Volume. XXIII, No. 10
Sunday, 07 September 2008

From The Pastors Heart: Conversion Identified

Conversion must be based on the clear teachings of the Bible.  Conversion cannot be based on relic worships or religious rituals.  Christian conversion is always related to and founded on the truth of God.  Paul says to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:14-15, “But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; 15 And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”  Conversion means to turn to God by faith.  It means that the convert believes in the teachings of God but does not believe in other things that do not belong to God.  Therefore, the convert must know what to believe and what not to believe.  This teaching is everywhere in the Bible.  In fact, the warning against false teachers is another side of the teachings of the truth.  2 Peter 2:1 says, “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.”  Contrary to the warnings against false teachers and false prophets, the Bible encourages the believers to hold unto the truth.  2 Thessalonians 2:15, “Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions [a set of biblical teachings] which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle.”  2 Timothy 1:13, “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus” (cf. Titus 1:9).   H. E. W. Turner said in The pattern of Christian that “in the early centuries heresy and orthodoxy were related as parasite and host.  Heresy (the parasite) could exist only if it existed off orthodoxy (the host) by denying, diluting, distorting, and adding to that orthodoxy.  But this was possible only if orthodoxy was a discernible, defined position-in short, a bound set. And it was” (David F. Wells, Turning to God, 74). 

Therefore, if a person, regardless of how religious he is, does not know and believe in clear teachings of the Bible concerning his spiritual state and the work of Christ, he is still outside of Christ.  As I have said in the previous article, such a person may not be far from his salvation, but he is not converted yet.  There is no such a thing as, “he is a little bit converted,” or “he is converted a lot.”  This point is significant in our understanding of salvation.  If conversion is not progressive, then our salvation is not progressive, either.  We cannot say that so and so is saved a little bit, and that such and such is saved a huge amount.  I think that this understanding is important in comparative studies between the Protestants’ understanding of salvation and the Church of Rome.  The former talks about justification by faith alone, which teaches us that it is possible for us to be assured of our salvation and that salvation is the work of God’s grace.  The latter says salvation is more or less unsure and progressive, for it talks about salvation as a combination of justification and sanctification.  Unless you have enough merits before God, you cannot be sure of salvation.  Sanctification is not to be understood separately from justification.  It makes everybody unsure of his salvation, which leads him to secure his salvation through other means, including penance, good works, or the infamous sales of indulgences.

When we talk about Christian conversion, there is always one lingering question about those who once believed but not any more.  Is their conversion true?  Well, I do not think that there is just one way to talk about it.  It is possible that their conversion is true, but they do not practice their Christian religion because of their backslidden state.  They may eventually come to the Saviour again with repentance.  In this case, they are simply in the state of disobedience temporarily.  Or, it is possible their conversion was not genuine.  It reminds me of the parable of four soils.  Two of them are (1) stony ground, and (2) thorny places.  Both receive the seed (the Word of God) and show some signs of growth (we may relate it to conversion).  Both grounds did not produce fruits.  However, the stony ground is worth noting.  Matthew 13:20-21 say, “But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it; 21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.”  A person like this stony ground receives the Word of God with gladness.  Thus, temporarily he looks like a genuine convert, though he is, in fact, not.  For the last 50 years or so, we have seen large scale crusades in many major cities around the world.  The evangelists have appealed to the people to respond to their preaching.  We have seen many people coming through the aisles in order to make their decisions for Christ public.  They even gave their personal testimonies of their conversions, and many hallelujahs were echoed in the air.  Where are they today?  Some statistics say that only less than 10% of those decision makers for Christ have gone to some sort of churches or Christian organizations.  The rest of people have not come to any Christian church or service.  Then, where are the rest of the people, and how do we understand about their conversions?  Here is one caution we must be aware of.  Making decisions for Christ sounds good.  There is a point of time when we may take decisive actions to turn ourselves from sinful and unbelieving lifestyle to the faith in Christ.  Thus, I do not underestimate the importance of good decisions for Christ.  However, what I need to point out is that decisions can be made in the absence of a sufficient knowledge of God, His truth, and our sinfulness.  People make decisions for Christ because of pressures or manipulative teachings and preachings.  Therefore, decision making should not be the centre of Christian evangelism.  More emphasis must be given to the teachings of the Scriptures.  Thus, people will come to clear realization that there is an enmity between God and them and that they need to seek for the forgiveness of sins through the blood of Jesus Christ. 

