The Importance of Conversion in the Church

Scripture is clear in teaching that we are not all journeying toward God–some having found Him, others still seeking. Instead, Scripture presents us as needing to have our hearts replaced, our minds transformed, our spirits given life. We can do none of this for ourselves. The change each human needs, regardless of how we may outwardly appear, is so radical, so near our roots, that only God can bring it about. We need God to convert us…I fear that one of the results of misunderstanding the Bible’s teaching on conversion may well be that evangelical churches are full of people who have made sincere commitments at some point in their lives but who have not experienced the radical change that the Bible calls conversion.”

– Mark Dever, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004), p. 113.


The Flesh Cannot Please God

In Romans 8:8, Paul writes, “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”  What he means is that whoever does not have the Holy Spirit living in their human spirit cannot do what God wants, demands, or requires.

This verse is enough for me to believe that the new birth happens only by God’s doing with no contribution of our own.  Why?  It’s simple.  If a person who is only flesh (i.e. not born again) cannot please God, then how can he muster up enough faith to do the ultimate pleasing and believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior?

The answer is that he cannot.  There is not an iota of goodness in a human being in God’s eyes before salvation (Rom. 3:10-18).  That is what is communicated when Paul uses the word “flesh.”  Flesh is opposed to the Spirit (see Gal. 5:17).  Flesh is our carnal, sinful nature.  Spirit is our God-given, new nature.  Before salvation people live “according to the flesh” and “set their minds on the things of the flesh” (v. 5) because they don’t know anything else.  But Paul goes further than that though.  He says that unregenerate people “cannot please God.”  In other words, it is impossible.

So if there is no good in people — apart from Christ, when there is no Spirit in them — then there is no desire to do good, be good, or seek to know and please the One who is infinitely, inherently, and eternally good.  For that to happen, it would take a miracle, and this miracle is called being born again.  This is impossible with man, but the good news is that with God nothing is impossible.

To be continued.


Teaching the Bible at Beam

One of the great (new) joys I have here in South Africa is to teach the Bible along with my friend Rylan Reed to four guys who work at Beam Africa, a local development center for township children, here in Pretoria.  Last week we talked about new birth and what God has done to make us dead sinners alive in Christ.  This week, we discussed grace, faith, and good works from Ephesians 2, James 2, and Abraham’s life.

Here are some pictures from our time together today:

Question of the day: “How do we know if someone has true faith?”


From the left: Ludwig, Brian, and Ronney.


I promise you I’m talking, not sneezing.


Rylan talking about the relationship between faith and works in James 2 (the guy on the right is Blessing).



The Unborn and the Unborn-Again

John Piper has some intriguing thoughts on the battle for life for the unborn and the unborn-again.


We Pray Because Only God Can Do It

If a Christian really believed that his friend had some ability, power, or goodness within himself to choose Jesus as Lord and Savior apart from the free, sovereign, electing grace of God, he wouldn’t pray that his friend get saved.  He would simply figure out more relevant or strategic ways to draw out what is already inside his friend.

If people had the ability in themselves to be born again, prayer wouldn’t do a thing.  The ability to save your own soul implies spiritual autonomy.  An autonomous soul cannot be influenced by anything.  Alternatively, by definition, prayer is pleading with God for him do something.

The new birth of a sinner is not an exception.  The problem is that people are spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1-5), and there needs to be more than an mere influence on their stone hearts.  There needs to be an ultimate influence.  There needs to be a complete heart transplant.

So, go to your friends and plead with them to look to Jesus (Rom. 10:13-17).  But plead to God that he might save their souls — by his grace he might grant them repentance that leads to life (Acts 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25).

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