Conversion Or Turning Back To God

 

Introduction Text: Acts 3:19-26

I call your attention to Acts 3:19 in which Peter concluded the sermon in the Temple††††19Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.

 

Peter had gone up to the temple, prompted perhaps by a natural desire to tell the story, and also in obedience to Heavenís command to go into all the world. The very fact that he had wrought a miracle upon a lame man above 40 years of age had increased those possibilities.†† Concluding that wonderful discourse, in which he emphasized the primaryfacts of the gospel Peter spoke the words of our text.

19Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord

 

If there were no other versein the Bible, on this subject, this verse emphasizes the necessity of conversion.Why repent? Why turn again? Note the necessity, and the reasonĺ "that your sins may be blotted out."

 

I think this passage emphasizes that man is a sinful creature, and carries the idea that mankind is condemnedĺ and unfittedĺ to stand approved in the last great day when the God of heaven shall judge the quick and the dead. Therefore, with conversion, this wretched condition may be overcome; and one may†† rid himself of that which subjects himto wreck and ruin.

 

In Matt 18:1-3 where the disciples came to the Savior and said:

1Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? 2And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, 3And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.†† Now I believe thatit would be hard to be clearer, more emphatic, more forcible, and prohibitive than that which the Lord stated

Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

 

When Jesus made this comparison, He could find none purer than these, none more holy, nonemore spotless in character, henceHe said: Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.Now, it makes no difference how much money we may have, no difference how much learning may be ours. It matters notwhat political office we may hold. We must be converted. God is no respecter of persons. Jesus simply states it this way:Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.

 

I have never addressed a theme about which there are more differences than this one. There are many theories in our land today as to what conversion is and how it may be effected.There are those who feel that conversion is altogether the work of God, man can do absolutely nothing. Still others feel man is wholly responsible, and that God has nothing to do with it.But as is usual, the truth lies between the twoĺNamely, in conversion God has a hand in it; likewise man has a partPaul stated the principle in: 1 Cor 3:9"For we are laborers together with God:"

 

There is nothing in conversion unless God has a part from first to last. On the other hand there has never been a genuine conversion unless man had a part in it.In John 3:16, all three parties concerned in the case of conversion are represented.Now watch: ďFor God so loved the world [that is Godís part] that He gave His only begotten Son [hence the Son has a part] that whosoever believeth in him [that is manís part in it] should not perish, but have everlasting life

 

But another passage(Eph. 2:8-10) wherein the two elements are brought to viewĺ Godís side, the divine side, and the human sideĺPaul said:

8For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9Not of works, lest any man should boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Now salvation is the thought,God had a part in perfecting, in revealing, in making it known, and hence it was prompted purely by His love, His mercy, and His grace.But man standing as he was, in deep need, must accept Godís terms.†† On manís side,it is a matter of faith. It is by the grace of God and by the faith of man. Both equally have an interest in the matter.

 

Let me suggest to you this thought in order that we may never be discouraged. There were those in the days of Jesus, who absolutely refused to be converted.Our Lord said to those people, and about these people "

 

15For this peopleís heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal themMatt 13:15.

 

They refused when the very Son of God Himself preached, and beckoned unto come unto Him for rest, to the city of Jerusalem He said: 37O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!Matthew 23:37

 

And to the Jewsof His day: His statement was: 40And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life. John 5:40

 

Beloved if it should come to pass, that at the last great judgment day, that†† you and I should be turned away from the beautiful gate into the very depts. Of hell, it will not be by virtue of the fact that God would not accept us, He desires that all should come to repentance, (2 Peter 3:9). If you and I are lostit will bebecause we would not respond unto Heavenís callĺ we would not turn and be converted that God might blot out all our sins and bring us into His body the church.

 

Now with these statements I call your attention to the next thought.Confusion as it occurs to me in conversion is a failure to understand just how it is brought to pass. There are three things characteristic of man that conversion addresses.

 

First I need to have my heart converted to God. That part of my naturethat understands and reasons, that part of me that believes, Ineed that partof me converted,and turned to God.I need my heart both to believe in the Lord,and believe the Lord. Again my will power needs to be changed. I need affection, my love, my desire, my confidence andtrust all changed and centered upon the proper conception of life and duty.In addition to the change of heart, I must have my life, its purpose,changed. I must abandon my former activities that are wrong, and reverse the matterĺand let such a change result in a reformation of life.And then, when all that has happened, I must have my state or relationship unto God changed. I need tobe naturalized or adopted into the family of God.

 

Suppose, as a matter of illustration, a citizen of a foreign country has learned of all the wonderful opportunities that exist in America. He decides and purposes in his heart to become a citizen of this wonderful land. The very fact that his purpose is formed and planned, does not make him an American citizen. In addition to that decision, he must renounce allegiance unto his former country, and submit to the law of naturalization. And until the entire process is consummated, he has not the right to claim benefits of American citizenship.

 

Again ayoung woman thinks of being married to this fine young man one day.What processes are involved? She must first experience a change of affections, This is done by courting and wooing one another. Now her affections are centered upon him whose wife she expects and longs to be.But,when she learns to love, trust and confide in him,does itmake her his wife? That question needs no answer for there is another step. She mustresolve to leave father, and mother, follow him, if it be but a humble existence. And when she resolves thus, she is still not married; and were the young man to die, she would not be a beneficiary in his estate. There must then be a ceremony, before the state in which they reside will recognize that marriage.A ceremony by the proper authorities, and until this happens, there is no marriage, she is no wife, no beneficiary in the estate of the intend husband.We all understand these fine examples!

