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Conversion

(4 posts)

The Grace of Repentance

Monday··2007·07·30 · 5 Comments
Let us give up vain and fruitless cares, and approach to the glorious and venerable rule of our holy calling. Let us attend to what is good, pleasing, and acceptable in the sight of Him who formed us. Let us look steadfastly to the blood of Christ, and see how precious that blood is to God, which having been shed for our salvation, has set the grace of repentance before the whole world. Let us turn to every age that has passed, and learn that, from generation to generation, the Lord has granted a place of repentance to all such as would be converted unto Him. —Clement of Rome, The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians, Chapter VII.

“Born Again”

Monday··2008·05·19
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. —John 3:3 The term born again has become popular. Surveys show that the majority of Americans consider themselves to be born again, by which they mean that they have had some spiritual experience. But for many, there has been no real change in their lives. When it comes to issues such as sexual sin, their conduct in marriage, their use of time and money, and their life ambitions, a great many so-called “born-again” people are no different than non-Christians. This is a problem because, according to the Bible, if we have not been changed, we have not been born again, regardless of any spiritual experiences we think we have had. To be born again, Paul said, is to be “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). If our witness of the gospel is to be true and accurate, then we must present people with this reality. . . . Sinclair Ferguson tells of a young man who came to church and eventually was converted. He told an elder: “I can’t believe how much this church has changed within the last few weeks. The hymns are so lively now. The worship is so wonderfully meaningful. Why, even the preacher is better!” have you experienced something like that? Spurgeon asks, “Do you feel [that] . . . now you love God, now you seek to please him, now spiritual realities are realities to you, now the blood of Jesus is your only trust, now you desire to be made holy, even as God is holy? If there is such new life as that in you, however feeble it may be, though it is only like the life of a new-born child, you are born again, and you may rejoice in that blessed fact. Jesus’ teaching that the new birth is revealed in its effects not only challenges us to examine ourselves for such evidences, it encourages us in our weakness and gives us hope about what the future holds for us. The Holy Spirit’s work does not end with the new birth—having made us alive, He goes on to bring us more and more to life, working in us the life of God and molding our character into Christlikeness. The new birth is the beginning of a lifelong process of spiritual animation and growth, and is the pledge of glorious things yet to come. How wonderful that Christians are no longer what we once were, but how wonderful it also is that we someday will become what we are not yet. Paul says, “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). —Richard D. Phillips, Jesus the Evangelist (Reformation Trust Publishing, 2007), 66, 67.

A Hopeless Task

Friday··2008·06·13 · 2 Comments
The monergist’s approach to evangelism is necessarily different from the synergist’s because the monergist knows that conversion is a result of the miracle of regeneration—and he knows he is unable to perform miracles. [U]nderstanding God’s sovereignty makes us dependent on Him because we see that it is only because of sovereign grace that the conversion of spiritually dead sinners is even possible. The Calvinist knows that unbelievers are not merely sick; they are “dead in . . . trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). We know that people are dead when they no longer respond to stimuli. We talk to them and they do not answer. We touch them and they do not move. This is the way people who are spiritually dead respond to God and his word. When the Bible is taught, they have no comprehension; when the gospel offer is made, they make no response. This presents a most depressing situation for an evangelist. Given man’s utter depravity, an evangelist cannot hope to lead anyone to faith in Christ by his own power. Paul states, “The natural person does not accept the things of the spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and He is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1Cor. 2:14). Note that Paul says not only the natural person “does not” accept the gospel but that he “is unable to.” Elsewhere, the apostle says “The mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot” (Rom. 8:7). Packer therefore writes: “Our approach to evangelism is not realistic until we have faced this shattering fact, and let it make it’s proper impact on us. . . . Regarded as a human enterprise, evangelism is a hopeless task.” —Richard D. Phillips, Jesus the Evangelist (Reformation Trust Publishing, 2007), 174–175.

To Become Like a Child

Tuesday··2019·01·15
Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. —Matthew 18:3 I now proceed to show in what sense we are really to understand the words, that we must be converted and become like little children. The Evangelist tell us, ‘that the disciples at this time came unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ These disciples had imbibed the common prevailing notion, that the Lord Jesus Christ was to be a temporal prince. They dreamed of nothing but being ministers of state, of sitting on Christ’s right hand in his kingdom and lording it over God’s people. They thought themselves qualified for state offices, as generally ignorant people are apt to conceive of themselves. Well, say they, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ Which of us shall have the chief management of public affairs? A pretty question for a few poor fishermen, who scarcely knew how to drag their nets to shore, much less how to govern a kingdom. Our Lord, therefore, in the 2nd verse, to mortify them, calls a little child and sets him in the midst of them. This action was as much as if our Lord had said, ‘Poor creatures! Your imaginations are very towering; you dispute who shall be greatest in the kingdom of heaven; I will make this little child preach to you, or I will preach to you by him. Verily I say unto you (I who am truth itself, I know in what manner my subjects are to enter into my kingdom; I say unto you, ye are so far from being in a right temper for my kingdom, that) except ye be converted and become as this little child, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven (unless ye are, comparatively speaking, as loose to the world, as loose to crowns, sceptres and kingdoms and earthly things, as this poor little child I have in my hand) ye shall not enter into my kingdom.’ So that what our Lord is speaking of is not the innocency of little children, if you consider the relation they stand in to God and as they are in themselves when brought into the world. But what our Lord means is that as to ambition and lust after the world we must in this sense become as little children. . . . Now in this sense we must be converted and become as little children, that is, we must be as loose to the world, comparatively speaking, as a little child. . . . When our Lord says, we must be converted and become as little children, I suppose he means also, that we must be sensible of our weakness, comparatively speaking, as a little child. . . . Are little children sensible of their weakness? Must they be led by the hand? Must we take hold of them or they will fall? So, if we are converted, if the grace of God be really in our hearts, my dear friends, however we may have thought of ourselves once, whatever were our former high exalted imaginations, yet we shall now be sensible of our weakness. . . . And as little children look upon themselves to be ignorant creatures, so those that are converted do look upon themselves as ignorant too. Hence it is, that John speaking to Christians calls them little children: ‘I have written unto you, little children.’ . . . Hence that great man . . . the Apostle Paul, when he speaks of himself, says, ‘Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.’ . . . And as a little child is looked upon as an harmless creature and generally speaks true so, if we are converted and become as little children, we shall be guileless as well as harmless. What said the dear Redeemer when he saw Nathanael? As though it was a rare sight he gazed upon and would have others gaze upon it: ‘Behold an Israelite indeed.’ Why so? ‘In whom is no guile.’ Do not mistake me, I am not saying that Christians ought not to be prudent. They ought exceedingly to pray to God for prudence, otherwise they may follow the delusions of the devil and by their imprudence give wrong touches to the ark of God. . . . We should pray for the wisdom of the serpent, though we shall generally learn this wisdom by our blunders and imprudence. And we must make some advance in Christianity before we know our imprudence. —George Whitefield, “Marks of a True Conversion” in Lee Gatiss (Ed.), The Sermons of George Whitefield (Crossway, 2012), 1:390–393.

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