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Comments on Conversions
"What a conversion experience I had the day I fell to my knees, cried out to Jesus for the first time and threw my miserable, confused, self into His loving arms, crying for mercy. He met me at that moment, giving me blessed assurance, peace, and His indwelling Spirit in my heart. He took all my hurts and confusion and satisfied my seeking heart with His blessed presence. To this day, I can truthfully say, "He has never left me nor forsaken me", and "the longer I serve Him the sweeter He grows".
Imagine my surprise to be told in recent times that this never really happened to me. I was informed in no uncertain terms that I was, in fact, not saved when I thought I was, but only upon understanding fully the Deity of Jesus Christ--that is that He is fully God.
My doctrine taught over all that time since my conversion was reported as correct, (the Holy Spirit had indeed led me into all truth through diligent Bible study), but my testimony of being "born again" was reportedly "false". I was told I must have been actually saved at some later date, unbeknownst to myself, when I comprehended that Jesus was God.
I decided I needed to go back to the pages of the Bible and look at all the conversions recorded there to get at the truth of the matter...".
So begins my latest small book offered for the first time with this issue of News & Views.
Sadly, this issue has become a dividing point in the counter cults community of ministries, of which we are part. This is especially sad because it is a subject that has had diverse views throughout the history of Christianity.
It is like a pendulum swing on the subject of salvation. On the extreme edge of the swing, on the one side, we have the believers who espouse "predestination". That is the belief that God chose the believers who would be His, and the individual has little or nothing to do with whether he is saved or not. This group does have isolated scriptures to support this view, since of course, God knows the beginning from the end. We struggle to understand the infinite God with our finite minds, so it is understandable that some would hold this view.
On the other end of the extreme pendulum swing we find those who believe entirely in "free will", that is that each person must decide on his own whether to become "born again" or not. This group often adds conditions to being saved, such as, in this case, having to be knowledgeable enough to understand the Deity of Christ. There are also isolated scriptures to support this view.
So, there are the two ends of the pendulum swing. There are also more moderate views that fall somewhere between the two extremes. We like to feel that we have considered all conversion scriptures and hold a more balanced view than either of the two extremes. We hope you will agree when you read the book, "Comments on Conversions".
One of the most difficult concepts for humans to grasp is God's extending of His grace to us. Grace means "unmerited favor" and is spoken of in the Bible as a "gift". Most humans have a hard time grasping this concept. That's why we see all the cult groups abounding. Our human nature wants to "earn" salvation by good works, or denying ourselves, or keeping rigid rules.
However, if someone gives us a gift, all we have to do is receive it and keep it as our own. The person giving the gift would be insulted if we tried to pay for it somehow. God feels the same way when He calls us to Himself and extends His free gift of salvation in His Son, Jesus Christ, and we humans want to complicate the gift somehow.
Ephesians 2:8, 9 says,
"For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them".
So, did you get it? Salvation is a free gift which we cannot work for. However, once we are saved, we will do good works that please God, because these are a result of the indwelling Spirit of God.
I remember when I was first saved by grace out of the Jehovah's Witnesses. I laid back in a big lazy boy recliner chair and said "grace, grace, wonderful grace--I never again will have to go out and pound on doors or do any works at all, because I know I am saved by grace". I intended to be quiet and content.
However, to my surprise I couldn't stop sharing about the wonderful salvation God had imparted to me, and how wonderful grace was after being in a legalistic, works-oriented cult who had misrepresented Jesus Christ to me. To my surprise I set out to prove that the Jehovah's Witnesses had the wrong Jesus Christ (the Archangel Michael, a secondary "god", and only a good man on earth"). I devoured my Bible and loved every minute of it. My heart's desire was to reach Jehovah's Witnesses with the right Jesus Christ and introduce them to the concept of grace. Jesus Christ, truly God and truly Man--how I loved Him and continue to do so to this day.
Well, you know the "rest of the story". We have been almost a quarter-century sharing this message. You couldn't pay us with money for the joy this work brings to us.
Throughout the history of the Church, although different views of salvation were held, most camps tolerated the others and did not brand them as heretics. We would dearly love to see the same attitude prevail today, as we love all our brothers and sisters in Christ.
However, if we claim to be "born again", yet continue on for a long time to misrepresent Christ, denying His Deity, then we are "stillborn". We have had a fleshly experience, not a genuine one from the Holy Spirit Who will lead us into all truth. Such ones are not truly converted.
If we are truly converted, then we have been "born again", or more literally, in the Greek, "born from above". God always initiates the experience, not us. As Romans 8:16 says,
"The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God...".
So, each of us has an individual conversion experience to tell, about when God dealt with us. We are not all cut from the same cookie cutter. God deals with us individually. He loves each of us, and deals with us in a special way,
More important than arguing about what happened at the moment of conversion is to look at the doctrines and fruits of the person claiming salvation. If these doctrines and fruits fall within biblical guidelines then please accept this one as a fellow Christian! Let's not major on the minors! Let's allow diversity in our unity!
I submitted this book to my Pastors to correct and comment on the contents. One of our Pastors happens to be a young man whom we led to Christ out of Jehovah's Witnesses, along with his wife, some years ago. I carefully went over the Deity of Christ with them from the Scriptures prior to salvation. Imagine my surprise when, in his endorsement of my book, he said his wife and himself had not fully understood this doctrine until after they were saved.
He said that they needed the help of the Holy Spirit to embrace the Deity of Christ. When God's Spirit renewed their spirits, they easily understood what the Bible was saying. What was confusing intellectually to them, became clear after conversion with the help of the Holy Spirit.
This book was truly a labor of love, and I hope you will enjoy it and God may use it to bring reconciliation. That is my prayer.