE TOWARD GOD WILL SEEK TO OBEY EVERY THING -- HE ASKS !!
In closing and wrapping this thing up today i want to give some EXAMPLES IN SCRIPTURE OF TRUE CONVERSION EXPERIENCES - AND WHERE BETTER TO START THAN THAT OF a man called "ZACCHEAUS"
No1. The radical conversion of Zaccheaus:
Personally i just love the story of Zacheaus and how he came to find salvation IN Christ! Zaccheaus was a rich man and a man of small stature who heard that Christ was passing by and wanted to get a good vantage point over the milling AND thronging crowd! and it is here that we pick up the story from lukes gospel (19:1-10) zaccheus was chief among the publicans a man of influnce. And On this particular day he ran and climbed up a sycomore tree to behold Jesus as he passed by. The story follows that when Jesus came to that exact spot where he was - he looked up and said to him - to come down quickly and make haste and make ready your house as i will abide there. Zaccheus was amazed and with joy he recieved him (feeling honoured and chuffed) that Jesus had spoken to him (out of) all that crowd...
What happens next in the chain of events is nothing short of amazing! Zaccheus says Lord " behold, the half of my goods i give to the poor, and if i have taken anything through false accusation, i restore it four-fold!!!
Wow Wow Wow - Jesus looked at him and said before the whole crowd in attendance - this day is salvation come to this man's house! And proving to that he is indeed - a child of Abraham.
WOW WOW WOW ... that is all i can say! Truly
Salvation incorporates repentance and restitution
NO 2. A Woman which was a sinner: (Luke 7:36-48)
I wont go into all the details surrounding this particular account except to highlight her testimony in brief. The story goes that a certain kind of woman known in that city as a "sinner" upon (knowing) Jesus was bidden by a (pharisee) to dine with him - and she immediately armed with that knowlege ...made her move... to approach Jesus - in the pharisee's house (note the 2 extremes going on here) An outwardly religious man and moral person - and an out and out "sinner" who is given over to sins. Anyway When she KNEW Jesus sat at meat @ the pharisee's house she brought a box of ointment and began to anoint him! (we all know the full story) but what followed is what we will zoom in on! Namely the tears that streamed forth, the weeping, the contrition, the kissing of feet, and the adoration of worship. However When the pharisee saw what happened he was amazed and disdained what had just occurred! And began to cast doubt on Jesus as a prophet! Saying within himself if this man were of God he would have KNOWN what kind of woman THIS and that toucheth him!! for she is a sinner! ( end - of - story )
Jesus responded by quoting a parable to peter ABOUT MERCY,FORGIVENESS, AND COMPASSION. He later turns to look @ the woman and continues to talk to peter (not the pharisee) and says "Her sins which ( are many ) are forgiven: for she loved much!! Notice This woman came with ALL THE SIGNS OF repentance: TEARS, WEEPING, SORROW, contrition, brokeness AND WORSHIP (AGAIN: WOW WOW WOW ) THIS SINNER WOMAN HOWEVER Found CHRIST on that day! MEANWHILE THE PHARISEE IS PROBABLY STILL SHAKING HIS HEAD - AND ROLLING HIS EYES...
NO 3. Two men went up into the temple to Pray:
Once again we find ourselves stuck in Lukes Gospel as both men sought to make contact and establish communion with God! The pharisee was in one corner and thus prayed reminding God about all of the good things GOING ON IN HIS LIFE, HIS DEEDS, HIS WORKS, HIS LABOURS. ECET. Being confident about his righteousness and positioning with God. In fact: He had a list on the day of five things happening in his life and of all his good works for the Lord ... whilst this was going on - it just so happens - that he looked over and noticed a low-life publican in the temple also praying! Wondering what right he had to even be in the Holy temple?? he also changed the course of his praying at that moment to assert his right standing and position with God!
meanwhile The publican on the other hand didn't feel worthy enough to even look skywards toward heaven knowing full well that God had every right to judge him harshly for his waywardness and previous sins! But At that moment the fear of God falls on the publican and he smites his breast and asks - that God might be merciful to him a sinner. The pharisee on the other hand kept telling God how good he was and reminding him of all the goodness he possessed - not only that but he thought he had no sins -- to repent off!! Ever been to meetings and the worst thing a shepherd will ever confess to as vulnerbility is "discouragement"?? Jesus goes on to say in the story that only one man went home justified? and it wasn't the pharisee!! The one who found grace oddly enough was not the religious moral person! but the sinner publican. Sounds a bit like our previous encounter with the woman who was a sinner...she left the house forgiven and the pharisee still offended! True conversion must understand its need for divine mercy and understand all our righteousness, and all our goodness in God's sight is as filthy rags...there is none good, no not one, all have sinned, all are out of the way!! The pharisee in the temple would have done well to have known titus 3:5 " Not by works of righteousness we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us"
No 4. The Prodigal Son: ( Luke15:11-32)
Once again we find ourselves in Lukes Gospel
Now This parable out of all Christ's parables is one of the best known parables - and has been used umteenth times in sermons, pulpits and by evengelist and missionaries alike all around the world. But having said that we cannot discuss the virtues of true conversion and at the same time be dismissive of this account and parable.
