The following was shared by Pastor Kabwe Kabwe during the 2014 Leadership Conference held at CABC.The Conference Theme was: Reclaiming Authentic Christianity.
Authentic Christianity warning signs of false conversion
The great deception that has gripped the current world and some circles of the church is the presence false servants of God who are the agents of the devil- propagating and preaching a counterfeit Christianity. 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.
Counterfeit Christianity is a great danger to authentic Christianity. God warns us to?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.
This alarming scenario is accelerated by the prevailing erroneous teachings and experiences on -?? what authentic Christianity is all about.
In this session my task is to present to us the marks of authentic Christianity: in handling this subject, I intend to focus our discussion on the subject of false marks of conversion. I will therefore consider some of the marks of counterfeit conversion and conclude by giving us the authentic marks of conversion- which are synonymous to authentic Christianity.
The overarching question which I will endeavour to answer – is whether you and I are authentically converted.
In order to answer the matter under discussion, regarding the marks of authentic Christianity, as it relates to our spiritual status with God, I believe we must be able to understand and answer the following questions:
- Is there such a thing as false conversion and what are some of the marks of false conversion?
- How does a person become a child of God and what attributes and qualities should God’s children possess?
Before I look at these two important questions, let me first deal with a working definition of what the bible means – when we speak of conversion.
Our working definition:
Conversion: is the experience of an individual who encounters God’s reality or purpose and responds to that encounter in a personal faith and commitment to GOD.
The Old Testament frequently uses the term both in a noun and verb form.
The psalmist said that, The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul Psalm19:7
He affirmed that sinners shall be converted unto thee Psalm51:13
Isaiah was told that Israel’s heart would be hardened lest the people would understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed Isaiah 6:10
The prayer of?Lamentation 5:21 is for conversion, Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned.
The New Testament uses the noun form only
Once in referring to the conversion of the Gentiles Acts 15:3 but uses the term repeatedly in other forms.
Jesus admonished His disciples, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven?? Matthew 18:3
The Book of Acts refers repeatedly to the importance of conversion, beginning with Peter’s words, Repent therefore, and be converted Acts3:19 NKJV
Acts uses the term most frequently in describing a person turning to God Acts 15:19; 26:20 or turning from darkness to light Acts 26:18, or from these vanities unto the living God Acts 14:15.
Other New Testament references speak of turning from idols to serve the living God 1Thess1; 9
Biblical Examples of Conversion:
The Old Testament records experiences of several men who in the most basic sense turned to God (they were converted).
Of course, they did not have the benefit of later revelation or the understanding that comes from the gospel; but they were confronted by God in a way that made them conscious of sin.
As a result, they turned to God in self-surrender. Jacob’s experience with God at Bethel was a kind of conversion Gen32:1.
Moses, at the burning bush, was surely given a call to mission, and some would call it a conversion Ex3:1. Isaiah had an experience with God that undoubtedly changed his life Isaiah6:1
One of the most notable conversions in the Old Testament would have to be that of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar, who through a series of unusual circumstances turned to the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase Daniel 4:37.
In the New Testament there is a lengthy list of conversions
All of the apostles were converted to Jesus and forsook everything to follow Him.
The Gospels recount numerous encounters that Jesus had with individuals that resulted in their acknowledging Him as the Christ- Saviour.
The people who had an encounter with Jesus experienced a radical change in their lives: Zacchaeus Luke 19:1 the woman at the well at Sychar John4:1, the sinful woman in the house of Simon Luke7:1, and Nicodemus John3:1.
The Book of Acts records a number of individual conversions, the most notable of which are the Ethiopian eunuch Acts8:1, Saul of Tarsus Act9:1, and Cornelius Act10:1
The biblical evidence, both within the Old and New Testaments, emphasizes the importance of conversion. Conversion is necessary because of sin. Conversion is made possible by the goodness and grace of God.
The individuals had an experience an encounter with God’s reality where they were made to see their sins and need for God and consequently responded to that encounter in a personal faith and commitment to GOD.
The Character of Conversion:
Christian conversion is the experience of an individual in which one turns from sin and trusts in Jesus Christ for salvation.
It is personal and inward in nature, but it results in a public and outward change.
Each individual’s conversion is unique; yet the requirements of conversion are the same for everyone. Conversion is the result of the same gospel and the same Spirit.
The characteristics of conversion are summarized in?2 Cor5:17 If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
A change of the mind, emotions and will is the result of conversion. The mind is changed in that it seeks to know the truth and accept the truth, whereas before conversion the mind resisted the truth. The emotions are changed in that evil is hated and righteousness is loved, whereas before conversion evil was loved and righteousness was hated.
In conversion the will is changed so that it turns away from sin in humble submission to the will of God.
Consider with me our first question:
Is there such a thing as false conversion and what are some of the marks of false conversion? Matt13:18-23
Let me use the Parable in Matthew 13 on the parable of the sower to illustrate some six signs of false conversion which will show us that you might not have really believed in Jesus Christ when you think you did.
