Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Study Topic: The danger of false conversion
By Roderick C. Meredith
Millions have been taking their “conversion” to Christianity for granted! Have you?
Jesus Christ is coming soon as King of kings (Revelation 11:15). As the post-September 11, 2001 events continue to reverberate around the world, we all need to consider soberly the fact that we are truly living in the "last days." We need to consider soberly whether we are genuine servants of the living Christ. Jesus said: "He who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations" (Revelation 2:26). Are you "overcoming" and changing your life—month-by-month, and year-by-year, through Christ living His life within you? Are you really "overcoming"?
You, personally, only have one life. So putting aside all vanity and defense mechanisms, you need to be totally honest with yourself about your spiritual condition.
As the Apostle Paul wrote the Corinthians: "Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified" (2 Corinthians 13:5). Does the Christ of the Bible truly live His life within you through the Holy Spirit? Or did you (as I did!) "grow up" in a church and take all of its doctrines and practices for granted?
Almighty God has materially blessed America, and the British-descended nations, above other peoples. We have also been spiritually blessed by having free access to the Bible—and literally hundreds of Bible study helps, and by the tremendous freedom of worship we have been granted. Also, through the material blessings, we have had more time to pursue the spiritual things, to find God’s truth, and to live it. But we have failed!
A Dead Religion
Although we cherish favorite opinions and man-made traditions—and although we hate to be told we are wrong—our "modern religion" is a dead thing.
Some of us realize it. But most people hate to admit it. It is painful to admit they have been wrong. But the end of this civilization is near! God says He is going to have to punish our people for our national and individual sins. "Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel!" (Amos 4:12).
Are you prepared? God tells us to make ourselves ready! The time is now! Most of you who read Tomorrow’s World regularly realize that, in the past, you had been lacking something for many years. Now you have come to understand a great deal of new truth. A new way of life is opening up before you.
Now you are beginning to really understand Bible prophecies, and the great purpose being worked out here below. Why have you been in almost total ignorance of the real meaning of Bible prophecy and of world affairs all the years before this?
If you were truly a Christian—a begotten child of God—why did you never understand these things before? Why did God seem less than real? Why did you never really study and understand the Bible all these years?
Why, if he is a true minister of God, has your minister never really understood and preached the Bible and its prophecies? Why does he almost never admit he has been wrong about some points? Why does he fail to constantly grow in grace and in knowledge?
And what about you? Why have you not done these things—if you have really been a Christian and a child of God for many years? We must face the facts! Excusing ourselves will do no good whatsoever when we are brought before the judgment seat of God!
Does This Mean Someone Else?
The little word my is precious to most people. They lovingly speak of my opinion, my job, my house, my country, my religion and my God.
We resent being told that our opinion, our faith or our religion is wrong. We like to continue to believe what we have been accustomed to accept as true. Everyone hates to admit he has been wrong.
Yet, in all this maze of religious Babylon, somebody has to be wrong! Are you willing to admit that it could be you? May God help you to do so! Because if we will believe our Bibles, we will find that most of the people on this earth are steeped in religious error. And even most professing Christians are deceived!
One of the least understood principles in the Bible is that God has purposely blinded this world (Romans 11:8), and is letting it go its own way and learn lessons during this first 6,000 years of human history. At the same time, God
has allowed Satan to influence mankind; Scripture plainly describes Satan as "that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world" (Revelation 12:9).
Do you find that hard to believe? It is true. In many places, your Bible indicates that this whole world has been completely deceived in spiritual things. Remember that a deceived person does not know he is deceived. He is sincere. But he is sincerely wrong!
The great false religious system dominating our Western world today is pictured in Revelation 17. God describes this apostate church as a fallen woman—a great whore: "With whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication" (v. 2).
Because of false teachings and false concepts assumed since childhood, most people are spiritually drunk—having a distorted outlook so that they are unable to see spiritual truths. Like drunkards, they are stupidly satisfied in the foggy, hazy, confused spiritual state in which they find themselves.
They think they are all right—on the surface at least. But deep down inside is the haunting realization that something is missing—their religion seems empty. God seems unreal somehow, and so very, very far away.
A Counterfeit Christianity
The great religious deception that has gripped this world is the result of Satan the Devil working through false ministers who preach a counterfeit Christianity. After all, a deceiver is a counterfeiter. And Satan the Devil is the supreme counterfeiter of the ages! Therefore, his ministers have a doctrine that appears to be the truth.
The Apostle Paul describes these false Christian ministers—who were already prevalent in his day: "For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his [the devil’s] ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works" (2 Corinthians 11:13–15).
Yes, Satan the Devil has ministers! They appear to be the ministers of Christ! But actually, they teach a doctrine of "no works"—no obedience to God’s law. Therefore, they themselves will be judged according to their evil works!
God warns us to "try" or test every spirit or spiritual doctrine that comes through men. "Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1).