Again this parable is on the back of some rather stinging criticism by the pharisee's for Jesus recieving sinners and for accepting invitations to dine with them. Jesus responds however with reproof and rebuke and tells them all of heaven rejoices over one sinner that repents than of 99 JUST persons IN no need of repentance! In fact there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over THAT one sinner THAT repents. But THE story goes in lukes gospel to say that the prodigal son decided he would have a "rebellion time" he knew money was owed HIM and an inheritance was laid up for him! and so he asked for his share to be given. The father obliges and lets him have his share! And so The prodigal with his eyes firmly set on fun and pleasure went and had himself (a veritable ball) but eventually the unrighteous mammon and lucre ran out! and he felt spent and totally wasted! down on his "luck" being empty, broken, and famished! So desperate was he that he went and fed swine to support himself. But one day he (woke up and came) to himself!! Ahhh when sinners come to themselves and wake up knowing they are SICK and in need of a physician ... then are such ones ready and ripe for the sickle of harvest. I WAS DEAD IN TRESSPASSES AND SINS AND WALKED ACCORDING TO THE COURSE OF THIS WORLD, BUT NOW I AM ALIVE AGAIN. Let the dead, go bury there dead, as for me and my house we will serve the Lord and follow Christ! PETER EXCLAIMED LO WE HAVE FORSAKEN ALL - TO FOLLOW YOU. True conversion requires a rising to go meet the father like this prodigal son did! Who coming to his senses returned to his house from whence he came...For he said "I will arise out of this pig-pen of sin and be reconciled to MY father"
( TRUE AND RADICAL CONVERSION MEANS YOU WILL ARISE AND GO TO THE FATHER AND BE A PART OF HIS HOUSE, AND PART HIS KINGDOM, AND PART OF THE CHURCH HE IS BUIDLING )
NO5. THE JAILER IN THE BOOK OF ACTS: (ACTS 16)
ALTHOUGH WE HAVE FINALLY DIGRESSED FROM LUKES GOSPEL WE FIND OURSELVES STICKING WITH THE SAME AUTHOR! (INTERESTINGLY ENOUGH) It is here in lukes account we find the aspect of fear as it plays its role in the function of regeneration! Who hasn't read the account of Jonathon edwards stirring sermon on " sinners in the hands of an angry God" and how he begins by telling his captive audience present that there foot could slide at any time and be LOST for all of eternity! Over in acts chapter sixteen we find a jailer asleep on the job thinking all is fine and dandy - until paul and silas began to sing praises unto God !! Then an almighty (mother of an earthquake) struck - and there bands were loosed and the prison doors flung open! The jailer upon realizing what had happened and that the prisoners had probably escaped thought to kill himself "ive let the prisoners escape whilst sleeping on the job" However paul cries out "do thyself no harm" we are all - still here! Next thing the jailer springs into the jail cell trembling and quivering and falls at there very knees saying "men and brethren what must i do to be saved"?? The jailer was overcome and struck with Godly fear which led to true repentance. Sin Hardened and sin laden sinners will often repent and experience true conversion when they are gripped and overcome by the fear and awe of God! and as was the case with J.edwards in that classic sermon given hundreds of years ago! As tough and hardened sinners bowed the knee to Christ in fear of going into eternal damnation - where the fire is not quenched - and the worm dieth not.
Finally in summarization we see satan is successful in sowing tares into God's kingdom today only because the tares or the weeds often look so similiar in appearance to wheat and its often hard to distinguish or discern between the twain. Also to go around and uproot everyone we suspect is a tare would be incredibly disruptive to the body of Christ. So Christ said let them grow up together and we will sort it out -- at harvest time! But the other factor here is fruit is something that is visible on fruit trees ( a tree is known by its fruits ) when you go to a farm you look around and say there are the apple trees over in that part and there are the orange trees over yonder, and there are the grape vines in there clusters. Ecet. You know the tree - simply because you see and know the fruit it bears! likewise a christian is known for his fruits. And a good tree cannot produce bad or evil fruit. If someone has no joy, no peace, no longsuffering, no LOVE, no temperance. Ecet. Then something is going on with that person! something smells in denmark! As the saying goes.
John wouldn't baptize the scribes and pharisees because they did not bring forth good fruits that confirmed repentance. So he sent them away!! If we know true conversion it will be radical on the inside which will manifest itself also on the outside. You will have a new heart with a new start, with new desires, holy desires, new affections, changed speech, eternal values, and a new world view!!! With godly habits and new companions. The old has gone and the new has begun. You do not put new wine into old wineskins! Paul said from henceforth we know no man after the flesh! We make spiritual judgments because we walk according to the spirit and not according to the flesh! our old man of the flesh has been terminated - and from henceforth we know no man after the flesh (anymore)
Finally: Years ago we use to sing a little chorus which i still sing to God often - we dont sing it much anymore in the church as pastors and ministers say that was a different time and today is a brand new day! But i still sing it and i think it fitting to end on this note by repeating the lyrics to this little number and classic chorus " Im a new creation ... im a brand new man ....old things have passed away .... ive been born again ... more than a conqueror that's who i am...im a new creation ...im a BRAND NEW MAN !!!