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Weekly Message 08-01-10: Conversion

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One purpose of priests is to set forth new insightful and compelling truth about faith as old as Revelation. It is to till the field of the soul that has already been broken and dragged and rolled by all sorts of ploughmen and teams and implements and varied modern machinery with the truth of Christ. So it is true priests are to treat of the seemingly trite and worn and common subject of life beyond the earth, of glories so rich and profoundly enduring, the human soul cannot even imagine their genuineness.

But so profoundly unique is the priesthood of Christ, called as it is to labor in that same spirit that our heavenly Father was treating of these same objectives and aiming at them when He thundered in Eden: "Adam, where are you?" The Book of God's message to us is full and its object is to disclose the mystery of God's love so that man is eager to learn more about himself, created in the image and likeness of God, that living the life of perfect man by God's grace will ennoble him and fulfill the purpose for Christ's coming among us.

Because not all that has been written and preached on the subject is truth, the priest of Jesus Christ must guard the revelation from God to us with seriousness and sincerity. Much of what we hear around us is the saddest and most dangerous caricature of truth. Few subjects have been more abused, misrepresented and misunderstood. A veritable flood of ruinous error has emanated from pen and pulpit. A sad wreckage of doubt, gloom, skepticism, despair, insanity and self-destruction is the result. Much of the current twaddle to which so many believers are subjected is the shallowest sentimentalism or the wildest fanaticism with all the various baseless gradations between. It tends to confuse the mind, to harden the heart, to quench the spirit and ruin the soul.

On one hand you have cold, humanitarian moralists who are the apostles of humanist culture and progress. They would evolve a dignified and proud manliness out of the natural man. To them man is too great, too grand, and good to need a re-creation, a new heart and a new life! Conversion to them is nothing but a laying aside of bad habits and an outward reformation. They cannot figure out why the coming of Christ among us was necessary.

On the other hand, there is that whole host of would-be evangelizers who seem to consider it their special mission and commission to "convert sinners." They often become quite proficient in their avocation. They can bring about hundreds of conversions in an evening. They get up a revival in a tent or on a field, or start out to revive a town or city. We have heard some of them assert how they have converted whole communities, and how they go about capturing a town or city for Jesus.

With them, conversion is a rousing of the feelings, a wave of emotion, a burst of excitement. It is rewarding oneself with good feelings. They fail to understand such an approach is erroneous because feelings always change.

While they speak in thunder tones of the necessity of conversion and of the damnation of the unconverted, they rarely even attempt to explain the nature of conversion, reducing it simply to a moment of making a thought of and decision, however fleeting, for the cause of Christ. Ask them what it is and they can only offer at best a very vague and unsatisfactory answer. Ask them how it is brought about, what its agencies and instrumentalities are, and they stare in ignorant amazement! Ask them what its evidences are and they do not know. Question them and they become full of pious, phrases and earnest exhortations and touching stories and tearful pleadings. But the teaching of the Word on this all-important subject they know not!

And repelled by the fanaticism and vagaries of this class, some go to the other extreme. While some make a hobby of preaching conversion in a limited sense, others almost ignore it. They accept and are pleased with people as they are and so do not see any reason to encourage elevation and change in daily living. They speak much of truth, of grace, of faith and righteousness. And against all this we can find no one to say one word. To neglect or ignore the subject of conversion is certainly very grievous and dangerous. It is a grave mistake. It results in a false security in the unconverted of whom there are certainly many among the hearers of every preacher priest. If may result in the loss of souls which will be answerable at the priest's hand.

In these godless and worldly times, priests must certainly preach conversion diligently. We must insist on its necessity, many times in our own cases and we must reason, exhort, convince, beseech and plead "...repent and turn yourselves from your idols..."

We must explain from the Word what is the nature of this change. We must labor to have the plainest hearer understand this vital subject and his personal relationship to it. We must show how our heavenly Father, who alone has power to impart new life, yet has thrown all responsibility for it on his priests, by putting within his reach the life-bearing means of grace.

Our Church, our faith, and our people have been rudely attacked and slandered and it becomes necessary with to give way or to defend the truth of Christ. Sadly has it so many times been asserted the right faith has been given the wrong people. Thus it is necessary to examine the whole subject of conversion and what so many times passes for faith: experimental religion, something we are exposed to, something that perhaps is most important, but which we do not take that seriously that it completely changes our lives. Each priest and therefore each believer must be exposed to enjoying the happy experience of finding that the more he studies the matter in the Word of God, the more he discovers that the Church whose name he bears, confesses and teaches is possessed of nothing but the pure truth as it is in Jesus Christ. When we become Christ bearers it will be a source of greatest delight and comfort to discover how scriptural doctrine meets every difficulty, clears away all doubt, harmonizes seeming contradictions between divine sovereignty and human responsibility, ascribing all the glory to our God and laying all the responsibility on man.

Conversion is not at all a one time event, but continues always from the moment of becoming a disciple of Christ in baptismal grace until the time of actual fulfillment in eternity. Priests are commissioned to implement change in the lives of the flock entrusted to their care. There must be advancement and deepening in faith. Pride is the greatest enemy since conversion requires being possessed of the trusting soul of a child. It means placing oneself under the authority of a priest which so many are loathe to do. It means recognizing our heavenly Father provides a spiritual Father to direct and lead us, avoiding errors of the world, into the safety of eternal paradise. What begins in time, then, is achieved beyond the pale of time. Conversion is an on-going struggle to daily remain faithful to the love of Christ in fulfillment of his admonition: "Except you are converted and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven" Matthew 18: 3.

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