I believe that I have made my point clear.  Conversion does not take place because of church rituals, priestly absolution, baptism, or even decisions made.  In this regard, Martin Luther has given us a very clear message.  He argued that there was no step that a sinful man may take toward God until God liberated him from his sin.  In that regard, Calvin agrees with him.  As a result, though it may be debatable that both men had the same understanding of conversion, one thing is sure.  Both wanted to talk about conversion or salvation as the fruit of the grace of God.  As Paul says in Romans 2:4, “Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?” so it is His grace that has led us to repentance and conversion. 

When I talk about conversion, I’d like to talk about faith and repentance because they are two sides of one conversion.  If conversion takes place without faith, then there is a relational problem between God and the convert.  This conversion is not Christian at all.  On the other hand, if conversion without repentance is true, then we cannot expect any sanctifying process in the life of the converts. The convert may live in sin and immorality even after his conversion.  1 Corinthians 6:9-11 say, “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”  There is a difference between before and after conversion.  I’ll continue on this topic.

Lovingly, Your Pastor 

More Lively Hope




Session wishes all fathers a “Blessed Fathers’ Day”

Please note: Next week’s fellowship lunch is ‘communal’.

9th Anniversary Thanksgiving today: Congratulations to Rev Errol Stone & Faith Presbyterian Church-Perth.

Kitchen Rosters today - Team under Sis Ethel Chung on duty.

All members - please read the proposed amendments to our Church Constitution BEFORE the ECM.

Those who have completed their BBK course and intend to seek Baptism, Confirmation & Membership please see Ps Ki or any Session member ASAP.

2008 BPNYC camp forms and program are available on the YAF Board.

Church Service Roster for Oct-Dec is being prepared. Please let Dn Edwin D’Mello know of your availability or otherwise by NEXT Lord’s Day.


Looking Ahead

YAF Retreat 30 Sept - 1 Oct.

AFG Retreat 3-6 Oct.

Special Lecture on “Creation and Evolution” by Dr Carl Wieland on Fri, 17 Oct. Please invite your friends.

Sunday School Family Sports’ Day on Sat, 18 Oct.

Sunday School Teachers’ Training Course commences Sun, 19 Oct.

2008 BPNYC will be held 1-5 Dec 2008 (Melb)


Praise & Thanksgiving

Journey mercies: Dn David & Sis Giok Yeo & family (Adl); Dn Mark & Sis Helen Heah (Melb); Sisters Lydia Fan (Melb/Adl), Min Yen Chia, Connie Mak & Gillian Ong (Adl).

Church activities: Bible Class; BSAG, Joy & Maranatha Prayer Meeting & Bible Study; E-Ministry; Ladies’ Fellowship Pray & Share; Sparks4Christ; YAF Street Evangelism & Debate.

9th Anniversary Thanksgiving - Faith Presbyterian Church-Perth.

God’s daily mercy, protection & help for us.


Prayer Items

Health & God’s healing - Rev George & Sis Nan van Buuren; Rev John & Mrs Christine McKenzie; Rev Peter Chua, Rev Peter Clements,  Rev Timothy Tow, Dr S H Tow, Preacher Zhang, Dn Yaw Chiew Tan, Dn David Yeo’s mother; Bros Tommy Brooks, Colin Creaser, S Dhamarlingam, Makoto Kobayashi, Raphael Ng’s father, Richard Pearson, Winston Selvanayagam, Hans Ziegelmann; Grandpa Ki; Sisters Myung Ki, Alice Lee’s father, Auntie Oei, Fiona Paauwe; Margaret, Dianne, & Sarah Pearson, Aranka Rejtoe, Susan Veradi, Irena, Giok Yeo’s sister-in-law; & others in affliction.

Cambodia Missions - Rev David Koo & Ministry in Sihanoukville

Laos Missions - Believers in Laos.

India/Pakistan Missions - Pastors & Believers.

Kuching Missions - Teo family.

Sketch n’ Tell Ministry - Pr H S Lim

Pastor Ki: God’s guidance as he prepares for his future ministry.

Pr David Weng as he prepares for his ministry in Hope.

YAF September30in30 Evangelism: Salvation of precious souls.

Journey mercies: Dn Mark & Sis Helen Heah (S’pore); Sisters Min Yen Chia & Gillian Ong (Melb); others travelling

Fellowship Exams - Bro Pee-Yau Tan.

Job - Bro Cong Pham

38th Anniversary Thanksgiving next Lord’s Day: Rev Peter Chua & Sharon B-P Church.

Comfort: Bro Surish Dharmalingam on the death of his mother.

For strength & guidance for those under stress with their studies & work.

New church van ($60,000) by end of 2009.



© Hope Bible-Presbyterian Church
14 Bedford Square, Colonel Light Gardens, South Australia 5041