This parable is unique, because Jesus not only told the parable, he also told the disciples the meaning of the parable.
Six signs of a false conversion taken from the Parable of the Sower
Immediate outward joy that doesnt last: v20
Jesus say that a sign of a false convert is a person who is immediately filled with outward joy upon hearing the gospel message, but followed by quick fading away. Two problems with this:
The immediate joy that doesnt last.
First, the joy is immediate. There is no sorrow that precedes the joy. A person who has truly come to faith in Jesus Christ has faced the conviction of their sin. This conviction of sin shows in a person through a broken and contrite heart. Many people who hear the modern gospel message only hear about the joy of eternal life, and they accept it gladly. They have never heard and come to understand the need to repent of their sins. They dont know the wrath of God that they have been saved from. ??? Joel2:12-13
Second, the joy doesnt last. This person may exhibit spectacular growth for a while, but over time the joy fades, and the person falls away. This is the person who hasnt counted the cost, who hasnt weighed all the issues.
No Roots v21
False converts have no roots, that is, no foundations in faith and Christian learning, so they dry up like a plant with no roots. The Parable of the Sower, as recorded in Luke, states that these plants wither because they have no moisture. Roots are designed to gather in water and nutrients. Without these, the plant cannot live. Similarly, we as Christians must also have roots that seek out what we need to make us thrive as Christians things like prayer, Bible reading, Biblical teaching, and fellowship.
- Unwillingness to face challenges of this world- persecution.v21
Notice in the Parable of the Sower that it is the intense heat of the sun which causes the plant to wither (verse 6). Jesus tells us that this intense heat in our lives is the heat of troubles, persecution, and times of testing. These things drive a true believer closer to Jesus, but they cause the false convert to wither and fall away. In either case, the worst thing that can happen in a persons life is never having to face the intense heat of troubles. But that cannot be reality tells us that these tough times will come.
Preoccupation with worry v22
The Parable of the Sower tells us that there are people who hear the gospel message and initially respond to it, but then fall away because they are more preoccupied with the worries of this world than with pursuing the kingdom of God. When our attention is fixed on the worries of this life, the gospel gets choked out of our life like thorns choke out good plants. Matthew 6: 31-34
Preoccupation with the worldv22
The Parable of the Sower tells us that there are other people who hear and respond to the gospel message, but then fall away because they are preoccupied with the pleasures this world has to offer. They are deceived by the glitter of wealth, possessions, and fame. And these things, which seem pleasurable for a season, choke out the gospel message.
No fruit v22
The true believer must bear fruit in his or her life. What exactly is this fruit we should expect to see? The bible gives us the answers to this question. No fruit..
Firstthere is the fruit of repentance. Matt3:7-8
Second- there is fruit of good works. Col1:10
Thirdfruit of praise and thanksgiving to God. Hebrew13:15
Fourthfruit of the Spirit. Gal5:22-23
Fifth fruit of righteousness. Philip1:9-11
What does the Bible say about the so-called Christian who bears no fruit? The Bible says that they will be cut down and cast away into the fire. ? Matt3:10; John15:1-2
Two main causes of false conversion:
The following are the two main causes of false conversion:
- False religion
Religion-Christianity that does not transform individual. However teach and practice a counterfeit worship system in order to deceive people into thinking that they are truly converted into Gods children.
There are many who deceive themselves into thinking that they are truly children of God.
Notice the two biblical examples of people who thought that they were the Father’s elect children but were not.
- Simon’s False Conversion (Acts 8:12-13 KJV).
The account of Simon the Sorcerer is an example of a person who believed the gospel message, but experienced a false conversion: (Acts 8:16-17).
Notice that Simon had not received the Holy Spirit when he was baptized, but he asked to purchase this power so that he could give it to others: (Acts 8:18-23 KJV).
- The I Never Knew You category (Matt.7:21-23 Para). See also Matt.15:3-9; Lk.6:46-49.
These people were self-deceived. They had deceived themselves into thinking that they were children and servants of God and that God authorized the works that they were able to do. But Jesus said, “I never knew you.” These people were not converted; they were not sons of God; and they did not have God’s spirit dwelling within them; otherwise, Christ would have known them.
Miracles and wonderful works are not necessarily the credentials of a converted mind or a righteous person. Many spiritual leaders who profess to believe in the God of the Bible do supernatural and physical works, but teach things that are in opposition to God’s truth and way of life-their works teach lawlessness.
How does a person become a child of God and what attributes and qualities should God’s children possess?
When we speak of conversion, we are speaking of how one becomes a Child of God. Paul summarized his ministry as solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21
An ideal Christian conversion will include the following a cluster of seven distinct elements.? The first five elements of conversion are primarily internal.
- Belief/saving faith. A person needs to understand and agree with some basic facts about Jesus. Nature of Saving Faith- is that it involves three aspects: knowledge, assent and trust
- Conversion involves more than simple agreement with facts about Jesus. It means a change of mind and of direction. Real?conversion, then, involves a?genuine surrender?to obey God and His Laws. Peter was inspired to tell us 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” (Acts 2:38). We repent of sin. And what is the Bible definition of sin? “Sin is the transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4,?KJV). So, to really Repentance is not the same as sorrow or remorse. It is, in Gordon Smiths words, a radical and unequivocal rejection of the way of sin and the pattern of life that leads to sin.
