There are many who regard the bible as a book of “quotable quotes” only. They quote passages from it when it suits them even using some verses as motivation or basis for their ungodly escapades. Yet, they know not the God of the bible neither can they obey Him. The tragedy of it all is that they are going headlong into destruction without knowing it!
The mistakes about conversion or what conversion is not concerns those within the Christian fold who claim to be converted but are not. Some may truly not know their status while some may be truly unconverted and sent by the devil to weary the saints of God by their persistent rebellious attitudes and activities from their evil heart of unbelief (Matthew 13:25; Hebrews 3:12). When the Israelites left Egypt, as the word of God says: “And a mixed multitude went up also with them;…” (Exodus 12:38). This mixed multitude was to later be a source of problem to them when they started to show their true character of unbelief in the God of Israel: “And the mixt multitude that was among them fell a lusting: and the children of Israel also wept again, and said, Who shall give us flesh to eat?” (Numbers 11:4) Similarly today, mingling with the body of Christ is a mixed multitude referred to in scripture by various names – tares (Matthew 13:24-30 esp. vv.25, 38; Goat (Matthew 25:32-46); sons of Belial (1Sam 2:12); children of disobedience (Ephesians 2:2, 5:6). They will claim to know God but will deny Him through their actions: “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.” (Titus 1:16). It is to avoid the influence of the mixed multitude within the congregation of God that the bible warns us: “Be not deceived: evil communication corrupts good manners.” (1Cor 15:33).
The Devil has made many counterfeits of conversion. He has cheated and continues to deceive people with all manner of devices. Such is his craftiness that, if it were possible, he would deceive the very elect of God (Matthew 24:24). We are thus warned not to be ignorant of his devices (2Cor 2:11). We want to look at the mistake [blunder, gaffe, clanger, howler], yes, a very serious mistake that many make. It is very serious because it is dangerous enough to lead to their eventual destruction if they persist in it rather than taking drastic action against it. This serious mistake is that some think they are converted, that they are of Jesus Christ when, in truth, they are none of His. Some refer to this as false or pseudo- conversion. But let truth be told, you are either converted or not converted. There is no middle point.
The people who think they are converted when they are not are mistaken – either genuinely mistaken or are deceived or are those referred to in scripture as tares sown by the enemy (Matthew 13:25). The former two will readily or with much difficulty eventually accept correction and mend their ways. But tares cannot but continue to be tares. Let the wise be aware. Whatever the case may be, these professors of Christianity need to be made aware of their not only pathetic but dangerous status before the Lord; perhaps some of them may be snatched from the fire (2Timothy 2:25-26). Remember: a mistake is an incorrect, unwise, or unfortunate act or decision caused by bad judgment or a lack of information or care. The consequences of a mistake could be anywhere from minor and inconsequential to serious and devastating. It is also hoped that those who are converted but fear they are not, will have such fear removed.
We start with the negative – what conversion is not. Let’s go!
1. Professing to be a Christian is not conversion.
Contrary to what many believe, conversion is not the profession of Christianity, taking on the name “Christian.” Some think that by styling themselves “Christian” means they are disciples of Jesus Christ. They come to this erroneous conclusion by diverse ways – being born into a Christian home or parents, being the child of a minister in church, attending church and Christian activities and such other things. However, without fear of controversy, Christianity is more than a name: “For the kingdom of God is not in word, but in power.” (1Corinthians 4:20). If to cease to be Jews and Pagans, and to put on the Christian profession, had been true conversion, there probably would have been no better Christians than they of Sardis. These were all Christians by profession, and had a name, a reputation of being alive. But because they had a name only, they are condemned by Jesus Christ since their works were contrary to Him. In fact, to Christ they were dead! There are many like them in the church today: They name the name of the Lord Jesus Christ but do not depart from iniquity (2Timothy 2:19). “They profess that they know God; but in works they deny him,” (Titus 1:16). The Lord says they are dead though they continue to claim they are alive and well and on the way to heaven. If these have been converted, then from what have they been converted since they have remained the same as ever in their sin? What convert! What a contradiction! Perhaps it should be noted that if professing the name of Christian alone would do, the five foolish virgins would never have been shut out (Matthew 25:1-13). The bible shows that even some preachers of Christ and miracle workers will be turned back because in spite of all their protestations, they are in truth, evil workers (Mat 7:22-23).
2. Baptism is not conversion.
Many think that baptism means they are converted. Such ones carry their baptismal certificate like a badge of honour that they brandish at others. It is as if saying: “Look at my entry visa to heaven. Have you obtained yours?” They feel they are now regenerated and need nothing further. There are groups that baptize infants and all such infants need do to remain or continue to be a Christian is to renew their baptism by being baptized again when they are older. Hence they continue in their previous ways of life. What a serious mistake to think that the external administration of baptism and other external rituals of religion can secure the promises of God without following the leader. But the word of God tells us otherwise: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men,” (Titus 2:11). And further: “teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;” (Titus 2:12). But these baptism-certificate wielding professors say no, they must have it their way. Deceiving and being deceived, convinced of their automatic admission into heaven upon sight of their glazed beautiful baptismal certificates, they continue on their way oblivious of what awaits them at their destination. Please, be warned, no church rites and rituals will avail you anything if you do not follow the rules as laid down by the master in the Word.
