When I was in high school, my family moved into a new home, and lets just say, “It was a fixer-upper.” I’ll never forget waking up the first morning in that ranch-style house and laying for what seemed like hours, hiding under the blankets as flies landed on my head. Gross! The floors were torn up with nails jutting out and the kitchen walls were covered with years of baked on grease, tobacco smoke, and other browning agents. While my parents owned the home and the property had been transferred to them, it was evident that they had only just begun in their cleanup process.
With our relationship with God, we find something similar. When the Triune God ransoms a sinner from the throws of hell and saves him or her from a life enslaved to sin, the condition of that sinner’s “house” is in a word: Wretched!! Much worse than my high school abode. Nevertheless, the transfer of property is certani, and the conversion process is permanent. Powerful changes will be forthcoming.
Over time, just as my family cleared out and cleaned up that dirty house, so the Holy Spirit comes into the life of a believer and gives us him or her a new priority for God’s word, a new appetite for holiness, a new love for others, and a new power to walk with God–just to name a few of the changes. All in all, the life-changing effects of conversion are visibly evident, and as the Bible teaches this is part of God’s design. The one-time purchase is necessarily followed by a life-time of Christian growth and sanctification. The moment of conversion results in a myriad of Spirit-filled changes.
In this weeks chapter, Pastor Thabiti touches on this important but often neglected truth — Genuine Conversion. As the fourth mark of a healthy church member, he sets a course to consider the reality of our conversion and to challenge us to know for sure that God has in fact moved in. From his helpful admonitions, let me give you five ways to meditate on genuine conversion and ways you can encourage others who are clinging to Christ by faith.
1. Read 1 John and consider your own conversion experience. On page 55, Thabiti provides a helpful set of diagnostic questions. Take time to read the Scriptures and consider them.
- Do you walk in the light or in the darkness (1 John 1:6-7)?
- Do you love God the Father or do we appear to love the world (1 John 2:15)?
- Do you love other Christians (1 John 3:14-15; 18-19; 5:1)?
- Do you have the testimony of the Holy Spirit that we are children of God (Rom. 8:15-16; Gal. 4:6; 1 John 3:24b)?
- Are you persevering in the faith (1 John 5:4-5)?
2. Invite another mature member to point out blindspots in our Christian walk. God’s word instructs us that fellow Christians should spur one another on to love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24), likewise that we should speak the truth to one another in love (Eph. 4:15). Yet, we should not only do this, we should also invite a trusted friend and church member to do this, by asking them to point out areas of weakness and growth. Of course, this requires humility and a willing spirit, but the fruits of this discipline are invaluable.
3. Make a habit of recognizing the grace of God in others. From a great distance, I have been challenged to do this by C.J. Mahaney. C.J.’s radical commitment to humble himself by laboring to build up others is a model for us all– see his Humility: True Greatness. His “others-first” mentality is only sustained by the Holy Spirit, and results in a genuine humility and gratefulness that reflects the Son of God himself. This however, is not an exceptional kind of Christian behavior evidenced in rare Christians, it rather available to anyone who is indwelt and empowered by the Spirit.
4. With another member, set a goal to read a book about genuine conversion. There are so many good books on conversion, salvation, and how to know the spiritual condition of one’s relationships with God. Let me commend three: John Piper’s Finally Alive is a basic and powerful look at conversion and the doctrine of the new birth; Stephen Smallman’s What is True Conversion? is recommended by Pastor Thabiti and looks to be a helpful, 32-page introduction to the realities of conversion; and Donald Whitney’s Ten Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health is another reliable tool to discern the condition of your heart.
5. With humility, patience, and love, pray for and pursue a member of your church who is walking away from Christ. James 5:19-20 reads, “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” There is nothing more loving you could do than to pray for and gently pursue a fellow church member who is drifting from the Lord. Perhaps they have been offended and need encouragement or exhortation to make amends and be reconciled; perhaps they have been deceived and ensnared by Satan and need a word of truth to free them; perhaps they have simply grown tired and discouraged and need the loving reminder that God loves carried to them by a compassionate friend. Whatever it is, we will not know until we go. And Scripture is clear: We are to be our brother’s (or sister’s) keeper. We are not to be like Cain who shed his brother’s blood, but rather like our Master Jesus Christ, we are to shed our blood for the sake of others (cf. Col. 1:24ff).
This weeks action points are the most challenging thus far– not because of their intellectual difficulty, they are pretty simple to understand– but because they demand so much from us! In truth, it is only the genuinely converted person who would even want to attempt these things, and who in fact has the humility and power to do them. Yet, if these action points confront you as hard, do not be discouraged. Simply turn to the Lord who has sufficient power to make his calling and election sure in your life and to add good deeds to your faith (cf. 2 Peter 1:5-11).
Soli Deo Gloria, dss