- Trust and Assurance of Forgiveness. Responding to Jesus also touches our affections. A converted person will begin to grasp on an emotional level that God loves them and has forgiven them. This complements the more intellectual experience of belief.
- The Gift of the Spirit. Our relationship with God ceases to be a relationship purely with an external reality. Instead, the Holy Spirit comes and takes up residence inside us. 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.
- Commitment, Allegiance, and Devotion. As we encounter and get to know Jesus, we develop a determination to live for him in the world. Following him becomes more important than any other call on our lives.
The other two elements of Christian conversion are more outward.
- This is the wedding ring of the Christian it doesnt place us in relationship with God, but it is the formal outward symbol of the union that has taken place.
- Incorporation into the Christian Community. Most people first encounter Christ through the witness of another Christian or group of believers. It is essential that they eventually become fully participating members of the Christian community the local church.
iii. Conversion the Father’s call
The only way to become a child of God is through a process which involves God the Father offering a person the opportunity to become his son. This offer from the Father is described in the Bible as the call to salvation.
Therefore, the first step in being transformed into a child of God is to be sought out by God the Father and called to come to him. No one can find God or do his will in their life unless he personally calls them. The apostle Paul said the following about this special calling:
“Then do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me, his prisoner. But suffer hardship with the gospel, according to the power of God, He having saved us and having called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace given to us in Jesus Christ before eternal times” (2.Tim.1:8-9 ).
God the Father calls a person to salvation for his own reasons, and not because of a person’s own efforts.
It is God the Father who opens a person’s conscious mind, and begins to direct one’s thought process toward the physical and spiritual knowledge that will bring a person into an awareness of God and the opportunity that is being offered.
There are many sincere people who feel that they have sought out God and have brought themselves to him. However, according to the Bible this cannot be done. The Bible says that no one seeks to find God the Father; God seeks them out and calls them to himself through Christ:
“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one” (Rom.3:10-12).
“No man can come to me, except the Father, which has sent me draw him: . . .” (Jn.6:44 ).
If a person in their natural state is truly seeking God, it is because God the Father is seeking them and calling them to salvation through awakening their mind to his good news message and spiritual truth that will lead a person to his son and a transformation into a new creation. Jesus said that only the Father can draw a person to him.
“And he said, therefore said I to you, that no man can come to me, except it were given to him of my Father . . .” (Jn.6:65 ).
The unconverted person cannot truly follow Christ or do God’s will in their life, because it is not a part of their nature. Moreover, absolutely no one can become a follower of Christ unless the Father calls them to follow him, and no one can be transformed into the Father’s new creation unless the Father first calls that person to salvation.
Many very sincere people feel that they are converted, but according to the biblical definition of conversion, they are not. The Father has never called them to salvation, and they have not gone through the conversion process:
“For the promise is to you, and to your children, and to all they that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” (Acts 2:39 KJV). Notice that it is the Father who calls a person to Christ.
The transformation from a human into a son of God is an orderly process that begins with the Father’s call to salvation. And if this process is followed correctly, it will result in a person entering into the Sovereign Father’s holy family.
A converted life will exhibit
- Evidence of REPENTANCE and an on-going repentant life.
- Experience of FORGIVENESS OF SIN
A very important part of the process of repentance is asking for the forgiveness of one’s sins, and then making a sincere effort to stop sinning. But what is sin? Logic tells us that if one is going to ask for forgiveness of sin and then make an effort to stop sinning one must know what sin is. Without knowing what sin really is a person cannot be converted, because they do not know of what to ask forgiveness. Moreover, without understanding what sin is, a person cannot understand the change God requires them to make in their lifestyle.
- A Changed LIFESTYLE
Conversion is not just a philosophical change; it is not only a change in attitude but also in what a person is mentality, physically, and spiritually. A person who is a child of God will not purposefully and persistently violate God’s laws or principles of life, they will be practicing God’s ways to the best of their ability.
- A Committed and SURRENDERED life
“And there went great multitudes with him: and he [Jesus] turned, and said to them, If any man come to me and hate [i.e., love less] not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, and yes, his own life also, he cannot be my disciple” (Lk.14:25-26 KJV).
These are very strong words. The phrase “hate not” is a strong Greek expression which means “to love less by comparison.”
- A loyal obedient life in KEEPING the commandments “And behold, one came and said to him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said to him, why call you me good? There is none good but one, that is, God: but if you will enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matt.19:16-17 KJV).
- A TRANSFORMED life
A person who has been called of God, and has truly repented, asked forgiveness for their sins through the sacrifice of Christ, been properly baptized in water, and received the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a son of God. Is a transformed person- converted person.
This transformation is not philosophical; it is a reality. The person becomes a new Creation.
- A Fruit BEARING life