 

Did you know that the idea of conversionispresented in the Bible, under the figure of marriage?Jesus Christ our bridegroom has come to earth. He has courted, and sought to win the confidence, trust,love and adoration of us all. And He has appealed to many, He has given them ample evidence to produce faith, the have placed theirtrustand center their affections upon Him. This is simply the first step.Next, they make the decision to abandon former ways, turn their backs upon the world, and follow Christ where so ever He leads.But this does not make them children of God, or the bride of Christ.Prompted by love, adoration, and complete trust, God says: "Let the ceremony, contained in the great commission begin". Matt 28:19

19Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: This is the ceremony that changes our relationship. We are made beneficiary of His will and testimony. We have the right to wear His Name"Christian".

 

Now, if the marriage relationship pictured in the Bible is not the same, this illustration fails.But notice:††† need not tell you that in the gospel plan of salvationthere are three things that correspond to the things we have just discussed.First there is "faith" in the Lord Jesus, by which our hearts are converted to Him.

 

Next there is repentance, by which a man's life is changed, and short of repentance, there is no salvation,no conversion. Just as faith comes to purify and change the heart, repentance comes to purify and change our lives.But we are not children yet.There is a marriage ceremony, given just one time in the Bible,Not in the name of the state, not in the name of Moses, Elias,or any man, but in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.This is to change our relationship, we are then the bride of Christ,heirs and joint-heirs of God.

 

But I would like to state just here that there are different kinds of conversion: - The word carries change, but does not describe the direction of change. No man can be converted to one thing, but that he is compelled to turn from yet another. I cannot travel in a northerly direction without turning away from the south.

 

Belovedif it were not for the fact that man has turned away from God, there would be no reason to return. (Isa 59:1-2) If man had never turned in the wrong direction, from where he was,there would be no occasion for suggesting that he turn aboutface and return to God.God's call to man is and ever has been, "come now let us reason together"Isaiah 1:18

 

I call your attention to the Garden ofEden.Adam and Eve were placed there inthis garden in an innocent and guiltless state. They were fit company for God. Now as a matter of fact, all of us are aware that in the course of time they become unfaithful, and God removed them from that paradise garden. Now, whatwere the steps of man's fall, what happened in man's conversion AWAY FROM God?

 

First, I suggest that there appeared a preacher on the scene, and this in the form of a serpent the old devil,appears in the garden with Eve. That is the first thing. Secondly he began to preach to her a doctrine by which he allured her, caught her ear, and gained her attention.†† Well what did he preach?If you will allow, I will state it simply, He preached unto her a lie, for he was a liar from the beginning and the father of lies. Please remember that a lie preached and believed has exactly the same effect upon one's feelings as the truth does. He merely said unto her: "In the day that you eat of the fruit of a certain tree, you will not die. God has said you will, but you will not".

 

The next thing that happened was unfortunate.Eve believed what the preacher said, and thus yielded assent to the truthfulness thereof. But the minute she believed that Serpent, God didnot damn her.†† God did not drive her out of His presence because she believe Satan. But:†† In addition to her believing a lie, she put forth her hand and ate of the fruit of the tree, gave to her husband and he ate as well

 

4- Now note the steps turning away from God. First she heard,the second thing was she believed.†† The third step she took was obedience to his word andbecame guilty,†† Last step she was driven out because of her disobedience. As a result of disobedience, death universallyreigns upon all.†† Paul declared in Ephesians 2:11-12

11Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 12That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: And this is the condition, that prevailswidely across our lands today.

 

With reference to every person that has put forth his hand and violated the commands of Almighty God. By virtue of our own sins, our own iniquity, he has separated himself from theGod of his very being.Standing now, as man does, not justified, but condemned; What is to be done?

 

Man must seek to be converted again, returned to God.His aim must be to retrace his steps. And there are as many steps back up the ladder, as there was down the ladder to sin and corruption. God graciouslyprovides a plan for man to be saved.

 

Well what is the first step? Like the first step when wefell, ĺ there is preachingand teaching†††††† Hence Jesus says: John 6:44,45

"And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father cometh unto me." Thus in order for man to hear and be drawn, there must be preaching.Romans 10:14-15

 

But what are we to preach? The devil stared by preaching a lie. Let us begin by preaching the truth.Jesus says,"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:32

 

And just as Evebelieved a lie,so now, we must take the first step and believe the truth. Now we are marching back toward God. Be it remembered, that as Eve was not driven out of the Garden the moment she believed, but after disobedience.It took more than faith alone to damn her, and it takes more than faith to save man now.Faith is perfected in obedience!

 

The next step then is obedience. God saves and pardons those who obey Him.When the first pair believed and obeyed, they became guilty, when we believe and obey we become free from guilt. We accept the terms of salvation, conversion results, and we are pardoned, adopted into the family once againof God.†† There is perhaps not a clearer example of conversion than that which is recorded in Acts 8:26-40in the conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch. This man heard what to do, and obeyed it, going on his way rejoicing.

 

Do you need to obey God? If you are not a Christian, you need to hasten to do just that.

contact:: Ron Cope minister

email:RonCope@chestnutmtchurchofchrist.com

phone:(678)617-9658