The desire of Church of God members is to be in the Kingdom of God – and all that entails. Except for a few holy men, like the Prophets of old, no one understood the concept of Christian conversion (2Peter 1:21). Neither Hebrew nor Greek have a good word to describe the process of conversion. The Scriptural writers had to rely on words like “turn” or “turn about” when conveying an image of conversion.
Joel 2:12-13 Therefore also now, says the LORD,turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God:
Christian conversion was not generally available to mankind until after the coming of God’s Holy Spirit. Certainly, the perception of conversion was given to ancient Israel – but the will to achieve it was deficient:
Deuteronomy 6:4-5 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And you shalt love the LORD your God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.
In the New Testament we find the word epistrepho that is used alternately for both “turn about” and “conversion.” This first example is for “turn:”
Mark 5:30 Jesus, immediately knowing in Himself that virtue had gone out of Him, turned about in the throng of people, and said, Who touched my clothes?
That was not speaking of Christian conversion at all. However, this next example of epistrepho, same word, definitely refers to Christian conversion. Jesus said unto Peter:
Luke 22:32 I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not: and when you are converted, strengthen your brethren.
The spiritual concept of Christian conversion had to be developed in the New Testament. When first called, a Christian does turn about from a life of sin. So in a sense, a conversion has taken place, but there is much more to it. An acknowledgment of having sinned is absolutely insufficient for baptism. At that point, too many think to themselves, “I’ve repented, I have faith in the blood of Jesus Christ, I’ve been baptized and had hands laid on me—I’m converted!” The difficulty with that scenario is this: They are still very much in the area of their initial calling when they first turned about – they are now facing in the right direction, but they have not progressed very far. They have not yet gone on to perfection (Hebrews 6:1). God’s Spirit in a Christian only begins the conversion process, which culminates in our being born into the eternal Family of God.
Yes, Christian conversion begins with God’s calling and baptism, but please understand that Baptism is not the end of the Christian conversion process. Conversion is a lifetime process of growing and overcoming and changing into Godliness. A Christian's conversion takes place in the time span between his calling and his resurrection to eternal life. Working in us, God progressively removes our carnality and sin, replacing it with His Holy Spirit, leading to righteous behavior and Godliness. In this lifetime we continuously develop, ever growing—never relenting until God determines that we have run our course. Only God knows just how much spiritual growth we are able to attain to in this life. (Philippians 3:12) We endure to the end because none of us is completely converted in the flesh. All Christians are in various stages of conversion.
When we are literally born into the Kingdom of God, as full members of the Spiritual Family of God, it will not be in these unconverted physical bodies. The process of conversion will not be complete in us until we are completely composed of Spirit, and our human nature will have been replaced with divine nature (2Peter 1:4). God's law will be second nature in us (pun intended).
Jeremiah 31:33 …After those days, says the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. [Hebrews 8:10]
There is one nature in us that is very difficult to overcome. Human nature causes us to seek to have the preeminence. That is still facing in the wrong direction! Even the apostles at Jesus Christ’s last Passover wrongfully sought the highest positions in the Kingdom of God (Luke 22:24). There is a subtle difference in striving for perfection and trying to have authority and domination over others. There exists an inherent responsibility in each Christian to help every other Christian attain to the Kingdom of God. Paul gave us the test to see if our conversion is truly growing toward Godliness:
2Thessalonians 1:3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is proper, because that your faith grows exceedingly, and the Godly love of every one of you all toward each other abounds.
What are we overlooking in the Church of God? This is a remarkable statement: The Kingdom of God has a child-like quality to it! The Child Factor.
Matthew 18:1-3 The disciples came unto Jesus, saying, Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto Him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, truly I say unto you, Unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the Kingdom of heaven.
Jesus said, “Allow the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the Kingdom of God” (Mark 10:14).
In today’s sermon we will examine this child-like quality that Jesus tells us is an absolute necessity to Christian conversion.
||"The Child Factor"