True Conversion - part 1
Acts 20:28-31 28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore, be alert. ESV
My subject is still, ‘care for the church of God’.
· The church of God, this subject and this line of study is becoming more and more conviction to me, my brothers and sisters
· I ask for your prayers that I trust in the Lord during this preaching series with all of my heart and that I lean not to my own understanding
· This care that is commanded to the overseers here is nothing short of intensive care and ongoing care – Amen!
The last time we were together, I preached that the church is more than a building and an activity, the church is the people of God, the true believers for all time and that makes up what is termed the invisible church that only God sees. The visible church consisting of the church members that you and I see, has believers and nonbelievers in it. Conversion, true conversion, is the only way one becomes a member of the true church. It is your willing response to the gospel call, in which you sincerely repent of sins and place your trust in Christ for salvation. The turning from sin is repentance, and the turning to Christ is saving faith.
Too many times we are concerned only with getting names on the church role, the visible church, and we are not as concerned with converting souls the correct way. And because we rush through this starting point or don’t even pay that much attention to it, the church is tossed and driven by various winds of doctrine. In this mode, as far as repentance and faith is concerned, it becomes very easy to over emphasize one and under emphasize the other. The last time we look at over emphasizing faith and under emphasizing repentance and thus you can have members in the visible church who have;
· Faith in Jesus Christ and still living a life of sin
· Faith that Jesus is my Lord and Savior but still holding to your own opinions or being controlled by feelings instead of controlled by the Holy Spirit
· Trusting in the Lord Jesus as one who died for your sins but still leaning to your own understanding
· And as I said the last time, I repeat again, this is not gospel and the truth is, it is not conversion at all
· In true conversion Repentance and Faith must come together and must work together
Care must be taken not to over emphasizing repentance and under emphasizing faith or not emphasizing saving faith, for when that happens you end up with something other than the true church
· The 12 step programs to deal with alcohol or drug abuse
· Weight lost programs
· Programs to stop smoking
· Boot camp for Juvenile Delinquents
· Million men marches showing men how to be men
· Acts of penance to remove stains of sins
· An over emphases on a culture or ethnic background thus you have the black church, the Asian church, the conservative church, the liberal church. Emphasizing a change from previous thoughts, patterns, or actions to something new
· All designed to better your life by stopping the negative or bad stuff
· Repentance, with faith in a certain program, faith in some medication, or faith in oneself
· Notice repentance and faith because when you turn from the thing, object, or person you turn to, you must have faith in that. But it is not saving faith
· The results may even look good in the visible church but only for awhile
· Given time and over time, you will keep turning and end up back where you started
· Jesus said “I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it!”
· Do you believe that today? That even in these days and time that Jesus is still in the building business and it is successful
· Trust in the Lord with all your heart, not some program, and lean not to your own understanding
We preached about true repentance so now the question is what is this saving faith? Recall that repentance is a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of it, and a sincere commitment to forsake it and walk in obedience to Christ.
· In the Bible, ‘faith’ is both a noun and a verb
o Believe is the verb form of faith and
o Faith is the noun form of believe
Anthony A. Hoekema in his book ‘Saved by Grace’, gives a rather long definition for saving faith as; “a response to God’s call by the acceptance of Christ with the total person – that is, with assured conviction of the truth of the gospel, and with trustful reliance on God in Christ for salvation, together with genuine commitment to Christ and to his service.” This definition has three aspects that I would like to look closer at
· The first element of saving faith is knowledge (assured conviction of the truth of the gospel)
o This goes against the popular thinking that faith is the opposite of knowledge, it is a leap in the dark, or it is believing something without evidence
o Listen; Romans 10:14 14 But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? ESV and Romans 10:17 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. ESV
o This knowledge consists of the truth of the gospel and of Christ’s redemptive work for us.
o Knowledge that we are sinners who need redemption, that we cannot save ourselves but that only Jesus Christ can redeem us from sin and from the wrath of God and that Christ died and rose for us
o But knowledge alone is not saving faith
o Listen Romans 1:32 32 Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. ESV James 2:19 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! ESV
o The demons have a faith but it is not a saving faith
o My brothers and sisters, you are receiving biblical knowledge in this place; from the prayers to the signing, to teaching and the preaching of God’s Word, knowledge good gospel knowledge is available in this place.
o Are you taking advantage of it?
o Are you utilizing it? For this leads us into the next aspect of saving faith
· The second element of saving faith is assent (a trustful reliance on God in Christ for salvation)
o By assent I mean that activity by which you firmly accept the teachings of God’s Word as true.
o Not some of it but the entire Word of God
o And not with a part of you but all of you, that is with your whole self you except as true what the Bible teaches you about sin, Christ, salvation, and God’s purpose for your life
o I know people who perceive the truth of the Bible as just someone’s opinion.
o I know others who see it as just someone’s interpretation and thus they feel that they can except or reject what ever they like or dislike
o Assent is where you play your mind games
§ It doesn’t feel right
§ That don’t make sense
§ It is taking too long
§ I’m not all that bad
§ I know what it says but I feel (what ever)
o Are you fighting the truth? Or are you accepting the truth?
o You may say that I have the knowledge and I agree with it but I say to you that if that is it, these two together are not saving faith
o We need the third aspect
· The third element of saving faith is trust (the genuine commitment to Christ and to his service). Wayne Grudem gives a much shorter definition of saving faith; “saving faith is trust in Jesus Christ as a living person for forgiveness of sins and for eternal life with God.”
o Trust means allowing the knowledge of God, the gospel, to govern your thoughts, your actions, and your behavior.
o You trust Jesus Christ as Savior to save you from sin and Lord of your life from here to eternity.
o Trusting is not just believing that I am saved but trust is believing in Jesus who saved me
o Trusting also means being in subjection to Jesus and willing to obey him. This is the working part of faith
o Listen; James 2:14-26 14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? 17 So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”— and he was called a friend of God. 24 You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25 And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. ESV
o Saving faith must be living faith, obedient faith, faith that works, or else it is dead
When I first went to my back surgeon, he informed me about the condition of my back, showed me pictures and models of the spine and what my situation was that was causing my pain. When I left his office, I had the knowledge of my situation and I was aware of the remedy for similar situations like that. But having that knowledge alone did not solve my problem the pain was still there and I had to endure that situation.
The pain was sharp enough in the area that the doctor mentioned and was getting worse as he said so I knew what he said was the truth. The pain itself made me assent or agree with what the doctor had diagnose. But with all of that my situation remained.
I had to yield to the surgery trusting the Lord to guide the doctors hands to do a good job and it was that activity that caused my back to begin to heal. Knowledge, agreement, and trust. We can do that so easy with an imperfect human, why is it so hard to do with the perfect God?
· The overseer is commanded to care for the church of God, the elect, the redeemed, the converted
· Have you been truly converted?
· Have you made a willing response to the gospel call?
· Have you sincerely repented of your sins and place your trust in Christ for salvation?
· If you can answer yes then you are a member of the church of God and you are joined to Christ
· If you can answer yes, yes I have truly been converted then, my brother and my sister, you are
o A chosen generation
o A royal priesthood
o A holy nation
o His own special people
o A member of the church that Jesus built and the gates of hell shall not prevail against forever and ever
· Let us pray.