3. Believing that many ways lead to God is not conversion
There are many on profess to be Christians but claim that Jesus Christ is not the only way to God. Rather they believe and say that there are many other routes to God. They say it is the heart that matters not whether you have believed in Jesus Christ or not. Some say God is love and will actually not send anybody to hell. They raise questions like: “What will happen to people in such and such faith or movement?”, “Are you saying you are the only one who knows the truth”, “I know so and so has done so much for humanity and can’t but go to heaven” and so the argument goes on and on. But truth be told: There are NOT MANY different ways but ONLY ONE WAY TO GOD. This might not be environmentally, politically, socially and religiously correct in the world of today where people are claiming that everything including truth is relative. Howbeit, we speak of godly correctness not worldly correctness – there is ONLY ONE WAY to God the Father and the kingdom of heaven – Jesus Christ.
The head of a super mega church was asked once on a live television interview “Do you think Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven?” He responded: “I don’t go there. I think there may be other ways to heaven. I don’t know.” A pastor who claims to be preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ! Need I say his must be another gospel?
The scripture is very clear in its testimony of Jesus Christ. A tiny sample:
- “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6).
- “12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:13 which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12–13).
- “18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:18).
- “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:11).
- “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12).
Yes, we live in a world filled with diverse philosophies, ideologies, pushing for pluralism, one-world order, where God has been dethroned and man enthroned in His place and sin is glamourized; One-world religion, where man is worshipped. This now has a big help from inside Christiandom – the hyra-headed monster called ecumenism! They say everything exists for the sake of man and must be seen to be so. Everyone, at least numerous people, groups and organisations seem to be falling head-over-heels to belong. We truly live in the last days, perilous times (2Timothy 3:1-5)!
But no matter what they say or do, God’s word remains true and absolute forever (Ps 119:89). You see, it is always true that:“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” (Isa 8:20).
4. To continue in something contrary to scripture because “it works” is not conversion
Some claim to be Christian but continue in their previous way of life. There has been no apparent change. They say what is important is that they said a few lines of “prayer of faith” sometime ago. Therefore whatever they are doing now doesn’t matter. They continue in their old habits and practices only now they do so claiming to be Christians. When asked why the ready answer is “It works!” Many actually practice syncretism – they combine practices from their previous faith or walk of life with aspects of Christianity.
Some still burn incense and carry holy water and holy oil around, many from different metaphysical movements continue with visualisation (picture it and claim it), mantra chanting, eastern meditation and concentration, those from white garment and green garment churches still consult “prophets and prophetesses” who are actually diviners and mediums; many continue with numerology, astrology and horoscope. Some even attend three or more churches concurrently refusing to be “tied down” to any local church because they need “different types of anointing from different pastors” to attain their aims and objectives. When asked why they do this their answer is that “it works” by which they mean “I’m getting what I want therefore God approves and is blessing me!” they forget that a person in Christ is a new creature, old things are passed away (2Corinthians 5:17). When you come to faith in Jesus Christ of the bible you completely severe relations with your previous and past life and do away with all paraphernalia of that previous life (Acts 19:18-19).
Simon used sorcery to bewitch the people of Samaria and it was working and the people considered him great, he claimed to be converted and perhaps to the casual Christian onlooker he was a Christian. But this only continued until apostle Peter came on the scene and Simon the sorcerer’s true condition was then revealed (Acts 8:9-24). Similarly sorcery worked for Elymas the sorcerer until he met the apostle Paul (Acts 13:6-11). What the sons of Eli were doing was working for them until the day God’s judgment came (1Samuel 2:12, 4:11). Today many are engaged in things contrary to God but they are holding on to them claiming that because “it works.” They have fame, they have self-satisfaction and fulfilment, they have money and a big following, good feelings and experience what they consider abundant life in this world now or whatever else they consider as “it works” For many it will seem to work not realising they are being deceived until they meet with the Lord and are then rejected (Matthew 7:21-23).
I pity you indeed if the only reason you are a Christian is because “it works” for there are many in cults, other ungodly faiths who are there because it works for them. Does that make what they are doing right in the sight of God? Worse still you fellowship with the children of God while engaged in other things contrary to the word of God and you say it is alright with God because you are getting what you want – that is rebellion against God! With all these that you are still engaging in you claim to have been delivered and that you are a Christian. What have you been delivered from then? When are you going to stop giving the sacrifice of fools (Ecclesiastes 5:1) and face up to it that you are not a Christian but an enemy of God and still in the firm grip of the enemy?
