Roy Ingle, “True Conversions”

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[This post is from 2008 and refers to some things going on back then. It also contains some potentially controversial comments, and it should be remembered that posts appearing on SEA’s do not necessarily represent SEA’s official position on any given issue, but we seek to provide a variety of Arminian voices.]

Recently George Barna put out a political piece on why evangelicals are no longer staying true to the Republican Party. I, of course, have to ask when were true evangelicals ever truly Republican but that is another issue. In his piece Barna defines born again evangelicals as the following:

“People who said they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and who also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior.”

(On a side note here: Barna reports that 40% of evangelicals have said they will vote for a Democrat in November. While I neither favor any political group simply because their ideology never matches up with the Bible, I do find it hard to believe that 40% would vote for a Democrat because of two issues according to Barna, the environment and poverty. Yet these 40% would be casting their vote for either Obama or Clinton both of whom have a 100 rating from pro-abortion groups such as NOW and Planned Parenthood. That means that these 40% are saying that global warming and fighting poverty are more important than murdering unborn babies. Amazing!)

What I personally took to was Barna’s definition of what a Christian is. By this definition, most people living in the southern United States would be Christians. I work for Pepsi and I can assure you that if you took this definition to my work you would find these pagans would hold to every point Barna gives for a true Christian. Yet I work with these people and I know that they are not Christians. Why? Because I can use the Scriptures to test their salvation (2 Corinthians 13:5).

Defining A True Disciple

Is it possible then to define what a true disciple of Jesus should look like? For if we use Barna’s definition, Mormons would be in heaven and nearly all church attendees. Yet is that the case? Absolutely not!

The Gospel begins with God! We fail if we start off our gospel apart from first starting with a holy God. Paul does this beautifully in Romans 1 when he opens his letter by saying, “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God” (v.1) and then goes on to exalt the Lord Jesus (vv.2-6) before he even addresses the Romans (v.7). The gospel doesn’t begin with us, it begins with a holy God and ends with a holy God. Man is not the central theme of the gospel, God is.

The Steps of Salvation. The gospel of Jesus Christ can be broken down quite easily into steps and from these steps we can define what a true Christian is and what true conversion really looks like.

  1. Faith in Jesus Christ – These statement entails much as faith comes only by hearing the gospel (Romans 10:17). The Church is to make disciples by teaching the gospel to lost people (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15). Further, to place one’s faith in Jesus is not to just believe in the historical Jesus but to truly know the Jesus of Sculpture (John 17:3). By this I don’t mean that perfect knowledge is necessary for salvation but the gospel is about Jesus (John 20:31).
  1. Repentance – Faith and repentance go hand in hand. Repentance is more than just changing our minds about sin and about Christ but it’s a cosmic change of mind and heart. I must not only turnbut I must agree with God that I am a sinner who deserves His just wrath. This comes from hearing the Law preached to me (Romans 3:19-20; 7:7, 14; 1 Timothy 1:8-10). I have violated a holy God’s commandments (James 2:8-13) and therefore I deserve to die (Romans 6:23) but God gives me grace through His Son who took my place and died for my sins (Matthew 1:21; 26:28; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 1:7; 1 Timothy 2:1-6). To biblically repent is to completely change my character (2 Corinthians 5:17) and bear fruit worthy of repentance (Matthew 3:8; Acts 26:20). [Editor’s note: The author does not mean one must completely change his character or bear fruit before receiving salvation, but that the sort of repentance that receives salvation results in change of character and fruit.] God’s kindness in His Son leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4). The Scriptures further teach that repentance is necessary for eternal life (Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38; 3:19; 17:30; 2 Corinthians 7:10; 2 Peter 3:9).
  1. Confession of Jesus’ Lordship That Begins with Baptism – I believe that once a person has heard the Law of God, their heart is pierced by the Word (Acts 2:36-37), the next command should be for them to place their faith in Jesus alone for salvation, to repent of their sins by agreeing that God’s law is just and that God has given them mercy through His Son, and they should confess Jesus as their Lord and Savior beginning with the command of baptism.

In the early Church, baptism was viewed as the place where a person became a Christian. Acts strongly teaches this (see Acts 2:38, 41; 8:12-13, 36-38; 9:17-18; 10:44-48; 11:18; 16:14-15, 30-34; 18:8 19:1-5; 22:16). Even the baptismal references in the epistles have a much stronger feel to them then modern teaching on baptism (Romans 6:1-4; Galatians 3:26-27; Ephesians 4:4; Colossians 2:12; 1 Peter 3:21-22).

Now by no means am I saying that baptism alone saves! I believe that only Jesus saves and His blood (Hebrews 9:22) but I do believe that baptism is the first commandment of our Lord (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16) and if a person is not willing to be baptized, we should question their salvation (John 14:15; 1 John 2:3-6). Baptism is for the purpose of identification (see 1 Corinthians 10:1-11) and a truly repentant person would want to be baptized simply because Jesus commanded it. I believe that Romans 10:9-10 applies best at baptism rather than a sinner’s prayer. While I have no doubts that prayer is involved in salvation (see Acts 9:11), the New Testament never presents prayer as the place of confession before the Church but rather baptism.

So where does that leave us? It means that a true Christian is one who has heard the gospel (Romans 10:14-17), been convicted by the Law of God that he is a sinner who has broken a holy God’s righteous commandments and rightly deserves death (Romans 3:19-20; 6:23; 7:7,14; 1 Timothy 1:8-10) but sees that God’s kindness in His Son leads one to repentance (Romans 2:4) and therefore he places his faith in Jesus alone for salvation (Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7), repents of his sins by agreeing with God about his sins and turns from his sins (Luke 24:47; Acts 2:38; 2 Corinthians 7:10; 2 Peter 3:9), and is baptized following Jesus command and confesses before the Church the absolute Lordship of Christ (Romans 10:9-13; Acts 2:41; Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16).

Three Minutes To Share Your Faith

If we could pull Barna’s polled people who claim to be Christians and sat them before you and said, “You have three minutes to share the gospel with this person.” Could you do it? I believe we must stand ready to give an answer for the hope of the gospel (1 Peter 3:15-16).

Sadly, Barna’s research shows that many false disciples are in the Church today. Many have never been convicted of their sins and many more never obey Christ yet claim to be followers of Jesus (John 3:36). The fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) is not a man-made fruit but only comes by the work of the Holy Spirit. In fact, all of salvation is of God (Jonah 2:9; Ephesians 1:4-13). Good works flow from a converted heart (Romans 1:5; Titus 2:11-14; James 2:14-26) and are not the means to salvation. Nothing and no one but Jesus alone saves (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Salvation is not found in good deeds, vows of righteousness, church attendance, prayer, even baptism but only in Christ alone.

[Link to original post and comments at Roy Ingle’s website]