Unknowingly, and in most cases sincerely, most of you have in the past been deceived by false preaching—which originated and proceeded forth from Satan the Devil through his demon spirits which inspire and influence the religious system and false ministers of our day! It is time to wake up!
In these last days before the second coming of Jesus Christ, you need to know whether or not you are prepared to meet your God! With an open mind, you should be willing to prove whether or not you have ever been really converted.
Your misplaced confidence in a false conversion is a great and mortal deception which could very easily cause you to forfeit eternal life! It is such a dangerous deception because your own personal vanity will, in many cases, prevent you from admitting that you have never been converted!
Are you willing to face this possibility? Are you willing to change if God shows you through His Word that you have never really been converted before?
What Conversion Really Is
God’s word says: "Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His" (Romans 8:9). In plain language, you must have Christ’s Spirit in you or you are not a Christian—you have never been converted.
A truly converted person is filled with and led by the Holy Spirit of God. God places and lives His very life within us through His Holy Spirit. By this means, we are begotten of Him as children and thus partake of His very nature! "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God" (Romans 8:14).
Frankly, in the past, most of you did not even know what the Holy Spirit was, what it was supposed to do in your life, and what was the real result of your being led by God’s Holy Spirit.
In Romans 5:5, God tells us: "The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us." Through His Spirit, God gives us His love. Thus we partake of His nature—His character. And God’s character is expressed in the spiritual principles contained in the Ten Commandments—obedience to God’s Law. "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:3).
God’s Spirit leads us to obey Him as our Maker and Ruler. The Apostle Peter was inspired to write of "the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him" (Acts 5:32).
Real conversion, then, involves a genuine surrender to obey God and His Laws. In Acts 2:38, Peter was inspired to tell how to be converted. He said: "‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
You repent of sin. And what is the Bible definition of sin? "Sin is lawlessness" (1 John 3:4). That is the Bible definition of sin—breaking God’s Law! So to really be converted, you must repent of breaking God’s Law. Remember that Jesus Christ, in the New Testament, magnified this Law—particularly in Matthew 5 and the Sermon on the Mount as a whole. We are to keep not only the letter but the spirit or intent of God’s Law in every phase of our lives.
Jesus said: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God" (Luke 4:4). You must repent of disobeying God’s Law—His Word—His rule over your life. Then you need to be baptized as an outward sign of your willingness to completely bury your old self—and literally give your very life to God and to Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, High Priest and Master.
In Romans 6:1–4, the Apostle Paul describes baptism as a burial of the old self. It is to be a complete immersion of the body under the water as a type of the burial of the old selfish self in the grave.
False Conversion Is Very Common
Frankly, most people attending the churches of this world, though having been "baptized" by them, never really knew what to repent of! They did not know what sin really is.
At the time of their baptism, most people sincerely intend to "do better" or to "make their peace with God." But since they have not been taught what sin actually is, they completely fail to realize how rotten and sinful they have really been!
They never really repent! They are not "broken up" about the wretched state of their lives and their own human vanity and selfishness which expresses itself constantly in all of us.
Such people do not immediately begin to study and understand the Bible. They just continue to go along with the customs, the ways and the traditions of this world. Their lives are not actually changed. They do not come to know God personally!
Speaking of converted people, Jesus said: "However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come" (John 16:13). A truly converted person, then, will be guided into new truth by God’s Spirit. He will also come to understand and grasp Bible prophecy—or important events to come!
Genuine conversion actually revolutionizes a human being’s life! It is a renewing of his mind—his attitude—his character!
He comes to really know God—to constantly study and understand more and more of God’s Word—and he is able to pray and talk to God in a personal way. He receives constant answers—he is blessed—he grows more like Christ every month and year of his life!
The sad truth is that most professing Christians have never even begun to get ready to start on the road to this kind of Christian life!
Are you willing to face this fact and act on it?
Face Up to Human Nature
The Almighty God who created our minds and our human nature warns us in the book of Proverbs. He cautions: "There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death" (Proverbs 16:25; 14:12).
It is only human nature to believe that your way is right. But God says that the way that seems right to a man ends up in death! Remember that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).
The greatest stumbling block that prevents most people from accepting the truth and being truly converted is their own vanity. Most people have grown up in and attended some sort of church, and they hate to admit that they have never been converted! Human nature makes them want to proclaim their own righteousness.
God has inspired an entire book in His Word to deal with this common problem of human beings. It is the book of Job—one of the least understood books in the Bible.
The primary lesson in this entire book is that God hates our own human self-righteousness! Notice Job’s attitude. "Far be it from me that I should say you are right; till I die I will not put away my integrity from me. My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go; my heart shall not reproach me as long as I live" (Job 27:5–6).
Job again voices his real attitude in Job 31:6: "Let me be weighed on honest scales, that God may know my integrity." Even Job’s carnal friends could sense his own self-righteousness and vanity. "So these three men ceased answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes" (Job 32:1).