5. Moral uprightness is not conversion.
There are many people today who humanly speaking are morally upright, more so than the average person. But the God of the bible, His Word both in written form and in the form of His Son is about relationship not morality. It is necessary to have good morals but more is demanded by God than morality. When a person tries to qualify by himself in the sight of God through whatever good he thinks are due himself, God sees this as self-righteousness and is never acceptable to Him. A group in the bible were very righteous, God’s word confirms it – the Pharisees. One of them praying said among other things that he was not an extortioner, unjust, and he fasted twice a week (Luke 18:9-14). Jesus demanded that the righteousness of His followers must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees (Mat 5:20). Similarly, Apostle Paul before his conversion and while still in Judaism as a Pharisee was “touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless.” (Phil 3:6). He later, after his conversion repudiated all and “counted all things but loss” and “count them but dung” (Phil 3:7-8). I do concur with what a Puritan once said “Piety includes morality, as Christianity includes humanity, and grace includes reason: but we must not divide the tables.”
6. External conformity to the rules of religion is not conversion. Nice as it is may be to have rules and conditions to ensure everyone is operating at the same level, it is clear that faith cannot be legislated. People do thereby have a form of godliness but deny the power thereof for (2Tim 3:5). In other words, they follow rules of religion – they go to church, they pray often, fast frequently, give alms and otherwise engaged in various acts that will suggest they know God. But their heart condition, attitudes and lifestyle demonstrate that they do not know God. This is possible because they have not known God. In fact people in different faiths carry out good charity work every day at great personal cost, yet they do not know God and do not therefore qualify automatically for His approval because of what they are doing. In biblical times, many were involved in God’s work that did not know the Lord. Examples of such include:
- The first two sons of Aaron: Nadab and Abihu (Lev 10:1-2);
- Two sons of Eli: Hophni and Phinehas (1Sam 2:12);
- Two sons of Samuel: Joel and Abiah (1Sam 8:3);
- The couple: Ananias with Sapphira his wife (Acts 5:1-11) and
- Simon that used sorcery but claimed to have converted (Acts 8:9-24).
Similarly, there are many at the various levels of the church engaged in God’s work but who do not know the God of the bible and God doesn’t know them either.
7. Being the member of a church is not conversion neither is being rich in the material things of this world conversion
There are many who attend church meetings and are active in the church environment. The have imbibed so-called church manners and for the cursory observer they easily pass of for a devout Christian. They parade their material endowment as a sign that they are right with God. After all God has promised abundant life so they are living that abundant life now; otherwise why will God be blessing them so much? Some claim to have miracles every day and indeed at the snap of their fingers God seems to come running to wait on them. Some claim to be led by the Holy Spirit even being instructed as to when to get off their bed and which grocery to buy their grocery. Many of them are very very challenged when it comes to the scriptures (or shall we say close to being ignorant?), but veeeeeerrrrrryyyyyy long and deep in feelings and experience. But remember the Lord’s indictment of the Pharisees who were rich this world’s good and took that as a sign of approval by God (). Some consider gain to be Godliness (1Timothy 6:5), but God says He sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:45) there was also the ones like the Laodiceans claiming to be rich in this world but in truth wretched and poor before the Lord (Revelation 3:17). These are they that the bible says “Behold all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks; walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of my hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.” (Isaiah 50:11). If only they will humble themselves they will come to a true knowledge of God and be saved from the coming wrath of God.
8. The force of incumbent addiction or felt need is not conversion
By incumbent addiction or felt need, I mean that craving that is the uppermost desire for the moment and for which the person seeks a solution. To obtain that solution, a person with incumbent addiction will be ready and willing to do what it takes to obtain the solution even with deceit if need be. He behaves like a person being driven by an invincible force but is clever enough to cloak of religious zeal. Examples: a person is seeking a spouse to be. That is his incumbent addiction. At this moment, he decides to go to a church or fellowship to attend to this craving. He is ready to claim being a Christian, get involved in church activities as required for maximum exposure. An observer will believe this person is committed and may even give responsibilities. Once his craven is met (gets a spouse), the true character may then become apparent. A jobless person’s craving is to get a job. If he sees that a church will be a quick source, he will jump at it. Some see the church as a place to get fame or gain control over many people. Their being there has nothing to do with faith in Jesus Christ. The church is only their means to an end – healing, prosperity, victory over enemies, dominion over others, fulfilment of their lust and covetousness or whatever other force may be controlling them.
Reading the above you may begin to say “Wait a minute, there is nothing wrong with wanting to be healed, with being morally up right etc. I concede to you that there are areas of overlap but that will be the subject for another post. Till then, may the Good Lord keep all of us in His favour.