Converts

And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
– Acts 2:47

The Church, itself, cannot avoid adding some who should not be received. With the greatest possible care and prudence we shall still make mistakes, And some are thus added whom the Lord never added to the Church. You have heard Mr. Hill’s story of meeting a man in the street one night, who hiccupped up to him and said, “How do you do, Mr. Hill? I am one of your converts.” “Yes,” said Rowland, “I should say you are, but you are none of God’s, or else you would not be drunk.” Converts of that sort are far too numerous. Converts of the preacher, converts of friends, or converts of a certain fashion of making profession—but not true-born children of the Lord.

– Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Additions to the Church, 1874

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I Never Knew You

And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. – Mt. 7:23

I never knew you. That is, I never approved, loved, or regarded you as my friends. This proves that, with all their pretensions, they had never been true followers of Christ. Jesus will not then say to false prophets and false professors of religion, that he had once known them, and then rejected them; that they had been once Christians and then had fallen away; that they had been pardoned, and then had apostatized; but that he had never known them.

— THEY HAD NEVER BEEN TRUE CHRISTIANS.

Whatever might have been their pretended joys, their raptures, their hopes, their self-confidence, their visions, their zeal, they had never been regarded by the Savior as his true friends. I know not a more decided proof that Christians do not fall away from grace than this text. It settles the question; and proves that whatever else such men had, they never had any true religion.

– Albert Barnes, 1872-1951, Barnes Notes

The Butterfly and the Converted Sinner

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. – 2 Corinthians 5:17

Look at that cold creeping worm! The playful child shudders from its touch!

Yet in a few weeks, and with merry laugh and flying feet, that same child over flowery meadow, is hunting an insect that never lights upon the ground, but flitting in painted beauty from flower to flower — drinks nectar from their cups, and sleeps the summer night away in the bosom of their perfumes.

If that is the same boy — this is also the same creature. The change most wonderful!

Yet this is but a dull, earthly emblem of the divine transformation wrought in those who are converted by God!

Fallen though he is, man is capable of undergoing a more wondrous change than the insect when, no longer a worm, no longer crawling on the ground, no longer feeding on garbage — it leaves its shell to spend its happy days in sport, flitting from flower to flower; its food their juices and its bed their leaves.

The spiritual change which we call conversion, is not a mere reform. It is a mighty revolution — a revolution greater than the tomes of profane history. Conversion changes the heart, the habits, and the eternal destiny of an immortal being!

Conversion does not bestow new faculties. Yet our affections, our temperament, our will, our judgment partake of this great and holy change. Thus, the understanding is enlightened; the will is renewed; and our whole temperament is sweetened and sanctified by the Spirit of God.

Thomas Guthrie, 1803-1873

Salvation is all of God

The Bible simply tells us that salvation is altogether and entirely the work of God. It tells us that man in his sinful state is against God, he does not desire God and would never return to God. There would have been no church at all, nor would there have been salvation, if God had not begun to act. ‘He which hath begun a good work in you’ – it is all of God.

Of course it is not surprising that Paul, above everybody else, should teach this. He never forgot what he had been himself; he remembered himself a blasphemer, and a persecutor of the Christian Church, and he knew perfectly well that he would have continued in that state were it not that at midday, while he was traveling along the road to Damascus where he intended to persecute a body of Christian people, the Lord suddenly appeared to him. Paul never decided to become a Christian, he never thought about it, he did not initiate the work. It was God who did it in him, and Paul therefore always referred the work to Him.

“Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 1:6

– D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Life of Joy and Peace

You MUST be born again

Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. – John 3:3

We should notice what a mighty change our Lord declares to be needful to salvation, and what a remarkable expression He uses in describing it. He speaks of a new birth. He says to Nicodemus, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” He announces the same truth in other words, in order to make it more plain to his hearer’s mind–“Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” By this expression He meant Nicodemus to understand that “no one could become His disciple, unless his inward man was as thoroughly cleansed and renewed by the Spirit, as the outward man is cleansed by water.” To possess the privileges of Judaism a man only needed to be born of the seed of Abraham after the flesh. To possess the privileges of Christ’s kingdom, a man must be born again of the Holy Spirit.

