Conversion: Accept NO Substitutes
Our world today is filled with substitutes. We have nylon to substitute for silk, plastic for metal and wood, and oleo or margarine for butter. Man has also come up with many substitutes for conversion. This has contributed to a great misunderstanding of what is involved in conversion. False converts abound in the religious world. They are victims of false teaching in regard to how one is converted from sinner to saint.
– Not Having a Religious Experience
Some argue God converts the soul of the sinner through some mysterious operation upon the human heart. They will say such things as “I feel in my heart that I am saved.” Salvation is an experience better “felt” than “told”. Testimonials are given by the “saved” to tell of their religious experience. Yet there is nothing in the Bible supporting this view. No such examples of this type of conversion exists in the Word of God.
– Not Receiving Christ as Personal Savior
Conversion is simple for many: “just receive Christ as your personal Savior.” The closest one can come to this idea in the Scriptures is John 1:12: “but as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.” Notice those who accept Jesus do not automatically become children of God but are given the power to become children of God.
– Not Through Prayer
Conversion has often involved an altar call where one kneels and prays for salvation. However, God does not answer the prayers of sinners (Ps. 68:18). When Ananias was sent to Paul, Paul had been praying for three days. Ananias does not tell him to keep on praying. Instead, the God-sent preacher demands Paul arise to his feet (thus ceasing to pray) and be baptized (Acts 22:16).
– Not Just Calling on the Name of the Lord
Although conversion involves calling upon the name of the Lord (see Acts 2:21,39), this is neither equivalent to prayer or confession of one’s belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. Calling upon the Lord involves obedience. Jesus asked His would-be disciples: “but why do you call Me `Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). The means by which man is called is through the Gospel (2 Thess. 2:14). Calling culminates in the sinner being baptized. Ananias told Paul, “and now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16)
– Not Going to Church
Conversion is not merely a change of venue on Sunday morning. Although a Christian should sit in a pew and worship God on Sunday instead of laying in bed attending Saint Mattress, conversion results in Christianity not “Churchanity.” Sitting in a pew in church does not make you a Christian any more than sitting in a hen house makes you a rooster.
– Not Through Bible Knowledge
If one man could have been saved through just amassing Bible knowledge, it would have been either the learned Paul or “Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 18:24-28). Notice his knowledge would not have saved him or his hearers.
– Not By Merely Denying of Self
Conversion is not practicing asceticism. Denial of the flesh does not change the soul. “And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing” (1 Cor. 13:3). Self-denial does not pay for past wrongs. Sins can only be forgiven by God, not made up for by the sinner.
– Not By Just Repenting
Judas who betrayed the Lord wanted to change. “Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ And they said, ‘What is that to us? You see to it!’” (Matthew 27:3-4). Like Judas some believe they can change by just turning over a new leaf. When Adam and Eve sinned, they turned fig leaves over to cover their nakedness, but such an act could not cover up their sins. They had to turn to God who then gave them adequate clothing to cover up their nakedness.
The phrase: “I will clean up my life, and begin life anew” is confusing conversion with repentance. The sinner must repent and “turn” in order to have his sins blotted out: “change your mind and reform your life that your sins may be wiped away” (Acts 3:19). This verse clarifies that repentance and turning or conversion are two different things. Repentance alone cannot change one’s past life or pardon it.
– Not By Just Being Baptized
No one has ever been converted by just being beaten in an argument about baptism. Baptism is essential to conversion. Conversion is a process involving several steps or acts. Baptism is just one of those acts.
– Not Pardon
The mere act of pardon is not conversion. Conversion takes place in man, but pardon takes place in the mind of God (Isaiah 55:7).
A man once admitted, “I was converted, forty years ago, and I’ve been a Christian off and on ever since.” Conversion is a lifelong process. Sometimes a man turns back into sin. Christians must convert such an erring brother. “Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20).
– Daniel R. Vess