Finally, after dealing personally with God and learning much more about his own insignificance and utter weakness and wretchedness, Job at last repented. "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes" (Job 42:5–6).
But the real question remains: Have you ever come to really abhor yourself? Have you repented in "dust and ashes"? Have you totally surrendered yourself to God and given your very life to Him to use as He sees fit?
God commands us to quit justifying the self! "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the Lord, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon" (Isaiah 55:7). But perhaps you think that you have not been wicked?
The Almighty God declares: "There is none righteous, no, not one" (Romans 3:10). Again, He states: "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (v. 23).
Yes, we have all sinned! We have all broken God’s Law. And most of us are still breaking His Law and trying to justify doing so!
God thunders: "‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’" (Isaiah 55:8–9).
Our own human ways and reasonings are always wrong! This means you! Do not apply this to someone else—apply it to yourself!
It is almost certain that most of you reading this article still have what the Bible describes as a "carnal" mind. Many of you think you are already "saved," when the truth of the matter is that you never have come to the place of total surrender to God and His absolute rule over your lives! Therefore, you have never received God’s Holy Spirit and been begotten as His spiritual son or daughter.
That is why you have not been able to understand Bible prophecy before! That is why you never really understood the great purpose being worked out here below. And that is why God always seemed so far away—so unreal.
This lack of God’s Spirit is the reason that you were not continually growing in grace and in knowledge—and that you have lacked vital scriptural truths for so many years of your life.
Now it is time to awaken! Now it is time to be really converted!
What You Should Do
First of all, you should apply this article to yourself. And you should strive not to let your feelings be hurt by the correction and the exhortation which is given here in deep love!
Remember that when Jesus had been showing His disciples that they had to "eat" of Him and His message, many had their feelings hurt and drew back. "Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can understand it?’" (John 6:60). But Jesus asked the twelve: "Will you also go away?" (v. 67).
Then Peter gave an answer that has the same significance today. He said: "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (v. 68).
If God has shown you by the "fruits" that this is the Work of His Church, then you should fear to turn aside from the truth! Where else would you go?
Thousands of you have come to realize that you are receiving the truth and message of God through this work—the Tomorrow’s World telecast and the Tomorrow’s World magazine. You are beginning to realize that this is the Work of the true Church of God.
But you have never thought of actually doing very much about it! If we are the servants of the Most High God, then you ought to follow our teaching and example as you see it is according to the Bible. You ought to apply such articles as this more literally and personally in your own private lives.
The Apostle Paul was inspired to write: "Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1). You need to imitate the example of God’s true ministers—and of Jesus Christ.
Frankly, most of you have never counseled with one of God’s true ministers about real conversion and baptism. Even as this article is being written, scores of people across the United States and Canada are calling us or writing to request personal interviews with God’s true ministers.
These people are beginning to know that this is the Work of God’s true Church on earth today. They realize the importance of personal contact with the true ministers of Jesus Christ who are actually doing His Work of preaching the message of the Kingdom of God as a last witness to this earth.
If you realize the vital necessity of this personal contact and guidance of the true servants of Jesus Christ, then call us or send your name and address immediately to: Living Church of God, P.O. Box 3810, Charlotte, NC 28227, or you may phone us at (704) 844-1970.
And all of you need to realize the vital importance of coming to a real conversion! Do not put it off too long! Remember that God does not have a habit of doing His Work through deceived ministers! If you want to be really sure of your spiritual state, you should counsel with the true ministers of God who are being used as instruments to preach His message to this dying world. You then need to humble yourself to take their advice—to follow their instructions—if you are satisfied that they are truly God’s ministers.
Be Willing to Change
Never forget that before real conversion comes real repentance. You need to humble yourself until you can sincerely repent as David did in Psalm 51. "Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me" (vv. 2–3).
Notice that David did not try to justify himself—he acknowledged his sin freely and asked for forgiveness. He continued: "Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight" (v. 4). God did not need to argue or "reason" David into admitting his guilt! As had Job, David had come to see himself as he really was and to abhor himself. And you are no better!
When you are finally ready to repent of breaking God’s laws, of following human traditions, of conforming to this society and its ways, then here is what God requires of you: "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise" (Psalm 51:17).
When that time comes, you will quit arguing and reasoning with the ministers through whom God shows you by the "fruits" that He is working. You will not grudgingly hang on to a false conversion any more. You will not find that your "feelings" are hurt by the correction and exhortation of God’s chosen servants.
At that time, you will be humble and teachable like a little child—not assuming that you are a spiritual giant before you even start on the road to real conversion. And you will realize the great danger of assuming—because of spiritual pride and vanity—that a previous false conversion was the real thing. You will know that this kind of vanity could prevent you from ever being truly converted—and could cut you off from God for all eternity!
You will also know that God gives the right advice through the same ministers He is using to preach His message to the world. "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."