The change which our Lord here declares needful to salvation is evidently no slight or superficial one. It is not merely reformation, or amendment, or moral change, or outward alteration of life. It is a thorough change of heart, will, and character. It is a resurrection. It is a new creation. It is a passing from death to life. It is the implanting in our dead hearts of a new principle from above. It is the calling into existence of a new creature, with a new nature, new habits of life, new tastes, new desires, new appetites, new judgments, new opinions, new hopes, and new fears. All this, and nothing less than this is implied, when our Lord declares that we all need a “new birth.”

This change of heart is rendered absolutely necessary to salvation by the corrupt condition in which we are all, without exception, born. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.” Our nature is thoroughly fallen. The carnal mind is enmity against God. (Rom. 8:7.) We come into the world without faith, or love, or fear toward God. We have no natural inclination to serve Him or obey Him, and no natural pleasure in doing His will. Left to himself, no child of Adam would ever turn to God. The truest description of the change which we all need in order to make us real Christians, is the expression, “new birth.”

This mighty change, it must never be forgotten, we cannot give to ourselves. The very name which our Lord gives to it is a convincing proof of this. He calls it “a birth.” No man is the author of his own existence, and no man can quicken his own soul. We might as well expect a dead man to give himself life, as expect a natural man to make himself spiritual. A power from above must be put in exercise, even that same power which created the world. (2 Cor. 4:6.) Man can do many things; but he cannot give life either to himself or to others. To give life is the peculiar prerogative of God. Well may our Lord declare that we need to be “born again!”

This mighty change, we must, above all, remember, is a thing without which we cannot go to heaven, and could not enjoy heaven if we went there. Our Lord’s words on this point are distinct and express. “Except a man be born again, he can neither see nor enter the kingdom of God.” Heaven may be reached without money, or rank, or learning. But it is clear as daylight, if words have any meaning, that nobody can enter heaven without a “new birth.”

– J. C. Ryle, (1816 – 1900), Commentary on the Book of Matthew

Knowing our spiritual disease is the first step towards the cure

Shall I say what seems to me to be the clearest proof that man is a fallen and corrupt creature?

It is not open vice, or unblushing profligacy.

It is not the crowded ale-house, or the murderer’s cell in a jail.

It is not avowed infidelity, or gross and despicable idolatry.

All these are proofs, and convincing proofs indeed, that man is fallen. But there is to my mind a stronger proof still–that proof is the wide-spread “spirit of slumber” about their souls, in which most men lie chained and bound. When I see that multitudes of sensible men, and intelligent men, and decent-living men–can travel quietly towards the grave, and feel no concern about their sins, I need no more convincing evidence that man is “born in sin,” and that his heart is alienated from God. There is no avoiding the conclusion.

Man is naturally asleep–and must be awakened.
He is blind–and must be made to see.
He is dead–and must be made alive.

No heart is in so bad a state, as the heart that does not feel sin!

Light was the first thing called into being. When God created the world, He said, “Let there be light.” (Genesis 1:3) In the same way, light is the first thing that the Holy Spirit creates in a man’s heart, when He awakens, converts, and makes him a true Christian. (2 Corinthians 4:6)

For lack of seeing sin–men do not value salvation. Once let a man get a sight of his own heart, and he will begin to cry, “God be merciful to me a sinner!”

To know our spiritual disease–is one step towards a cure. To feel bad and wicked and Hell-deserving–is the first beginning of being really holy.

What though we are humbled to the dust, and cry, “Lord, I am vile! Lord, I am the very chief of sinners!” It is better a thousand times to have these feelings and be miserable under them–than to have no feelings at all. Anything is better than a dead conscience, and a cold heart, and a prayer-less tongue!

Ignorance of self and sin are the root of all mischief to the soul!

J. C. Ryle, Knots Untied, 1896)